Gaming and the Rhinoceros in the Room

Lorcan 1 min read

Jenny Levine spoke about gaming and libraries at Getting in the flow. I hadn’t seen this presentation before and liked that she approached it from several angles. The presentation is on her presentations wiki.
I was struck by a comment she made about socialization. If large numbers of people engage in an activity it becomes an assumed background to communication. So, there is a shared vocabulary and experience to draw on. Being familiar with this is an important social skill, and being unfamiliar with it may place one at a disadvantage in certain contexts. ‘Is gaming the new golf?’ she asked.
Jenny also mentioned Stephen Johnson’s book ‘Everything bad is good for you’. I was struck by how relevant to her discussion was the piece I had pulled from Johnson’s book when I wrote about it a while ago:

I read a few chapters of Steven Johnson’s Everything bad is good for you over the weekend. (I am usually a little behind the curve on these things 😉) I was struck by the following quote:
I worry about the experiential gap between people who have immersed themsleves in games, and people who have only heard secondhand reports, because the gap makes it difficult to discuss the meaning of games in a coherent way. It reminds me of the way the social critic Jane Jacobs felt about the thriving urban neighborhoods she documented in the sixties: “People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is. People who do not will always have it a little worng in their heads – like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers’ descriptions of the rhinoceroses.”
The Jane Jacobs analogy is so good. This experience is familar to somebody who has moved between cultures, and who tries to explain what one is like to somebody from the other.
I think that we can observe something like this in many of the library discussions about gaming and social networking. For somebody who has not internalized the experiences, the tempation is to assimilate it to some other part of their experience. As in “Oh, it is like ….”. But, thinking it is like something else means that you may have it a ‘little wrong’, and miss the real meaning.

Related entry

Update: Picture removed, minor modifications 11/27/2023.

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