Susana Ruiz’s scholarly and creative work is concerned with how the intersection of art practice, game/playful design, and digital storytelling can enable new approaches to social activism, aesthetics, and public pedagogy. Ruiz’s work is collaborative, interdisciplinary, and takes the hybrid form of intertwined theory and practice. The cinematic and the playful drive their practice and the humanistic and the collaborative drive their process.
Her research interests include “serious,” documentary, and “art” games; ubiquitous and locative experience design; animation; modes of transmedia storytelling, production and activism; game-based learning; empathic, value-centric and participatory design; and the artistic application of theories of social justice such as anti-oppression, intersectionalism, narrative power analysis, and ethical spectacle.
Much of Ruiz’s work takes place via the studio she/they co-founded, Take Action Games (TAG), which has an evolving portfolio situated at the confluence of game design, participatory culture, social justice, and transmedia storytelling. TAG’s accolades include the Games For Change Audience Award, the Adobe MAX Award for Social Responsibility, Honoree status in the Webby Award Activism Category, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ prestigious Governors Award as part of the mtvU Sudan transmedia campaign.
Ruiz was a member of the first cohort in the newly formed Interactive Media and Games M.F.A. program at USC's School of Cinematic Arts and then a member of the also newly formed USC Ph.D. program in Media Arts + Practice. She has served as advisory board member for Games for Change, was a USC Provost’s Fellow, and recipient of the University of Southern California’s Ph.D. Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed on doctoral candidates at USC.
As a first-generation middle school, high school, and college graduate, I was fortunate to attend and earn my B.F.A. from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, an institution with a radically progressive history founded on the belief that advanced education should be free. It was here that my nascent interest in community building conceptually merged with art practice, media-making, and humanities scholarship, thereby laying a foundation for research into creative embodied approaches to social problems.
I am an Assistant Professor of film and digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I hold research, teaching, and service positions in several programs, including the Film and Digital Media Department, the Digital Arts and New Media Program, the Games and Playable Media Program, and the Social Documentation Program. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in art and media production, history, and theory. I also teach and co-teach workshops from time to time for other non-academic audiences. I advise undergraduate, M.F.A. and Ph.D. students.