Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jason Grigely
VSD Conceptual Investigation

Socio-Technical System
The system or environment involving our problem space, may be described as a health center, gym, or home, however, it can be further extended to any area that contains a treadmill for the sole purpose of exercise. The existence of a treadmill within this space constitutes a problem by the very nature and behavior of a treadmill. The technology for treadmills has not vastly changed in quite some time, and perhaps it is because of this that we are starting to see a growing observation by large communities of runners. Simply put, running outdoors is “easier” than running indoors on a treadmill.

It is a common experience amongst most runners, that there is a great degree of variance between the acts of running outdoors versus running indoors on a treadmill. While outdoor running is said to be of greater physical difficulty, running indoors on a treadmill is commonly accepted as being more of a psychological battle and less physically demanding. However, with the easy adaptability of running on a treadmill, in terms of adjustable incline, additional impact cushioning (reducing stress on ankle and knee joints), as well as the ability to easily control your pace and speed, perhaps we should think about bringing the perceptive ease of running outdoors to the treadmill.

As it is currently designed, repetitive and continued use of the treadmill requires a certain degree of willpower, almost as if the user must at times force themselves to use a treadmill, if only for convenience’s sake. This is in part due to “Running ‘on the spot’” which “can lead to an earlier onset of boredom and mental fatigue” (Anderson). The stationary nature of the treadmill, with its unchanging view, and the simply feeling the user gets that he/she simply isn’t going anywhere. This adds an unnecessary level of stress to an activity that is meant not only to get/keep the user in shape, but also to function as a stress reliever. The increase of stress through this activity not only effects the users motivation, and attitude towards the use of the treadmill, but can also have extended effects to the people around them, as the stress may manifest in other ways.

Physiological Advantages
A study done by Jennifer R. Abramczak et al. suggests that the physical act of running outdoors is more strenuous than that of running on a treadmill. This is substantiated by the mechanics involved with running on a treadmill, such as the belt, which quite literally moves beneath the runner’s feet, requiring less action to propel ones’ self forward; in stark contrast to outdoor running, where the runner must push themselves, as well as lean forward a bit, which tends to put a greater strain on the runner’s back. Theoretically, the difference in strain on your body experienced on a treadmill versus running outdoors, should allow the user to run much greater distances on a treadmill, however Abramczak et al. suggests that this may not necessarily be so. Even though outdoors, runners in the study reached a higher heart rate, their Rate of Perceived Exhaustion (RPE), was almost always lower when running outdoors. What this means, is that while running outdoors was shown to be more physically demanding, as runners obtained a higher heart rate, they often felt less fatigue, or exhibited fewer signs of fatigue than treadmill runners.

An advantage of running outdoors is airflow. The drag force you experience running outdoors, while it does require more energy from the runner at higher speeds, the “absence of wind resistance on a treadmill leads to a significantly lower oxygen consumption compared to running outside” (Anderson). As you continue to exercise, your body requires more and more oxygen in your blood to prevent the buildup of lactic acid, which is why after exercising for extended periods, your muscles begin to ache. Therefore, if we were able to bring the additional airflow (as well as perhaps even the drag force) of outdoor running to the treadmill, it would ultimately benefit the user.

What approach can we take to solve this problem?
In order to solve the issues faced by many involving the treadmill, we must augment and elevate the design of the treadmill. In doing so, we can combine the positive elements of both atmospheres, while sacrificing little, if anything from the user’s workout. The first step to take in the elevation of the treadmill design would involve a visual display, which encompasses the surroundings of the runner, and is designed to mimic outdoor terrain, which can be chosen by the user. These visuals would provide the user with a virtual environment in which they would be immersed. Infrared sensors could be used to adjust the display height, as the size of potential users of a treadmill is likely to vary greatly. The environment would reflect perspective changes to the user based on elements such as running speed/pace, as well as the slope/incline of the treadmill. Mimicking an outdoor environment would serve as a stress reducer, as well as give the user something to focus on while running, while still concentrating on the act of running, rather than being distracted by music, television, or simply fixing their attention to a spot in the room.

In addition to the virtual display, we could implement a supplementary ventilation system, which would provide airflow to the user, which mimics that of an outdoor environment. Additionally it would be possible for the user to mimic wind conditions (for example, if you’re running north, and there is a 5mph eastern wind gust, the user would feel the effects of the crosswind), as well as the drag force encountered in running outdoors. Not only would these changes in air flow assist in the recreation of the outdoor running experience, but it would also help to increase oxygen intake for the user. This, in theory, would allow for the user to maintain a reasonably higher heart rate for longer periods, as their body would be able to more aptly combat the buildup of lactic acid.

Preliminary Conclusions
By solving the psychological issues involved with running on a treadmill, we open the door to greatly expand the capacity for athletic training indoors. While most personal trainers and elite athletes agree that for the best results, when training for an outdoor event (such as a 5k race, marathon, etc.), it is best to train outdoors. However, they also acknowledge that this is not always an availible option for everyone. In addition, it may be possible, with these proposed changes, to increase the effectiveness of treadmill training from both a physiological, as well as a psychological perspective, thereby surpassing outdoor training in terms of effectiveness.


THE PHYSIOLOGICIAL DIFFERENCES OF OUTDOOR TRAIL RUNNING VERSUS INDOOR TREADMILL RUNNING. Jennifer R. Abramczak, LeAnn M. Hayes, Christopher A. Johnson. University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI.
10/19/2008. Link

THE DEBATE. George Anderson, Steve Barrett. FitPro Network.
10/19/2008 . Link

Avatars for the wheelchair-bound: The value of inclusion in digital spaces

In brief --

Sociotechnical problem space: Any digital space that uses avatars that reflect the appearance of the user (specifically Yahoo! and Second Life here).

Implicated value: Inclusion

Direct stakeholders: Users with disabilities (specifically the wheelchair bound here)

Indirect stakeholders: Able users, avatar artists, programmers

Avatars and inclusion

Avatars are the representation of the user within digital spaces, and can range from flat, non-animated pictures to pseudo-3D models that explore virtual worlds. In this essay, I'll be analyzing the potential effect that limitations in avatar creation might have on a user's self-image and sense of inclusion. For the purpose of making a specific examination of the topic, I will reduce my scope to users who are wheelchair-bound, and avatars available through Yahoo! Avatars and the virtual world Second Life. I want to be explicit in drawing the distinction that, though I'm discussing the disabled community, inclusion is an issue separate from accessibility. Accessibility defines the ability to utilize technology as equally as non-disabled users; inclusion describes the equal accommodation of users who have disabilities without pity or discrimination.

