Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication

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Dr Tom Tyler

Lecturer in Digital Culture

0113 343 3447

Clothworkers’ Building North, 1.31

Office hours: Mondays 14:00-15:00 and Tuesdays 11:00-12:00, and by appointment

BA (Birmingham), MA (Leeds), PhD (Leeds)

Biography

I graduated in Philosophy and History from Birmingham University before completing an MA and PhD in Cultural Studies at Leeds University. I have taught at Wolverhampton University, Derby University, the University College of Ripon & York St John, Leeds Metropolitan University and Oxford Brookes University. I joined the School of Media and Communication at Leeds University in 2015.

Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary, engaging with game studies, animal studies, cultural studies, critical theory, history of ideas, philosophy, media studies, English studies, film studies, and the conceptual dimensions of other fields. To date, I have pursued research into three related domains:

(1) Games. I am interested in digital games, especially in their impact and import as a medium or technology, and in the distinct forms of participation and engagement that they make possible. From the immersive environments of Civilization to the persistent play of In Memoriam, from the inviting alterity of Dog’s Life‘s ‘Smellovision’ to the powers and capacities of Titan Quest‘s virtual creatures, digital games are endlessly illustrative of the pervasive play-element of culture. I have made particular use, in this regard, of McLuhan’s provocative probes into the operation and effects of media technologies.

(2) Animals. I am interested in the ambiguous roles that non-human animals have been required to play, frequently unacknowledged, in the texts of philosophy, critical theory, and elsewhere. From Buridan’s ass to Schopenhauer’s porcupines, from Austin’s pigs to Derrida’s cat, we find a mischievous menagerie of animals pressed into service, or suppressed by the notion of an amorphous ‘animality’. I have discussed the instructive animals and fabulous races that inhabited the bestiaries and monstrous manuscripts of the Middle Ages. I am especially interested in apes, ancient and modern, and have written on the taxonomy of the chimpanzee, to which genus Homo sapiens truly belongs.

(3) Anthropocentrism. I am interested in the variety of anthropocentric arguments and assumptions that permeate, but are rarely intrinsic to, a wide range of philosophies, from Kant’s critical idealism to Moore’s common sense realism, from Whorf’s linguistic relativism to Heidegger’s hyperhumanism. My work has traced the relations and disparities between a number of these human-centred starting-points and the philosophical systems into which they are imported. My writing has been informed particularly by Nietzsche’s perspectivism, Wittgenstein’s pragmatism, Foucault’s historicism, and by the counter-teleological approach of evolutionary theory.

More details: http://www.cyberchimp.co.uk/research/

Teaching

I lead the following modules:
COMM1700 Understanding Digital Media
COMM2700 Working in Digital Media
COMM5745M New Media Practices

I also contribute to the following modules:
COMM2715 Digital Storytelling
COMM3715 Internet Policy
COMM3780 Mobile Media
COMM3910 Communication Dissertation
COMM5600M Dissertation and Research Methods

In the past I have contributed to the following modules:
COMM2725 Digital Cultures
COMM5745M New Media Cultures

Publications

Books

  • Tyler T (2012) CIFERAE: A Bestiary in Five Fingers. Posthumanities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.

    Protagoras famously asserted that "man is the measure of all things." CIFERAE investigates the supposition that one's understanding and awareness of the world will always be conditioned or determined by a distinctively human perspective. The five-fingered hand is often considered a singular and defining part of this unique, human being, an incomparable appendage on which human supremacy depends. Over a span of five chapters, CIFERAE takes in hand the work of diverse thinkers, examining the alleged inseparability of anthropocentrism and epistemology. The text is accompanied throughout by a number of "wild animals" (ferae), creatures who manage, in a variety of ways, to resist the reductive appropriation of imprudent scholars. These unruly beasts persistently and mischievously question the humanist assumptions and arguments of their would-be employers.

  • Tyler T; Rossini M (eds.) (2009) Animal Encounters. Human-Animal Studies. Leiden: Brill.

