On Week 7 #112CWR #342VS #513DR

After having to ignore so much just to get last week's entry written and posted, I almost find this week to be lacking things for me to note and observe. Then again, just as much may have happened this week as in weeks past, but other significant demands on my time perhaps kept me from noticing. (Every time I have to write/revise for publication during the semester, I swear I'll never do it again. This has happened five times.) 

In #112CWR, there was what I've come to see as the usual amount of confusion and dread toward the introduction of Mashup Scholarship, almost in parallel to the enthusiasm I still have for this unorthodox assignment. Part of my enthusiasm has to do with bias, of course. I remain enamored with the arguments of Lethem's "The Ecstasy of Influence" and Shields' Reality Hunger as well as mashup efforts like The Grey Album and Wugazi. And I still hold out hope for some kind of grand academic mashup of a disciplinary argument. However, part of the reason I ask students to put together their own academic mashups has to do with the potential of discovering just how scholarly sentences are constructed. It is my hope that by melding five different sources together into one cohesive essay students will learn a bit more about what discipline-specific writing is, if not does. So, if students see Pop Up Scholarship as a vehicle to vent about academic writing, Mashup Scholarship asks them to rise above raging against the machine and get more constructive.

What appears to be less constructive, though, are the facilitations, which have become less student-led class sessions and more a series of variant themes related to academic writing. Facilitations aren't so much group projects as a collection of individual performances about the same thing. Put simpler, #112CWR facilitations this semester tend toward mini-lectures. With just one more such session remaining, I have to be okay with this as it wouldn't be fair for me to come down on the last group with demands to do everything that previous groups might have not done. Plus, I think students often perform from prior experience, from what they know, and maybe not what's most helpful, but almost always what they perceive as easiest. If the comfortable or default setting for a facilitation is the mini-lecture, what does this say about professorial pedagogy?

In #342VS, facilitations are a bit better, with less lecture and more whole-class discussion of whatever readings I assigned that week. In some cases, these facilitations have been more media-heavy than the sessions I've led. I suspect that this often happens because students observe how I lead discussion and see what I fail to incorporate. In a way, then, #342VS facilitations build on or otherwise relate to the prior session and go from there. As a result, I think #342VS stands as a more cohesive endeavor with greater relationship between sessions each week and week to week. That each #112CWR session stands somewhat alone by contract is both interesting and troubling.

Having just begun #513DR facilitations, I'm rather impressed by students' collective abilities to conduct class without me.  As primary responsibilities for guiding discussion were on two fellow students, questions fell to This is a graduate-level course, so one could conceivably make the argument that graduate students should be able to hold a session without the professor. When I did contribute to the discussions of videogames in education and amateur/professional critics online, I almost felt as though I had interrupted the proceedings. I have every intention of attending next week's session, though. With scheduled facilitations on videogames as new media/rhetoric and 4chan and the online disinhibition effect, how could I not attend?

On Week 4-5-6 #112CWR #342VS #513DR

I do a disservice by grouping general thoughts about students' work over the last three weeks into a single entry. However, a multitude of demands on my time don't allow for much else. I've been asking a lot of students as of late and they've fulfilled my requests, yet all time allows is a lone, meager blog post to acknowledge and reflect. Of course, each undergraduate student received a quick progress report with more tailored details about how I see their recent work. I won't divulge such specifics here for a variety of reasons, instead taking a broader view, a longer picture of what's happening. So, let's begin…

Students don't like writing. To be more specific, students don't like academic writing. They see it as jargon, unnecessary, verbose. "Why should/would anyone write like this?" they ask. Such a question ties into not only important considerations of audience and purpose but it also remains a persistent, existential query for me as a teacher of writing. I don't discourage a question like that, instead encouraging students to ask by way of assignments like Pop Up Scholarship. And, more often than not, what comes out of such an assignment are the above criticisms. Rare is the question one of content; almost always is the question one of performance, of presentation. 

Variations of these questions also appear in upper-level and graduate courses, often with the same focus. Rather than discussing the argument put forth or the ideas presented, upper-level and graduate students address an assigned article from points of analysis literary and/or rhetorical. Their approaches are more deconstruction than New Criticism, more feminist and Marxist than reader-response. "If we can summarize an academic work in 50 words or 140 characters, why can't the original author?" they ask. 

I don't know if such inquiries are standard in college-level writing courses, but they seem to be in mine. I structure my courses to be spaces not just for writing, but critiquing writing. I don't want students' blind or blithe acceptance of the tenets of academic writing. Yes, I hope for them to grasp the nuances of what it means to put together a scholarly piece of writing, but I also hope for them to remain critical in the process. Besides, I'm not exactly the biggest fan of academic writing myself. There's an insurgent aspect to my pedagogy, I suppose.