Digital spaces allow for great malleability of identities because of the general lack of accountability. This has aspects both liberating--the ability to literally carve out a niche for one's self as a troll with a giant battle axe--and dangerous--middle-aged men posing as teen-age boys to lure unsuspecting minors into illegal sexual encounters. Even in cases where actual photographs of users are being used, for example on social networking sites, the user is able to manipulate or recontextualize the photo for the benefit of the image they are creating. Within the disabled community, there exists a range of approaches to creating online identities. Some choose to create fully-abled avatars for themselves, manufacturing an image that they were precluded from in real life. Others represent themselves more literally, choosing to bring the disabilities they face in real life to their avatars as well.

I believe this choice should be left to the user, and do not wish to debate, as some have within the disabled community, the authenticity of either choice. Whether or not a disabled user chooses to represent themselves as such through an avatar, the digital communities that provide the means to create such avatars should allow for the possibility. To not do so sends the message that such users are unwelcome or unwanted in the digital community.

Sociotechnological spaces -- two examples

Yahoo! is an example of a site that utilizes avatars meant to allow physical representation of the user. Through a series of menus, a user can select different skin colors, facial features, hairstyles, clothing and accessories. The amount of choices, especially in the latter two categories, is expansive. Recently, for example, they offered both pro-McCain and pro-Obama t-shirts for avatars to wear.

Despite the myriad fashion options, Yahoo! Avatars did not offer accessories for the disabled--crutches or wheelchairs--for the first three years of service, from 2004-2007. While able users could debate the unimportant choice of a plaid scarf versus a grey one, wheelchair-bound users were unable to represent a major part of their identity through their avatar. Today, wheelchair-bound users are still limited to three options per gender. For instance, males can choose between a suit-wearing avatar, a green-shirt-and-jeans-wearing avatar, or an avatar standing beside a wheelchair as though magically healed. Clothing options available to able users, such as the pro-candidate shirts mentioned above, are not available for an avatar seated in a wheelchair. In essence, while others are able to more fully represent themselves online, wheelchair-bound users are forced to choose between representing their disability or their personality.

A line of wheelchairs in Second Life, via Second Edition

Within the realm of Second Life, users are able to manufacture new accessories and appearances for their characters, and so users with disabilities are able to have greater control over aspects of their own inclusion. One successful group, Wheelies, serves as a positive example of such users representing their handicaps through avatars and building a sense of community. The group works out of a virtual nightclub, and distributes to new members a welcome package that includes a virtual wheelchair. The virtual dance floor at the Wheelies Nightclub finds avatars performing dance moves in their chairs alongside able-bodied avatars. Simon Stevens, the group's founder, has been featured in Newsweek and received an award from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his work in creating the group.

Direct stakeholders -- users with disabilities

People with disabilities often struggle to determine how their handicaps impact their identities. In addition, most go through life experiencing, at the least, curious stares, or worse, mockery and ridicule. In creating their online identities through avatars, if certain options are not available to them, the limitations may reinforce negative perceptions they have in the analogue world: disabilities are a repugnant aspect of appearance and identity, people with disabilities are disregarded by the able-bodied population, and that people with disabilities are unable to take part in any sort of community other than those made up of others like them.

Through allowing users with disabilities to include those disabilities as part of their avatar identity, websites and other digital spaces enable users to create a positive self-image of themselves as they are, and give them a sense of inclusion in the digital community.

Indirect stakeholders

Obvious indirect stakeholders include the artists and programmers who manufacture the avatars for use by the handicap community. In Yahoo!'s case, these programmers work on the corporation side, and must create new options for users with disabilities. This will involve research, both in studying designs of wheelchairs and other enabling devices, and in talking with the disabled community to discover what options are needed.

The less obvious, but more important, group of indirect stakeholders, are other able-bodied users. In education, the concept of inclusion works both ways. As students with disabilities experience equal education opportunities, able students are able to interact with a class of people who give them insights on equality, diversity and non-discrimination. In the digital world, the wheelchair is only a visual representation of a user's identity, and in a sense, the physical limitations of the wheelchair-bound user are negated. Typical users may find it easier to approach those with physical disabilities within the virtual world, whereas in real life, they may experience discomfort or anxiousness when confronted with a person in a wheelchair. In these digitally-mediated spaces, typical users may find it easier to adopt the previously mentioned insights on equality, diversity and non-discrimination. Those views might then generalize to real-life interactions with people who have disabilities.

Designing Transparency Tools for PC Platforms

By Lillian Spina-Caza

I. Brief overview of sociotechnical problem space

According to the Computer Industry Almanac, as of September, 2007, PCs per capita in the United States “topped 80 percent in 2006 and will reach 98 percent in 2012” (c-i-a, ¶2). An estimated one billion personal computers are currently in use worldwide, making the number of children who have access to computers in the home at an all time high. Even children who do not live in households with computers can still encounter PCs in the homes of friends or relatives, schools, public libraries, and other community settings.

Initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) have made a commitment to placing computing technology in the hands of children worldwide at very little cost. A number of other inexpensive computers have been developed in direct competition with OLPC’s XO-1and XO-2 models for global markets, thus making computers more accessible now than ever before. For this reason alone – the sheer numbers of children who are and/or will soon be exposed to computing technologies – it is imperative that transparency be a critical value in technology design whenever children are involved.

The sociotechnical problem space addressed here is PC use by young people or novice users who are not yet able to articulate the nuances of information technologies, and who do not, in most instances, have a clear understanding of how PCs and software systems operate; through no fault of their own they simply do not speak the language of programmers or designers. The problem space is also one where children (and oftentimes their parents and teachers) place a good deal of trust in PC technologies because they are, for the most part, fairly simple to use and/or easily learned, and provide a source for information and entertainment. But despite ease of use, very few children and adult caregivers comprehend, except at the most basic level, how these systems work.

One might argue, most of us do not need or want to slide under our cars to understand how a suspension system works, all we need or want to know is that the car rides smoothly over bumps in the road. However, it is one thing to put our faith in a car, and quite another to place blind trust in information technologies imbued with functions and values determined by system developers and software designers in a profit-motivated industry. The problem space identified here is one with far-reaching consequences, which makes it essential we are able to understand, to be able to take apart, examine, and become consciously aware of the tools and capabilities that PCs and associated software afford us.

II. The value of transparency in interactions with personal computers

If we use PC software products without thinking very deeply about how these things work, then to what extent will they determine, limit or extend our capacity to learn? Transparency – as a value, and as it is being described here – is at the core of other human values such as empowerment, autonomy, creativity, self-esteem, and learning. Opacity, on the other hand, is antithetical to all of these, especially to learning. Transparency as it relates to learning will be the focal point of this conceptual investigation. Transparency marks vivid differences between open and closed source software: the right to know what it is we are doing (and conversely what is being done for us), how it is done, and most importantly, how to exert control and do it ourselves if we so choose. “Proprietary software keeps users divided and helpless. Its functioning is secret, so it is incompatible with the spirit of learning. Teaching children to use a proprietary (non-free) system [sic] puts them under the power of the system's developer – perhaps permanently” (Stallman, ¶7).

