More leads

Martin gave me a number of leads at yesterday’s meeting.  Firstly, there was the fascinating and slightly disturbing ‘<a href=”http://www.ict.usc.edu/disp.php?bd=proj_clas”>Think Like A Commander</a>’ role-play developed for the US Army. Two references he recommended regarding interpellation are <i>Decoding advertisements: ideology and meaning in advertising</i> by Judith Williamson and <i>Ideology and State Apperatus</i> by Louis Althusser. He also mentioned Andrew Stapleton, Multimedia Lecturer & Game Researcher, Multimedia Group, School of Biophysical Sciences & Electrical Engineering, Swinburne University of Technology, who is giving a paper at the academic summit at <a href=”http://www.agdc.com.au/conference/schedule_acad_summit.php”>The Australian Games Developers Conference</a> in December.

Video games

Yesterday I posted a topic about online role-plays for higher education on Brainstorms. I knew there’d be an interest in the idea there, but what’s amazing is the quality of discussion there. Already I’ve had responses from people like Howard Rheingold, Andee Baker, Julian Long and Charles Cameron, all of whom are noted experts in related fields. Andee has even taken up my offer to check out what I’m doing here (hi Andee). Charles’ area is games for education in general. He pointed out something called the Serious Games Initiave. Through that site, I found a videotaped presentation by Kurt Squire from MIT’s Games-To-Teach Project. His presentation talks about (among other things) a role-play game called Biohazard from CMU that sounds really intriguing. It’s a “robust simulated” role-playing game, meaning it includes a simulated environment that you can interact with, much like (I imagine) a FPS game. This could be a really interesting case study because it is so obviously packed with all kinds of assumptions and interests — for example the project is funded by Microsoft, and the example of a biohazard that Squire gave was anthrax.

Baudrillard on play

Today’s leads have all been very interesting. It turns out that this topic leads in many directions, and the trick is to know just how far to go down a given alley before turning back. One that looks promising is Virtual Play: Baudrillard Online, an article that (dare I say it) playfully explores the boundary of the virtual and the real through Baudrillard. I’m writing up a summary of this one now.

Endnote fun

Endnote 7 sucks a bit less than Endnote 6, but it’s a close call.  I got myself set up with my old installation of Word X and Endnote 7, so I can now use the Cite While You Write feature (by the way, who comes up with their snappy product titles anyway?).  The very best feature of Endnote that I’ve found so far is that it has a Palm conduit that works flawlessly, meaning I can carry my references with me to the library, make notes, and sync them back to my Mac.  Huzzah.

But what I don’t understand is why they haven’t twigged to the idea that people these days are using more than one computer regularly. I use at least 3 — my office machine, my laptop and my home desktop — and I can only assume that most people use a similar number.  Not to mention that as a student you’re probably going to be spending quite a bit of time in a library using public machines.  So if you’re off in a lab somewhere and you want to make an update to your Endnote database, presumably you’ve got to either edit a local copy (USB key anyone?) or log into your desktop and edit it remotely.

Both are problematic.  The first means you pretty much have to manage the data synching yourself, and the second requires you to have remote access to a fileserver everywhere you want to edit.  It would be more easy if you could (preferably) just sync automatically somehow or access your Endnote database over the web.

Tagging items for feedback

Mike suggested I should find a way to differentiate between my private notes and ramblings here and stuff that I would like feedback on.  Since I’ve already generated a fair volume of stuff in the first week, I think this is a great idea.  I’ve created a new term for the Thesis Documents taxonomy that is simply “For Comment”.  Anything tagged with that will show up in the “Items for comment” block which I’ve set to go to the top right of the screen by default.  Once things have been commented on they can be untagged and will sink back to their normal place.

DRALE Detective work

Today was another reasonably productive day. I started by tracking down some documents I still have (archived to CD-ROM) from the original DRALE project. I actually hadn’t realised how much I had kept from those days. I located the original Proposal from Acumen, the agenda for the first meeting and the Functional Specification, which should be useful. I even found a notice for a Seminar about DRALE, which I thought was good going. One of the most useful documents might be a Briefing Paper by Peter Jones which sets out some of the reflections on its use after the first couple of years. All of this should be handy for tracing different people’s roles in the project.

Readings round up

The two articles dredged up through the Proquest search were very different. The first was a short article from the designer of Deus Ex and the Ultima series games, Warren Spector. Even though it was very light on, it was interesting to read such a clear discussion of what works and doesn’t work for the design of RPGs, and it made me wonder if there might be some value in looking at a bit more along these lines at some point. I was thinking of referring to the widespread use of RPGs by students before they even get to the tertiary education system anyway. My notes are here.

The second one was a very technical sociology paper on something called ‘role theory’. This is a theory about ‘embededness’, which I take to mean long term cooperative behaviour, and has little or nothing to do with role-playing per se. This all has to do with game theory, apparently, which (rather confusingly) has nothing to do with games as such, but refers to thought experiments like the Prisoner’s Dilemma (you know the one, where Al and Bob are criminals and they have to decide whether or not to rat on one another or trust that the other will not rat on them). ‘Role theory’ is apparently the idea that “the individual should be viewed as a collection of roles” rather than as unitary actors (under rational choice theory). Interesting, but not really anything to do with my topic, so I abandoned the article there.

I also re-read a couple of articles by Margaret Riel. ‘Cross-classroom collaboration’ is the type of upbeat article you’d find at an EdMedia conference (or ASCILITE for that matter). It’s really just pointing out that computers can be used to connect school classrooms together. Anyway, I put my notes here.

The only other thing I did today was put my notes on Chapter 1 of Poster’s book online. I’m enjoying the way this works because I feel like I have easier access to stuff now. It also meant I re-read the notes, which gave me a kick in the right direction again. More on that later, I think.

Eureka!

It was the last box left in the house. I was sure this box contained only MLX-related stuff (well, that’s what the label said after all). So imagine my surprise when we removed the masking tape to reveal my beloved pink folder (helpfully labeled “MASTERS”) right at the top. This contains a bunch of material I was going through and annotating a while back. Now I plan to transcribe my notes and re-read anything that still sounds interesting. A cursory glance showed that I have a few pathways to trace with this material too. There’s not a huge amount, but it’s good to know I’ve got the references from this batch to go back to when I need it.

I’ve found some notes that I made on Poster’s What’s the Matter with the Internet, which Mike recommended as a good jumping off point. I don’t know where the electronic version of these notes has gone, which leads me to wonder whether I did lose a bit of useful stuff when my iMac’s hard drive got fritzed a few months ago. Nevermind, I’ve got the hard copy of just about everything, so I’ll start feeding it in here this week.