LIST OF MAIN PROJECTS AND ESSAYS During Master studies: › Thesis statement and presentation: “The historical search of European identity and its role in the course of the European Union towards Integration”, under the supervision of head of the Department, Prof. Yangos Andreadis. (grade 9/10) › Group project: “The formation of meanings and social relationships through communication practices in knowledge-intensive organisations. – Case study: a theatrical team”. Prof. Ioanna Tsivacou (grade 9/10) › Individual project: “Forms of cultural diplomacy in the government work of Alexander the Great”. Prof. Christodoulos Yallourides (grade 10/10) › Individual project: “Society of tolerance. The issue of special groups.” Prof. Stefanos Rozanis (grade 9/10) › Individual project: “Ancient pagan traditions in Christian Easter”. Prof. Yangos Andreadis (grade 9/10) › Individual project: “Freedom of expression and science. Case study: The Holocaust denial/revisionism”. Prof. Daphne Voudouri (grade 10/10) During Bachelor studies: › Thesis statement: “The culture of youngsters in Greece and the potential of cultural change». Prof. Ioanna Tsivacou (grade 9/10) › Group project: “The image of the USA through the war in Iraq. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of the greek media war coverage”. Ass.Prof. Dimitris Samaras (grade 10/10) › Individual Project: “The development of bureaucracy in Greece during the Bavarian reign. Analysis based on Max Weber’s theory on rationalization and religion as cultural processes”. Prof. Ioanna Tsivacou, Semester VI. (grade 8/10). › Workshop group project: Creative text-writing and advertisement creation tasks. Social campaign: “The smooth accession of foreign pupils at school”. Semester VII. Abstract of Master thesis (150 words) Title: “The historical search of European identity and its role in the course of the European Union towards Integration”. History shows that the European Idea is old and bloodshed, having found different expressions through empires, revolutions and the Christian doctrine. Then Renaissance-Enlightenment ideologies were used to build post-war EU. But there is no European collective conscience or identity whatsoever to support the Idea. There is a worldtheory though, distinctively interacting with the American, the Islamic and the traditional nation-state logic. In this project I argued that the notion of European identity should not be determined through normative models of national identity construction, but through the codified political and social values and ideas that Europe has historically accumulated and allegedly represents. This aims at emphasizing Integration’s value as a process, not its feasibility. I have used mainly the theories of C.Geertz and R.Williams on culture and identity, qualitative and quantitative data of Eurobarometer and other surveys (2008), as well as the adversative approaches of European History by J.B.Duroselle and H.Ahrweiler.
Citizens of Dalaran: digital culture, identity and social simulation in World of Warcraft. Objective This project has two goals. The first is to identify a complete pattern of norms, ethics, ideas and practices in the most prevalent MMO game, World of Warcraft, that reproduces major aspects and versions of the lifestyle and value system of the western society. The second is to explain how this leads to the emergence of a hybrid collective identity in the digital environment, creating a pattern that preserves the game's enduring popularity, delivers particular cultural impact on its users and renders MMOrpgs one of the most engaging genres of digital entertainment. Introduction Academic interest in massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) has included a variety of relevant themes, besides the technical background and technological requirements. The rise of MMORPG genre, early represented by games like EverQuest and Dungeons & Dragons, engaged million people to participate in virtual worlds (Odrejka 2008) consisting of their own fictional background, virtual economies, social organization and digital lifestyles explicitly viewed through and revolved around custom virtual characters, i.e. the avatars. The uniqueness of MMO games lies on the extensive socialization demanded from the early stages to the high end-game content, as well as on the perennial and relumined combination of action, objectives and fictional drama. Large network communities and new types of digital groups and relationships are associated with new forms of social practices, identities’ perceptions and psychological reflections. There is no wonder then why MMO have become the object of thorough studies, which often focus on World of Warcraft as case study. WoW has been the dominant delegate of the genre since the year of its release, 2004. Relevant discussion has provided a general outline of WoW’s gameplay and design: comprising the narrative of Warcraft RTS game series, it takes place in a fantasy world, including its heroes, cities and lands, classes and races, factions and mythological creatures; the time of this narration is only partially linear and subject to the Warcraft lore and to its evolvement through the expansion packs; quests, instances and raids that involve solo avatar-play but mostly group and guild collaboration are the means to achievements and rewards, like high-end boss killing and powerful equipment (Krzywinska 2006). An elaborate description of all the game’s mechanics per se would be pointless since it would never end, but this notion of “never ending” process is a key element to analyze WoW’s emergent culture. MMOs and especially WoW have attracted the interest of several sciences that focus on race and nationality (Douglas 2008), identity (Bessiere, Seay and Kiesler 2006) social team-work and teambuilding, inclusion and exclusion (Taylor 2006), learning (Gee 2008), internet culture etc. Issues of psychological effects of role playing have been also studied, as well as internet addiction to these games and purgation of other addictions through them, impact on relationships and real life socializing. It is doubtful though that the emergent various implications of MMORPGS to their users have been purported during the designing of the games by their creators. User engagement and other indices have been indeed utilized in order to produce a successful and popular entertainment product, but a genre that has managed to reserve over 15 million active users, weighing out 11.5 million WoW active subscribers (MMOG Subscription Growth Version 23.0), stimulates its viewing through a wider perspective. Questions 1. Is there actually an emergent gaming culture defined by the WoW gameplay and how does it construct meaning and ways of understanding the world and/or basic concepts of life?
