Social Knowledge Creation/Final Engagements
Editorial Interventions and Evolutions in Reimagined Digital Editions
With the reimagining of humanities research platforms through digital tools and participatory forums, the form of the electronic book is undergoing experimentation and evolution. Online reading environments are challenging the “bookishness” of publications with advanced analytical tools and opportunities for collaborative user input and interaction. Looking specifically at scholarly editions, evolving publication models have altered their presentation from print to digital formats, and editorial innovations have enhanced content and thoughtfully implemented user engagement tools. While most electronic scholarly editions have retained the core principles of the textual and documentary editing, some editions are also exploring innovative new workflows and are expanding the definition and functionality of digital editions. Thematic research collections, for example, provide monumental archives of textual and pictorial resources with limited editorial intervention or selection, and social editions encourage the collaborative efforts of online researchers to transcribe and to annotate digital editions. A review of exemplary tools and resources offers evidence of innovative approaches and provides examples of noteworthy thematic research collections, interactive documentary editions, and participatory user interfaces for scholarly editions.
Kathryn Sutherland remarks in Text Editing, Print and the Digital World that a computer monitor “both simulates and releases text from its bookishness” by the display of high-quality page images (p. 20-21). She argues that advancement beyond the simulation of bookishness will only occur when the materiality and functionality of the computer is acknowledged and scholars move away from comparisons of the enhancement or betrayal of print media through digitization. Partially because the electronic text transcends the confines of “the book,” replication of a printed work online is fraught with contradictions. Only by looking beyond the printed book can scholars begin to embrace the sense of a truly digital edition.
Sutherland’s analysis focuses primarily on the preparation of digital critical editions, or the study of variant forms of a text to establish an authoritative version that most closely resembles the original manuscript. But her concerns are equally applicable to digital documentary, or noncritical editions, which render a reliable printed version of a literary or historical text with explanatory footnotes placing the document in context. The establishment of a single authoritative text by an editor with specialized knowledge provides a stable reading text for long-term critical inquiry and analysis. While there is a push for the display of all information in an online edition, the editor’s input and selection of material for a stable print edition may be more “liberating” for readers than the endless options put forth online with the inclusion of all variant versions of a particular text. By offering both a digital edition and an online variorum, researchers have the option of exploring the core text or mining the larger electronic repository for contingent material. Given the nature of documentary editions to present a selected body of materials with only one authoritative version of each document, their transfer to the world of digital editions has been more streamlined than critical editions, which often offer a vast body of variant versions for researchers to navigate.
In Electronic Textual Editing, Bob Rosenberg describes the creation of the digital edition for The Papers of Thomas Edison. His chapter, “Electronic Textual Editing: Documentary Editing,” outlines a workflow of established editorial principles — document selection, transcription, and annotation — that governs the preparation of both print and electronic publications. The primary archive for the project contains approximately five million pages of Edison materials, including letters, research notes, and drawings, all of which are controlled by an electronic database. Although created two decades before, the database proved foundational for managing the metadata of the future electronic edition. As the Edison Papers are working to combine manuscript images aside textual transcriptions, the appropriate document information must be linked to both. Although part of the process can be automated, Rosenberg characterizes the work, like much editorial work, as both routine and requiring an insightful knowledge of the material. Building upon the past work of the project, the digital edition “combines the known strengths of microfilm and books with the remarkable power and access of the digital world” (n. pag.).
The longstanding Adams Papers Editorial Project is initiating a four-year project to present verified and searchable transcription of all fifty-one holograph volumes of the John Quincy Adams diary alongside digital page images. Held in the Adams Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, the over 15,000-page diary reflects the extraordinary range of experiences in Adams’s life and career as a diplomat, statesman, U.S. president, scientist, classical scholar, linguist, essayist, and poet. Beginning on 11 December 1779 and ending with a final entry on 25 February 1848, the voluminous diary is unsurpassed in its broad scope, historical detail, and insightful reflection.
The first phase of the proposed project, completed more than a decade ago, digitized the diary from microfilm, created metadata for every entry, and launched The Diaries of John Quincy Adams website. While the online version has greatly increased availability, more rapid and productive use is hampered by the lack of a searchable transcription. The second phase will make the verified transcriptions of the Adams diary available online along with contextual headnotes, facilitating discoverability of a vast body of material. The plan of work includes the transcription of new material, verification of the text, and XML encoding of the transcriptions. The verified authoritative entries will appear side-by-side with manuscript page images on a redesigned website, providing opportunities for enhanced research tools for highlighting, bookmarking, commenting, and saving search results in individual user accounts. Ideally suited for a digital edition, this project will offer unprecedented access to a resource that alternatively would require thirty print volumes and as many years to deliver.
Acknowledging the difficulties of funding and publishing multi-volume scholarly editions in print, Andrew Jewell, in his article “Digital Editions: Scholarly Tradition in an Avant-Garde Medium,” recognizes and embraces the necessity of publishing in a digital format. But he also sees that the changing output of the final product draws upon a long-established tradition of textual scholarship. The core workflow of documentary editing remains the same — from selection to transcription to proofreading — with the addition of XML markup and possible page scanning. In the process of marking up text with Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) conformant XML, students consult proper editorial policies for successfully preparing a digital edition and actively engage with the principles of documentary editing. While digital humanities may bring new interest to the field, the fundamental underpinnings of textual work remain fixed.
For a new edition of Willa Cather’s journalism, Jewell affirms that digital technology was specifically employed to manage transcriptions and page images of Cather’s articles, along with potentially multimedia annotations. This project could not be delivered as effectively with a print volume. The larger thematic collection of digitized material related to Cather contains texts, associated images, interactive tools, and a community-building component to encourage communications between researchers. The digital edition exists as only one discrete element of this extensive Willa Cather Archive. While some materials are prepared with full editorial apparatus, others are digitized and uploaded to allow ready access to researchers. Different materials receive different treatments, but the larger thematic research collection strives to provide reliable and contextualized access to a full corpus of related materials.
Kathryn Sutherland maintains that providing a vast electronic repository of all-known thematic materials without editorial intervention diminishes the role of the scholarly expert “in favour of an alliance between mechanical means and the unknown user” (p. 18). The digital edition then becomes less of a medium for selected and interpreted materials and more about full information display of “artefacts for direct examination” (p. 18). She offers as an example The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Archive, which is a lightly edited collection that aims to include digital images of all extant materials relating to Rossetti’s works, both textual and pictorial. While this digital archive offers a particularly successful delivery and organization of a monumental corpus of materials, Sutherland questions the usefulness of similarly vast electronic collections and ponders “can we really go forward into an age of digital editing with a model that suggests each user is (or wants to be) her own editor” (p. 19).
As a counterpoint, Ray Siemens presents a compelling argument for readers’ increased involvement in scholarly editions with the inclusion of social media functionality in collaborative digital editing. In “Toward Modeling the Social Edition: An Approach to Understanding the Electronic Scholarly Edition in the Context of New and Emerging Social Media,” Siemens envisions a “social edition,” in which the project editor would facilitate reader involvement rather than function as the expert scholar for the edition. While building upon a tradition of scholarly editing, social editions embrace a new generation of online tools for social networking and information sharing. This is connected to the concept of the “dynamic edition,” which allows readers to dynamically interact with text in a nonlinear fashion and incorporates analytical tools to facilitate reading-related research. The dynamic edition also provides hypertextual links to interrelated scholarship and automates means of discovering support materials.
Social media tools function as a natural extension of traditional activities of humanities scholarship, particularly “in areas of analysis, synthesis, communication, and formal dissemination,” as reported at The Shape of Things to Come conference at the University of Virginia (Siemens et al., 2010). Actively engaging researchers around shared resources encourages a community of practice to evolve with common goals. Within academia, a “community of practice” defines a group whose members convene formally or informally around research interests and collaborate on similar goals. In comparison, “citizen scholars” are self-selected groups from the general public whose members actively contribute to increase a project’s scholarship and research goals. Given that proper channels for review and regulation are in place, digital projects are a viable forum for public input.
Standalone digital editions traditionally lack opportunities for input and communication among communities of practice and have limited interaction with other resources. As models for social editions, Siemens looks to the social networking component of Early English Books Online, the scholarly crowdsourcing initiative Transcribe Bentham, and George Mason University’s open-source transcription tool Scripto. Effectively combining online social interactions with scholarly work, these projects encourage communities of practice for a common purpose. While innovative in their approach, Siemens recognizes the “destabilizing effect” of tools and projects that “facilitate a model of textual interaction and intervention that encourage us to see the scholarly text as a process rather than a product, and the initial, primary editor as a facilitator, rather than progenitor” (p. 453). But by pushing interactivity of digital editions to include social tools, a reader’s level of engagement increases, as transcription, annotation, commenting, and tagging are open to input.
As a community-generated and process-driven project, the editorial authority for a social edition shifts to academics and citizen scholars rather than a single editor or an institution. The value of a participatory creative process for developing open-access content is explored by Yochai Benkler in his article “Freedom in the Commons: Towards a Political Economy of Information.” Benkler proposes that individuals are driven to contribute to digital communities of production, such as crowdsourcing projects, because it offers greater control over their workflow and productive relationships. In turn, the increase of our cultural productions and information basis soars above and beyond what industrial-based proprietary models could produce. While the varied perspectives offered by a group of users may deepen the interpretation, annotation, and critical lens applied to a text, will researchers accept the social edition as a trusted source? The potential to increase interactivity and user participation is undeniable, and perhaps that is the ultimate goal, rather than the development of an authoritative source of information. With the primary editor acting as a project facilitator, the workflow of coordinating user input could also include a verification or response to scholarly activities. By maintaining a review of content, particularly transcription and annotation, the social edition would gain value as both a participatory project and a scholarly research tool.
