Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Checkpoint II

Checkpoint II is our midterm 'review' of our thesis progress. My biggest concern at the moment is that I am behind with background research. After reviewing my research progress for the last few days, I have come to the conclusion that it is specifically the nature of the background process that is causing me headaches.

For example, I have considered the fact that I work best when 'free writing' and then retrospectively researching. That is to say that I work best when I have a 'story' to tell, I define the beginning and end of the story to scope myself, and then I write freely what my ideas are and what points I want to bring up and prove. After writing, I review the document I have made and I begin to see areas that need 'proof.' I can look at each of these statements that need 'proof' and answer the question "What was I getting at here? What was my intention?" The answer to that is what I end up researching.

After spending some time with research papers, I either realize my gut feeling was wrong and I need to go back and alter my approach (which has to be done with free writing, again, because more research will just exhaust me at this disheartening point) or I am able to find references, or alternatively I am able to construct an argument to support myself, but that requires additional writing in its own right.

This process works really well with me, and it is the means by which I will be able to write my design process, reasoning process, personal research methodology, etc. However it does not work for a field in which all of my preconceived notions are nebulous. Because a significant chunk of my research have either been black and white facts (need citation) or lengthy explanations of whole methodologies and theories which I've never even heard of before, it is impossible for me to free-write and then go back for a 'research pass.'

And so my research inevitably gets untargeted. Because I can barely articulate where my research begins, much less imagine where it is going to end, I have difficulty staying focused and on the point as to what's really relevant to me. Do I need picture-perfect depression rates stats? Will ones from 2008 work next to anxiety stats from 2013? I start worrying about the big picture. Then I wobble. Then I end up reading very interesting papers about the psychology of dogs. And then I realize I just speant the last four hours researching a statistics question that I just can't find an answer to through all the haze of business, leadership, and investment articles.

However, as my teacher has told me, I cannot stay on the background forever. Even though my background analysis is incomplete- and in fact does not yet make a coherent argument- I have to let it lie. I need to move on to my reasoning process.

I believe this shift will help me. By forcing myself out of exploration mode and into 'thinking' mode, I begin asking a lot more concrete questions. Because I'm not allowed to research anymore, I can't say to myself "I don't have a research methodology, I need to go research that." Instead I have to pull out a paper and some pencil and go:

 "Well since I can't research it, I guess I'll have to reason it. So what are my inputs and outputs? My inputs are an interest in women not gaming enough, culture, and the gender gap. So I guess that means my outputs have to measure cultural changes. No no no, that's impossible... Okay perhaps they have to measure cultural perceptions? And then if I really want to change culture, the game has to make the target demographic want to play it. So I have to evaluate their willingness to a) pick up the game b) play the game and c) spread the game. I also have to see if they simply like it."

Wow. After all that, does it look like researching my methodology is going to be such a big, vague, confusing chore after all? Or does it look like I'm going to be a research huntress with a very specific quarry and the means to identify it and track it down?

The background exploration phase was important to me because it opened my mind to the realm of things I could research (for example, for some reason it never occurred to me to look up theoretical frameworks for how a) games generate emotions other than Flow and sadness/frustration/admiration in players or b) how to use emotions in order to generate long lasting mood effects in players.

But now its time to free write and reason. If I can't free write it, I have to write out my reasoning process and then spend tiny chunks of time hunting specific answers. If I can't find those answers, I have to alter my reasoning.

I really think I can do this. I'm looking forward to what I come up with

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