How gold farming ruined research…

April 15, 2008

the singer/he had long hair/and the drummer/he knew restraint…

Okay, my friend Jeff says I owe five posts today (curses, flu! my stomach needs to come back to me so I can do my work!), so I’m going to try a few shorter ones. I’m working on a side-paper about gaming research as an addendum to my ethics of researching online article.  I learned something new this weekend.

On message boards, World of Warcraft gold farmers have ruined the concept of research. They’ve impersonated researchers so often that my attempt to do research was outright snapped at. In a few cases in violent ways. It was… sort of sad.

Not that I don’t have thick enough skin. I’ve taken more than one insult to the side of the head in my life.

It was sad because it illustrated the first discussion I ever had with anyone about researching gaming is STILL of critical importance. IRBs need to understand that to solicit a community you have to speak like/look like the community. I AM a gamer. I can talk like a gamer and post like a gamer and walk like a gamer. But the rigid language the IRB demands to see and stamp for approval (which I agree we need, legally, for consent forms) makes any attempts to solicit look weird.

There’s no way around it, unless we can teach IRBs to understand that we have to solicit a certain way to get real results. My post looked like (to quote someone) “some tool-ass gold farmer trying to get market research.” It was, in actuality, very “form letterish” and exactly what an IRB wants.

So let’s start a revolution, folks. If you research gaming, write your solicitation in gamer language and tell your friendly neighborhood IRB you don’t want to look like “Some tool-ass gold farmer.” I’ll be right there with you, pwning noobs.


Attempting to break the non-silence

April 15, 2008

I wanna be in a band/when I get to heaven/anyone can play guitar…

I mentioned in a post somewhere lost to the archive that I have a course taught through video conference this semester. I’ve actually done this before with a larger lecture course, but never on the small scale. One of the problems I noted early on was that there’s a real sense of disconnection between the groups. I also think there’s a bit of animosity (maybe the class needs a third space!).

In another post I talked about speaking space in courses. I have long thought that the biggest problem with graduate pedagogy is that instructors seem to forget what we do with our first-year students (or in the case of some remember all the bad things and forget the good things). For example, a “professor” should faciliate discussion. As an instructor, that’s what I do. I don’t lead, but I don’t allow trainwrecks, either.

In the video class there are a few people on the other site– where the professor is– who like to perform. I certainly don’t begrudge them that. I know there are students among us who enjoy speaking for long periods of time and being heard in spite of the topic. The more quiet, I-want-that-in-my-notes people like me sort of need them. But they create a situation where I feel the professor MUST intervene.

I’ve tried to be extremely careful and courteous about this course. I’ve mentioned to the professor that we feel alienated at the remote site and feel like we don’t have a space to speak (and that we’re received harshly by the students in the actual classroom in some cases). The professor did mention it to class, but there was not real change.

So today, I decided to try to turn what I do in a regular classroom into something that works with a camera and speakers. In a normal class, if someone is rambling off-topic and I want the right to speak, I make “ready to speak face.” Those of you who have taken grad classes and have been the person who doesn’t shout over everyone else know the face I mean— eyebrow darted, hand on chin, lips curled slightly… maybe one eye squinting if it’s just critical that you get the floor. This look doesn’t work on TV.

But mumbling into the microphone does.

I started innocently enough. Someone made a REALLY outlandish metaphorical comparison, and it wasn’t working, so I mumbled “the metaphor is falling apart.” I hoped someone in the other room would say “what?” and perhaps someone else could speak, but no one did. Later someone contradicted the book, and I said to the person next to me, over the mic, “that’s not what the book says.” Again– I was trying, in a subtle way, to work my way into conversation.

Eventually I’d had enough, and I interrupted someone to make my point.  I felt bad, but I did it. Because my point (illustrated in my previous post) needed to be made. It was quickly buried by people who were positive that there had to be all sorts of slack in spaces 1 and 2, but at least I got the idea out there.

But the story doesn’t end here. If anyone’s heard the Dane Cook joke about cutting in line, this one goes like that. One of the other students in our remote classroom tried to speak. And was ignored. And she tried again. And she was ignored. A third time, someone raised their voice to speak over her. So I mumbled, into the microphone, “Just talk if you want to talk. They aren’t going to leave a space.”

