Category Archives: Academia

David Silver again!?

Wow, I gotta say… the bus definitely has its moments. Today, David Silver and I happened to meet up on the bus again! this time on the way home.

Here’s something cool. My initial inclination was to say that the conversation was one-sided, in that all we seemed to talk about was my current research, but you know what? David is a terrific person to talk to and bounce ideas off of… Normally when I find myself talking about what I’m doing, I’m doing most of the talking, but this time there was so much back and forth with David continually pressing me to clarify… it was great! So, we did sort of just talk about my research but the dialog was so very organic that it didn’t feel one-sided.
Anyway, I just also have to say that it is totally awesome to talk to someone who actually finds what you do interesting. How validating!

Parallel papers on my research

I am writing two papers this quarter on my ethnographic research in World of Warcraft which focuses on how people (learn to) communicate and cooperate in a high-end instance. Here's the catch: while one paper will be written as a regular academic paper suitable for publication in a journal, the other version will be for gamers and published on this blog. We'll see how it goes…

Becker on writing

I recently read Becker's book Writing for Social Scientists. Wow. It addresses several reasons why people sometimes feel paralyzed when tasked with writing about their research. It is simple yet very inspiring, letting me see that I am not alone with some of the feelings I have about how unnatural the writing process is… I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants to write about research… actually, anyone who wants to write in general.

Lots of new stuff

I think this initial wave of postings will die down in a week or so… I’ve been saving up a bunch of stuff to post. I have to dig up a short thing I wrote up about adventure games during the Summer-O-Adventure-Games last year and post that, too.

I just added the GaSWorks wiki page to my links. I’ve never quite felt comfortable in that group since they emphasize the simulation part of “games and simulation.” I always felt like we just couldn’t communicate very well since I’m focusing on non-design work… qualitative in nature even!

It’s a shame that the group I felt most comfortable in is in hiatus these past two quarters. We had such grand designs for a UW website, too. ah well…

David Silver and academia and publishing and…

I happened to see David Silver, professer in Comm at UW who is leaving soon for greener pastures, on the same bus as me yesterday morning and asked if I could sit next to him. I’m currently taking an Information School class taught by Terry Brooks on digital culture. Each week we have a guest who has a conversation with Terry for the first hour of the class. Last week, it happened to be David, and his conversation with Terry was refreshing and enlightening. So it was great seeing him on the bus.

Actually, 3 or 4 weeks ago, my group for a how-to-write-policy class was meeting with Beth Kolko to get feedback from her about our proposed policy at a local cafe here in Ballard, and David happened to stop by the cafe to get some coffee or something, and Beth introduced us there. Funny how things coincide from different angles….

Anyway, hearing about David’s talk on academia, especially academia in a R1 institute, was very refreshing and gave me assurance that I’m not the only one who feels like there is something kind of strange about academia. When I said earlier that he is leaving for greener pastures…. that was slightly tongue-in-cheek. Arguably, UW is supposed to be one of the greenest pastures around.

But academia is totally “broken” (his word!). At the least, there is a very real tension between valuing teaching and learning and preparing people for the future versus valuing research and getting published. The fact that a R1 emphasizes research more than students is not necessarily the problem. The problem is that this R1 represents itself falsely to different audiences. Any student coming to UW thinking they are going to get a great education might get a shock when they realize not all professors actually care whether they learn. Actually, that isn’t exactly right. I think almost all profs DO care about student learning, but the whole system–in terms of getting tenure, getting grant money, and gaining respect in the field–completely disregards student learning. Who gives a shit?

I sometimes feel that academia is an elitist club where ideas and knowledge is generated behind closed doors and sent out to the masses only in finished publishable form. And what a form… all that jargon… It’s arguable that the knowledge is really only being shared with others in specific disciplines who can actually understand what they’re reading.

And there is constant pressure. Even as a graduate student I feel the pressure. I have to get published, I have to get my name out there, etc. Well, I’ve read some of the stuff out there and I call bullshit. Some of it is total crap with no evidence. So, I’m going to self-publish everything I write and put it on this blog. I will try to get published in peer reviewed journals just like everyone else, too, but you know what.. I don’t need a long list of published work to make myself feel legitimized. I’d much rather my work was out there for the gamers as my primary audience… which changes everything.

