Here is my poster for the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences Research Showcase event, taking place on November 11th at the Winter Gardens in Sheffield.
(And if you spot any typos please don’t tell me as it’s gone to the printers now!)
Here is my poster for the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences Research Showcase event, taking place on November 11th at the Winter Gardens in Sheffield.
(And if you spot any typos please don’t tell me as it’s gone to the printers now!)
So, after 26 weeks (32.5 hours!) of researching Minecraft Club, last week was the final session. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am pleased to have reached the landmark that is the end of my fieldwork, and a little relieved that I will finally end up generating data! I now have a 500gb external hard drive (and a backup, of course!) full of videos, screencasts, photos etc. However, I will definitely miss the weekly sessions with the children. I intend to carry on with the club in a slightly reduced form next year, but this particularly group of children will be at their next school by then. The final session of the club brought with it some of the emotions I used to feel at the end of a term as a teacher – particularly as I have known many of these children since they started the school seven years ago.
The session itself was slightly different to usual – I took the opportunity to show the children some of the video and comic strip data I had been working on (I was relived that this went down very well!). The children then used the electronic whiteboard to play me and each other some of their favourite Minecraft related videos from Youtube. Most of the children also played the game as usual, continuing their creations in the virtual world until the very last second.
As a ‘thank you’ for participating in the club I supplied cakes and typed a letter to the children and their parents.
And although I suggested in the post title that Banterbury (their virtual world) is over, it may not be entirely. One of the children approached me the week before with a request for access to the Minecraft Map files in order to enable them to continue using them at home. I made these available to all of the children – although they will not be able to play together – either in a single location or on a server – in the same way as they have during the club it’s interesting to speculate about the possibility of Banterbury’s continuing expansion, beyond my gaze.
But for me, certainly, Banterbury and this Minecraft Club are now places from the (recent) past, dependent on the particular set of people and circumstances that bought them into being. And as I dive headlong back into the data it brings with it memories of the brilliant group of children who made this project possible. Their reactions to the data I showed them during this session were positive and I’m confident that I will be able to represent their ‘lived experience’ in a way in which they would approve.
My intention was for discussion in each session to focus on three areas:
1. For the children to reflect on the nature of the club itself, with a focus on their motivation to continue attending weekly for a whole academic year.
2. For the children to discuss their perceptions of Banterbury, their ‘virtual community’. I asked them to describe what kind of place Banterbury is…
3. For the children to suggest some ‘episodes’, ‘events’ or ‘instances’ for me to look more closely at during my data analysis, based on what they felt had been ‘particularly interesting or important’. In order to prompt this part of the discussion I gave them two examples that I was already looking at – the horse funeral and the sheep song.
The following is a brief outline of the discussion session 5, centred around the models produced by the children, based on repeated re-watching of the screencast from the sessions.
Discussion Session #5
Callum’s model represented relaxation in the game, which he suggested is one reason to play the game. He then began to focus on the importance of social gameplay, particularly for him as a new member of the class at the beginning of the year, who joined the group from another school: ‘It’s a really great way for me to join in….I’ve got to know people so well through Minecraft Club. I don’t think I’d know anyone this well or be this best friends with anybody without Minecraft Club.’ Asked why a club around Minecraft was a good place for this social time he replied:
‘People talk more, there’s a bit more chance to talk and demonstrate their feelings in what they build… so I think I’ve got to know them quite well… and what they like and stuff’.
I asked if, for example, a chess club would have helped in the same way. He replied that he wouldn’t have gone, neither would anyone else!
Alex directed me over to his mushroom house and, after a bit of time establishing how to enter, he gave me a guided tour. This model was intended ‘to explain all of the places you can go’ (in Banterbury) ‘the forest… sand… mushrooms’. Above one of the doors was a sign reading ‘this is not a door’. Confused by this I asked why, to be told that ‘it’s clearly not a door’. Things are not what they appear to be.
As he led me around the house I saw ‘the most dangerous fireplace in the world, a baby sitting room, a room with a sign that says ‘do not enter because of chickens’ (we enter – there are no chickens) and a farm with cows with mushrooms on their heads’. He suggested that this ‘reminded him of the craziness of the world’ in Minecraft Club.