What I am proposing here is an interface that would eliminate secrecy and which I am calling a “Zoominable” designed to help us understand and analyze systems. It would, in essence, answer questions such as “How does this work?” and “What can I do with it?” in ways that enable a more in-depth, understanding of underlying design protocols. A Zoominable is not a tutorial because it will not be designed to teach a young person or novice user how to perform a task using a PC. It will be designed to act more like a magnifying device that will permit young people (or a parent and child together) to zoom in on how something works, to try it on for size, take it apart, put it back together, or experiment with it. A Zoominable will be a virtual tour guide through the “foreign language” of code that will make visible and learnable what is usually not easily viewed or is hidden in software.

Transparency in and of itself is not a new idea. Tanimoto (2005) writes, “Transparency is a valued attribute in software use because it demonstrates how things work, which in turn creates trust, allows for error detection, and promotes learning about how software systems work” (2). What I am suggesting here is transparency in PC environments should be paramount in interaction design where a) products intended for adults are also going to be used by young people, and b) for any new products designed specifically with children in mind.

Transparency assumes a constructivist or active approach to learning versus a passive, consumptive approach. It is a form of transparency that OLPC originally envisioned with its laptop initiative: “While we do not expect every child to become a programmer, we do not want any ceiling imposed on those children who choose to modify their machines. We are using open-document formats for much the same reason: transparency is empowering. The children—and their teachers—will have the freedom to reshape, reinvent, and reapply their software, hardware, and content” (laptop.org, ¶1).

Dr. Steven Tanimoto, who values transparency as an attribute, also argues it “can beget a desire to control,” viewing this as a potential weakness (Tanimoto, p. 4). He explains,

Exposing the intricacies of complex software systems to users can overwhelm or confuse them. Revealing a system's decision- making rules may invite users to game the system and lead them away from the main goals of their interaction. Facilities that interpret or explain the system may also rob users' attention that would otherwise be invested in achieving their primary goal. Transparency mechanisms may therefore need to be flexible and adaptable both to accommodate different users and to accommodate user growth” (Tanimoto, ¶1).

Though Tanimoto’s concerns are valid and must be taken into account when designing for transparency, the desire to beget control need not be thought of as a weakness if it occurs in a proactive way. Control that emerges from learning the language of code, could be viewed as empowering. A Zoominable would be designed in such a way to afford such control; adaptable for different uses and designed to accommodate user growth and experience. It would be non-intrusive and accessible at the start of a function. For example, the Zoominable icon or a pop up might appear asking, “do you want to know how this works?,” offering levels of code-cracking complexity from beginner to expert. Then it will be at the discretion of a young person (working alone or with a parent and/or teacher) to make the choice to learn more about a particular piece of software or operation, and to select the depth and breadth of what is revealed. The Zoominable would be designed with the goal of making PC technologies transparent, thus empowering children to play around with computer code and see what they can do with it without harming or causing irreparable damage to systems or software.

The ability to understand and, therefore, control our experiences with technologies is important if we are not going to be just passive consumers of these technologies. Placing a greater value on the kind of transparency that leads to fluency in the language of code can enhance and encourage critical interaction between humans and computers. Transparency, however, flexible enough so it does not inhibit or interfere with freedom of use; designed in such a way as to be able to be turned on and off at the discretion of the user.

III. Direct and indirect stakeholders

While it could be argued anyone who designs or uses PC technologies has a stake in whether or not transparencies are built into software or interface design, some will benefit more directly than others, some will benefit indirectly, and some may not view transparency as beneficial to the current business model for producing software. All three types of potential stakeholders are addressed below.

Direct stakeholders who stand to gain the most from a Zoominable interface include young people, parents, and educators. Children benefit by having a tool that allows them to unpack unfamiliar knowledge and learn how things work and how to make them work themselves – to actively participate in the learning process. Parents are also direct stakeholders as they, too, can learn more about technologies they are allowing or encouraging their children to use. Educational administrators benefit by being in a position to better evaluate educational software for use in schools. With real transparency, teachers given mandates to infuse technology into curricula are better able to understand how it works, and to demonstrate it to students. While it is unlikely all stakeholders will be interested in getting to the bottom of how systems and software works, it is important the option to do so remains open to them.

Indirect stakeholders who might benefit from transparency include government agencies, corporate policymakers, and/or small business operators who are considering new systems and would like to make more informed comparisons between what they have and what they are considering to purchase. Employees who work for these agencies and businesses may also benefit by being able to customize their experiences with technologies.

Finally, direct stakeholders benefiting least from the introduction of a Zoominable-type interface are the corporate entities and individuals that create and market software for PCs, and stand to lose proprietary information if code is open to anyone who wants to see it. This problem, however, will continue to plague the market whether or not transparency is built into system design. Open source software is not going away any time soon, and new and innovative ways to develop and sell product will evolve as things continue to shake out. One way to work around this problem might be to set time limits on proprietary software so that it can be opened up and made transparent only after a certain time period on the market. Another workaround might be for software companies to offer “for fee” services that support the use of open code software. The concerns of those who stand to lose the most will need to be addressed if transparency is to become an integral value in the design of PC technologies targeting or used by young people.


Blankenhorn, D. (2005) “Open Source Transparency.” Corante. http://mooreslore.corante.com/archives/2005/04/19/open_source_transparency.php

Computer Industry Almanac, Inc., 2007, http://www.c-i-a.com/pr0907. htm

One Laptop Per Child. (2008) http://laptop.org/en/laptop/software/

Stallman, R. (2008). Can we rescue OLPC from Windows? Free Software Foundation. http://www.fsf.org/blogs/rms/can-we-rescue-olpc-from-windows

Tanimoto, S. (2005). Proc. Int'l Workshop on Learner Modelling for Reflection, to Support Learner Control, Metacognition and Improved Communic. between Teachers and Learners, in conj.with AIED2005, Amsterdam, July, 2005. pp. 2-4. http://www.cs.washington.edu/ole/111tanimoto.pdf

Tanimoto, S. (2005). “Transparent Interfaces to Complex Software: Helping Users Understand Their Tools.” p. 4. http://viscomp.utdallas.edu/vlhcc05/speakers.htm

VSD Concept & on-line Privacy Issues

An Investigation Essay
Valerie Chaisson

In this investigation I would like to discuss the following; the socio-technical problem space of online purchases, the implications it creates, the Stakeholders and indirect stakeholders.

