Our plan is to publish our papers in a volume provisionally titled Pastplay (thanks to Beth for the title). Our papers should be standard length (approximately 7500 words).
The book’s target audience is early-career academics and doctoral students (first) and their students (second), and our message is: “yes, you too can do this.” Every collection needs a guiding theme, and beyond the obvious – “history and the humanities”, “technology”, “teaching and learning” – I’d like each paper to continue (because, according to the abstracts, each of you is already walking down this path) to give attention to the act of doing history with our students and/or the public. Teaching and learning with technology, according to this vision, is not about passing on information, but about engaging in the practice of the discipline (and related disciplines) with tools and artefacts.
Here’s a first attempt at grouping the papers for the UBC book:
INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENTS, FROM THE VIRTUAL TO REAL WORLD
Sean Gouglas, Geoffrey Rockwell
“Augmenting Place and Time: Storytelling history through augmented reality games”
The release of smartphone applications like Layar has made it significantly easier to author augmented reality games (ARGs) that can be played anywhere. At the University of Alberta a team of Computing Science and Humanities Computing graduate students developed an ARG platform called PicoSafari for experimenting with ARGs. PicoSafari allows “Adventures” to be created where there are one or more “Picos”, or placed entities in the city, that are hunted and caught by players. This platform, which was developed as a first iteration of an authoring environment designed to support historical, educational, and playful game development is now being rewritten as a platform for our ongoing research as part of the NCE GRAND. In this paper we will:
* Introduce Augmented Reality Games and discuss their potential for historical learning
* Demonstrate the PicoSafari platform
* Show an example of a historical game prototype developed with PicoSafari
* Discuss future directions.
“Rolling your own: On Modding Commercial Games for Educational Goals”
Making modifications to existing commercial games is a strong and vibrant sub-culture in modern video gaming. Many publishers now provide tools to make this easier, as part of their marketing strategy. In this paper, I look at the nature and quality of the discussions that occur on the fan mod sites as a form of participatory history. I also reflect on some of my own forays into modding commercial games in my teaching of ancient history: what works, what hasn’t, and where I want to take things next.
Kevin Kee, Shawn Graham,
“Teaching history in an age of pervasive computing: the case for games”
How do we teach history in an age of “pervasive computing”, characterized by interactivity with (rather than consumption of) media, in the context of social networks (rather than in isolation)? In this paper we contend that the best way is through collaborative learning with computer games. The essay is divided into four parts. We begin by contending that games should be used in our undergraduate courses in the much the same way that we have used texts. History games are synthetic historical worlds, similar to the narratives on our class reading lists, except that these are expressed in computer code, not language. In the second part of the paper, we show how students can build on their analysis of games by creating their own histories through game “mods” (modifications of commercial games). The process is similar to that which sees students build on their analysis of texts to write historiographical essays, and benefit from peer review. In the third part of the paper, we draw on our own experience to show how students can move beyond analysis, and modding, to collaboratively developing their own games, in much the same way that they write research papers. Finally, we reflect on our use of games for history to suggest how we might best assess the work of our students. In these ways, we show how historians can tap the potential – whilst avoid the pitfalls – of learning with games.
Rob MacDougall and Timothy Compeau,
“Playful Historical Thinking: ARGs and Pervasive History Play”
“Pervasive games,” also known as “alternate reality” or “augmented reality games” (ARGs), move play away from the computer screen and back to the physical world by overlaying game narratives and challenges onto encounters with real world people, places, and things. While the first such games were designed as promotions for commercial media such as computer games and films, designers and players were immediately intrigued by the genre’s potential for education and addressing real world problems. This paper reports on the authors’ SSHRC-funded effort to develop an ARG or pervasive game for history education—a game that uses history as its content, historical methods as its procedures, and museums, archives, and heritage sites as its playing spaces. We believe this emerging genre has great potential for teaching historical thinking and engaging popular audiences with history in the material world. But it remains to be seen if ARGs in their current form are scalable in terms of effort, impact, and cost. Ultimately, our experience may point away from highly-designed games as such and towards a kind of “playful historical thinking” as the way to foster more useful and lasting engagement with the pervasive presence of the past.
