Let’s write a textbook

I’ve been talking with the folks at Flatworld Knowledge about the kinds of textbooks they’re looking for, and it was suggested that a world history textbook might be just the ticket. These things are typically in two volumes – before and after 1500. Who wants to write a textbook?

To my mind, writing another textbook that does the usual roundup of periods/cultures is not perhaps useful. As the Barenaked Ladies are wont to say, ‘It’s all been done before! ‘ A new medium of producing, distributing a textbook – a medium that allows for the content to be remixed by instructors at the coal-face, to suit their needs (read Flatworld’s material for more on that) it seems to me, needs a new approach. The folks at Grand Text Auto did a blog-based peer review for this book; perhaps a new world history textbook could be written via blog-based posts & peer review? Also, could it be written in such a way as to foreground networks & connections between times, places, and peoples: a 21st century textbook? Horden and Purcell’s volume from a few years back is apposite here; also is Urry’s Sociology beyond Societies

…I’m just thinking out loud. Your thoughts?

70 000 views

With the birth of my daughter in March, and my new job at about the same time, my blogging pace and output have diminished considerably. But, this morning, according to the wordpress stats thingy, Electric Archaeology broke 70,000 unique views.

[balloons, streamers, fireworks: hurrah!]

Some metadata then:

Top ten posts:

Civilization IV World Builder Manual 7,483
Game Mods 2,561
Moodle + WordPress = Online University 1,986
Historical GIS and various Google Earth 1,405
About Shawn Graham 1,397
History Channel – Roman Battle Game 1,340
Publications & Conferences 929
Language Switcher for WordPress 916
Agent Models 871
Angel versus Moodle 826

These ten posts do capture pretty much what this blog is about.

Top referrers (I’ve deleted some that are obviously private reader software:

stoa.org 273
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ANGEL_Learning 212
emshort.wordpress.com 156
thepiratesrealm.com/Captain%20Kidd.ht… 125
Mediterraneanworld.typepad.com/the_ar… 109
middlesavagery.wordpress.com 108
edugamesblog.wordpress.com/2007/12/08… 99
netvibes.com 97
WordPress Dashboard 96
egyptology.blogspot.com 91

mediterraneanworld.typepad.com 77
ancientworldbloggers.blogspot.com 73

And finally, what does wordle have to say about this blog? Strangely – and sadly – I don’t see the word ‘archaeology’ anywhere, anymore…

Wordle: Electric Archaeology



2009 NAACSOS Annual Conference

October 23-24, 2009




This year our NAACSOS Annual Conference will he held on 23-24 October in Tempe, Arizona. It will be hosted by The Center of Social Dynamics and Complexity at Arizona State University.

Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity

Tempe, AZ 85287-4804

Over the past decade simulating social processes has achieved some level of credibility — and yet progress in this area is stifled because of the lack of agreement on several critical core features. The objective of the 2009 conference is to allow scientists the opportunity to present work in this area that extends and solidifies the legitimacy of this methodology. Specifically, the conference organizers are asking that presenters use their models to address some of the following:

· Platform selection

· Validation – using theoretical constructs or extant data

· Agent construction

· Designing social simulations experiments

· Integrating humans into simulations

· Integrating GIS and time into models

· Data reduction and analysis of simulation outcomes

· Integrating social network methods into simulation models

· Integrating feedback into agent behavior

· Agent and system evolution using agent cooperation and competition

· Integrating Individual based models from biology and ecology with agent based models

· Interfacing social simulation and social science theory construction

All fields of social and organizational inquiry are encouraged, including disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary work. Integrative research in computational social and organizational sciences is particularly encouraged.

Submission of Abstracts

Electronic submissions of abstracts (300 words maximum) will be through EasyChair (http://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=2009naacsos). The abstract should articulate the objectives of the presenter, a brief but thorough description of the research, and the expected gain by those attending the talk. Specific details about submission will posted on the conference website: http://www.asu.edu/clas/csdc/events/naacsos.html .

Important Dates
July 15, 2009: Deadline for submission of abstracts or proposed posters.
August 15, 2009: Acceptance/Rejection notification.
October 15, 2009: Final camera-ready abstracts due in electronic form. Accepted abstracts will be distributed to the conference participants.

Review process

All submissions will be peer reviewed by at least two reviewers. We will be accepting only those abstracts that indicate high quality research and are consistent with the objectives of the conference.

