Today was definitely one of the most interesting and motivating days I’ve had in a long while working on my research project. I sat in on the Strategic Political Communication class and took a bunch of field notes, so I felt like a real researcher on the job. But more than anything I had a real sense of what my interviews were going to be like by seeing the students first hand. They are an interesting bunch from a lot of different places. Very talkative and informed about media and communications, so I think the simulation would work well with them.
One of the most interesting things that came up was actually that the students recognised that there was a technical problem with the system allowing them to see things ahead of time. This potentially breaks down the authentic feeling of the simulation — or does it? I was really interested to see that they knew it was a problem but were not necessarily going in and checking out stuff that they shouldn’t. Virtually the whole class knew there was a problem. The other main thing this brings up is the importance of things such as chronological order to a simulation of this kind, and the potential therefore of the system to add a great deal of confusion when it malfunctions. I think this is a theme I need to write something about in my discussion and the whole story about just what happened when this did crop up should make wonderful reading. The students basically lead the discussion, showing the lecturer exactly what the technical problem was and how to subvert the system. Excellent stuff.
The other thing I was paying a lot of attention to in the class was the ways in which the roles were reinforced by the way that people addressed each other face to face. At a number of stages the students were referred to as Journalists or Advisors. There wasn’t any real first person “role-playing” going on at all, though. No side-jokes with students pretending to hate/like each other or anything of that nature. It was all very much as though they viewed the exercise as something to ponder and reflect on rather than “live”. I want to know whether that illusion of living in the shoes of an Advisor or Journalist is any more real in the online exercises.