A lot has happened in the last few weeks:
- Yay! Sarah Walter and my abstract was accepted to the Association of Internet Researchers conference (IR10, Milwaukie, October 7-11). Here’s what we submitted:
A Comparison of Collaboration across Two Game Contexts: Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft
To better understand the nature of virtual collaboration, we present analyses of high-stakes team activities, known as “raids,” in massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). These situations are hotbeds of collaboration, which is increasingly recognized as a valuable twenty-first century skill (Karoly & Panis, 2004). Raids usually involve a great amount of communication and coordination of actions, interdependence of teammates, leadership, and execution of strategy, similar to elements of collaboration in other settings, such as business (Reeves, Malone & O’Driscoll, 2008), surgical teams (Edmondson, 2003), the military (Salas, Bower & Cannon-Bowers, 1995), control room teams (Patrick, et. al., 2006), sports teams (Eccles & Tenenbaum, 2004), and educational settings (Mercier, Goldman & Booker, 2006). These raid events often span hours at a time and are often repeated over several months before the raid zone is cleared, i.e. when the team is able to successfully defeat all of the enemies. Existing studies of learning in MMOGs include gaming as a constellation of literacy practices (Steinkuehler, 2007, 2008), scientific argumentation in web forums around game strategies (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008), and learning game ethos, strategy, and fact-finding with peers via chat (Nardi, 2007). Yet other research has looked at the development of social skills (Ducheneaut & Moore, 2005) and the build-up and leveraging of social and cultural capital to succeed in game activities (Jakobsson & Taylor, 2003, Malaby, 2006). Previous work on raiding has included a focus on providing an ethnographic account of in-game activity and the realignment work needed after moments of failure (Chen, 2009). Without cross-setting comparisons, however, it is difficult to uncover which aspects of gaming are specific to the game world and which can be thought of as enduring qualities of expert collaborative group practice.
To make cross-setting comparisons, we analyze gameplay video, audio conversations, and text chat data from two popular MMOGs, The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) and World of Warcraft (WoW). Using a participant-observation approach, we examine two semi-stable teams of players who spent several weeks learning to be successful in a raid. In particular, we examine collaborative behavior and communication for two raid battles in each game: one successful battle, and one unsuccessful. The four cases were coded based on adaptations to work team behavior frameworks (Rousseau, et al., 2006), situation awareness measures (Patrick, et al., 2006), and a coding system used in examining differences between problem-solving youth groups (Baron, 2003). Informed by theories on the relational networks of human and nonhuman actors (Latour, 1988, 2005), which includes considering the distribution of cognitive work within ecological settings (Hutchins, 1995a, 1995b), and the assemblage of such systems as applied to games (Taylor, forthcoming), our analyses focus on one aspect of practice, the communication of expert players. This communication includes voice and text chat, and the patterns that emerge when looking across game sessions. By comparing two games with different designs (e.g. team size, player abilities, and scripting of battles) and cultures (e.g. roles, expectations, preferred mode of communication, and use of external tools), we can discover what is common about these collaborative activities, giving us an insight into what is common about teamwork and collaboration in virtual tasks that require a high degree of technical skill and coordinated effort. Themes emerge concerning situational awareness, psychological safety (Edmonson, 1999, 2003), problem solving (Barron, 2003; Roschelle, 1992), and critical communicative practices necessary for success. Results are discussed in relation to collaboration research in other non-virtual settings.
