Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Caerus Game Engine: a first look

The Caerus Game Engine: a first look
(Copied from my old Blog--since this article was written, the Caerus engine has been modified and my introduction here is certainly not the moste updated!!!)

I installed the Caerus (Context Aware Educational Resource System) program on my laptop and Dell Axim and spent some time going over the user manual. Here is what I found. (Well, to have a more holistic view of the engine, I would need to play the game myself)

1. Desktop Editor: Unlike the previous MIT augmented reality game (with which we design the MadCity Murder Game), CAERUS has incorporated the game (or Application) editor and the PDA game together as a kit, which is more convenient for the designers. The designers now can edit the desired content (texts, audio or video) with the desktop editor. This is a great feature because the desktop editor is more accessible to laymen.

2. Role Play: I did not find information about role playing from my first look. It seems that Caerus does not specify role play in its design. However, role-playing is not impossible for the Caerus engine. The designer can design three games tailored for three different roles on the same location or different location. I think it affords more flexibility for the designer to develop different scenario. A tour of a British garden can be modified as a game about biology or botany in the garden.

3. GPS coordinates: The Caerus engine works the same way as the MIT engine. Both need to specify three reference points to make the game work.

4. Game play: The Caerus engine allows the designers to design different games and specify one of them to play. For example, A history teacher can design two games regarding the history of Madison in the 1850s—one from the perspective of minority and the other from the perspective of the government—and then have students play the minority game, followed by the government game.

5. Time: From my first look, the Caerus engine can not designate time; hence the development features) of events can not been detected in the game.

6. Trigger: The Caerus engine does not afford the triggering of events, which is a great shortcoming for designers who wish to make visible the causality or interconnectedness between events or people. The MIT engine overpasses the Caerus engine in terms of allocating time and trigger. It is clear that the Caerus engine has some affordances the MIT engine fails to provide and the MIT engine surpasses the Caerus engine in some key aspects. The strength of the Caerus engines lies in its ability to provide multimedia support for the gamers (text, audio, video), its user-friendly design interface, and the content flexibility that affords different design scenario. The MIT engine is great for making explicit the causality and interconnectedness between people and time, which is essential for science related subjects. I would argue it is possible to integrate the strengths of both engines and make a more general-purposed game engine for multiple subject matters. (That would be an engine that middle school students can use for their learning/design in class--an engine that afford learning by design) However, it would require a team with designers, practitioners and software engineers for a period of time. (Might it be a potential project for grant?)

A Quick Look of MIT's New AR Engine

To sum up, the new MIT AR game engine is a dream that I dreamed of since I designed my first AR game. Now it is possible to create a history game (or many other narrative-based games, inquiry-based games, science games or even second language acquisition games) with the affordances built into this new game engine.A brief introduction of the new game engine would tell you why I tell you this is my dream (I shall have another dream after this, no doubt!) I am not going to tell everything about the game. What I want to mention here is what matters most to me as a designer.

1. Editor: The editor is not a notepad or XML editor any longer. Now the designer actually has a more user friendly interface to work on (it is not yet a spontaneous design, but surely a big step toward that). If the designer already has a scenario for the game, she can literally input (copy/paste) necessary information in the editor and creates an AR game within one day (including some debugging, trouble-shooting...etc.) The new designer interface makes the work a lot easier. Moreover, the new engine is way more flexible than the previous one. The flexibility begins with the possibility to create any roles I want.

2. Roles: With the new AR engine, you can create as many roles as you desire. This is, simply, fantastic, period. Imagine a story which is told with the perspectives of five different people (which makes it five stories, if not ten). Five different kids, by playing five different roles, will take adventures of the game with five different perspectives. These stories may be relevant in some way or superficially irreverent, but the five stories together make a "grand narrative." Don't know what I am talking about? Ok, let me tell you in another way. A history game. History is a good example of perspectives and narratives. History is not just facts told by historians in a narration/fiction. History are stories shared by different people with different point of views. What make good history is that we don't have a "history." We have herstory, monstory, dadstory, kidstory at the same time. These stories are all valid and should be shared to inform our understanding of a family. Like familystory, we need to understand different perspectives in order to understand history or herstory. The new engine affords the designer to create as many ROLES, NPCs, GAME ITEMS in different time chunks in a flexible way, and thus enable the possibility to create far more scenarios than the previous AR game engine could (In the MadCity Murder, my imagination is confined by the hard-coded roles the player may play). The previous game engine is a good "pilot engine" and a great example of rapid prototyping. The current game engine, on the other hand, is a big step to a full-fledged AR design tool.

3. Gateway to the indoor world. Somehow I don't feel I fully comprehend this function, but I know the current engine will be able to make the indoor world relevant to the outdoor world in the game. For example, the designer can designate a spot in the Wisconsin Historical Society and have the players go to that spot to get the information needed to proceed the game. S ay, as a player in the game, I need to find the diary of A. Lincoln, stored on a book shelf in the 2nd floor in the Historical Society, in order to continue the game. I will have to enter the Historical Society when playing the game, retrieve the information the designer wants me to find, and then input the relevant information in order to continue the outdoor game. The gateway is not only a gateway of the indoor and outdoor world, it is also a gateway between the virtual/real, present/past world. Now everything indoor could be revelent to the outdoor and any historical artifacts in a museum can provide information for an inquiry-based game.

4. Time, Triggers and NPCs. Imagine that three kids are playing a history game. The three kids, a historian, a MPD police and an archaeologist, have to find five missing artifacts lost 100 years ago and then they have to reinterpret history based on what is found in order to discover a lost national treasure in Memorial Union. They need to interview people and get the key information, but not all of them could talk to anyone or get anything important. They will have to get at a place at a critical time period because time is critical. In the meanwhile, talking to someone will make them find something which is not available or irrevelent before. This engine can afford the scenario. Imagine what I can do with a history game with the affordances mentioned here.