    Animal Encounters presents a multidisciplinary selection of essays in which nonhuman animals meet with philosophers, literary scholars and cultural theorists, scientists and historians, feminists and environmentalists, artists and activists, who are interested in the productive potential of interspecies exchange and collaboration. Brought together under six strategic headings, the collection constitutes a series of encounters not only between animals, human and otherwise, but also between different disciplinary methods, theoretical approaches, and ethical positions. Animal Encounters includes essays by Carol J. Adams, Steve Baker, Monika Bakke, Pamela Banting, Jonathan Burt, Donna Haraway, Randy Malamud, Manuela Rossini, Laurie Shannon, Robyn Smith, Susan Squier and Tom Tyler.

  • Tyler T (eds.) (2006) Parallax 38: Animal Beings.

    Many writers have sought to tell us what animals mean to human beings. But what kind of animal is this human being? In what kinds of animal being does the human animal engage? What is it to be, rather than to represent, an animal? This special issue of the cultural and critical theory journal Parallax addresses the question of human beings as animal beings. What happens when novelists and scientists, philosophers and cultural theorists, write not about animals but as animals. Animal Beings includes essays by Hélène Cixous, Derek Gatherer, Simon Glendinning, Margot Norris, Anat Pick, Tyler, Tom, Lisa Uddin and Cary Wolfe, an interview with Carol J. Adams, plus nine book reviews.

Journal articles

  • Tyler T (2017) “Enumerating Ruminants”, Trace. 1
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/114426/

    Since the early 1980s, the independent videogame designer Jeff Minter has created, revisited and revised a raft of classic and influential games, including Llamatron: 2112, Tempest 2000 and Gridrunner. The games often feature innumerable sheep, goats, llamas, oxen, camels, giraffes, and other ungulates. Is it possible to count the sheep who appear in Minter's games? Can we enumerate the ruminants? Is it even feasible to list the different games? Starting with an oft-repeated tale of an insomniac king and his storyteller, I explore in this essay the concepts of enumeration, the identification of one individual after another in a series of their kind, and rumination, the sustained turning over in one's mind of some indistinct matter.

  • Tyler T (2015) “Cows, Clicks, Ciphers, and Satire”, NECSUS : European Journal of Media Studies. 4.1
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/90362/

    The social network game Farmville, which allows players to grow crops, raise animals, and produce a variety of goods, proved enormously successful within a year of its launch in 2009, attracting 110 million Facebook users. The game has been criticized, however, for its mindless mechanics, which require little more than repeated clicking on its colourful icons. By way of parody, Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker permits its players simply to click on a picture of a cow once every six hours. In this essay I extend Bogost’s critique, and suggest that Cow Clicker highlights not just the soulless inanity of Farmville’s gameplay, but also the paucity of that game’s portrayal of the painful reality of a dairy cow’s punishing daily existence and untimely end.

  • Tyler T (2014) “A Singular of Boars”, Antennae. 30: 35-38.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/90365/

    Treatises of natural history, when discussing a population or species, often refer to an animal by means of the definite article, e.g. "the boar." They invoke thereby a curious creature which is at once both singular and plural, an example of what Derrida would call the general singular. We are given an ideal, Platonic boar, an essence which effaces the specificity of individuals. Similarly, digital games like Titan Quest depict each of their animals by means of a single character model: every boar is indistinguishable from her fellows. The virtual animals of Titan Quest, however, are encountered by players as individuals: we meet each time a particular adversary or ally, and we experience, to our cost or benefit, their personal strength and power (virtus).

  • Tyler T (2014) “Misanthropy without Humanity”, Paradoxa. 26: 239-245.
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/90363/

    Representations of misanthropy have frequently attributed it to one or both of two motivations. On the one hand, the misanthrope is often depicted as being ruled by passion, their intense, emotional abhorrence of humanity the result of personal affronts or misfortunes, like Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. On the other, the misanthrope will be portrayed as guided by unbending principle, their reasoned disdain deriving from a high-minded moral code, like Molière’s Alceste. The videogame Plague Inc., which casts players as a pathogen with the objective of annihilating the human species, offers an alternative misanthropy, however. Inviting us to invest in the values of a virus, bacterium or parasite, without emotional investment or underpinning rationale, it entertains the possibility of a misanthropy without humanity.