While the process of creating online editions is well documented, the next steps editors must undertake to remain relevant in an ever-changing digital environment are open for interpretation. Establishment of authoritative text with editorial review must remain a cornerstone of digital editions, but reliable text could be crafted with either crowdsourcing or editorial transcription and then peer-reviewed for accuracy and consistency. This foundation provides a stable basis to build more robust opportunities for engaging scholars with interactive tools for commenting, analysis, and annotation. As questions emerge about who is using digital editions and for what purpose, related concerns arise about making the text meaningful for a wider audience. A thoughtfully designed browser interface may facilitate interactions with other resources for complex study, as well as cultivate dynamic and collaborative relationships between user groups. As many online publications mimic the functionality and format of their printed counterparts, thinking beyond the traditional confines of “the book” opens up new formats, such as social editions, for engaging larger communities of researchers and citizen scholars.
Exemplary Instances and Open-source Tools
The following selection of websites represent a range of resources that offer innovative approaches to critical and documentary editions, humanities research platforms, and user engagement tools. Scholarly editions, such as Online Chopin Variorum Edition and The Papers of Thomas Edison, have authoritative editions at the core of their websites within the context of an extensive body of primary source materials. Similarly, integrated researcher platforms, including Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online and The Willa Cather Archive, offer thoughtful interface designs for managing and analyzing complex collections of archival materials, library catalog records, textual works, and pictorial items. Evolving social editions, such as the Bentham Project, The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Archive, The Readers’ Thoreau, and A Social Edition of the Devonshire Manuscript, exemplify the integration of social engagement and networking tools with textual editions. Other noteworthy researcher tools are demonstrated at the Biodiversity Heritage Library, British History Online and The Clergy of the Church of England Database. Specific tools that have been developed for inclusion in online reading environments include Collex, a digital reading tool that allows for managing search results across peer-reviewed resources; Disqus, an open-source tool that enables online communities to discuss archival collections; and Scripto: A Community Transcription Tool at George Mason University.
- Bentham Project, includes the scholarly crowdsourcing initiative Transcribe Bentham: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham-Project
- Biodiversity Heritage Library, a collaborative website to make biodiversity literature openly available, including a new social commenting tool to highlight and add marginalia to books: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/
- British History Online, a digital library that includes a tool to annotate the collection: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/
- The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 (CCEd), a database of searchable clerical records that includes functionality to save search queries and results: http://theclergydatabase.org.uk/
- Collex, a digital reading tool that allows for searching across peer-reviewed resources and managing results: http://wiki.collex.org/index.php/Collex.
- The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Archive: http://www.rossettiarchive.org/
- The Diaries of John Quincy Adams: A Digital Collections: http://www.masshist.org/jqadiaries/
- Disqus, an open-source tool that enables online communities and discussions around archival collections: https://help.disqus.com/
- Early English Books Online (EEBO): http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home
- Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online (NINES): http://www.nines.org/
- Online Chopin Variorum Edition (OCVE): http://www.ocve.org.uk
- The Papers of Thomas Edison: http://edison.rutgers.edu/.
- The Readers’ Thoreau, a platform for group annotation of Thoreau’s writings: http://commons.digitalthoreau.org/
- Scripto: A Community Transcription Tool at George Mason University: http://scripto.org/
- A Social Edition of the Devonshire MS: https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/The_Devonshire_Manuscript
- The Walt Whitman Archive: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/
- The Willa Cather Archive: http://cather.unl.edu/
- The William Blake Archive: http://www.blakearchive.org
- Benkler, Yochai. “Freedom in the Commons: Towards a Political Economy of Information.” Duke Law Journal 52.6 (2003): 1245-76. Available at http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1191&context=dlj.
- Jewell, Andrew. “Digital Editions: Scholarly Tradition in an Avant-Garde Medium.” Documentary Editing 30, no. 3 & 4 (2008): n. pag. Available at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1193&context=libraryscience.
- Kline, Mary-Jo, A Guide to Documentary Editing, 2nd. ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
- McGann, Jerome. “From Text to Work: Digital Tools and the Emergence of the Social Text.” Text 16 (2006): 49–62.
- Rosenberg, Bob. “Electronic Textual Editing: Documentary Editing” in Electronic Textual Editing, eds. Lou Burnard, Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, and John Unsworth, New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2006. Available at http://www.tei-c.org/About/Archive_new/ETE/Preview/rosenberg.xml.
- Siemens, Ray, with Alex Garnett, Corina Koolen, Cara Leitch, Meagan Timney, and the ETCL, INKE, and PKP Research Groups. “Toward Modeling the Social Edition: An Approach to Understanding the Electronic Scholarly Edition in the Context of New and Emerging Social Media.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 27, no. 4 (2012): 445¬–461.
- Sutherland, Kathryn. “Being Critical: Paper-Based Editing and the Digital Environment,” in Text Editing, Print and the Digital World, ed. Marilyn Deegan, Digital Research in the Humanities. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008, p. 13–25. Preview available on Google Books at https://books.google.com/books?id=-yyV9hNAPYAC&pg=PA13 .
Citation, Collaboration, and Feminist Research Ethics on Twitter
Working with and through social media has the potential to create innovative and non-traditional approaches to knowledge production and public scholarship. Scholars working with social media on platforms like Twitter must interrogate and understand the mechanics, biases, and potential for harm of the tools they use. In addition to applying critical reflection to their tools, scholars must also reflect critically on their politics of collaboration, recognizing their position relative to the people who contribute to their scholarship, and particularly being mindful to call attention to, centre, and elevate marginalized voices. To this end, it is crucial to consider digital labour and its often gendered and racialized dimensions. The emotional and intellectual labour of women of colour is commonly appropriated by journalists and scholars and turned into content, thus ignoring adequate attribution and utterly lacking in compensation (Kim and Kim). In digital humanities work, there is an opportunity to focus on how digital tools like social media can help investigate issues relating to marginalized communities.
In academia, while scholars are trained to reflect on the outcomes of a research process, they rarely reflect on how those outcomes have impacted them personally. Critical reflections on process add to one’s capacity to be a compassionate, engaged scholar. Eunsong and Dorothy Kim argue that traditionally centered subjects must learn to step aside and listen, partaking in “ethical anthologizing of what has been said” when necessary. This page attempts to embody an ethos of “ethical anthologizing” by bringing together a range of complementary contributions made in recent years by feminist scholars and activists—particularly those who are queer, trans, and women of colour—working to critically engage social justice concerns in the digital humanities and media studies.
Tensions remain between the more radical uses of social media and an underlying corporate structure that emphasizes privatization of data and allows harassment and abuse to thrive unchecked (boyd 1; Langlois 1; Morrison 60-1; Bailey and Gossett 41). This poses the question: can a medium like Twitter still be transformative? Scholars working on social media platforms have a responsibility to the people with and for whom they conduct research because research done on these platforms is never neutral. Despite the challenges posed by engaging in and sharing research online, including harassment, plagiarism, and corporate platforms, social media scholarship has a responsibility to be accessible to the networked public from which it emerges.
Twitter and Public Scholarship
This section will focus specifically on Twitter as a platform for social media research and for public scholarship. Public scholarship characteristics include connecting with publics outside of the university, contributing to public welfare, planning and carrying out in collaboration and partnership with community, and integrating public engagement and learning (Cantor and Levine). Aimée Morrison places different forms of public scholarship on a continuum moving from those with an emphasis on scholarly activities - publicizing and sharing finished academic work, scholarly gleaning of resources to an emphasis on the public - activist and direct intervention work, going viral). She argues that the public in public scholarship should be treated not simply as an adjective and modifier of scholarship, but as an equally weighted value in a compound form (56).
Scholars often turn to Twitter as a tool to facilitate, support, and share public scholarship initiatives. Dorothy and Eunsong Kim assert that Twitter can be hostile, particularly to women of colour writers, as a platform that functions for private profit. Nevertheless, most users enter Twitter as a mediated public space rather than as a marketing platform. As such, contradictions emerge between Twitter as a medium, as a corporation, and as a public. For Kim and Kim, although the corporation runs on a Fordist logic of ownership, Twitter as a tool has revolutionary potential.
This potential is made evident by the success of hashtag activism campaigns such as #GirlsLikeUs (created by Janet Mock) and #NotYourAsianSideKick (created by Suey Park). In her article, “Racial Justice Activist Hashtags: Counterpublics and Discourse Circulation,” Rachel Kuo concludes there is no longer a question of if hashtag activism is effective, evidenced by the many racial justice movements using hashtags as a valuable tool for demonstration and discussion. In "#GirlsLikeUs: Trans Advocacy and Community Building Online,” Sarah Jackson, Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles conclude that the technological affordances of Twitter enable trans women to connect with and support each other while also disseminating their messages to a broader public. Kuo likewise notes how the affordances of Twitter and its algorithms, designed to value group amplification, work well for racialized and gendered communities looking to mobilize collectively as an online counterpublic.
