Thursday, November 21, 2013

Flourish and Blotts

Welcome to the library of...

information that I have found regarding online games, social networking, and of course identity. These three things are the main focus of this study and I did a little research in the library to fill in some gaps and help inform you all about some of the work that has been done in similar fields of research.

So, here it goes. To start off I would like to discuss the role of online gaming. is not your typical online game with tasks of the shoot 'em sort or anything like that. It is a primarily single player game (we'll get into how it is not single later!) with a more exploring goal in mind. A.J. Robison wrote that most games succeed with goals that the player can achieve and thereby gain a sense of "a 'win' state" (361). is an affinity space (Ellcessor & Duncan) which revolves around the ideas of online games as well as the wonderful world of Harry Potter but it lacks that customary "win state" that most games offer. works in a different realm and instead gives the player a wealth of information about the world of Harry Potter as well as a way to continue to access the fantasy that Harry Potter created regardless that the series has ended. The site allows it players to engage in that particular fantasy world and "players' interpretations of games are just one part of the meaning-making conversations that occur between readers and writers," (Robison 361). Everything that we do online (and arguably offline as well) is part of a larger picture. We are in conversation with other pieces of text that we have read, things that we are writing, and those that we have yet to read. The online aspect of simply offers a multi-modal environment for further expression and adventure into the fandom and fiction of Harry Potter.

In David Buckingham and Andrew Burn's article "Game Literacy in Theory and Practice" (2007), they wrote, "computer games are almost invariably multi-modal texts (Kress and van Leewen, 2001) - which is to say that they often combine different communicative modes, such as still and moving images, sounds and music, speech and writings, and so on," (326). does all of the above. There are multiple ways to engage with the game. I found the communicative properties of the game the most interesting of course and so focused much of my research on that particular aspect while studying the site. Within the game, there are two features that allow the single-player to interact with others (thus the above mention of "primarily" single-player functionality). The chat feed feature allowed for real-time conversations to happen between players, albeit in a limited capacity. This feature is also the primary area for players of to create an identity for themselves. 

The site is very restricting in its personalization features and so the main way that players get to personalize and create identity is through the conversations that they have through the Great Hall and Common Room chat feeds. Their identity was sculpted through their chats with other students. In Yong Jin Park's article "Digital Literacy and Privacy Behaviors Online" (2011), the author did extensive research into how people viewed and demonstrated online privacy behaviors. Park wrote, "there was evidence that in personal privacy (Turow & Hennessy, 2007) offline status, such as age, gender, income, and education, affects privacy protection behavior," (220). I found this applicable to in a few ways. Identity is a very tricky thing to pinpoint. Everyone, whether consciously or not, creates for themselves an identity when they are in an online space. Language, tone, grammar, etc. all create a sense of who the author is or wants to be seen as being. is a very restrictive site at least in the privacy settings and ability to create an identity. Therefore, players have to go out of their way to specifically create an identity. They used tag names on the end of their messages, they used specific Harry Potter book references to create an online enactment of specific book events, they also had inside jokes, and perhaps pet names or codes to communicate with each other. All of these could be seen by anybody but the way they crafted their interactions was very exclusive to those who were not in that particular group. Their "privacy" was created through how they used the public chat feature of the game.

I feel that their "ecology of practice"(Buck 9 & 13), or how that was part of their online game playing, is an important aspect of how really (perhaps unknowingly) created a special place for those players to create an identity and an online presence that allowed them to explore Harry Potter and its fandom in a more in depth way than most would expect of such a site. Their play on was fascinating to watch unfold in how they utilized the limited space of the restrictive site to create identity and communicate with others about similar interests and fulfill their fan enthusiasm for Harry Potter.

So, I hope this was helpful in understanding where this project has taken me thus far. So until next time...

Black, Rebecca and Constance Steinkuehler. "Literacy in Virtual Worlds." Eds. L. Christenbury, R. Bomer, & P. Smagorinsk. New York: Guilford, 2009. 271-286. Print.

Buck, Amber. "Examining Digital Literacy Practices on Social Network Sites." Research in the Teaching of English 47.1 (2012): 9-38. Web. November 10th, 2013.

Buckingham, David and Andrew Burn. "Game Literacy in Theory and Practice." Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia 16.3 (2007). 323-349. Print.

Ellcessor, Elizabeth and Sean C. Duncan. "Forming The Guild: Star Power and Rethinking Projective Identity in Affinity Spaces." International Journal of Game-Based Learning (n/a) (2011).

Henkin, Roxanne, Janis Harmon, Elizabeth Pate, and Honor Moorman. Editorial. "Merging Literacy and Technology." Voices from the Middle. March 2010: 1.3. Print.

