TED Conversations

Gary Riccio

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Community Organization and Impact in Online Games

We would like to have a conversation about interpersonal interactions and relationships within the communities that organize around online games. Our intent is to create a "natural laboratory" for this TED conversation by grounding the conversation in contemporaneous experiences of gamers that both reflect and influence the attendant community experiences. We are exploring this as a form of "participatory journalism" (see e.g., http://bit.ly/MgDdwA)

Use your browser (not the search utility in the panel at the upper left of this page) to find key words that will direct you to important topics in this conversation to date. Visitors can then reply to the relevant post or write an "original post" (OP).

* raw person or raw individual
* identity or persona or self
* self efficacy
* leadership

* engagement
* communication
* second-person standpoint
* communities or commitment

* respawn or one-life or lobbies
* mental health and wellness
* hard conversations
* civic hacking or civil hacking

* friends
* teach or learn
* civilized
* the long tail

Community interactions also can be interesting and consequential outside the context of the gameplay around which the community organizes. We believe this potential for games is poorly understood by the general public. Yet there is an intense and general curiosity about what occurs in the interactions among gamers and in the impact of gameplay in society.

Our claim is that there is "no neutral" in the effects of significant interpersonal interactions that occur in online games. Games have prosocial effects or antisocial effects irrespective of genre (e.g., first-person shooter games).

We are exploring this topic in a variety of forums such as:
http://griccio2103b.wordpress.com (e.g., tags: prosocial, violence),
http://www.thedivisionigr.com/3-cs.html
https://medium.com/@URBN_SCIENCE
https://twitter.com/URBN_SCIENCE

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Closing Statement from Gary Riccio

Our stated intent for this TED Conversation was "to create a natural laboratory for this TED conversation by grounding the conversation in contemporaneous experiences of gamers that both reflect and influence the attendant community experiences."

We refer to this kind of conversation as "diaβlogue." This is distinguished from a web-Based LOG of one’s own ephemeral opinions. A diaβlogue utilizes multiple communication platforms to create a distributed and decentralized collaboratory for systematic development of capabilities. It thus is a synthesis of best practices in “continuous beta” and "open innovation" (see http://tinyurl.com/Riccio-diaBlogue).

A diaβlogue removes walls between insiders and outsiders, it tends to eliminate the distance between presence and remoteness, and it blurs the distinction between first-hand and second-hand experience insofar as it provides all networked participants with inescapable accountability for their impact on each other and on their respective situations.

This TED Conversation built on what had been mostly oral communication between behavioral/social scientists and informants in and around a particular online game community over a two-year period. It has created a collaborative journal that is open to the public and, to the extent it is edifying, for the public good.

The TED Conversation did, in fact, both reflect and influence the contemporaneous experiences of gamers in the Division IGR. This collateral impact is documented at www.thedivisionigr.com as well as https://twitter.com/D_IGR and https://www.facebook.com/THEDIVISIONIGR?ref=hl. We believe we thus have made some progress in developing or at least promulgating a new form of participatory science journalism (http://bit.ly/MgDdwA).

While our intent was to build bridges between communities of practice rather than to draw a large audience, we are pleased that the open conversation has drawn outside interest ranging from "Linked Wellness" to "Blended Learning."

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    Mar 7 2014: This past week, the conversation pivoted on testimonials about the value of video games in personal development and wellness. This led to links with other TED Conversations and TED Talks ranging from social action to education. In this respect, it is useful to point out that my participatory scientific journalism in online game communities evolved out of the convergence of two lines of research.

    One line of research, to which Morgan Darwin and Scott Flanagan alluded in their interviews on Science in the Wild (see links in prior post), addressed leader development in ecosystems of training and education characterized by a loose weave of nested communities of practice. See http://www.scribd.com/doc/40321956

    The other line of research addressed web-based instructional technology for blended learning that enabled outside experts to make expeditious and relevant contributions to a program of instruction, while from a distance, that approached the quality of guidance provided by a mentor with deep knowledge of the context for a learner as protege. See http://www.scribd.com/doc/41888356

    The connection we see is that engagement with people at a distance can be as meaningful as when people are present in the same physical environment if there is visibility into the context that can both reflect and influence the interpersonal interactions and thus that provide inescapable accountability for the influence of participants on each other as well as their respective context. This blurs distinctions between first-hand and second-hand experience as well as between presence and remoteness. The more important characteristic is the second-person standpoint discussed in earlier posts.
    • Mar 8 2014: Building on your comment regarding "web-based instructional technology for blended learning" and Socrates Window: Being able to bring real life experiences into the classroom is important in showing the students how the techniques and procedures they are being taught can actually be implemented. The ability to _Leverage The Long Tail_ (as in Web 2.0) to reach those outside experts who can bring niche experiences to a teaching environment is very powerful. It seems counter intuitive as most of the time we see The Long Tail being used to push a product from a single location out to those niche consumers, where as here we are using the Web to reach niche producers in order to bring their experiences into a _single location_ - the classroom. (Of course, the classroom itself can be online reaching out to niche consumers of education.) These techniques allow the community to change from a simple one-to-many (teacher-to-students) relationship to a many-to-many relationship (mentors/teacher-to-students).
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        Mar 10 2014: Some background on Dr. Digby's insightful post:

        While massive open online courses (MOOC) will get the most traffic and notoriety for an individual site, for example, most people on the web as such will be involved in extremely decentralized transactions between small numbers of producers and consumers of knowledge (and, more generally, any kind of product or service, and between all types of influencers and those influenced). This is the "long tail" (of a power law distribution), a term attributed to Clay Shirky.

        "Power law distributions, the shape that has spawned a number of catch-phrases like the 80/20 Rule and the Winner-Take-All Society, are finally being understood clearly enough to be useful... we know that power law distributions tend to arise in social systems where many people express their preferences among many options... counter-intuitive aspect of power laws is that most elements in a power law system are below average, because the curve is so heavily weighted towards the top performers...

        the long tail of weblogs with few readers will become conversational. In a world where most bloggers get below average traffic, audience size can't be the only metric for success... it can keep far better track of friend and group relationships... In between blogs-as-mainstream-media and blogs-as-dinner-conversation will be Blogging Classic, blogs published by one or a few people, for a moderately-sized audience, with whom the authors have a relatively engaged relationship...

        Because of the continuing growth of the weblog world, more blogs in the future will follow this pattern than today. However, these blogs will be in the minority for both traffic (dwarfed by the mainstream media blogs) and overall number of blogs (outnumbered by the conversational blogs.)""

        (extracted 10MAR2014 from: http://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html, Clay Shirky, "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality," first published February 8, 2003).
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        Mar 10 2014: See also Chris Anderson's article on "The Long Tail" in Wired (Issue 12.10 - October 2004) at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

        "For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution...

        What's really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it. Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits... most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another. Google, for instance, makes most of its money off small advertisers (the long tail of advertising), and eBay is mostly tail as well - niche and one-off products. By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale, just as Rhapsody and Amazon have, Google and eBay have discovered new markets and expanded existing ones...

        This is the power of the Long Tail."
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        Mar 10 2014: I believe the concept of "aggregation" (e.g., to which Chris Anderson referred) is the key to understanding Gareth's insight. As the long tail extends to smaller and smaller niches, it becomes clear that we are not simply referring to markets comprised of individuals (e.g., demographics). In addition, we are considering markets that are needs even within individuals. Individuals, as consumers, bundle (aggregate) products or services to satisfy a variety of their individual needs. The internet gives consumers almost unlimited potential for such aggregation. Aggregation even can extend to connections with significant others in adjacent markets (e.g., friends and relatives who have a stake in the value provided by a variety of products and services).

        The implication is that there is an unprecedented opportunity for intermediaries, as aggregators, to help consumers with this need of needs. Intermediaries can be people or technology, most likely both. They are "socio-technical." They are people with whom consumers (and providers) will have what Shirky prescribed as a "relatively engaged relationship." Intermediaries must understand context. It may be that the fast route to this intermediation is to be(come) intimately involved in a variety of the offerings in the "conversational" long tail.

        The connection I am seeing between Gareth's insight and this TED conversation over the last week is that the interpersonal interactions and engaged relationships in online game communities can be an informative model for internet-mediated teacher-student interactions and for any business that seeks to utilize social media in an inspired approach to gamification and management of social context that has a powerful effect on the customer experience. For online game communities to become an "informative model," however, we must come to understand them more deeply. We must come to understand what kinds of conversation foster an engaged relationship mediated by the internet and how.
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        Mar 12 2014: Gareth, wow, quite the conversation you've sparked. What amazing content. I will no doubt be revisiting this segment.

        Gary wrote: "the interpersonal interactions and engaged relationships in online game communities can be an informative model for internet-mediated teacher-student interactions and for any business that seeks to utilize social media in an inspired approach to gamification and management of social context that has a powerful effect on the customer experience. For online game communities to become an "informative model," however, we must come to understand them more deeply. We must come to understand what kinds of conversation foster an engaged relationship mediated by the internet and how."

        Bravo!!!

        For us, the "conversation" revolves around persona development and the untapped potential of community play: http://www.thedivisionigr.com/citizenship.html

        And, the "how" centers on a Gamer Bill of Rights, or a consensus of shared values and purpose: http://www.thedivisionigr.com/constitutions.html

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