Again, this is part of the reason for assignments like Pop Up Scholarship that ask and encourage students to change, comment, pick apart, and even poke fun at academic work. It's also part of the way toward foundational awareness, whether it be academic writing, videogame studies, or digital rhetoric. The first eight weeks or so of each course are strikingly similar in this regard. After the break, after having gained awareness if not knowledge of what's involved, students have the freedom for more individual exploration. Given students' reactions to freedom and open-endedness of certain assignments already undertaken, I expect there will be some accounts of stress post-break. 

I know that not all students are comfortable with the class structure. I know some would be content with or even prefer that I just give them information, straight from the scholarly horse's mouth. I know there are many reasons for this desire, too, but my general response to the majority of direct questions asked of me is this: I don't have all the answers, but I'm here to help you seek them, to offer perspective on what you discover. 

Contrary to what students might think, some of the best class sessions are those facilitated by fellow students. Even somewhat disastrous facilitations, like the one in #112CWR this week, can be instructive in myriad ways. This has me thinking about implementing less formal, straightforward groupwork in my courses. Rather than group facilitations, perhaps future courses will have discussion leaders, those who post the first and second online entries related to a week's readings for others to read and respond to. Students tend to like groupwork about as much as they like academic writing anyway.

On Week 3 #112CWR #342VS #513DR

In #112CWR this week, we saw the first two class sessions devoted to students' pecha kucha presentations, all of which addressed Part 1 of the Major Media Representations assignment. This is the earliest in the semester such presentations have ever happened in any of the courses I have designed. As I'm still learning students' names as well as their speaking and writing styles, I find these presentations to be functioning as further introductions to me and the rest of the class. 

There's a certain bravery to students' presentations, too. For some, it's just a matter of going first, of "getting it over with," but this also means providing an example for the rest of the class to either avoid or follow to the letter. For others, it was an opportunity to get personal, to give the origin story behind their choice of major and/or intended profession. 

That students took cues from the model pecha kucha presentation I gave in Week 2 was no surprise. This was also a bit of a disappointment. For as important as I think it often is to provide students with examples and models of successful projects, I worry that doing so stifles their creativity. The model provided can be an easy way for students to think less about what they want to communicate and how they want to communicate it. I suppose, though, that I'm only giving them a possible approach and template. All students produced their own memory cues, note cards, and scripts to accompany the 20 images on their 20 slides.

And for as involved as we allegedly are now when it comes to new media, I remain somewhat surprised at the clear dominance and influence of movie and television references in students' work in the MMR assignment. There are countless Vimeo, Xtranormal, and YouTube videos portraying various and sundry professions in positive and negative ways. These remain as much untapped sources for this particular assignment as videogames. Perhaps the presentations next week will have greater variation. 

If interested in the next two class sessions devoted to students' pecha kucha presentations, all our related tweets can be found here


Due to illness and/or weather, overall presence in #342VS was uneven this week. I still talked too much on Tuesday and discussion often felt forced, even unfocused at times. This may have been due to the topic (which is somewhat difficult to understand we're talking about videogames) or a lack of preparation (which is more understandable). 

So, with in-class discussion already growing too stagnant for my tastes, I pitched a different approach for Thursday's class. Having assigned the introductory chapters to Half-Real and The Meaning of Video Games for that day, I asked students to identify and summarize Steven E. Jones's and Jesper Juul's approaches to and arguments for studying games. I then asked students to use their laptops and smartphones to find and play games with Jones and Juul in mind. In other words, students read/reread and discussed Jones and Juul in small groups before playing videogames for about an hour. 

When later sharing summaries of Jones and Juul as well as what videogames they played, a few students admitted to experiencing some difficulty in playing Amnesia and Angry Birds while keeping Juul's "real rules/fictional world" idea in mind. One student even went so far as to express worry that #342VS would be ruining videogames for him.

This is an interesting point of reservation and resistance that I've noticed in prior sessions, the idea that we play videogames for pleasure and that critical thinking and deeper learning about videogames lessen that pleasure. My first response is to go on and on about how we can gain a deeper appreciation for what videogames are and do through that critical thinking and deeper learning about them, just as my appreciation for and understanding of Citizen Kane broadened by way of an undergrad film studies class, just as my learning how to play the guitar provided me with greater awareness of song structure and the tenets of punk rock music. However, based on the abridged version I gave in class, such an explanation rings hollow for some reason. 