Park, Yong Jin. "Digital Literacy and Privacy Behavior Online." Communication Research 40.215 (2013): (n/a). Web. November 10th, 2013.

Robison, Alice. "The Design is the Game: Writing Games, Teaching Writing." Computers and Composition 25 (2008). 359-370. Web. November 10th, 2013. 

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Preparing Potions: Mrs. Scower's Magical Mess Remover

Image Info in Works Cited
Step 1: Choose a Cauldron
For this fascinating project I chose to explore the wonderful world of Now why would I do that you ask? Well, I thought this particular site would offer (and it did!) and interesting look into how a website dictates how identity can be created by those who use that site. is a primarily single-player game that offers very little to the "student" as far as identity building yet players of the site still seem to be able to create an identity through the limited interactions available through the chat features of the game.

Step 2: Collect the Ingredients
I chose to look at how players used the chat features in to create an identity where in other areas of the game there really is no opportunity to interact with other players or personalize themselves in any way. There are two areas for chatting: one is in the student's House Common Room where players from the same house can chat with each other and the second chat area is in the Great Hall where students from all four houses can chat together.

Step 3: Collect Yourself
My place in this whole collection scheme was to get to know I created my own account and played the game. I only introduced myself and asked one question in my House Common Room chat. Other than that, I stood back and watched how others had created an identity for themselves on the different chat features of the game.

Step 4: Mix the Ingredients
Like I said before, I chose to study the chat features of To choose specific data sets to study, I frequently read the chat feeds in the different areas. I then chose some of the more interesting or enlightening clips that seemed to highlight some of the ways that the students created identity in

Step 5: Stir Twice Counter-clockwise and Wait Five Minutes
I chose to look at the chat feeds and study how students had made an identity for themselves through that space. There were specific tags that students used to identify themselves when using the chat features and I chose chat feed that demonstrated that use of identification. I also did a separate analysis that went through the initial steps of creating a account and discussed how the site limited its players in identity creation.

Step 6: Bottle and Save for Later
This can be a tricky step so take your time. Reflect on those notes from before. I focused my study on the idea of how identity can be created in an online space. For reference I chose to follow the idea of affinity space from Black and Steinkuehler's "Literacy in Virtual Worlds" and Thomas' "Digital Literacies of the Cybergirl" for information on how identity can be created in online environments.

Works Cited
Black, R. W. & Steinkuehler, C. Literacy in virtual worlds. In L. Christenbury, R. Bomer, & P. Smagorinsky (Eds.), Handbook of Adolescent Literacy Research (pp. 271-286). New York: Guilford, 2009. Print.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000. Print. 

Image from:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hogwarts Letters

Hellooo everyone...

Lately, I have been looking at how the site limits its players. I went through the set-up account process and the initial stages of character play to give you all a look at how the game can be constricting to its players.

So, there is always the sell your soul section of every account setup process and is no different. The basic name, birthday, gender, email, etc. and then choose a password process still exists for Harry Potter I guess. The usual go to your email to confirm your account information then click on the link to begin remains. And this is where things become interesting. When the new Hogwarts student enters the game there are three initial tasks to accomplish: 1) collect your money from Gringotts Wizarding Bank, buy a pet and a wand, and finally he or she needs to be Sorted into their respective Houses.

Getting the money from the bank is fairly straight forward. The next part (buying the pet) is one of the few opportunities that allows the player to personalize their player identity. When the student chooses a pet that pet's picture becomes their avatar. I chose a cat so I have a cat with luxurious white fur as my avatar. This is about the only personalization available to the students in the game.

In the Harry Potter books, the students went to Ollivander's to buy their wands and true to the books the students of do as well. Similarly, the wands choose the students. The student is given seven questions to click through and answer to their best ability. The questions are not always the same for every player ( I have created two accounts and the questions were different both times). Most of the questions are of the to-which-do-you-most-closely-identify-with type. One question that I encountered was about eye color (there were eight color options). At the end of the questions the student verifies that the answers are correct and is awarded a wand with a brief description of its attributes (length, wood type, and core composition).

The final step in the player entrance process is to be Sorted. Sorting is similar to the wand choosing process in that it also asks seven questions. This time the questions seem to be more in-this-scenario-which-would-you-prefer type category. These questions also change from player to player. At the end of the quiz, the student is placed into a House which become his or her family on the site. From there the student is free to wander about and learn about the wonderful world of Harry Potter.

Hope this helps those of you who don't play understand some of the restrictions placed upon the students from the start. This game does not allow a lot of room for students to create an identity or communicate with others but it does create an interesting platform for those ingenious enough to look deeper.