Problem Space
The problem space that I would like to introduce is in the area of on-line purchases as it relates to privacy issues. When we make purchases, our personal information goes on-line to a system that may or may not be protected. Our commitment to shopping and consuming can blind the decisions or clarity of mind when it comes to keeping our personal financial information safe.
I am the web master of a small on-line site that sells supplements, personal electrical gauges and meters. This experience has shown me that consumers will purchase items with-out hesitation, if they believe they need it. The website indicates that they are secure by a logo offering security of the commercial server in which it is hosted on. While I collect their personal information, are they thinking about where it is going? They have an encryption security, but they do not know what the end person is doing with their ‘stuff’.

While I have made many online purchases with work, I enter only my work information. This does not review any of my own personal information such as my likes and dislikes, my personal accounts, home address, drivers license number, and of course, my mothers maiden name.

A question that comes to mind that I find interesting is that to what level of privacy do we really need to make a purchase? Do we need a privacy warning? If we only sought out websites that offered an absolute guarantee that our information is secure beyond all doubt, would we only purchase from them?

In a study done to test participants1 actions when presented with a prominent privacy information condition shown, they found that people were willing to pay more per item to have more security offered to them with their information.

Contrary though, people selected and bought from less expensive vendors online when no privacy information was indicated at all. They experimented with subjects buying a personal adult item and a less personal item such as batteries and found overall, people would pay more for personal items and batteries on a site that had the prominent privacy information stated upfront.

Do we really read all the warnings that pass in front of our eyes when we come to a website that may not offer any SSL? How many websites would do we go on and look for the lock and a message that the site is secure in the right hand corner?

The Human being is the stakeholder here. The main objective of the stakeholder here is that they are the ultimate consumer. Without people, the drive for success and improvement and all that is would be done without merit. We drive each other and push the need for improvement and opportunity to the 10th degree. The need to hunt and gather is learned from one generation to the next. We make and create website and POS to show our creativity and wares, offer things you may or may not need.

That said, we have gone to the web dancing joyfully at times. We have made purchases, chatted online, shared information about ourselves. Maybe it was with reckless abandonment we started, but today, we show more caution. We must (or should) have a fundamental trust in a website if we enter our personal information. That trust is then fundamental for the website to succeed.

When the consumer comes in contact with the page that seeks information from them, they can at that point, find another source or perhaps call in an order. When we call in the order, we essentially give the exact information to the service contact, but may not have as much hesitation at that point. Is this due to our contact with another human vs. a website? I personally have more confidence speaking to another person than I do with a website, it may be the personal contact for me. The design of the website must answer my questions and let me do a number of things that I am used to being able to do. I do not want to save my personal credit card number on a website, but don’t mind a customer service person hold that in their database. Perhaps it is the thought that it is not ‘on the net’ but at their shop?

Indirect stakeholders
Our indirect stakeholders would be the people who make the products we purchase online. We have steel makers, people who make beads, vitamins and all items we see online and in physical stores. Our industry comes from all countries and can be sold in any language.

1 The 6th Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS) The Effect of Online Privacy Information on Purchasing Behavior: An Experimental Study. Janice Tsai, Serge Egelman, Lorrie Cranor, Allessandro Acquisti. Carnegie Mellon University. June 2007

A Value Sensitive Conceptual Examination of Tools to Transmit, Duplicate, and/or Alter Digital Creative Works

Sociotechnical Problem Space Overview

The advent of digital media has heralded sweeping changes society. Never before have a means of essentially perfect transmission, storage, or duplication been available to man(1). Modern digital media transmission and storage allows nearly instantaneous conveyance of information across vast distances and prevents the slow decay that non-digital media suffers over time---especially with repeated use.

However, numerous direct and indirect stakeholders are finding that this power has crystallized their respective values in direct conflict with one another's. This essay investigates the conceptual aspect of Value Sensitive Design with respect to tools which facilitate replication, transmission, alteration, or derivation of creative works(2) by persons other than the original creator.

This problem space, then, is the design of technology which either facilitates or hinders these operations upon creative works by people other than their originators. This includes everything from the obvious---Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), its counter-technologies, etc.---to a substantial portion of all devices capable of digital operations in general.

Implicated Value in This Space

When working with almost any digital product, designers should consider the value that creators be given broad control over their ideas so that they may benefit therefrom, against the counter-value that restriction of ideas is unethical and harmful.

The former position holds that by the act of generating creative works, the originator is bestowed rights over it. The mechanism for this is not widely agreed-upon. Jurisprudence commonly holds, as is formulated in the United States Constitution, that creator rights are simply a tool by which organize society encourages creative work. Followers of this school of thought sometimes liken
copyright law with a government-sanctioned monopoly on some idea. Others contend that protections such as copyright are natural rights, or that ideas are equivalent to tangible property to their originator and therefore should be governed by common property laws.

The opposing value to this is that ideas are not paralleled by any traditional type of property, and therefore cannot be governed by such laws. A subset of this group believes that the benefit to
second and third parties generally outweighs the harm to a creator when removing said creator's control over some idea.

Interestingly, within this value space neither group can make any gain in their respective values without a corresponding loss by the other.

The implication of these values in interaction with the technology space ``devices which facilitate or impede transmission, duplication, and/or alteration of digital representations of ideas'' is
inescapable. Digital technology has only one possible use---working with digital values (which in turn, are nothing more than one means of encoding information) to accomplish or facilitate a task.
Consequently, a digital device must either be usable to apply it utility at transmitting, duplicating, and/or altering the particular string of information that a creator wishes to restrict, or designers must have undertaken intentional efforts to impede this activity. In either case, the implication still occurs.

Direct Stakeholders

Naturally, the first direct stakeholder is the creator of the ideas, control of which is potentially impaired by digital tools. As has been seen in DRM, creators have attempted to regain or expand
control over the use of their work by making the digital source harder to work with. This is not the only direct interaction, though. Recently developed tools such as the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act have begun to limit the digital tools a person may have by criminalizing their use, and possibly even their possession.

These steps provide(3) protection for the value of a creator's right to control their intellectual work. That in itself, is rarely sufficient reason to warrant legal action. This control is itself merely a tool by which other interests/values are protected. Among them are: Attribution---which ensures that they are rightfully credited for their work instead of some plagiar. Personal profit---because unless someone pays royalties creating replacas, creators will not fiscally benefit from the distribution thereof. Control of their work's application---Once in the public domain, creative output can be used for causes distasteful to-, or even targeted at-, its creator.