More functions: There are some functions I did not mention here, not because they are not important, but because I don't fully understand their affordances. I can create chemical spills, designate the radius of that spill in time. I can click on the map to designate the location of NPCs or game items. I can...there are so many things I can do and I will not be able to mention all of them here until a game is designed with the engine.

Space and Time

After our meeting today, I had a chance to ask Jim Gee why space and place is never really mentioned in socially-situated learning theories -- even though it seems to be pretty foundational to the language used in the theories (e.g. "learning environment" etc.)

He said, in his matter-of-fact "Well, John..." way, that "time trumps space" for social theorists in the West. They tend to think of space as being organized or situated in time by the activities that take place in the space. As an example, he mentioned how a room becomes "classroom" when a teacher stands at the "front" of it (and the "front" moves, depending on where the teacher stands), but the same room may be "meeting room" later if peers sit in it, in a less hierarchically-structured circle.

He added that scholars on the edges have tried to move to the center of the conversations of learning by promoting the centrality of space, but they usually don't get far (again, using very space-based metaphors). But, he acknowledged that with the research we're doing (with GPS-based games), it's probably appropriate to look into the role of space.

I almost walked away feeling like I was spending too much energy on a topic that was not worth it, but then I started to think of all sorts of counter-examples. The door of the classroom, where the clock and chalkboard is mounted, whether the seats are movable or bolted down -- these are all factors that greatly affect the activities. If a teacher stands at the back of a lecture hall, it doesn't become the front.

Sure, the space is named and turned into a place according to the activities that happen there, but the nature of the place has a huge impact on what activities can happen there. The Dow Day riots could not have happened in Lake Mendota, and it's not likely that Ivan Illych would have drowned in Ingraham Hall. While activities structure the way we construct Places, the activities are themselves structured by the nature of the Spaces they occur within.

So, while I'll accept that Western theorists have privileged time over space/place, I don't think I'll accept that it's A Good Thing to remain stuck in that position. I also have to admit to getting so caught up in space/place that I've been overlooking the importance of temporality -- of course, I have plenty of time with which to address that shortcoming.

Nardi (1995)

For next week, let's read Bonnie A. Nardi's (1995)"Studying Context: A Comparison of Activity Theory, Situated Action Models, and Distributed Cognition" [PDF]

Hopefully, it will offer further insight into how these theories vary, and -- a personal interest -- how space and place is addressed in them.

Besides being available as a PDF, it's a chapter in Nardi's (1996) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction

Monday, September 26, 2005

Place in socially-situated learning

In the Abstract (and conclusion) of Video Games and the Future of Learning (2005), David Shaffer, Kurt Squire, Richard Halverson, and James Gee contend that:
video games matter because they present players with simulated worlds: worlds that, if well constructed, are not just about facts or isolated skills, but embody particular social practices. Video games thus make it possible for players to participate in valued communities of practice and as a result develop the ways of thinking that organize those practices.
In this short excerpt, five elements are introduced that I feel need to be explored:
  • communities of practice -- Lave & Wenger (1991). A classic framing among socially-situated theories, in some ways, this sets up the metaframework on learning and identity as a social process.
  • participation -- between John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jim Gee's ideas on Discourse (1990), the whole realm of Activity theory, this is covered.
  • ways of thinking -- David Shaffer's epistemic frames (2004) seem to address this nicely
  • embodiment -- While much is written on this, I think this still needs exploring as to its more explicit links to socially-situated theories
  • worlds -- whether physical or virtual, there needs to be more work in tying this area to socially-situated theories of learning.
Research on worlds is of great interest to our ARGaming group, given our work with GPS-enabled, location-based games. Our need to research Space and Place leads us outside or at least to the edges of mainstream educational research to thinkers like Yi-Fu Tuan, Michael Streibel, David Gruenewald, and perhaps even (another suggestion) Keith Basso (1996) -- Wisdom sits in places: landscape and language among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

I'm suggesting that research on the role of place in socially-situated learning may be a larger (system-wide) need than just for our interest in AR Gaming. Even in Distributed Cognition, the focus is on actors and tools, and does not seem to delve much into the role of Place (however, I am just beginning to look into DC, so there may be much that I just haven’t yet seen).

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Place Continued

Here are links to two readings that draw from the theories surrounding sense of place and combine them with critical pedagogy, placed-based education, and environmental education. They appeal to me because I feel that they support some of the design features that have shaped the PDA designs that we have been discussing to date, Env Det, Dow Day, etc.

Gruenewald, David “The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place”

Streibel, Michael "The Importance of Physical Place and Lived Topographies"

On a personal note, I hope to mine the site-based and place-based potential of AR games in order to help students connect with and better understand their local cultures, economies, histories, ecologies, etc. I also want to research how they might be used to get students more actively engaged in shaping the future of their communities through political and social awareness and action.

Re: Tuan

After reading the Tuan chapters that Matt suggested I was excited about the potential of designing a game that explicitly explores the theories and concepts related to sense of place. I see great potential for this avenue when we talk about having students design their own AR/PDA games. For example, students could design a PDA game or presentation that communicates their own experiences related to sense of place.

Re: Tuan - Sense of Place in Environmental Detectives

The Tuan reading helps frame some questions related to role that place plays in the Env Det. Ming-Fong and I have talked a lot about this, but it is obvious that these same issues will arise in future designs, so I decided to post some questions.

Note: It is important to remember that the game alone is not designed to carry the weight of these questions. My assumption is that Env Det will be played as part of a larger unit on watershed ecology, scientific investigation, etc. that will provide a context for the gaming experience.

