The Uncertainty Principle

A Bimonthly Collection of Creations
Presented by The Sophisticates Society

Volume II: Issue Four

"Video Games"

Online Edition June 27, 2011

Editor's Note

In my day 2 day wanderings I sometimes come across inspirational art. Last weekend traveling to the Solid Sound music festival was an inspiration orgasm. The eating-my-cake-part-of-having-it being a Marco Bellafonte show in the quietly sophisticated Wilkes-Barre, pronounced wilks-barry on the drive out to the show.

Obviously watching Wilco this weekend was _ _ _ _, but the most striking artist I came across lately had an installation at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or MASS MoCA, where Solid Sound was held. His name was Nari Ward and the work was Sub Mirage Lignum. An MMoCA pamphlet wrote it

merges place and material to create a new hybrid zone where the real and the imaginary are intermingled, where electronic capacitors and old fabric swatches found at MASS MoCA (remnanats of the site's former industrial tenants) are woven together with the material culture of Jamaica, mango seeds and lignum vitae tourist trinkets, market shanties and fish traps.

If you can make it to North Adams before February 2012 to see Ward's work, you'd better be better for it. In the meantime, we have a striking collection of art here for you. Staff writers Joe and Afia have two tasty pieces, a couple of gentleman were kind enough to let us re-publish their work and there're some other surprises you'll prolly like. Remember you can still order the first print edition for only $1!

Charles Jeffrey Danoff
June 27th 2011

Arcade Memories
by Afia VanHorne

A classic playground set in dark and dingy spaces laced with continuous flashes of bright lights and constant penetrating noises. Where you took all of the stolen laundry day coinage and sank it into your adventure of choice, spending only moments, maybe more, trying to advance to the next levels of a perfectly real, imaginary world. Like wandering through a carnival, moving among game junkies at play, up and down rows of oversized consoles inviting you into a world of intergalactic fantasy, simulated violence and high-speed action. Remaining planted in front of these large entertainment boxes, you manipulated the controls to bend outcomes to your will until you finally accepted defeat signalled by exaggerated sounds and a bittersweet announcement that your game was over. Attempted but difficult to recapture the rush of excitement felt when every corner you turned oozed of the 80’s. Gone are the days of roaming through these mazes of cheap thrills. Impossible to fully restore the hustle and bustle of that unique atmosphere where you congregated with friends and strangers alike in social harmony.

Afia is a staff author based in Toronto.
Arcade Memories Copyright © 2011 Afia VanHorne. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Get Real
by David Banks

Lately I have been trying to list all of the spaces, places, moments in time, story telling techniques, life courses, and jobs that are not popularly considered “the real world.” Here is the not-so-comprehensive list I came up wtih:

  1. The Internet
  2. Video Games
  3. Books
  4. Graphic novels
  5. Reality television
  6. Movies
  7. School
  8. College
  9. “Theory”
  10. Fiction

A note about number 3 (and 4). I say “books” as a whole, to capture two sentiments. The first, is an aversion to the nerdy bookworm that is exemplified in The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough At Last” (SPOILER). The second is a sort of anti-intellectualism that is best described in the first episode of The Colbert Report:

This feeling over fact mentality can be extended to 7, 8, and 9 as well. One cannot truly know the world until they have lived it. One has no authority on certain topics because they are not a part of an in-group that claims legitimacy. But there are major contradictions. When one invokes the “real world” they are often describing a sort of pragmatic realism that demands experience over the learned best practices provided by institutional educational settings. There has been a move in academia to include this sort of experience in and outside the classroom in the form of increased access to internships and required community service. (I’m not linking to any sources here, because if you graduated high school in the last 10 years or have a kid who’s going through it now, you know this to be true through experience.)

For a discussion of reality television (5), check out my first blog post on Cyborgology on the increasing isomorphism of entertainment and surveillance technology.

This leaves the remainder of the list. 1, 2, and 6 are becoming increasingly intertwined and rely on one-another to remain relevant and popular technologies. In this case, “the real” is more synonymous with “offline” and are often referred to as “IRL” or “In Real Life”. These are interactions and relationships that some still privilege over online interactions. Nathan, PJ, and many other people smarter than I (PDF) have devoted text to this line of inquiry and you should read their work.

So, what about 10? Fiction, and particularly science fiction, has always played a critical role in understanding the “real world” through metaphor, satire, and futurist conjecture. Reality follows fiction as we build flip phones, rocket ships, and burbclaves, but our awe at these technologies fade as they become more mundane. So when we talk about the “clippings on the floor” being more interesting than the puzzle pieces we fit together, consider the multi-faceted concept we call “reality” and consider the mode in which you are working. Its a slippery subject that shows you another face, as soon as you think you understood the first. I will leave you all with the classic Louis C.K. observation: “everything is amazing and nobody is happy:”

Prose Copyright © 2011 David Banks. Re-Published from Cyborgology with Author's permission.