Corporate Social Media and Questions of Labour
As mentioned previously, social media tools and the technologies that enable them are never neutral. Eunsong Kim makes clear in “The Politics of Trending” how Twitter determines what is trending, and therefore visible, through a proprietary algorithm unavailable to the public. Corporations like Twitter function as opaque institutions whose operations come to define what is understood as public, universal, and important (Kim). Researchers must consider the function of the technology that they study, such as trending, and also “the structures and dynamics of power materialized every step of the way by this tech, the data, and its users… Trending is visibility granted by a closed, private corporation and their proprietary algorithms” (Kim). Twitter is not designed as a public space despite commonly being received and treated as one. Reina Gossett and Grace Hong have further problematized visibility for marginalized groups, arguing that it functions not as inclusion, but as a form of surveillance and criminalization (Kim).
Jacquelyn Arcy, Moya Bailey, Trudy, Dorothy and Eunsong Kim all consider in different terms how “intellectual, digital and digitized labor is important, and too often dismissed” (Kim). Arcy argues that the emotional labour women perform on digital platforms when they engage and generate content adds value to brands. She performs an analysis of “liking” on Twitter and Facebook where the unpaid labour of “liking” creates affective bonds and networks of users and also positive association towards the corporate platforms which deliver the likes. In a different vein, Trudy and Bailey discuss how their contributions as Black women to the definition and proliferation of the term misogynoir are frequently erased, while Dorothy and Eunsong Kim highlight the general trend of harvesting work by women of colour on Twitter by journalists and academics alike. Bailey highlights the often uncredited emotional and uncompensated labour of trans women of colour who create digital media, calling attention to the fact that many of the women she worked with had experience with their posts being used by scholars and journalists without their consent. Extractive research dynamics are not new to digital tools, they are part of a long, colonial history of discursive violence performed by regimes of knowledge and power (Risam 79).
Harassment, Plagiarism, and the Dark Side of Public Scholarship
This section further considers how corporate platforms like Twitter allow toxic dynamics such as harassment and plagiarism to flourish online. A drawback of public scholarship, particularly for scholars who are marginalized either in terms of identity or in relation to their role in academia, is that it removes the protective boundaries of conducting research within the ivory tower (Morrison 61). In “Of, By, and For the Internet: New Media Studies and Public Scholarship,” Morrison describes her experience going viral on Twitter as a feminist scholar. She describes the backlash she experienced with her own “Misogynist Insult Escalation Chart.” It begins with “This does not matter/I do not care/ no one cares” and escalates all the way to “I will rape you/kill you/harm your family” (60-61). She argues that “there are real risks to taking scholarship outside the ivory tower, risks that accrue unevenly based on identity and visibility. Internet shitstorms rain down disproportionately and with disproportionate damage, upon the more precarious: women, people with disabilities, people of colour, junior scholars, and the contingently employed.” She points to experiments which suggest that minoritized populations have their ideas challenged more aggressively with sexist, racist, ad hominem attacks and threats of personal violence than white men. This is deliberate and structural. Morrison argues, “shiny happy talk about the imperatives of public scholarship available to any scholar…denies the force and power of these acts of suppression and the ways they disproportionately harm some scholars in some fields more than others” (63). Those writing about social justice issues are often at the forefront of public scholarship and the backlash against it.
Both Moya Bailey and Trudy played crucial roles in the creation and proliferation of the term misogynoir—defined as misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias. In “On Misogynoir: Citation, Erasure, and Plagiarism,” they discuss how they have, to varying degrees, experienced their contributions being erased, not cited, and even plagiarized. Misogynoir, misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles in bias, was coined by Bailey during her dissertation, and Trudy further developed and theorized the term online on her blog Gradient Lair. The women reflect on their respective experiences as women of colour working inside and outside of academia. Bailey explains how sometimes she is cited, other times not, yet “some of the citational practices make it seem as though I am dead, or that I made the word and have abandoned all critical engagement with it… I’ve seen an author cite me and even tweet me a link to the finished article where they had interviewed someone else about what it means” (3-4). Still, Bailey emphasises that she does not expect to always be cited. The term was born from dialogue and is designed to be in conversation with people who find it useful.
In contrast to Bailey’s experience as an assistant professor at Northeastern University who has authored a body of scholarly articles discussing misogynoir, Trudy is an unaffiliated writer working online who lacks academic and corporate support. She explains how, without these resources, there are no repercussions for those who plagiarize her work: “While social status cannot prevent plagiarism, it often determines if the person plagiarized will have any emotional support and resources for recourse” (Bailey and Trudy 4). Trudy notes that plagiarists use her writing and tweets without citations “to meet journalistic and academic deadlines, whether for pay, social status (as misogynoir guarantees anyone socially/economically ‘above’ an unaffiliated Black woman will be praised for the things Black women theorize and write), or both” (4). In this way, they profit directly from the unpaid and uncredited labour of a woman of colour. In Trudy’s words, “it is not surprising that misogynoir would be enacted against the Black women who brought the word to public acclaim but it is nonetheless troubling.”
Kim and Kim address how these forms of lazy and inaccurate citation at best and intentional plagiarism at worst are common — frequently justified under the label of visibility. However, those in power, like academics and journalists who “quote out of context, quote without permission, or plagiarize are not performing acts of kindness — they are abusing their powers as gatekeepers. They are positioning themselves as the managers of relevant information, and disregarding the informational systems and dialogues that are organically taking place.” By positioning themselves as experts and arbitrators in relationship to objects of study, scholars and journalists reinforce existing hierarchies of knowledge and value.
The Politics of Citation
Sara Ahmed addresses feminist politics of citation in terms of the way citation functions “as a rather successful reproductive technology, a way of reproducing the world around certain bodies.” Traditional academic citational practices, which value a predominantly male, white tradition as the institutional standard, silence the multiplicity of voices that networked publics like Twitter allow to speak. Ahmed argues that feminist citational practices must be aware how these structures form disciplines. In “Reflections on a Movement: #transform DH, Growing Up” Moya Bailey, Anne Cong-Huyen, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips discuss how they were prompted to found the #transformDH movement in response to the ways that the discipline of digital humanities was “replicating many traditional practices of the ivory tower, those that privileged the white, heteronormative, phallogocentric view of culture” in part because “the disciplinary foundation of ‘digital humanities’ had…developed in opposition of so-called identity politics with its ostensible openness occluding unexamined assumptions about whiteness, straightness, masculinity.” Ahmed argues that this occlusion has dire consequences when “you are screened out (by virtue of the body you have) then you simply do not even appear or register to others.” An inclusive approach to citation in digital humanities and new media studies must recognize that feminist, queer, and antiracist activists and artists operate outside academia doing valuable work that enriches digital studies (Bailey et al.).
Failure to cite appropriately or to consult with research subjects takes advantage of the unpaid digital and intellectual labour of others. Kim and Kim assert that “if we want to transform the space to what we want it to be, we must disrupt this system. We must consider a methodology that eschews the exploitation of digital labor and the structural violence enacted towards WOC feminist digital bodies.” They suggest that if we want Twitter to function as a space for dialogue and sharing ideas, it requires awareness of unequal distributions of power.
Promising Instances and Emerging Practices
Another key issue the founders of #transformDH highlight is “the academy’s imperative to take personal credit for work that is always collective” (Bailey et al.) In her scholarly work, Moya Bailey works against this tendency by co-authoring with activists and artists outside academia, like Trudy and Reina Gossett, thus joining their voices into the academic conversation. Bailey is not only interested in collaboration with her co-authors, but she also focuses her energies on community. For example, she has used personal and university-affiliated blogs “to provide readers with insights into the academic publishing process and my efforts to shape this process into a more just experience for my research collaborators… I provide an added level of insight into my research process as a way to mirror the access I was granted by these collaborators.”
In “#transform(ing) DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics,” Bailey argues scholars should build relationships to the people with and for whom they conduct research as co-collaborators in the production of knowledge, rather than the subjects of study. Describing in detail her experience collaborating with a group of trans women of colour online, Bailey insists that digital scholarship requires an interrogation of the hierarchy imposed between people within academia and the individuals who inform their research. In terms of emerging practices, she recognizes the importance of ongoing consent, which is a form of collaboration, and suggests that digital humanists need to go beyond citation, which may be harmful to members of vulnerable communities.
Bailey also provides suggestions for putting process into practice when conducting research within a feminist ethical framework. Organized under the categories of Connection, Creation, and Transformation, she poses a series of reflective questions aimed at elucidating the nature of collaboration, accountability, tools, process, care, connection, and transformative understanding that the project will explore. Under Connect, for example, she asks: “Who are your collaborators? What community is your research accountable to beyond your academic community?” Under Create, she looks more closely at methodology and asks: “What tools and or methods encourage multidirectional collaboration? What mechanism of accountability can you create” and significantly, “Are there ways that collaborators can use the research process to their own ends?” By framing research in terms of accountability and multidirectional collaboration, she demonstrates how the landscape of digital research necessitates a more fluid understanding of the flow of power between researcher and researched. Finally, under Transform, Bailey asks two striking questions: “What happens after the research product is complete?” and, “How will you be transformed?” For Bailey, research is transformative if “my collaborators and I will be changed by the process of doing the research.”
