Tag Archives: tl taylor

evolution of a CV

So, I spent almost the whole of last weekend working on a new version of my CV in prep for the Digital Media job in the school of education at Madison that’s due at the end of this week. I figured, for a digital media position, I really should finally act on this desire to do something different, inspired by a couple of years of seeing really cool visualized resumes and such. For example, here’re my visualize.me and my What About Me? results:


For the CV, I’ve been told that search committees are interested in productivity over time, so I thought that a nice timeline would clearly show my rate of producing academic writing. Initially, I played around with an actual timeline with boxes highlighting different works. Here’s a first draft:

Continue reading evolution of a CV

Digital Games Research Association #digra11

Ok, so I suck at updating this blog.

A few weeks ago I attended the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA)’s bi-annual meeting. This year it was at Hilversum, The Netherlands!

Continue reading Digital Games Research Association #digra11

Brief thoughts on guild management, inclusion, and positioning

Four years is a long time, relatively speaking, especially about Internet life and events. I figure four years is long enough that I can safely talk about some experiences I had as a guild master or officer that affected me. They left me thinking, were time-consuming, and took a lot of energy to manage at the time.

[Note: After writing, I’ve realized that I don’t really go into much detail, so I probably could’ve written this stuff down a long time ago, but I wasn’t sure what I’d write, so…]

There were two cases that I’ve previously written about or mentioned. First, there’s the two cases of inclusion that I wrote about in “Ethical tensions between the roles I play” where guildies weren’t quite fitting into the social norms of the guild. Second, there’s the case of a guildie who was gkicked due to an argument over loot rules. I wrote about this in “Play my way,” the chapter co-authored with Lisa Galarneau that was originally to appear in a book on the politics of play in virtual worlds. That book never got off the ground, so we recently revised it and submitted it to the Handbook of Research on Improving Learning and Motivation through Educational Games.

Anyway, one case I haven’t really shared before was when a woman in my guild claimed she was going to attempt to commit suicide. An interesting thing to note about this case was that it occurred during the atypical night of raiding that I wrote about in the “Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in WoW” paper in Games and Culture. The timing of her call-out for help significantly contributed to me not paying as much attention to the raid as I normally did, which, in part, added to the “off night” feeling that led to our nigh raid meltdown.

<enter description of suicide attempt here> [Note: maybe some day I’ll write about it fully, but I’ve realized that I don’t need to describe it more now…]

All of the above events were ones that I wasn’t expecting to encounter while managing a guild.

There’s a nod-with-a-smile-knowing-better-now-that-I’m-wiser kind of feeling when I think back at the time of our guild formation. There were five of us who were friends outside of the game. The only reason I was the guild master was because I took the time to run over to the guild house and buy the charter. Other than that, my thought was always that us five were a quintumvirate or pentumvirate or whatever word is used with a ruling body composed of five people. When we were naming the guild ranks, I chose Overseer for guild master, mostly trying to stay in character as we were Horde-side on an RP server (with the other ranks being Officer, Veteran, Grunt, and Peon). Yet, the nominal marking of me as the Overseer positioned me in a role that came with additional responsibilities. These were projected onto me from both guild officers (the other four members of the ruling body) and the regular guildies. Often when tension would occur, a couple of the other officers would argue (somewhat jokingly but somewhat seriously) that I should handle the situation because I was the Overseer. Eventually, I came to understand that it was easier for guildies to see one person as the de facto leader, and I began to accept the de jury role as my actual role.

T.L. Taylor suggested I expand on my “Ethical tensions” paper to focus more on the mediating role I found myself in, between officers and regular guildies. Not only did I have to deal with the problem guild members, I also had to figure out a way to reconcile competing opinions among the officers about how to do that management work. And, of course, I had to do this partly because of my title but also partly because I felt obligated to intervene on behalf of the guild members such that they were being treated fairly and responsibly. This compulsion to ethical behavior was in tension with what seemed like the norm (or stereotyped norm) of game group management, which was to just boot the non-socializing guild members and be done with it (AKA just boot the fuckers).

Our guild prided itself on being relatively inclusive and flat, though one officer put it nicely when he pointed out that the emphasis was on the word “relatively,” since we *did* in fact exclude those who clearly did not fit in–mostly people who weren’t articulating and communicating effectively. To be and feel included necessitated a certain level of communication and social awareness. So, when it was suggested by other officers, to just gkick the problem guildies did not seem to me to be in line with our guild credo. It was one thing to not invite someone to be a member of the guild because it was clear he or she didn’t fit in, but to kick someone out once he or she actually was already in needed justification. It needed to be explained and described with specific examples of problem behavior so the non-socializing guildie could present a counterargument.