Finally the professor intervenes, giving me the usual response to a smart-ass: “Phill, do you have something to add?” tacking on “we can hear everything you’ve been saying,” as if I should feel some sense of intense shame for mumbling about course content while one person monopolized a three hour seminar. I also found it funny that he asked if I had something to add while clarifying that they heard everything I said, but that’s just because I like riddles.

Without pause I responded with “no, I don’t, but *name removed to protect the innocent* does. People keep talking over *person.*” And though she blushed out of talking in that moment, she FINALLY got to say what she wanted to say a few seconds later as people reacted in confusion to the class being derailed.

It seemed obvious to the others in our classroom that I had offended our professor. I hope that isn’t the case, but I have to be honest: if I did, I am not sorry. All of us in that class paid money to learn the material and to discuss it. We didn’t pay to listen to a single voice rant about off-topic personal politics while bashing the book and the concept of the course. I don’t ever want to be remembered as the Bart Simpson of a grad program, but if someone had to snipe and snicker to get the conversation to be an actual conversation and not a monologue, I’ll gladly take the ire of a professor for the sake of everyone.

Don’t have a cow, man.


Trying to get back on track– more third space

April 15, 2008

I could/I/I could… turn you inside out…
-R.E.M. (it continues)

Okay, before I start what is going to end up being a rant, a simple concept. I think it’s simple, anyway. It’s entirely possible I’m an idiot. 🙂

We read, as I mentioned in my previous post, Third Space

The author starts the book by proposing that two spaces are essentially “us” and “not us” or “in” and “out” or however you’d like to express it. This is a staple of American (US) Political Philosophy, as the whole of this nation’s under-culture is a huge binary. Good guys and bad guys. White hats and black hats. Vader and Luke. Lex and Clark. Binaries.

The third space, then, is the abstract area where things exist outside that.

Image time:

image of 3rd space

Bear in mind I quickly whipped the image above up in Photoshop, so I know it’s not beautiful. 🙂

But here’s how *I* saw those relationships. I mentioned Ventura and the fishers/hunters in the post before. That is a binary. It’s fixed and situated. Ventura basically said “you’re one of us or you’re them.” Those aren’t areas that allow for gradation. They are bounded boxes. If I say “you’re Phill, or you’re not” there isn’t a way for those of you who are not me to enter the box of “Phillness.” It’s closed to you. You’d have to remove my skin or steal my identity to get into the box, and then you’d change it.

So 1 and 2 are “closed.” They’re solid states, fixed within the greater system of this concept of third space. I didn’t designate which is the United States and which is the independent tribe, if we’re using the book’s binary. I think attributing the number shows bias. But those are fixed. Sure, those which constitute the group could change their definition of “us,” but in so long as we theoretically believe in an “us,” they are fixed boxes.

The third space is everything in the middle, but it isn’t fixed. It’s gradation. It’s fades and mixes and violations, and those who would hope to be both (in the construction the author addresses, one cannot be both– us or them, not “us and them”). I chose to represent it triangularly, instead of as a straight line, because the spacial movement indicated by the triangle is more indicative of how this would work than a bar is.

So in class, what seems like a pretty simple idea basically fell apart. Someone placed the “first space” of this system inside her head (which is fine on an individual level, but it violates the rest of the system if that person wants to talk about spaces with everyone else) and we somehow ended up talking about how the US forces want to take the souls of Muslims who they torture.

I maintain my belief that sometimes as powerful as theory is people do bad things with it. The author of this book is a Political Scientist. In the Poli-Sci world, this sort of concept makes good sense, as the binary is the enemy of true political understanding (us/them has dominated much of human interaction). If we yank away the Poli-Sci frame and don’t pay attention to what the author is saying, suddenly third space becomes really confusing when it actually isn’t. It would shift, depending on the binary (there is no “third space” we can always assume; we can only assume that every binary creates a third space of some manner).

Or maybe I just don’t get it.


Still sickly after all these days: but on with the bloggin’ about third spaces

April 14, 2008

I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven/when I awoke I spent that on a necklace…
-Kanye West

So apologies again if you’re a regular reader; I cannot, for the life of me, get well, so I’ve been devoting my time to resting, doing things you don’t describe on the blog (and jogging to and from the restroom), and trying to keep up with my scholarly work.

I took a mulligan on an assignment this weekend because of one of those beautiful “you can drop one” policies that some professors put in their syllabi, but I feel like doing the thought work now (late) so I figure I’ll blog it.