A second explanation could incorporate arguments and ideas from the likes of Tom Bissell, Ian Bogost, Heather Chaplin, and Jane McGonigal about what videogames can do, but I don't know how well this would work either. At least for some, playing videogames are all the justification they need. It's enough to play, their attitudes seem to say. 


My lone #513DR session this week was mostly show-and-tell based on the Approaches to Digital Rhetoric assignment. Students' own Pen.io pages are more revealing than anything I could provide here, so I'm happy to just provide links.

However, I don't know if we're any at all closer to defining digital rhetoric for ourselves. As better definitions might be better enacted than found, perhaps this is okay as student-led facilitations begin in two weeks. I'm quite interested in the deliberations scheduled as I know some students have very clear pedagogical interests they want to explore. I also know that other students are much more geared toward ideas of videogames as digital, rhetorical forms. In all, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the deliberations, who takes responsibility for what while maintaining little overlap with the facilitations of others in the class.

With a mere eight students enrolled, #513DR is the smallest class I've ever had. This size is almost comical in comparison to our assigned classroom which has a capacity of 48. The last two weeks have seen us push four tables together so we can all face each other. We've been making a discussion-oriented space out of a larger, lecture-oriented space. I hope we continue to do that. 

Initial & revised parts of an academic essay #112CWR #342VS #513DR

This is a lengthy post and for that I apologize. However, my reasons for sharing these are more instructive for #112CWR, #342VS, and #513DR students than anyone necessarily interested in the subject matter. I want to say that this is what revision looks like. I think I'm right, but all are welcome to prove me wrong. Perhaps my editors will.



Pedagogy that encourages more play in college-level writing courses often comes coupled with an acknowledgement of technology as an increasing influence in students’ lives (Sirc 2001; Moberly 2008; Robison 2008; Shultz Colby & Colby 2008). It is here that various questions concerning implementation arise. Without a more thorough understanding of technology and how it is manifest in society, any incorporation is doomed to failure. Historical inquiry of the root of technology, techne, can result in a more beneficial balance between pedagogy and technology. This chapter endeavors to present techne as a way of understanding videogames as applicable to composition pedagogy. Primary emphasis is upon historical roots over contemporary applications, but implications for the future of teaching writing will not be disregarded.   

Often defined as art, craft, skill and/or the active application of knowledge, techne's ambiguity remains intriguing and many redefitions are in the service of pedagogy. With discourse so shaped by computer technology, there comes a need to "return to Composition's rhetorical roots to find a language and a methodology" (Penrod 26). Because of technology's influence on us and our influence on technology, it is beneficial if not necessary to explore techne. Again, prior scholarship reveals an acknowledgement of techne's ambiguity, a characteristic embraced because it allows for particular ends. 

It is possible to view techne as a field of practice with its own knowledge and skills and inseparable from politeia, “the proper order of human relationships within a city-state” (Winner 97). This is because “what appear to be merely instrumental choices are better seen as choices about the form of the society we continually build, choices about the kinds of people we want to be” (105). Political and scientific aspects of technical and technological production “modify and stimulate each other so as to lead to the development of a comprehensive philosophical program of revolution” (Rosen 79), one impossible to designate as theoretical, practical or productive because it is all three. As such, techne is "the knowledge of those social practices that characterize the acts of insiders…[and] enables cultural critique and becomes the means by which new social possibilities are invented" (Atwill & Lauer 37-38). This enabling aspect further solidifies and strengthens the relationship between technology and civic action. 

For as serious as we might understand techne in relation to politics and society, there is also an element of play in its performance. Embracing techne's ambiguity, Ryan Moeller and Ken McAllister use Greek and Roman historical anecdotes to illustrate. In revealing techne as conversation about an art, as ingenuity, cunning, trickery, chance, and artisanship, Moeller and McAllister seek better ways to teach technical communication, “letting [students] learn and play with the rudiments of technical communication before requiring them to act like experts and professionals” (187). To see techne as "creative, ingenious, tricky, unpredictable, and utterly human" (Moeller & McAllister 204) echoes Heidegger's definition of technology  as both a means to an end and as a human activity because "to posit ends and procure and utilize the means to them is a human activity" (4). Techne is thus the name for the activities and skills of the craftsman as well as for the arts of the mind (13). However, we may also see techne as a mode of revealing (Ong 1982), as the suggestion of learning within a tradition (Hodgkin 1990), as possessing aesthetic and technical characteristics (Rutsky 1999), as a kind of control over chance (Gordon 2002), as a situational bridge over the gap between theory and practice (Dubinsky 2002), as techniques for situating bodies in contexts (Hawk 2004), as reflection on aesthetic criticism (Penrod 2005). As a result, the pervasiveness and scope of techne also remains a point of contention. Techne is a tool used, working in tandem with knowledge/wisdom to produce an effect or event; techne is also more than a tool, often exhibiting a kind of autonomy which some embrace and others fear.  Divorced from or saturated with emotion, separate or inseparable from knowledge and science, ‘mere craft’ or exalted art, various interpretations of techne illuminate freedom of opportunity.

