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 Pottermore.com 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. Pottermore.com 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). Pottermore.com 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. Pottermore.com 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 Pottermore.com 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). Pottermore.com 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 Pottermore.com 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 Pottermore.com 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. Pottermore.com 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 Pottermore.com 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 Pottermore.com 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
Image Borrowed From: http://www.harrypotterrealm.com/movie/cos_suprise.jpg