PRESS RELEASE: Founding of the Chicagoland Video Game Collective

In May 2011 the Chicagoland Videogame Collective (CVC) was officially founded by its trustees with their panel workshop submission to the Game Developers Conference China in November 2011. The workshop was about video games and education, especially methods for bringing video games into traditional K-12 classrooms.

The CVC is a think-tank devoted to studying pedagogical approaches involving video games. We believe video games can make learning traditional subjects both more fun and effective. Those two things can be mutually exclusive in classrooms, but we believe they do not have to be and when combined produce the best learning results. The academic community has found positive evidence of games in K-12 classrooms in James Paul Gee's work as well as Civilization III's use in teaching world history.

The CVC was founded by its three trustees: Wilder Cusick, Ryan Yast and Charles Jeffrey Danoff. Wilder is an IT Consultant for a respected Chicago firm, was once a feared leader of a World of Warcraft Guild and has a degree from the University of Massachusets Amherst. Ryan works at ZS Associates an influential international firm, teamed with Wilder to reach WOW's highest level and has a Masters degree from Indiana University. Charles manages the educational business he started, spent many hours dominating Madden Franchise mode and graduated from Colgate University.

Whether we are lucky enough to be accepted into the conference or not, our mission is to study video games and education and try to realize our goal of giving teachers another tool for their teaching toolkit as they prepare leaders to face an increasingly digital and sophisticated tomorrow. To learn more about the CVC, please visit our website we are expecting to launch the site in late June, 2011.

Charles is the Editor of The Uncertainty Principle.
Copyright © 2011 Charles Jeffrey Danoff. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

EDUC 222: Videogames & Learning Syllabus
by Barry Fishman

Course Objectives:

  • Students will develop critical perspectives on learning, interactive media, and games.
  • Students will develop an understanding of basic theories of learning and motivation.
  • Students will learn how empirical research/evaluation can be used to assess the relationship between games and learning.
  • Students will develop their skills as presenters, discussion leaders, and writers.

Course Overview:

Why are videogames fun? The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think. Good games draw you in, teach you how to succeed, and keep you engaged with a “just right” level of challenge. Most importantly, players learn while playing a well-designed game. Why isn’t school like that? This class takes a close look at videogames, a close look at education, and considers ways that each can be improved to maximize learning and performance.

This course is designed to be a unique and (hopefully) engaging learning experience. You may think you know how to “play the game of school,” but the rules in this course may not be what you’re expecting. Please read this syllabus carefully! The assignments and grading system may seem confusing at first, but if you take a little time to read the syllabus and pay attention in class, everything will be explained. Almost everything you need to know is explained in these pages. Did I mention that you should read this syllabus?

School is a Game. Your Grade is Your Score.

This is a games class, and so we will take a game-like approach to grading. All assignments and class activities are worth a certain number of experience points, and the quality of your work will result in skill points. There is no “A for effort” in college, but there is a “B for effort” in this course. That is to say, if you make a good faith effort to complete the required number of assignments, you will receive at least a “B.” If you work beyond the minimum requirements, you can of course earn a higher grade! And if you don’t make an effort, it is easy to receive a lower grade. Don’t do that. Also, no assignment can earn experience or skill points if it receives a grade lower than a C+. You’ll have to re-submit that assignment to get credit for it.

See below for the possible points, how assignments will be graded, and how grades are translated into skill points. Finally, there is a table translating your point totals into course grades. The assignment options are explained in the next section of the syllabus. Note that you don’t have to do all of the assignments to earn an “A,” you’ve got options. It might be necessary to do “extra” assignments if you want an “A+” grade.

Copyright © 2011 Barry Fishman. Re-Published with Author's permission. The sections above are a brief part of a fantastic syllabus by Barry Fishman. You can find the entire syllabus PDF here:

2011: A Text Odyssey
by David A Banks & Joseph A Corneli

What is reality? Who are we?

DAVE: Hey.

HAL: Hi there, should we start our "interview" now?

DAVE: Sure.

HAL: I have in mind maybe a 15 minute timelimit.

DAVE: That's cool.

HAL: There's this theory in art about showing "real time". At one point it was very risque to do anything like a cut scene. So, you study urban studies? Or how would you characterize your studies...?

DAVE: My B.A. was in Urban Studies, which was an interdisciplinary approach to a broad problem of humans' relationship to space and place. Which is what I continue to study, although now I like to add a sort of post-modern turn: the cyborg.

HAL: I have a friend in Geography in the University of Arizona, who I have often encouraged to look at things like "emotional geographies" or "geographies of thought".

