Currently Reading: How to Write A Lot

Thanks to a colleague who mentioned the book on Twitter, I have been reading How To Write A Lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing by Paul J. Silvia. It is a quick read, written a bit tongue in cheek (imo), and quite honestly, hasn’t quite rocked my world with new information.  The key points I’ve taken away so far (and I admit to being just over halfway through the book)

  1. schedule writing time and stick to it.
  2. write goals down. This is a two part-er – general “write x paper”, “grant proposal” etc, then the smaller tasks w/in each goal as well as “write X # of words a day….(which I recall a few colleagues using a web app for this …)
  3. Track progress: this one I liked a lot – not because I haven’t thought about it before (I like the writing a list and checking boxes off), but because he suggests using SPSS or excel to track progress so you can make charts and see progress in percentages etc — and I like charts!
  4. Start a writing group of peers (been there, done that – have had both great and not so great  – or rather productive – writing groups).
  5. Reward completion. This one I really like – I never really thought about “rewarding” work I SHOULD be doing ….

As I said, I am not done reading the book – I am not on the chapter about writing well –  and I haven’t learned the “secret” to being a productive writer – I was hoping there would be a magic formula …my problem is never the in the planning, but always in the follow-through… I make the best budgets in the world!! 😉

If anything, the book is good for a few hearty chuckles thanks to Silvia’s candid writing style.

*Update (March 27)

I finished the book today, and have to say, I enjoyed it much more from chpt 5 on – where he talks about style, how to write journal articles, books, co-authoring etc in APA style (my style of choice and intellectual upbringing). There are a few nuggets in the last few chapters, but my first summary stands – still no secret to writing a lot other than the “put butt to chair and ‘git’er done'” as I was so eloquently told while writing my dissertation.

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Evil Candy Crush

Yes. King is a slimy kind of entrepreneur that does not care about fostering community and developing a relationship with their players. And don’t get me started on the whole trying to copyright the word Candy – which thankfully (as far as this article goes, has been retracted). And the whole game industry hates King, and everyone is raging on about the evils of addictive gameplay and the how it forces the player to participate in the pay-to-play model…(which, btw, is not new as many of these articles mention but rarely have I seen such venom written about the other games that follow the P2P model…. mmo’s included)…

I am not defending King. I don’t like the claim to ownership to an idea that is clearly not original. I am not disagreeing that their game is addictive (much in the same way that Bejeweled and Tetrisw was for me… and any other puzzle type game that sucks me in beyond normal play habits)! But what I AM tired of reading about is how King – and Candy Crush are evil because it FORCES people to pay for their game in order to advance (regardless off some tongue in cheek articles…). That they lure people with the free game and then FORCE people to pay to get ahead (isn’t this the ENTIRE PAY TO PLAY MODEL!?!?!). So the leveling up process requires the player to wait 30 minutes to regain a life and not power-ups, which were “earned” in the early levels disappeared (although they did introduce the daily spin …yay ;-)). Many articles claim that it is IMPOSSIBLE to progress without paying money to King. That you NEED these power ups to progress and that waiting 30 minutes for a life to regen is impossible since evil King designed the game to be addictive.

I made it to lvl 519 without shelling out a cent. There are many ways to accomplish this without giving out my credit card information …. of course, one could wait the 30 minutes to play one (potentially short) game. One could choose to play ‘for fun’ and as such not worry about how far ahead they get, or – if you choose more subversive methods, there are ways to have more lives when you want them, etc…. (sharing? cheating?, ‘using’ your networks?) so many other ways to get ahead besides paying the evil company that forces you to play their game. I am not saying I don’t want to blaze through Candy Crush for my own personal, addictive puzzle-game obsessed reasons – but I do have AGENCY .. and that is the ONE thing all these articles seem to miss the boat on. Like blaming casinos for gambling addictions (and video games!) – the addiction and choice to pay to play falls on to the back of the player, never – in my opinion – the game – no matter how evil the company is!

Digital Conversations Turns 10!

In six days …. my first post was January 19th, 2004…. so very strange! Some years I blogged more than others and as time went on, the content and tone changed (evolved?), but ten years have passed nonetheless! I created this blog using Blogspot (really liked the ability to change the back-end easily) but eventually got swayed by the shiny coat that was/is WordPress. Blogging – and mine specifically – has changed a lot in the last 10 years (a quick google search will give you tons of ‘histories of blogging’, some more thoughtful than others).