Joseph created an art gallery as a chance to try out using things he had not used before. He said that this reflected that ‘there are lots of items that they don’t use in the club’ and therefore possibilities that they had not yet explored.
Alex began by suggesting that I should look more closely at the events around the creation of Banterbury Library. This was interesting as this is already the focus of some of my data analysis. When asked why he suggested, ‘definitely when they were making the books… we were actually doing writing…. We actually tried to do something that is exciting’. Callum agreed and suggested that a focus on the library was important because ‘a lot of people think that Minecraft is just about building structures but you can build books and stories and stuff as well, which is quite good… It’s a feature that is in Minecraft all the time, and it’s part of real life… there’s books in real life…’
Joe discovered a glitch in the game where the doors were only half rendering. They then began to notice that it was possible to change skins in this new version – they left the game to change their skins: ‘Awesome! That is so cooool! Epicness!’
There was also some discussion over the legitimacy of the naming of the town Banterbury. Callum expressed frustration about the town being called ‘Banterbury’ – ‘WHY IS IT CALLED THAT?!’ He attributed its naming to one specific player’s particular interest in the word ‘banter’. Alex suggested a possible origin for the name Banterbury – a youtube video of another game ‘Terraria’ where a player names his world ‘Banterbury’ (I could not find this, however). There was a suggestion that there were some ‘power’ issues relating to the naming and the subsequent perceived ‘ownership’ of the town and control over certain activities was something that they found potentially frustrating and potentially led to the forming of groups within the club. They talked about how the girls (and some boys) like ‘all their stuff private and make a massive fuss when someone goes in’. I will pursue this more specifically elsewhere.
They also further emphasised the important of the social aspect of the gameplay in the club: ‘You can work together… sometimes we talk about other things, we talk about things while we are playing’. This ‘makes it more exciting’.
Still a week behind with my data familiarisation, but I’m catching up! Much of the in game play during this week seemed to centre around the creation of a new library in Banterbury. This post is built around my fieldnotes.
Tom has trouble logging in to the game so I let him use my laptop and check that it’s ok for me to screencast his play. I become aware of the fact that there is now a library in Banterbury. I also notice that, now the town has a name, I no longer feel the need to prefix it with the term ‘virtual’ – does naming make it more ‘real’? I can’t remember if there was a library last week or not -when did it appear?
Someone is singing ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis. Other children join in.
I focus on what Tom and Ben are doing, seating myself behind them. Tom looks at Ben’s screen. He then turns to Callum and asks him if he is writing books to – he isn’t, it’s just them. More singing – the girls start and the boys join in – it’s apparently the Minion’s Banana song.
Ben asks how to spell ‘comeuppance’ – I struggle to remember – it isn’t a word I use very often! I note that the boys flip between different ways of being in the game – writing, moving, writing again. Ben reads his book to Tom. Tom laughs. Ben takes his computer over to read the book to Lisa, the subject of his book. She laughs too. Both boys have inadvertently called their books ‘The Sick Buk!’ – they can’t believe the coincidence. One of them renames their to ‘The Super Buk’. Freya announces that she wants to write a book but Ben says that she can’t put it in the library. He relents saying ‘It’s just banter!’
Tom is typing ‘… swag mentally raged and blew up his…’ (short discussion over what sort of farm – ‘sausage or plastic’? He resumes, choosing ‘plastic’) ‘… plastic farm. Outraged with his stupidity of king pigs he…’ Tom says that his book is now ‘The Poop Buk’.
The girls are now writing books. Mia writes one about Ben and Tom, involving them walking down the isle. The book reads:
‘Happily, Tom and Ben walked hand in hand romantically down the wedding isle as the sunset shone thorough Tom’s big head. The best bit is Freya got it all on record, now that’s one for youtube. 3 weeks later Tom got fed up with Ben leaving his big bloomers on the bed, so they got a divorce :(‘
On hearing this they stand up and walk around the room, holding hands, doing the wedding march. They hug and pat each other’s backs, Ben stating ‘And that is how you deal with banter!’
