Visit to Purdue

Thursday and Friday of this week I went to Purdue to give a talk at the serious games forum. My friend Samantha Blackmon, an associate prof there in the Rhetoric and Composition Studies program, invited me to be on a panel about cognition and gaming. Though neither Ben Stokes (a friend from the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Learning Initiative) nor myself really spoke specifically about cognition, we did talk a little about games and their potential for learning and schooling. View my slides here.

The talk I gave centered on how game developers’ design practices reflect cutting-edge theories of literacy and writing. I explained the difference between traditional, print-based notions of literacy and what we call the “new” literacy studies, especially with respect to new media technolgies. This is all part of a paper I’m working on for Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear’s book on the same topic.

Yesterday I showed some data from a recent interview I did with Merci Hammon, developer and designer of the Passively Multiplayer Online Game (PMOG). The game itself was piloted last year at USC but has since been down for its process of redesign. Merci spoke to me about the difference between playing a passive game passively and playing a passive game actively, which was a lot of fun. She also talked about how the game allows you to play at new identities online, noting that many of us already do so when we create identities on Facebook and MySpace. In other words, I am one person on MySpace and another on Facebook.

One of the new literacy trends I’m finding most interesting is exactly that notion of identity play and how we express that through games. At the same time, I think data visualizations of our online behaviors are incredibly rich as well. So I’m writing about that, too. The examples I showed yesterday were my Facebook wheel and a pic from a guy who showed his Last.fm listening habits. Both of these examples show our activites and not just our static demographics, which again reflects new notions of what counts as literacy activity.

The best part was getting to see some friends there, including Mia Consalvo and Sam Blackmon. I also met Sheri Graner Ray for the first time–she’s just 100% awesome. I’m hoping that next time I’m in Austin I can interview her for my research. She indicated to me that she’s interested in getting more women academics involved with the Women in Games International group she runs. So that was cool. I told her that I’m interested in getting a lot more data from women developers, too, so I’m hoping she can help me with that too. All good, all around.

Last but not least I was so, so happy to get some time alone with Jim Gee, my advisor from Madison and my good friend. He seemed to really like my talk, which of course made me happy. It’s funny how no matter how far you are from being a graduate student, you always, always care what your advisor thinks of your work. In some ways he will always be the most important person in the room, the one whose comments will always be that low hum in my head as I work.

So back to writing, back to job-hunting, and back to fall weather here in Boston. Go Sox!

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