In “The #Twitter Ethics Manifesto,” Kim and Kim argue that while the medium is corporate and privatized, the use of the tool can still be transformative, but “we must rethink and consider more radical epistemologies that will push forward an ongoing cycle of consent, credit, citation, and participation.” Introducing the key points of their manifesto, the authors outline a new basis for research ethics on Twitter:
The bare minimum as @SonminBong, @sharmanifowler, and @jazzycrayon discussed is credit, citation, attribution. But we should go further than the bare minimum: both academics and journalists should ask each individual user on Twitter for consent. They should explain the context and the usage of their tweets. (Kim and Kim)
Bailey, Kim, and Kim highlight the importance of ongoing consent, communication, respect, and collaboration rather than an object-oriented approach, a recognition that academics are not experts with a bird’s eye view, and a “move towards radical research systems that circulate and open dialogue up to participatory modes” (Kim and Kim).
In contrast to this openness, another promising example is a project like Mukurtu which “marks an important move in decolonizing digital knowledge production because it embeds Indigenous epistemology into its design” (Risam 83). It is a platform designed in collaboration with Indigenous communities to allow them to exercise their specific cultural protocols for what should be shared and with whom (83). This flips assumptions around digitization and access upside down as access is restricted and only granted based on cultural protocols; Risam explains that “the idea that information wants to be free has been an influential one in digital humanities, privileging open access to knowledge. Yet, this approach to knowledge is grounded in epistemologies of the Global North” (83). When working with vulnerable and marginalized groups, there might be value in adopting this kind of practice, where knowledge production is situated despite being networked, particularly in an effort to make relevant data accessible to the communities it matters to most.
In their chapter, “Analog Girls in Digital Worlds,” Bailey and Gossett highlight the importance of owning one’s subject position as researcher and recognizing how one operates both inside and outside digital and academic worlds. I am an able-bodied, cis, straight-passing, upper middle-class white woman. Though I may participate daily in digital spaces with women of colour and trans women – such as Tumblr and Twitter – I am not entitled to their knowledge sharing and unpaid labour. This is even more true when I enter these spaces as a researcher or scholar. Instead, if I am to embody my feminism in praxis, I must seek ways to elevate and centre these voices by following a process of ongoing consent and collaboration, and ensuring I do not fall into traditional patterns of scholarly extraction for my own gain. If I rely heavily on a user as an educational resource, there are other forms of compensation I can offer beyond citation. For example, writers frequently use services such as a PayPal or a Patreon that allows one to support their work directly. Additionally, before even embarking on any research, I must ask myself, am I the best person to study and try to give voice to this topic? What are my motivations in studying this topic? Could I practice a similar kind of research that is more reflective of my own experience as a socioeconomically privileged white queer? By examining my own identity and privilege in relation to my scholarly practice, I strive to embody feminist digital research ethics. Often this means recognizing when it is not my turn to speak, when it is my turn to listen to others, to learn, and above all to reflect and turn a critical eye inward on the ways in which my actions and inactions perpetuate and enable institutional structures of racism, ableism, classism, colonialism, and heteropatriarchy.
Exemplary Instances and Open Source Tools
- #TransformDH is “an academic guerrilla movement seeking to (re)define capital-letter Digital Humanities as a force for transformative scholarship by collecting, sharing, and highlighting projects that push at its boundaries and work for social justice, accessibility, and inclusion” (#transformDH Tumblr): http://transformdh.org/about-transform
- Mukurtu is “the free, mobile, and open source platform built with indigenous communities to manage and share digital cultural heritage”: http://mukurtu.org/
- Ahmed, Sara. “Making Feminist Points.” Feministkilljoys, September 11, 2013, http://feministkilljoys.com/2013/09/11/making-feminist-points/
- Arcy, Jacquelyn. "Emotion Work: Considering Gender in Digital Labor." Feminist Media Studies vol. 16, no. 2, 2016, pp. 365-368.
- Bailey, Moya. "#transform(ing) DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics." DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 2, 2015, http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/9/2/000209/000209.html
- Bailey, Moya and Reina Gossett. “Analog Girls in Digital Worlds: Dismantling Binaries for Digital Humanists Who Research Social Media.” The Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Media Studies, edited by Jentery Sayers, Routledge, 2018, pp. 33-43.
- Bailey, Moya and Trudy. “On Misogynoir: Citation, Erasure, and Plagiarism.” Feminist Media Studies, 2018, pp. 1-7.
- Bailey, Moya, et al. "Reflections on a Movement: #transformDH, Growing Up." Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2016.
- boyd, danah. "Social Media: A Phenomenon to be Analyzed." Social Media + Society, vol. 1, no. 1, Apr. 2015, pp. 1-2, doi: 10.1177/2056305115580148.
- Cantor, Nancy and Steven D. Lavine. "Taking Public Scholarship Seriously." Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 52, no. 40, 09 June 2006, p. B20. EBSCOhost, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Taking-Public-Scholarship/22684
- Jackson, Sarah J., Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles. "#GirlsLikeUs: Trans advocacy and Community Building Online." New Media & Society, June 2017, pp. 1-21, doi: 10.1177/1461444817709276
- Kim, Dorothy and Eunsong Kim. “The #Twitter Ethics Manifesto.” Model View Culture, 2014, https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-twitterethics-manifesto
- Kim, Eunsong. "The Politics of Trending." Model View Culture, 2015, https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-politics-of-trending.
- Kuo, Rachel. "Racial Justice Activist Hashtags: Counterpublics and Discourse Circulation." New Media & Society, 2016, doi: 10.1177/1461444816663485
- Langlois, Ganaele. “What Are the Stakes in Doing Critical Research on Social Media Platforms?” Social Media + Society, vol. 1, no. 1, Apr. 2015, pp. 1-2, doi:10.1177/2056305115591178.
- Morrison, Aimée. “Of, By, and For the Internet: New Media Studies and Public Scholarship.” The Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Media Studies, edited by Jentery Sayers, Routledge, 2018, pp. 56-65.
- Risam, Roopika. “Decolonizing Digital Humanities in Theory and Practice” The Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Media Studies, edited by Jentery Sayers, Routledge, 2018, pp. 78-86.
On Listening: An Inquiry into Podcasting and Academic Culture
As of February 2018, more than 500,000 unique podcasts in one hundred languages are available on the iTunes Store (Lopez). Podcasts are becoming the mass-democratized medium of the contemporary historical moment: the routes to their creation, distribution, and consumption are all relatively open-source and accessible, and they require little technical expertise in exchange for potentially wide-spread public engagement. Yet writers have noted that “the form has been slow to find a place in the scholarly world” (Samson). This prior reluctance is slowly but surely changing. Scholars and writers who are invested in open public scholarship are becoming increasingly involved in the world of podcasting through media criticism and podcast making. Scholars such as Bethany Doane, Kaitlin McCormick, Giuliana Scorce, Robert C. MacDougall, and Hannah McGregor contend that the medium has potential for high-impact, politicized public scholarship (Doane et al 119; MacDougall 727; McGregor “Public Scholarship” 2:45-3:00). Specifically, Doane, McCormick, Scorce, and McGregor unite in the assertion that the politicization of podcasts has radical feminist potentials; podcasting puts increased value on affect, openness, visibility, transparency, and accountability to communities in the public creation and circulation of knowledge (Doane et al 120; McGregor “Public Scholarship” 3:00-3:10; 5:00-5:51). Despite podcasting’s transformative potentials for the realm of social scholarship, the medium has yet to be legitimized or validated as a form of scholarly communication, giving scholars few incentives to participate in what writers call “the podcast renaissance” of the 2010s (Roose).
This section focuses on the work of scholars who became podcasters despite the academy’s collective ambivalence towards embracing the medium. In addition to the attention that podcasts are gaining in the realm of media criticism, many scholars are turning to podcasting as a method for extending scholarship beyond the academy. By doing so, these scholars demonstrate a commitment to open public scholarship and to broader feminist ethics of inclusivity, accessibility, and accountability. Under current academic structures, the work of scholarly podcasting is not valued or metrified in a way that lends the medium legitimacy within the academy. While academic podcasts are contributing to social knowledge creation in the public sphere, podcasts’ perceived lack of academic capital puts scholar-podcasters in a position of precarious labour conditions. Hannah McGregor currently advocates for podcasts’ inclusion within the prescriptive academic structures of scholarly communication (McGregor “Rethinking Podcasts” 1:05-35, 2:20-2:30); however, this section will take a simultaneous step back and a move inwards in an attempt to theorize the broader implications of how scholars currently value and approach podcasting as a form of extra-academic labour.
This section argues that the upward trend in academic podcasting is part of a broader feminist and intersectional shift towards repositioning and celebrating humanness within the academy. As such, scholars' approaches to studying podcasting need to embrace a similar intersectional framework. This argument seeks to shift the scholarly conversations around the practice of podcasting. In addition to asking whether podcasting can or should be considered a legitimate mode of scholarly communication, scholars should push themselves to make space for more expansive and inclusive definitions of the terms "scholarly" and "scholarship." Podcasting has many exciting potentials as an emerging model for transformative and public-facing scholarly communication. The drive to impose traditional scholarly architectures such as peer-review and mandatory citation styles onto podcasts should only be a first step in a larger conversation about making space for alternative media formats in scholarly communication and more broadly, within the practices of knowledge construction and circulation. This does not mean that peer-review and citation are unnecessary facets of traditional scholarly practice, but rather that podcasting’s essential evasiveness towards these scholarly architectures should prompt scholars to productively redirect their gaze inwards when considering how to bridge the worlds of podcasting and the academy.