But those values of negotiation were in full conflict with our notion of what game playing was. We were there to have fun–not to work, not to deal with drama. Again, I can smirk now, knowing what I know and having a better sense of what it means to play in an online game. Play *is* work. Playing with others necessitates negotiations of roles, responsibilities, and social norms. With enough others, there’s going to be conflict or misalignment. That’s a given, and the world won’t get better by refusing to deal with conflict. Refusal to resolve conflict excludes those who need a help-up in participating legitimately in the community. (Are you down with LPP? Yeah, you know me…)

One could argue that it all comes out in the wash, that people who are excluded from one group eventually find another where they fit in. That’s the beauty of a critical mass of people in an online space. But I think this possibly leads to the forming of more and more insular groups, and I consider it a problem that perpetuates the intolerance we have in offline life. That’s not the world I want to play in.

Nick Yee once asked me why I wanted to help the problem guildies become acclimated to the guild and/or find an alternative suitable guild for them to play with. When he asked me this, all I could say was that I felt compelled to help others when I could. Maybe I thought that as someone who valued education, it was hypocritical not to want to help others. (Channeling Malaby) I can now say that acting in social settings is always a contingent move towards the display of cultural capital. And as a person who values diversity, inclusion, and democracy, I sometimes have a strong compulsion to help others learn how to be successful in their contingent acts of play/work. This was especially true when I was positioned within my guild as the Overseer who had accepted certain responsibilities to live up to the guild’s stated values.

(This all sort of speaks to positioning theory… I was positioned by others into the role of someone who is in charge of handling guild conflicts. I (re)positioned myself into a role that compelled me to mediate conflicts in a way that I thought was ethical and fair. Who was doing the positioning? Did I accept or rebel or simply transform my position?)

In case you’re interested in academic references and/or don’t feel like clicking on the in-line links:

submission to summer institute for the science of socio-technical systems

The Consortium for the Science of Sociotechnical Systems is holding their annual summer institute at Skamania Lodge this year. Since I’ve been leaning heavily towards actor-network theory, distributed cognition, and mangle of practice ways of looking at my data, and since it’s so close, I decided to apply. Here’s my research summary I wrote for the application:

Contributions to the Scientific Understandings of Sociotechnical Systems

I research the ecology of gaming and new media (Salen, 2008, Stevens, Satwitcz, & McCarthy, 2008). My dissertation focuses on ethnographic accounts of online gaming practice, documenting expertise development, teamwork, and collaboration in a World of Warcraft player group (Chen, 2009). Using actor-network theory (Latour, 2005) and distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1995), this work treats the group as a learning network that successfully enrolled various human and nonhuman resources to thrive in a high-stakes joint-task environment (Taylor, 2009). I find using an analytical lens that recognizes the mangle of gaming (Steinkuehler, 2006, Pickering, 1993) helps to see that distinctions between subject-object or player-game don’t adequately describe in-action learning across settings and time. Rather, a player group’s expertise trajectory is always collaborative and social, always contentious, and always drawing on both micro- and macro-level sociomaterial (Orlikowski, 2007) resources in complex, messy gaming spaces. Analyses of informal learning arrangements using a socio-technical lens are important for science and technology studies, learning sciences, and new media scholars as specific examples of the distributed nature of learning that may lead to a broader conception of everyday practice and learning with new media.

I combine this object-oriented ontology (Bogost, 2009) with other interdisciplinary ways of describing learning arrangements including how people position and are positioned into specific roles and relationships (Holland & Leander, 2004) across timescales (Lemke, 2000) in interdiscursive moments (Silverstein, 2007).

I hope to continue using these ideas to describe learning across all of life’s myriad settings (NRC, 2009). As I am just finishing my dissertation this year, I feel like my options are wide open. Possible future areas of study include continued work in online and offline gaming practices in different player communities to expanded sites of study. For example, one research interest I have is to study software and media piracy networks and the learning and expertise development within those networks.