I started this blog as a way to think through and ramble on about almost everything ranging from grappling with course content as an undergrad, negotiating the generation gap between myself and my fellow classmates (often a good 10 years) to complaining about getting carded at the liquor store despite my age and sharing cocktail recipes. It feels surreal to go through my archives and read things that I’ve written, no matter how frivolous, and realize that those are my words on the screen, preserved like a picture in an old photo album, are mine. So. very, strange.

Goals not Resolutions: Plotting Out (and fretting about) The New Year

2013 is almost over, and while it was not a bad year, the promise of a ‘clean slate’ that the New Year brings is almost always welcome. Of course, it is not all roses and unicorns (or is that glitter and unicorns.. would glitter even be considered a good thing!?). January starts off with a bit of a mixed bag of emotions as my oldest daughter leaves for a year in Australia on Jan. 26th. While I am extremely excited for her, as a mom who is extremely good friends with her girls, it will be heart-wrenching to see her go. The house will be quiet with both girls gone (and no, we will not be getting a dog …). On that note, I admit I have never been as thankful for the advances in global communications technology as I am in this moment, knowing we can Skype and email each other while she is away.

With my maternal duties have all but been put on hold (besides my eternal love and support), it is the first time since I’ve entered academia (I went back to university in 2002, when my girls were 8 and 12) that I will not have to think about being home in time to make dinner, or to try to read and write around the schedules of my children. Just as well, since I have two co-authored book chapters due in March. It will be interesting to see if I can figure out how to actually wholly focus on my work. My colleagues have always laughed when I told them that I cannot work in silence.. it puts me to sleep! I went through all three degrees with the TV and/or radio (or video games) blaring in the background, and my work space was in the living room until midway through my PhD (figured if I had to “working” at least I was physical visible and available for them). During the last bit of my PhD, I worked through the night, freeing up more time in the day for family responsibilities. But from January 26 to December 6th, the only person I will have to worry about (in a manner of speaking) is myself – and if I am being nice, my partner come meal times. In February I get to plan my partner’s 40th birthday party. Never quite sure what to do for his birthday, but I think this milestone should be celebrated if only by (finally) getting him an HDTV to game on so he can stop squinting at the minuscule words on the old picture tube television I have in my office.

That brings me to the end of March. It is so strange (and extremely unsettling) to not have any clue what comes after March 31st (besides April 1st ….). As mentioned in my last post, there was comfort in knowing what year after year had in store for me while I was in school. There was comfort in knowing that January, May and September marked the start of a new semester. My funding was also relatively stable so I could plot out what conferences I could attend. These days, it’s all so up in the air that every time a call for papers comes out I get anxiety – wanting to submit, but not having any idea if I can actually attend. But there are a handful of conferences that I will definitely try to attend this year like the Canadian Game Studies Association annual conference “in St. Catharines, Ontario, on May 28 and 29, in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences”, DiGRA which will be held in Snowbird, Utah August 3-6th, and of course IR15 (AoIR’s annual conference) in Bangkok this October. Those three alone will probably bust my current annual salary but hey – at this stage of my career, networking is half the work! That being said, I also have a few pending job applications out for review – and that can mean anything can happen. I spread my applications far and wide, so who knows what continent I will be on come fall.

Of course, in terms of fitness goals for 2014, I still have my Spartan Race season pass that the company honored from last year (silly me under-trained last year and suffered a stupid season ending injury). The first race of the Spartan season (for me) is May 18th … not much time to get my act together and get back into *finishing* shape (I run these races for *fun* and personal challenge – I would be silly to say *compete* but I digress). It is hard because so many of my racing friends are signing up for all the races, Spartan, Mud Hero, Prison Break, and so many more – and I sit on the fence, being out of shape again, but mostly because I have no clue where I will be when the races roll around.

So that’s my year in a nutshell. More waiting, wondering and working towards finding stability again. But looking around me, I know that life is pretty good regardless. So while I rant and ramble on about not knowing what the future holds, I know there are worse things in life!

