CSCW2015 GATECH Engaging Participation Patterns In World Without Oil

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Read the excerpt Chang_Games.pdf and write a short (~300 word) response.

Read the excerpt from p1872-jafarinaimi.pdf and write a short (~300 word) response.

Response should address the following:
1. Who is the author? Who are they writing for and/or against?
2. Identify and quote a main claim from the reading that you agree or disagree with. Explain your position. (Include the page number, so that you can refer back to this quote later.)
3. Offer an example of the kind of evidence the author uses to support this claim. Is it convincing?


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Games and Virtual Worlds CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada Collective Intelligence or Group Think? Engaging Participation Patterns in World without Oil Nassim JafariNaimi School of Literature, Media, and Communication Georgia Institute of Technology 85 5th ST NW, Atlanta, GA nassim@gatech.edu Eric M. Meyers The iSchool@UBC University of British Columbia 1961 East Mall, Vancouver, BC eric.meyers@ubc.ca ABSTRACT This article presents an analysis of participation patterns in an Alternate Reality Game, World Without Oil. This game aims to bring people together in an online environment to reflect on how an oil crisis might affect their lives and communities as a way to both counter such a crisis and to build collective intelligence about responding to it. We present a series of participation profiles based on a quantitative analysis of 1554 contributions to the game narrative made by 322 players. We further qualitatively analyze a sample of these contributions. We outline the dominant themes, the majority of which engage the global oil crisis for its effects on commute options and present micro-sustainability solutions in response. We further draw on the quantitative and qualitative analysis of this space to discuss how the design of the game, specifically its framing of the problem, feedback mechanism, and absence of subject-matter expertise, counter its aim of generating collective intelligence, making it conducive to groupthink. Author Keywords Alternate Reality Games; Participation; Collective Intelligence; Groupthink ACM Classification Keywords H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI): Miscellaneous. INTRODUCTION Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are a specific set of games that are based on collaborative problem solving and storytelling. These games have been part of the gaming landscape since around 2001 as transmedia entertainment or promotional pieces for product launches [10, 13, 14]. Recently, a second wave of ARGs seeks to address societal issues (e.g., poverty and hunger) through widespread collaboration. It’s been argued that such environments are a Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from Permissions@acm.org. CSCW '15, March 14 - 18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Copyright 2015 ACM 978-1-4503-2922-4/15/03…$15.00. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2675133.2675258 powerful means of engaging participants in awarenessbuilding, collective intelligence, and participatory forms of learning [11, 16, 17]. However, much the current literature on the success of ARGs relies heavily on the observations of ARG designers and developers [e.g., 6, 17] as opposed to empirical evidence of player participation (with few exceptions such as [20, 23, 24]). If we are to take the claims of ARG proponents seriously, we need to address key questions, among them: what are the kinds of engagement fostered in these environments?; and are these engagements generative of collective intelligence and innovative problem solving? This paper presents a study of one ARG, World Without Oil (WWO), seeking to address the above questions. Based on quantitative analysis of player responses, we put forward a set of participation profiles that characterize different levels of engagement. We further analyze a sample of these contributions by thematically coding their content. We outline the dominant themes, the majority of which engage the global oil crisis for its effects on commute options and present micro-sustainability solutions in response. This paper’s contribution is multifaceted. Through the case study of WWO, we critically engage one of the key arguments in support of ARGs: that they are environments generative of collective intelligence. Based on this study, we illustrate that the narrative is dominated by a limited set of themes and a small group of highly active participants including the designers of the game who refer to themselves as puppet masters. We further discuss the characteristics that run counter to the objective of collective intelligence, making the environment susceptible to groupthink. Based on this study, we highlight a set of design considerations that are key in success of ARGs if they are to avoid the problems related to groupthink, among them: balancing the number of players with different participation profiles; including the voice of subject matter experts; encouraging critical thinking alongside cooperative and collaborative practices; and provision of markers for players to distinguish reality from fiction and facts from misinformation. In doing so, we contribute to existing research on the social aspects of gaming as well as the larger scholarship on (mediated) group interactions and online communities. 1872 Games and Virtual Worlds CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada BACKGROUND AND PREVIOUS WORK ARGs are multi-player narratives that involve online and offline participation, using a variety of tasks, challenges, puzzles, and prompts to engage players in co-constructing a fictional scenario. One or more “puppet masters” guide the narrative and serve as architects of user participation, often drawing on player engagement to alter the narrative flow, encourage specific forms of participation, or redirect player efforts. As a kind of emergent, interactive problem-based story, the ARG genre combines elements of live action roleplay, transmedia storytelling, and cooperative games. Gurzick and colleagues [9, 10] suggest that ARGs are a type of self-organizing collective, similar in some ways to Wikipedia and other open content development spaces. Analyzing the characteristics of ARGs may lend insights to the development of new gaming experiences as well as organizational groupware systems. One of the key characteristics of ARGs is that they require players to perform tasks or act in the world and then document and report these actions in response to the fictional “situations” that