This argument is informed by feminist theory and is grounded in feminist media studies. In an article aimed at practitioners of the digital humanities, Elizabeth Losh, Jacqueline Wernimont, Laura Wexler, and Hong-An Wu urge scholars to recentre the messy human categories of “gender, embodiment, and affect” (Losh et al. para 27) in their scholarship. Other scholars, such as Sylvia Wynter, Moya Bailey, and Melissa Dalgleish, have made similar calls to action, arguing that scholars' practices, research output, modes of communication, and professional lives must always contend with the situational and embodied contexts of labour that underpin scholarly work. As academic culture becomes increasingly receptive and hospitable to scholars’ whole, public, and private selves, the values and metrics of traditional academic output must accordingly shift and accommodate these pressures.
The validity of this thesis is illustrated by considering three educational podcasts: Always Already, Métis in Space, and Secret Feminist Agenda. These three podcasts are united on multiple fronts. First, the podcasters responsible for these shows all work in North American post-secondary institutions. The hosts of Always Already—B Aultman, Rachel Brown, Emily Crandall, John McMahon, and James Padiloni Jr.—are graduate students and faculty members at American colleges and universities. Aultman and Crandall work and study at the City University of New York, while Brown, McMahon, and Padiloni work out of Washington University St. Louis, Beloit College, and Lewis & Clark College, respectively. Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel of Métis in Space are graduate students in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. Finally, Hannah MacGregor of Secret Feminist Agenda is an assistant professor of Publishing at Simon Fraser University. Not only are these podcasters united in their relation to academia, their shows all focus on communicating academic theory in accessible terms and situating it in a specific practice: Always Already unpacks and relates critical theory to art and activism, Métis in Space applies a decolonial lens to science fiction media, and Secret Feminist Agenda reflects on feminist praxis in daily life.
Always Already, Métis in Space, and Secret Feminist Agenda are also united in their formal contexts. All three podcasts launched their first episodes within the past five years (2014, 2016, and 2017, respectively). While other scholars in the humanities and social sciences have made podcasts that are akin to lecture recordings (for example, the “Humanities in a Digital Age” Symposium Podcasts), Always Already, Métis in Space, and Secret Feminist Agenda structure engaged interviews and conversations that operate in a familiar and relatively conversational register. In other words, these three podcasts actually sound like mainstream podcasts. Because Always Already, Métis in Space, and Secret Feminist Agenda embrace the traditions and parameters of the medium rather than working around the medium to suit traditional oral academic formats, these podcasts construct an expansive and inclusive audience—one that may include scholars but is ultimately directed towards a broader public. The distinction between the podcast as a recorded lecture and the podcast as its own independent format is important because the latter of these two communication methods signifies an intentional and radical departure from traditional forms of academic knowledge construction and circulation. Rather than simply transmediating the architectures of knowledge that have presided in the past, new academic podcasts are emphatically and unapologetically participating in structures of meaning-making and communication that are extra-academic.
History and Context
Some background on the history and context of podcasting creation and consumption is critical for understanding the socioeconomic and political meanings that underpin the medium. Audioblogging emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century when Adam Curry and Dave Winer first “develop[ed] the ability for an RSS feed to push audio” (Goldberg). This technical development eventually allowed users to download, store, and listen to audio recordings on mobile devices and MP3 players. In 2004, Ben Hammersly, a journalist for The Guardian, coined the term “podcast” to replace the original descriptive term, audioblog (Goldberg). By renaming the audioblog of the early 2000s, Hammersly established an enduring link between podcasting as a medium and Apple’s proprietary iPod, thereby imbuing the medium with an underlying linguistic resonance in consumer capitalist culture. Although podcasts are free to consume, download, and share, they participate in socioeconomic systems that both privilege and encourage capitalist ethics of accumulation and competition. The model of podcasting as a mass medium is premised on systems of brand loyalty and on the accumulation of subscribers, reviews, and ratings—this variety of accumulation helps podcasts compete for visibility and for the potential of increased engagement on the web. The socioeconomies of podcasting are similar to those of traditionally metrified academic journals, which accumulate capital by way of citations to compete for resonance and prestige within a scholarly field. While similarities may exist between the two scholarly communication models, podcast markets are more explicitly self-aware of their participation in capitalist marketplaces and are more likely to be perceived as commercial—if only because they operate from within a virtual store rather than a library database.
With this context in mind, it follows that academic podcasters subtly (if unintentionally) perpetuate capitalist structures through their choice of publication medium. To some extent, the self-perpetuation of capitalist logic is unavoidable in Western mass media markets; however, the three podcasts treated in this section, along with many other examples (see “Exemplary Instances and Tools” below), attempt to subvert the underlying socioeconomies of podcasting through their chosen contents. Always Already, Métis in Space, and Secret Feminist Agenda all emphatically highlight the collective and inherently social structures of meaning-making, and they do not advertise or make pitches for subscribers. Moreover, their shows all advocate for anti-oppressive politics and praxis, frequently at the expense of capitalist understandings of selfhood and scarcity.
Labour and Leisure
Always Already, Métis in Space, and Secret Feminist Agenda emphasize personal relationships to politics and critical theory in a way that is seldom possible or even permissible in traditional scholarly publication formats. As such, these academic podcasts—and others that embrace the affordances of the medium—represent a deliberate departure from the norms and expectations of scholarly communication and by extension, of academic culture. They emphatically position themselves outsides of the traditional value systems that govern academic outputs. Yet, as McGregor notes, this positioning yields a fundamental predicament: podcasts represent a significant amount of labour and need to be counted as such to prevent creators from being trapped by the oftentimes precarious employment conditions of academia (McGregor “Rethinking Podcasts” 1:35-2:16). How then can scholars recognize and compensate podcasters for their labour when their work explicitly eschews the traditions of academic outputs? While a first crucial solution may be to rework the architectures that govern scholarly legitimacy and reward, this issue should be a catalyst for instigating broader changes within academia’s binary systems of evaluation.
Incidentally, labour defines both the practice of making and consuming podcast. Despite the early connections between podcasts and intellectualism, academia was “slow to embrace podcasting” as a method for the creation and circulation of research (Samson). As previously stated, part of this collective reluctance stems from the medium’s lack of traditionally verifiable metrics or peer-reviewed standards for credibility. The “slow embrace” also results from the academy’s ambivalence towards some of the central tenets of podcasting as a digital medium: podcasts are oral, podcasts are public, and they are typically associated with leisure. These central tenets position podcasting in opposition to the traditional work of the academy, which historically values inscribed knowledge over oral knowledge, supports elite and relatively low-circulation scholarly journals, and celebrates mental and intellectual labour.
The perception that podcasts are linked to leisure rather than labour is rooted in the contexts in which podcasts are consumed, and not to the contexts in which they are made. By this logic, educational podcasts have always had an ambivalent relationship to the dichotomy between labour and leisure, and functionally expose the flaws of binary thinking in these categories. Podcasts are designed to be consumed while the listener is in transit—on mobile phones, MP3 players, or, over vehicle stereos. By contrast, oral and written academic formats such as lectures, conference presentations, articles, and monographs demand the full (or at least the primary) attention of their audiences. Podcasts thus construct and conceive of their audience differently than these traditional modes of scholarly communication. Nevertheless, podcasts’ constructed audience is not a purely leisurely or disengaged one; it is more accurate to categorize podcasts’ audience as liminal—existing both between and at both extremities of “hyper and deep attention” (Hayles 187). This liminal attention is not dissimilar to the realities of the modern academic classroom. Just as podcasts disrupt the constructed binary between the academy and the commercial sphere, they disrupt a similar constructed binary between the fully and partially attentive audience, or a labouring and a leisurely audience. Effectively, this disruption reveals that it is a misnomer to categorize podcasts as leisure, and an injustice to dismiss the medium based on this assertion.
It is insufficient to argue that podcasts should be accepted as a form of scholarly communication simply because they share similarities with traditional oral and written academic formats. The recognition of similarities between podcasts’ constructed audience and audiences within the academy, should prompt reflection on the terms of leisure, and lead scholars to question why leisure is so often constructed as antithetical to scholarly practices. Feminist understandings of leisure and play contend that leisure is a self-sustaining refusal of a capitalist logic that constructs subjecthood around cycles of productivity. Leisure time is thus similar yet distinct from self-care; it constitutes an intrinsic part of human experience. By constructing a semi-leisurely yet intellectually engaged audience, academic podcasts explicitly make space for humanness within the confines of scholarly activity. Our approach to studying and evaluating podcasts should strive for similar aims.
Publicness and Accountability
Scholarship on podcasting and academia has made the greatest strides by constructing podcasting as a method for open-source and public-facing social scholarship that is both accessible and accountable to the communities that it serves (MacGregor “Public Scholarship” 3:00-3:10). The open-access movement has transformed the ways scholars previously thought of publishing in the academy. The age of elite, inaccessible, and low-circulation print journals is ending rapidly. In recent years, scholars and scholarly organizations have pushed towards publishing articles in open-access forums so that knowledge can be accessed from beyond the academy. In 2015, Canada’s federal funding agencies even instigated a new rule that required open-access publication for works being funded with public grants (SSHRC “Open Access”). Nevertheless, scholars and writers dedicated to the principles and ethics of the open-access movement maintain that open-access journals are not sufficiently “open” unless they make their presence and accession guidelines discoverable to broader publics. This latter scholarly community has most openly embraced the radical potentials of podcasting as a mode of truly “open” and public scholarly communication.
