Re: [xmca] virtual realities - liberation

From: Kevin Rocap (
Date: Tue Mar 07 2006 - 07:51:47 PST

Dear Linda, et al,

Interesting strand on virtual and immersive environments, including
wondering about the "boundary crossing" between online and
"marginalized" communities. Just to throw some non-virtual into the mix....

I also have a nephew and know of others who engage extensively in
role-playing games a la Rennassaince Faires and the Society of Creative
Anachronisms. There you have a strong blend of online and off-line
activities. Though most came to the experience involved in the embodied
dress-up and role-play, a large number of online communities have become
the virtual arm of those activities.

Further, there can be significant spill-over into "real life" as my
nephew and others teamed up to try to make a business designing and
marketing the costumes for the role-play.

And, then, of course, you have school uniforms ;-) a more prosaic and
mundane, and vastly less imaginative form of "dress-up" designed to be
both a leveler of the so-called economic playing field and to echo the
idea of putting on vestments for scholarship I suppose (though I'm sure
that meaning, even if intended, has weak currency among the multiple
meanings that students themselves apply to the garb).

Anyway...I guess I'm suggesting that it could be instructive not only to
contrast virtual enviroments with the so-called "real world" but also
with other embodied forms of role-play and identity formation. ;-)

Also Borges's notion of the "real world" with regard to fiction may
apply (quoting from memory here, so hopefully relatively accurate):

"The real world, with regard to fiction, is the world we pretend to be
real when we read."