There’s a reprise of the song ‘Tim Jim’ from week 3. Ben’s computer shuts down, L. suggests he does some ballet to fill the time. He does. Tom is typing, again. So far he has largely interacted with an interface for typing rather than exploring space – this observation is supported by the screencast of his play. The library was build by him and Ben and seems to have a certain number of set rules, dictated by them (so creation means ownership in Banterbury?) Each book ends with the statement ‘Property of Banterbury Library’. Callum has created a book all ‘IN CAPS’ but Tom is refusing to let it in as it doesn’t fit the correct format…
The stories created by the children seem to largely involve other members of the group. More specifically, they seem to involve bad things happening to other members of the group and, as such, could be considered to be exemplars of the ‘banter’ from which the town gets its name.
Whilst the library draws in a lot of the children, as usual not everyone is participating on the same task. Two of the girls are busy constructing what appears to be pixelart characters using the game’s blocks. One turns out to be me, with the word ‘thank you’ above it in large letters, using Minecraft blocks.
Finally Ben’s computer starts up again and he opens up one of the books he has created – it’s called ‘The Plastic Buk’ (each book seems to be named using this pattern, with an intentional mis-spelling of ‘book’ at the end.) He reads some of the content of the book out, to much laughter from the rest of the group.
Tom decides to hide in the game. He digs a hole under a building revealing a hidden room that he seems to have know was there already. ‘Ben, I’ve gone into operation hideout’ he says. “Ben! Come with me!’. Ben moves to sit next to Tom in the room and joins him in the game, in the hidden room. Ben is using a silly voice and I wonder what they are doing in this space.
There’s some singing from the boys, seemingly to mock the girls. ‘Don’t stop believing!’ they sing with mock enthusiasm. Tom asks Ben to fill in the secret hole.
Ben logs out, and back in. There is a discussion about veganism – about what it is. Ben starts singing a song by Blue. He is playing with words, language, lyrics, melody, tune, rhythm. Ben holds Tom’s hand. How do they drop in and out of the game like this? Ben starts rapping. I film the boys from over their shoulders as they work on separate screens, composing their separate texts – I film them doing this.
Someone asks how to spell ‘submarine’ – this prompts singing of ‘yellow submarine’ followed, again, by Milkshake by Kelis. They show a video of on of the club member at the skate park, on Youtube, on one of the class ipads. ‘How much money do you earn?’ asks one of the class, referencing the fact that people get paid for having popular channels of Youtube. He patiently explains that he doesn’t have enough views to get paid.
Some of the class discuss their Youtube accounts. They are discussing Minecraft videos and the show me a video called ‘the Villager News’
Tom returns to his computer and is typing, referencing something that turns out to be ‘Rap God’ by Eminem.
This research involves a group of children playing together during a club. As such, this work naturally draws upon work around play and the theories of play. Early on in his book ‘The Ambiguity of Play’ (2001), Brian Sutton Smith provides a (non-exhaustive) list of ‘activities that are often said to be play forms or play experiences’ (p. 4). What struck me about this list was how many of these examples have found their way into Minecraft Club over the preceding 19 weeks, either in the virtual or embodied space – or, often, across both. So while ‘vitual gameplay’ might suggest itself as a thing in itself, closer inspection reveals that it is a much more complex assemblage of multiple activities. The gamplay itself has temporal and spacial diversity (p. 6) in that it spans multiple weeks and places. Furthermore, whilst Minecraft itself is often an ‘agency for some kind of play’ (p. 6) it is not the only location or stimulus for play – drawing, as the children do, on a wide range of other influences.
[edit – I have noticed some additional examples that I accidentally neglected to highlight – most notably ‘reading and writing’ and ‘gardening’- but you get the idea!)
I am worn out when I arrive at the club this week – I have met headwind all the way on my regular uphill cycle to school. Whilst this ethnography clearly doesn’t extend to cover my reflections on my means of transport in (although I’m sure I could come up with enough data for a whole other ethnography based on this – particularly when my chain snaps on the way home) it does serve as a constant reminder that the boundary of the club is permeable, in that it draws the experiences of all participants at times outside of the club’s set beginning and end times. Most notably this week the children are taking part in their Y6 SATs. Some of them have even be entered into the Level 6 tests (tests that are well above the nationally expected level for children of this age – although there is a creeping expectation that schools enter some children for them). This afternoon was spelling, with some children (successfully) spelling words such as ‘recommended’, ‘partial’ and ‘picturesque’.