The question of publicness in academic podcasting bridges well with the feminist and ethical considerations of publicness and public engagement within the digital humanities. Moya Z. Bailey, one of the founders of the #transformDH movement, argues that scholars need to model accountability to both their own collaborators and academic communities and to the public communities that inform their research (para 34). She argues that this accountability should be practiced through ongoing informed consent in the proposed direction of scholarly inquiries, and also by communicating the results of academic labour in a way that is accessible and discoverable to all humans involved in the social creation of knowledge (Bailey para 21). Podcasting is an intriguing response to this call to action, acting as both a bridge between communities and a checkpoint for ethical accountability to public communities.
In light of Bailey’s writings, current peer-review practices do not square ethically or even practically with the realities of academic podcasting. Podcasts, like other forms of extra-academic and publically engaged social scholarship, break down the efficacy of the peer-review system as the sole evaluator of legitimacy and impact in scholarly research activity. Thus, rather than fitting the academic podcast into these prescriptive architectures for scholarly evaluation, scholars should try to make space for more inclusive definitions of scholarly communities, and question who should count as a peer in future conceptions of peer-review (MacGregor “Rethinking Podcasts” 4:40-5:00).
Seeing and Listening
This section has yet to address one of the most important aspects of podcasting, and an element that is central to the way the medium has been conceived of in the scholarly realm: podcasts convey knowledge orally. In a culture that historically values inscribed knowledge over oral knowledge (Chun 27), it is perhaps unsurprising that podcasts were not immediately welcomed within the oftentimes elitist frameworks of the Western academy. Within academic spaces, papers on conference proceedings are valued more highly than oral conference presentations, and printed monographs will always have more impact on tenure than guest lectures. The prioritization of print over the spoken word goes back centuries within the tradition of the English language, and has a direct relation to power. The prioritization of print has notably been harnessed in abusive ways to silence First Nations by discrediting Indigenous ways of knowing. Many Indigenous peoples who work in new media, including the hosts of Métis in Space have turned to podcasting as a method to reclaim and recentre Indigenous orality in contemporary media culture. Métis in Space is a member of Ryan McMahon’s Podcast Media Network Indian & Cowboy. Each show begins with a declaration by McMahon, who states that Indian & Cowboy is “rooted firmly at the intersection between digital media, podcasting, and Indigenous storytelling” (McMahon, qtd. in Swain and Vowel 0:10-15). Out of the three podcasts mentioned in this section, Métis in Space is the only one firmly positioned as a reclamation of orality in knowledge creation. However, the general popularity of podcasts as a method for conveying knowledge contributes to a broader subversion of the supremacy of the written word, regardless of intentionality.1
By virtue of their emphasis on orality, podcasts emphatically and self-consciously position their listeners in a role that Robert MacDougall calls the “witness-participant” — a dual position wherein the listener is at once a participant and an indistinct onlooker; they are “not so much the center of what is happening as [they are] part of an undifferentiated whole—an always less-than-clearly-defined experience” (719). While MacDougall does not explicitly frame his conception of the witness-participant in these terms, we might consider that the role of the witness-participant is relational to the role podcaster. The listener participates in social knowledge creation by acknowledging and giving space to the creator. The oral work of the podcast can be considered a feminist act of ongoing consent, representation, and recognition. In academic podcasts, the public listener acknowledges and gives space to the scholar’s whole self and participates in intersectional efforts to rehumanize academia and academic cultures.
In the past decade, scholars have turned to popular ways of conveying knowledge, and repurposed them in meaningful ways for the academy. Academic podcasts—educational podcasts created by people who work in or adjacent to the academy—are becoming increasingly popular: a reality which has prompted scholars to question the legitimacy of the medium as a form of “real” scholarship. This section, rather than considering how podcasts might fit within conventional academic structures for knowledge creation and circulation, seeks to problematize our current approaches to understanding the relationship between the medium and the academy. The prevalence of academic podcasting is indicative of progressive shifts within the academy—movements that are slowly unmaking the traditional divisions between what is considered scholarly, and what is not. Because academic podcasters and academic podcasts position themselves adjacent to and sometimes in opposition to the traditional architectures of academic evaluation, scholars' methods for legitimizing and studying podcasts should not simply impose these same structures back onto the medium. Instead, scholars should understand that this tension between podcasting and the academic structures might be a useful catalyst for rethinking and reworking the broader structures of how scholars inscribe value in the academy. Academic podcasting should prompt scholars to make space for different kinds of knowledge, and parse when and if traditional architectures for knowledge creation and circulation are useful, when they should be improved, and how they can be extended.
- Some podcasts such as Always Already add written transcripts to supplement podcast episodes. While this act might undercut efforts to subvert the supremacy of the written word, they also render the content accessible to people with auditory disabilities.
Exemplary Instances and Open-Source Tools
- Aultman, B, Rachel Brown, Emily Crandall, John McMahon, and James Padilioni, Jr. Always Already Podcast, https://alwaysalreadypodcast.wordpress.com/.
- Always Already is a monthly interview-style podcast about critical theory. Always Already is released in a two-part structure: first, the hosts lead engaged discussions about critical texts; then, they feature interviews with scholars and activists whose work intersect with the chosen theory.
- Del Bucchia, Dina, and Daniel Zomparelli. Can’t Lit, http://cantlit.ca/.
- Can’t Lit is a monthly podcast about topics in Canadian Literature. It is connected to the literary magazine, Poetry is Dead. The hosts Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli are a writer and an editor who are both deeply entrenched in the CanLit scene. They regular feature interviews with artists and literary scholars.
- Ideas on Fire. Imagine Otherwise, https://ideasonfire.net/imagine-otherwise-podcast/.
- Imagine Otherwise is a podcast that aims to bridge the worlds of art, activism, and academia. It is released approximately once a month, and features interviews and discussions on a range of topics including: wearable technology, queer advocacy, food activism, and self-publishing.
- McGregor, Hannah. Secret Feminist Agenda, https://secretfeministagenda.com/.
- Secret Feminist Agenda is a weekly interview-style podcast about quotidian feminist praxis. Hannah McGregor, who speaks and writes about podcasting in her federally funded research project “Scholarly Podcasting in Canada,” hosts the show, and is currently using it in a case study for podcasting and peer-review.
- McGregor, Hannah, and Marcelle Kosman. Witch, Please, http://ohwitchplease.ca/.
- Witch, Please is a fortnightly podcast about feminism and the Harry Potter universe. Hannah McGregor and Marcelle Kosman, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta, are the hosts of Witch Please. They discuss Harry Potter books, media, and fan-created content from an intersectional feminist perspective.
- Swain, Molly, and Chelsea Vowel. Métis in Space, http://www.metisinspace.com/.
- Métis in Space is a podcast about Indigenous perspectives and decolonial approaches to science fiction in literature and media. The hosts Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân) focus their efforts on texts that feature Indigenous peoples, tropes, and themes.
- Allan, Patrick. “How to Make a Podcast,” Lifehacker, Aug. 9, 2017, https://lifehacker.com/how-to-start-your-own-podcast-1709798447.
- There are many “how-to” guides for making podcasts. This one is not necessarily an extensive or exemplary guide, but it addresses many of the practical issues one has to consider before launching a podcast, including software choices, editing, marketing, and distribution.
- Anchor, https://anchor.fm/.
- Anchor is a free open-source tool for creating and publishing podcasts.
- Audacity, https://www.audacityteam.org/.
- Audacity is open-source freeware for multi-track recording and editing.
- Ray Siemens, et al. Implementing New Knowledge Environments, http://inke.ca/.
- Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) is a SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary initiative that explores the futures of reading and the book. While INKE does not strictly focus on podcasting, their members’ work on networked open social scholarship provides an apt theoretical backdrop for thinking about podcasting and academia.
- Bailey, Moya. “#transform(ing)DH Writing and Research: An Autoethnography of Digital Humanities and Feminist Ethics.” Digital Humanities Quarterley, vol. 9, no. 2, 2015, http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/9/2/000209/000209.html.
- Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. “On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge.” Grey Room, vol. 18, 2005, pp. 26–51, doi:10.1162/1526381043320741
- Dalgleish, Melissa. “Why Can’t We Be Our Whole Selves as Academics.” Hook & Eye, September 21, 2017, https://hookandeye.ca/2017/09/21/why-cant-we-be-our-whole-selves-as-academics/.
- Doane, Bethany, Kaitlin McCormick, and Giuliana Sorce. “Changing Methods for Feminist Public Scholarship: Lessons from Sarah Koenig’s podcast Serial.” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2017, pp. 119-121, https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2017.1261465.
- Goldberg, Kevin. “The History of Podcasts.” DiscoverPods, May 17, 2017, https://discoverpods.com/history-of-podcasts/.
- Hayles, N. Katherine. “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes.” Profession, 2007, pp. 187-199, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/stable/25595866.
- Lopez, Ricardo. “Talent Agencies Turn to Popular Podcasts for New IP, Developing Film, TV Projects and More.” Variety, February 1, 2018, http://variety.com/2018/biz/news/podcasts-film-tv-development-1202684555/.
- Losh, Elizabeth, Jacqueline Wernimont, Laura Wexler, and Hong-An Wu. “Putting the Human Back into the Digital Humanities: Feminism, Generosity, and Mess.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, U Minnesota P., 2016, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/61.
- McGregor, Hannah. “Podcasting, Public Scholarship, and Accountability.” Secret Feminist Agenda, November 23, 2017, https://secretfeministagenda.com/2017/11/23/bonus-episode-podcasting-public-scholarship-and-accountability/.
