John Seely Brown
John Seely Brown is currently a visiting scholar at the Annenberg Center at USC. He was the Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation until April 2002 and also the director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) until June 2000—a position he held for twelve years. While head of PARC, Brown expanded the role of corporate research to include such topics as organizational learning, complex adaptive systems, micro electrical mechanical system (MEMS) and NANO technology. His personal research interests include digital culture and rich media (both of which he pursues at USC), ubiquitous computing, web service architectures and organizational and individual learning. The recipient of honorary PhDs from Brown University and the London Business School, Dr. Seely Brown is the author of many influential publications on learning, including "Learning in the Digital Age" (2002) and "The Social Life of Learning: How can Continuing Education be Reconfigured in the Future" (2002).
Extending the Reach of Games
This panel examines the ways in which both the content of games and activity of gaming can be seen to extend beyond the traditional boundaries of play or entertainment. Each of these papers, from different perspectives, provides as illustration of the ways in which the reach of games has been extended into the classroom, into management, and into government.
In each of these venues, massively multiplayer online games can be seen to exemplify, often times with the added benefit of time compression, many of the real world dynamics that affect and influence behavior and social interaction. In that sense, we contend, games are serving an educational function. They are, in essence, first and foremost, learning environments.
The argument we want to advance is not one which suggests that gaming or play provide a process or means for education or to enhance understanding. We accept both of these premises as foundational. Instead, we want to examine the ways in which current games themselves, particularly MMOGs, already contain valuable and transferable dynamics which have applications within the spheres of education, management (especially pertaining to not-for-profits), and government.
Our primary interest is to detail the manner in which games are already teaching and learning environments and to identify both how and what people are learning within various game worlds. Accordingly, we believe that by extending the reach of games, we can find uses for these game dynamics with the classroom, with situated learning, and within government, especially in the realm of public diplomacy.
To that end, each of these papers explores a case study or illustration of the basic functions operating within game-space that provide valuable insights into education, social and group dynamics, and conflict and resolution. Moreover, we examine the ways that games create action points and boundary objects that tend to ground conversation around the edge of the game. In such cases, it is not just the game play per se but the social life around the edge of the game that in general carries much of the richness in terms of the game's meaning, its value, and its social and cultural impact.
Examining how games function within a broader socio-cultural economy of meaning, identity, and action, we demonstrate the value of gaming both by looking inward to detail how the dynamics of play mirror real-life social interaction, as well as by projecting outward toward the possibilities of using games to solve real-world social and political problems and provide tools for education.
In each case, our conclusions call for an effort to further extend the reach of games, suggesting ways in which dynamics of play, virtual interaction and problem solving, and task negotiation can form the basis for problem solving and community building.