This blog post is drawn from my fieldnotes. I also left the GoPro with a group of girls and created a short screencast towards the end of the session – I will look more closely at these later (the girls tell me at the end that they’ve done some talking to the camera to explain what they’ve done this week).
One of the dads arrives to pick up his daughter, having forgotten that the club is on (entirely forgiveable as I had to cancel last week’s club at short notice). She bundles him out of the classroom and returns, having persuaded him to let her stay. I’m relieved that all children manage to log in without too much problem and the session runs largely, and unusually, without any technical problems (aside from laptop batteries running out – the children now seem to have made their own rules for the percentage at which they will swap chargers).
Four boys are seated at the back of the class – I choose to focus on their participation for much of the session, and stay out of the game until towards the end (which could explain the lack of technical issues). Tom asks where the girls are located in the game and they refuse to tell him. Game play, this week, is taking place in creative mode – as it ended this way last week. There’s an unusual sense of calm to being with, with everyone seemingly focussed on their screens.
Ed turns to talk to me: ‘Mr B, I’ve made a hidden Jeb door!’ – he shows me a piston door that he has made, using the instructions from the Redstone Handbook that he helped himself to earlier, proceeding to demonstrate the operation of the door on screen.
Ed then turns to Callum and they discuss employing another Jeb door elsewhere in the building they are working on. They discuss a living room that Tom has created ‘under the room of doom’ – ‘it’s so we can chill out‘ he says. I’m pleased to stumble upon this later on in the session. I ask about the purple floor I see on Joe’s computer. He says that was just Tom’s idea – ‘he likes purple’.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Tom asks Ed ‘What’s your favourite kind of tomato? Plum, Cherry…?’ Ed chooses cherry, as do most of the rest of the class who join in answering the question. Tom nods approvingly – ‘It’s gotta be cherry every time!’.
Across the room there’s a lot of chat happening. Freya’s screen in turned away from her and she’s clearly not playing the game at this point, engrossed in conversation. I catch snatches of discussion about their older brothers and sisters, texting, their dad’s cars (Adam remembers Mia’s dad ‘rocking up in a Mercedes’ – clearly impressed), swimming (Freya reminisces about the time she fell off the baby slide at the local leisure centre, Matt jumps in at this point with a competing story about hurting himself at a swimming pool and suggests that ‘Freya -I think that was the origin of your bad luck!’ ), a proposed Skype call when they get home (presumably to continue these conversations). There’s also an extended discussion, relating to their roles in Christmas plays further down the school. They laugh at having to play each other’s family members (sample quotes: Freya (laughing): ‘I had to be his wife AND sister!’, ‘In Santa’s on Strike – YOU (points to Ben) were my dad!’, Tom: ‘We were the kids with the wooden gameboys!’) As discussion trails off, Freya returns to the game and turns the screen to face her. Throughout this discussion, Mia (next to Sophie) has contributed whilst still engaged with the game.
Even in its absence in this part of the room, the GoPro camera is influencing events – Tom starts singing the recurring GoPro song, changing the words to ‘We’re NOT on a GoPro’. This song soon morphs into a rap – Tom tells me it’s this:
… an imagined Rap Battle between the main characters from ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ (two 18 rated American TV shows). He gives what sounds like a word perfect rendition of a short section. (Later, watching this video I wasn’t previously aware of, I’m struck by the adult language and the reference to drugs and killing and how different this is to the content of the reading Sats paper that they completed earlier in the week, recalling a discussion with C. about this very thing)
There appears to be some mischief happening. Someone has spawned and abandoned a herd of horses. Tom’s got his mind set on using TNT. He suggests that he has ‘a sick trick to play on central plaza’ – outlining his intention to link a daylight sensor to some TNT. Soon he’s asking the girls if it’s ok if he blows up a section of land. He warns the rest of the group ‘get ready for the boom’ but it seems not to work and, when it does, the impact of his explosion is minor. Meanwhile, Callum is clearing away the horses by setting fire to them. This is accompanied by a slightly unsettling noise coming from his computer, although he’s keen to point out that this is the quickest way of clearing them and sees them as an obstacle rather than a representation of any kind of real animal.