- ———. “Rethinking Podcasting With This Guy (Points at Self).” Secret Feminist Agenda, October 17, 2017, https://secretfeministagenda.com/2017/10/27/episode-1-15-rethinking-podcasts-with-this-guy-points-at-self/.
- MacDougall, Robert C. “Podcasting and Political Life.” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 55, no. 5, 2011, pp. 714–732.
- Roose, Kevin. “What’s Behind the Great Podcast Renaissance?” New York Magazine, October 30, 2014, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/10/whats-behind-the-great-podcast-renaissance.html.
- Samson, Natalie. “Podcasting Goes to School.” University Affairs, November 1, 2017, https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/podcasting-goes-school/#comments.
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. “Open Access.” Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, June 25, 2015, http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/about-au_sujet/policies-politiques/open_access-libre_acces/index-eng.aspx.
- Swain, Molly, and Chelsea Vowel. “Generation Energy Science Interview.” Métis in Space, November 11, 2017, http://www.metisinspace.com/episodes/2017/11/11/mtis-in-space-s4-ep5-generation-energy-science-interview.
- Wynter, Sylvia. “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument” CR: The New Centennial Review, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 257–337.
Alternative Knowledge Frameworks: The Influence of Video Games on the Construction and Dissemination of Knowledge in Formal Education
Scholars across a variety of fields have looked to video games to investigate how they might construct knowledge. Scholars question what these games are already teaching their players, and how they go about doing so. Research has shown that video games, like other technologies and media, can contribute to the construction and dissemination of knowledge in positive and negative ways, with varying degrees of both often occurring at the same time. For example, scholars Min Lun Wu, Kari Richards, and Guan Kung Saw (2014) conducted a study that looked at how Everquest 2, a MMORPG, promotes the development of English communicative competence for players of whom English is not their first language (65); the authors conclude that MMORPGs foster this learning through socialization, relationship-building practices, and teamwork (77). Alternatively, scholar Lisa Nakamura (2009) has looked at how World of Warcraft, another MMORPG, fosters an anti-Chinese discourse that occurs within the game, as well as in fan-produced content (130); this racist discourse involves the use of the term “Chinese gold farmers,” which is used to describe players that sell in-game currency to other players for real money (130). Nakamura points out that players avoid explicit references to racism in the outside world, instead situating their racism within the imaginary world of the game (136). These studies performed by Wu, Richards, Saw, and Nakamura are just a brief look at the work being done that surrounds the current knowledge-constructing properties exhibited by video games.
Scholarship on video games has also moved from what these games are currently teaching players to how they are teaching players, and what can be taken from these games and applied to other contexts. One particular area of interest is how video games, or video-game-like experiences, might foster learning in a formal educational learning environment. This scholarship typically falls within at least one of three research areas: the practice of gamification, the implementation and development of serious games, and/or what can be gained from the implementation of existing video games in course curriculums. While the third category involves games for entertainment purposes in which education was not a goal during the development process, the categories of gamification and serious games can be harder to distinguish between. The term “gamification” refers to "the use of game design elements in non-game contexts" (Detarding et al. 7). Alternatively, the term “serious game” refers to a full-fledged game that was specifically designed for non-gaming purposes, typically with the goal of conveying knowledge through the act of gaming (10). The line between gamification and serious game is often blurry; it is important to look at the designers’ intentions and the users’ experience to distinguish between the two (14). This section focuses primarily on the latter two instances, including serious games and the implementation of already existing games (see “Games, Gamification, and Game-Based Learning” for more on gamification).
This extended section explores convergences between video games, knowledge, and the academy, whilst drawing on the work of scholars across a variety of fields. The first sub-section explores how MMOGs and MMORPGs might inform the design of interactive learning and game-based learning environments. The second sub-section explores the dynamic and interactive properties of game narrative, and how it is being used, or could be used, to convey knowledge in a Web 2.0 environment. Importantly, these categories are not mutually exclusive, and there is often significant overlap between them. What these areas of study have in common is a mutual understanding that the future of pedagogy, and of knowledge creation in academia, will see some sort of implementation of video game-like practices.
MMOGs, MMORPGs, and Game-Based Frameworks for Learning Environments
Multiple research projects have turned to video games to see if Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) might inform the design of interactive and game-based learning environments. Using MMOGs and MMORPGs as frameworks, scholars such as Michele D. Dickey, Joel Foreman and Thomasina Borkman, and Kosmas Dimitropoulos and Athanasios Manitsaris have looked at what elements could benefit pedagogy in a variety of fields, such as medicine, sociology, and writing and composition. Scholars feel that the popularity of MMOGs, along with the technologies and media they utilize, have pushed changes in the field of instructional design “…toward the cultivation and development of interactive learning environments” (Dickey, “Game Design and Learning” 253). While still a relatively new area of study, theoretical and practical research has typically looked at the implementation of already-existing MMOGs into curriculums, and/or at designing serious games that use MMOGs as framework. Both directions necessitate a look at what MMOGs are already teaching players, what players can take away from the act of gaming that they cannot from a traditional learning environment, and what would make a serious game successful.
A MMOG is an online multiplayer game where a large number of people can play simultaneously. A specific subgenre of MMOGs are MMORPGs, where players specifically “role play,” taking on the role of a character that they can customize and control to varying degrees. As of 2018, some of the most popular MMORPGs include The Elder Scrolls Online, Eve Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, League of Legends, Neverwinter, RuneScape, and World of Warcraft, among others. MMOGs and MMORPGs have become one of the most popular game genres (Dickey, “Game Design and Learning” 256), and scholars have turned to the flexible and interactive environments in MMORPGs, hypothesizing that they could provide a new and successful way of constructing and disseminating knowledge in academia. For example, Dickey argues that a successful learning environment must include opportunities for exploration, manipulation, conversation, and interactive challenges to fully foster the construction of knowledge (255). Although still controversial (269), Dickey argues that the general framework of MMORPGs might meet these outcomes.
Foreman and Borkman (2007) have done extensive research into the use of MMOGs in undergraduate sociology classrooms. Their study exists on the understanding that the success of online learning management systems (LMSs) will one day result in a convergence with MMOGs (50). Brightspace and Blackboard are examples of LMSs used widely in North America; utilizing Web 2.0 capabilities, these systems provide digital environments where students can meet and converse with classmates and professors, use discussion forums, and access course materials, all synchronously. Foreman and Borkman introduce the phrase “massively multistudent online learning environment” (MMOLE) to describe the convergence between LMSs and MMOGs (50). Over the course of two semesters, Foreman and Borkman worked on implementing an already-existing MMORPG, The Sims Online, into curriculums for a lower-level course and an upper-level course. They implemented the game with the goal of seeing whether or not it would be beneficial to produce a MMOLE that would improve the learning experience of sociology students (57). The Sims Online, published by Electronic Arts, has players create an avatar by choosing a pre-set skin colour, face, and clothing, and then has players navigate a world that mimics real life; players can have jobs, buy and furnish homes, get roommates, build relationships, perform pre-set interactions with other players (such as hug, chat, or kiss), and can type and chat with other players. Foreman and Borkman selected The Sims Online due to the game’s structured player-to-player and player-to-world interactions that exist within a set of simulated social scenarios (51). The authors hypothesized that the addition of modelled experience, where students would have to negotiate controlled simulations of social issues, to the already existing readings, lectures, and assignments, would lead to a deeper understanding of sociological principles that would not have been possible otherwise (51).
In their conclusion, Foreman and Borkman argue that students were successfully “acting within the long-standing tradition of social science and empirical research" as a result of participating in The Sims Online (54). For example, students in their upper-year course, titled The Sociology of Deviance, were successfully able to distinguish between the official rules of the game and social rules that have been put in place by other players (54); some acts, such as exhibiting sexually deviant behaviours (although implicit in the game), were socially punishable by other players (56). On the other hand, the exploration of some important course themes, such as issues of race relations, diversity, and racial discrimination, were not possible through The Sims Online as students reported that all of the “sims” they encountered were white, despite other options being available during avatar creation (53)—while this conclusion can be telling about race relations and how they operate in cyber spaces, participants did not appear to push this analysis any further. Ultimately, Foreman and Borkman’s study did conclude that the implementation of a MMOLE that was specifically developed for education could positively impact the experience of students (57). The authors argue that the MMOLE would need to be designed to “assure substantial, specific, and significant learning, by combining the content of sociological research …with the relevant elements from video games produced purely for leisure time activity” (57).
The Sims Online serves as an interesting example because it extends beyond the act of “playing” through modelled real-world scenarios to introduce a meeting space where students can interact and collaborate with one another. So, as a potential MMOLE, it provides a space where students can observe and interact with course learning material, as well as a digital, rather than physical, meeting space. Apart from experimenting with existing MMOGs to see how they might influence the creation of a MMOLE, scholars have also created guiding frameworks for MMOLEs that are influenced by the structure of MMOGs. Dimitropoulos and Manitsaris (2011) incorporate virtual reality (VR) technology into the discussion, arguing that MMOLEs, especially ones that utilize VR, could be extremely beneficial for distance education (158). The authors draw on multiple Web 2.0 capabilities, arguing that “the interactive functionalities supporting virtual reality environments reinforce the active participation of students and therefore they are not any more regarded as simple passive observers, but as active members of the learning process, in which they can either discover or even produce new knowledge” (165). This notion of active experiential participation, rather than observation, mimics the same sentiments outlined in Foreman and Borkman’s case study. These examples suggest that significant studies are being conducted that consider how recent technologies and media can influence knowledge-creating learning environments that exist in a digital, rather than physical space.
