The #ILT5320 Affinity Space Projects

Since this past Friday, INTE 5320 Games and Learning graduate learners have begun to share projects about their three months of participant observation in games-related affinity spaces. For readers less familiar with the concept of affinity spaces, a brief primer. At the beginning of our semester, we read Jim and Elisabeth (Hayes) Gee conceptualize affinity spaces (click through to read our Hypothesis annotations!); they describe affinity spaces in the following ways:

  • “The concept of affinity space stresses that the organization of the space (the site and what it links to, including real world spaces and events in some cases) is as important as the organization of the people. Indeed, the interaction between the two is crucial as well.”
  • “Most fan sites are completely open; anyone can find them and access their content. Some sites require visitors to become “members” which, typically, merely involves creating a username and profile. Accordingly, one of easiest and best ways to answer the question of “who belongs” is simply to say that whoever enters the space (the fan site) is in the group and belongs.”
  • “There are many different types of affinity spaces (and other kinds of communities) on the Internet and out in the real world. Some are inclusive, supportive, and nurturing, while others are not. Affinity spaces and other sorts of communities can give people a sense of belonging, but they can also give people a sense of “us” (the insiders) against “them” (the outsiders). People can be cooperative within these spaces and communities, but they can also compete fiercely for status. They can communicate politely and in a friendly fashion or they can engage in hostile and insulting interaction.”

Learners in #ILT5320 have joined, participated in, and now analyzed the following games and gaming affinity spaces: BreakoutEDU, the Unity community, the Kerbal Space Program, BoardGameGeek, Graphite,Denver’s Strategy Board Games Group, Code Combat, Teachers Pay Teachers, and ActiveWorlds.

It’s been fun watching learners share their projects via Twitter – a mix of excitement, shout outs to games and learning scholars, and relief:

And now, on to feedback as a form of discussion that began yesterday – Monday, April 25th – and spans the next two weeks, through Sunday, May 8th. First, please read my previous post about feedback and commentary guidelines for our affinity space projects (these guidelines are explicitly written for INTE 5320 learners, though the general background is helpful for anyone who wants to jump in and comment). Second, we’re anticipating that commentary will reach beyond our immediate course participants, including: other graduate learners and colleagues affiliated with CU Denver’s Information and Learning Technologies program (like #ILT5340 and #INTE5670Spr2016), Maha Bali and her students (who are also seeking feedback on their own game design projects), game-based learning scholars and designers whom we’ve read and interacted with throughout the semester, and certainly regular readers of this blog interested in the open and playful aspects of our collective learning. And third, our thanks – in advance – for the public feedback and networked commentary that will propel our course forward through the next two weeks and on toward its conclusion.

And so, without further ado:

Brian and BreakoutEDU

Kelly and a Game Design Subreddit

Kirk and the Unity Community

Lainie and the Kerbal Space Program

Lisa and BoardGameGeek

Nik and Clash of Clans

Robert and Graphite

Susan and Denver’s Strategy Board Games Group

Susannah and Code Combat

Vail and Teachers Pay Teachers

Tedy and ActiveWorlds

Thank you for jumping in and advancing our conversations about games and learning!

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Affinity Space Presentations & Discussions

Greetings INTE 5320 Games and Learning,

For the past three months you’ve acted as participant observers in various games and learning affinity spaces – including BreakoutEDU, the Unity community, the Kerbal Space Program, BoardGameGeek, Graphite, Denver’s Strategy Board Games Group, Code Combat, Teachers Pay Teachers, and ActiveWorlds. As you know, the purpose of your engagement with(in) these affinity spaces has been three-fold:

  1. To observe the ways in which knowledge is produced, shared, and contested in interest-driven participatory cultures;
  2. To contribute to a learning community invested in games, game play, and learning from and about games; and
  3. To reflect upon the ways in which your participation in an informal learning community shapes your understanding of games and learning, with potential implications for learning in formal settings (i.e. schools, workplaces).

By this coming Sunday, April 24th you’ll share with our learning community a screencast – approximately 10 minutes in length – via your blog that summarizes your affinity space participation and learning experiences. As you also know, our Cycle 7 texts are your collective affinity space projects. Accordingly, I’ll comment briefly upon the type of feedback and commentary that will help to structure our forthcoming discussion. And I do so because everyone’s affinity space blog posts will soon become discussion forums. And because our collective blog commentary (like your previous comments here, here, and here) and Hypothesis annotation (when possible) will comprise our shared learning activity.

For every member of our learning community – and whether via blog commentary or Hypothesis annotation (or both!) – please respond to at least one question from each of the following question sets aligned to the criteria of our affinity space project.

A. Observing the affinity space:

  • What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
  • What does it mean to be an insider?  How do you know?  And how would you describe this space to an outsider?
  • What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and  discussion – that are prominent in this space?  And why?

B. Contributing to the affinity space:

  • How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
  • How did other members of the affinity space respond?
  • How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time?  And why?
  • What insight about games (and games and learning) did your peer learn through her/his contributions?

C. Reflecting upon affinity space participation:

  • What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
  • What does your peer perceive to be the limitations of this space?
  • How did your peer learn about games and learning?
  • How was learning social, collaborative, and/or contested?
  • How would you describe your peer’s experience learning in another setting (i.e. not Canvas, not a “classroom”) as complementary to our other course activities?

D. Connecting affinity space participation to literature and theory:

  • What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
  • What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
  • What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?

A final note about our facilitators during Cycle 7: Tedy and Nik will be modeling various commentary and annotation responses through the cycle, and – as others have with our previous readings – they will help assist with responses, pose follow up questions, guide resource sharing, and establish connections across various projects so as to move our shared conversations forward.

I’m looking forward to a substantive cycle of sharing, engagement, and discussion about our affinity space adventures.