Spontaneous Communities Of Learning 0
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Spontaneous Communities Of Learning 0 Document Transcript

  • 1. Spontaneous Communities of Learning Cooperative Learning Ecosystems Surrounding Virtual Worlds by Lisa L. Galarneau A thesis submitted to the Department of Screen and Media Studies at The University of Waikato, New Zealand in fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy December 2009
  • 2. Table of Contents CONTENTS Acknowledgements.....................................................................................................................................3 Dedication...................................................................................................................................................5 Abstract.......................................................................................................................................................6 Index of Figures...........................................................................................................................................7
  • 3. Acknowledgements My committee, Dr. Geoff Lealand, Dr. Gareth Schott, and Dr. Craig Hight, who have supported me generously while also giving me the space to find and make my own way in this emerging area. Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, whose work, mentorship and faith in me have meant so much. She also puts on a mean BBQ. Dr. TL Taylor, for her openness, accessibility and amazing mind. Dr. Nicholas Yee, for his conviction, quality and utter humanity. Dr. Henry Jenkins, for a great mind that encourages us to view the world in a different and completely way. Dr. Gordon Calleja, my mental exercise machine during those halcyon years in New Zealand… Noelle Hunt Bennett for being such an amazing and inspirational person. Terra Nova, for being so open to new ideas and perspectives and providing such a fantastic forum for discussion. Mark ‘Danger’ Chen, such a cooperative fellow! Carolyn Illman, an excellent proofer! The City of Heroes/City of Villains players, you don’t fool me… it really is nice to be a hero sometimes. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic participation in this study. Your passion really touches me.
  • 4. Cryptic Studios and NCSoft, who graciously opened their doors and gave me unprecedented access to their organisations world-wide and the City of Heroes/City of Villains community. Microsoft Game Studios, who gave me the opportunity to apply my academic leanings professionally and learn a great deal along the way. My various other informants and participants in New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, Canada, Ireland, the U.K., Denmark, the Czech Republic, Spain, Hungary, Turkey, and the U.S. – I don’t even know some of your (real) names, but I appreciate your contributions. And others who have inspired and aided me along the way: Dr. James Gee, Dr David Willamson Shaffer, The Metaverse Project, Clark Aldrich, Marc Prensky, Derek Wenmoth, John Eyles, Dr. Mick Grimley, Dr. Ruth Zanker, Tracey Sellar, Dr. Jonas Heide Smith, Dr. Daniel Pargman, Dr. Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Dr. Alice Robison, Dr. Daniel Gunn, Dr. John Hopson, Dr. Randy Pagulayan, Ramon Romero, Dr. Thomas Malaby, Dr. Jane McGonigal, Dr. Edward Castronova, Julian Dibbell, Dr. Mia Consalvo, Dr. Greg Lastowka, Dr. Dan Hunter, Dr. Kurt Squire, Dr. Nicolas Ducheneaut, Toru Fujimoto, Florence Chee, Dr. Leigh Jerome, Alice Taylor, Cory Doctorow, Kevin Werbach, Carrie Mandel, Jack Emmert, Ross Borden, Serdar Copur, Verna Allee, Gary Franklin, Christine Moore, Bridget McKendry, Jen Cardew, Julian Carver, et al! Dagan Galarneau and Brook Gibbs, my real-time informants! Finally, thanks to friends, family and co-workers who have supported me: Misia and Jake, for having my back, Microsoft Games User Research, The Surface team, Intrepid, Elisa, Misa, Jon, David, Clara, Wendy, Allison, Carrie, Romana, Kurth, Kent and Rosie, Larry and Chris, and the rest!
  • 5. Dedication For my Tallulah, the perfect little star that inspires me to care so much about stoking the fires inside people, encouraging them to explore who they really are, and affording them the opportunity to learn what it means to belong and make a difference in the world. And thank you, President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, for making everything possible again.
  • 6. Abstract This thesis is the culmination of a four-plus year research project exploring online gamers and the cultures they engage with, both virtually in the many massively multiplayer games and virtual worlds online, and in the physical spaces they inhabit in various play spaces around the world. The primary research questions concerned social learning in such spaces, i.e. how do players learn from one another what they need to be successful, and what are the associated norms and practices for doing so? Finally, what does participation in such spaces mean for individuals who may have lacked other mechanisms for social learning, and what impacts might such findings have on existing educational structures? I anticipate that this thesis will generate as many questions as it will answer, and I hope, that as a snapshot of a gaming culture in time, will be looked upon as a monograph in the classic ethnographic tradition.