  • Tyler T (2013) “New Tricks”, Angelaki. 18.1: 65-82.

    The digital game Dog's Life attempts, by means of its "Smellovision" feature, to communicate the alterity of canine perception. At the same time, it encourages players to identify with the game's protagonist: you 'are' Jake, digging up bones, marking territory and chasing chickens. In this essay I argue that Dog's Life effectively comprises an "anti-environment" of the sort described by McLuhan, which altercasts players as dogs and thereby prompts them to notice conventional, anthroponormative assumptions regarding the pre-eminence of human modes of perception. By insisting on an experience both of alterity and identity, the digital game medium here combats clichéd notions of animality and subjectivity, whilst requiring players to reconsider the complex and uneven nature of interspecific, interpersonal control.

  • Tyler T (2010) “The Rule of Thumb”, JAC. 30.3-4: 435-456.

    The opposable thumb is commonly considered to be a unique and defining component of the human hand, itself the perfected endpoint of accumulated ages of evolution. Aristotle, Galen, Macrobius, Montaigne and many others have all sung the praises of this magnificent digit, which makes possible the indispensable variety of grips and grasps on which human supremacy depends. The anatomist Charles Bell argued that the hand evinces intelligent design, and that the superficial similarities of this incomparable appendage with those of other creatures are by no means indicative of homological affinity. Vestiges of this anti-evolutionary taxonomic nominalism persist in the work of contemporary writers, whose belief in human exceptionalism manifests as an uncritical, oppressive and ultimately unsustainable 'rule of thumb'.

  • Tyler T (2008) “A Procrustean Probe”, Game Studies. 8.2

    The brigand Procrustes dispatched his victims by stretching or trimming their bodies in order that they be made to fit his bed. Considered as a scientific theory, McLuhan's four "laws of media" risk violating communications research in a dangerously Procrustean manner. Conceived as an exploratory probe, however, this "tetrad" can provide illuminating insights into the social and psychological effects of individual technologies. Applied to digital games, the tetrad reveals the particular ways in which this distinctive cultural form enhances diverse modes of play, obsolesces traditional television viewing, retrieves lost means of participation, and reverses into pervasive and persistent play. The tetrad helps, in short, to situate digital gameplay within the broader technological and cultural environment of which it is a part.

  • Tyler T (2008) “Deviants, Donestre and Debauchees: Here Be Monsters”, Culture, Theory & Critique. 49.2: 113-131.

    St Augustine suggested that monsters (monstra) serve to show or to signify (monstrare) something, whilst Foucault argued that one ancestor of today's abnormal individual was the human monster, a class of being characterised by a composite nature. In this essay I examine what two very different mixed human monsters can show us. The donestre, a medieval race of fearsome lion-headed polyglots, exhibit a corporeal violation of natural and social law. The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, meanwhile, illustrates the modern monstrosity of deviant, instinctual character. The careful study of monsters helps to debauch our minds with learning and thus, in the words of William James, to make the natural, explanatory power of 'instinct' seem strange.

  • Tyler T (2008) “The Quiescent Ass and the Dumbstruck Wolf”, Configurations. 14.1-2: 9-9.

    This essay examines two key ways in which animals function in the texts of philosophy and contemporary critical theory. On the one hand they frequently appear as ciphers, mere place-fillers within a philosophical argument. I look briefly at J. L. Austin's cipherous pigs before discussing the different ways in which Buridan's overburdened ass is put to work. On the other hand, animals often appear as indices, obliging guides who point out productive avenues of thought. Here I examine Austin's multi-coloured fish, and then Freud's curiously quiet wolves. I conclude by suggesting that, despite their silence, these animals are able to tell us a good deal about the thoughts and theories of their respective employers.

