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A New Englander by birth and Brooklynite by current circumstance, I’m a graduate student at Princeton University working on a Ph.D. in American History. My dissertation project is an analysis of the politics of American trade with Asia in the years between the Revolution and the Civil War. I also teach a freshman seminar on writing at Princeton.

In my research, I’m interested in how commerce, and commercial ideas, influenced the way power was conceived and used in the early United States. I’m especially interested in how the real patterns and imagined possibilities of trade created, packaged, and transmitted information; part of what I’m up to in my dissertation is in figuring out the feedback loop between private trade, political ideology, and official policy. In terms of scholarly fields, I’m most engaged with the literatures on the history of politics, foreign relations, and capitalism.

  • On Like Donkey Kong: Discussing Games at THATCamp Jersey Shore 2011

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    Or, A few brief notes on “Games games games!”, a session which took place on Monday, April 4, 2011, a bit after lunch.

    It was a lively discussion, touching on how we experience games, how we analyze games, and how we might teach with games. Thanks to Stockton’s own Lisa Rosner, we even got some insight into how academic institutions are creating games to explain smallpox and vaccination in nineteenth-century Edinburgh!

    Experiencing Games
    Good humanists that we are, we came up with a wide range of things that games are/were/could be about: making choices; simulation; narratives; the experience of playing a character; an immersion in a particular physical space; or the pure pleasure of gathering tchotchkes (the “Pokémon” aspects of location-based services like GoWalla were mentioned). We largely agreed that any given game (especially the fun ones) would likely include parts of many of the above.

    Designing & Analyzing Games
    The conversation ranged a bit widely here, and so I’m sorry to say my notes are a bit more scattered; here are a few of the bon mots (paraphrased!) that flew fast and furious as we chewed over how best to analyze gaming experiences and use that analysis to craft new games:

    “What’s the logic of the historical documents? How can you represent that in the game?”
    “What’s the difference between failure and winning? What’s the failure mode?”
    “Process matters.”
    “A player eventually will focus on figuring out, and mastering the algorithm: so the algorithm has to be the thing you’re trying to get across.”

    Teaching Games
    Some ideas on teaching with games or incorporating game-like incentives into classroom activities included primary source or location-based scavenger hunts, team competition, and using geodesic dome planetariums to project a sense of space.

    Where now?
    The session ended with a discussion of how we might like to organize what we know about what’s being done: in a world with Google and social media, the consensus seemed to be that the “age of clearinghouses,” like the Serious Games Initiative was largely over. That said, a number of useful sites/people were mentioned, most of which were new to me:

    Ian Bogost / Persuasive Games

    Play the Past

    NEH “Humanities Gaming Institute,” Center for Digital Humanities, University of South Carolina, June 7-25, 2010

    “Games, Serious Play, and Digital Pedagogy,” THATCamp New England, June 10, 2010

    Thanks again to all who participated!

  • Thinking With and About Games:Proposal for a Convo @THATCamp JerseyShore

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    Hi everyone:

    Games and gaming ideas are everywhere these days – running through conversations about teaching, social media, law, and social justice. The ways conversations about games are happening seems to me to be interesting, too; hosts of popular gaming podcasts, journalists, and academic cultural critics are all part of the discussion in various ways — talking to each other, even —  something that strikes me as rare, if not unique, for a medium that is also a multi-billion dollar industry.

    So I think it might be fun and productive to use some of our time at THATCamp to think with, and about, games.

    There are bunch of different ways this kind of conversation could go. Are games good to teach with? That seems to be the philosophy beyond a recent spate of flash games sponsored by British cultural institutions on particularly nasty episodes in British history (Nelson at Trafalgar, the Opium War, the Battle of Hastings, etc). Can games change the world? That’s the question Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They can Change the World takes on. How should we critique games as cultural objects? That’s the theme that has launched a thousand podcasts and blogposts, as well as more explicitly academic projects like Kill Screen Magazine or The Brainy Gamer. In addition to these issues, the conversations around games seem to be engaging with a theme dear to the heart of digital humanities work: what’s the relationship (economic, political, emotional, or social) between creators and communities of users?

    The thesis here is that games, and the communities and industries they sustain, are potentially useful tools to think with; and the themes of the developing conversation about games seem to be parallel or perpendicular to those happening in the digital humanities world. At least, I suspect they are – but I’d like to hear what other and wiser heads besides mine think about all this.

    Anyone in?

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