Questions related to space and place:

What role does the physical environment play in the Env Det experience? Is the site specificity and physical environment important to the narrative / game play? If so, to what extent? Tuan uses the example of a driver zoning out and losing sense of time and place while they drive along a highway. It seems that this happens at various points to people when they play Env Det. That is, they become focused on the PDA environment and lose connection with the physical environment. Is this an accurate observation? If so, is this a good thing or a bad thing? What might it tell us about their connection to the site / place? What else might it tell us?

How can the design be adjusted to “more deeply connect” students to the physical space? For example, in chapter two Tuan discusses the role that taste, touch, smell play in “spatializing” our world. Can the narrative include more features that clue the player in and encourage them to engage with the physical space? Can the physical environment become part of the problem space?

Do student leave the experience with a more developed sense of place? Why or why not?

How might the sense of place/space (or awareness of place/space) synthesize with issues such as identity, immersion, pacing, etc.?

Re: Streibel / Gruenewald

Here are a number of thoughts on AR/PDA design related to place-based environmental education. I am not suggesting that Env Det should do these things, but since it is the design that is up and running I am using it help me work through how AR games could promote a “critical pedagogy of place.”

Do the students leave with a better understanding of the political, social, economic factors that shape the local watershed?
Does the design (including pre- and post-discussions) encourage them to explore ways that their personal choices impact the watershed?
How does sense of place interact with and influence the questions above?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Space and Place resources

I did a quick Google for Yi-fu Tuan's Space and Place but stumbled upon ° R e s e a r c h ° o n ° P l a c e ° & ° S p a c e ° instead. As with anything, there's plenty of information out there -- it's just a matter of sloughing through it for the stuff that most-directly applies to one's own particular interest without getting sidetracked by the "Oh, that's interesting too..." bug.

This (re-)realization is causing me to once again reconsider, and further narrow, my focus. I'm not sure how to do that, but I think I need to stick with the deeper philosophical/theoretical areas until I get it figured out. Basically, that means learning more about how place is addressed in Distributed Cognition and other socially-situated learning theories (and components -- is it fair to say that Shaffer's epistemic frames and pedagogical praxis, and Gee's theories on Discourse, as well as, possibly all of Activity Theory can now be filed under, or seen as a part of Distributed Cognition? Mingfong, what do you think?).

I guess I'm looking for a "unifying theory" a way to unify an existing theory with enough of an emphasis on place to satisfy my value of the importance of place.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tuan 1.0

Scanning through the pages of this book, I’ve realized that there is a lot of information.
I went through the chapters that I thought would best fit our research directives.

Chapter 2 – Experiential Perspective
Experience – term for various modes through which a person knows and constructs a reality.

This chapter primarily focuses on a discussion of experience. “Experience is a process by which external stimuli and internal processes work to define our environment.” Internally, he speaks about emotion, feeling and thought. All of which are “ways of knowing. Externally, he focuses on perception and sensation, looking at how the complexity of our senses creates an intellectual awareness.

“What we know is a reality that is construct of experience, a creation of feeling and thought.”

“Human beings not only discern geometric patterns in nature and create abstract spaces in the mind, they also try to embody their feelings, images, and thoughts in tangible material.”

Ch4 – Body, Personal Relations and Spatial Values

Body and bodily interaction define fundamental principles of spatial organization. Here he discusses how space is seen as a relationship between the body and that which is around it (egocentric). We define space according to how our body acts with in space and how bodies then relate to each other in space.
There is a significant discussion of how specific attributes of space (high & low, front & back) have come to take on certain meaning due to this bodily relationship.
“The human being imposes a schema on space.”

Ch6 Spatial Ability, Knowledge and Place

Here he focuses on “how spatial ability informs spatial knowledge,” Knowledge being a transferable resource.
The gist of the chapter is an understanding of how human beings go about learning space through their ability to move and then producing patterns of knowledge to replicate those movements.
“Spatial awareness comes through training.”
“Space becomes place through familiarity.”

He proceeds into the cultural implications of spatial ability and knowledge.

Ch 10 – Intimate Experiences of Place

“Each intimate exchange has a locale, which partakes in the quality of the human encounter.’
This chapter continues to refine the meaning of place and how one goes about defining place. “Place is a permanent stopping point.” Tuan talks about the impact of memory in building specifics to make a place, and the distinction between public and private places.

“Thought creates distance and destroys the immediacy of direct experience, yet it is by thoughtful reflection that the elusive moments of the past draw near to us in present reality and gain a measure of permanence.”

Distributed Cognitions (Salomon, 1993)

Mingfong recommends this as an "all you need to know about Distributed Cognition" book -- or at least a good place to start.

It's got Michael Cole, Roy D. Pea, Moll, Gardner, Ann Brown, etc. in it, so it's got to be chock full of DC goodness.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yi-fu Tuan 1998

Thanks to Matt for introducing Yi-fu Tuan into the dialogue, as we look at the role of Space/Place in Augmented Reality Gaming. It promises to be very interesting stuff from a reflective academic. From past experiences, I guess I sort of expect a quiet sensibility from the Human Geographers I've met (and, speaking of, thanks to Nich Bauch, an advisee of Yi-fu Tuan, for further updating me). Those well-rooted in place seem to have that quiet sensibility (Aldo Leopold? Henry Thoreau? etc.)

Here are some quotes by Yi-fu Tuan from his Charles Homer Haskins Lecture for 1998

“Life, with no sense of direction, is drained of purpose.”

“I took up geography because I have always wondered, perhaps to a neurotic degree, about the meaning of existence: I want to know what we are doing here, what we want out of life. Big questions of this kind, which occur to most children as they approach puberty, have never left me. But rather than seek an answer in the great abstractions of philosophy and religion, I began my quest at the down-to-earth level of how people make a living in different places and environments.”