Similar to techne is the concept of play, which "stands for a category of very diverse happenings" (Sutton-Smith 3). In part, it has to do with how discussions of play place it "in context within broader value systems" (Sutton-Smith 8), quite similar to how some view techne. It could be argued that this has to do with how culture arises out of play (Huizinga 1950). Influencing rhetorics of play are historical sources, particular functions, specialized advocates, and the contexts of specific academic discplines (Sutton-Smith 214). Neutral interpretations are as impossible for play as they might be for techne, given how ambiguity creeps into "the relationship between how they are perceived and how they are experienced" (Sutton-Smith 216). Roger Caillois' definition of play is illustrative here as he describes it as "an occasion of pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often of money" (5-6) while also emphasizing it as essential to social development. For a host of reasons, Sutton-Smith concludes with an explanation of how play is "characterized by quirkiness, redundancy, and flexibility" (229). Below signifies an attempt to paint techne in a similar light.

The nebulous nature of both techne and play invite tangible examples. Videogames are an evolving, popular medium that refashions earlier media and promotes a greater degree of interactivity (Bolter & Grusin 2000) while also being representative of learning (Gee 2003). As such, they constitute an important example of how techne, play, and techne as play might be understood. This may very well be because "videogames teach biased perspectives about how things work" (Bogost 260). What follows then is analysis of videogames as of techne as play with an eye toward implications for teaching composition. Techne provides a historical foundation and videogames provide a current literacy practice, both of which serve to improve approaches to teaching composition.  

If we understand techne as an aesthetic, affecting and autonomous art to be learned and practiced in context, videogames represent an arena in which we might explore epistemology and apply to composition pedagogy.  Furthermore, if we view techne as a kind of play, videogames work as a collective example, inviting a rethinking of composition, a reimagining of approaches and sequeneces designed to promote active, critical thinking. Technology is an integral part of teaching writing, and it is therefore important to go beyond acknowledgement and awareness by discussing and implementing approaches that encourage and complement new ways of making meaning. 

This chapter will explain how Platonic, Aristotelian, and Isocratic notions of techne function within videogames, remaining flexible and diverse while requiring different forms of principled, rule-based interaction and the acquisition of means to desirable and fulfilling ends. Videogames reveal techne as flexible and diverse, requiring different interactions in relation to particular principles and the acquisition of means to desirable and fulfilling ends, achieved through tapping into the potential presented within. Each in-game encounter shapes literacy practices, causing reflection and/or revision in light of new knowledge; learning becomes an ever-present possibility, revealing techne as a kind of play, a fluid, contextual form of action. It can also be through videogames that we are better able to understand ourselves and the identities we create and comprehend and enact the changes we want to see. There is also a certain richness to historical inquiry that makes for a worthy addition to discussions of composition pedagogy and videogames. This chapter endeavors to provide a degree of that richness.

Again, techne can be vague. Rare is the occasion for Plato, Aristotle or Isocrates, to call techne by name, but it is possible to discern how they understood it. From Plato is the idea of techne as flexible and diverse, with each artful craft requiring communication in concepts and construction. Such action is necessary prior to production.  Aristotle takes this further with the idea of potential within, of something to be acquired and applied, but this something is more than the means.  Rules govern and inform methods of making; absence of principles often means absence of production.  Both are necessary aspects of literacy, its acquisition and action, which Isocrates understands in bringing principles and production together in his rhetorical pedagogy. 

Divergent ideas about techne can cause confusion, but divergence also allows for greater understanding. In drawing together Plato’s idea of techne as flexible and diverse yet principled, Aristotle’s of a ‘capacity to make’ and Isocrates’ pedagogical amalgamation of parameters and potential production, we can come to understand techne as a kind of play. 




Pedagogy that encourages more play in college-level writing courses often comes coupled with an acknowledgement of technology as an increasing influence in students’ lives (Sirc 2001; Moberly 2008; Robison 2008; Shultz Colby & Colby 2008). Related is the revisiting and/or revitalization of old Greek words like kairos and techne for similar purposes, i.e., the teaching of writing in acknowledgement of technical and technological influences (Moeller & McAllister 2002; Penrod 2005; Losh 2009). In light of research into play and old Greek words for the purposes of composition-rhetoric pedagogy, I desire to bring these two research areas together in arguing for understanding techne as play. 

However, the nebulous nature of both techne and play invite tangible examples. Videogames are an evolving, popular medium that refashions earlier media and promotes a greater degree of interactivity (Bolter & Grusin 2000) while also being representative of learning (Gee 2003). As such, they comprise important instances of how techne, play, and techne as play might be understood. What follows, then, is an exploratory analysis of three interstices of gaming that signal opportunities for play and provide potential models for writing instruction.

Before such analysis, though, it is important if not necessary to acknowledge that the pervasiveness and scope of both techne and play remain points of contention. This acknowledgement is not to imply a lack of similarities between the two; in fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. As signifiers, play “stands for a category of very diverse happenings” (Sutton-Smith 3) and techne acts as the name for the activities and skills of the craftsman as well as for the arts of the mind (Heidegger 1977). In other words, both are sort of catch-all descriptors for various and sundry things. Of course, divergent ideas about techne and play can cause confusion, but such divergence can also allow for greater understanding.

As such, many have been encouraged rather than dissuaded from alternate understandings of each term. For instance, Sutton-Smith (2001) observes how rhetorics of play are influenced by historical sources, particular functions, specialized advocates, and the contexts of specific academic disciplines. Much the same occurs with techne, given views of it as a mode of revealing (Ong 1982), as the suggestion of learning within a tradition (Hodgkin 1990), as possessing aesthetic and technical characteristics (Rutsky 1999), as a kind of control over chance (Gordon 2002), as a situational bridge over the gap between theory and practice (Dubinsky 2002), as techniques for situating bodies in contexts (Hawk 2004). Decidedly neutral interpretations are as impossible for play as they might be for techne, given how ambiguity creeps into "the relationship between how they are perceived and how they are experienced" (Sutton-Smith 216). Roger Caillois' definition of play is illustrative here as he describes it as "an occasion of pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often of money" (5-6) while also emphasizing it as essential to social development. While absent are arguments about techne as wasteful, Winner (1983) and Rosen (1993) each assert its inseparability from society. So, if we might perceive of play as “characterized by quirkiness, redundancy and flexibility” (Sutton-Smith 229), attempts to paint techne in a similar light should be acceptable.

As this edited collection overall attests, videogames represent an area in which we might explore epistemology and possible applications to composition pedagogy. In a way, I think this reveals the imperative that we go beyond the acknowledgement and awareness advocated by Selfe (1999) and implement approaches that encourage and complement new ways of making meaning. In seeing techne as play, videogames work as a collective example, inviting a rethinking of composition pedagogy, a re-imagining of approaches and sequences designed to promote active, critical thinking. Again, what follows is an exploratory analysis of three gaming instances that reveal techne as play and, in turn, indicate a writing-instruction model that leads to learning rather than just skills dispensation. 

On Weeks 1&2 #112CWR #342VS #513DR

Two weeks into the semester and I'm still talking too much. I suppose that doing so is important/necessary in helping all students understand all course aspects while moving forward. Talking more in #342VS and #513DR also makes sense because I designed each course as an introduction to an academic field of inquiry. As students may not know that much about videogame studies or digital rhetoric, I suppose I'm the resident expert. Furthermore, as students may not know much about tweeting (for academic purposes or otherwise), I'm the one to dominate their Twitter timelines. I remain concerned about precedent, though. If I'm the one introducing, modeling, and outlining everything, what reason will students have to rely on each other later? That first day of class gives so much power to the instructor. I suppose at least some of the rest of the semester will be spent giving that power back to students. I expect many to resist.

The tools I ask students to use is decided in part by this awareness. In addition to Twitter, which is perhaps the lone constant over the last 3 years of teaching, students in all courses this semester are using Pen.io. I also provided each #112CWR student with a Field Notes memo book for in-class writing and to maintain a more direct line of communication with me. 

Part of the reason for the switch to Pen.io concerns how last semester's blogs became more and more informal. I didn't do much to discourage this because I think that one of the best ways to get better at writing is to write a lot. Blogging can be a productive aspect to almost any kind of writing-oriented class, but I wanted to do something different this semester. I wanted to do something different because Posterous, while a rather solid blogging platform, underwent significant changes and became a full-fledged social network. As I wouldn't be asking or requiring students to use any of the new features, I figured there might be something else that was simple and easy to use.

