Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Games and Culture: Whyville Special Issue

In case you haven't heard, our special issue in Games and Culture is out as of January 2010. You may read 5 articles + an intro about Whyville, including avatars, cheating, race, Whypox, science, and throwing projectiles. (A more scholarly version of this list would include: identity, knowledge building, peer-to-peer learning and play, and epidemics).


But we're not done! In the next issue of Games and Culture there are two commentaries about our writings by Jay Lemke and Mimi Ito. They simply didn't have enough room in this issue to put it in.

It's thrilling to have this special issue out - years in the making.

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Whyville Article Out!

We have a new Whyville article out this month - a full journal article in the International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Here's the abstract and reference with a link if you want the full article. It's about learning between peers across spaces (like an after school club and Whyville) and the creative methods we developed to trace it. You can also learn how to teleport, in case you didn't already know. :)

Fields, D. A. & Kafai, Y. B. (2009). A connective ethnography of peer knowledge sharing and diffusion in a tween virtual world, International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1), 47-68.

Prior studies have shown how knowledge diffusion occurs in classrooms and structured small groups around assigned tasks yet have not begun to account for widespread knowledge sharing in more native, unstructured group settings found in online games and virtual worlds. In this paper, we describe and analyze how an insider gaming practice spread across a group of tween players ages 9–12 years in an after-school gaming club that simultaneously participated in a virtual world called Whyville.net. In order to understand how this practice proliferated, we followed the club members as they interacted with each other and members of the virtual world at large. Employing connective ethnography to trace the movements in learning and teaching this practice, we coordinated data records from videos, tracking data, field notes, and interviews. We found that club members took advantage of the different spaces, people, and times available to them across Whyville, the club, and even home and classroom spaces. By using an insider gaming practice, namely teleporting, rather than the more traditional individual person as our analytical lens, we were able to examine knowledge sharing and diffusion across the gaming spaces, including events in local small groups as well as encounters in the virtual world. In the discussion, we address methodological issues and design implications of our findings.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I finally have a "cool" look

I was finally told by a Whyvillian (someone who participated in our 2008 after school club) that I have a cool look. After two and a half years of being on Whyville, I finally achieved this?! The look? A Goth body with flowing hair (flowing hair seems to be "in" these days), crossed arms and a half-smile for a little attitude, anime eyes (to contrast with the Goth look), an emerald necklace of my own design (a popular seller on Whyville), face paint from a character in the Naruto anime series, and of course my medals for long-term participation on Whyville.

Is this when ethnographers feel a measure of success - recognized as 'cool' in their society of study?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Designing beyond face parts: Climate change on Whyville

Today when I logged on to Whyville (it's been awhile, since we were in Japan at the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) presenting on Whyville last week) I discovered that there are now "rolling black outs" on Whyville due to the energy crisis associated with the Climate Change Center. I went there to discover what was up and one thing I found was "CLIMATE COUTURE."

What is this? Well, it appears that design on Whyville now goes beyond face parts, something that an audience member at DiGRA actually asked about. Now, you can go to Akbars and design parts for alternative energy, which are then somehow ranked with a number related to how good they are for the environment. Here are some of the options below. Note that not all parts actually rank anything at all.

Well, I don't want to be a slacker, so I bought a solar panel and put it on my face, then went back to the Climate Center, rang the bell, and my contribution to solving the energy crisis on Whyville was noted. Hooray! I noted in particular that this is yet more evidence that Whyville is working on community-based science participation that requires an investment of virtual money and time and now a visual show of support (one's avatar on Whyville is quite important - just read our avatar paper: Your Second Selves...). Here's a picture of my new solar panel in front of the Climate Center. I think we need more research on this...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ugh - dead fish!

Ick. I went on Whyville today and noticed that the beach looks absolutely disgusting. The water is a deep maroon color and there are now dead fish lying around. I never noticed that before. So I went to check out the red tide thing. Not sure if it's my imagination but I think it got worse and that there's more of one type of plankton that like urea. Bought 50 seedlings, got in my boat, and planted them at an area of relatively high concentration.

Meanwhile, I also went on a major shopping spree since my old parts expired. After having invested in a bunch of new sunscreen at Target today I was tired of being pale-skinned so I when for a tan look but kept a different version of red hair. I've also always wanted to play Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz so purchased a Toto in basket. Not sure what I'm going for with the umbrella and glasses, but I *have* been writing a lot of papers (about Whyville) recently, so maybe it's a studious thing?

Off to Digra soon... Oriahsiri/Debbie

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Garlic Splats - Who Knew?

We recently decided to further study projectile throwing on Whyville - did you know that you can throw stuff at other folk on Whyville? This is a useful practice for 'reaching out and touching someone,' flirting (throwing hearts), and creating elaborate tag-like wars with your friends.

In pursuit of this fascinating topic, I though it would be valuable scholarship to buy some projectiles and throw them. I bought some oldies - blue balloons, mudballs, hearts - and some newies - maggots, garlic, spiders, and christmas lights. Now, some projectiles just stick to your target for a few seconds and disappear - like hearts. But some splat, like mudballs. Much to my delight and utter surprise, garlic splats. Who can explain the delight of throwing a head of garlic at someone and seeing it splat all over their face (see my target practice in the picture above)!

In fact, maggots also splat - a virtual and scintillating mix of body parts and blood.

In contrast, spiders mostly splat blood and little black legs.

Think about all the implications for context specific learning how to throw projectiles on Whyville - who to throw at, what to throw for what purposes, and how to respond when kids say "who did that?!"

Monday, March 26, 2007

Real Car, Virtual Car - Same ANNOYANCE!

This week there was a curious synergy of car problems - both with my real car that I drive to school and such and with my virtual car that I drive around on Whyville. My real car needed a renewed registration - a 3-month long hassle of DMV letters that never arrived, checks sent that were sent back, and finally a last-resort visit to the DMV. My virtual Scion (a limited edition winter scion - see picture with me in my new fedora posing suavely next to it) had a similar barrage of problems this past week as well. Trying to be on top of my Whyville banking, I had paid my weekly car payment early (I owe 1086 clams a week through April) but unfortunately Whyville's server had a bug in it and while the money was deducted, they didn't "see" the payment. This resulted in my receiving a letter about a LATE PAYMENT!

Now, I am doing all right for myself on Whyville, with three accounts now, and one beautiful head selling pretty well, but I can't make two car payments in a week, so I quickly ymailed a City worker who ymailed back and told me to EMAIL City Hall, from whom I recently got an email saying they were investigating it. But meanshile, they've already deducted the extra 1086 clams from my account, as soon as the money had been earned (they watch the bank account carefully, I guess).

I guess virtual cars can be frustrating too, but I wasn't expecting virtual ownership to be such a pill!