In Peace,

Polin, Linda wrote:
> I guess I'm not sure people are trying on alternative identities as
> much as they are, perhaps, experiencing a kind of liberation of
> identity in a space that is less sharply defined by personal
> sociocultural history, as Mark Jackson and Constance Steinkuhler have
> said, albeit differently. Maybe that's the draw. We are similar and
> different in ways that have no meaning outside the game.
> That's why I suggested it wasn't so much a virtual reality, which
> focuses us on the literal material interpretation, but an alternate
> reality. An awful lot is still real but the setting has changed. In
> that distinction, I wonder about the design that makes this a
> different sort of place to be, and be with others, and do work and
> play activities.
> Lindax
> On Mar 6, 2006, at 3:19 PM, Constance Steinkuehler wrote:
>> Some of my work on cognition & learning in massively multiplayer
>> online games is also relevant here:
>>> Gee's study of "projective identities" in video gaming is relevant
>>> to this discussion--one of his students (graduating soon), Rebecca
>>> Black, is also completing a dissertation that looks at identity
>>> construction through fanfiction sites. p
>>> At 05:18 PM 3/6/2006 -0500, you wrote:
>>>> As a technology instructor in an inner-city school district with
>>>> over 90% of
>>>> the student population qualifying for Title I funds, I have been
>>>> fascinated
>>>> while observing students utilizing online communities ( as
>>>> environments to create "alternative" identities. Students that we
>>>> would
>>>> often think of as "at-risk" in traditional education vernacular,
>>>> take on new
>>>> identities in these environments and role play with fellow-cyber
>>>> travelers
>>>> without the baggage usually associated with persons laden with
>>>> generations
>>>> of poverty. While the street language pervades the dialogue, one
>>>> would be
>>>> challenged to differentiate those participants from the various
>>>> "social
>>>> classes". A new social reality with classless identities seems to
>>>> be under
>>>> construction in this not so artificial virtual world.
>>>> I think it well worth research to explore behavior in these
>>>> environments. I
>>>> further think CHAT provides an exciting perspective from which to
>>>> conduct
>>>> that exploration.
>>>> Mark
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Russell, Donna L" <>
>>>> To: <>
>>>> Sent: Monday, March 06, 2006 4:10 PM
>>>> Subject: [xmca] virtual realities
>>>> hello linda
>>>> i think that 'reality' virtual or otherwise deals with the
>>>> authenticity of
>>>> your responses (as in how your responses are validated by
>>>> consequences in
>>>> the context) i think virtual realities such as you describe will
>>>> become more
>>>> involving as the quality of the human computer interface develops
>>>> language has been our gauge and response to reality and children's
>>>> development is monitored by the development of language memes- with
>>>> emerging
>>>> technologies technology memes are created to gauge development and
>>>> resultant
>>>> authenticity to virtual realities. i believe in the future virtual
>>>> realities
>>>> will include not a rough interface between the human and digitial
>>>> 'reality' -- rather there will be a meme bot that contains your
>>>> aspects of
>>>> your understandings and knowledge that will make the engagement
>>>> more 'real'
>>>> and more authentic-
>>>> in the future these virtual representations will interact as
>>>> information
>>>> assistants, virtual coaches, virtual sales clerks, virtual
>>>> entertainers, and
>>>> virtual instructors. i am part of the virtual instructors pilot
>>>> research
>>>> group which is looking at research in the development of these virtual
>>>> humans- i am interested in the design of learning environments
>>>> using these
>>>> virtual humans and the kinds and qualities of learning that are
>>>> potentially
>>>> available in these 'realities'
>>>> donna
>>>> Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
>>>> Assistant Professor
>>>> Instructional Technology
>>>> Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
>>>> Suite 309
>>>> School of Education
>>>> University of Missouri-Kansas City
>>>> Kansas City, MO 64110
>>>> (cell) 314.210.6996
>>>> (office) 816.235.5871
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Polin, Linda" <>
>>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
>>>> Sent: Monday, March 06, 2006 12:29 AM
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Experience: material, ideal, real, imagined in
>>>> MMOGs
>>>>> Hi Mike and X'ers,
>>>>> I am both playing in and writing about an MMOG at the moment, with a
>>>>> group of doctoral students who are no doubt lurking on this list.
>>>>> I'm playing in World of Warcraft (or World of Warcrack, as it is
>>>>> often called for good reason). I am very interested in the way in
>>>>> which the designers have shaped interaction and play, with regard to
>>>>> both the client interface for playing, and the sociocultural
>>>>> structures around tasks and interactions in the game play. [I'm also
>>>> > playing in Second Life, but that is a very different creature.]
>>>>> In WoW, I've played alongside 12 year olds and old farts like
>>>>> myself;
>>>>> college kids complaining about the bandwidth in the dorms, and
>>>>> mommies who periodically have to go AFK BRB (away from keyboard; be
>>>>> right back) to change a diaper. So far none offers any evidence of
>>>>> confusing what you are calling reality and fantasy, although almost
>>>>> all have remarked on one occasion or another about the immersive
>>>>> power of the world to 'wow' them (pun intended) and engage them
>>>>> deeply. Everyone who plays has a story about losing track of time in
>>>>> significant ways. That is immersion. And I think Michelle's remarks
>>>>> with regard to "flow" come the closest to describing what is
>>>>> going on.
>>>>> Is it material? Because there is an economic system in play, and
>>>>> objects of desire, there is real work happening, and I am NOT
>>>>> referencing only the "gold farmers" in China using game
>>>>> characters to
>>>>> gather game gold to be sold for real money to players who want an
>>>>> easy way to get ahead in the game but lack the time or tenacity
>>>>> to do
>>>>> the grind work. There are also in-game activities analogous to real
>>>>> work and real world life.
>>>>> Real work: For instance, the guildmaster of my guild is a day trader
>>>>> who spends a lot of time working the Auction House (in-game EBay
>>>>> kind
>>>>> of thing) to make the game money he needs to support his character's
>>>>> needs (e.g., trick out his ride, in this case a white tiger). There
>>>>> are guilds that players belong to, which function as both family and
>>>>> school in a way reminiscent of the Brazilian "Samba schools" Seymour
>>>>> Papert described. Here though, instead of preparing for Mardi Gras
>>>>> competitions with other Samba Schools and having fun, it's about
>>>>> preparing for competitions with other players and having fun.
>>>>> Real play (within play): For instance, at the recent Winter Veil
>>>>> Festival I got to drink strong ale, and after two drinks, my screen
>>>>> was a bit blurry. After three drinks, it was significantly worse and
>>>>> my mouse actions were less accurate. I was drunk, albeit virtually
>>>>> so, and my game play was impaired.
>>>>> I would propose that, within the game world, these analogous
>>>>> elements
>>>>> make it a KIND of real world, rather than a fantasy world. There
>>>>> is a
>>>>> very real, game-specific culture that players rely upon to make
>>>>> their
>>>>> way in that world. There are real relationships, real traditions and
>>>>> ways of being in the world, real identity markers, divisions of
>>>>> labor
>>>>> and opportunities for collaboration, sub-cultures, mediational
>>>>> objects with embedded histories that support new learners, etc etc
>>>>> etc. WoW is fascinating to me because it is NOT a blurring of
>>>>> reality; it is an ALTERNATE (not alternative) reality, an alternate
>>>>> real culture. By virtue of having a discernible culture, is it
>>>>> not real?
>>>>> There is an immense amount of material to talk about here, but this
>>>>> is an interesting turn on XMCA and I'm hoping we'll have some 'time'
>>>>> to discuss more. I'd point you to our blog on this, but it's not yet
>>>>> ready for prime time consumption.
>>>>> Why must we refer to reality as if there were only one possible?
>>>>> =grin=
>>>>> Lindax
>>>>> (aka Hallgrima, a level 44 Gnome Warlock)
>>>>> Linda Polin, PhD
>>>>> Davidson Professor of Education and Technology
>>>>> Director, EdD in Educational Technology
>>>>> 310-568-5641; Skype: profpolin
>>>>> On Mar 5, 2006, at 4:07 PM, Mike Cole wrote:
>>>>>>> In various situations (in particular, I am thinking of various
>>>>>>> massive
>>>>>>> multi-user games and related cyber-interactional meeting places)
>>>>>>> it appears that people can, perhaps cannot help at times,
>>>>>>> confusing what
>>>>>>> we
>>>>>>> would normally refer to as "fantasy" and "reality."
>>>>>>> There is an extensive literature on the development of this
>>>>>>> distinction in
>>>>>>> children's development, but I am seeking research on the
>>>>>>> distinction's presumed presence or absence among adults.
>>>>>>> Any and all help appreciated
>>>>>>> mike
>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> >>>
>>>>>>> Andy Blunden, for Victorian Peace Network
>>>>>>> Global Justice Tours:
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> Donna L. Russell, Ph.D.
>>>> Assistant Professor
>>>> Instructional Technology
>>>> Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
>>>> School of Education
>>>> University of Missouri-Kansas City
>>>> (email) <>
>>>> (website)
>>>> <>
>>>> (cell) 314.210.6996
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> --Constance A. Steinkuehler
>> Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction
>> University of Wisconsin - Madison
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
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