Category Archives: Serious Games

IBIS meets MediaWiki

Some slides are now online at slideshare which are drawn from training materials for the Bloomer project which is a component in the collective intelligence platform being installed in some Millennium Project nodes. The IBIS MediaWiki extension can be added to any MediaWiki installation (though it’s not tested on the latest MediaWiki build); it should be possible for a good PHP developer to adapt its code to other platforms such as Drupal.

The extension presently is configured to maintain an index of conversations. Each conversation starts as a Wiki topic, and each question, answer, or argument (see below) is also an individual Wiki topic.

IBIS stands for Issue-based Information Systems, and it’s a target in my thesis research. IBIS conversations are structured, meaning each question, answer, or argument occupies its own node which is linked through a coherence-relation to another node. Some references are found at the Compendium website.

A lone question or idea can start a conversation; answers or questions respond to questions. Answers respond to other answers to expand on them. Pro or con arguments follow answers. As a conversational tool, online structured conversation platforms are part of the argument web. They are also highly appropriate to #CCK11 connectivist thought.

Examples of structured conversation platforms include Compendium, Cohere, DebategraphTruthMapping, Climate Collaboratorium, and Argument Mapping and an emerging list of others. It should be noted that Jane McGonigal has introduced IBIS as playing cards in her online games, including the MRF Game I mentioned here, and these.

MRF Game Results Posted

The Myelin Repair Foundation game on which I reported here and here is now discussed at the Robert Wood Johnson website. The 30 page pdf is found here. The report opens with this:

On October 7–8, and November 9–10, 2010, Institute for the Future (IFTF), in cooperation with the Myelin Repair Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation, hosted a Foresight Engine thought experiment called Breakthroughs to Cures.  Designed as an open, non-partisan environment where models for innovation in medical research can be freely explored and developed, the purpose was to generate  “outlier” ideas and strategies that could lead to more effective and efficient ways to fund  and conduct medical research with the goal of speeding up the development of patient  treatments and cures.

Played as a “card game” where each card resembles a node in an Issue-based information systems (IBIS) conversation as seen in, for example, Compendium which I illustrated from my own MRF game moves here, or at Debategraph, the game provided wide opportunity for journalistic discovery and reporting. The report says this:

In sum, what game play pointed to was a variety of opportunities—particularly in terms of technological infrastructure and in terms of the types of relationships that could be built to bring new ideas to basic science research and to make better use of current resources. Many of these ideas point toward long-term opportunities to facilitate connection and accelerate, and in this sense, provide the outlines for actions to take over time to accelerate medical research.

I believe that an important contribution provided by the MRF game report as produced by IFTF members is its illustration of how a crowd-sourced research project could produce results that journalists could then synthesize into a report worthy of any sensemaking project which leads to decision making.

Where could the MRF games go from here?  I believe the answer to that question lies in the hands of those who created, conducted, and funded that project. What value can those of us who research and practice the art and science of sensemaking through hypermedia discourse gain from the MRF game? The answer to that lies precisely in what we do with not only the report linked above, but also what we do as we study the game boards ourselves seeking to better understand the craft exhibited.

A first look at an MRF game move

In my previous post on online games that matter, I described the Myelin Repair Foundation’s research game. That game was mounted in concert with Justine Lam and the Institute for the Future, and was funded by the Pioneer Fund of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  I look forward to continued explorations of online games that matter. Meanwhile,  as part of my thesis research, I began to analyze game moves, starting with one of my own.

In that game, players create game moves by filling in cards, each of a specific type: a question, or several types of answers. The result is a tree structure, not unlike those created with Compendium.  I therefore lifted one of my game moves together with the entire subtree it anchors and copied that into Compendium. The tree’s image is online here (click on it to expand its size), and the report is here.  It’s worth noting that the tree I crafted represents my interpretation of the game moves; it is entirely reasonable to expect there to be other interpretations, as well as errors in my own.

One goal of this analysis is to begin the process of discovering and evolving a set of best practices associated with structured conversation, be it in games or otherwise.  From the nature of each contributed card (node), I look for evidence of issues related the contribution, and seek ways to improve the process.

The simplest observation is that multiple topics made in any given card make it difficult to establish a coherent subtree of responses to that node. Here is a trivial example, not taken from the game:

  • Q: What are the causes of climate change?
    • A: Upper atmosphere carbon dioxide and refrigerator magnets

One should not dwell on the apparent humour in that answer, since there are skilled people who could turn that into a really thoughtful conversational arc around the energetics of making refrigerator magnets and entailed effects on climate. Our interest lies in a suspicion that the subtree that grows from that answer will use a lot of coherence factors to separate out the two topics, then deal with each, separately.

A preference, cast in the light of conversation federation, is to seek simple answers, and use lots of tree (child) nodes to expand on those answers such that each expansion, itself, is an addressable assertion that can, where appropriate, serve as a root for a new subtree.

I think there is room for a large (global) conversation that orbits a well-posed core question that seeks best practices in hypermedia discourse.

Online games that matter

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) teamed with the Myelin Repair Foundation, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to host a game with this title:

How would you advise the President to reinvent the process of medical discovery?

The game was played here, ending today. Following the game, as part of my thesis project, I wrote a quick summary report, found here.  At the same time, I created a new hashtag at Twitter: #ogtm for online games that matter.

My overall impression from playing the game is that online games that matter, with the Foresight Engine being a shiny new example, will play an increasingly important role in social sensemaking and learning.