Twitter vs Zombies, the Humanities, and Pedagogy

So this weekend I attempted to join in on the Twitter vs Zombies game. Most of my participation came in the form of avoidance. I’m not really sure why, but the game forced me from Twitter — one of my favorite places. It started as part of my strategy to stay alive, but eventually grew to something more. I’m not sure how or why, but I just was done playing, but I didn’t know how to quit. I was really interested in it. I don’t like the Zombie narrative. I sort of understand how to use Twitter, and it seemed like a lot of extra work and interactions to explain why I wasn’t playing anymore. So I dropped out. But my way of dropping out was avoidance.

Twitter is a free space for me. I communicate with friends and family on it. I post articles, photos, random personal thoughts, etc. It’s a tool of interaction for me. But, the game took that away. It was all encompassing. I didn’t like how it was ruling my life or my timeline. It made me anxious. I’m sure I could have just said I was done and sorry I just lost interest or didn’t have time for it and it would have been OK, but I also didn’t want to let people down.

Based on this sort of reflection and explanation, and from watching Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel’s presentation about it (and other things) at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University, I came up with some questions and thoughts we should consider after the game.

  • What do you make of the inactive users who joined the game?
  • How do you account for those who “drop” out?
  • Is this an issue of interest, motivation, or something else?
  • Were there instances of Zombie bullying?
  • Are there ways to keep the game from consuming the totality of someone’s life / Twitter interactions?
  • Because some Zombies “stalked” their human prey, how to deal with issues of privacy? Is that just a part of Tweeting in general or does the game add more focus to what people Tweet? If so, is this increased focus good or bad?

I really enjoyed their discussion of archiving the game and its creations. I also was interested in their question about publishing an article about the research to  save/share the methodology they created. But within these conversations I had a few more questions:

  • Does it have implications for archival practices? Are there industry standard practices for digital archiving?
  • Are there ethical issues of using human subjects to experiment/test/study new ideas?
  • Who owns the findings/thoughts, particularly when they are contributed from others via reflections, archiving, etc. ?
  • Do all participants become co-authors, or is that an issue of citations?
  • How does this look in another discipline?

I really, really love Jesse’s notion of pedagogy in the humanities, and how it’s important to keep it at the center of the conversation not only in digital teaching and games, but in our everyday practice. I was taught that during my undergrad and my MLA that reflection and epistemology are integral parts of learning. The liberal arts and humanities are so valuable because they teach us not facts but how to learn, how to process and filter information, and provide us the tools to become life-long learners. This skills make us adaptable in the real world and allow us to figure things out on our own (or at least figure out where to get help). The digital humanities serves these same ends. One of the major failures of liberal arts and humanities faculties has been communicating and demonstrating these outcomes to justify their funding and existence to the more business minded, bottom-line type administrators. Developing more precision and clarity in our pedagogy is one way of doing this.

Too many disciplines disregard pedagogy to focus on research. It is as if research and teaching are different things and serve different purposes to many. I don’t think this is the case. When I conduct research and design research projects I always think about my audience, my end goal. Sure, I’ve come up as a public historian wanting to branch, but shouldn’t all scholars be focused on engaging with their audience — for me the general public and my students — and find ways to make their findings interesting and meaningful to them? For me, connecting research to an audience is teaching. Public history is impossible to do without understanding pedagogy. I believe the same can be said for the humanities writ large.

4 thoughts on “Twitter vs Zombies, the Humanities, and Pedagogy

  1. Lonni Steven Wilson (@lonniwilson)

    Interesting as I think about your post. I think the “game” dramatically changed for me when I became a zombie. It wasn’t about “winning” any longer, and it became more and more about engagement and telling the story. In a sense, the “burden” to win had been lifted, and I was finally free to enjoy the game, and to continue to enjoy Twitter. I posted a mad tweet count this weekend. Haven’t even looked at what @zombiemooc did, but he had 5 posts pre-4pm Friday. lol. #raiseyourtweetcountasazombie Probably too long a hashtag, huh?

    1. Andrew McGregor Post author

      I wonder if that’s part of my ‘competitive’ personality. There really was no way to “win” so I lost interest. And, I already knew most of the Twitter skills. Perhaps this says more about me than the game?

  2. Sherry Gick

    Interesting to read your response! I was all about the game on Friday evening and Saturday morning, but after I was (questionably) turned to a zombie during a time I was not planning on being on Twitter, it wasn’t quite as fun. Sure you could stalk humans, but there was limited satisfaction in this for me and as you stated, no way to “win”. By Saturday evening I was done with the game. I wondered about a shorter time span for the game, but maybe that’s just my limited attention span and competitiveness to win.

  3. Pingback: Zombies on Twitter Teach Digital Literacies and Online Identity | Manuscripts and Machines

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