We’re currently reading a book called The Third Space of Sovereignty by Kevin Bruyneel. The main thrust of Bruyneel’s argument is that scholars (and everyone else, for that matter) have to resist the idea that there’s a binary relationship for indigenous people in America (i.e. “part of the United States” or “independent nations”). He illustrates this tension in the introduction by using the example of Jesse Ventura and the Mille Lacs Band regarding hunting and fishing rights.

The third space, then, is somewhere in the middle. And it’s relevant.

This makes me wonder why there’s been so much flack given to my considerations of mixed bloodedness, as I would define mixed-bloods, in particular, as the vanguards of this third space.  In fact it seems that mixed blood– as a theoretical concept– gets to the heart of at least one of the issues that dominated the last book we read, Blood Narrative by Chadwick Allen.

Allen creates a triad (Blood, land, memory) that he uses to explore indigenity. I don’t personally agree with his comparisons across hemispheres (though I’ve already been criticized for criticizing), but I do see a dual-point intervention to be made for a mixed blood (like myself, part Cherokee and part European). Blood, obviously, is our major point of contention (we have SOME native blood– in many cases not enough, or not proven by enough paperwork, to be enrolled). Mixed bloodedness also touches on the idea of memory, though, as our histories and our understandings of tradition are skewed and modified– they occupy a third space of their own.

I see all these triangles emerging (curses, Aristotle!). Blood-Memory-Land. United States-third space-Tribal Government. Authentic-dependant-massmarket.

I wonder if my scholarship is turning into “native rhetoric”-Phill-“the field of rhetoric” and “native rhetoric”-Phil-“the field of native studies.” Perhaps I hover so much in the third space that no one can really figure out exactly where my work belongs. “gaming rhetoric”-Phill-“gaming studies.” “pop culture rhetoric”-Phill-“pop culture studies.”

It’s maddening!

But triangular.


Sometimes I just don’t get it…

April 8, 2008

…pour my life into a paper cup…


We had an “interesting” discussion in class today. One person dominated (look back over the blog for my thoughts on this) and I’m not entirely sure we discussed what was a very interesting text (Blood Narrative by Chadwick Allen), but there was a long breakdown interdisciplinary debate over this:

Should a “minority” writer identify as a writer, as a minority, or as both.

I felt like saying “this is shockingly similar to the dilemma I’ve been batting around on my blog, as to who can write about what, and I think it’s important to think about perception,” but I was mostly silenced by someone who needed to point out, among other things, that human beings just “deficate excrement.”

Yeah– I didn’t get that either.

This was a moment where I think the view of the rhetorician was really useful. Let’s say, just as a random example, that bell hooks were to stand up and say “I am a writer.” She is (she’s more than JUST a writer, and she’s fantastically talented), but her neglecting to say “African American” wouldn’t have nearly the impact that some of the other students in class thought it would. Anyone in the room, with the ability to see, would identify her as such, and her subject matter would also illustrate this point. It’s not like her author functionality (can we employ that term this way) can erase race. Of course I don’t think hooks would ever try, but I wanted a well known example. It might have been more ironic to choose Morrison, now that I think about it. 🙂

That is, of course, not to neglect the relevance of how one wishes to package and present herself (himself). There are many “minorities” as it were who “pass” (I’ve often asked people if I qualify as either one of these things– it’s not clear that I’m part Cherokee if I don’t point it out, unless people notice that I’m acting like a Cherokee, and that becomes a long performative argument for another post). In some sense, it becomes powerful for those people to declare themselves to be “X type of writer.” We see much more of this with gender/sexuality issues (the power of being “out” as it were, or declaring that one is transgender).

I wonder, though, if the other disciplines represented at the table (history, anthropology, American studies, Native American studies, architecture and library science) don’t give a little too much authority to what the author claims. Several people were trying to claim that one could erase ethnicity by claiming to simply be a writer.

That doesn’t work, I don’t think. Maybe small scale. Perhaps I could, in a gaming studies article, erase my Cherokee-ness (I tend to think I’d more be leaving it dormant than hiding or removing it), but if one is talking about issues of ethnicity, and is an ethnic minority, the audience is going to figure it out/construct that.

That’s why Aristotle created that triangle, isn’t it?

I really didn’t get why it was such a savage argument. It sort of distressed me, since there were a number of great things in the text (including a triangular relationship I’m going to try to write about here tomorrow– I need Photoshop and I’m too tired to Photoshop right now).


If anyone from that class is reading, sorry to dog it. I just don’t GET it sometimes.