“Geography has allowed me to roam from the physical to the human—from climate and landforms to morals and ethics—and still remain within its capacious borders. The downside is isolation—isolation from fellow geographers who may roam the same grounds but come up with quite different questions and answers; and isolation from scholars in philosophical disciplines who, though they may share my questions, find no reason to heed the cogitations of an outsider.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Epistemic Frames -- take one

To get my mind around the idea of epistemic frames, I'm reading the following articles: Shaffer, David (2004?) "Epistemic Frames and Islands of Expertise"

In it, Shaffer describes the benefits of participating in an infusion experience, as displayed in the schooling, behavior, and confidence of Natalie. He merits the organization of her expertise around a particular coherent epistemic frame as the reason. He uses Crowley and Jacob's (2002) concept of islands of expertise, which create 'abstract and general themes' that students are able to use in other contexts" but extends it to affect a student's identity and participatory role in a community of practice (p. 7).

Drawing on Lave and Wenger (1991) Shaffer says, "pedagogical praxis (Shaffer, in press) extends communities of practice" (p. 4). He agrees with Browdy's (1977) assertion that knowing that and knowing how are incomplete without knowing with -- but Shaffer adds that to really be complete it also needs "knowing where to begin looking and asking questions, knowing what constitutes appropriate evidence to consider or information to assess, and knowing when to draw a conclusion and/or move on to a different issue" (p. 4). This strikes me as being a parsed out version of Jim Gee's big-d Discourse right now. But then that still seems to me to be a re-write of L&W's CoPs. I'll have to figure out the differences as I read more.

So, when he suggests, "Epistemic Frames are the organizing principles for practice" (p. 4), perhaps he is merely defining an aspect of CoPs or Discourse. Maybe he's suggesting that CoPs refers only to the community, and EF is an element within a CoP that structures it. In which case, Gee's Discourse would refer to the behavior of and within the community that is guided (organized) by the principles of its EF. This makes smart academic sense -- it takes a good theory and breaks it down into elements, pulls in a colleague's work as one element, and defines and names another element.

Put most simply: Shaffer's Epistemic Frames guide Gee's Discourse of Lave & Wenger's Communities of Practice.

I wonder if I can get on this train. The action/behavior of the individuals and group is taken by Gee. The mental processes of the individuals and groups are taken by Shaffer. The group itself is L&W. The elements that are not discussed include: the body itself, and the effect of place. Perhaps if I focus on the embodied situatitivity of the being in social/geographical space/place -- that's more along the lines of my FML interest and research anyway.

Well, I should read more on EF to be sure I got it right.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Killer Maps

This excerpt of a longer article about Google Maps strikes me as heralding an important point in augmenting physical reality, as well as being quite apropos to our focus. The full article is Killer Maps

Annotating the Planet (page 6 of 6)
As the big three vie for Web users' loyalty, they're likely to introduce more ways for people to import their own data and see it displayed on professional-looking maps. Google Earth Plus, an enhanced subscription version of the program, allows users to upload and view data collected by their GPS units, such as "tracklogs," series of virtual bread crumbs showing where the user has been.

And other companies are getting into the mix. A program for Nextel GPS camera phones, Trimble Adventure Planner, helps users create online travelogues by uploading photographs and pinning them to the appropriate spots on a Web map.

Siemens, meanwhile, is developing software that will let a GPS-enabled mobile device associate notes with specific coordinates; when someone else with a similarly programmed gadget approaches the coordinates, the note appears on his or her screen. A tourist bureau might "label" a particular spot along San Francisco's Embarcadero as the site of a fatal duel in August 1879. John Udell, a columnist for InfoWorld, has coined a phrase for this phenomenon: "annotating the planet."

It's a trend that the main providers of mapping platforms have every incentive to encourage. After all, as the history of the Web itself has shown, interesting content draws more traffic, which drives more click-throughs. "The world is really dense with information," says Schuyler Erle. "Access to ubiquitous networking and location-finding services means that we can take that information and make it accessible in the places we are actually in, when we need it, and that allows us to make much more intelligent decisions on the spot, at that time."

Every page on the Web has a location, in the form of a URL. Now every location can have a Web page--indeed, an infinite stack of them. That may sound like a recipe for information overload. But in fact, it means that navigating both the Web and the real geography around us is about to become a much richer experience, rife with occasions for on-the-spot education and commerce. It means that we will be able to browse the Web--and the virtual earth encompassed within it--simply by walking around.

Wade Roush is a TR senior editor based in San Francisco.

Research Purposes

>"I would surely be interested in knowing more about your research purposes"

Oh boy, that's actually a challenging question for me in that it's forcing me to both narrow in on a few specific purposes, and then to actually state them. Let me begin broad.

In the larger picture, I'm interested in getting people to think for themselves. I feel that public formal education, as well as much of the learning that occurs from interaction with mainstream media, and much religious-based intruction, promotes hive thinking. One of the campers at FML last year brought Gillian Cross's The Demon Headmaster Takes Over that looks at a (not too distant) world filled with inane game shows and entertainment, where "Curiosity is the curse of the human brain!" is the official slogan. "Suddenly, asking questions is dangerous - and finding out the answers seems impossible. What's going on?" It is another (somewhat sillier) version of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World or Lois Lowry's The Giver. More recently, I've read the same concern in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer where Lord Finkle-McGraw wants his daughter to learn to think for herself, rather than take on the mindless (behavior of the Victorian phyle she's being raised in. Actually, "mindless" isn't an accurate word -- the mind is engaged, but sort of primed to follow the mainstream, without giving it critical thought. I see this in current sentiments like "If you're not for the administration; you're against it" and "Now is not the time to question...". I respectfully disagree.

Narrowing in, I'd like to explore how technologies can encourage people to ask challenging questions that will cause society to become better (along Deweyian ideals) without destroying it. I had a supervisor who summed it up nicely in a letter of recommendation: "John likes to rock the boat, but doesn't have mutiny in mind" -- at least not violent mutiny.