Conference Chair

William A. Griffin, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity

Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-4804

If you have questions please contact:

Lyn Mowafy, Coordinator
ASU Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity
IS&T Building 1, Room 412

Local Program Committee

Marco Janssen, Center for Institutional Diversity

Erik Johnston, Center for Policy Informatics

Masters and Doctoral Theses on Serious Games

A list maintained by Katrin Becker at SFU, ‘Serious Games Pathfinder‘:

The following is a list of Master’s and Doctoral theses that have been completed that have to do with serious games (and in some cases more broadly with digital games). Doctoral Theses are marked in bold. You can get more info on each thesis by clicking on the associated ‘details’ link.

Note: I am just starting to develop this list. So far, almost all the theses are Canadian ones. If anyone has a thesis they would like me to add, please let me know the following:

Name, Title, Year, Degree, Country, Institution, Department, Abstract, URL to the thesis (If you are willing, I’d like your nationality too).

Please send info on theses that are about DIGITAL GAMES ONLY (I am not interested in theses about Game Theory (i.e. math), ELearning, Virtual Spaces, Social Websites, Blogging, Graphics, AI, … UNLESS they specifically focus on applications to or for digital games)

I reproduce below the listing she has for 2008:


details Applications of CSP solving in computer games (camera control) Ali, Mohammed Liakat
details The invention of good games: understanding learning design in commercial video games Becker, Katrin
details Gamers as learners: Emergent culture, enculturation, and informal learning in massively multiplayer online games Chu, Sarah
details Consistency Maintenance for Multiplayer Video Games Fletcher, Robert D. S
details Homeless: It’s No Game – Measuring the Effectiveness of a Persuasive Videogame Lavender, Terrance
details The “Heat Game”: an augmented reality game for scientific literacy Rees, Carol
details Beyond Fun and Games: 
Interactive Theatre and Serious Videogames with Social Impact Shyba, Lori
details Believability, Adaptivity, and Performativity: Three Lenses for the Analysis of Interactive Storytelling. Tanenbaum, Joshua Glen
details Adolescent problem gambling: relationship with affect regulation, Internet addiction, and problematic video game playing Taylor, Robyn N
details Video game expertise and visual search and discrimination Wu, Sijing
details Computer-aided exercise Yim, Jeffrey W.H

The NetherNet No More

Goodbye Nethernet

What happened? It’s all gone…. my missions, my data points, a truly innovative use of the web… disparu. The only notification I got was when a wandering group of internet refugees contacted me:

Meanwhile I [dav2] am on
a quest
to find out why PMOG failed, and what can be done about it.
PMOG was a fascinating idea to take the drive of gameplayers (videogamers) and channel
all that energy into sifting the internet, doing productive reaserch.

A core of disgruntled and hopeful former users can be found at


A most useful post on the official gamelayers site:

GameLayers has retired The Nethernet. A hearty thanks to all our players, rivals and allies alike! Stay tuned as GameLayers prepares to announce their next project.

Way to go, GameLayers. See if I invest any time, energy, or free publicity blogging about your stuff, ever again.

(some) Top Ten Tips for Online Instructors

I’ve been working as a ‘faculty specialist’ for a number of months now. That is, not only do I train new faculty on our systems, expectations, and how to facilitate online courses, I also serve as our online faculty’s first point of contact for any help they need in their courses. This can range from the merely technical to dealing with student or faculty conduct issues.

In these last few months, I think I’ve probably dealt with over 500 unique issues, and have trained upwards of 100 new faculty. Phew! It’s been busy.

I’ve ‘visited’ several different classrooms during that time, and I think that the best learning experiences have been conducted by those faculty who hit a lot of the following points:

10 – they know the platform. There’s a steep learning curve for any new student in an online classroom. They’re nervous. What happens if they put their assignment in the wrong place? A good instructor keeps an eye on the questions forum, responds to email, and is patient with her students: she knows the LMS platform, and they understand where the issues will be for the new student.

9 – they are patient. The same questions will be asked again and again, since many students will not read the responses given to other students in the public fora!

8 – they can empathize. Your students are working from home, nights, after a long day at their job. They need to know that the instructor understands where they’re coming from.

7 – they are consistent. From elementary school to grad school, nothing causes more friction in a class than an inconsistent application of the rules.

6 – the rules are clear. Boundaries have to be set. What are the standards for behavior? What constitutes ‘participation’ online? When are due dates? What will happen if those due dates are missed?

5 – tone. Tone online is the easiest thing to misjudge. Your dry rapier wit will not come across to someone used to treating emails in the same fashion as regular mail. Use the emoticon. Even an appropriate LOL (but never ROFL, that’s just silly) can help.

4 – humor. Keep it light. The students are dealing with the material, their home lives, their mortgages, whatever. The last thing they need is to log on for two hours each day and have some remote person bludgeon them with ALL CAPS underlines and what have you.

