Samara “Hayley” Steele has been part of the urban farming movement since 1996, a larpmaker and media artist since 2002, and since 2011 they have helped organize a number of co-ops and squats. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Portland State University, and they’re a PhD Candidate in Cultural Studies at UC Davis. In 2009, she co-organized a seminal humanities sustainability conference, “Understanding Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities” at Portland State University. Their work explores tactical performance and “narrative care” in the movements to resist racial capital, gendered empire, and colonial ecocide. “Narrative care” might be thought of as a collaborative process of excavating narratives that have been pushed underground through systemic forms of harm.
Their work as an educational researcher includes their work at the UC Davis ModLab to codify what she calls Gamemaking in Education (GME), a novel approach to classroom games in which rather than focusing on gameplay, students create educational games. Steele’s research teams found this approach could be used to teach a variety of curriculum, including topics in STEM and the Humanities. Steele gave a short presentation about this method at GENerationAnalog 2021, and the teams’ first findings paper is slated for publication in early 2022.
Her artistic work has taken a variety of forms including New Media pieces in e-lit, larp, netprov, and transmedia. Their work often explores structural oppression, social-ecological relations, and consent. Her previous work includes Thermophiles in Love (2016), a 5-gender dating game that incorporates biological data about microorganisms in a playful critique of gender bio-essentialism, and Destination Wedding 2070 (2019), a dark comedy about wedding planning in the year 2070 that dramatizes climate data from the C-MIP6.
In their work as a cooperator, Steele has organized and co-managed various cooperative housing projects, worker co-ops, and commons since 2011. In 2015, they became Development Director for LAND ACTION, a squatters mutual aid organization in Oakland, CA. In 2018, she worked for NoBAWC in the development of its latest regional worker co-op map. Since 2019, they have been involved with cooperative development and commoning projects in the Pacific Northwest, and has served on the steering committee for Cascade Cooperatives and the Karate Church Commons in Bellingham, WA.
As for their activism, in the mid-1990s as a teenager, Steele helped organize a three-year effort to save a 9-acre wetland in Issaquah, Washington. In 1999, she attended the WTO “counter-convention” in the streets of Seattle, bringing her into conversation with the alter-globalization movement. In early 2011, they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became involved with activist efforts that pertain to food sovereignty, environmental justice, housing justice, the fight for Black lives, the struggle for gender equality, and efforts to raise the voices of Indigenous storytellers, immigrants, and exiles from neoliberal regimes in the Global South. She has been part of the Slingshot Collective since 2011.
Steele has presented their scholarship critically exploring gender, race, political economy, games, code, and data at numerous academic gatherings and events including invited presentations at Lewis & Clark College, the Berkeley Center for New Media at UC Berkeley, and the European University at St. Petersburg. Her theoretical work on what she calls “anti-code” has been cited in Mark Marino’s book, Critical Code Studies (The MIT Press, 2020), and her art has been explored in Rob Wittig’s Netprov: Networked Improvised Literature for the Classroom and Beyond (Amherst College Press, 2021). She has been a HASTAC Scholars Fellow 2021-23 and 2018-2020, a 2020 Mellon Public Scholar, and she been an Advanced Research Affiliate of the HaCCS (Humanities and Critical Code Studies) Working Group since 2016. Presently, they are working with members of their dissertation committee towards the launch of a new interdisciplinary field called Consent Studies.