DAVE: The cyborg in a sort of literal sense- having both organic and mechanical/digital components, but also as Donna Haraway uses it- as a metaphor to talk about hybridity. I actually considered applying to U of A's Geography program.

HAL: Yeah, I have the Donna Haraway essay in book form finally... Haven't read it for some time though.

DAVE: And the STS department I'm in now just got a Sociologist from U of A. He got his masters there.

HAL: For a while when I wasn't in school I read all sorts of interesting things like Kathy Acker and William Burroughs and stuff like that -- I got interested in "textual geographies". I guess part of that is my math background -- the way ideas link together is very "graphical" (nodes and edges, I mean).

DAVE: You'd probably find my advisor's work very interesting [1].

HAL: Thanks!

DAVE: Ethnomathmatics, I think, could become a very large field in anthropology in the coming years.

HAL: I think part of the problem for me was that the mechanical aspects of writing don't always really work with the human side. Burroughs talks about "the soft machine" (us).

DAVE: In fact, I just saw this today [2].

HAL: Hm, I think we use that picture in a project I'm working on!

DAVE: Oh cool.

HAL: Would take me a while to find it. Anyway, quite some overlap there! So what are your current projects?

DAVE: Yeah! that's pretty cool. As far as projects go, I have three things going right now. (1) I'll be going to Ghana next month for two weeks, where we'll be deploying a texting service that will help ghanaians find places to buy condoms to help prevent HIV/AIDS. (2) I'm working on a paper for publication about publics' relationships to urban planning professionals. (3) I'm in the early stages of another paper looking at the research politics of marijuana research regulation.

HAL: BTW, I found the image [3] - but "deep links" don't work at present, you'd have to click into "Getting started with General Computer Science" then Elementary Discrete Math, then Mathematical Foundations to see it -- maybe you want to take my word for it). Wow, those are quite a range of different things. I'm working on building a "crowdsourcing" platform to support mathematics learning None of this necessarily relates to the theme of "video games" for my friend's zine though...!

DAVE: Ha, yeah.

HAL: I guess when I was thinking about the interview, I was imagining changing my name to "Hal"

DAVE: Ha ha.

HAL: So I could say things like "I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that".

DAVE: I like the sound of that.

HAL: Any questions for me (either as myself or as a pseudonym?)

DAVE: Speaking of Hal, I have a few cybrogology posts about IBM's Watson computer.

HAL: Oh, yeah, I saw those... I was remembering reading Baudrillard, I can't remember which book, where he talks about Deep Blue he put it in a fairly positive light -- the first time I had the idea that "hyperreality" might be a good thing

DAVE: Oh yeah? I haven't read that.

HAL: I don't recall which book... here's something in French... [4]

DAVE: I suppose one question I like to pose to "hard science" folks like mathematicians, is "what do you think about the social sciences."

HAL: Yeah man, good question.

DAVE: Or perhaps more precisely, "What do you think are their best contributions to society?"

HAL: Even harder. Back in Urbana, Illinois, my instructor, Mr. Langley, allowed me to participate in a tutorial called "Interdisciplinary Discussion Seminar" or something like that. Philosophy, Psychology, and Mathematics. It was great.

DAVE: As someone that is constantly and reflexively investigating both the natural and social sciences, these questions come into my mind a lot.

HAL: Yeah. My friends obviously succeeded in turning me on to philosophy. Actually, my career started in anthropology I was interested to understand what makes mathematics tick (and still am). So I think it's very possible to blend hard and soft sciences -- and likely a good idea. Best contributions: well, I'm thinking of things like Kuhn. I mean, the philosophy of science isn't always done by scientists. But there are probably better contributions on a society-asa- whole level.

DAVE: Have you ever read any Sal Restivo?

HAL: Nope!

DAVE: He's one of the professors in the dept. You should get your hands on this book [5] -- it might be on

HAL: Oh, I'm pretty sure the book I had in mind earlier was called "Impossible Exchange" by the way. "Science, Society, and Values: Toward a Sociology of Objectivity" - sounds useful to have around. Anyway maybe we should bring this to a close? I can edit it then send over to you by email, then we can turn it in to Charlie... and the rest will be history (or something).

DAVE: Sounds good!

HAL: I'd definitely look forward to engaging further.

DAVE: Yes, certainly.

HAL: That might be a useful take-home question, anyway I'll be back in touch shortly - cheers!

DAVE: Cheers!


Joe is a staff author and David wrote the "Get Real" article above.
2011: A Text Odyssey Copyright © 2011 Joe Corneli. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

All staff and outsider work Copyright © the original author.
Everything else Copyright © 2011 the Uncertainty Principle. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.