3 – sandwich the things that didn’t go so well on an assignment between the things that were well done: soften the blow. You want to keep your students motivated. Don’t focus on the negative. Deal with it, but take pains to find the good as well.

2 – respond. The internet has conditioned everyone to expect instantaneous responses. Does this mean that you have to sleep with your computer? Not at all. But set the ground rules for how quickly a student can expect a response, and then adhere to it. If the student knows that you’re in the field and can only be online every third day, they will respect that, and not panic: but only if you tell them first.

1 – be a real person. You will get abuse, intolerant emails, and downright rudeness in emails. When a screen mediates the contact between students and instructors, it is quite easy for a student (and, unfortunately, an instructor) to type out that barbed comment and hit send without a second thought. Take pains to pull that screen down. Make yourself ‘real’ to your students. You do this by always addressing them by name. Perhaps you set up a video chat via skype. Perhaps a conference call. Read their personal bios. Ask about their kids. Establish, and maintain, a real relationship. This is the single greatest thing you can do to ensure the success of your distance and online students.

And once you’ve done all that, you can start to think about how to address learning styles, presenting material in ways that make sense for instance to visual learners (I think wordle might have a role here). But that’s a post for another day.

The Ancient History Encyclopedia

Jan van der Crabben is a name you might be familiar with if you’ve played any of the mods or other community-built content for Civilization IV. Jan has a new project under way, called ‘The Ancient History Encyclopedia‘, and he’s looking for content and editors. And, in a lovely twist not often seen, he’s willing to pay contributors. His note is below:

The goal is to become the number one source of information on ancient history — for students, academics, enthusiasts, and the general public alike.

I believe that this is achievable due to our unique way of presenting information: The website is centered around tags (which are essentially the entries in a printed encyclopedia), with each tag having a definition, articles, a timeline, illustrations, and external links / book references displayed. Like this, one finds several different kinds of information at the same time, in a modern format. When you visit the website, you will be able to see this organization best on the “Babylon” page, simply because it is the page with the most content at the moment.

The website address is http://www.ancientopedia.com and I would be happy if you could visit it and have a look. Please be aware that it’s far from complete! There isn’t very much content yet, we clearly need a lot more content to make this website a success. Also, you are among the first people to be using this website, so there might still be bugs. If something doesn’t work, or doesn’t work as you would expect, please email me what you were doing, what happened, and why it’s not what you expected.

Please register at the website (the “Register” link is at the top), and start adding content wherever you can! Content is submitted through the website, using the existing online forms. You can add/edit a definition, an article, or an illustration. You can also contribute timeline entries. Look for the “Add”, “Edit”, and “Upload” buttons in the relevant sections of the site (generally on the right of the section headline).

You can choose what you want to write about… We need definitions, articles, and illustrations. Please be careful not to infringe on any copyright, so only submit your own work. Of course you are allowed to submit work that you’ve already written, as long as you hold the copyright to it (this might be a grey area if it’s published in an academic publication, for example). You can also submit work that falls under a Creative Commons or GFDL license (such as images from Wikipedia), as long as it is attributed and licensed correctly. Please do not copy & paste any text from Wikipedia or other websites, only images are fine to copy under a CC or GFDL license.

All content that you submit is reviewed and possibly edited. Before the review process is complete and your content has been approved it will not show up on the website. So if you don’t see something you’ve written, be patient. If it doesn’t show up within a few days, please contact me. There will be a more formal system that allows the contributors and editors to communicate through the website in the future.

The website makes money through book sales (via Amazon, we get a commission), as well as advertisements (which aren’t online yet). As I’ve mentioned before, the 100 first contributions will be paid at a rate of US $10 per article and US $5 per definition. For definitions, only new definitions are paid, edits do not count. You will be paid when the initial paid submission period is over and we’ve got 100 contributions. Payment will be conducted via PayPal. After the initial paid phase, you will be able to earn advertising revenue on your content using Google AdSense and possibly other revenue sources.

There are no deadlines: You can submit work at any time, on any subject you choose (subject to review). The more you submit, the more money will you receive. :-)

I did ask him how he feels this will differ from Wikipedia, which is pretty solid on many things ancient. He responds that it is in the backend, and in how the information is served up with the ancillary materials. I’ve explored a bit, and I like that for any given article you can see who authored it; a little difference there with the big W; perhaps some sort of reputation-tracking mechanism would be useful. One thing I noticed is the feed from Amazon will serve up ‘pyramidiot’ and other nonsense they classify as ‘ancient history’ – 2012 anyone?  I don’t know how well those materials can be filtered before they’re displayed.

Check it out. I’m always ready to applaud new initiatives that make our subject better known to the wider world – good on you, Jan!