  • Tyler T (2007) “Quia Ego Nominor Leo: Barthes, Stereotypes and Aesop's Animals”, Mosaic. 40.1: 45-59.

    Taking Barthes' discussion of Aesop's lion as my starting point, I examine the notion of the stereotype as it applies to the use of animals in philosophy and cultural theory. By employing an illustrative selection of animal ciphers from Saussure and Austin, and animal indices from Peirce and Schopenhauer, I argue that theory's beasts are always at risk of becoming either exemplars of a deadening, generic Animal or mere stultifying stereotypes. Gilbert Ryle's faithful dog, Fido, as well as a number of Aesop's edifying animals, help to demonstrate that these two dangers are not inescapable, however. I close by indicating two strategies for preventing the unnecessary inhibition of the creatures of critical theory, focusing on Derrida's individual and gently unruly cat.

  • Tyler T (2006) “Snakes, Skins and the Sphinx: Nietzsche's Ecdysis”, Journal of Visual Culture. 5.3: 365-385.

    Foucault claimed that Nietzsche’s philosophy constitutes ‘la grande rupture’ from Kant’s conception of knowledge. The break occurred, however, only after Nietzsche had shed his own Kantian skin. This article examines both the debt that early Nietzsche owes to Kant, and the nature of the break evident in his later work. It highlights three key facets of the mature Nietzsche’s epistemology: (1) there is no disinterested truth, only a range of evaluative perspectives; (2) these perspectives must continually change and multiply; and (3) the subject of any perspective need not be human. As Nietzsche’s own eyesight deteriorated, he saw more, and he saw more clearly.

  • Tyler T (2006) “Four Hands Good, Two Hands Bad”, Parallax. 12.1: 69-80.

    In this essay I investigate the taxonomic classification of human beings and the temporal preeminence on which it has depended. Starting with short works by Kafka and Borges, I highlight two contrasting forms of disorder that taxonomies have been created to dispel: the incongruous and the heteroclite. Drawing on critiques by Dawkins and Diamond of the traditional classification of humans and great apes, I argue that Linnaeus' binomial system of nomenclature has been employed to inappropriately anthropocentric ends. This species-narcissism must be tempered with the recognition and invention of multiple, inclusive narcissisms, both incongruous and heteroclite. A revised nomenclature for Homo sapiens is impertinently proposed.

  • Tyler T (2005) “Like Water in Water”, Journal for Cultural Research. 9.3: 265-279.

    In this essay I examine the anthropocentrism evident in key texts by Bataille and Heidegger. Starting with Bataille's treatment of animality, I show how a contrast is drawn between animal experience, which is immediate and immanent, and human experience, which cannot help but transcend its environment by imposing distinctions. Heidegger, meanwhile, suggests that it is by means of the hand's "disclosive assimilation" that humanity enters a unique and privileged relationship to Being. I argue that both authors assume, without demonstrating, a qualitative difference between human and animal. This starting point might thus usefully be described as an "anthropocentric assumption" in the sense that, although neither author suggests that human experience is superior to that of animals, each considers it first-and-foremost.

  • Tyler T (2003) “If Horses Had Hands...”, Society & Animals. 11.3: 267-281.

    In this essay I examine the contentious and confused notion of anthropomorphism, the inappropriate attribution of distinctively human characteristics to other entities. Beginning with an overview of the term's historical and current uses, I go on to examine the arguments both of those who believe it to be unscientific and demeaning, and those who contend that it is an inevitable and useful pragmatic strategy. Heidegger raises the more serious objection, however, that it is not at all clear what is even meant by the charge of anthropomorphism. I conclude that use of the term commits one to an undesirable anthropocentrism that shackles thought concerning human and animal beings.

