Friday, September 23, 2011

Research Snapshot for Fall 2011

For those of you wondering what the heck I've been up to lately research-wise, wonder no longer! Here's a snapshot of what I've been working on lately and plan to work on before Christmas (when, as you may know, I will be going on maternity leave for a while).
Cognitive Advantages of Augmented Reality

This is something I've been working on for well over a year now.  It started in a class I took extra to my degree called Computers and Cognition.  For my term project, I looked at a couple of key cognitive theories and how they related to what I thought was so great about augmented reality.  Since that class, the prof and my own supervisor have been expanding and refining that work into publishable form.

So far, we've run into some trouble getting our paper accepted to a conference.  In our last attempt, we received quite good reviews, but still weren't accepted.  Apparently the paper caused much discussion at the conference committee meeting, but in the end they decided that they needed to hold it to a higher standard since it was both new and more on the theoretical side of things.  They (and the reviewers for our previous attempt) suggested a journal might be a better venue.

So that's where we are now.  We are working on the latest rewrite and will hopefully submit it soon.  You can follow the progress of this work on this page if you are so inclined.

Gram's House

I've written about this project a few times on this blog.  Originally a project we submitted to Microsoft's Imagine Cup, it has evolved nicely into becoming an international collaboration between industry and academia.

At this point, I have a wonderful team of academics from the States who are on board with applying for a National Science Foundation grant in January to help fund the development and evaluation of this project.  Filament Games is interested in professionally developing the game.  There are several other academics and CS education community members who are interested in helping evaluate the game with their classes or outreach initiatives.

NSF grants are competitive, so I realize that we may not be successful in our first attempt.  Nevertheless, I'm excited that, no matter how long it takes, Gram's House may become the full-fledged game I am dreaming of, allowing it to make a widespread impact in many girls' lives.

You can follow this project here (it has not yet been updated with the latest grant goings-on, but will be once things are more solidified).

Narrative and Educational Games

Finally, a newer thread of research has been related to narrative and interactive storytelling.  In an effort to solidify a specific direction for my PhD thesis, I have chosen this thread as my main topic and started outlining a research plan.

Right now, I'm working on putting together a taxonomy of techniques in nonlinear fiction.  There is a balance between categorizing approaches by their creative intentions and the technology behind them.  In October I am leading a round table discussion on this work with the goal of looking at why games have used certain techniques but not others (is it because it's too difficult creatively or technically, or because we just need someone to try?).

During the rest of this term, I'll be delving into this taxonomy deeper and working on a paper for a game studies/design journal.

As for my thesis, I will be narrowing in on what the role of narrative is in educational games.  Does story simply engage a game's learners, or is there something more going on there? What are the best ways to incorporate story effectively into an educational game? Can we create a tool that supports writers and designers in properly crafting stories for these sorts of games? Though I'm keeping it general for now, I'd like to ultimately focus on reality-based educational games (including augmented reality) and make use of the cognitive advantages research mentioned above.

The taxonomy work can be followed here, and future pages on my portfolio will be created as my journey continues.

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