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.

Citation synchronisation

More reference material fun as I try to figure out what the story is with Endnote.  It turns out that it’s relatively easy (if not entirely intuitive) to export citations into Endnote. I’m curious about a couple of things — like, is it normal to build up just one Endnote Library?  I’m trying to consolidate all of my materials here, so I guess I will export the library to HTML to go on a bibliography page here, but I will also need it in Endnote’s native format to use the Cite While You Write feature.  Unfortunately this feature doesn’t currently support Word 2004, which is annoying, because I just removed Word X from my laptop.  Ah well.

Small steps

Today I decided to give the University’s Link Generator a try. I decided that if I am going to try to collect together useful articles, along with bibliographic information, I need to settle on a method of organising things pretty early. The Link Generator does a good job of storing links to articles in one place, and if it works, it makes more sense for me to collect article links there than try to duplicate them here. On the other hand, I sort of like the idea of having my own links here (for searchability and integration with other stuff) so it’s an open question right now.

I started with a search on ProQuest — no particular reason other than I had heard of it before. I used the terms role and playing and online to see what it would turn up. Around 217 hits. I went through and marked anything that looked like it related to higher education or something more general that was of interest, and got it down to 27 articles. Unfortunately on closer inspection almost all of these have very little to do with computer-based or online role-plays at all, so I will either need to improve my searching skills if I’m not going to waste a fair bit of time.

I decided I should look closely at a few higher education journals and search them for online role-play stuff too. All of this is just to get a background picture of what’s going on with online role-plays rather than looking at the more central theoretical issues, but I feel as though it’s time I went back and did some basic literature stuff like this, if only just to get back into the habit of reading. It’s also giving me a chance to test out things like the Link Generator and this blog, so I think it’s worth it.

And Unpacking

Meanwhile I’ve been turning the house upside down trying to find a particular bunch of notes I was working with a few months back. I want to go back through everything and put the most useful notes up here. I think somewhere here there’s a folder with my handwritten notes and some readings. Tantalisingly, I found the folder of stuff from the CHC project, and thought I’d struck it lucky. Sadly, no. I’ll keep looking over the weekend.

Tracking and Stacking

Today I added a couple of features that I really think are going to be handy. First of all I installed the tracker module that provides a handy list of recent posts that can be sorted chronologically, or by title and node type. One of the main purposes of setting this site up was to be able to find my notes quickly and easily. The other nice thing I discovered by chance was this little PHP mod that allows custom blocks to make lists based on taxonomies. That’s allowed me to put a new block up on the right there — Latest Notes. I may yet improve this.

My first blog

I’ve decided it’s time I tried using a blog*. I decided that if I was going to have a blog, it should have a useful purpose. At the same time, I am looking for a way to organise my thinking around the area of role-plays, so hopefully this will be a useful tool that will help me gather resources for my MA thesis.

*This was the first post of my thesis work log on www.eroleplay.net (password protected)