For the past week or so I’ve been doing a little research into the idea of “desire lines” after it came up in a discussion with my co-worker, Lee. I was talking about stories I’d heard about landscape architects waiting for people to make trails before laying down official paths, as metaphor for observing where people stray from the beaten path as a way to understand how the path is inadequate.
It occurred to me that this has happened with The Campaign. I know from talking to the students that the Mailbox function failed, and they strayed to email to take up their own interchanges there. This had the unintended effect of changing the students’ experience of the role-play, however, because they then spoke to each other out of character for the most part. This is a desire line for them — wanting to talk to each other, student-to-student. An oversight in the design of the system. An example of where the system was subverted.
What’s interesting is that they also described the fact that they knew how to subvert the system even further by getting to materials ahead of time, but they didn’t. While in The Campaign, where they knew they could be watched, they behaved. Foucoult, anyone?
Lee reminded me of Jacques Lacan’s work in relation to desires. I realise I’ve only really been in touch with Lacan through Turkle’s later work. So I’m hoping to get a hold of some of his stuff to check out what he says about desires.
Wikipedia tells me he wrote this:
The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis*, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968
I forgot to mention that I recorded another presentation and posted it as a podcast on The Zotcast recently. Check it out.
Phew. A long journey has finally come to an end. The work for my MA I began in 1997 (yes, 9 years ago) has been completed with the finalisation of my thesis. If you’re curious, you can read it here: The roles actors perform. Of course, I could still crash and burn if the examiners don’t like it, but I live in hope. I’m just happy it’s over!
Role-play has long been used as an educational tool to provide learners with a way to understand the real world. Since the advent of the World Wide Web, online role-plays have become widely used in Australian tertiary institutions to provide students with authentic learning opportunities. This presentation profiles two examples of online role-plays developed at the University of Melbourne: DRALE Online, in which final year law students form legal teams in a dispute resolution process, and The Campaign, a role-play about journalists and political advisors following a political campaign. To see the whole podcast, visit The Zotcast.
I’m gearing up to start interviews as soon as possible. The next stage is to contact the students with the Plain Language Statement and a copy of the consent form. I’m feeling confident after spending quite a bit of time observing the class and getting to know the students. They appear to be keen to participate and all signed up when I passed around the pen and paper!
Here’s a revised version of the interview questions, and attached to this post is the revised Plain Language Statement.
My notes from the two classroom visits are here*:
Notes from The Campaign Press Conference 7 October
Field Notes: SPC 9 September
And here are some of the notes on the Specification document for The Campaign:
* This post was originally made to my thesis work log. Links to pages on eroleplay.net are password protected.
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.
For some reason I haven’t updated here in ages, so a lot has happened since the last entry. I expect to hear about my ethics application in the next couple of weeks, which is when I hope to be able to actually begin collecting data. I hit a couple of snags relating to the particular student cohort, which I’m still trying to get sorted out. After finding out that DRALE isn’t being used in “group” mode in one of the subjects, I was told that it was being used in another subject. The lecturer for that subject was away overseas, however, so I couldn’t verify this until she got back. Sadly, it turns out she isn’t using it at all this semester. However, yet another (smaller) group has just used it this semester. So I hope to do a combination of the non-groupwork usage and the smaller group, which is using the system in its full glory.
It might even add a few areas for comparison that I may not have otherwise got. I still need to write to the Dean to get approval for the study, and I may need to modify my ethics application, but it shouldn’t be too tough.
As I’ve mentioned before, the whole process is a little offputting and in my case quite frustrating, but I still see it as a learning curve. Part of the point of getting a student to do all this is surely to find out what barriers there can be, and how to overcome them.
Meanwhile I’ve now got N6 installed on top of Virtual PC 7. N6 seems to work fine. Virtal PC is sluggish on my G4 iMac. I want a G5! I’m not sure if this is going to be a viable solution when I really get down to data analysis. It basically requires Virtual PC to go into fullscreen mode, which means multitasking is not easy, and that’s a big pain.
On Tuesday I finally heard that an assessor has been appointed for my progress report. So on Wednesday I sent over the latest copy of my work with all the paperwork signed. I don’t know what happens next — I guess I get the paperwork back with some comments in a couple of weeks or something. All I know is that it was late getting back to Faculty because the (already extended) due date was March 28th. It wasn’t my fault, though, so I assume that it shouldn’t be a problem.
People smile with recognition and empathy when I mention that I’m preparing an ethics application. Fellow postgrads fix me with a grin and tell me how much fun the process is. My supes all but giggled when I mentioned the 9 pages of tedious paperwork I found on the human ethics web page, but they didn’t mention anything about the supporting documentation required. Everyone who has been through the process understands that it’s daunting enough that they don’t have to issue any warnings. They just smile knowingly.
Preparing an application is difficult at the best of times, but preparing one in a hurry is definitely not recommended. Unfortunately I really needed to get mine in this round, so I made a particular effort. It won’t be approved until mid April, which is just enough time to get my study done.
Going through this process does have its benefits. Firstly, it forced me to consider my methodology more carefully. Secondly, it made me get in touch with a whole range of people and start talking about actually collecting data. This turned up the unexpected piece of info today that I really ought to be doing my questionnaires and interviews with Civil Litigation students. Third, it got me thinking about analysis, which has already got me worried. I need some training. It turns out that SGS offers a whole bunch of <a href=”http://www.gradstudies.unimelb.edu.au/prog_services/programs/upskill/research.html”>research skills seminars</a> in first semester. I’m going to attend a couple of them for sure. I also need to get hold of NVIVO.
Last week I officially came back from my Leave of Absence, which I took because my fieldwork can’t start until first semester. Returning from leave means that I need to complete my progress report, which is a one-year milestone for my thesis. Having a deadline does wonders for motivation, so it has meant I have converted a lot of my notes into useful material in a short space of time. The Lit Review section is now looking pretty good. It probably needs a little more SST stuff, but I can add to it later. The Introduction is also not bad, and I included some background material on my case study which I think works well. I will no doubt revise the Introduction for readability, but I’m reasonably happy with progress. It’s now off to the supes for their comments and then it comes back to me before being sent off to the department. I should know in a few weeks whether they think progress is satisfactory.
Massively Multiplay Online Roleplay Games (MMORGs) are still getting press coverage about a month after an Australian gamer named ‘Deathifier’ bid $US26,500 for a virtual island that only exists in the game Project Entropia. One of the most interesting things about this is that it may turn out to be a good investment, since Deathifier now holds mining and taxation rights on the island — resources that can be converted into real cash in the same way.