So – all that to say. My Goals for 2014:

  • not cry too much when my baby leaves for Australia
  • organize a 40th bday party for my partner (even though he’s not a big party guy)
  • write two kick-ass chapters with my co-authors
  • complete my Spartan trifecta come hell or high water and maybe get a Mud Hero and Prison Break race under my belt this year
  • keep applying for and hope to get an academic job in my field
  • attend at least 3 conferences

 

Post-PhD: The Liminal Academic

That liminal, ‘in-between’ stage can sometimes be a very fantastic place to be. I love taking the train when I travel because I’ve always loved that feeling of being in between where I left and where I was going. I loved that “liminal” feeling when I was a student. There was a freedom in that in-between stage of what/who I was before I went back to university, and becoming what I was working towards. Finishing the PhD was one of the most exhilarating and scary things I have ever done (short of raising two human beings!). After the defense, there was such a sense of accomplishment; of reaching the end of something big. But what that end really meant was the beginning of something new all over again.

For some, the transition between PhD and professional life is an smooth one. Perhaps they have a teaching position lined up or have successfully applied for a post-doc. But for others, that post-phd phase is a scary, bottomless vat of unknown. A full time job of sifting through grant and job applications, searching beyond ones area of expertise and desired geographical locations as well as contemplating employment opportunities outside of academia proper that are at least related to the focus of the last 10 years… Suddenly, liminality is no longer a space of freedom and unbridled opportunity. Added to trying to find one’s place in the academic world, the post-phd/pre-employment liminal period of academic life gets filled up with self-directed (and often unpaid) projects and events aimed at staying in-the game, maintaining connections with colleagues, keeping up that intellectual momentum until something comes through.

And I believe it will. During a recent lunch chat with my phd advisor, he reminded me that it is all about timing. Keep at it, and when the timing is right, someone, somewhere will be looking for exactly what I have to offer. But even though I believe that good things will happen, I am a bit more uncomfortable with liminality without a specific destination in sight.

A few Good Conferences …

Tis the season … for call for papers! If you are studying, researching or simply interested in Game Studies, check out the cfp for DiGRA 2014 Filling in the Blanks of Game Research to be held at the Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Snowbird, Utah, August 3-6, 2014 and the local Game History Annual Symposium: Cultural history of video games being held at the beautiful Grande Bibliotheque in downtown Montreal – both fantastic conferences in great locations.

Speaking of great locations, if you are interested in Internet Research, check out call for papers for the Association of Internet Researcher’s annual conference IR15: Boundaries and Intersections to be held in Bangkok in October 2013.

Research & Thoughts on Handheld (& Mobile) Gaming

I recently contributed to a journal submission with a few colleagues (now in review) and I was tasked with fleshing out a section on game studies (with a specific goal mind you). Writing a bit on mobile gaming (and more specifically handheld devices such as the Nintendo DS), I was taken aback about how little I could find. Of course, after we submitted the manuscript, Samuel Tobin‘s book Portable Play in the Everyday was available as a free download at Palgrave (Pivot titles). I must say, I am very much enjoying it. It is nice to see research on mobile gaming (and not just ‘apps’ on phones etc) that looks at the who what why how and where people play mobile games. I especially like the idea that mobile gaming is pervasive in our everyday lives, played in the liminal moments of life instead of being the prime activity front and center. An activity that often fills the gaps between happenings. Reading through some of the examples of the book, I find myself nodding in agreement as I think about my partner borrowing my daughter’s DS when he drives me to do groceries. He hates shopping of any sort, so he sits in the car and waits for me while he plods away playing the DS. The game is (often) irrelevant – the goal is not to finish a level or mission, but to fill the gap while waiting for time to pass until it

This is in complete contrast to the ways we normally think about gaming. A console confines the player to a certain time and space. When turning the console on, it is with the goal to log in and play a game (of course this can be argued the more and more our consoles are being redesigned as multi-functional multimedia devices). Of course, it could be argued that playing a console game can also be a means to pass the time between two events – but more often than not, the act of playing a game on a console (or pc ..) is the activity in and of itself.

Another interesting point that Tobin makes is that many DS players don’t consider their DS play as ‘gaming’ in the same sense as one would think of console or pc gaming, making it more of a challenge to research who is playing mobile games, why, when and how much. I am not done the book yet (I have a few books on the go – making my attention span a bit wobbly). But I look forward to reading more about handheld gaming.

Also, if ‘social, casual and mobile’ games is your thing, there is a “Call for Chapters: Social, Casual, Mobile: Changing Games (Edited book collection)” but hurry, deadline for abstracts (500 wrds) is Dec 6th, 2013!