So I downloaded the game, ‘A Tribute to the Rolling Boulder’ – see previous post.
I obviously have some ambivalence about my chosen profession. Who knew that squishing archaeologists could be so much fun? Especially when you get two at once, and they scream… This’ll be a classic amongst archaeology students the world over, I should think.
As if I didn’t need more distractions.
“Crayon Physics Deluxe lets you draw objects on the screen by clicking and dragging your mouse, or by drawing with the stylus of a tablet PC, as in this video. The objects you scrawl become part of the game world. The goal is to create objects that propel a crudely drawn ball toward a crudely drawn star. There is no single correct way to scoot that ball around; the fun is in exploring the options. Within seconds of hitting start, you’re furiously scribbling blocks and ramps and wedges and seesaws, whatever it takes to reach the goal. Some players may get sidetracked creating hilariously inefficient Rube Goldberg devices. Others will forget the objectives altogether and just draw. (If you want to try it yourself, you can download a simpler demo version of the game here.) “
The prototype of this game was built in under a week. The maker of this game, Petri Purho, is a 24 year old student. The man has talent! Also, as an archaeologist and educator, I was delighted to read the following:
“There are many games based on the exploits of Indiana Jones, but Purho’s version is the only one that tells the story from the boulder’s point of view, letting players control the rampaging sphere and smoosh wave after wave of attacking archeologists. Another game, Grammar Nazi, is a literate twist on shooters like Space Invaders. Players fire upward at swarms of enemies, but the ammo in Purho’s version is the letters you type on the keyboard, and the longer the words you spell, the more damage they do. (Tapping out indie has some impact. Autodidact causes a massive explosion.) Purho made it in a single day. “
Be the boulder. Oh yeaaah….
….yes, but does it mean anything?
What you are looking at is a first attempt at trying to understand the language of inscriptions from a network point-of-view. Latin inscriptions tend to be formulaic; many expressions and words occur over and over again. My question was, is there any underlying structure in the patterning of this word use? I took 15 inscriptions from the Heidelberg database, all from Etruria Regio VII, and all filed under ‘notes about building, construction’ by the database editors. I compiled a list of each word and its one-spot-before and one-spot-after neighbours. Those are the connections in my network: each inscription is its own string. When a word is used in another inscription, that creates a link between the two inscriptions.
Now, meaning in Latin is generated by the case endings etc, rather than word position (as in english: subject-verb-object). A better network would generate the links both by word position and by grammatical linkages – but this is only a first stab, and there wasn’t enough coffee around for me to try the more complicated version. Yet.
Once the list – the network of ties by word positioning vis-a-vis all the other words – was generated, I analysed it using Netdraw. I asked it to determine two things: the degree for each word, and the optimal arrangement into factions. The result is the drawing you see above. The shape of node in the network (each node = one word; if a word appeared in two different cases, it was represented as two different nodes) corresponds to degree. The degree of a node is its number of connections. Squares = 2 or fewer connections; triangles = 3 to 10; circles = 10 or higher. Nodes of the same colour belong to the same faction:
“Given a partition of a binary network of adjacencies into n groups, then a count of the number of missing ties within each group summed with the ties between the groups gives a measure of the extent to which the groups form separate clique like structures. The routine uses a tabu search minimization procedure to optimize this measure to find the best fit. “
ie, if I tell it to look for 5 groups, it will sort through the patterns of connections looking to see if the structure permits it to identify cliques where the members have more or less the same patternings. It’s not perfect – you run it again and again looking for different numbers of groups with the best goodness-of-fit. This is time consuming; I only did it once here, to see what would happen.
Now, my initial results here are rather trite – you will no doubt be surprised to learn that ‘et’ has the largest degree. What I’m thinking of doing is building networks for each town in a limited region – say the Tiber Valley – and then seeing how the networks mesh across space. Common words will be all over the place of course, but hey, it’s the weak ties that are often the most interesting…
Came across this today, whilst doing something else (I do work, on occasion…). From a brief glance, looks like a good introduction to archaeology for kids, and also looks like it might well be fun! Dig Into History
First attempt at a PMOG mission. Most missions I’ve gone through so far are more like tours of thematically linked websites, although there are some notable exceptions that require the player to deduce the next site from clues placed in the first. I gave it a try, which you may find here: Awww Sir, how can I find out anything about that?
The idea here is a mix of straightforward take-you-by-the-hand tour of places to go to answer one student’s question about research, as well as one little (simple) puzzle to find the last step. ‘Puzzle’ is too grand a word, but I was trying to work out the mechanics of setting up a mission. The next one will be more involved…
…just started playing the game, and when I came to my own blog page, discovered a mission on it already – a mission that took me on a tour of the blogosphere, explaining the various techs… This is fun! I’ve already left some mines in some interesting places, too…
Here’s a screen shot from PMOG in action, on another quest:
PMOG: the Passively Multiplayer Online Game. This is a game you play while browsing the internet, going about your daily internet related tasks… think webquest with mines, treasure chests, and quests.
You play the game by adding an extension to your Firefox browser. This browser lets you ‘sense’ the game world, the activities overlaid on the plain old mundane net. Then, in the words of the game’s creators:
“This unconventional massively multiplayer online game merges your web life with an alternate, hidden reality. The mundane takes on a layer of fantastic achievement. Player behavior generates characters and alliances, triggers interactions in the environment and earns the player points to spend online beefing up their inventory. Suddenly the Internet is not a series of untouchable exhibits, but rather a hackable, rewarding environment!”