The second direct stakeholder here is the group of people who wish to transmit, duplicate, or alter creative works outside the wishes of their creators. Some of them cannot or will not pay the
licencing/purchase fees associated with the work. Another closely related subset are those who buy/sell used materials---these transactions do not benefit the original creators. Some wish to create derivative works. Some reject the technical restrictions placed on certain works, like DRM.

Clearly, these direct stakeholders vary widely. They range from the casual used-CD buyer to experts employing sophisticated technology to gain the materials' use they desired.

Indirect Stakeholders

These two groups---creators and consumers of creative works---are by no means the only affected parties. The following groups are indirect stakeholders in this context.

Any person fiscally bound to the creation of copyrightable works---studio mixers, advertisers, and proofreaders are just a few examples---has an interest in maximizing the profitability of the
projects, which supports the value of maintaining fair employment for those who do their jobs well(4).

Another group of indirect stakeholders is the community of artists as a whole. If weakening creator control over their creations were to result in greater creative freedom(5) or a larger pool of material to work with, they would benefit. The likelihood of this scenario is suggested by the European Renaissance---which happened prior to the invention of copyright laws, in spite (or because) of the relatively unregulated creative environment.

The effect on the art community of a population would reach non-artists as well; art appreciators become more indirect stakeholders. Many people value increased artistic participation in their
community both for its aesthetic and also for the positive social health it implies.(6)

If the value of commercial art is harmed, a larger fraction of artists would probably be non-commercial. People who find such work more valid would judge the art community more moral, providing some offset to the commercial artists' harm by the market shift. Of course, a stronger commercial element would reverse the two groups' moral satisfaction.

As evidenced by countries with largely unenforced copyright law, a substantial shift in the strength of creator control would produce far-reaching economic effects. Black-market copies seem to generally reduce retail price for legitimate copies; this in itself touches nearly everyone. Whether someone buys commercial or black-market copies of their media, the can satisfy value of conserving money thanks to the lowered prices. On the other hand, people who have strong values for legal obedience would dislike that industry's growth. The shift in cash flow away from large cooperations towards individuals in the black market only increases the scope of the economic effects. People who value business independence are helped, while those who value cooperate structure are

Finally, weakening or strengthening copyright law or implementing technological means to shift the balance of the values of the direct stakeholders' values would have an somewhat unpredictable effect on the national economy as a whole depending on the economic productivity gains' and losses' balances. Of course, the economic strength of a country affects numerous further values: The changes in available funding for social programs calls up questions of their morality to some people. Similarly, changes in military funding would raise concerns for some, and so forth.

Clearly, consequences of changing creator's control over their works would be far-reaching if not comprehensive.

(1) Do not confuse the precise consistency that digital formats provide with the lossey compression that is often used therewith. Though the final product is not a perfect replica of the source data in this case, no further degradation occurs after final mix-down and compression.

(2) The term ``intellectual property'' is avoided in favor of ``creative works'' in this essay. The former is a very colored term which tends to incorrectly equate ideas and expression with tangible property. Obviously, fundamental differences between the two include the ability to replicate and distribute copies of ideas without diminishing the original, among others. For brevity and generality, the term ``idea'' is also used interchangeably with ``creative work.''

(3) At least, they are believed to provide.

(4) This is not to say that disregarding creators' wishes implies fiscal failure, simply that if it does these professionals become stakeholders.

Creative freedom is in itself an important value of many artists.

This assumes that some unexpected factor does not decrease the quality of artists' output.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Value Sensitive Design & Teaching Critical Thinking using WoW

VALUING TIME: a conceptual analysis of value sensitive design considerations related to a hypothetical proposal to teach critical thinking using World of Warcraft

Matt Rolph


According to a recent press release from the game's publisher, Blizzard Entertainment, "since launching in November 2004, World of Warcraft has become the world's most popular MMORPG, with more than 10.9 million subscribers." The game is divided into servers, each containing a 'realm' or copy of the game world and hosting a maximum of approximately 30,000 players (with less than half of that number being optimal), of whom up to about 6,000 could be logged in at any given time, though lower numbers in the hundreds or thousands are more likely. Any challenge has the potential to provoke critical thought and, just as any real world meeting space could potentially serve as a classroom, any venue where people can interact over distance in chat and in virtual person has potential as a vehicle for educational purposes, but when we begin to consider teaching critical thinking inside WoW, a variety of value-related questions from a wide spectrum of stakeholders quickly arise. In this brief conceptual investigation of value sensitive design, we'll consider an initial proposal, identify the direct and indirect stakeholders, define the problem space associated with such a non-traditional experiment in online education, consider implicated time-related values, examine a handful of the associated conflicts and possible solutions, and see how the proposal would have to change in order to address the concerns of the majority of the stakeholders.


I -- a teacher of critical thinking -- would spend a couple of hours a week inside WoW with a selected group of critical thinking students for a few months, observe them, and then ask them to reflect critically in writing on their experiences. I'd also ask them to participate on a dedicated social network / bulletin board website where they can ask each other questions, for help, message each other, etc., all on the record, and to make a note of any posts they make to outside sites, such as the official World of Warcraft forums. At the end of the process, I should have written data from each student, and also my observations of them in game. My expectations are that spending time reflecting on any experience can be valuable, and that my writing prompts will be also to evoke critical thought from most students, therefore that they will show improvement. Further, I assume that, as the game is engaging and a contemporary phenomenon, this approach might work where, for example, reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens together might be less effective (though I have great respect for that work and for the study of literature as a means of improving a variety of literacies).

From here, the proposal can be refined and considered using the conceptual aspect of value sensitive design.


As with any game, the most immediately apparent stakeholders include the players, who compete with the game itself and with each other for progress, victories, and virtual goods, and the publisher, whose business it is to keep players there, attract more, and make real world money over time in the process. The phrase over time is key to our understanding, as a player is not simply one, fixed variable, but a person whose needs will change over time, one with whom the publisher specifically wishes to cultivate a long term relationship. As the term multiplayer suggests, players band together within the game in a variety of types of groups, something that has a pronounced effect on their experience of the game: a cohort, which we might define a group of people who are at roughly the same level in the game and thus share certain needs; a party, which is a short term association dedicated to meeting a particular objective; and a guild, which is a longer term association, in theory built around mutual needs and interests. In an educational experience, the most immediately apparent stakeholders are the students, whose forward progress is the stated purpose of the exercise, and the teacher, whose purpose it is to supervise the process and to evaluate and assess student progress and, in some cases, to deliver certain information, referred to as content. In our experiment, both students and teachers, in order to be present in the context, must become players in addition to their other roles, entering a relationship with the third party, the publisher.

