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Fun at CSCW? Seriously?

Last week, I attended the conference for Computer-Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) in Savannah, Georgia. Mmmm... shrimp and grits.

I was there mainly to contribute to a workshop called "Fun, Seriously?" Yes, for those who follow this blog, this is where the wacky Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure paper I cowrote with Philip Tan was for. Here we are at the conference, dressed up for a roleplaying segment organized by Henriette Cramer and Helena Mentis called "Player's vs. Haters," exploring various attitudes toward fun in the workplace. I'm wearing a genuine Dutch Girl Scout uniform provided by Henriette to represent the military. Words cannot describe how much I covet that shirt.

Players vs Haters

My segments went ok, I think. I did an overview of some video game literature that I thought would be relevant, which were Nicole Lazzaro's "Why We Play Games: 4 Keys to More Emotion", Mahk's "MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research", and the four page redux of Jenova Chen's thesis, applying Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory to video games. There was also an extra bonus rant about the concept of the magic circle of games as a safe place to play, where we digressed into an extra extra bonus rant about Ender's Game, which I cannot properly convey here without spoiling the ending. Fun times.

My second segment did not go as well. I was trying to use an actual problem I was having at work about people mistaking playful behavior for a lack of seriousness to frame a debate about social cues, but we got bogged down in the details of my particular issue. Which was fine as a therapy session, but not really the goal. Ah well.

Beyond that, Andrew Sempere guided us through a bit of Second Life, thus creating the first positive experience I've ever had with the system. I made a glowing pink ellipsoid! All by myself! Henriette and Helena, besides the dress-up activity, asked people to bring examples of papers and presentations and such where the format was fun. We all seemed to show up with objects with high production values, which is sort of a difficult way to incorporate fun. I wish I could draw; I'd love to submit academic papers in comic book form. And last but not least was Zach Pousman, skyping in to talk about using data from print queues to be playful, not creepy.

The big takeaway is that I need to hang out with the IBM Research guys more. Besides Andrew, organizers Li-Te Cheng and Sadat Shami were there to represent the cooler side of IBM. Seriously, they're like four blocks away. We should be having lunch together and stuff.

We're also doing a blog now, so if you want to follow our thoughts on the subject of fun in the workplace, get over to the Fun, Seriously? blog. I've promised to be the wacky one with the fringy ideas, and Andrew's promised to make snarky comments. Should be good times.

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