2. Are there analogies between WoW culture and the western model of society? Is such a comparative analysis legitimate enough to breed a concept of avatar personalities inasmuch their users have their own? 3. Which elements of western social order and culture are identified within the structure and function of the indeterminate social system virtually fabricated in WoW? 4. How does the game act as a learning environment in which the game design sets rules and manners of social behaviour? 5. What kind of transformations occur in long-term play 0 of the game culture and the socializing activities? 1 of the users’ perceptions and real life savvy? Literature Review The debate over game culture appears fragmented in the sense that human-computer interaction (HCI) suggests numerous appliances and is the object of different scientific branches focusing on digital media. Notably the internal complexities of MMORP games have forwarded great challenges for prominent sociocultural approaches. Lockwood and Richards for example have weaved their philosophical presence-play theory utilizing the derridean approach of western culture; playing in a gaming structure actually means contesting its fabric and simultaneously one self’s identity (Lockwood & Richards 2008). The computer game is thus a cultural space that stands as an identity-challenging medium. In a different and perhaps more concise language Krzywinska argues that to fully understand the intertextual content of a game like WoW we need to consider the depth engagement and [world] experience that transcends the most obvious aspects of gameplay (Krzywinska 2006). A fine starting point of these aspects is avatar creation and customization in Virtual Worlds. Inarguable evidence has shown that avatars project identities that defer to stereotypical perceptions, not only because “VW users create a digital identity that looks close to Western ideals” (Ducheneaut et al. 2009) but also because pre-existent cultural patterns determine cybertype preferences in virtual character creation, like race and origin (Tyler 2008). A lean and fit female night-elf for example resembles the ideal woman body, a dark-skinned orc looks like a co MMOn brutal barbarian and a well-geared human reflects the successful man. This culture-representational dimension refers to the consideration of MMOGs as a “place for cross-cultural border crossing”, for which World of Warcraft European servers have also been a case study (Taylor 2006). Accounting the factor of demographic player-allocation, Taylor highlights that games like WoW open “often ambivalent conversations about, for example, European identity and transnationalism”, whilst “existing meaning systems about […] national context” are brought in them by players. Bessiere, Seay and Kiesler went deeper in identity exploration by using a self–discrepancy coefficient in order to conclude that users, through digital characters, “escape real world norms and expectations and to act out roles and try out personas that range from enhanced versions of their real-life self to alter-egos that behave in reprehensible ways. The player’s character, therefore, is one instance of a possible virtual self” (Bessiere, Seay and Kiesler 2006). To go further, Weber and Mitchell enhanced identity theory by introducing the notion of “personal and social bricolage”, a continuous process of identity building on which digital media lavish cultural resources (Weber and Mitchell 2008). Apart from the individual intentions agency, the construction of online identities however includes community constraints and expectations (Kafai, Fields and Cook 2010). These constraints and expectations may imply that inasmuch as online characters have to learn to act within them, their users adopt the required attitudes and vice-versa. Such interplayed computer-user and user-user relationships for instance are apparent when in role-playing characters are invited to make difficult decisions that contain critical ethical reasoning within a context of story, play and empathy (Simkins and Steinkuehler 2008). Provided the width and options game mechanics dispose of, RP games become implicit learning environments of ethics and behaviour, as well as educational
tools capable of instructing individual and social practices (Pierce 2007). These are translated into situations where one can choose not to kill a weak enemy player, speak politely to fellow players or returning an item that was accidently acquired. Here it is implied that virtual worlds can qualify humans to critique and revision, as required by the contemporary professional workplace and business (Bessiere, Ellis and Kellog 2009). Therefore scholars have emphasized the significance of group dynamics variably sustained in guilds and – less – in parties, that require optimal organization and management in order to succeed in their goals and reserve long-term survival (Ducheneaut et al. 2007). It seems that the “emergent game culture” this project aspires in contouring derives from both “player-produced” culture (Taylor 2006), i.e. the dominant modern western culture, and the cultural fragments prodded by game design and play. In this view, Dalaran is no less of a western city and people of such a city are no less of trolls and gnomes acting citizenship. Hypothesis formulation As a follow up task in answering the base questions, this work will assume and examine the validity of the following conditions: a. The gaming culture of WoW suggests the formation of player-human identity in a similar way that traditional forms of identities are constructed, such as social and national. b. MMORP games engage their players in ways and practices that reach beyond the nature of invitation from “off-line” or non-socialising games. For this purpose they use core elements of the latter as tools and not ends in themselves, such as violence and score. c. The relationship between (a) and (b) suggests that the engagement and/or addiction level of playing WoW is proportional to the intensity and depth of the emerged gaming culture. Methodology As seen in the literature discussion, for the subject of this project a cultural perspective is mostly suitable and will utilize the view treating online games as social spaces (Kerr 2006) in which humancomputer interactions allow the transition of these games from virtual worlds to cultural interfaces (Pace 2008). This brings out the relevant theories of anthropology of play, i.e. ludology.