What does this entail? Again, from the PMOG site:
Prank Your Friends Across the Web<
Using Mines that steal Datapoints
Leave Gifts on Web Sites
Using Crates to hold Tools or currency
Make or Follow Paths Online
Develop a Rich User Profile
Passively, just by surfing the web.
So what does this have to do with internet research skills? Well, it occurred to me that I can tell my students over and over again what constitutes a ‘good’ site versus a ‘bad’ site, but if I’m not there watching them, it never sinks in. Given that a lot of my teaching is done via distance, this is a problem.
But what if, as a class, we were all PMOGing? I could imagining setting a question the students would need to research in order to write an answer – maybe leaving their responses on a wiki somewhere – and then sending them out into the net with PMOGed enabled browsers. The game’s stats would instantly record how much work online the students were putting in, and if I set mines on all of the lousy sites I can find – the ones they typically go to, like the wikipedia page on Julius Caesar – and treasure chests on the good ones (like say a page from the British School at Rome, or from an online journal) they’d soon learn the difference. I could also set up quests that would take them to a number of good sites, or sites with opposing points of view, and require them to go to pages supporting or contesting the views… and of course, students could leave their own mines and treasures, and so hindering/helping their peers…
It would be quite neat, actually. Almost like laser tag in the library, capturing-the-flag…
In the course of marking an assignment, I noticed a curious reference: “Interoz 2008″. What was Interoz, I wondered? In the bibliography, this was listed: http://interoz.com/Egypt/cleopatr.htm. It turns out that Interoz is a webdesign company, and these pages on Egypt are likely connected with some work they did on a tourism site.
A website design company is not the kind of source that students in a university-level Roman history class should be using. Time and again, I ask my students to ask themselves: “Who wrote this article? How can you know whether or not to trust it?” Needless to say, the author of the article is not listed on the site (though the person who put the page together is). The essay on Interoz goes on to describe Cleopatra’s life and times: standard info available in any textbook. I’ve encouraged my students not to be referencing the textbook, but to get out there and read widely; if they use the internet, I almost beg them to use JSTOR or the other digital resources of our library… to little avail.
Anyway, the page in question contains an essay that begins with “In the springtime of 51 BC, Ptolemy Auletes died and left his kingdom in his will to his eighteen year old daughter, Cleopatra, and her younger brother Ptolemy XIII who was twelve at the time.” In an effort to determine the ultimate source of this essay, I googled that phrase.
Results: 1310 pages. Most of the sites lead in circles, and I’m somewhat stumped as to the ultimate origin of the article. But you can buy it for $12 from this site: http://www.freeessays.tv/a5879.htm (In which case you’d be quite an idiot if you did).
So though my student didn’t take my advice or learn the lessons of internet research, at least she didn’t plagiarize. Small mercies.
How many universities and colleges, I wonder, make ‘research skills’ a required course during the first term of a student’s career? I get discouraged sometimes in my own courses: not only do I have to teach the content, but I also find myself devoting enormous amounts of time to teaching remedial basic grammar, spelling, internet skills, library skills… the net effect is to take away from the content, from the subject, and I fear the marks that get awarded might ultimately reflect whether or not a student can string together reasonably grammatically correct and properly spelled thoughts (in comparison to his/her peers) rather than any deep knowledge of the subject…
What a depressing thought.
A student at Ryerson University is facing academic sanctions for his role in administering an online study group. To join the group, users were invited to post the answers to assigned questions – questions they were explicitly told to do on their own. From the Globe and Mail:
“Ryerson’s administration appears to have focused on Mr. Avenir’s main-page posting, which read: “If you request to join, please use the forms to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted.”"
I’d argue that there’s a difference between comparing the process by which answers are arrived at (as a legitimate study group might do), and putting the answers online for everyone to see. It’s interesting to observe how this is being covered in the media – many reporters put a spin on it saying in effect that the prof in question is old fashioned to be upset by this:
“Some have framed the debate as an issue of universities becoming uncomfortable as Internet innovation brings existing practices into new, more public arenas. But Ryerson spokesman and professor James Norrie said the online forum is irrelevant to the central question of whether misconduct occurred, and rejected the notion that new technology brings different standards.
“Ryerson University is not attempting to prevent the use of Facebook for appropriate learning,” he said. “The question is, do we want to hold people accountable for their online behaviour?”"
Bravo Prof. Norrie: new technologies do not change the standards of behaviour. If you don’t do your own work, it’s cheating, pure and simple, whether it’s done on-line or in the pub. If you did it in the pub though, you’d probably get away with it; putting it on facebook is plain silly: it’s there for everyone – including the prof – to see. When I taught media studies at the high school level, many students were shocked and astonished to know that Myspace, facebook, etc were not private. Indeed, if you put anything on the internet, (I taught them), you should expect eventually for it to be treated as public whether you intended it to be or not. It strikes me that in the Ryerson case, the student(s) acted as if the group were private, while the prof treated it as public. Nevertheless, whether the students believed it to be private or not, the fact remains that they were instructed to do the work on their own.
(I write this as someone who has to deal with cut-n-paste’d wikipedia articles masquerading as essays every bloody term… Frankly, if I could, I wouldn’t assign essays any more. (The literacy skills of many of my students just make me cringe, too.) What I’d love to do is assign this sort of thing: build and script a scenario for a game highlighting your understanding of the historical/social forces at play… not likely to happen, I know, I know….)