If you have read many (or any) of my blog posts, you have likely noticed that I write in a specific way in most of them. Instead of being intended for general audiences, I am apt to write for specific audiences who are looking for knowledge about, or further thought on a very specific topic (specifically Web design, philosophy, or participatory e-learning). These specific topics bring me into the rhetoric of each specific field, the nuances of language use, the culture that has grown up around these interests. This acts as a kind of buffer for those kind-of-sort-of-interested in a topic, who will find in my writing very little of value (though note that this is not an intentional buffer–it is merely a by-product of my own enculturation and desire to enculturate others in my interest areas). The problem is that increasing interest in something (anything) and communication or learning within that interest field tends toward balkanization into smaller and smaller communities. This becomes of concern when months or years are spent thinking through or researching a topic of interest, and then presenting this to the community of interest that is made up of less than a handful of people on earth. That’s a bummer.
This not only occurs in academia, but academic settings are an interesting example because of the arcane nature of some of what we think is “interesting”. Play is another area where this occurs (though we might deny this at first blush). Time spent playing is time spent enculturating oneself in the semiotics of a particular play domain. That is why some video game forums or Wikis are so difficult to understand without some previous experiences in-game. Time spent in an interest like playing a game is an investment into a way of thinking and speaking and acting. But note that time is required. Time is an important variable in any growing interest. One must have time to play. One must have time to think about playing. In academia, one must have time to study. One must have time to think. One must even have time to think about studying while actually just playing;)
This is an important concept to remember, especially where participatory e-learning and video games are concerned. Do students have the time necessary to play and to discuss with others in the community that is growing up around an interest? Is the interest even there? Are the speech and actions that surround a particular serious game (a game with learning intent) relevant to the content of the game or only to the gameplay itself? Are serious games spending time enculturating in the game itself rather than in the interest area? How much play time is necessary for a person to start to feel like they have some sort of ownership over an interest?
One additional note: it may be that most anything can become play (or at least play-like) if we have sufficient interest. When this happens (and as educators we hope this happens often) we lose track of time. Suddenly we do not have to spend time on this (external push), we have to spend time on it (internal interest and compulsion). Our interests eat our time, become our play, and become the key to what we say.