ALTERNATIVE EXPRESSIONS AND PRACTICES IN HISTORY: MODELS AND PROCESSES
“3-D Interactive Worlds as Educational Tools for Understanding Arctic Life”
This paper explores how interactive 3-D worlds and computer modeling can be used to excite interest in traditional dwellings constructed by indigenous groups in the Canadian High Arctic. This paper explores the degree to which digital replicas of objects, houses and simulations can be used to support the study of Arctic history in interactive worlds. Also examined is the idea that virtual worlds can to evoke emotive, effectual knowledge in indigenous users. The discussion will be based on our experience with primary school and college students, and Padleirmiut Inuit Elders who experienced digital reconstructions of Inuit dwellings in a 3D virtual theater (CAVE) at the University of Calgary. Results suggest that virtual heritage environments may be useful in initiating and establishing discourses in archaeological interpretation, as well as assisting personal identity recovery.
Ramon Llull’s Ars Magna, developed in the latter decades of the thirteenth century, has been recognized as a precursor both to computer science – in its emphasis on a mechanical calculus – and the philosophy of language, in its use of symbols and semantic fields. Llull’s colorful and quixotic biography (from the episode in which he rode a horse into a cathedral to his near-suicidal martyrdom in North Africa), coupled with the association of his project with alchemy and gematria, have made it difficult for us to extract Llull’s methodology and supporting mechanisms from an entangling network of rhetoric and myth. My contribution to the “Playful Technology in History” symposium will consist of an associational glass-bead game (“Dr. Kremlin’s Disc”) — inspired by Llull, Marie Corelli, and Peter Suber — and an essay exploring the following question: How might an appreciation of Llullian method function in the context of technology-driven changes to our methodological engagement with humanities interpretation? An overview of Llull’s generative system (spinning wheels! you’ll love it) will emphasize its relevance to questions of interpretative practice, visual thinking, and algorithmic or constraints-based praxis in the digital humanities.
William J. Turkel and Devon Elliott,
“Rapid Prototyping to Support Experimental History”
The idea of digitization is familiar to most scholars, but new technologies also allow us to turn bits back into atoms, through reverse processes of materialization. We show that affordable do-it-yourself 3D printers and open source hardware allow historians to manufacture artifacts, devices, exhibits and environments that can shape people’s experience of place, community and the past. As a case study we provide some specific examples from Elliott’s PhD work on the history of stage magic. More generally, we argue that emerging technologies allow historians to take a more playful, experimental and sensuous approach to research, teaching and learning.
PLAYING WITH EVIDENCE AND THE ARCHIVE
Patrick Dunae and John Lutz,
“Victorian SimCities: Playful technology on Google Earth”
Wouldn’t it be fun to combine elements of SimCity with 3-D modelling in SketchUp and Google Earth? That’s what we’re doing with this project! We’re creating a 3 Dimensional environment, where students can contribute to, and interact with, urban history. Our project is based on work already developed through the Simulating History initiative (2005). With support and resources from that research project, we created an accurate 3-D model of downtown Victoria, British Columbia, in 1891. We want to build on this structure and invite students to play in SimCity and SketchUp environments. We’ll be asking students to look closely at archival images, such as panoramic historical photographs, “bird’s eye views, and fire insurance plans so they have a good idea of what the urban historical landscape really looked like. Afterwards, the digital models will be uploaded to Google Earth where the world can inspect and study them.
“True Facts or False Facts–Which are More Authentic?”
What happens when you teach students how to lie? Many in the current university student generation, who have grown up in a world of mash up, remix, and sampling, already have a playful approach to the past and their use of technology often demonstrates new ways of thinking about the nature of evidence and how evidence can and should be used to make sense of past events. This paper explores what happens when an instructor attempts to channel this emerging sensibility into serious and not-so-serious historical work. What lessons about the past and about the nature of historical production do students learn when they create “false facts” (as they liked to call them) and purvey them online to unsuspecting audiences? The paper also explores the ethical issues raised when professors encourage students to use digital media to spread a historical hoax beyond the boundaries of their classroom.
John Lutz and Ruth Sandwelll,
“Does History Have to Be Boring?”