Adventure Game-Like Narratives as Motivation for Learning through Serious Games
Recent scholarship has also examined specific structural elements of video games, looking to how these elements might foster knowledge creation and dissemination in a formal education setting. Scholars, such as Dickey, have argued that although one of the most prominent elements of games is narrative, little research has been performed on how game-like narrative structures might be employed in non-entertainment contexts ("Murder on Grimm Isle" 456). Some scholars have continued to look at MMOGs and MMORPGs in this regard, but some have also included adventure games in their research. Adventure games exist as their own genre of video games, and traditionally involve a combination of interactive exploration and puzzle-solving. Adventure games are not necessarily MMOGs, but they can be considered one as long as they are also an online multiplayer game. As of 2018, some of the most popular and innovative adventure games include Her Story, The Last of Us, Life is Strange, Stories Untold, and The Walking Dead: Season One, among others.
The interactive narrative structure of adventure games is considered intrinsic to the genre, and this interactive structure may foster a different way of constructing and disseminating knowledge, particularly in terms of encouraging and sustaining motivation. Scholars have made distinctions between traditional narrative and interactive narrative. The former narrative structure follows a linear timeline and is what is typically seen in textbooks and other traditional teaching materials, whereas the latter narrative structure, what is typically found in adventure games, “illustrate[s] how space and architecture can be used as compelling infrastructures…based on spatial relationships, rather than timelines” (Dickey, “Murder on Grimm Isle” 457). Narrative interactivity is considered to be one of three major modes of interaction that should be carefully designed in educational games to sustain motivation and engagement, along with interface interactivity and social interactivity (Eseryel et al. 21). Motivation is frequently discussed in these studies, and Dickey lists two literary techniques that encourage motivation in adventure games: plot hooks and emotional proximity. The former is common among various genres of literature, referring to the use of unanswered questions that the reader seeks the answer to (“Game Design Narrative for Learning” 251). The latter exists between the player and the player’s role, describing the empathy and identification the player feels toward their character (251). Narrative in games works to provide initial and ongoing motivation for the game (252), so Dickey’s work suggests that similar tactics could be beneficial in educational settings.
Similar to the study conducted by Foreman and Borkman using The Sims Online, studies have been performed by Michele D. Dickey and Deniz Eseryel, Victor Law, Dirk Ifenthaler, Xun Gel and Raymond Miller that involve the implementation of games in course curriculums. Dickey (2011) conducted a study that looked at how successful the implementation of an interactive gaming experience could be in constructing knowledge for a lower-level undergraduate course. Unlike Foreman and Borkman’s study, Dickey’s study uses a game that was based off of MMOG adventure games, but was built for developing argumentative and persuasive writing skills. So, Dickey’s study uses a serious game developed for educational purposes, rather than a video game developed for entertainment purposes. The goal behind the study was to look at how game-based learning environments could benefit from a better understanding of narrative design ("Murder on Grimm Isle" 457), arguing that “the goal of any learning environment (game-based, classroom or informal) is the transference of knowledge into real-world settings, activities and situations” (467). The game used in Dickey’s study is Murder on Grimm Isle. The serious game begins with players learning that a murder had been committed, then, players must explore the landscape to find clues as to who the murderer might have been. Dickey notes that because the game was not created for entertainment purposes, there is no right or wrong answer, nor is there a way to “win” the game (460). Instead, students must formulate an argument based on what they interact with in the game (460). In her case study, Dickey focuses on how the game’s narrative fosters argumentative and persuasive writing through increased intrinsic motivation, curiosity, plausibility and transference of game-based experiences into prewriting activities (457), arguing that these outcomes “were first supported by the game-like environment, and then sustained through the narrative and the environment” (456).
Similarly, the goal behind Eseryel et al.’s study was to “investigate the interrelationships among complex problem solving, motivation, and engagement in the context of game-based learning” (42). The game utilized by this study is McLarin's Adventures, which was developed using an adventure game framework for educational purposes. So, McLarin's Adventures would also fall into the category of serious games. Unlike Murder on Grimm Isle, McLarin's Adventures is oriented to eighth-to-ninth-grade players. While this study was not conducted specifically with higher education in mind, the results collected are still relevant for understanding how interactive narratives can foster knowledge construction and dissemination. McLarin's Adventures has players participate in groups of four, taking on the role of researchers set in a survivor story where they explore an island on an earth-like planet with the goal of creating a settlement to hopefully “win” the game (46). Here, Eseryel et al. attribute increased motivation to the scaffolded structure seen in adventure games (50) where larger challenges are broken down into smaller challenges. Although students in this case study found that the narrative was too broken down, forcing them to lose their sense of autonomy, and therefore experiencing a decrease in motivation (50), Eseryel et al. still argue that the scaffolding of challenges is crucial in the designing of game-based learning environments (51).
The connection most scholars make between adventure game narratives and educational practices is that the implementation of game-like narrative structures could be used to foster intrinsic motivation for knowledge creation and dissemination (Dickey 457; Eseryel et al. 44). Drawing on self-determination theory, Eseryel et al. argue that standards for autonomy, competence, and relatedness need to be met for intrinsic motivation to be present (44). In terms of autonomy, players/learners must maintain a sense of control over the environment and their choices within the environment (44); applying the self-determination theory outlined by Eseryel et al. to Murder on Grimm Isle as an example, participants were each able to control how the narrative unfolded by choosing where to explore, what clues to engage with, and what clues were necessary for identifying of a potential murderer—here, the feeling of autonomy appears to be present. In terms of competence, players/learners must maintain the feeling of moving toward a goal, and challenges must be attainable (Eseryel et al. 44); with Murder on Grimm Isle, despite the goal of improving argumentative skills, participants reported frustration with the fact there was no right or wrong answer (Dickey, “Murder on Grimm Isle” 462)—this does not mean that competence was not necessarily present, but that students sometimes interpreted the challenge as different than it was intended. In terms of relatedness, this traditionally referred to a sense of belonging for students, but has expanded to include relationships between players (Eseryel et al. 44). Intrinsically, a MMOG fosters communication and interaction between players—Murder on Grimm Isle features this through players’ ability to see one another’s avatars and chat through a discussion log, although direct collaboration was not necessary. Murder on Grimm Isle and McLarin’s Adventures utilize different elements of entertainment-based video games. While the latter is an adventure game that features scaffolded challenges, the former is a MMOG adventure game that gives players/learners a greater sense of autonomy and choice; interestingly, Murder on Grimm Isle does not provide a sense of “winning,” and focuses instead on player/learner process and interaction. These differing elements should be taken into consideration when approaching possible frameworks for serious games. The narrative elements that scholars focus on in adventure games mimic those inherit to Web 2.0 technologies. If (to simplify) Web 2.0 allows for the author and the reader of content to communicate and collaborate synchronously (Liu), serious games based off of adventure MMOGs, such as Murder on Grimm Isle, similarly allow the player/learner to manipulate the content and outcome of the experience, while simultaneously communicating synchronously. As research studies have shown, this interactive structure has the ability to influence how knowledge is consumed.
Considerations and Conclusion
Scholars who have performed research on the potential for video games and game-like structures to influence future learning initiatives have identified a plethora of problems and necessary considerations for future work. While it is beyond the scope of this section to discuss all of them, attention should be paid to those which most frequently occur. First, as this is a relatively new area of study, many scholars note that more research needs to be done on how effective knowledge dissemination is through the use of MMOLEs or serious games (Dickey, “Murder on Grimm Isle”; Eseryel et al. 51). While studies that have implemented games into curriculums, such as Foreman and Borkman’s use of The Sims Online and Dickey’s use of Murder on Grimm Isle, have been successful in engaging students in interactive learning environments at the undergraduate level, more studies are needed to examine whether or not these practices are better than traditional methods at fostering this learning, and what structures should be set in place to assure success. Also, issues of race relations, diversity, and racial discrimination have been brought up in a number of essays (Dickey, “Game Design Narrative for Learning” 261; Dickey, “Game Design and Learning” 269; Foreman and Borkman 57; Nakamura; Wu et al. 77). For example, Dickey notes that MMOGs typically involve war and conquest (“Game Design Narrative for Learning” 261), so in using them as a framework for possible educational materials, issues of race, gender, and culture need to be considered (261). This is an area that appears to be lacking within the study of the possible convergence of video games, learning initiatives, and academia, so it could serve as an advantageous next step for consideration.
Divided into two primary sub-sections, this section first looked at how MMOGs and MMORPGs are influencing the design of MMOLEs—defined by Foreman and Borkman as a convergence between LMSs and MMOGs (50). Scholars agree that the popularity of MMOGs, as well as the technologies they utilize, will influence the future of digital meeting and learning environments. Next, this section looked at how the narrative structures found within adventure games can be used in educational contexts to foster a new way of interactive learning—scholars such as Dickey emphasize that these games utilize a relational and spatial narrative structure, rather than linear (Dickey, “Murder on Grimm Isle” 457), that fosters a more interactive experience where players/learners have more autonomy to shape the outcome. There is a mutual understanding across these studies, crossing a plethora of different fields and research methods, that there will be some sort of implementation of video game-like practices in the future of knowledge construction and dissemination in academia.
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