In this phenomenological interview, the lived experience of a successful adolescent learner learning the video game Dance Dance Revolution is presented. The question driving this investigation is “why did she sustain engagement in learning?” The interview provided a narrative that described the process of learning as identity construction and that this process of identity construction, who I am and who I am not (choices), informs motivation and engagement in learning. The intention of the interview and methodology was to explicate and understand the factors that led to her motivation to learn a complex activity in a social space constructed, located, and mediated outside of traditional, formal educational environments. The discourse of the learning contexts that position Play as discourse in contrast to Work provides insight into the Ethos (Sutton-Smith 1996; Wohlwend, 2007) of the experience and inform s the process of extrinsic motivation to engage versus intrinsic, or learner-valued purpose to engage. The phenomenological interview is intended to gather thick descriptions that include thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and experience so that the interviewee moves beyond responding to questions with their reasoning and provides a narrative that provides thick descriptions through what van Manen (2002), called the Fundamental Life World Themes F.L.T.s. In this interview, the young woman, Ellen, initially had difficulty moving beyond reasoning into remembering and describing her experiences. The meaning of These experiences in promoting motivation and engagement were then analyzed using a framework constructed from work that explores issues of identity construction and exploration of literacy as semiotic domains across time and space—specifically, the contextual elements of Communities of Practice and Affinity Groups and the Ethos of the discourse contextualizing the activities, groups, and identity associated with them. These were places in the context of adolescent identity construction as a rite of passage and the powerful role of play in the stages of initiation and transformation are explored to understand the activity and how it informs motivation and engagement and reinforcement through identity construction. Implications of this study include understanding the potential construction of autonomy supporting learning environments and the elements that motivate and sustain engagement in learning and the importance of identity construction for teachers to motivate and engage their students.
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