Jo seems to be working really carefully in his room. I enter the game (and start the screencast) and join him in the room. I’m initially invisible to them, until we realise that I have ‘spectate mode’ turned on. Joe has filled a large chest with ender pills. Callum soon joins us and leads my Avatar off elsewhere, where he gives me a virtual present – ‘jeffery the amazing red block’. He reminds me not to place it anywhere as it will lose its name, so I keep it in my inventory.
‘Error gives expression to the out of bounds of systematic control. When error communicates, it does so as noise: abject information and aberrant signal within an otherwise orderly system of communication. While often cast as a passive, yet pernicious, deviation from intended results, error can also signal a potential for a strategy of misdirection, one that invokes a logic of control to create and opening for variance, play and unintended outcomes. Error, as errant heading, suggests ways in which failure, glitch, and miscommunication provide creative openings and lines of flight that allow for reconceptualisation of what can (or cannot) be realised within existing social and cultural practices’ (Nunes, 2011, p.3)
Week 18 of the club took place in the children’s classroom. Eight children were in attendance – one of the regular children had gone home as it was his birthday and his parents had a surprise planned (one is not present in the photograph above as they had gone to collect another computer from the laptop cabinet outside the room, due to a technical problem with their computer). The club originally consisted of eleven children, but one child left a few weeks ago without giving a reason (other children report that he never really liked Minecraft!) and another can no longer attend as his sister has horse riding on the same night. Desks are organised in rows, in preparation for SATS in two weeks’ time. Some of the children work opposite each other on the desks, choosing to work facing the back of the classroom instead of the front.
My main source of anxiety relating to the club directly stems from the technical issues relating to the game. This is partly because it means that I end up trying to sort out technical problems and am therefore unable to either join in with the gameplay or observe the children’s play effectively. I also fear the technical problems as they are a source of frustration that act as an obstacle that hinders the children’s progress in the game. Technical problems happen often and therefore I feel that I need to reflect this fact in some way. I also feel that discourses around the use of technology in classrooms often airbrush out the more problematic realities of trying to use this stuff on multiple, often dated, devices in classrooms with multiple participants, and therefore feel that I need to present an account that actually brings this element of the club to the fore.
In order to connect with the server, each child has to enter an IP address on to their computer. This is often written up on the board by a member of the club, dictated by me. This week it was added to the board, underneath a piece of formal writing by the teacher about the recent earthquake in Nepal.
Many children report problems logging in and I feel my anxiety levels rising. However, after a few minutes I realise I have read out the server number wrongly, getting the 6 and the 2 muddled up. Everyone logs in successfully and the first technical hurdle is crossed. Soon, computers that have not been fully charged start running out of battery and the children request chargers. This involves me having to leave the room to go to the laptop cabinet in order to unlock the back and unthread the neatly weaved wires from the purpose built cupboard. There are a couple of free chargers in school but these never seem to be around when you need them.
Selecting the data
I decided to transcribe a section of the club that was barely covered by my field notes, suggesting that it had not immediately present itself as an ‘interesting’ section. My only note covering this period related to the fact that Tom was having technical problems. I am not, therefore, conceptualising this section as a self-contained micro-event (or a ‘moment of convergence’) as I didn’t feel that this period of time stood out in the same way that some of the other pieces of data did. I therefore chose to transcribe five minutes of video, rather than selecting a starting or ending point dictated by events. As a result, this constituted an attempt to analyse data relating to a less ‘obvious’ element of the club – as a compliment to taking the ‘data that glows’ approach (Maclure, 2013). In other words, my aim was to look closely at a piece of data where I had not already identified any real ‘potentiality’ (Maclure, 2013) This said, I was aware that it may also provide an opportunity to potentially examine how a technical issue plays out for one individual. (Listening back to the talk on the video, however, it soon became clear that Tom’s reaction to his technical problem was in itself as much of a social performance as the other data I have examined including, as it does, dramatic pronouncement and the ever present use of song!)
The specific technical problem referred to here is that of ‘lagging’. This involves the connection slowing down between the player’s laptop and the server, resulting in a temporal disparity between different player’s progress in the game. Sometimes the server struggles so much that all players are logged out of the game and have to log back in. At other times, only individual players are affected.
