[Edit Nov 23, 2011, 11:02am] Looks like these were uploaded yesterday, so hopefully the rest (6 more) will be added soonish. 🙂
[Edit Nov 23, 2011, 11:02am] Looks like these were uploaded yesterday, so hopefully the rest (6 more) will be added soonish. 🙂
I guess a bullet list is easiest. Conferences for this year:
Ten years ago, my brother Max and I rode our bicycles across the US, starting from Portland and ending up in Washington, D.C. We were sponsored by the National Bicycle Greenway, and we kept a travel log of our trip, back before wordpress, blogspot, etc. existed. We’d write our posts on our little handheld PCs and then hand code the markup necessary to apply styles. These were then ftped onto a website that was hosted by my employer, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which popped them into a pre-made template using Cold Fusion. An archive of the site can be found on my permanent domain (Max and Mark’s Excellent Adventure). The actual trip was from June 1 to August 29, 2000; we took a leisurely ride lasting the whole summer, hitting as many kitschy, touristy stops as we could along the way, staying a week in Chicago with our cousin Leo and his wife Stacy, etc.
I thought, since it’s been ten years, it’d be nice to resyndicate our travel log, so I’ll be posting our original posts into this blog, exactly ten years after the fact. I’ve missed the start date already, though, so I’ll have to backdate those posts. I plan to live vicariously through my past self. 🙂
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:
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.
It’s an odd piece, but I’ll write about it later… right now I gotta go hang out with SG. 🙂
Just added this to the Leet Noobs page to reflect my change in emphasis:
[Edit Feb 13, 2009:
I’ve moved slightly away from thinking about WoW as a two phase (two stage) process. I mean, it is helpful and maybe ethnographically correct–as in some players see it that way–but the line between the stages is very blurred, especially for anyone leveling up a character after their first one.
I wrote a paper that started out as me describing these two stages more. I intended to include things such as chat data and video analysis to illustrate the stages better, but I didn’t have time to do that kind of analysis for the deadline, so instead I turned it into a “how did ethnography help me” kind of paper, which seemed to make sense since it was for a special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures on ethnography and games.
Well, the reviewers, editor, and I eventually agreed that I should reframe what I submitted into a description of the social dimensions of expertise found in both stage one and stage two of character development. It’s a much better paper now after the review process than it started out as, but I’m afraid it reads a little hacked together (because it *was* a little hacked together!). Yet, I’m happy to say that it will, in fact, be appearing in TWC this Spring! 🙂
As for “Leet Noobs,” I am considering using it as the title for my dissertation, which, at this point, looks like it will be recasting the various publications I have through the lens of Actor-Network Theory/Distributed Cognition (maybe some Activity Theory thrown in, to boot) and be done by December 2009.
Also, NSF was here last Friday and Saturday for a visit to the LIFE Center while “us kids” were doing our grad student inter-SLC conference. One of the NSF folks really digged my poster and requested it be sent to him. We ended up sending him the charts one instead since it has more data on it. 🙂
I’ve been remiss in posting when things of mine get published.
I just now updated the Papers page with this: