11 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

Daily Update: Jan 11

As we start the second week of classes, I don't feel that I need to post links to all the upcoming work -- you've all been able to find it on your own.

I will post a friendly reminder that the readings and blog entries are due at 10am in the day they appear on the syllabus; those due dates are the canary in the coal mine -- if you start posting the reading reflections a little late, you'll fall behind in the discussions, and there may be a cascading effect.

I've posted a short list of IF games for an assignment (due on the 13th) in which I'd like you to sample three text games for 10 minutes each, and then choose one or two of those games to play for another 20 minutes. (You're welcome to play longer, of course.)  The assignment page describes how I'd like to blog your reaction.  Remember to post 2-4 comments on peer blogs, too.

Blogging Interaction

In the past few days, student blogs have attracted comments from Raph "A Theory of Fun" Koster, Scott "Adventureland" Adams, and Leslie Rodriquez, the former student who created the "Lara Croft" page (she's currently working in new media for an environmental company in the Washington DC area).  Adam "9:05" Cadre left a comment on YouTube and also e-mailed me privately (to say watching the video of the cubicle bug finally prompted him to dig into his source code and fix it -- but he realized he's lost the source code).  I hope you make the most of your opportunity to explore what your peers are saying.

Moving from Personal Reflection into Scholarship

As a discussion question for today, I've posed a few ideas as we start to close down the IF unit and move into games scholarship.  Academic scholarship is more complex than simply using Google and Wikipedia -- it involves peer-reviewed academic journals.

How confident are you that you know academic scholarship when you see it?

We've looked at the difference between a traditional game review and new games journalism, and I'm sure you can see that Keller and Montfort are writing for a very different purpose, in a very different way. 

We say an academic article is "peer-reviewed" when people who are experts in the subject have had a chance to read it and approve it (or reject it, or suggest changes) before it gets published. 
  • So, for instance, a physicist who wants to publish the results of an experiment would submit it to a panel of experienced physicists who know the subject inside and out.
  • Artists and art critics run their ideas past other artists. 
  • Lawyers who study the criminal justice system write detailed analyses of obscure cases that might be of interest to only a small number of people, but those few people may be the judges who rule on multi-billion-dollar fraud cases, impeach elected officials, or sentence people to death.
What counts as "research"?

For an academic paper on cancer, a scientist may take a sample of a new drug, deliberately induce cancer in 100 mice, give the drug to a random selection of 50 mice, and no treatment to the other mice.  Assistants will weigh how much each mouse eats, how much they weigh each day, how long they live, and what stage the cancer progressed to when the mouse died. The whole process may take months.

For a news article on cancer, a reporter may attend an event staged by a drug company, introducing a new treatment. The reporter may spend an afternoon walking around with a microphone, looking for experts, asking them questions, and recording their answers. 

  • The reporter submits the article to an editor, who touches up a few grammatical issues. A fact-checker makes sure that the people quoted in the article (a drug company researcher, a cancer specialist at the local research hospital, a patient recovering from cancer, the widower of someone who died recently from cancer, and an insurance company spokesperson) really are who they say they are. (If nobody can confirm that the guy who called himself Joe Smith from Nearbytown really did lose his wife to cancer last year, then the editor may tell the reporter to find another source, or the article may run with that paragraph sliced out).
  • Before the cancer researcher has even finished the proposal for the funding to buy the mice, the "health and science reporter" has filed stories on a recall of child car seats, a newly-discovered comet named after a hometown hero, and the fat content of meals served at the local elementary school. 
  • Months later, a peer-reviewed medical journal gets a submission from the scientist we've been following.  A panel of full-time cancer researchers reads the submission and tells the journal editor whether it's fit for publication (typically, it's "accepted," "accepted with minor revisions," "returned for revisions with invitation to re-submit" or "rejected").
How do you know whether an article is peer-reviewed?

Has anyone in the class not yet done academic research at SHU?   If there's a need, I can create a quick how-to video.  In short, though, start at the Reeves Library website, click on Find Articles, choose Academic Search Elite as your starting point, and make sure that you have ticked the box that restricts the search to peer-reviewed publications.

Note that academic journals sometimes publish letters to the editor, editorial opinions, interviews, and book reviews.  Just because something appears in an academic journal does not automatically mean that it is a peer-reviewed academic article.



Dr. Jerz, when should we expect the last of the Koster online quizzes?

I have not done academic research at SHU yet.

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