Other than the previously mentioned brief comment in my field notes, data on this episode is drawn purely from the video of the club. The camera was positioned behind the players at the back of the classroom (Figure 3). I am to the right of the frame, typing field notes on my iPad, trying to take a fairly detached view of the proceedings (as opposed to a more participatory approach that I take at other times.)
Here, I begin with a transcription of the audio from the video segment. The speech of the three boys closest to the camera is the clearest on the recording, but the words of the two girls to the centre of the frame and the boy in white are also often audible and have been transcribed too. Although the positioning of the camera is not ideal, I have made some note of gesture – although I did not feel that a fine grained multimodal analysis would provide me with the overview I was looking for in this instance (regardless of the fact that the video itself would not lend itself to this approach either).
From this transcript, I then work to develop a set of ‘narrative vignettes’ (Mavers, xx), building on observations drawn from the transcript in order to give insight into the actions of the individuals participants who make up the club.
Week 18, Video 2 – 12m – 17m (approx. 30 minutes into the 75 minute session)
|12.00||Ben: You’ve got about five minutes, you’ve got about three minutes before everything disappears Mia….. To get the chest.
Ed: Most of these bottles don’t work.
Tom: Who needs wooden spades?
Ben: We literally need a billion horses. Twenty horses.
Mia: Well I’ve lost my horse now, so thank you!
Ben: Then get a new one!
Tom: (singing) ‘Isn’t this great, great, great, it’s great!’
|Ben: puts head down on desk.
Tom: bouncing slightly on chair
|Ben is referring to the fact that items that have been gifted by me as admin are not collected by players into their inventory if their inventory is already full. The item appears on the floor in front of the player’s avatar, to be collected within a short time frame.|
|12.30||Tom: laughs. (singing) ‘Oh and isn’t this great, great, great, it’s great!’ (Loudly) Aaarrggghhh!
Ben: just take someone’s chest. It doesn’t have to be your chest!
Freya: I’m getting a large chest.
Callum: You seem angry!
Tom: this is so annoying, I think I’m going to poo!
Freya: can you get me back to where you are?
Ed: look at these boots! [In Yorkshire accent] ‘look at them boots, lad!’
Tom: Please donate money to the Thomas Brown Trust!
Tom: To help him not lag! Every single day… of his life!
|Tom: places head on keyboard. Throws self back in chair, fingers to side of head.
Ben: gestures dramatically with left hand. Gets up and walks across to Freya and Mia.
Tom: Exaggerates the word ‘poo’ for effect by drawing it out to ‘poooooo’!
Ed: adopts Yorkshire (?) accent, taps Callum, points to his own screen.
Tom referring to himself in the third person. Using humour and dramatic language to highlight his frustration?
|13.00||Freya: that’s not all my stuff!
Ben: it’s all stuff that’s been given to you.
Freya: Oh, get it!
Callum: yeah I think even a massive amount of money is not going to help you!
Tom: you’re probably right.
Freya: I’ve got some stuff… I’ve got 64 potions.
Ben: what are you doing?
Mia: well it wanted me to [inaudible] the chest.
Ed: Mr Bailey, can I leave and reconnect?
Me: you can!
Tom: what?! the page just disappeared!
|13.30||Mia: where’s the stupid chest?
Ben: I’ll quickly run back!
Freya: where’s the stupid chest?
Ben: Stay there! Stay exactly where you are!
Mia: I have no idea where I am!
Freya: I bought the chest! I’ve got loads of potions!
Tom: What? Ahhhh.
Ed: oh yes! Look at this! lag free!
Ben: don’t you dare move!
Freya: who’s that, me?
Ben: No, it’s [inaudible]
Tom: go away Ed and stop boasting about your lag free computer!
|Ben: points and returns to his computer, grabs the laptop, shows it to Mia and points to the screen. Sits down, grabs Mia’s computer and starts using it. She starts using his.
Seemingly random humming noises coming from one of the boys.
|14.00||Ben: leave the donkey alone!
Freya: who says it’s a donkey?
Mia: He’s getting in the minecarts!
Ben: he’s been through too much grief! No leave the the minecarts, they’re cool to get round the place. Don’t chuck anything else!
Freya: she’s chucked it out already!
Ed: look at my armour, Callum look at my armour!
Ben: Right, I’m jumping off.
Tom: I’m going to make a conversation room!
