I Heart Paul Dourish

Sometimes I have major academic crushes. Er, I suppose they’re more like intellectual crushes. Past crushes have included my advisor Jim Gee, my current mentor Henry Jenkins, and most recently, John Seely Brown. Seriously, my heart beats a bit faster when JSB speaks. I think I’ve told him this in person so I’m not particularly embarrassed about blogging it, but JSB, if you’re reading this, I was that girl in the front row of your talk last week at AERA. I know we’ve only met casually a half dozen times, but I have hope that someday you will remember me!

Ahem. So anyway, today I was re-reading Paul Dourish, hunting for the right quotation to sum up an article I’ve been re-writing for ages and just can’t seem to finish, which is about design and game designers and the analogy between them and writing teachers. You’ll have to read the article to get the full point but the point here in this pathetic little blog entry is to relay what is prolly my totally fave Dourish quotation at the moment.

“Despite the apparent difficulty of forging connections between theory and design practice, there is no question that such a connection is immensely valuable. Both theory and design gain value from being put together. Certainly, the argument is often made that theories become valuable only when they can generate practical results by being harnessed to design. Some—the religiously pragmatic—hold that theory is vague and abstract while design is ‘real.’ However, we could claim that this position is exactly backward; theory grounds design by providing a framework within which hypotheses can be constructed and tested, options explored and compared, and results analyzed, evaluated, and verified. From this perspective, design is simply speculative without an understanding of how and why it works; theory makes design real, because it places design in a context that explains it. Whichever position we hold, though, a working relationship between theoretical understanding and design practice is crucial.” (Where the Action Is, pp. 157-158)

I’d say a lot about this here but my time would be better spent just writing it into the article. See, this is the trouble with academics who blog. If you’re doing your job, you’re writing this stuff down and publishing it. Curses! <shakes fist>

Drawing from Sopra Mais, courtesy of Flickr & Creative Commons (link from photo above).

3 responses to “I Heart Paul Dourish

  1. Well, you’ll love that I got to see him in person at the Cultures of Virtual Worlds conference last weekend. He acted as a discussant at times. Good insights overall. Now I have to check out his book. Oh, and you’ll drool that presenters received copies of Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life 2 weeks before it’s officially out. Ha ha. One step ahead of you for probably the only time in my life… 🙂

  2. “I heart”? What the hell is that? An abomination is entering our language because people don’t know that the proper way to pronounce the heart pictogram is “love”, as in “I love New York”. Are you also Mr. Dourish’s “pound sign” one fan? You write about literacy But i’m guessing you “prolly” weren’t an English major.

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