For the most part, I think Pen.io's proven me right. It's pretty close to featureless (but allows for HTML), which is fine for what I'm asking. While talking too much about course particulars, I explained to students how it might be helpful to view their Pen.io work as comprising an online portfolio, the idea of which I first explored while an M.A. student at TAMU-CC. Some of the more tech-savvy students miss having an autosave feature as well as any way to implement Google Analytics, but the majority across #112CWR, #342VS, and #513DR don't seem to have found any substantial lack in the service. With a substantive Pen.io page and 5 tweets due every week, I think all students will be able to maintain online presence as required without difficulty. 

Now, regarding the sustained use of Twitter, I was very close to eliminating the "experiment" hedge of the Twitter assignment. As a communicative format and as a distribution channel, Twitter's become a vital part of my professional work. If I wasn't on Twitter, I can't imagine how many important discussions related to digital rhetoric and videogame studies I'd be wholly unaware of. I don't know how else I'd be able to keep up with all that's going on. This is not to imply that all one needs is Twitter, but what's to be found there can lead one down important avenues to elsewhere. If #112CWR students elect to do away with Twitter as a course requirement, I'll understand. If #342VS or #513DR students elect the same, though, I imagine I'll feel like a failure. 

Of course, I may only feel that way because of how I designed these courses, i.e., what works for me. Using Field Notes memo books to ask questions, jot down ideas, and think things through works for me. Twitter works for me. Pen.io works for me. In this respect, I suppose I'm teaching students to be like me. Again, I expect many to resist (and they should…probably).

Videogame Studies Project, updated winter 2012 #342vs

[amended from Mark Sample]

The default final project for ENG 342 is a series of Pen.io pages of at least 2000 words offering a critical interpretation of a videogame or of some phenomenon central to the social significance of videogames. Outside research and using sources from established scholarly journals and/or books are required.

Consider formal and narrative elements of gameplay as well as the dynamic between them. Remember that form includes rules, interface, graphics, music, and sound effects, while narrative concerns evocative symbolism, cultural assumptions, explicit or implicit ideology, and so on. Beware, too, the game's procedural rhetoric.

Which videogame and/or social phenomenon you examine for this project is up to you. A game as old as Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 could be just as satisfying as...well, Goldeneye 007: Reloaded. There are plenty of top-notch indie games, too, and a good source for discovering them is Play This Thing.

The bare minimum number of scholarly sources for this project is five. Think of your work as entering the ongoing conversation about videogames, either generally or more specifically in regards to a title, a genre, or a common issue. Scholarly sources are necessary for understanding how that conversation has developed thus far. Your entrance into the conversation will be marked by clarifying or disagreeing with what’s been said before and/or by exposing a critical issue that has so far been overlooked. You may cite your sources in APA, Chicago, or MLA style as long as you are accurate and consistent.


Alternative Final Project
As an alternative final project, you are welcome to design your own (small) videogame, using development tools available online like MIT’s Scratch or Inform (if you're interested in interactive fiction). The content and design are up to you, but the game should be a self-aware game that incorporates, reflects upon, and even challenges what we’ve discussed this semester. If you choose to design a game, please run your ideas by me sooner than later. 

If you decide to pursue an alternative final project, you will also write an artist’s statement to introduce your game. This statement will be an essay of at least 1000 words that outlines the goals of your project. In your statement, please consider the following questions:

  • What were you trying to achieve? 
  • What effect or meanings were you after? 
  • What subtextual meanings were you trying to evoke? 
  • Why did the project take the form it did? 
  • What was your decision-making process regarding design? 
  • Why did you do what you did and how do those choices mesh with the themes or goals of your work? 
  • What difficulties and/or epiphanies occurred as you created your project? 
  • What would you do differently next time?

With your game and your statement, I’ll be looking for evidence that you absorbed and thought about many of the issues discussed this semester regarding play, games, ludology, procedurality, and so on.

ENG 342 Videogame Studies schedule, updated winter 2012 #342vs

All due dates and required readings are tentative

Week 1 - Expectations & Introductions
Expectations and introductions
Read: grading contract, syllabus, Pen.io guidelines, Twitter guidelines

Due: Twitter and Pen.io account creation and first tweet/page
Read:  Aarseth - “Computer Game Studies, Year One,” Kazemi - “How Not To Write A College Essay About Videogames," Bissell and Ferrari - “On Videogame Criticism
Introduction to Approaches to Videogame Studies (AVS)

Week 2 - Games & Play
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Read: Caillois - “The Definition of Play,” “The Classification of Games,” and “The Social Function of Games,” Koster - “What Games Are” 

Pen.io page(s) discussion and visitation
Read: Koster - “What Games Teach Us,” Gee - “Semiotic Domains” 

Week 3 - Games & Play
Due: Pen.io page(s) (AVS)
Read: Koster - “What Games Aren’t,” Huizinga - “The Play-Element in Contemporary Civilization”

Read: Jones “Introduction to The Meaning of Videogames” & Juul - “Introduction to Half Real” 

Week 4 - Games & Play
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Read:  Jones - “Collecting Katamari” & Wark - “On Katamari Damacy

Read: Bogost - “An Alternative to Fun,” Frasca - “Videogames of the Oppressed
Group facilitation: Candace L., Brandi M., Kurtis B.