Less direct stakeholders include player's peers, both those who are pro-game but who do not play this particular game and those who do not play this type of game at all; their parents and family, including present and future dependents; teachers and other educators, whose goal we presume it is to advance their educations outside of WoW; doctors and others focused on player health; representatives of government and others who fund and oversee education; player's current and future employers; other publishers and vendors, anyone who wants to market to players; and other members of society who coexist with players, including those who have very different aesthetic theories and values. Other people in society as a category might also include people who are in any sense competing with players and the publisher for resources at any level -- for example, competitors for the electrical power or for the resources used to create it, for the resources used to make and maintain the infrastructure of the internet, and so on.


All stakeholders value time here, most specifically student/player time. Some are in general agreement about how time should be spent, as are, for example, the players, who usually want to play, and the publisher, who wants players to play (up to a certain point, as their managing their resources effectively relies on players' time in game falling within a certain range of activity), where all other stakeholders may be always or occasionally be in active competition for available time, and, in some cases, for other resources as well.

Let's deal with other resources first, as these competing demands are more easily addressed. In a democracy with a relatively free market, there are a number of parties who make use of the internet and pay for the privilege, and the number of nodes and connections continues to grow to meet demand; likewise, many vendors have an interest in selling the equipment necessary to connect to the game, which has a wide variety of other uses. It's also true that the typical American nuclear family, according to a 2008 Pew Internet and American Life Project survey, are more likely to have the equipment:

Sixty-six percent of married-with-children households have a high-speed broadband Internet connection at home, ... well above the national average for all households of 52 percent. ... spouses and at least one child go online in 65 percent of married-with-children households and 58 percent of married-with-children households contain two or more desktop or laptop computers.

So although alternative uses for this infrastructure are conceivable, in the United States the market is likely to decide whether they'll prevail, and, even if they do, to support Blizzard's business model, i.e. allow the infrastructure to be used in more than one way, including playing games. One key to WoW's success may have to do with the minimum system requirements, which are far less demanding than many competitors (see appendix A). Many schools, however, have limited funds and thus fewer and older machines and also, out of concern for liability and as a matter of general policy, enforce rules that prohibit the installation of unapproved software and censor access to all but selected sites. It means that running this experiment in the context of a classroom or computer cluster would be far more difficult. Blizzard's terms of service require legal adulthood, though each subscriber may, at their discretion, allow "(1) minor child for whom you are a parent or guardian and whom you have authorized to use the account you create on the Service", meaning that parents would have to consent and subscribe or the students in the teaching-critical-thinking-in-WoW experiment group would need to be 18 or older. We'll consider the values of parents, teachers, doctors, and other adults in a moment, but we can already see that it is more difficult to run this experiment by the book with high school students.

That's probably okay, however, as survey data collected by the Daedalus Project in 2005 suggest that "the average age of the WoW player is 28.3 (SD = 8.4). 84% of players are male. 16% are female. Female players are significantly older (M = 32.5, SD = 10.0) than male players (M = 28.0, SD = 8.4)" Though we don't know the margin of error, and it's possible that, as the game's popularity has grown, these demographics have changed, it's likely that players are typically older than students in high school. They may even be older than typical undergraduates. It doesn't mean we couldn't run the experiment with students of any age, but this information supports some stakeholders’ reservations.

Returning to time as a value, there is general data of interest. The average human lifespan is about 71 years, with variations between genders (women tend to live longer). Of that time, men spend 10.5 years sleeping and women 27 years. Men spend three years, about 40 minutes a day, in the bathroom strictly for biological needs, and women spend only about six months. Women spend longer on the phone, 5.5 years compared to 4 for men, eating lunch, 4.5 years compared to 4, watching TV (at least in England, where this particular data set was gathered), at 13 years compared to 10, and also more years shopping, cooking, doing chores, and 'getting ready', which includes shaving, applying makeup, and so on. As you can see from this sample data, values are reflected in the way we spend our time, though we aren't necessarily aware of the way it adds up. Student time in school, however, is prescribed by statute or policy, and thus more carefully tracked. New York, according to the Thomas B. Fordham institute, has an average school day length of 6 hours, 54 minutes, amounting to 1,271 hours per year, a little more than average. For comparison, the average American youth spends 900 hours in school (and 1500 hours per year watching television, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co. -- though television viewing numbers are changing, the average American still watches for 4 hours a day or 9 out of 65 years). This changes, of course, in college. At an accredited college or university, credit totals for each course roughly reflect the numbers of hours spent in the classroom or laboratory, with a 3 credit class requiring, in theory, about 3 hours per week in class. Faculty expect that for each hour in class, a student will spend a certain amount of time in study, reading, preparing, and completing homework assignments. The First Year Council at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH, found in Spring 2005 that most faculty believed they required 3-5 hours or more outside class per classroom hour and most fulltime students (taking an average of 5 classes) reported spending less than 10 hours per week outside class on all of their classes, i.e. 2 hours per class per week.

On average, again from the Daedalus Project survey, "WoW players spend 22.7 (SD = 14.1) hours per week playing the game ... [with] no gender differences in hours played per week."

The concept of opportunity cost is drawn from economic theory, and presumes that when a choice is made -- in our case, the choice to spend time in a particular way as opposed to another -- there is a cost that can be compared to the cost or benefit of other available options. Although the stakeholders we've identified are not likely to be trained economists, they are likely to instinctually grasp this concept of opportunity cost, and, if they all value time as we've suggested, they will perceive an analytical cost-benefit comparison through the filter of their other values.


Student/players, students who also play the game, may welcome a chance to play on the record, and to receive credit for reflecting on their experiences. Some few, however, express concern regarding their own time management skills and the addicting nature of the game: "I'm worried about being sucked back in." The question of addiction comes up when considering other stakeholders at well, as we'll see in a moment. To be sensitive to students who are concerned about their ability to manage their time and their susceptibility to addiction, whether or not the term is clinically appropriate, we'd need to screen students in our test group, asking them to attest that they are not now and have not been in the past unable to control the amount of time they spend in the game. The question of game addiction would need to be evaluated, and a determination about informed consent reached by the institutional review board, human subjects committee, or comparable body. If the experiment falls outside such oversight for any reason, the teacher and any others engaged in this research must consider the ethical questions raised by the possibility of addiction. A self-selected group as opposed to a random sample does mean that the data gathered may be skewed.

Blizzard, the game's publisher, wants subscribers, and nothing in our proposal violates their terms of service. In order to play together, to be in the game world at the same time, players will need separate accounts. If we were considering anything involving account sharing, in which more than one student used the same account (only possible if we intended for them to access the game asynchronously) or if we intended to give minors access to the game without the consent of their guardians, only then might Blizzard be concerned, should they get wind of our plans. As we've noted, the publisher wants players to spend time in the game, with few restrictions. Though it's possible to imagine a company forbidding an activity that might result in negative criticism of their game (students are asked to reflect and could write anything they wish), this one is confident enough about its product to allow fans and players to comment freely on the public internet even in cases where their terms of service, which specify trademark and copyrights to game characters, concepts, and so on, might be used in an attempt to suppress commentary.