  • 7. Index of Figures Figure 1: Top ten list of PC Games...............................................................................18 Figure 2. Two avatars chatting in the social world, Second Life.................................48 Figure 3 . Graphical virtual worlds evolved from text-based MUDs, MOOs and MUSHes. ......................................................................................................................................49 Figure 4. Players create characters according to a range of characteristics. .............50 Figure 5. The Theed Spaceport in the MMO Star Wars: Galaxies. ...........................52 Figure 6. This video of a player designed game called Repel Ball appeared on YouTube. ......................................................................................................................................58 Figure 7. MMO players frequently mark real life occasions with in-game events. ...69 Figure 8. The ESP game (http://www.espgame.org) matches anonymous players and creates a game environment in which they are challenged to agree on words that might describe an image. ...................................................................................................105 Figure 9. The Web-based ‘game’, September 12th, encourages players to think about terrorism from a novel perspective...........................................................................111 Figure 10. A screenshot from the World of Warcraft-based machinima film called /dance. .....................................................................................................................115 Figure 11. In City of Villains, Creature asks where the costume store and Black Zephyr offers a reply. ...........................................................................................................153
  • 8. Figure 12. In City of Heroes/City of Villains, players can set a preference that they are looking for a team to join. ........................................................................................161 Figure 13. In this screenshot taken in City of Villains, two players (including the author’s avatar Cruel Summer) levelled their characters simultaneously and the team responded with a round of congratulations................................................................................165 Figure 14. Blind invites are such an annoyance to some players that they will make their unwillingness to join a team in such a way part of their public search profile.........166 Figure 15 – It is commonplace for players to trade items, and players will sometimes gift currency (in this case ‘Influence’) to be used for any purpose.................................168 Figure 16. In the game Guild Wars, players often gather to watch each other dance, as the beauty and complexity of the possible dance movements spawns a type of emergent play.............................................................................................................................174 Figure 17. From the survey, a short list of the diversity of occupations present in City of Heroes/City of Villains. I was amazed by the broad range encompassing every imaginable occupation from CEOs to performers in the adult industry...................185 Figure 18. Star Wars Galaxies’ system of physical emotes helped players transcend linguistic barriers. When a player typed the command ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing), their avatar would literally fall to the floor and roll in simulated laughter.190 Figure 19. A 16-year old Japanese school-girl controls the avatar SlumbrousCat from her computer in Tokyo. She is unable to speak English, but having become fluent with the norms of play is still able to contribute to cooperative activities in the American version of City of Heroes.........................................................................................................191 Figure 20. In this screenshot, the group acknowledges that one of the players does not speak English..............................................................................................................192
  • 9. Figure 21. A screenshot from a World of Warcraft community site Players continuously share game play tips with one another on hundreds of sites like this one.......................................................................................................................195 Figure 22. In this screenshot from City of Heroes, one of my characters, Gaia X, is responding to a question from a new player about how to configure her abilities...197 Figure 23. Although I was an experienced MMO player, when I first started playing World of Warcraft I had to ask for help with basics like how to keep from drowning.198 Figure 24. A screenshot from the MMOG, City of Heroes, shows hundreds of players cooperating to take down a large nemesis................................................................201 Figure 25. The MMOG Star Wars: Galaxies allowed players to experiment with a variety of roles, including some explicitly non-combat roles like tailoring...........................203 Figure 26. Even in temporary groupings one player tends to take a leadership role. .207 Figure 27 – In this image, players have congregated on a rooftop at a pre-determined time to take a ‘photograph’ of their super group (the Empyreans) to be posted on the group’s website..........................................................................................................226 Figure 28. The character customization system in City of Heroes/City of Villains provides a unique mechanism for sociability. ........................................................................229 Figure 29 – In this case the player has cleverly used the character customization system to create a humorous avatar, belonging to a super group called the Thunder Chickens. ....................................................................................................................................230
  • 10. Figure 30. Even intense battles can end comically, as in this screenshot where several of the team members have died, and two of them (including the author) are stuck inside a cave wall.....................................................................................................................231 Figure 31. In this screenshot from Star Wars: Galaxies, players who are developing entertainment skills congregate in the Cantina........................................................237 Figure 32. The male player behind the avatar ‘NoPants’ does not mind being challenged regarding his real life gender.....................................................................................251 Figure 33. A screenshot from the educational world Quest Atlantis........................257 Figure 34. The River City Project interface................................................................258 Figure 35. Image depicting avatars in Whyville, some of whom are infected with the 'whypox'.....................................................................................................................259 Figure 36. A Global Kids collaborative space within Teen Second Life......................260 Figure 37. Zooby Island in Second Life, where players can purchase virtual companions........................................................................................................... ..264 Figure 38. A scene from the South Park episode 'Make Love Not Warcraft'............265 Figure 39. Superstruck Facebook game………………………………………………………………..267 Figure 40. Sun's Project Wonderland…………………………………………………………….……..269 Figure 41. IBM's Innov8.............................................................................................270 Figure 42 - Passively Multiplayer Gaming utilizes the MMO metaphor on the Web……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..273