The Skeptical Gamers

Bringing critical thinking to Gen Con Indy

2011 Talk: “Culture and the Paranormal”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Back for 2011 after great success and acclaim in 2010 is my one-man talk “Culture and the Paranormal.” It will remain largely unchanged from last year.

“Culture and the Paranormal” will be a cross-cultural survey of paranormal beliefs and occurrences in order to examine the hypothesis “If paranormal events and beings exist in reality and not just in the mind, then they should be relatively homogeneous and not differentiated along cultural lines.”

My main thesis, to answer that hypothesis, is “Paranormal explanations for experiences generally draw almost exclusively from prevailing cultural narratives and fill in perceived holes to help explain the anomalous or extraordinary.” I’ll look at different cultures across time and space, and what they view as anomalous or extraordinary circumstances, and the different ways in which they recourse to paranormal or supernatural explanations for those circumstances.

I’ll also look at how different cultures conceive of analogous supernatural beings, from ghosts to werecreatures to nocturnal visitors. Finally, I’ll bring things forward to the present and look at how modern popular culture affects paranormal beliefs and experiences. Modern pop culture has inundated us with flying saucers, alien abductions, ghost orbs, and crop circles, and there’s scientific evidence that our perceptions of such things are heavily influenced by their portrayal and popularity in the mass media.

This talk will be perhaps the most academic of all of our talks. I’ll be drawing on disparate fields, from cultural anthropology to folklore to media studies, and, with some work and some luck, I’ll pull together the different threads into a wide-ranging and thought-provoking presentation.

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2011 Events Are Final

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Gen Con has finalized the times and locations for all of our events. You can find a permanent (and regularly updated, should the need arise) schedule at the Event Schedule page, but, to make things easier just at the moment, here is the current lineup:

Date Time Event Presenter(s) Location
Thursday 4 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Archaeology vs. Pseudoarchaeology Sara Head Marriott, Indiana Ballroom C
Thursday 4 August 2:00PM – 4:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Thursday 4 August 4:00PM – 6:00PM Women’s Intuition and Other Myths Jen Myers and hopefully some other fabulous Skepchicks Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Between the Nazca Lines: Archaeology vs. Aliens Sara Head Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM Cargo Cult Science Don Riefler and Tom Foss Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Friday 5 August 3:00PM – 5:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D
Friday 5 August 6:00PM – 7:30PM Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson Marriott, Indiana Ballroom F
Saturday 6 August 9:00AM – 11:00AM Women’s Intuition and Other Myths Jen Myers and hopefully some other fabulous Skepchicks Marriott, Phoenix
Saturday 6 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM Culture and the Paranormal Don Riefler Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D
Saturday 6 August 3:00PM – 5:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, Sean Bennett, Elyse Anders Marriott, Indiana Ballroom B
Saturday 6 August 5:00PM – 6:00PM Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About Don Riefler and Tom Foss Marriott, Indiana Ballroom D

We have lost a couple of talks from last year, but we like to think of it as cutting the chaff and working to our strengths. We’re experimenting with a couple of new talks which we think will go over very well. We’ve also expanded the annual choose-your-own-adventure panel to three events, and that’s always a blast for presenters and audience alike. We’ll see you there!

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2011 Is a Go!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 9, 2011

Sorry for neglecting things for so long. Grad school is kicking my ass, and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Wheel are turning for a Skeptical Gamers presence at Gen Con 2011, and we may have some big news in store for you soon…

Until then, know that we’re reprising all of our popular talks from last year, cutting the chaff, and generally bringing our A-game all over this bitch. More information once I’ve got all our events tackled and submitted to Gen Con. See you in August!

PS. I do have video of many of last year’s talks. No, I have not edited it down yet. Yes, I know that makes me an asshole. I’ll get to it when I get to it.

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Volunteer Schedule Spreadsheet

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on July 6, 2010

Long radio silence over here. Apologies for that. I was busy with finals, a wedding, a honeymoon, and way too much other stuff. Throughout, Gen Con plans have continued to develop, albeit sporadically.

So today’s big announcement is that I’ve put up a GoogleDocs spreadsheet where anyone who wants to help out can sign up to volunteer in the vaccination fundraising booth. You can find the spreadsheet here. Gen Con requires that it be manned at all times while the exhibit hall is open, so we can use all the help we can get.

I’ve broken each day down into fifteen minute chunks so we can exercise some fine control over the volunteer schedule, and I’ve already put myself in for most times when I’m not giving a speech or sitting a panel. Anyone can edit the spreadsheet to add themselves, so feel free to tell your friends, family, and and slaves or indentured servants who might be interested in helping raise vaccine awareness in Indiana.

So get on over there and start signing up. With your help, Gen Con is going to be awesome this year!

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Impending Organizational Stuff

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on April 19, 2010

Finals week is immanent here in sunny West Lafayette, IN. What that means for me is I’m finally about finished with this damned second bachelors, and I finally get some much-needed R&R after a year and a half of non-stop full-time work and class.