Callum: oh wow! That sounds mental! It should be called the banter room.
|Ed: taps Callum to get his attention.
Inaudible discussion in the background between Freya and Mia, looks to be about hair as they are touching each other’s hair and the words comb and hair can be heard, alongside demonstrations.
|14.30||Tom: right then, the banter room. It’s where we talk or converse.
Ed: banter is talk.
Tom: It’s really not!
Callum: it’s chat!
Tom: it’s not, it’s friendly banter with humorous, with mildly humorous jokes!
Callum: you mean really bad Thomas like jokes?
Ed: yeah when you went to Joe about this… When you went to Freya about…
|Conversation between the other group continues but most words are inaudible on the recording due to the proximity to the camera of the other children.||Discussing banter again, they still can’t agree on what it is! The name of the town is Banterbury!
|15.00||Ed: in goal, Tom did the dodgiest joke ever, Tom did a joke about a Chinese man, not knowing that a woman [inaudible]
Tom: that’s real life! That’s real life.
Ed: he went ‘oh, this is such a good joke!’
Tom: I didn’t even say that!
Callum: ‘ this is so much of a joke, it’s a non joke’
Freya hugs Mia.
Mia takes Freya’s computer.
|15.30||Tom: What would we do [inaudible] two plain boxes.
Callum: (funny voice) ok are you being sarcastic?
Freya: Shut up, you!
Tom: no I wasn’t!
Ben: Put in the chest the stuff we actually need.
Tom: it worked! I dug up a block!
|Tom: Gestures with extended arm towards Ed and Callum
Callum: pulls a face at Ed whilst making a repetitive noise.
I make and ‘ok’ sign to Tom in celebration of his minor victory.
|16.00||Callum: I am mildly impressed by that!
Tom: Lagging…. Out… It’s taken me about fifteen months and I’m still lagging out!
Freya: He chucked it out. You just took the chest out Ben!
Mia: Welcome to [inaudible]
Freya: I can scare Callam, can’t I? I can scare him easily!
|Sarcastic restrained celebration / congratulations.
Freya: lifts her hand to Mia to take a pretend swipe at her.
Looks over at Callum.
|16.30||Tom: what? Somebody is using my name.
Cameron: somebody has a face.
Ed: yeah cos you’re still logged in, mate!
Tom: It says ‘somebody is already using your nickname, please change your nickname.
Freya: [reading screen] Famalamlad had left the game.
Ed: helps Tom with his problem by standing and taking control of his keyboard.
More barely audible talk about chests from the group at the back.
Reading through this transcript, what struck me about this data was the individualised way in which each child was participating in the gameplay and the wider club itself. Based on this, I chose to present my further analysis in the form of individualised narrative accounts, as below.
|The transcript is most useful in shedding light on the participation of the three boys listed below as they are closest to the camera (albeit with their backs in shot) and their speech is the most audible.|
|Tom||Technical problems seem to be at the forefront of Thomas’ mind. His speech is often in the form of loud declarations, made to the whole group rather than to one person in particular. He finds a number of different, often humorous, ways of telling people that his computer is running slowly – including referring to himself in the first person, saying he is so annoyed that he is going ‘to poo’ and asking for donations to his lagging fund – possibly also as a means of expressing his frustration. These examples show him using his situation to contribute to the club by employing the technical difficulty as a stimulus for his humour and, at one point, song (with a presumably ironic reading of ‘Isn’t this great, great, great’). Although his in-game gameplay is restricted, he continues to establish a visible (vocal) presence in the room. His expressed intention to ‘create a conversation room’ in the virtual world perhaps reinforces his belief in the importance of talk during the club. This also suggests that the three boys are not working together in game, in spite of their proximity in the classroom and the chat between the three of them suggesting that they might be ‘a group’.(Note: Later in the video, Tom’s annoyance at the technical problems becomes more verbally extreme, as he jokingly suggests that he is so frustrated he will ‘kill himself’. I end up giving Tom my laptop so he can complete the rest of the session without problems.)|
|Ed||Ed affects an accent on two occasions (I’m interpreting this as a Yorkshire accent but I might be wrong!) His use of the word ‘mate’ also seems to be a conscious appropriation of the term, rather than stemming from a natural usage of the worf. He tries to draw Callum’s attention to his gameplay on a couple of occasions (‘look at these boots’, ‘ look at my armour‘) – both occasions relating to his customisation of his avatar, rather than an in game creation. He uses language and gesture to ensure that he gains this attention. These attempts to draw attention to his screen suggest that he is working on a separate task to the boys seated either side of him. He helps Tom towards the end of the extract by taking charge of his computer to help him solve his logging in problem. On a couple of occasions his interactions with Tom involve light teasing, in relation to the joke Tom told, and in his boasting about his lag free computer. His request to me to leave the game and re-enter is unusual as this is not the kind of question that any of the children would usually feel the need to ask – they would usually just go through this process without seeking authority.|