ANTHROPOLOGIES OF PLAY Materialist
INTERPRETATIVE AXIS culture as epiphenomenon, logic of stake production of meaning, appraisal of society (Malaby 2009)
events and spaces of emotional stimuli
disposition towards the world, game culture
Hybrid experiential model
GAME (WOW) FIELDS OF REFERENCE MMOrpg industry, ludo-capitalism (e.g. “goldfarming”) Perceptions, identities and values diffused in the gameplay and interface of the virtual world Images of characters, places and activities as objects of joy, fear, hatred etc. Organization and habituation of virtual life
The core of the theoretical framework this project will follow is based on the realization of play both as a cultural “form” of activity and “mode” of experience (Malaby 2009). This approach attempts to go beyond the Marxian and Geertzian materialist and representational views of culture respectively and to suggest that games’ indeterminacy allows creative participation and cultural capital activation. Indeterminacy engages man by propelling “unpredictabilities and constraints”, similar to those of the traditional whereabouts of human experience. Essential part of this experience is the incitement of emotions; affective articulation of the player’s body along with shifting perceptions through play assembles affective events (Shaw and Warf 2009). In other words, playing promises joy, excitement and their counterparts in the same way physical experiences do. In time, the areas of virtually formulating real experience increase, such as accountability and awareness of social [inter]action in online role-playing games (Moore, Ducheneaut and Nickell 2007). An analysis of a game case study should borrow thinking tools from all the relevant theoretical models, even though the experiential one suits better. To the extent that World of Warcraft simulates analog reality, it evenly draws questions about exporting its own reality to the outside world. Golumbia asserts that such role-playing games emulate globalization and capitalist order (Golumbia 2009), thereby praising certain social values, current trends and politically correct attitudes. The sum of these cultural indicators is of vital importance for this work, as described below. World of Warcraft still remains to be a product, a successful one indeed, thereby greatly influencing the video game industry and the related third businesses, from internet service providers to “goldfarmers”. A clear business perspective would naturally fasten on maximum exploitation of the source of the game’s addictive attractiveness and popularity: for Blizzard it is simply a service, but for its players it is a space (Ruch 2009). Cultural indicators Human culture consists of certain behavioural trends, patterns of perception, social practices and ways of thinking inherited by western capitalist society’s political, economic, social and natural history. This project alleges that such norms are projected and altered in MMO games like WoW (Shaw and Warf 2009). Nevertheless, in order to verify this connection we need to codify the action and spirit of real life and virtual life through qualitative and quantitative research. Scholars have already looked for those metaphors. Bennett for example has identified signs of civic action and types of political participation as much in WoW as in cyberspace generally (Bennett 2008). He shortly referred to an in-game incident; hundreds of warriors gathered in the city of Ironforge to protest against their class skill design, resulting in server breakdown and banned accounts (see “WoW causes riots in the streets”, 2005). Such an argument sounds pretty much like a news article title and further study would reveal more politically coloured actions in and out of the game, like the activist pressure from community (forums) (Consalvo 2009). The latter brings us on another example related to out-of-game online player collaboration with purview to improve in-game cooperation and advancement. “Scientific habits of mind are fostered” while players attempt to thoroughly analyze game aspects, from organizing 25-man groups and selecting raid strategies to involving with complex mathematical writing full of equations and algorithms which determine their characters’ responses and behaviour (Steinkuehler and Chmiel 2006). Finally, Hoffstadt and Nagenborg’s analysis makes it perhaps no exaggeration to claim that MMOrp games reflect mankind’s ontological desire to conquer pain, death and unknown (Hoffstadt and Nagenborg 2008). No more paradigms are required to show the need to extend research. In order to ensure this work’s allegations, participants of this research should not only include players of different age, gender and nationality but also people who took part in the game’s design. A double-crossed classification of cultural indicators should be then available to discuss: ~ Concepts of work and labor, embracing a variety of modern ideas, like success, recognition and prowess. ~ Political inclinations (ideology), ethics