This paper argues that our history can only be boring if we make it that way. History contains the sum of human crises, suffering, triumphs and challenges. Yet, despite having the richest palette of any discipline to draw upon, we have taken the fascination and fun out of‘doing history’ in the classroom in the rush to cover a vast syllabus. New directions in student-centered learning, in historical methods, and the availability of new technology offer many possibilities to put the ‘mystery’ and fun back into Canadian history. The article introduces one such attempt to marry the fun and the serious using digital technology: the “Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History” project.
“What You Do with A Million Books”
Humanities scholarship, by all accounts, now finds itself in what one prominent center of activity calls “An Age of Abundance.” Prominent scholars are asking “What do we do with a million books?” and suggesting “far reading,” “distant reading,” and even “not reading” as hermeneutical frameworks for contending with this sudden surfeit of data and information. This paper examines these proposals, and suggests that because they are based on methodologies that arose in the already superabundant world of print libraries, they fall subject to the scientizing tendencies that led to the modern library itself — tendencies that are only partially applicable to digital media. This paper takes an alternative view and argues that computational tractability, rather than perfecting our attempt to organize and digest information, may instead force us to embrace methodologies based on serendipity and play.
“Playing with the Archive: Game mechanics and collection system“
Over the past decade, the search box has become the dominant paradigm for working with any collection of digitized historical texts. While valuable for focused discovery of materials that one can already describe, directed search is an unwieldy tool for more exploratory modes of historical inquiry. Much time has been spent discussing visualization and other techniques, but we still don’t have any really effective implementations of those mechanisms. In this paper, I propose to survey the current literature on gaming mechanisms and marry it with discussions of discovery interfaces for library / museum / archival collections. Ultimately, my argument is that alongside directed search-and-results screens, we desperately need interfaces for browsing, finding and working with historical collections that enable ludic forms of interaction with both primary and secondary sources – in short, that we might well be able to develop better historical methods by quite literally playing with the sources.
LIBRARY, MUSEUM, AND CLASSROOM PERSPECTIVES
“‘We don’t usually learn with computer activities’: Canadian and U.S. Students Using Digital History”
Does digital technology facilitate learning? Can perceptions about historical content and skills change with the use of computer programs? Are there differences in the ways in which Canadian and U.S. students learn digital history topics such as the War of 1812? This paper will present the preliminary results of a comparative study on digital history in Canadian and U.S. classrooms. Using the Virtual Historian (www.virtualhistorian.ca) as a learning tool, high school students engaged in a unit of study on the War of 1812 and the Battle of Queenston Heights. The presentation will highlight the key findings of this SSHRC-funded study as well as the parallels and contrasts between the two populations.
“Simulation Games and the Study of the Past: Classroom Guidelines”
Though important theoretical and experimental works have been written on the power of video games as learning tools, specific classroom applications are still few and far between. In order to build effective classroom applications of video games two areas need to be developed: discipline-specific considerations of the educational value of video games and guidelines to specific implementations of video game-based lessons in the class. This article provides both theory and practice in the context of teaching history. After an investigation of the value of simulation games as interpretations of the past, a discussion follows of the criteria that qualify historically themed video games as viable classroom simulations. The application of these theories in the form of a set of practical guidelines is developed through use of a classroom case study. In this case study, high school students studied, researched, and wrote about elements of Roman history using the video games Rome:Total War and CivCity: Rome as core learning tools. The practical steps taken to structure, implement, and assess learning activities incorporating these simulation games are illustrated. Finally, The impact of the case study on future applications and modifications to classroom practices is considered.
“Playing with the Past”
In attempting to satisfy their educational mandates, as well as engaging with their attending publics, museums are increasingly utilizing various technologies to customize individual experiences. The development of dedicated websites with on-line exhibitions, programs specific to data management with search and sharing capacity, and the increasing use of Web 2.0 technologies provide the visitor with access to collections and opportunity to contribute to this content. Yet, individuals also continue to visit public museums and witness exhibits that have limited technologies. The question that I consider in this paper is asking how museums (particularly history and ethnology museums) may incorporate media within the physical spaces to enhance their visitors’ experience. Although museums are no longer bound by the physical limits of their buildings and gallery spaces, the use of technologies within the physical space is frequently directed to entertainment and playfulness (particularly in science museums) as one of the outcomes. How can history and ethnology museums engage with technologies in their galleries and how can this contribute to the visitors’ experience?