are presented to them. The online and offline components constitute different kinds of engagement that may be considered a kind of “move”. Some moves are public, as when a player documents or responds to the game through social media, a blog post, or a public action at the prompt of other players or the puppet masters. Some of these moves may be private, as when a player changes his awareness, behavior, or attitude concerning the topic of game play. The moves, in aggregate, constitute the narrative of the game. One can argue that multiple narratives are created in this process: the personal or private narrative, comprised of the individual’s self-constructed “story” of the game and their part in it, and the social or public narrative, which is the combined effort of all the players including the puppet masters. The interplay between these public and private narratives is where ARGs have the potential to be rich spaces for innovation and knowledge building. As players engage in reflection on their own moves and the moves of others, they are experiencing a form of learning through individual and collective storytelling and listening [5]. The quality of this learning depends on the level and quality of the participatory opportunities offered by the game narrative, and the extent to which players engage with the narrative and each other [12]. Thus, analyzing participation patterns in these collaborative narratives is an important aspect of understanding whether or not ARGs live up to dominant discourse, which presents them as sources of collective intelligence. More specifically, the discourse around ARGs echoes one of the most dominant themes of social tools and web 2.0 celebrating the power and wisdom of the ‘crowds’ [e.g., 3, 27, 29]. ARGs present a specific interpretation of collective intelligence: collaborative and creative environments that bring people together to solve real-world problems [e.g., 4, 5]. Drawing on the work of Pierre Levy, Jane McGonigal, one of the prominent advocates of ARGs, argues that members of a collective intelligence would work with the collected facts and viewpoints to actively author, discover and invent new, computer-fueled ways of thinking, strategizing, and coordinating [18, 15, 17]. However, while the diversity and talents of group members can be a great resource for collaborative problem solving, such groups are susceptible to group think, a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, and members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action [12]. In this study, we examine this challenge in WWO and discuss some of the design strategies that can potentially counter groupthink. WORLD WITHOUT OIL World Without Oil is a massively collaborative imagining of the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis. Designed by Ken Eklund (Creative Director) and Jane McGonigal (Participation Architect), the game aims to bring people together around a shared concern, namely getting them to reflect and share insights about oil dependence with the aim of devising plausible and effective courses of action in response to an "oil shock" scenario. Two aims are central to the design of WWO: one, that individuals can initiate change if they are motivated; two, that difficult problems can be solved by a diverse group of people coming together to share their individual perspectives and come up with innovative solutions to encounter the situation, the sum of which leads to a kind of collective intelligence. In what follows we describe the design of the game in detail. Design Scenario The game’s main site of interaction is the website worldwithoutoil.org. As noted earlier, the game is built around the premise that an oil shock arrived on April 30, 2007. Starting with the initial news that “gas prices have risen to $71,” the puppet masters shared the day-to-day news of a global oil shock on the website. Each day of the game represented a week of the imagined crisis with the unfolding events simulating eight months of an imagined crisis. For the period of 32 days, the puppet masters, who also acted as game characters, shared fake but realistic news, stories, commentary, resources, and activities related to the unfolding of the oil shock. Players were challenged to respond in creative ways. They were asked to share stories about how their lives were affected and strategies they employed to confront the crisis. Their stories were incorporated into the narrative in concert with the ones created by the puppet masters, to which others players could react and respond. 1 $7/gallon is roughly three times the average price of gasoline in the U.S. in 2007. 1873 Games and Virtual Worlds CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada Areas: The area rankings are based on a combination of how much and how cool is the stuff people in the area are doing, and how many people from the area are doing anything. […] Participation To facilitate various forms of contribution, the game environment did not set limitations on participation. Anyone could register to play and contribute to the collective narrative. There were also no limitations about entering or exiting the game or any requirements as to the intensity of participation such as a minimum or maximum number of entries. One could participate with one post, or a series of posts. Similarly, people could choose to participate through the communication method of their choice. As a result, some wrote on their weblogs or made videos or images. Others played by email or called a number to share their stories. Lastly, there were no rules about what people should say or do in relationship to the game. One of the main features of the game is a series of missions designed to help players make actual changes and act in response to the simulated crisis. On the game’s website, missions are described as creative, real-world actions that respond to our new world without oil. The game designers (i.e., its puppet masters), who also took part in the game as characters, assigned most of the missions. Players could also set up new missions to which other players and puppet masters could respond. Interface On the homepage, the game is explained in detail, including pages outlining its history and how-to play guides. The main areas that draw attention on the homepage are the dashboard, a white banner at the top of the site which details the oil prices of the day (representing a week of the crisis), followed by the first few sentences of the main scenario of the week, together with links for joining the game and reading the blog. On the left, there is a banner with the list of all the weeks’ contributions, putting the highest-ranking posts on the top. One webpage is dedicated to each day of the game. On this webpage we see an “update” of the news of that week posted by the designers. These stories set the theme for each day of the game. Following the updates, all the posts by the players are included in (seemingly) chronological order. Feedback The dashboard included responses from players in different regions based on the level of activity and whether responses are positive (e.g., positive forecasts, cooperative strategies, actively reducing daily oil consumption) or negative (e.g. reporting a darker turn of events, focusing on competition, or difficulties to adapt to low energy consumption) [16, p. 307]. Players are also ranked based on the frequency of their contributions and what appears to be a subjective rating of the quality of their contribution by the designers. The website explains: Scores: The way people get a higher score depends on what they contribute, and how often.