Week 5 - Ludology & Procedurality
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Read: Frasca - “Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology,” Aarseth - “Genre Trouble

Read: Bogost - “The Rhetoric of Videogames,” Galloway - “Gamic Action, Four Moments,”

Week 6 - Culture & Industry

Due: Pen.io page(s)
Read: Aoyama & Izushi - “Hardware gimmick or cultural innovation? Technological, cultural, and social foundations of the Japanese videogame industry” & Consalvo - “Console video games and global corporations : Creating a hybrid culture”

Read: Kerr - “The spatialisation of the digital games industry: Lessons from Ireland”
Group facilitation: Mike K., Wes D., Jessi N., Zeke Z.

Week 7 - Gender & Race
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Read: Cassell - “Genderizing HCI” & Schleiner - “Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender and Gender-Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games” 

Read: DiSalvo - “Learning in Context: Digital Games and Young Black Men” & DeVane & Squire - “The Meaning of Race and Violence in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”
Group facilitation: Kyle B., Michael B., Hannah K.E., Ken K., Jonathan S.

Week 8 - Violence
Due: Pen.io page(s) (Play Aloud)
Read: Anderson, et al - “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Day & Hall - “Déjà vu: From Comic Books to Video Games: Legislative Reliance on ‘Soft Science’ to Protect against Uncertain Societal Harm Linked to Violence v. The First Amendment”
Group facilitation: Andrew R., Andrew S., Heather B., Zack A.


Week 10 - Videogame Studies Project (VSP)
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Read: Mayra - “Preparing for a Game Studies Project" 
Introduction to Videogame Studies Project

Research session 

Week 11 - VSP - Pecha Kucha!
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Due: VSP PK proposals - CANCELED

Due: VSP PK proposals - Ken, Kyle, Candace, Brandi, Kurt , Heather, Andrew, Jessi

Week 12 - VSP - Pecha Kucha!
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Due: VSP PK proposals - Michael B., Zeke, Jonathan, Michael K., Wes, Zak, Hannah

Research session

Week 13 - VSP - Peer review!
Due: Pen.io page(s)
Due: VSP drafts - Ken, Kyle, Candace, Brandi, Kurt , Heather, Andrew, Jessi
Peer review

Due: VSP drafts - Michael B., Zeke, Jonathan, Michael K., Wes, Zak, Hannah
Peer review

Week 14 - VSP - Peer review!
Due: Pen.io page(s)  
Due: VSP drafts - Ken, Kyle, Candace, Brandi, Kurt , Heather, Andrew, Jessi

Due: VSP drafts - Michael B., Zeke, Jonathan, Michael K., Wes, Zak, Hannah

Week 15 - Reflections & Revisions
Due: All revisions to Pen.io page(s)

Due: Self-evaluative essay (email to instructor) 

Discipline-Specific Scholarship, updated winter 2012 #112cwr

Having read, researched, compiled, annotated, commented, and reflected on academic sources related to your intended major/profession, we should have a better foundational knowledge of what constitutes quality and/or expertise within a specific field of study. Part of this greater understanding concerns expectations of quality and/or expertise in writing for future courses. Now is the time to apply that knowledge toward a specific end.

Using sources from the Pop Up and Mashup Scholarship assignments as models (and/or as references), compose a piece adhering to the conventions, arguments, and styles of writing associated with your major/intended profession. This can be any kind of a piece appearing in one of the major journals in your field of study. It could be a substantial book review, a research essay, or a critique of a past article. 

The piece composed should showcase an argument similar to those appearing in discipline-specific journals. The piece composed should also showcase positive format and style characteristics similar to those highlighted during the Mashup and Pop Up Scholarship assignments. So, while you should adhere to the default 2400-word requirement, the main requirements for this assignment are those specified by dominant journals in your field of study. If you have any trouble getting started, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Part 1 (pecha kucha, due 3.13, 3.15, 3.20, 3.22). In a 6-minute, 40-second presentation, propose and summarize your approach to this assignment, including discourse adoption and potential source support.

