Re: [xmca] Joint mediated Activity

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sat Mar 18 2006 - 09:11:28 PST

Linda, Donna, ........

I am being dragged willy nilly into the video game world including mmogs
which figure
more and more in my teaching so all of this discussion is very helpful. One
comment you
made, Linda, struck me as of very general applicability but with some

You wrote: I suppose that means I think the meaning
is NOT in the tools but in their use, which is

I suppose that means I think the meaning
is NOT in the tools but in their use, which is

A la wittgenstein, meaning derives from the use of language in use.
That is, from the way that words are positioned in joint, mediated activity.
The way words (tools) are used involves the speaker's choice (given the
as interpreted by the speaker) and in this sense, could be said to be

If this kind of translating appears appropriate (e.g. if you choose to
appropriate it!) then what you
are saying is that the principles of meaning making in games are a
sub-genre(?) of meaning making
from a chat perspective.

Does this work?
PS- There is a paper in the Context of Learning book edited by Elice forman
and others several years ago
by Peg Griffen and others that includes a discussion of the way that the
programmer (of then extant
computer games) is a participant in the activity. From what you write, the
forms of programmer participation
as well as user participation in the design of the game medium has expanded
in important ways.

What I think is generally true is that meaning making emerges from the tools
in their use which
is user

On 3/16/06, Polin, Linda <> wrote:
> Donna,
> I hope I understand your remarks as you intended them. My own 'just
> plain folks' experience looking inside MMOGs (these games) suggests that
> the primary giver of meaning is the game play/activity itself, and that
> that game play is partly enabled by or shaped by game 'tools' (sign,
> symbols, tools) but equally constructed by player-to-player interaction.
> I suppose to the extent that player to player interaction is available
> by design, it is a tool based meaning construction as well. But I
> believe players bring more to the play than engagement with what is
> available in-game. There is identity work going on here.
> Meaning in the co-constructed play is a negotiated meaning with multiple
> layers, and by negotiated I may even mean constantly negotiated or in
> negotiation. The tools in the game are also constantly in negotiation.
> The designers and players even overtly discuss design and redesign in
> company-supported forums outside the game.
> Oddly, I'm not sure folks experience the foregrounding of a cyber
> context, as you seem to suggest in your remarks. Do avid poker players
> create an alternative reality that expands human consciousness into a
> card-social-cultural reality? I don't think players (whether 12 or 62)
> mistake this for an alternate reality. I think it is experienced as a
> social game, like poker, but a very rich one in which people of all ages
> and cultures might play together. I think the social richness augmented
> by the huge number of fields/domains for meaning construction is what is
> so compelling. My current hunch is that everyone really digs MAKING
> sense...with others....and with cool objects and activities in a
> changing landscape. [Did you know that online game play tends to come at
> the expense of TV viewing time? Just found that out.]
> As for your other question, I think how you understand the mediational
> effects of these environments has to affect your research epistemology.
> Don't you think? Frankly, for me, part of what makes MMOGs both
> fascinating and difficult to study is the amount of variation in jointly
> produced and historically mediated meaning creation going on. It is
> further complicated by the variation of meaning within the online gaming
> community itself. Blizzard has commented on the fact that the Chinese
> players on the Asian servers play the game very differently than the
> players on the American and EU servers. And...within those gross
> cultural layers there is even more refined differentiation of meaning.
> For instance, in their 'official strategy guide,' the World of Warcraft
> folks have a section for players migrating from other game genres who
> are "coming over" to the Warcraft game. They declare, among other
> things: Those that have played FPS' primarily understand the teamwork
> involved easily enough if you have ever participated in Capture the Flag
> or Team Deathmatch events. However, where everyone once had the same
> resources and character typer, here everyone is different based on their
> class and race. Without knowledge of others capabilities, it is more
> difficult to work together as a team. Things work slower. There is more
> time for interaction with others beyond a simple macro." Frankly, this
> is what gives the whole "guild" scene its meaning.
> My biggest problem in research is that I don't think there is one, or
> one kind, of play experience. I suppose that means I think the meaning
> is NOT in the tools but in their use, which is
> user-defined/appropriated. I think of the day trader, Felison, who
> spends an inordinate amount of time hanging out in the Auction House in
> one of the capital cities. I think of the level 48 druid 14-year old
> girl, Rainbows, who leads questing parties made up primarily of adults.
> I think of the open source software company manager, Konstig, who has
> six level 60 characters and who is always helping players considerably
> lower level than he. I think of the general chat channel in one region
> of the game world where the talk is constantly one-upmanship in telling
> jokes about Chuck Norris (this is a common middle school boy joke
> thing). These are people constructing different meanings in the same
> game, using the same tools of the game, but for different tasks.
> Linda
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