[…] There is a certain amount of furry logic though, not to mention I suspect some of my colleagues will succumb to arm twisting and go in and fiddle with the scores :( Aim 1. Positive Behavior Change The first concept central to the design of WWO is that individuals are creative and capable of initiating change. However, in real life they lack the motivation to take action. As a result, the game aims to provide motivation and remove the negative pressures associated with making changes in real life. According to McGonigal, real life can be “fixed” by creating scenarios and reward systems that motivate people to act in more positive ways. These scenarios can be applied to a range of tasks and activities ranging from household chores to “saving the world” [16]. Aim 2. Collective Intelligence The second concept that is central to the design of WWO is the ability of a diverse group of people with different life experiences to devise innovative solutions to complex problems. Being experts in their own needs, it is individuals who can best imagine how their everyday practices might change in a hypothetical situation such as an oil crisis. By engaging in realistic scenarios and stories, players are contributing to a collective intelligence on the issue of oil dependence. Through their participation, players raise their awareness of environmental issues and devise innovative strategies to lessen their dependence on oil. At the same time, the entire community can learn from the players’ responses because they present a diversity of ways that one might prepare for and/or survive in a world without oil. Summarized in the words of Jane McGonigal, “World without Oil would give players firsthand insight into a plausible future, help them prepare for, or even prevent, its worst outcomes. The game would create a collective record of how a real peak-oil scenario might play out — a kind of survival guide for the future, a record of tremendous value for educators, policy makers and organizations of all kinds.” METHOD According to the WWO website, over 1,900 people signed up as players of WWO, and submitted over 1,500 stories with over 60,000 active observers [16]. However, these numbers tell us very little about the character of participation, and how individual contributors shaped the game narrative. To better understand participation patterns at a granular level, we constructed a database of participant contributions–an aggregate record of the game narrative– that we could explore quantitatively and qualitatively. Basic metadata about participation in the game is hosted in two places: on the archived WWO site itself and an offsite archive set up by the game designers in partnership with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. While the WWO site still exists, many of the links to the original posts are no 1874 Games and Virtual Worlds CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada more posts (at least every third day of the simulation on average), accounting for 827 posts. Figure 1: Total number of entries per day versus days passed longer valid. The game archive captured 94% of the content from the posts made during the game’s active period of 32 days (with some gaps most likely related to participants deleting their own posts prior to the construction of the archive). Our database includes 86 audio files, 1165 blog entries, 117 images, 114 emails, and 75 videos. We used linked relational databases, MS Excel, and SPSS 22 to identify a set of participation profiles based on several criteria: post types, frequency of contribution, and distribution of contributions, both in relation to the game sequence and each other. We used contextual factors, including URLs, location IDs, and other trace data to identify, where possible, when the same person(s) made contributions with slightly different UserIDs. This quantitative analysis was complemented by a qualitative study of a random set of 232 entries from this set (15%). In what follows we describe these analyses in detail. QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS It has been noted that WWO attracted 60,000 unique views, and over 1500 contributions from players across several continents [16]. At face value, these are impressive numbers. However, exploring the participation patterns in detail, we see that engaged participation was not as broad as these numbers might suggest. Furthermore, our analysis reveals high attrition rates among participants early in the simulation, and a small number of contributors authoring the majority of the narrative. The overall trend in contributions shows a sharp decline at the beginning, with the first day being the highest participation rate, strong declines over the first five days, then steady decline in posting with a brief uptick at the end (Figure 1). If we use contributions to the game narrative as one measure of engagement, we can identify three groups: limited, moderate and high engagement. We considered limited engagement 4 or fewer posts (an average of once per week of the simulation or less); 227 of the 308 participants (excluding WWO puppetmasters) fall into this category, accounting for 367 posts. Moderate engagement was set at 5–9 contributions to the game; 38 participants engaged at this level, accounting for 244 posts. There were 43 high-engagement players, those who submitted 10 or With an open game narrative like WWO, one would expect there to be more persons interested in observing the simulation than active players constructing the narrative. However, we see the ratio of contributing participants to lurkers even smaller than expected. The 30 most frequent participants (top 10% by number of posts) accounted for roughly 50% o ...
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