This is still a pretty big slice of pie, so I narrow it further by adding environmental stewardship and wilderness education/appreciation to it. This addition also challenges me to marry these two outwardly contradictory things (wilderness and technology) together, to focus on some positives of their engagement in a world where we see and hear mostly of clashes. It also allows me to conduct research at what I feel is one of the coolest places on earth -- Flying Moose Lodge on Craig Pond, in East Orland, Maine -- a gem of mountains, lake, and woods off the telephone and electric grid.

I think that's as far as I can narrow it for now. Beyond these parameters, I'm open to ideas. Currently we're using iPaqs, Bluetooth GPS, and MIT's RiverCity Game editor. There is no cell phone or Wi-Fi coverage there, so while these technologies are interesting to me, it's less directly applicable (at this point), as I need technologies that extend further into the wilderness, and don't really want to see cell phone towers on every mountain.

Nicolas Nova

Again, thanks go out to Nicolas Nova (his blog: Pasta and Vinegar) for a comment of fabulous references -- he's doing much of my legwork for me (thanks!!), and clearly, he's much further in his knowledge of this stuff than I am. So thanks Nicolas, for helping me play catch-up. My take on AR Gaming is slightly different than yours, but you sure have collected a huge base of resources including those in your comment:Part of my problem is that I still don't know exactly what I'm searching for. I suppose part of my goal this semester is to come up with a narrower goal. I'm currently in a "I'll know it when I see it" mode, but there's really too much out there that interests me, and more being created everyday. In a way, it reassures me that I can focus on my particular woods-based game, without needing to know *everything* else that's going on -- there's just too much. That said, again, it's nice to keep at somewhat familiar with such a growing field, and nice to be in touch with someone who's considerably more familiar.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

John's Goals

My goals for this semester:
  1. To gain a broad survey-level understanding of the field of location-aware handheld games, and to create a brief review of this literature
  2. To differentiate the subtleties between, and to define, Augmented Reality, Hybrid Reality, Mixed Reality, and other related nomenclature
  3. To learn and be comfortable with the RiverCity Game editor, so I can quickly create and modify "customized" games.
  4. To figure out how to tie in, without drowning in, Social Computing, Pervasive/Continuous Computing, and other aspects inherent in the type of Augmented Reality gaming we are researching.
  5. To structure my research (find and understand a theoretical framework) in such a way as to understand and address the importance of place (social and geographic) in learning.
I suspect I have other goals that I just can't think of right now, and suspect also that some of these will be modified as I learn more.

Review: Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age

This past April, when I explained what my vision of Augmented Reality Gaming to David Hatfield in Learning Sciences, he asked if I'd read The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer and gave me his copy. I finished the coursework reading and started reading it for pleasure, but then went to Maine and forgot it in Wisconsin. Well, I found it again, and finished it.

To me, The Diamond Age is about video games in education. The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer is essentially a personalized video game and nanny. Three such books were employed for three girls -- one was 'racted' largely by a daughter's often-distracted father, one by a single actress who took on the role with the dedication of a mother-figure, and one was racted by assorted anonymous ractors, who saw their role as temp workers -- no real commitment. Having just come off reading Nicolas Nova's (2003) literature review of space and proximity, including forays into mixed reality, I couldn't help but draw some parallel ties to the proximity of characters here. Milgram's famous experiments shadowed in my mind too.

So, what is (or can/should be) the role of space and proximity in our Augmented Reality Games? How close are the social ties in various incarnations of Social Computing? What connections do MMORPG gamers feel toward each other (Constance Steinkuehler addresses this in her research).

My favorite quote from the book: "Nell," the Constable continued, indicating through his tone of voice that the lesson was concluding, "the difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people — and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward" (p. 237).

Although there are several others that I like a lot.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nicolas Nova (2003) summary and thoughts

A big thanks to Nicolas Nova for commenting on the blog below that some of the references are missing in the downloadable copy I posted earlier.

"Socio-cognitive functions of space in collaborative settings: a literature review about Space, Cognition, and Collaboration" Nicolas Nova, Sep 2003.

Embodiment, and the situation of a bodied person in its environment, is one of the biggest things I've been stumbling on, trying to find a theoretical framework to help me hurdle it. My readings on embodiment last semester didn't really give me any quick answers, so I got very excited when I read this: "Spatiality and our physical embodiment in the world is the most fundamental part of our everyday experience: we are spatially-located beings" (p.4).

Relation 1: person/person focuses mostly on spatial behaviors of individuals in groups, in a social psychological context, than on addressing the role of a particular places to individuals and social groups. To relate it to our work with handheld Augmented Reality Games would be to focus on the social-spatial relationships of the players -- proximity when they crowd around each other's handheld, move together, act together, etc. in order to better understand their relationships.

Relation 2: person/artifact focuses on referencing artifacts to others, and arranging artifacts. I'm not sure what I wanted it to focus on, but it's more of person/artifact/person as written. This was disclaimed at the beginning of the paper in the Aim of the Report, where Nova points out that his focus is on "the role of spatiality in collective situations," not so much on the individual (p.3).

In Relation 3: person/place, Nova addresses what I believe we are interested in (at this point): the role that the physical (and virtual) game space. Questions like, for me, how important is the landscape surrounding Flying Moose Lodge to the Mystery Trip, in terms of its history, social and personal memories that affect identity (Holahan, 1982:261), etc. are spoken to in territoriality, place attachment (Low & Altman, 1992), landmarks Sorrows & Hirtle, 1999; and Halbwachs, 1950).