~ Aesthetics: beauty, strength, femininity and masculinity, fashion. ~ Values, such as profit, happiness, friendship, socialization. ~ Social practices like goal pursuit, planning, improvisation evaluation, control ~ Special qualities, e.g. intelligence, speed, leadership, problem solving. Meta-game The use of the Internet in more than utilitarian ways, like online gaming, involves people in “negotiation of complex networks of space, power and knowledge” (Mallan 2008). These networks have their own regulations, semiotics, informal laws, terminology, technological background, surrounding literature, fiction and artistic imprint. Therefore one’s behaviour needs to comply with this context, something that Castronova describes as institutionalization of play, the meta-play (Castronova 2005, 101). It would be interesting to examine how far meta-game goes with prescribing play. UI as meta-text World of
Warcraft’s User Interface is only one piece of meta-game context, without which killing powerful monsters and completing quests would result in a game come undone. Immersive illusions garnish characters’ skills and abilities (1), windows mirror their appearance and indicate their qualities (2), icons and bars give their current status and influences (3), chat channels offer the sense of public sphere of communication (4), player-created add-ons and mods evaluate and assess their contribution and activity, like healing done, magic dispels and damage taken, now even more thoroughly than Taylor has noted (Taylor 2006).
Other aspects of meta-game should not be ignored, such as VoIP communication tools used, strategy raid guides, leveling guides, lore history encyclopedias, specialized equipment (keyboards with skillbuttons etc.), screenshots/videos and storytelling (Chan, Thawonmas and Chen 2009). Impressively even though whatever one can acquire in World of Warcraft (money, reputation, gear etc.) has no real value of any kind in the physical world, players’ attitude suggests the opposite. Value An integral sociocultural approach of World of Warcraft (and MMORPG genre) can offer a broad understanding of how western culture replicates itself, transforms and evolves through new complex digital media. This does not solely answer how such games have been enjoying and can continue to enjoy mass appeal, with WoW still preserving an overwhelming market share, but also how man can intervene in cultural formation through virtual environments that stimulate practical and/or ethical training. MMORP games as cultural products are thus as important for thorough research as the study of human behaviour is for society. References 1. Bennett, W. Lance. 2008. “Changing Citizenship in the Digital Age." Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth, ed. W. Lance Bennett. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning, 1-24. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 2. Bessiere, Katherine, Fleming Seay and Sara Kiesler. 2006. The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Aug. 11, in Montreal Convention Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 3. Bessiere, Katherine, Jason B. Ellis and Wendy A. Kellogg. 2009. Acquiring a Professional “Second Life:” Problems and Prospects for the Use of Virtual Worlds in Business. Paper presented at the CHI conference, April 4-9, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 4. Castronova, Edward. 2005. Synthetic Worlds. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 5. Chan, Chia-Jung, Thawonmas Ruck and Kuan-ta Chen. 2009. Automatic Story telling in comics: a case study of World of Warcraft. Paper presented at the CHI conference, April 4-9, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 6. Consalvo, Mia. 2009. Hardcore casual: game culture Return(s) to Ravenhearst. Paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Foundations of Digital Games, April 26-30, in Orlando, Florida, USA. 7. Ducheneaut, Nicolas, Nicholas Ming-Hui Don Wen, Nicholas Yee and Greg Wadley. 2009. Body and Mind: a study of Avatar Personalization in Three Virtual Worlds. Paper presented at the CHI conference, April 4-6, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 8. Ducheneaut, Nicolas, Nicholas Yee, Eric Nickell and Robert J. Moore. 2007. The Life and Death of Online Gaming Communities: A look at guilds in World of Warcraft. Paper presented at the CHI conference, April 28 – May 3, in San Jose, California, USA. 9. Ducheneaut, Nicolas, Nicholas Yee, Eric Nickell and Robert J. Moore. 2006. “Alone Together?” Exploring the Social Dynamics of Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Paper presented at the CHI conference, April 22 – 27, in Montreal/Quebec, Canada.
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