- Yay! Submitted something to the Digital Games Research Association conference (DiGRA, London, September 1-4). I’ll hear on June 1 whether it is accepted. I can’t post what I submitted yet… Blind review and all…
- Yay! I’m in a reading group this quarter that focuses on actor-network theory and activity theory. Right now we’re reading Latour’s Reassembling the Social. Read the above abstract to get a really, really brief summary, though I realize it isn’t written for non-academics…
- Yay! I’m taking Isaac Gottesman‘s Educators as Intellectuals class (again, but this one is different than the one two years ago). We are reading biographical, philosophical, and ethnographic accounts of what it means to be an intellectual/activist/educator and writing our own historical, situated accounts… There’s some crazy connections being made between this and the sociotechnical stuff I’ve been reading… Gross, for example, argues that Rorty was shaped by his relationships with others and that social and cultural capital played a huge part in his development, more so than any inherent agentive trait. Here’s the full list of what we’re reading:
- Said. Representations of the Intellectuals
- Gross. Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher
- Ransby. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
- Ayers. To Teach
- Pascoe. Dude, You’re a Fag
- Yay! I’m going on the Microsoft, EA, and GarageGames sponsored Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) conference next week, which takes place on the Disney cruise ship, sailing the Bahamas. 🙂 Cabining with Roger Altizer! We’re going to hit up Disney World first. Hopefully, while he screams like a little school girl, I’ll just be giggling (like a little school girl).
- Boo! Robin is sick this week. I was sick for like a day, but her’s is lasting a week so far…
- Boo! Ushki also got sick this week. She was constipated something fierce.
- Boo! Our water heater exploded on Thursday. Apparently, it’s a power vent heater, costing about $1000 more than a regular water heater ($1500). But, on top of that, the contractors who built our townhouse cut some corners and did some really strange things with their install of the water heater, snuggling it in a really tight space in the garage that is too small for modern water heaters. Furthermore, our heating system uses the hot water system, complicating matters a little, as the dudes from Fast Water Heater Co. install a new water heater in a new space. We originally got a quote from O’Neill Plumbing that seemed high, but I was at the office and Robin was stuffy headed so we didn’t quite understand the complexity of the situation. When we got a second quote from the Home Depot referred Fast Water Heater Co., the prices were actually about the same: $2700!! Boo, indeed. We went with Fast since Jason took the time to explain the situation very carefully (three times! me, Robin, my mom).
- Yay (and Boo)! I’m going to go to State of Play (SoP, NYC, June 18-20), and Dan Hunter, the guy organizing it (and fellow guildie) is offering graduate students free conference registration and either free room and board or some money for airfare! There was talk about folks who were going to be at Games Learning Society (GLS, Madison, June 12-14) carpooling over to NYC. That sounded like fun but I’m having problems getting a confirmation that that is actually happening. Given that I now need to pay for this new water heater somehow, I fear I might be skipping GLS this year… 🙁 If I get into DiGRA, I hope Phil remembers his conversation with me about getting LIFE to pay for it…
- I’m ramping up video analysis of a specific kid and his video game practices for ESTG’s ethnographic study.
- I’m an officer for Educators for Social Justice (ESJ) this year, and this quarter we’re organizing a panel on teacher education and social justice issues.
- I’m helping the Associated Students of the College of Ed (ASCE) set up a website next week.
- The IT Crowd is pretty good.
- The Red Dwarf final episodes finally were aired. Odd Blade Runner references. I think the third part (of three) fell flat.
- I just finished playing Drakensang. Very linear. No narrative decision points to speak of. Very detailed combat system. German. Felt kind of like Drakensang : The Witcher = Icewind Dale : Baldur’s Gate (or maybe even Planescape).
2 thoughts on “The long rambly update… April 09 edition!”
These conference names like “Internet Researchers” seem so pretentious to me, as if ethnographic study is the apex of understanding the Internet. What about study of networking protocols and statistical models of social networks (a la Jon Kleinberg)… all of which seems much more fundamental.
I think some of them do that type of work, actually. It’s a conglomeration of Comm, New Media, Science & Tech Studies, Library & Info Sciences, Education, Sociology, Anthropology, Computer Science, Infomatics, and Tech Comm… But you’re right, the “Internet” bit is quite a vague catchall… Most don’t do ethnography, though, that is, of course, what I do.
And statistical models *more* fundamental? For what? They can give a very gross approximations of phenomenon and are useful for seeing trends and such, but they can’t possibly speak about actual meaningful activity on the ground level. I rather think multidisciplinary and multimethods by a multitude of people is the only way we’ll get a clear(er) picture of what’s happening.