The question of what role the augmentation (game) can have in adding to the meaning of the place is obliquely addressed in Relation 4: space, place and activity. Here, we're warned that electronic media can be a cause of losing a sense of place (Meyrowitz, 1985), but conversely that "place affords a kind of activity" (Harrison & Dourish, 1996). What's not mentioned, that I'd hoped would be, is that activity is the thing that converts space to place (this is where I feel that the activities afforded by the electronic technologies and games we are designing can help create a sense of place, rather than detract from it).

In Relation 5: space and artifacts, Nova writes, "Physical and virtual spaces are not empty. Objects and things occupy our places and hence do have a certain state and location that may be modified" (p. 25). Here, I'd argue that artifacts occupy space, but become a part of place. When space becomes place, its artifacts become part of it. For example, the space where the house I grew up in sits is a place. The land surrounding it is being carved and reshaped into a golf course and housing development. For me, the artifacts that occupy that space (the house, the oak trees in the yard, etc.) make the space a place. When they get carved up, when my parents leave, will the place be changed, or will it become, for me, a space again. I suppose it's fuzzy. Because my memories are tied to the geographical location, I might always be able to look at whatever is there, and remember it as a place -- on the other hand, what made the space a place will be gone.

I think this is a very worthwhile review to the larger community studying gaming and Internet communication, and to those who may be interested in studying the communication and proximity in handheld gaming (a candidate for the next leg of our research?). I'll certainly keep it handy.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Summary: Brown & Cole (1997?)

"CHAT and the Expansion of Opportunities for Learning After School"

In this 13 page paper, Katherine Brown and Michael Cole, in "CHAT and the Expansion of Opportunities for Learning After School" discuss an After-school learning program called "The Fifth Dimension" (5D) which uses the Internet, and video (and traditional) games, to engage the students in an otherworldly place to "externalize, reflect upon and criticize information, to write to someone, to look up information in an encyclopedia, and to teach someone else what one has learned, in addition to the intellectual tasks written into the software or game itself" (p. 2).

ZPD: Additionally, 5D utilizes university students as mentors (and participants) to create an "institutionalized version" of Vygotsky's ZPD -- although Brown and Cole note that, with some technologies, there is some confusion between the age groups in deciding who are the more capable peers (p. 3).

Artifact Creation: Another interesting bit is where they call on Vygotsky's (1987) "the thought is completed in the word" and design their activities accordingly: "Activities which feature artifact creation in the form of auxiliary tools to aid in interaction through computers is central to the process of meaning making" (p. 6).

Adapting: While the implementation of any project will have its share of problems, the lead researcher in this one commented on the one that "overwhelmed the system" noting that while the researchers and children were on board, they didn't communicate their vision to, and have enough cooperation with, the adults controlling the local site. I think that this speaks directly to the importance of designing things (research too) specifically for the target group. I'd argue that one of the best ways to do this is to get (and keep) them involved.

Place: I think it's interesting to note that, although much of the activity could take place online, and much takes place in the imagination of the participants, that 5D was located in a particular physical place is very important.

It's Alive - definitions and info

Apart from my comments here at the top, this is taken directly from their site.

My comments: Call me an old fuddy-dud, but the heavy emphasis of these games on commercialism, television, "latest fashion trends", and obliterating of "the enemy" etc. sort of bothers me in an admittedly moralistic "this is the last thing we need" way. That said, there's much to be learned here, and I think there's a lot of potential for the sorts of things I'm interested within them -- things like recycling, picking up litter, reusing, starting conversations, getting diverse opinions (and SMASHING!!! them and their children forever!! -- oops, sorry...). What I secretly hope is that they're just exploiting the commercial resources until they come out their "I'm Ok; You're Ok -- let's be friend" game (and we'll all hold virtual hands).

Another note: I think there are problems with the CSS or HTML on their pages...

Pervasive Gaming from the It's Alive web page
Definition of "pervasive" [per-vã'sîv]: encompassing, always present.
Pervasive gaming means games that surround you, 24 hours a day, everywhere. When you walk down the street, you're walking through an adventure world draped on top of the real world, and people you meet may be characters in the same game you're playing. Enemy or friend, virtual lover, or an evil monster?

Location-based Gaming from the It's Alive web page
The pervasive games developed by It's Alive are location-based, which means that the player's physical location is mapped into the game. Game events can be triggered by a player's location, and players can interact with other people that are in the same area.

Matrix game platform
The Matrix game platform is a Java™-based server platform especially designed for pervasive games: massively multiplayer games with the real world as the game arena, and playing on multiple devices.

Supafly - a location-based virtual soap opera where intrigues, gang conflicts and romance are the tools of the trade for becoming a virtual celebrity.
In Supafly you can become a local celebrity by appearing in the online newspaper "Hype". But competition is fierce, and you must find allies among other players, belong to the right group, and follow the latest fashion trends in order to stay on top.
You start the game by creating your own character, fine-tuning both its' appearance and personality. Create your alter ego, or someone completely different. Your character will grow and develop a unique personality as you continue playing, and sometimes may not do exactly what you tell it to do.

Always with you
Your character stays in your mobile phone and - since the game is location-based - it follows you along wherever you go. As your trusty companion, your character will help you find nearby friends or maybe find a date.
Up close, you can interact with other players in many different ways. Chat, quarrel, kiss and make out - it's almost as in real life. You can also trade items with other characters - trade your boots for a cool pair of sunglasses, or try starting a career selling your home-made gear.

Your home is your castle
A quick command from your mobile phone - and your character leaves the phone and won't disturb you anymore. At an instant, your character instead enters its home on the Web. From the website you can read the latest gossip in the newspaper, and get new clothes or accessories for your character. You can also chat with other players - regardless if they're logged on to the website or connected from their mobile phone. The website also allows you to keep track of your friends, and check your statistics, so you can plan your next move to become a game celebrity, a Supafly.

