Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Day in the Digital Humanities

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I’m participating in the Day of the Digital Humanities again this year.  If you want to read about what a single day in my exciting life is like, check out my Day in the Life of DH page.  We’re tasked with blogging about our entire work day (no matter how trivial or boring the task may be!) in order to provide an international portrait of typical activities of digital humanities researchers.

Ethics and Game Design

Sunday, February 28th, 2010
Screen shot from Bentham City

Screen shot from Bentham City

In light of the recently released Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values through Play (IGI Press), I thought I would write a brief entry about our game (Bentham City) and its current status.  In our chapter in Ethics and Game Design (co-authored by myself and Steve Fiore from Philosophy and the Institute for Simulation and Training at UCF), we articulated a series of guidelines for game development targeted for ethical learning games.  We suggested more obvious guidelines, such as defining learning objectives and playtesting and considering assessment mechanisms, but we also suggested crafting opportunities for players to take advantage of what James Paul Gee calls the “projective identity,” or the projection of one’s own beliefs and desires onto a player-avatar.

This is easier said than done, however.  We’ve gone through a few variations of this game so far, struggling to find a balance between interesting game scenarios and useful opportunities for ethical decision making.  We finally decided upon a mechanic in which both self-worth and reputation can be manipulated through actions which occur in the game.  As we finish up the game, we’re going to make it so that one’s reputation may decline, but self-worth improves, leading to situations in which the player’s character is not highly regarded, but the player is still successful because of a high self-worth.  The question we are struggling with now is this: reputation is easy to connect to the gameworld (we just animate the characters’ expressions differently to show annoyance or script different dialog feedback depending on the value of the player’s reputation).  But, self-worth is more difficult.  We are trying to figure out how to connect a self-worth value (primarily an internal mechanism) to the environment.  Perhaps the answer is that it has no affect on the world, other than lowering or raising the player’s overall “score”.

For anyone interested, the game can be accessed from here:  We welcome feedback as we are in the process of playtesting and debugging the game.

On Writing Groups and Introducing the Writers of Purple Prose

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Inspired by Paul Silvia’s How to Write a Lot (Amazon link: I organized a group of like-minded faculty members and we began a writing group in the spring of 2010. Silvia notes that writing groups are wonderful for exchanging ideas and establishing some accountability for one’s own informal writing deadlines.

While I had a good run of productivity during November, with regularly scheduled writing time each night, it tapered off during the holidays and I soon found myself slipping back into old habits (waiting for large chunks of time, then brain dumping in a frantic sort of way to meet deadlines).  We had our second meeting today and it’s turning out to be a lot of fun.  I organize the group roughly as follows (names changed to protect the innocent):

– Bernardo, our spiritual leader and guru, is a full Professor who has been an academic for over 80 years (okay, maybe this is a slight exaggeration).  He is focused on his legacy now, and his dream is to bring together older adults together with young children so that elders can share what they know.  Spending much of his career in K12 education, he is determined to spend his remaining time bringing together these communities in order to improve education and make young people curious about the world once again.

– Le, a new first year Assistant Professor, recently graduated from a prestigious university and is now interested in forging his own path, independent from his advisor.  He is currently finishing up a few remaining projects with connections back to his alma mater, but he is also beginning to map out space in the games and learning territory and hopes to do some good in this domain.  Like Bernardo, he too is passionate about harnessing the power of informal learning to change education for the better.

– Spike, an outgoing and charismatic individual, is a relative noob to academic publishing, but he is enthusiastic about learning and brings great ideas and energy to our weekly discussions.  A long time instructor and entrepreneur, Spike is exploring ideas concerning his own teaching and the articulation of those ideas into scholarly articles.  He is currently attending workshops with UCF’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and wants to use digital media technologies to teach visually and make coursework engaging in large sections.

– Thomas, a fifth year Assistant Professor, is (hopefully) on the verge of tenure and thinking about how he wants to spend the next phase of his academic career.  He considers much of his work from 2005-2010 to be exploratory in nature and he looks forward to moving into a more empirical period of work to test some of the products and projects that he has worked on during this time.  He enjoys writing and interdisciplinary work, but he is probably most passionate about designing interactive widgets for teaching and learning.

This is our team, and we’re forging ahead to build regular writing schedules and keep the group updated on our progress.  Onward, Purple Writers!