The web and digital culture has changed everything. Peer reviewed journals are antiquated. It’s an old artifact of the totally borked tenure system. If academics want to walk the talk of being a community of open sharing of ideas, they should be putting up their work for all to see and comment on with the understanding that all work is work in progress (Progress?). How many times do I have to read articles about Everquest or Ultima Online? I mean, who the hell still plays those? It would have been much more useful to read about the research studies while they were happening…

collecting data officially

A week and a half ago I finally received approval from human subjects for my research study looking at how players communicate and coordinate and cooperate in World of Warcraft. It took 3 months for the approval, but is well worth the effort. The hang up was me recording voice chat that the raids I go on use. I’ll be recording text and voice chat for our Majordomo and Ragnaros fights in MC, for our Onyxia runs, and for Harsh Winter’s new raid into ZG. I’m only looking at the end guys for MC because our raid has routinized the other bosses, and I’m mostly looking at how a raid improves over a month. I’m really excited about ZG, actually, because for most of our guildies, high-end raiding is a new thing. I can see from the get-go how we divvy out roles and figure out strats that cater to our particular raid make-up. Fun!

Qualitative Methods: Interviewing

Last night in Qual Methods, we practiced interviewing each other in small groups. Wow. It is amazingly difficult. Being attentive to the time constraints, what the participant is saying so you can dynamically address topics as they come up, the actual list of guiding questions you have, your behavior and body language, making sure you frame each question well (how questions rather than why questions, etc.),… Each one by itself is something to keep track of and is easy or difficult to varying degrees. Having to do ALL of them at the same time… whew! It's one thing to read about how to do this stuff, and another thing completely actually doing it.

Digital Literacies

To the UW TEP Tech class:

What does it mean to be digitally literate?

Let's start with traditional literacy. Basically it means being able to read and write, right? But it's actually being able to read and write something. What's been valued is being able to read and write stuff in a classroom, so that something is stuff you would find in a classroom setting.

But imagine a kid who does poorly in class on reading comprehension but is reading comic books or playing video games voraciously out of class. And in fact the kid is reading stuff in the comics and being exposed to plots and such in the video games that are very sophisticated, maybe with deep themes or complex ideas, big vocab, etc. (There really are tons of great comics and video games!)

Where does this kid stand? It seems we need to define literacy in broader terms. Open it up to other domains. This is the basic idea of Multiliteracies, as I understand it. The new definition of being literate means being able to participate in a community with other people who hang out in the same domain or have the same affinity for something. That kid is very comic book literate, understands the conventions of good comics, can talk the talk with comics people, and maybe could pen a comic herself.

We're all literate to varying degrees in a whole slew of communities/domains. As we navigate the world, we're moving from social space to social space, feeling like an expert in some and a total newb in others.

Digital literacy, then, is the ability to hang out with other people who are tech savvy and being able to use digital technology in a meaningful way. It is the common usage or practice that makes it a community, and it is the shared experience that lets you talk about it with others in the community.

Hanging out in a particular domain only really happens if that domain is actually relevant to the person doing the hanging out… In other words, I am very comfortable with computers not really because I chose it out of other stuff to get into, but more that over the years I've just found myself using them more and more to do particular things, solve particular problems, play certain games, etc. By using computers in such a way, I was able to meet others who used computers in a similar way, and I became computer literate.

The trick of the Tech class is to see if computers, the Internet, etc. can be used in a relevant way for the soon to be teachers.

The discussion board is already getting some good conversations going on… not that their content is necessarily good, but that it is actually being used to share ideas and talk about movies and classes and such. Hopefully the benefit to the discussion board will become even more self-evident as the months pass.

The blogs to me are a place to write a little bit more about topics that are relevant and personal. Maybe get in-depth more so than you would in a discussion board post. They serve as a place for you to post photos and share things with your friends and family. They will also hopefully be a place for you to store assignments or writings that you will want to eventually include in your portfolios.

Being digitally literate isn't just so you can all be on the same page as your future students; it's also supposed to help you in your professional development and lives in general… but maybe after trying this stuff out, it won't seem useful. That is fine. We still have a few months to convince you of its usefulness. If after you graduate, you're not convinced… well, it's your life, you decide what helps you most. It is not a failing to dislike this stuff on your part or to feel like you are lost… It simply means this stuff isn't relevant. Why should you use something that isn't relevant and doesn't solve problems for you?