This post contains a research proposal I wrote in 2008 for a project to involve virtual worlds that I never completed. This proposal would be changed to become the main experiment I did with the Roskilde University Virtual Worlds Research Group. If anyone is interested in building off this proposal, then please contact me. Sense-making and users’ experiences with avatars: How knowledge is constructed of … Continue reading Sense-Making and Avatars Research Proposal
Edited by Christopher Olson (Seems Obvious to Me) and myself, Bloomsbury Academic will release Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectators and Spectatorship on February 25, 2016. Making Sense of Cinema is an anthology collecting empirical studies that display different methods for studying real film spectators engaging with real films. Film studies has had a tradition of theorizing the nature of film and … Continue reading Making Sense of Cinema Anthology
The following paper comes from a presentation given at ECREA in 2010 and at NCA in 2011 (the version of which can be found here on the blog). I submitted this paper to a journal, but never did anything with it after it was rejected. I still think there are interesting ideas in the paper, so I wanted to share it here.
Metaphors for making sense of virtual worlds:
Utilization of comparison processes to interpret and communicate novel experiences
How do we make sense of the world around us? When faced with a situation that is new to us, what do we do to understand what is happening and what is required of us? Such questions have been with us for thousands of years, whether faced by individuals within such situations, or addressed by organized scientific, philosophic, cultural or other fields of thought. Coming from a trajectory of reception studies and audience studies, these situations can be any time a person chooses a new book to read, watches a new motion picture, starts a new video game, or enters a virtual world for the first time. In engaging in these activities, people bring into the situation any number or type of cognitive and emotive behaviours to help them through it. From expectations based on knowledge of the media product’s genre to information gleaned from word-of-mouth critiques, our experiences can help us make sense of the content and the technology with which we engage.
This article considers how people utilized their personal experiences to make sense of the first time they stepped into two specific virtual worlds. In an experiment for the Danish Virtual Worlds Research Project, relative novices engaged with four types of media products, including a game world, City of Heroes, and a social world, Second Life (Reinhard, 2010). The participants were interviewed about their experiences by utilizing Dervin’s Sense-Making Methodology (SMM) to inform the data collection and analysis. What emerged during the study were participants making comparisons between what they were doing and either what they had done or knew of to make sense of these new experiences. In other words, they were describing their experiences metaphorically: they were making comparative statements linking two entities based on some perceived similarity or dissimilarity. They were looking for overlaps between experiences in order to transfer knowledge and/or skills from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
This article begins with defining the nature of the virtual worlds and the conceptualization of sense-making. After an introduction of the methodology and method of data collection and analysis, the metaphors are presented for how they relate to specific sense-making instances: the questions people voiced, and how they felt helped or hindered in the media engaging experience. The analysis is then used to discuss the utility of metaphors as part of the sense-making process, and how the study of people’s metaphors could assist designers to create technology and content to better facilitate people’s experiences with virtual worlds.
Along with my thoughts on the encoding-decoding-recoding model, what follows comes from my dissertation on gendered media engagings and describes how I consider the fundamental elements of media reception and audience studies.
What are media products?
Media products are the technologies, channels and contents that constitute our understanding of what is ‘the media’. They are the items produced for the purposes of disseminating meaning in the form of information, whether or not it is deemed to be entertaining, from one person to other(s). All three aspects are necessary in order to transmit meaning from sender to receiver; that is, a media product exists as some combination of the three. Thus, for example, the media product Orange is the New Black is a specific content that exists only in the Netflix channel which utilizes online technology. When these three aspects converge, we can analyze them as ‘texts’ in that they are created by human beings to serve human beings and are thus imprinted with the meaning-making processes of human beings that can be decoded.
Part of the process of understanding the phenomenon of fractured fandom is to gather stories that thematically reveal its nature, such as my ongoing analysis of how My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans reacted to the feature film Equestria Girls and its soon-to-be sequel Rainbow Rocks. The more stories we can gather, then the more we can learn (tweet your stories with #fracturedfandom, whether the … Continue reading Problems with Perceptions in Fandom
(This post originally appeared on Clearance Bin Review. I am reposting it here given my interest in studying the morality of superheroes as well as my interest in understanding how people make sense of texts as they engage with them. I also believe there is something to be said about the importance of the nature of the media technology through which the content is displayed; understanding the … Continue reading The Oddness of Old Comic Books