What it means for our volunteers is that, the week after finals (the second week of May), I will be sending out a ping to get a feel for everyone’s Gen Con plans so I can put together a loose vaccine booth schedule that will ensure it gets covered at all times. I’m also looking into organizing a dinner for all of us at one of downtown Indy’s many awesome restaurants, likely Saturday night. So all the volunteers will be hearing from me pretty soon…

Anyone else still want to volunteer? We’d love to have you! Plus you get to have tasty dinner with a bunch of awesome people!

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Schedule Updated

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on April 18, 2010

Heads up, folks.

At the last minute, Gen Con changed the date of one of our events. William Brinkman’s talk, “Confessions of a Fictional Tabloid Writer,” was moved from Friday at 11 – Noon to Saturday 11 – Noon. It’s been changed on the event schedule page. Like I told William, if this is the biggest problem we run into, we should count ourselves lucky.

See you all at Gen Con!

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Awesome Fundraiser News!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on April 15, 2010

Ryan Sohmer, creator of the totally sweet webcomics Least I Could Do and Looking For Group, the man behind Blind Ferret Entertainment, just told me he’d be willing to donate some swag for us to auction off at Gen Con! He and his crew will be there, and they’re totally awesome anyway, and this just makes them more awesome.

More details to come in May once Sohmer’s schedule simmers down!

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Help Tom Foss!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 30, 2010

Tom is looking for some help with his presentation on annoying chain e-mails. If you could pop on over to his place and drop him a line with a good annoying chain e-mail, you’d be helping him and making Gen Con just a little more awesome.

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The Final Schedule!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 29, 2010

Gen Con has approved all of our events! This is freakin’ awesome, because you never know when one will get the boot due to lack of space or something like that. The schedule has been updated on its dedicated page but here, for redundancy’s sake, is the final schedule with all event locations included.

Date Time Event Presenter(s) Location
Thursday 5 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM The Power of Immunization Don Riefler, and likely a bunch more Westin Chambers
Thursday 5 August 11:00AM – Noon Acupuncture – An Implausible Premise Lacking Evidence Colin Thornton Marriott Indiana Ballroom C
Thursday 5 August 3:00PM – 3:30PM Evolution, Creationism, and Gaming Tristan Zimmerman Westin Chambers
Thursday 5 August 4:00PM – 5:00PM Myths, Monsters, and Legends Colin Thornton Marriott Indiana Ballroom C
Friday 6 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Archaeology vs. Pseudoarchaeology Sara Head Westin Chamber
Friday 6 August 11:00AM – Noon Confessions of a Fictional Tabloid Writer William Brinkman Marriott Indiana Ballroom A
Friday 6 August 1:00PM – 3:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Sean Bennett, Jon Maxson Westin Council
Friday 6 August 4:00PM – 5:00PM Cargo Cult Science Don Riefler and Tom Foss Westin Chambers
Saturday 7 August 9:00AM – 10:00AM The Power of Immunization Don Riefler, and likely a bunch more Westin Council
Saturday 7 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Building Local Skeptical Communities Jen Myers of Skepchick Marriott Indiana Ballroom B
Saturday 7 August 11:00AM – 12:00PM How Financial Scams Work Sean Bennett Westin Council
Saturday 7 August 1:00PM – 3:00PM Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture Don Riefler, Tom Foss, Sean Bennett, Jon Maxson Westin Council
Saturday 7 August 4:00PM – 4:30PM Evolution, Creationism, and Gaming Tristan Zimmerman Westin Council
Saturday 7 August 4:00PM – 5:00PM Culture and the Paranormal Don Riefler Westin Council
Sunday 8 August 10:00AM – 11:00AM Building Local Skeptical Communities Jen Myers of Skepchick Marriott Indiana Ballroom D
Sunday 8 August 11:00AM – Noon Break the Chain: E-mail forwards and Introductory Critical Thinking Tom Foss Marriott Indiana Ballroom F

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Events Finalized! Volunteers Needed!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 20, 2010

Hey, everyone! Last week was the deadline for event submission to Gen Con, so the list on the Event Schedule is final. Unfortunately, though we would like nothing better, we can’t take any more submissions for talks, panels, workshops, etc. As soon as Gen Con gets all their ducks in a row, I’ll have rooms and locations listed for all of the events.

What we can take more of, however, is volunteers. Got a skill? Want to put it to work for the future of skepticism at Gen Con? We’ll take it! We still need people to help run the vaccine booth, and want people with any secret talent or ability that we might be able to barter with the many dorks, geeks, and nerds at Gen Con for donations to the Indiana Immunization Coalition!

For example, I was just contacted by Greg Fish, who offered (too late) to give a presentation, but also to be our official photographer and is going to barter IT advice for donations. In an exhibit hall full of people with various electronic devices, who knows when someone might need some laptop help? IT advice? We’ll take it!

So whatever your talent, whatever your contribution, bring it on!

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