A game for everyone
The game is accessible for anyone that has a mobile phone. You play using SMS messages, and with picture messaging you can even see how the characters look like. A WAP and J2ME version of the game is soon to come. The website provides a rich multimedia experience, so strong that the user will keep it in mind when playing the game on the mobile phone.

Operator benefits
Supafly is licensed to mobile operators, media companies and service providers, who in turn provide the game to its subscribers. The major benefits for the operator are:
- Drives traffic and revenues during off-peak hours.
- Marketing tool for addressing youth segment.
- Image booster with great PR value.
- Viral marketing gives quick penetration.
- Drives acceptance of positioning.
- Numerous possibilities for sponsorship and product placement of fashion brands and apparel in the game.

BotFighters – a location-based mobile game where you design your robot on the game’s website, then battle against other players out on the streets.

The Game
BotFighters is the world's first and most successful location-based mobile game and it lets the users play via SMS using any standard GSM phone, or via a downloadable J2ME client. It has been launched in Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Russia, and is currently generating over 1.000.000 SMS per week.
BotFighters is an action game with a robot theme, and it takes place out on the streets in the real world. Players locate each other with their mobile phones, move physically to get within range and then duel by shooting at each other. Mobile positioning is used to determine whether the users are close enough to get a good hit.
The SMS dialogue is intuitive and quick to learn, and return messages from the game have a humoristic tone in endless variations. The J2ME client turns the phone into a “battle terminal” with an on-line radar screen, cross-hair aiming, and colourful feedback when destroying a target, or getting shot at.
On the BotFighters website, players can chat, upgrade their robots, buy weapons, view highscores, join competitions and get information on their current mission. The website is used for community building and to create an exciting game atmosphere but the actual gameplay is carried out on the mobile phone.

Special Forces
Special Forces (in production)
Game developed for Endemol International.
Special Forces is a both a TV show and a game, developed by It’s Alive and Endemol International (, world famous for international docusoap format ”Big Brother”.
With a character created on the Special Forces website, the gamer enters an individual or group shoot-out competition that takes place in streets, parks, schools, at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The main goal of Special Forces is to survive as many days as possible and obliterate the enemy. The gamer that keeps his character alive longest throughout the duration of the game wins.
The most important tool and best friend in the game is the mobile phone. By using location based technology, the gamers use their mobile phones to scan the environment searching for the location of other gamers.

Game developed for Channel 4 UK in 2001.
Mobile "shoot-em-up" based on a TV show. The game's aim was to find other players in a virtual game world, and battle with them. It was based on the TV show "X-Fire", a paintball action show, and included the same players, weapons etc from the TV show.

IPerG Review

Beware the silly Flash. These guys have a smooth front-end that implicitly promises much more than they currently have inside -- I expect that it's mostly just a framework that will be filled in further as they get more clear about their content, and more content. This actually ties in to our discussion yesterday, of "what's the best way to go about this?" -- do we make a building and fill it, or do we build and add on as we go? Both routes have costs and benefits. One of their good ideas (I think) is the way they break up the content into Work Packages, although WP09 doesn't do a good job of describing its contents; you actually have to open them to see what they are (like birhday presents). Since we're not dealing with a large group, and most of our categories aren't yet finalized, let's name them as we go (Definitions, Theories, Methodologies, Examples, etc.) Summary by John Martin

An attractively-designed Flash site that explains what Pervasive Gaming is, and offers iPerG's (i=? PerG=Pervasive Gaming) vision and mission (to develop infrastructure, tools and methods for pervasive games, in order to: Enable rapid and cost-effective creation and staging of pervasive games; Create good designs; Understand the intended audience; and Understand the societal impact of games).

IPerG sections their content in the form of WorkPackages: The project is structured as a set of core work research work packages and a second set of satellite work packages. A short presentation and a graphical overview can be found in the official slide presentation. The core research work packages are:
  • WP 01 - Management
  • WP 04 - Business and Organisation
  • WP 05 - Design and Evaluation
  • WP 06 - Infrastructure
  • WP 07 - Tools
In addition to the core work packages, the IPerG project contains a set of showcase work packages in which specific game genres are explored. The showcases are:
  • WP 08 - Crossmedia
  • WP 09 - Socially Adaptably Games
  • WP 10 - MMRO
  • WP 11 - LARP
  • WP 12 - City as Theatre
WPs 08-12 have info available on them on the main page (when clicking, open in another window or the site will reload whenever you want to go "back"). These are the most interesting parts of the site, where they engaged my imagination -- but their interface for the web seems to not pay attention (I hope) to any sort of good design interface.
I checked out their "Deliverables", and read some of the more interesting-sounding ones (bolded below) and will post my comments on them individually.
  • "Guidelines for Socially Adaptable Games", Staffan Björk, Daniel Eriksson, Jussi Holopainen, and Johan Peitz, December 2004. [359KB, DOC]
  • "Technical Requirements for Enhanced Reality Live Role Playing", Pär Hansson, Karl-Petter Åkesson, Markus Montola, Staffan Jonsson, and Martin Ericsson, December 2004. [165KB, DOC]
  • "Literature Review, Design and Evaluation Methods for Pervasive Games", February 2005. [1099KB, DOC]
  • "Design guidelines for crossmedia game production", February 2005. [285KB, PDF]
  • "Business and Revenue Models", February 2005 [405KB, DOC]
The IPerG Flyer ( was not found, although the HTML version of it was (
Ditto with the IPerg Presentation ( HTML version here: (

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Learn@UW site

I've requested a site, and will keep you posted.

Nova, N. (2003) Distributed Cognition and Space

I quickly skimmed this. It seems to nicely tie both space (spaciality) and place within Distributed Cognition. And although neither Pea, nor Taun are cited, Benford is. Here's the link, title, abstract, and TOC.