The teacher is also a player, and, in theory, will have the same concerns as other players. The teacher overseeing the experiment would need to be someone comfortable with something along these lines, with access to the appropriate equipment and so on. Again, this brings bias into the mix, as a person willing to try this is more likely to view it in a favorable light. Teaching is a time-consuming business, and teachers are generally concerned with efficient and effective use of time. What is defined as effective often depends on the method of assessment and the context. In contexts where the teacher can evaluate and assess independently, as in more common at the college level and above, tolerance for risk is greater. If the students’ progress is to be determined by a standardized assessment, such as the California Critical Thinking Exam, the teacher may be much more concerned about whether this will be a wise experiment. In the absence of solid research supporting the experiment, i.e. studies equating these activities with improved exam scores, a teacher may be averse to spending time in this way. Teachers are also political animals, and, though methodologies and pedagogy vary, tend to be uniformly concerned with the other stakeholders concerns: at the high school level, "the kids may go for this, but I need to be able to explain it to the parents, the principle, or the school board" and at the college level "I want to be sure my class is not seen as a b*****it class, as a waste of time." The participation of the teacher is likely to be perceived as an endorsement of the game whatever he or she says. Many indirect stakeholders are likely to believe that medicine should be bitter, that rigorous education should not be fun or that because their own educations were not pleasurable, no good education can be, and winning over these people can be a challenge. Some teachers may have chosen their work out of unconscious or conscious motivation to be the center of attention, something that would be less likely if the tools used are more engaging. On the other hand, at the college level, an untenured instructor may feel the need to "publish or perish", to have conducted, document, and published on experiments, whether or not they directly benefit other stakeholders. Though it would be unethical to conduct research on students at the expense of their educational progress, it can be difficult to parse the various imperatives, especially in a case where the experiment has yet to be conducted. If the expectation is that the students will be more engaged, and the teacher believes, as I do, that engagement is key to learning, tolerance for the opportunity cost is increased. If the IRB approves the experiment and there is a chance it could result in a line on a curriculum vitae or publicity, self-justifying rationalizations are easier. In brief, this experiment is more likely in higher education than elsewhere.

Parents and family, including present and future dependents, have a stake in the player's use of time as well. If the players/students find themselves spending 14-23 hours a week in the game, a complete consideration of the opportunity cost including all of the other things they might be doing. Parent oriented publications are full of warning about the dangers of WoW like this one:

July 2008 - My son is 17 and was recently diagnosed w/ ADHD and LD by a neuropsychologist. We had him tested because we were concerned about his grades, which had been very good, but curved down to bottom by junior year. He is very intelligent, but does very little homework. He sees a therapist, a learning specialist and has a 504 plan at BHS. He plays World of Warcraft compulsively. Treatment by his therapists does not seem to help him come to the realization that his gaming is a problem. When we (the parents) take away the game, he goes on strike and doesn't go to school. Questions: Does anyone have any experience with World of Warcraft addiction? If so, what has helped your child? Are there any local therapists who specialize in this? What about residential treatment or boarding schools? I am at wit's end. Any advice or sharing of experience would be appreciated. Anon

Radical treatment is needed here. Get rid of his computer, admittedly difficult to do. Electronic screens in general, have become the malaise of American children. Call the BUSD attendance office and/or the Berkeley Police if necessary. It is nothing to feel shy or stigmatized about. You can't let your son control the situation. You need to rein him in. My own son has a degree of computer addiction (racing games). I sent him away to camp for 9 weeks this summer, largely to get him away from the computer. Bill Gates lets his daughter use the computer 45 minutes on school nights and 1 hour on weekend nights. If that's enough time for Bill Gates' child, it's enough time for our sons. Best of Luck and Don't Be Reticent! Berkeley Teacher and Mother

Of course, there are also a variety of more moderate answers and strategies. American parents are dealing with this and other situations in a broad spectrum of ways. Another parent quotes experts and points to resources:

First, Iowa State psychology professor Douglas Gentile says there are red flags to watch for when it comes to any video game addiction. It's not the hours, he says, it's the impact on the rest of life. ... World of Warcraft was a hot topic on a recent Q&A session we ran with CSU Dominguez Hills professor Larry Rosen, author of ''Me, Myspace and I'' (great book, by the way),Walnut Creek therapist Steven Freemire and Times video games blogger Danny Willis -- and Danny raised some particularly interesting points about why forcing a teen to go cold-turkey meets with the reception that, well, you've experienced. He says parents tend to think of these games like virtual solitaire, when they're more like varsity football. They're played in teams, so if your son doesn't show up to play, he's letting down real people to whom he made a commitment. So it may be helpful when you talk to your son, if you understand that to him, it's like being yanked off the varsity football team, or told he can only go to two practices a week -- in which case, the team will dump him. Your discussion will go better if he gets that you get it. Or at least, the door may not be slammed quite as hard.

Though there are reported cases in the mainstream press where WoW brings couples closer together (A Happy Warcraft Tale: http://www.worldofwar.net/n/415359/a-happy-warcraft-tale) or makes students more interested in school ('World of Warcraft' Gets Kids Interested in School by Jeremy Tsu: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,432383,00.html), fear tends to predominate. In a system where some schools or districts still ban books in deference to parent concerns, we can see that not everyone will accept or endorse our proposed experiment. The long term solution likely lies in discussions that involve parents, teachers, students, and others, and focus on facts, attempt to differentiate between more and less rational fears. In the shorter term, it's appropriate to build consensus and be sensitive, even if anxieties seem disproportionate or irrational.

