I was entertaining the idea that my PhD work so far has revolved around a trivial problem that I had invented for the sake of a PhD. This morning, an intense conversation with my supervisor (supported by a lot of drawing and writing) gave me more confidence that there is some good work accomplished so far (that might be useful to some educators). I heave a sigh of relief.
I’m reading Thomson and Kamler’s (2013) Writing for peer reviewed journals. I must learn to keep these three questions in mind as I write:
- Who cares?
- How is it like what others have done?
- What is new?
Today, after reading a few books/articles and writing a few drafts, I seem to have come to the (provisional) conclusion that there is no problem. That my past 18 months of PhD work was my searching for a problem where there is none.
I hope “provisional” is right. At the same time, I will accept the situation if there is actually no problem.
Some research in video game violence indicate that playing different game characters (good guys vs bad guys) results in different social behaviours (e.g. Happ et al., 2013). They also identify some factors that influence this relationship: e.g. how far the player identifies with the game character, shares the character’s goals, experiences the character’s feelings.
What I still don’t know is how symbolic game play (symbolic ‘actions’) can result in changes in real-world behaviours. Role-modelling (social learning theory)? Or that the same psychological processes get activated (Winn, 1993)? Mirror neurons (observation of others)?
And is this process similar to the effects of watching TV programmes? Reading a novel?
A simulation environment depicting realistic task elements that are fundamentally cognitive in nature requires high physical fidelity to maintain high psychological fidelity. (…) problems with greater fidelity are more likely to transfer to the real world. (Garrett, 2012)
It appears that “high psychological fidelity” is the ultimate goal in designing an ideal educational simulation. Underpinning this argument is the belief that students might activate the same psychological processes when performing an act in the real- and virtual-world (Winn, 1993). I think Garrett is arguing that, as long as students are required to apply the same knowledge and skills to perform the avatar action, transfer is likely. I can agree with that.
Web-based online environments in higher education have largely been disembodied experiences. This is in the face of contemporary educational theory which emphasises the significance of maximising embodied contextual experience to stimulate learning and fully engage learners (Migdalek, 2002). In a virtual world, gesture and actions can be aligned with words (Cheng, Farnham & Stone, 2002). This affordance for the second language learner has the potential therefore to contribute pedagogical benefits conventionally aligned with real world experiences, arguably constituting an advance on the standard classroom language drills. (Grant & Clerehan, 2011)
The quote above perhaps summarises what is perturbing me at this moment: the apparent conflation of VW and RW learning experiences. Are VW experiences “embodied”? I had also assumed that in the past, and am now uncertain.
We already live in a world dominated by simulated experiences and feelings, and Baudrillard alerts us to the dangers of losing the capacity to comprehend reality as it ‘actually’ exists. Similarly, I fear that the OVH might contribute to this risk, and am increasingly unsure of how simulations help us comprehend our physical world (I’m sure VWs help us comprehend VWs).
It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory-precession of simulacra-that engenders the territory (Baudrillard, 1994, p. 1)
But what if we meant the simulation to mimic our real world (not a fantasy world), using the simulation as “the reflection of a profound reality” (p. 6)? Would Baudrillard’s precession of simulacra still apply?
I’ve yet to articulate it clearly, but in the case of language learning, I do feel that the precession of simulacra applies. VW conversations are quite different from RW ones.