Virtual presentation/virtual A to virtual Q

April 7, 2008

In my room/on a pad/is written a letter/return addressed to you…
-For Squirrels

Me and my peeps got some pub! (warning: if you click here, you’ll see my full name and might get beyond the thin disguise of me not identifying where I’m a student, so read at your own risk).

First of all, a sincere thanks to Mike for giving the panel some attention, and again a thanks to Doug for toting my video around New Orleans. I wish I’d been there to see everyone.

But Mike asked a good question. Allow me to quote:

The point of contention, I guess, is over reasons for bringing it into the classroom. I can see a games studies course as a cultural studies course, certainly. But what is the compelling argument for the connection between games studies and composition? What does game studies as an area of scholarly inquiry help us teach writing students to do that other areas of scholarly inquiry cannot do? There was some discussion of this in the Q&A, particularly in the concerns expressed about colonizing our students’ culture and appropriating it into a school genre, but I’d be curious to hear from the game scholars out there: why are games important to writing?

This is a familiar question for me, coming from an MA program where I faced a fair amount of skepticism. My first response is always this: we’re in a new moment. We now accept that it’s fine to subject a student to Moby Dick or The Dubliners, but there was no doubt a time when someone said “wait, is it fair to ask writing students to read this?” During my MA, the most popular text taught in first year comp was Fight Club; there would SURELY have been a moment when someone would ask if we should be teaching that.

So my first argument is that assigned texts don’t really “define” a writing course (unless someone’s assigning something like Stephen King’s On Writing, in which case I think that person is doing it wrong). Texts in a composition classroom open the discussion and provide a place where the class can have a common experience and see a common discourse. But the writing course is about the students writing first and foremost, and not nearly so much about what we have them read so that we can then ask them to write. If anyone wants to see what this sort of gaming comp class would look like, I’m going to present one of my syllabi with some notes at the upcoming Computers and Writing conference. I’d love to see anyone/everyone in the audience.

My second argument would be that while “reading” a game, students are much more active than they are while reading a book. *Phill ducks the lit scholars throwing things*. While I’m a fond, fond reader (I think all of us have to be in order to survive in this field), I think we can all agree that the agency for a reader in most of the texts that would be used in a composition class is limited, at least during the initial reading.  In a gaming environment– at least the multi-player games I personally promote and study– the reader/player must interact and make choices from the very beginning. In that sense, I believe the student has more agency and hence experiences something more robust than just leafing through a standard text. Students are starting to write as they read a game; I’m not sure we can claim that in the same way about most other texts.

My third reason for thinking gaming is valid in the composition classroom is that the idea that we’re “colonizing” a student genre to make it a school genre– which I know many use as an argument against it– doesn’t work IF certain criteria are met. For one, I think you really should be a gamer if you’re going to teach with games. That’s not to say you have to be a lifer (though many in my generation are); but you shouldn’t be someone who just started playing two weeks before the course. In that sense, you’re not “colonizing” the student’s discursive space– you’re visiting. The second thing is that moreso than with traditional texts (though I think we should all be open to this when we teach anything) one has to allow for the students to be better/smarter in the area. Let them own it. And if we’re not worried that we’re “colonizing” a space, we suddenly have an intricate digital media space that allows us to quickly move to video, to audio, to visual rhetorics, to digital identity or simply identity studies. Gaming is a rather solid hub for issues that can lead to unique and interesting writing.

And the last reason I’ll offer here, for now (I have many more justifications :)), is that gaming is fun, and all too often we squeeze the fun from academia, particularly for our first year students who we bombard with grammar rules and MLA/APA citation formats and invention and revision and “don’t write the five paragraph essay” and “this is a good source/this is a bad source.” I’d like to think that most of us came to writing because we love it, and we had fun doing it when we were younger (there are better way to inflict torture), so why should we allow our classes to become stale, boring places? I want mine to be fun, and students tend to respond well to it.

So… there’s a bit of an answer. 🙂 I could go on, but it’s almost 1:30 in the morning and I have a full day o’ classes tomorrow. More later, if anyone wants me to keep ranting.


The RickRoll is dead…

April 6, 2008

You wouldn’t get this from any other guy…

-Rick Astley

You must click play. Nothing in the universe can stop you. It’s amazing.

You’ve been ChuckWagoned! Tell a friend! Sometime in the next 24 hours, something chain letterish will happen and you’ll be completely happy or sad or scared or hungry or something.