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August 29, 2007

Games and Culture

This recently founded journal (January 2006), focuses on the relationship between digital video games and aspects of our rapidly changing culture. Edited by Douglas Thomas, the journal has great potential to gather together work done by some of the leading authors in the field.

The initial issue (table of contents) featured articles by Jim Gee, Ian Bogost, Constance Steinkuehler, and Yasmin Kafai. There is even an article for beginners in the gaming world!

After the pent-up flood was released, however, the river seems to be drying up. Game studies are still hot, but articles seem to be finding their way into more established peer-reviewed journals or are just not being written quickly enough to fill a long table of contents.

Potentially, this journal may also be developing a more rigorous selection process, but I doubt that is the sole reason for the decline in number of articles per issue. I do not even recognize any of the authors in the most release. These are probably acceptable scholars on the subject, but they are not the pillars of the game studies club.

So, this is a journal to keep an eye on. The occasional gem might fit into a literature review or even form the spring board to your own research. But it does not look like an essential item for an individual's library - or even the school's library. More likely, it is worth bookmarking for selection of individual articles and to use as a place for submission of your own articles.

August 8, 2007

Hanging Out and Talking

Yesterday, we talked in class about the old expectations of how a doctoral student progressed. Our professor currently is in his 60's and so has the historical view point that explains some of the underlying assumptions behind the traditional doctoral program.

Doctoral students literally were once expected to show up, hang out, wait on their major professors, do a lot of reading, take all of the professor's classes, and drink together. You literally were mentored into a culture and joined it by living it. You made coffee (even if you were male) and read ALL of an author's work. Literally, you hung out and talked with people informally. After a time, your major professor decided you'd read enough and talked enough (and drunk enough Scotch) to start writing your dissertation.

So, we end up with an unexamined assumption in higher education that somehow, students need to socialize together outside of class as well as discuss in class. This gives us difficulty when we think about both distance-delivered doctoral classes as well as commuter students. Somehow, as I've noted before, such non-traditional situations are looked upon by many academics as less rigorous, although they often cannot say why.

This gets at the aspect of mentoring and acculturation that are presumed to be part of a doctoral program. Somehow, we need to create academics through not only class but also this nebulous cloud of epistemic practices that surround members of the academy. With the increasing number of working, older adults who are returning to school, we need to consider what is an essential aspect of being a well-educated academic. Do we need to remake people who are already actively teaching in the academy? Do we need to change people who are functional practitioners in their fields who want to increase their already existing skills?

August 7, 2007

Advising redux

Last December, I wrote about my struggles with getting time with my advisor. Having switched colleges, I'm happy to report that the situation has taken a complete 180!

I've switched from a large campus of a Big 10 university to a small campus of another Big 10 university. And I switched from a Ph.D. to and Ed.D. But most importantly, I switched from a traditional program to an adult-focused one.

A "traditional" doctoral program aims at taking unemployed young, potential scholars and turning them into employable academics. That brings in a lot of assumptions about the amount of time and attention that students are capable of spending on the nitty-gritty details. There is an assumption that students are entirely focused and are generally available to their professors.

An adult-focused one assumes that students are already teachers or otherwise employed in their field. The opposite assumption applies: students are not assumed to have time to spare.

This has large ramifications for the advisement process! Upon entering my previous "traditional" program, I had to chase down my advisor. I only managed to meet her regarding my program ONCE in a year. She couldn't tell me what basic courses I needed to take as a foundation. This lead to serious concerns on my part about my ability to get through the program in a reasonable amount of time.

In my new program, I have already met with my initial advisor. In fact, she made sure that the graduate office assistant tracked me down to schedule an appointment. I know that I will meet with her every other month throughout the program. I already have a schedule of courses (which can be revised as I go) as a framework for the next two years.

For some people, this sort of structure will be considered "hand holding" - but it is really a reflection about how teaching adults is different than teaching the traditional grad student. Yes, I know that grad students are statutory adults, but there is a large difference between people whose job is to attend school and those whose job is to teach or run a company.

For me, I'm grateful that I have found a better fit. And I hope that I can encourage other programs to wake up and consider the different needs of a different student population.