  • Bogost, I. (2009). What is object-oriented ontology? Retrieved February 25, 2010, from: http://www.bogost.com/blog/what_is_objectoriented_ontolog.shtml
  • Chen, M. (2009). Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture, 4(1), 47-73.
  • Holland, D., & Leander, K. (2004). Ethnographic studies of positioning and subjectivity: An introduction. Ethos, 32(2), 127–139.
  • Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Lemke, J. L. (2000). Across the scales of time: Artifacts, activities, and meanings in ecosocial systems. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 7(4), 273-290.
  • National Research Council. (2009). Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits. Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments. P. Bell, B. Lewenstein, A. W. Shouse, & M. A. Feder (Eds.). Board on Science Education, Center for Education, Division of Behavior and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  • Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work. Organization Studies, 28(9), 1435-1448.
  • Pickering, A. (1993). The mangle of practice: Agency and emergence in the sociology of science. American Journal of Sociology, 99(3), 559-589.
  • Salen, K. (2008). Toward an ecology of gaming. In The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning (1–17). USA: The MIT Press.
  • Silverstein, M. (2007). Axes of evals: Token versus type interdiscursivity. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 15(1), 6-22.
  • Steinkuehler, C. A. (2006). The mangle of play. Games and Culture, 1(3), 199-213.
  • Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. In K. Salen (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning (41-66). USA: The MIT Press.
  • Taylor, T. L. (2009). The assemblage of play. Games and Culture, 4(4). 331-339.

Foundations of Digital Games 09 recap

Ok, lessee…

At the end of April I went to Foundations of Digital Games. A lot of the sessions were on AI and procedural programming for computer and video games, which isn’t entirely related to what I study, so I went swimming, hot-tubbing, sailing, etc. instead. But the sessions on game studies (Jose Zagal, Mia Consalvo, Jesper Juul, moderated by TL Taylor) was good.

Jose (who I’ve cited for his, Rick, and Hsi’s look at cooperation in the Lord of the Rings boardgame, and who worked with a couple of other students including Amanda Ladd [careful, my virus protection program claims there’s a trojan associated with her site… no idea if that is true] who was also at the conference (as an undergrad!)) did a paper on the current qualities of game reviews, breaking out the moves and arguments they make into 9 or so different categories. The problem is that they only chose IGN and Gamespot to look at, which means they were missing out on a whole slew of alternative review sites such as Adventure Gamers as well as missing print publications. Maybe there’s no difference in terms of what reviews do, but maybe there is.

Mia presented a study on the online community around the hidden object games Mystery Case Files, specifically Return to Ravenhearst, describing how the kinds of talk on their forums is just as rich and varied as the kinds of talk on MMOG forums.

Jesper (along with Marleigh Norton at MIT) took a deeper look at difficulty in games, showing how difficulty can come from both the game and with the game interface and that these are actually very blurred. There’s a difference between bad interface design and an interface that is meant to be difficult to master. In fact, such games as Wario Ware are actually all about figuring out the interface. So, the assumption that good UI is always an intuitive or invisible UI isn’t always a good assumption to make.

There were other sessions on creating a game development department or bridging industry with academia, and those were pretty good. The take away message I got, though it wasn’t necessarily explicit, was from Magy Seif El-Nasr and Kurt Squire who said they’ve been going to GDC for several years, first as a grad student. GDC is expensive, but the point I got was that you have to be visible, that building a relationship with industry folks takes time. That’s pretty much the reason why I’ve been trying to go to as many varied conferences as possible, though I’ve been limiting mine to ones that don’t cost a fortune. I wonder if I should start going to GDC, though…

Constance Steinkuehler and Yasmin Kafai were both at the conference, too, so there definitely was some representation from the Learning Sciences. One grad student I met, Al Yang pointed out, however, that it seemed like the different disciplines and/or schools, despite being stuck on a boat together, were relatively cliquish.

Other notables I met were Chris Lewis (who sneered at my Strongbow), Jack Stockholm and Veronica Zammito, both from Vancouver and guildies from Terror Nova! What sucks is that I didn’t meet them all until the last day, so we hardly talked at all. 🙁 Being stuck on a boat isn’t really as limiting as one would think…

I also met a bunch of people (Bob and his family, Mark, Gene) from Utah who work with Roger Altizer, my cabinmate, who I met at the Internet Researchers conference in Vancouver a couple of years back.

Cy from Microsoft, Brian from EA, Noah from UCSC (who edited First Person and is part of Grand Text Auto)… many more.

All in all, really fun conference. Bolt is a good movie.