Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spellburn!

First, thank you +Jeffrey Tadlock+Jim Wampler, and +Jobe Bittman for featuring my research project (and my email) on the recent Spellburn podcast. Everything Jeffrey said was pretty much correct. I'll answer some of the areas of uncertainty, below. Thanks, also, for your kind words about the 'zine. We will have a new one coming out soonish (end of May, probably). My contribution to that one will not be quite as substantial, but will lay out some history of the Elder Races of Ore (the planet where Ur-Hadad is located).

Now, to answer a couple of questions folks might have.

Who is this Edgar Johnson guy anyway?

I'm an old punkrawk and gamer guy (45 in May) who started playing D&D in 1979 and listening to Black Flag in 1982. I flunked out of college, joined the Marines (1987-1991), got out and went back to college again, for engineering. I sucked at that, and was much better at drinking and gaming. Almost flunked out again. Eventually got it together, got a B.A. in sociology and a minor in writing (1995), with honors. Got a full-ride fellowship for grad studies at the University of Iowa, where I studied rhetoric, media, and ethnography. Graduated with a Ph.D. in Communication Studies (2000). Took a job I hated, and kept it for four years. Found a better job and have been at this institution for 10 years (we recently consolidated with the medical college and became Georgia Regents University). Got tenure in 2008 and got promoted to full professor last year. I teach persuasion, media studies, business and professional communication, argumentation, and rhetorical studies. I also serve on a lot of committees and workgroups. Published my first book, What About Us? Standards-based Education and the Dilemma of Student Subjectivity, in 2010. I blog here, and game regularly with the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad group. I also am a pretty decent cook, if anyone is passing through the Augusta, Georgia area and wants to hook up for food, beers, and gaming.

What's the research all about?

After I started gaming again, and the university shifted from four-tier state school to research intensive, I decided to do some research on gaming, and particularly the rise of online tabletop gaming. The project began as a short paper about the Google+ community and the development of hangout gaming there. I soon realized that I wanted to turn it into something more. I submitted a proposal to the university's institutional review board for human subjects research (You guys are the "human subjects." MWAHAHA!). The proposal covered all the bases: Survey research, face-to-face interviews (both focus group and individual), online research of other kinds, content analysis of blogs and websites, and field observation of actual play. The survey research I posted on the blog (links over there on the right) are a small part of the puzzle, a snapshot of what's going on right now.

What happens next?

I'll be continuing the survey research. I also will be running some live, in-person play sessions with younger gamers over the course of the summer (mostly college-aged people who either have only played 3rd ed D&D, of who have not played any tabletop RPGs at all). I want to get a sense of how they approach gaming. I'm probably going to run DCC RPG for them, to get both the old school feel and the new school die mechanics. The d20 system should provide a good bridge between what they're used to and what I hope to show them (and find out about their play styles).

I also will be petitioning some of you for "live" intereviews, either at GenCon or via a hangout. Those interviews will be similar to some of the stuff covered in the surveys, but more far-ranging and specific to your own situation and interests.

I think I also will be asking my regular G+ group to play a major role in the research, as much of what interested me in pursuing this project was inspired by my experiences with them. I haven't brought it up yet, but I will soon.

While I was at my conference, I met with a publisher who had contacted me beforehand. She was interested in my work and wondered if maybe I had a book-length project in mind. "Funny you should ask," I told her, and explained my research agenda. She was interested, and contacted me after the conference. I also made a visit with another publisher, and their rep seemed to be very interested as well. Short version: I will be producing a book proposal this fall, and hope to secure a contract with one of those publishers. It would be nice to have them both want the project, and get into an intense bidding war, but only one is necessary. Still, a boy can dream.

Why should we help you, anyway?  

For me, the answer is pretty obvious: I'm going to be writing about this thing that we all do: tabletop gaming. I want to make sure I'm telling as good and accurate a story as I can. The more people who participate, the better I can do my job.

For you, each person's answer would probably be different, but here are a few potential reasons you should help me out:

  • Collegiality: That Johnson guy's alright, and I want to help him do a good job. Why not?
  • Lust for Glory: I have important opinions, and need a person to listen to (and publish) them. Fame will be mine!
  • Fear I'll Get it WRONG: That Johnson guy is going to screw this up if I don't set him straight on some Very Important Things.
  • Curiosity: I've never done anything like this before, and I want to find out what happens.
  • Desire for Vengeance: That Johnson guy is a dick! I will work from the inside to destroy him!
  • Stalker: I secretly have a big man/woman crush on Johnson. This is my very best chance to demonstrate how much I love him. I will give my all (nay, my very life) to further his ambitions!
  • Profit: Dude must be rolling in dough, and I'm gonna get mine! [Yeah... sorry. Nobody's making any money off of this, including me. Academic publishing is not a lucrative trade, nor is teaching in the humanities.]
  • Precursor to Alien Invasion: I am the one with the real research agenda. You puny humans must be studied, and this will be where I must start. Then, later, will come the anal probings.

I'm hoping the spirit of Collegiality moves you to participate, but I'll take what I can get. Feel free to make up your own reason, if none of the above appeals to you.

How do you really pronounce Adam's name?

Also, to amplify this for my friend, +Adam Muszkiewicz: It's pronounced "MOUSE-kah-witz." Nah, just kidding.

From the man himself, it's actually pronounced "muz-KEV-itch." (but feel free to keep mispronouncing it, anyway, just to fuck with him)