I’m here at the Games + Learning + Society conference in Madison. I’ve wanted to come for years to this meeting, as it often involves some people whose work I think is terrific, and it’s always an interesting-looking well-organized meeting that brings together people across a range of disciplines.
The first panel I’m attending is a workshop convened by Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire and Eric Zimmerman. They’re going to break us into small groups and try and get us to come up with a short, concrete research assignment that we can actually execute over the next two days (and then we’re expected to execute it).
This should be interesting. I like the idea of this kind of work at conferences. This particular one may be a bit too demanding, though, given that there’s a homework assignment that comes with it.
The organizers handed four cards on theory, methods, topics to each group in order to give them some constraints at the start. Our group drew four cards: discourse analysis, symbolic processing, interviews, World of Warcraft. So what we’re thinking about is going around to other researchers and asking them for the first five words that come to mind about World of Warcraft and then building a tag cloud out of that, to map the associations that exist in this particular group of people.
One thing I’d say for this kind of workshop or enterprise is that the organizational portion has got to be slimmed down to a minimum. I think if I were going to try something like this myself I might hand out most of the instructions as text and get straight to it. The more you have to enter in to it in order to direct or herd the activity, the more time you take away from what people actually come up with. But the basic exercise is really nice, and gets away from the passivity of most conference events.
We’re going to collect one-word completions of the sentence “I believe that World of Warcraft teaches…” on post-it notes from other conference attendees. Then tomorrow we’re going to build a public board of the responses and let people move the words around on the board towards or away from a central dot.