Narrowing the focus

Posted by matthew on Sep 30, 2004 in education, eroleplay.net, roleplays

My aim this week has been to start to narrow the focus of my work. After speaking with Martin at our first meeting, I wanted to pick one of the themes and really take a good look at it with a view to framing my research question as clearly as I can. At the same time two things happened. Firstly the talk by Horvat mentioned in my last entry, and secondly Sam Carroll put me onto this article by Papacharissi building on Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in EveryDay Life to look at the web. I found it interesting not so much because of the (fairly dry) discussion but because of the way her questions were framed:
RQ1: What are Web page characteristics through which virtual actors pursue self presentation online?
RQ2: How are the characteristics of personal home pages related?

Now, her methodology was quantitative and (in my opinion) a little limited because of it, but it did get me thinking about the notion of self as being central to what I’m really interested in. So I started re-reading some of Goffman on presentation, and thinking about the destinction between the classical (Cartesian) notion of the stable self and more recent ideas about fractured/constructed selves (e.g. Dennett), Goffman’s ideas about self-presentation, and Althusser’s stuff about interpellation. I finally tracked down the one copy of Althusser’s Lenin And Philosophy in the ECOM library and read his famous ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’ article. Interesting — it reminded me of a lot of political science stuff I read as an undergrad.

Althusser is on about individuals (selves) being always-already subjects. He says “all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals as concreate subjects”. So for example when a police officer says ‘Hey, you there!’ and someone turns around, the fact that they know that it is really them who is being referred to means that they are a subject, and that they know it. The other example he gives is Christian ideology, which addresses individuals in order to transform them into subjects.

Castells is similarly coming from a political science perspective. I remember reading his stuff when I was doing International Relations. He has a bit to say about ‘self in the informational society’, saying that the net is actually completely at odds with the ‘self’, and even quoting Alaine Touraine “in post-industrial society, in which cultural services have replaced material goods at the core of production, it is the defense of the subject, in its personality and in its culture, against the logic of apparatuses and markets, that replaces the idea of class struggle”. This stuff is definitely up my alley with my politics background and pretty interesting in the light of my topic.

I decided that there would probably be enough just in the notion of the self to investigate with respect to DRALE too. How do these budding lawyers establish their identity as lawyers? What characteristics of the system interpellate them as lawyers? How do they employ this system, and how and to what extent are they defined by it? I can think of a lot of examples within the design of DRALE to look at — for example the agency provided by the letterheads for each of the teams. The authentication of students by typing in their name and password. The counter-signature process. The system as an actor/actors, the roles of the staff involved, and so on.


Conference time

Posted by matthew on Sep 22, 2004 in eroleplay.net, roleplays

I went to the Image, Text & Sound Conference at RMIT today and there were a couple of papers that were of particular interest. Les Horvat spoke about narrative as a vehicle to organise the self, referring to Macintyre. He contrasted the Cartesian view of the self as stable with recent ideas of the self as a stream of narrative fragments (e.g. Dennett). I found it quite useful just at the moment as I’m considering ideas of identity and role-plays. Lisa Dethridge talked about the importance of time in narratives. This was interesting to me from a design point of view, but I’m wondering whether it points to any interesting ideas for analysing the use of role-play systems too. In any case there was plenty to think about, and I will be following up a few things from the first one.


Research Project thoughts

Posted by matthew on Sep 20, 2004 in eroleplay.net, roleplays

Today I spoke to Peter Jones from the Law School about the current use of DRALE. It sounds like it is still in heavy use there — being used in 1st, 2nd, and sometimes also over the summer semester. The 2nd Semester students just finished using the system yesterday. The next cohort to use it will be the JD students, who will probably use it over the next fortnight. It will then most likely be used again in January during the summer semester (JD students again I think he said) and after that in 1st semester 2005, around april – may for approximately 6 weeks. The 1st Semester cohort is the one that interests me most, because this is when the students team up and match with opposing teams.


More leads

Posted by matthew on Sep 17, 2004 in eroleplay.net, research, roleplays

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

Posted by matthew on Sep 15, 2004 in eroleplay.net, research, roleplays

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

Posted by matthew on Sep 15, 2004 in eroleplay.net, research

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

Posted by matthew on Sep 14, 2004 in eroleplay.net, research, technology

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

Posted by matthew on Sep 14, 2004 in eroleplay.net

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.


Introverts vs extroverts

Posted by matthew on Sep 14, 2004 in eroleplay.net, research, roleplays

I also read an article that popped up on google about role-plays and the self. Admittedly not the highest quality piece of research I’ve ever read, but it does raise the possible link between people’s predispositions and the extent to which playing a role has an effect on their sense of self. I made some (very brief) notes.


Issues to trace

Posted by matthew on Sep 13, 2004 in eroleplay.net, research

One other thing I did today was transcribe some of my old printed notes about about issues and theories to follow up. It was a good idea, because I remembered that there were quite a few books and articles that I still haven’t gotten to yet. It also reminded me about the broad topics that Mike and I put together as a starting point for my project.