|Callum||He resurrects the notion of ‘banter’ again, which runs through many sessions of the club – this links to a number of other pieces of data, and the name of the club itself. As with Ed, he spends most of his time engrossed in gameplay, focussed on his screen throughout the extract. Unlike Tom, his comments are always in relation to a comment that someone else has make – he doesn’t seem to make comments about his own gameplay. Unlike Ed, he doesn’t seem seek attention from others for what he is doing during this extract, preferring to concentrate on what he is doing in-game (with the exception of the unexplained face pulling incident directed towards Ed!)As with Ed, there is some good natured ‘banter’ involved in his slight mocking of Tom’s joking ability and his underwhelmed response that he is ‘mildly impressed’ by Tom’s eventual ability to place some blocks in-game.
When he is instructed to look at Ed’s screen, the brevity with which he adjusts his gaze suggests that he is doing so out of politeness rather than through genuine interest, as he very quickly returns his attention to his own screen.
|The video is less useful in making observations about the next three children, mainly due to the fact that their speech is often drowned out by the boys seated closer to the camera. These accounts are therefore formed on this basis.|
|Freya||Her talk relates to gameplay – the chests and potions – but also brings in non-gameplay chat (talk about hair, for example). On a number of occasions she makes physical contact with Mia, attempting to tuck her hair behind her ear and embracing her – perhaps emphasising the closeness of their friendship.Without knowing the context, it is difficult to interpret the comment about ‘scaring Callum’. However, this does provide one of the extract’s two examples of direct reference being made to an individual in another group across the classroom. Freya also provides the other example, where she mentions that Tom’s avatar <famalamlad> has left the game. Neither of these comments seem to elicit a response, however.
(Note: At the end of this session Freya remarked that this had been her favourite session so far. I asked her why and she suggested that it was because they ‘actually got things done!’)
|Mia||All of Mia’s audible talk relates to the gameplay. She appears to be interacting most in the classroom with Ben, who also appears to be working on the same in-game tasks. Mia surrenders her computer to Ben at one point to let him take control of her gameplay. She then takes charge of his laptop, but is warned not to move his avatar! Mia is noticeably sporting a new hairstyle this week – which is perhaps what prompts her inaudible discussion about hair with Freya.|
|Ben||The only child to leave his desk during this session, although he seems totally engrossed in the gameplay – albeit not always on his own screen. At times, stood behind the two girls, leaning over their computers as they work on their laptops, he looks a bit like a teacher checking on their progress during a lesson. He is collaborating with others on a task that seems to involve horses and chests. As well as leaving his desk he also appears to be the most physically active pupil during this extract, often making dramatic arm gestures to emphasis points (eg. pointing when saying ‘stay where you are’)When Mia takes charge of his computer his warning ‘don’t you dare move’ refers to his avatar and suggests that his avatar in the game is his alone. In fact, much of Ben’s talk appears to be in the form of instructions to the two girls: ‘leave the mine carts’, ‘leave the donkey alone’, ‘get a new one’, ‘take somebody’s chest’ etc. This perhaps indicates that he feels that he is taking a leadership role during this extract, even if his often dramatically and seriously expressed instructions often seem to simply be met with amused smiles by the girls.|
|This video is least useful in providing insight into the play of the following two children.|
|Molly||They remain together throughout. Molly can be heard talking during a couple of instances but otherwise they seem to keep their play largely self-contained – or at least between the two of them. Both children remain in their seats throughout. They can be seen to talk to each other on a number of occasions, and occasionally looking at the other children over their shoulders. The lack of contact in-room would imply a lack of collaborative participation with other children in-game too.|
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