Professor Judith Pintar sees her new role of Teaching Associate Professor and Acting Director of the undergraduate Major at the iSchool as the completion of a circle that began for her as a Sociology graduate student on this campus in the late 1990s. At that time, there was a collaborative research initiative between the Sociology Department, the History Department and GSLIS, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, also known as the iSchool. The iSchool now offers a double major with REEEC, and its Global Informatics Certificate allows students to pair a REEES or Slavic Major with an Informatics Minor. Professor Pintar is currently teaching a Global Informatics seminar entitled “Seminar in Global Informatics: Narrative AI, Media Manipulation & Election Interference,” which explores “the global interrelationships between information technologies and historical, social psychological, and cultural processes, investigating the historical background of AI-driven election interference across national borders.” Students taking the course will do real-time media research, tracking attempted social and election interference and media representation of these events, collaborate on game design; and learn how to code a basic chatbot.
Professor Pintar is also an active member of Playful by Design, described on their website as a community network “who study and design games…research and develop AR/VR/AI technologies, and who use playful pedagogies in their classrooms.” The third annual Playful by Design Interdisciplinary Game Studies Symposium featuring faculty, students, and members of the CU community will take place on April 2-4th. This year, the Symposium is coordinating with the Migration and Game Design Project, a collaboration of Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program (WGGP) and Playful by Design sponsored by the Illinois Global Institute. The Migration and Game Design Project will be hosting Sudanese game designer Lual Mayen, who was watched by more than 26 million people when he was named a Global Gaming Citizen in 2018. Pintar speaks passionately about her own work on games, describing it as one of her favorite things to do and the thing that makes her jump out of bed in the morning. Her chosen genre is interactive fiction, and she writes in the programming language Inform 7.
Professor Pintar is currently juggling several projects. She recently received an Investment for Growth grant for Games@Illinois: Playful Design for Transformative Education, an initiative which is seeking to create a suite of interdisciplinary game studies and design programs on this campus. She is also working on a creating an interactive narrative version of the novel she wrote based on her dissertation. She additionally hopes to someday write a book about the significance of potica, a kind of Slovenian bread, for diasporic Slovenes. Along these lines, she is interested in a digital humanities project of archiving intangible culture, including for example, recipes. “I have an interest in collaborative knowledge production, from many angles — from online genetic genealogy, to collaborative game design, to the way that the real estate industry for nearly a century now has collaborated on the racist disenfranchisement of African Americans. What links these seemingly disparate interests is the way that people think and act together. I also have a prevailing interest in propaganda, persuasion, and suggestion. The book I wrote following my dissertation was not an ethnography, but a history of Hypnosis.”
Pintar is also one of the leads for the Critical Methods Series (CMS), which is a new programming initiative for REEEC, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program. The primary aim of CMS is to increase public and student interest in REEES languages and disciplines by creating frameworks and credentials for their professional use in government, education, the private and non-profit sectors, and other areas of national need. Professor Pintar is the faculty coordinator for the initiative on Area Studies Informatics. This concentration is supporting “new partnerships between REEEC and the Illinois Informatics Institute.” Course development and public programming is focused on how REEES+Informatics training can illuminate pressing international issues such as cybersecurity and digital surveillance.
Prior to her position with the I-School, Pintar taught Slavic and REEES courses, including BCS 115: South Slavic Cultures and REES 201: Introduction to Eastern Europe. She says that she greatly enjoyed teaching all the classes she developed for South Slavic studies: “I love teaching the complicated histories of the region, partly because many of the students that I teach have no familiarity and are amazed at the depth of cultures, arts, and histories of the region. It is an endlessly fascinating part of the world.” She also stresses the importance in the current climate of “fake news,” for students to have knowledge on actual historical and political relationships within the REEEC area, as well as between the region and other parts of the world. For this reason, as she says,”I tend to think that REEEC is for all.”