Chapters

  • Tyler T (2014) “Donestre”, In: Weinstock JA (eds.) Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Farnham: Ashgate. 170-172
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/90366/

    The Donestre were one of the many exotic races described in the medieval Liber Monstrorum and Wonders of the East. These fearsome creatures of mixed nature were depicted with a human body but the head of some unspecified animal, perhaps a dog or lion. They were said to live on an island in the Red Sea, and to be able to speak the languages of all nations. Should a foreign traveller chance upon a Donestre, the monster would speak to them in their own language, naming their kinsmen and acqaintances and thereby gaining their trust. Having tricked the unwary individual, the Donestre would capture his victim and eat them raw, after which he would take up the remaining head and weep over it.

  • Tyler T (2009) “The Test of Time: McLuhan, Space and the Rise of Civilization”, In: Dobrin S; Morey S (eds.) Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, and Nature. New York: SUNY. 257-277

    McLuhan probed and explored the social and cultural environments created by media technologies and the modes of perception engendered in those who found themselves immersed therein. In this essay I argue that digital games produce a form of electronic "acoustic space", an instantaneous, inclusive, decentred environment quite distinct from their carefully realised but ludologically irrelevant backstories. Taking as my case study Sid Meier's complex and involving Civilization series, I examine the 'aural' mode of engagement that digital games can encourage and even require. I close by evaluating the equivocal environmental rhetoric of this enduringly successful title, and the continuing relevance of McLuhan's provocative and fruitful analyses.

Others

  • Tyler T (2013) ASInterview. Animals & Society Institute.

    Animals are variously and endlessly fascinating, baffling, beautiful, impressive, and, as Bob McKay has said, "way cool." Scientific and other kinds of knowledge about the physiology, capacities and behaviour of animals is inherently interesting. Who could fail to be interested in the fact that the earliest tetrapods, the four-footed fish, had six, or seven, or even more fingers on each hand, and that evolution has seen a gradual loss of digits, so that most creatures today have far fewer than this number (just one in the case of horses); or that mammalian hiccups may well be the result of our descent from fish and amphibians, and the less-than optimal breathing apparatuses that we have inherited as a result.

  • Tyler T (2007) “Review of The Animals Reader, by Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald”, Frieze. 108: 50-50.

    The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once suggested that 'animals are good to think', and, as the editors of this timely collection argue, there has indeed been a great deal of significant thinking about animals in recent years. The burgeoning field of animal studies has sought to address what Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald call 'the animal question': how shall we rethink, rebuild and recast our relationships with other animals in light of this explosion of new research. Faced with such a range of potential material, Kalof and Fitzgerald present 35 carefully chosen texts, drawn both from contemporary studies and from the long history of thinking about animals.

  • Tyler T, Adams CJ (2006) “An Animal Manifesto: Gender, Identity, and Vegan-Feminism in the Twenty-First Century”, Parallax. 12.1: 120-128.

    In this interview for the Parallax special issue on Animal Beings, Carol J. Adams discusses the contributions of feminism to thinking beyond "definition by negation", the means by which those considered lesser beings, animal or otherwise, have so often been characterised in opposition to the human. Stressing the importance of acknowledging our own animal bodies and those of others, she outlines a four point vegan-feminist "animal manifesto". She goes on to contrast Derrida's considered and compassionate relationship to his cat with the limitations and compromises of Haraway's own Companion Species Manifesto. She closes by suggesting that animal rights is a modern movement in a postmodern age.

External Appointments

Member of the Advisory Board, TRACE, University of Florida, March 2015 to present.
Member of the Advisory Board, Centre for Human Animal Studies, Edge Hill University, October 2014 to present.
Member of the Academic Advisory Board, Zooscope, University of Sheffield, September 2014 to present.
Member of the Editorial Advisory Board, Animal Studies Journal, University of Wollongong, September 2014 to present.
Associate Editor, Sloth, Animals and Society Institute, January 2014 to present.
Member of the Vegan Society Research Advisory Committee, UK, July 2013 to present.
Member of the International Committee, Human Rights & Animal Ethics Research Network, University of Melbourne, December 2012 to present.

Links

Research: http://www.cyberchimp.co.uk/research/

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