Part 2 (online, due 3.27, 3.29). In a series of Pen.io pages, execute your proposal in time for instructor and peer review.

Part 3 (online, due 4.3, 4.10). In light of comments received during instructor and peer review, revise and update your Pen.io pages.

Mashup Scholarship, updated winter 2012 #112cwr

In "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism," Jonathan Lethem pulls from an incredible variety of sources to make an argument about the nature of originality. Part of what makes his argument so compelling has to do with how he makes it, drawing from the work of others and relying very little on his own words. Lethem does, of course, acknowledge his source material, but in a way contrary to established academic forms. Instead of proper citation format, Lethem offers a "key," combining partial quotes and authors' names in red along with the occasional anecdote about a particular source. Like VH1’s Pop Up Video, Lethem's mashup essay is another kind of writer/text collaboration that involves more than one kind of text and more than one kind of author. Mashup is a further invitation to make and see connections between texts, to make something cohesive out of things not our own.

The Assignment

Craft an essay of at least 800 words using 5 strong sources. Potential reference points for this assignment include Jonathan Lethem's "The ecstasy of influence," Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, Wugazi's 13 Chambers, and Wikipedia. Look at how these works are derivative of their source material. Note the revisions made to establish transitions between hooks and lyrics, sentences and paragraphs. Take inspiration from previous mashups; allow them to influence the construction of your own work. You have the opportunity to flex your MLA citation muscles with this assignment, but I encourage you to design a "key" as Lethem does or some other method of giving credit where credit's due.

Part 1. (online, due Tuesday, 2.21.2012) Select 5 strong academic sources from journals and magazines related to your area of interest and mash 'em up. Don't just throw the sources together; make a cohesive argument out of them. Don't pull 5 paragraphs at random and simply list them; integrate at the sentence level. Keep your own words to a minimum. 

Part 2. (online, due Tuesday, 2.21.2012) Use Part 1 as the basis for an additional Pen.io page. How you construct the page is up to you. I encourage you to provide a simple walkthrough of your mashup process, a conventional collection of bulleted/numbered points of interest, or a scan/upload of the mashup itself accompanied by your own further commentary. No matter your choice, be sure to be reflective and draw some conclusions about the following:

  • mashup in general (or specific to academic writing, e.g., should it be allowed?)
  • plagiarism in general (or specific to academic writing, e.g., how should it be addressed?)
  • what your mashup (or those by your peers) reveals about academic discourse

Major Media Representations (MMR), updated winter 2012 #112cwr

Movies, television, and other media can be very influential in representing particular professions. For example, we have Robin Williams as the creative, exciting (male) teacher in Dead Poet’s Society and Barbra Streisand as the unattractive, sex-starved (female) teacher in The Mirror Has Two Faces. We even have Arnold Schwarzenegger, the tough narcotics cop undercover as the angry, bumbling elementary teacher in Kindergarten Cop. From such examples, what sort of precedent do various media set regarding male and female positions in a particular profession? Only by watching and evaluating different media can we attempt to answer this question.

The Assignment
So, watch at least three different movies, television shows, or other media related to your intended major/profession. The relationship can be direct (Glengarry Glen Ross for real estate, Black Hawk Down for military, E.R. for medicine), peripheral (Kindergarten Cop for education, The Shining for creative writing, High Fidelity for small business) or even absurd (Harvey Birdman for law).  Unlike these examples, keep your selections timely; of major concern should be more current representations of your major/intended profession. Be sure to either take notes or “live-tweet” while viewing or engage in reflective free-writing as the end credits roll (we may share these in class).  Should you have any trouble getting started, let me know.  

Part 1 (pecha kucha, due 1.17, 1.19, 1.24, 1.26). In a 6-minute, 40-second presentation, summarize your media selections and address the questions below.

Part 2 (online, due 1.24). In a series of Pen.io pages totaling at least 800 words, explain further and in greater detail the questions below and draw some conclusions about how the media represent your intended major/profession.

The following questions are intended to provide guidance in putting together both the pecha kucha presentation and your Pen.io page(s):

  • Are those of your major/intended profession predominantly male/female, young/old, upper/middle/working class, African/Asian/European/Mexican American?
  • How do you compare/relate to the media’s representation(s) of your major/intended profession?  Do you see yourself as part of the majority/minority?  How/why?
  • In the media viewed, are representations of your major/intended profession more glamorized, romanticized, satirized, or criticized? 

PK presentations should adhere to the regular pecha kucha requirements. The comparative analysis should be 800-1200 words in length. Be sure to create at least one Pen.io page for this assignment.