Monday, March 25, 2013

Summer Plans: Getting Back to Basics

Spring break is upon us, which means that the semester will be coming to an end rather quickly. It also means that I will need to think of something to do during the summer. I will be working with an undergraduate student on her SURE project, but I also need to think of something for my own projects as well. I'm thinking that perhaps its a good idea to revisit programming and modeling basics and build from there.

The first game I developed, as I needed to get research done and publications out the door, was built rather quick and dirty; I felt that there were a lot of things regarding modeling, programming, and game design that I wanted to explore in greater depth but just didn't have the time. I'm thinking that this summer I will need to spend more time with the tools and languages that I used for the project, in order to understand them better and to get up-to-speed on the many changes that have been introduced since creating the first game in 2011.

It has been a while since I programmed, so it is certainly time to get back into that. I picked up a book last night on C# 3.0, and was immediately drawn back into the topic. There is something very organized and methodical about programming that appeals to me, which is odd, I suppose, coming from a person who has been thoroughly immersed in the unstructured nature of humanities research since being an undergraduate in the 1990s. The new Unity tutorials are exciting, and I am looking forward to taking these apart.

On the theoretical side, I need to think about more ways that 3D digital game-based language learning (3D-DGBLL) can be integrated in the second language acquisition classroom. It seems to me, and others seem to agree, that task-based language learning most closely resembles the type of learning that occurs in 3D-DGBLL environments. Our university library has the book by Rod Ellis on the topic, so I will eventually need to get around to this reading this with an eye towards my game project.

Finally: This all needs to come back to research and publications, I suppose. I'm sure that I can get more article publications out of the research, but I'm wondering if a better strategy would be to bring the articles together as a book. Perhaps something in a series such as Routledge Advances in Second Language Studies. Any ideas?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Going Medieval, Minding the Store

Part of the joy of working at a smaller liberal arts college is the constant variation of tasks that one must do to move a program forward. The variety ensures that one does not bore quickly. On the other hand, part of the frustration of working at a smaller liberal arts college is the constant variation of tasks that one must do to move a program forward. It seems that the ever-changing tasks may also prevent one from focusing in on a promising and interesting research topic.

I suppose the later is a good explanation for why I have not actively been posting to my research blog. I have been working with a bright undergraduate on a SURE project, which I am happy to report has been approved, and we now have our sights set on a Lumen Prize, the deadline for which is this coming Wednesday. In a way, the distraction has been pleasant as it brings me back to my original research roots as a medievalist; frustrating in that I have put my 3D-DGBL development on hold. Here is a brief explanation of what we will be doing on our SURE project:
The research project applies theory derived from art history, gender studies, and medieval German studies towards the construction of an interpretive framework for analyzing bridal imagery and metaphor in Mechthild of Magdeburg's mystical treatise, Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (“The Flowing Light of the Godhead”), the first autobiographical text written by a woman in a medieval German dialect. To situate this unique text within the broader social and cultural contexts of the German High Middle Ages, we will rely on theories of gender performativity as defined by Judith Butler to guide her reading of an influential medieval German lawbook, Der Sachsenspiegel (“The Mirror of the Saxons”). Looking specifically at passages in extant manuscripts of this text dealing with matrimony, inheritance, and property rights as they relate to brides and married women, we will read the stylized gestures and positioning of the illuminated figures that accompany these passages as cultural signs indicating how the gender identity of medieval German women was constructed through public performance. Finally, by comparing the results of this analysis to passages in Das fließende Licht der Gottheit, we hope to uncover the manner in which Mechthild of Magdeburg used the figure of the bride to question, subvert, co-opt, and selectively reinforce the prescriptive gender discourses of her day. By reading Das fließende Licht der Gottheit in light of a lawbook from roughly the same time and geographical region, we seek to arrive at a deeper understanding of the mystical treatise through analysis of the material culture that was part of its original social and cultural context.
Should be a lot of fun and provide a nice change of scenery. I'm also hoping to be able to continue with some 3D model development in Blender during the time and maybe some programming in C#, just so that I don't get rusty. The truth be said, I originally wanted to create a 3D-DGBL learning environment for teaching the German Middle Ages and was in contact with the Helfta convent to get architectural plans for developing the environment. It just seemed, at the time, that software for second language acquisition would be a better place to start.
Anyway, it's been a busy few months and I'm sorry to report that I haven't had the chance to make any progress in my research. I hope you will understand. Hopefully I will have the time to get back to doing some hard programming and 3D modeling this summer. Questions? Drop me a line; I'd love to hear from you.