Logging back into the Virtual World after 10 Years AFK.

Blogs, Virtual Worlds, and the Great Online Experiment

With the Coronavirus coming around, so many of us are forced indoors for a time, forced into isolation where digital tools will be forced to become the norm. We’re already seeing things like Netflix Party gain immediate popularity or exercise programs like Ring Fit Adventure sell out suddenly. I was struck by the similarities the pandemic response and social distancing has had to the year following the World Trade Center disaster. We all went inside, purchased a ton of food to make at home, and began to rethink about what was important in life.

Almost all of the reasons I went into academia came out of this time, the period of work between 2001–2009 when the magic of virtual worlds, of virtual life, set the world on fire. …

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The history of the computer in CSCW is more than just the technology. It is knowledge, epistemology, ontologies, and even where computer use takes place.

A CSCW Workshop Report

On Sunday, November 10th, 2019, I attended a workshop that seemed so outside the ordinary for the space that I work in that it almost felt like a mistake. Yet, as someone who has been digging into history, I have already felt like I was doing something wrong so a workshop about what I was doing wrong seemed like it would be valuable.

The description of the workshop was pretty straight forward:

This workshop will contribute to the development of a under-utilized source of inspiration for CSCW and HCI research and design practice: history and historiography of technology.

We only met for a day but it was an informative, thought-provoking one. I thought that I might write up some brief thoughts I had over the course of the event. …

The incompatibility of the social sciences in data science training

When the computer was a new object and we had not yet over-burdened it with running aspects of every day life, there was a debate around it’s potential future. It wasn’t one moment, but a series of meetings, committees, programs, papers, and organizations. On one side was the computer science movement, structured programming, program production, and everything we teach (mostly badly though there are efforts to help that) now. The other side is best represented by Peter Naur of whom is said:

Contrary to most of his colleagues who were heavily defending (and quarreling about) specific language features, Peter put his efforts into meta considerations. …

What went right? What went wrong?

Thanksgiving symbolizes the end of the first semester of my Introduction to Game Programming course using PICO-8.

The course can be found on Github at the link below.

What I wanted to do with this course was twofold:

  1. Write a course that allows students to slowly take apart video games at the programmatic level.
  2. Scaffold the course so that anyone could take the course and succeed.

I wanted the course to serve as a steward for the complexity of video games. I wanted to use the fantasy console environment so that all aspects of each game could be:

  • Made tangible.
  • But were easily accessible. …

Seriously Not Serious Yet Mainstream

My relationship with games and game studies is often one of curiosity. I find the concept of ‘play’ useful yet I find that ‘play’ is more useful to study something else than it is to study games themselves. Despite this, I do try to keep an eye on games and game studies. There is always so much stuff to watch, so many authors to keep track of, and so many academic moves to remember.

Meaningful Play is a conference that occurs every 2 years in East Lansing Michigan. At this conference will typically be a cross-section of a number of different types of game scholars resulting in a pretty interesting spectrum of researchers from different spaces, academic settings, and industry. …

What is code? Why do we write it in PICO-8? What does that mean?

Before getting there, some context

One semester when I was new to teaching, I was asked at the last minute to teach an introductory HTML/CSS course for graphic designers. While the content of the course was set, I approached the course with an expectation that students would know or at least know how to look up 2 specific things. First, I expected students would know the basics of how the Internet worked and second, I expected that students would know what HTML and CSS files were and were for. …

Learning Programming with PICO-8

I was once told that programming is the act of shifting around the limitations of resources, language, talent, or knowledge to provide a vehicle for users to do the same. I have thought about this a lot as I have begun to teach introductory programming and information processing. Teaching programming to those who are curious but apprehensive of actually doing it is perhaps one of the most difficult and consumptive challenges I have ever faced. I love it.

A few years ago, I inherited a game design program and found myself suddenly teaching everything from introductory courses on using Unity to the principles of game design. One of the things that struck me was just how difficult it was for students to learn two seemingly similar yet exceedingly disparate skills — programming games and designing games. …

Or how we all want to stay home instead of go on adventures

I wrote this introductory bit for my dissertation and i’m not sure it will stick with it so I thought i’d put it here.

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I think a lot about the book The Hobbit (1937). I think about this book because it centers on a stubborn, not-so-young guy having his life toppled by someone who knew more about the world than he did. Bilbo Baggins is settling into a life in the place he was born much like like all of the other people in his village. Unbeknownst to him, some immortal academic angel from far off places named Gandalf decides that he needs usurp his life give him a new one. This new life would be filled with adventure, danger, mystery, magic, elves, goblins, dragons, and dwarves because Gandalf had an idea that the world would probably need Bilbo for something. For many of us, we want to be Bilbo before he met Gandalf. Adventure is uncomfortable because adventure changes us and in changing us, the world itself changes. …

Understanding the measures of Centrality in Association Mapping

In social network analysis, some of the more useful calculations display the centrality of actors and their importance within a network. There are many different measures of centrality and importance. Some centrality measures display how many other nodes a particular node is a part of. Others show how often a particular node is needed when tracing a path from one node to another. Interpreting these measures is contextually based and couched in the way the network itself functions.

At the core of SNA is choice. As such, in some measures the prominance of actors is more important. The prominence of an actor and its centrality may be quite different. For example, in an office environment, there may be a large number of workers who all do the same thing. This entire collection of nodes is central. However, among those, one worker may be more prominent simply because they host far more people choosing to associate with them. In competitive environments like sales, this is an important measure. …

Are Non-Human Objects just indirect ties mediating direct ones? Does that Matter?

For me, the joy of Social Network Analysis is in uncovering the central hubs of a network. A hub is that node that serves to connect all manner of other nodes. These are often discernible in large bureaucratic structures. For example, as a former gofer during my pre-grad school days, I spent a lot of time running here and there. I was a go-between stand-in for non-human actors — a human without the ability to make a choice being told to make connections to other people. …


Nick LaLone

PhD: Information Science. Programming Pedagogy, Data Science, Crisis-Informatics, Map Interfaces, Science and Technology Studies, Play, and Game Studies.

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