Link to PDF download (148k): CRAFT_report1.pdf

Socio-cognitive functions of space
in collaborative settings : a
literature review about Space,
Cognition and Collaboration

Nicolas Nova
September 2003

Abstract : This document reports on a brief
literature review about social and cognitive functions
of spatial features used when collaborating in both
physical and virtual settings. Those concepts come
from various fields like social, cognitive as well as
environmental psychology or CSCW (Computer
Supported Collaborative Work). I briefly summarize
the social and cognitive affordances of spatial
features like distance, proxemics, co-presence,
visibility or activity in the context of physical and
virtual space. The way human beings employ those
features finally allows to give insights about
potential avenues of research.

Aim of the report..............................................................4
How social uses of space are studied....................................6
What do you mean by virtual space ?...................................6
Structure of the report.......................................................7
Relation 1 : person/person.................................................8
Relation 2 : person/artifact................................................13
Relation 3 : person/place..................................................16
Relation 4 : space, place and activity...................................20
Relation 5 : space and artifacts..........................................25

meeting 9-14-05

Started with a discussion on what format our conversations, resources, etc. should take place in. The blog is, duly noted, very linear. Maybe a course site that could house files, etc. or a wiki. We'll have to get Kurt to set us up.

Matt's asking what spaces are not traditionally gaming spaces -- theatre, sports, etc. (which, in a way are both very gamelike, but Matt's talking about a way to break down the walls between player and observer). How is this already happening in things like reality TV (he mentioned the INXS new lead singer show).

Categories of delineation on our site. How do we define them there? Suggestion is to start with a few articles on AR and related terms, and use the authors' definitions. Then we can discuss and argue them from our own perspectives.

Start with theories of space, design, games, ideas of AR and conventional reality, methodologies on how to conduct this sort of research.

Distributed Cognition (Solomon and Pea, Roy D. 1997) might deal with the lack of sense of place in Activity Theory. Liz Ellsworth also deal with this, as does Brian Matsumi. Matt says someone on campus in Geography (Yi-fu Tuan) contrasts "space" and "place" (place has an idividual or cultural memory to it). Context is a big part of it. "Space and PLace: The Perspective of Experience" (

Also maybe look at David Shaffer's Epistemic Frames/Games.

UK Steven Benford "Mixed Realities" Group might have more...

For next week, our discussions will focus on the frameworks. And John and Mingfong will try to get a Learn@UW (and/or Wiki) site going.

Where is the goal that guides our tour? How might this tour be like?

Hey folks,

The messages being posted are really helpful and I think this collective data mining could eventually lead to a fruitful outcome for all of us in this learning community.

While we have no questions regarding what we think we want to do, I think it pays to go a little bit further by imaging where we are and how we get there when this study comes to a temporarily end in December? An explicit goal that we set up at this moment is no doubt not a final goal since we enter the realm with very little knowledge about the overall landscape. While Kurt is looking downward from the hill, with the overall atlas in mind, I am looking upward from the valley an sketchbook in which the map will be drawn. The good news is that we each comes from a different valley and together we might be able to reach somewhere that we could not have reached alone.

Hence I propose that we write down what we wish to achieve and how we want to achieve that goal here. It helps us to think over what we need to do and how our researches can be added on to the others.

(I will attache my goal here later)

Question on CHAT

I'm just starting to read Michael Cole's take on Activity Theory, and he talks about "Mind, Activity, and Culture" -- how does he define mind? I ask because I often see it set in opposition to the body, but after my readings on embodiment, I'd almost argue that the mind of an individual barely exists on it's own *except* as an extension, or mediating device of the body to navigate that in which it is situated: primarily the physical/chemical aspects of the body itself, its geographical/physical surroundings (place), and its socio-cultural surroundings (the bodies around it).

In a way (in my understanding so far), CHAT centers on the body without mentioning it. The body is the elephant in the room that no one talks about.

Why bring this up here? Location-based games emphasize body and place as well as activity (and mind and culture), and I'm not sure which theory addresses these elements best.


Article by Jeremy Roschelle

This may be more interesting for me than for you, since I'm using CHAT (probably modified to include more of a sense of place), but maybe someone already has, and/or has read, this article and can tell me?

Activity Theory: A Foundation for Designing Learning Technology?
Jeremy Roschelle
Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1998, Vol. 7, No. 2, Pages 241-255
(doi: 10.1207/s15327809jls0702_5)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A few mobile games

A few people doing interesting stuff that you might want to check out on the web

Frank Lantz - gamelab designer - did PacManhattan and just started a "big interactive game" company focusing on games that connect real and virtual
Katie Salen - wrote Rules of Play with Eric Zimmerman - did the Big Urban Game - also writes for RES
Blast Theory - british based artist group that does great work that connects digital and real world

The Univ. of Nottingham Mixed Reality Lab - a EU co-operative research initiative that is working on similar stuff as us.

Friday, September 09, 2005

meetings & paperwork etc.

A few things: First, we meet again next week Wednesday at 1pm, right? Can we meet in the 128 Suite instead of the CIMC?

Second, I suspect that there's paperwork involved in setting up a directed study. I'll do that and get back to you on what's needed for registration.


I am up and running as well...

I'm in - Matt

I figured it out! Should be set. I'll get some info on here this weekend.


A Directed Study on Games

While we will be primarily working with the latest version of the RiverCity Game Editor, developed at MIT, Ming-fong and I are very interested in doing a survey of mobile games -- specifically location-based (GPS-enabled, wireless, or WiFi). With that in mind, I should do a plug for Adriana de Souza e Silva's Instant Mobile Cultures blog and site. As you run across other sites that in some way relate to mobile location-based gaming, please share them on this blog. Hopefully, we can do our bit of data mining on this subject, and come up with a pretty good list by the end of the semester.