Doctors today have general concerns about trends in obesity, which is epidemic in the US, and overall health, and some have specific concerns about WoW or comparable games. Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, claims that 40 percent of World of Warcraft players are addicted to the game. Dr. Orzack is the founder and coordinator of Computer Addiction Services, and likens computer addiction, also called internet addictive disorder or cyberaddiction, to pathological gambling and compulsive shopping. She recommends treatment using cognitive therapy, and that games bear warnings similar to cigarette packets. Though her publications on the subject seem to be from about a decade ago, the AMA does not quite recognize video game addiction as a distinct disorder, and the methodology she used to derive the 40% figure is not clear, she makes some very good points about the way MMORPG use variable ratio reinforcement to keep players engaged. "This isn't about willpower or restraint," she is quoted as saying, "These games are very elaborately designed to ease you in gently, entice you, and keep you there. And it's a cycle: people begin to spend too much time playing and their careers and personal relationships begin to deteriorate." Different types of doctors have different career arcs and different concerns, and careers in psychology can be made by speaking to an anxiety that is on the rise as opposed to one that is on the decline, but it is legitimate to consider the health concerns associated with our proposed experiment. Again, it means selecting a group that is prepared to sign an informed consent form, one made up of people from, if Dr. Orzack's figure is correct, the other 60%. We may also want to discuss screening for other things, in theory, such as obesity, depression, anxiety, and so on, noting that these are incredibly common in adolescence and early adulthood. To moderate concerns, we could run this experiment in conjunction with, for example, the requirement that participants engage in regular exercise. Exercise tends to have many positive effects, and, according to some research, to raise test scores on seemingly unrelated assessments.

Government is slow, but responsive to the concerns of the citizenry. It would be difficult to convince regressive school boards this is worthwhile, and current state and national law require particular forms of assessment. If this research can be conducted at the college level and it can be shown to have positive results across the board, then progress is possible, or, at least, we may be able to impede policy and law that prohibit this sort of thing. Uniformly positive results, however, are unusual and suspicious. Reliable data is likely to be more ambiguous.

Current employers would likely rather have the student learn something more directly applicable to their work. Future employers may be a little more open, as technical skill sets, work at distance, and achieving objectives in virtual environments may be more valuable in some sectors in the future. To address employer concerns, we'd need to focus on the aspects of the game that may incidentally prepare student players for work, such as in-game economics. We may also need to strongly suggest that our participants limit their time in game to far less than the average number of hours per week in favor of other activities. We could, for example, require participants to earn the money necessary to subscribe to the game themselves.

Finally, there are the other people in society who must coexist with the players. Dr. John Charlton of the England's University of Bolton and Ian Danforth of Whitman College in the United States suggest, on the basis of their research (sample included 391 players, 86% male), that "the closer the players got to [game] addiction the more likely they were to display negative personality traits. With stronger signs of game addiction came three personality traits that would usually be associated with Aspergers: neuroticism and lack of extraversion and agreeableness" (reported by Gamepolitics.com). Dr. Charlton is quoted as saying "The thinking in the field is that there is a scale along which people, even those considered to be 'normal', can be placed upon. And that people such as engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists are nearer to the non-empathizing, systemizing, end of the spectrum, with people with Aspergers syndrome even further along again. ... Our research supports the idea that people who are heavily involved in game playing may be nearer to autistic spectrum disorders than people who have no interest in gaming." The implication is that game addiction makes people less sociable. On the other hand, MMO are collaborative platforms and reinforce many basic skills of the "everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten" variety. To be value sensitive, we need to carefully consider the experiment design, but, as we're screening to decrease the likelihood of reinforcing or creating addictions and this is a group project, it should be relatively simple to make the work collaborative. We can, for example, prompt students to reflect on the benefits of working with another or with a group to achieve an objective, in addition to allowing free reflective writing. This risk of Aspergers-like symptoms appears to be manageable.


A qualified teacher, a qualified therapist, and a group activity leader will invite students to be screened for a critical thinking experiment that will involve playing World of Warcraft. To be accepted student players must indicate that they will abide with the terms of participation, that they will take a standardized critical thinking examination (such as the International Critical Thinking Essay Test from the Foundation for Critical Thinking) to be scored by external evaluators at the beginning of the program and at the end, to earn the money the game subscription will cost either in group community service organized by the experiment's leaders or at a part-time job, and to state that they do not believe themselves to be or to have been addicted to online games. Participants will be briefed on the risks and sign an informed consent form. The group activity leader will be in charge of a light group (physical fitness) exercise program in which all participants are expected to participate. The therapist will review what participants write, meet with participants individually to discuss their progress through the program, and have the power to remove students from the program at any time. The teacher will discuss program objectives, and be on hand in the game world to observe and participate. Students are asked to play at designated times during the week and to work together to meet certain objectives within the game, then to reflect in writing, both in response to prompts written by the teacher and freely, at particular times during the experiment. Students are asked to agree not to play WoW except at these designated times, totaling a maximum of an agreed upon number of hours per week (say 3-6), and to reserve the characters they create in this program for use in this experiment. At the end of the experiment, student writing and test scores, along with teacher, therapist, and group activity leader research notes, will be aggregated into a data set to be made available for external review.


As you can see, the result of the conceptual investigation and sensitivity to the likely concerns of the direct and indirect stakeholders increases the specificity, and, perhaps, the quality of the proposed experiment. While it may still provoke anxiety in some quarters, and there are questions that this experiment will be less likely to answer as a result of the limited sample, it is arguably much more likely that the students involved will learn more. Whether their critical thinking skills will improve measurably or not, they'll become more aware of the discussion about the risks of online games, and have spent time reflecting individually and working together on virtual and real tasks. It is much harder to describe the refined proposal as reckless, and it is far more likely to appeal to the concerned stakeholders. There are cases in which sensitivity to too many stakeholders and their values can be paralyzing, but this is not one of them. This type of process can be used to consider and refine almost any design or endeavor.

Appendix A:

Minimum System Requirements
Windows® System 2000/XP OS:
Intel Pentium® III 800 MHz or AMD Athlon 800 MHz
512 MB or more of RAM
32 MB 3D graphics card with Hardware Transform and Lighting, such as NVIDIA® GeForce™ 2 class card or above
DirectX® 9.0c (included) and latest video drivers
6.0 GB available HD space
4x CD-ROM drive
A 56k or better Internet connection

Mac® OS X 10.3.9:
933 MHz or higher G4, or G5, or Intel processor
512 MB RAM or higher; DDR RAM recommended
ATI or NVIDIA® video hardware with 32 MB VRAM or more
6.0 GB available HD space
4x CD-Rom drive
56k or better Internet connection

Appendix B:

World of Warcraft: What is it?

· World's #1 selling "massively multiplayer" online role-playing game [MMORGP]

· Player Experience
o A "virtual reality" fantasy where thousands of players embark on adventures and discover a world together inside the rich Warcraft universe
o An escape from the routine, everyday world into a land of epic fantasy where you have the freedom to explore, be anyone you want, establish powerful social connections, and accomplish great tasks

· Technical Foundation
o Client/Server network game
o 'Game' resides in code and databases on servers
o Client renders the game on players' computer screens
o 9,000 Blizzard servers globally supporting WoW
o Over 1,300 Game Masters provide 24x7 customer support in 6 languages directly to player while playing the game

[Omitted chart: WoW customers in millions by quarter, east and west]

Published by Blizzard-Vivendi 2006


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