Creative Commons and Open Educational Resource Support


Textbooks for first-year writing courses are prohibitively expensive and, considering the wealth of resources available online, rarely have value outside of the classroom. As an instructor who has taught several of these courses at multiple institutions, I have been interested in developing an open educational resource (OER) to alleviate costs as well as provide the flexibility to use the work across curricula. Both as a graduate student and, later as an adjunct instructor, I encountered several obstacles to creating an OER for my courses. Many of these obstacles have been mitigated since being hired as tenure-track faculty. Not surprisingly, support from campus entities as well as departmental administrators is crucial to developing OERs. What does this support look like? What are some of the challenges that remain? How might we establish better policies and practices on campus to encourage more OER development from faculty, staff, and even students? This reflection curates some of my experiences and thoughts as I continue working on a campus-supported OER.


I first considered adopting OERs while at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) where I worked as a graduate teaching assistant. Before even teaching my first course, it was apparent that the textbook publication was a system that was only feasible at the expense of students. At that time, our first-year writing courses required a textbook, written by two UWM tenured faculty, which cost approximately $80. This was eventually replaced with an online textbook/multimedia cheaper resource, developed by another member of UWM faculty. This work is largely a compilation of online activities and short readings designed to support first-year writing. Because this textbook was accessible through the publisher’s website, however, students would be unable to access it after the semester was over. 

While OERs were uncommon in 2013 (when I encountered the first instance), there were still options that could have alleviated costs for students. Yet OERs were far better supported at the time the replacement text was introduced. Both texts could have been replaced with free resources, yet the creators of these texts opted to pursue traditional publishing. Why? The profit to their creators is marginal at best and students pay for a resource that is of limited value. 

My interpretation of this is that alternative publishing models have not yet been embraced by higher education. For reasons that are subjective to authors, the production of a free, reusable, and readily-accessible resource was less compelling than producing the works described. How might institutions and higher education-at-large shift this perception and prioritize OER development and distribution? How might this effort signify a broader change in how higher education accommodates students while also incentivizing the work of instructors and staff?

Individual Interest in OERs

My growing interest in creative commons was largely nurtured by academic librarians. As an intern with the UWM Library’s Digital Humanities Lab, I often worked with CC licenses and CC-licensed resources. It was also here that I learned about several digital initiatives including OERs. As a graduate student, however, this opportunity was not available to me. What was available to me was publishing my dissertation under a CC license. In 2019, this was surprisingly not as common and so the license I released the work under (CC BY-NC-SA) was selected with limited understanding of CC licensing. While my intention was duly considered when opting to license the work this way, I am increasingly concerned about the impact my ignorance may have and have had. Will licensing the work as NonCommercial limit my ability to revise this work into a publishable form?  

During this same period, I also began promoting creative commons and “copyleft” concepts into my instruction. In addition to incorporating CC-licensed resources into my courses, I also dedicated time in each course instructing students on how to locate and use CC-licensed assets. Much of this was accomplished with support from our library staff. 

With the onset of the COVID, which forced many of our classes online, I was uniquely qualified to recalibrate course materials into virtual offerings. This was especially handy in the case of a technical communications course. Due to increased popularity, several instructors were being brought in to teach additional sections. To provide new instructors with a readymade Canvas course that could be used to facilitate online and in-person offerings. This was offered under a Creative Commons license so that the syllabus, calendar, and other materials could be easily obtained, revised, and reused. 

Support is Crucial to Using Creative Commons

Based on these experiences, it’s clear to me that creative commons adoption requires support and readily available guidance. In almost every case mentioned above, there were experts available to provide such assistance but it took me several years to get to know who those individuals were. Here are a few ways we might better support the creative commons and OER development on campus.

Proposition One: Discuss creative commons and OER options at new hire and graduate student orientations. Providing immediate direction can help newcomers identify campus experts, explore free options, and even inspire exploration of alternative publication methods and CC-licensed scholarship.

Proposition Two: Prioritize OERs as valid works that satisfy promotion criteria for service, research, and teaching requirements. Creating an OER requires time and touces upon all of the major areas demanded by tenure and promotion granting committees. New faculty and staff need to be assured that an original OER be accepted as an original work of scholarship, created in service to the greater academic community and for the benefit of student learning. 

Proposition Three: Support for OER development should be intentional and methodical. I’m exceedingingly fortunate to have the generous support of my department chair, instructional technologists, and colleagues in developing a comprehensive OER for first-year professional writing students. It isn’t enough to have at-hand resources however (or even financial support!). A supportive team that can help keep the OER on track is essential for managing expectations and scope while being flexible enough to accommodate re-visioning. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

CPGS: “Questions from Within Solidarity”

After a Summer of participating in various #BlackLiveMatter protests and actions, and shortly after the beginning of the Fall semester (2020), I composed the following statement on behalf of the Council for Play and Game Studies. Sara Lovett (Vice Chair) and Emma Kostopolus (Assistant Chair) were wonderful editors and provided some incredible feedback on what was a emotional writing.

Dear CPGS Community,

We hope that this letter finds you and yours healthy and safe. Although this hope has long become platitudinous, we continue to say it with sincerity simply because we seem to face anger, frustration, pain, loss, and uncertainty every day.

On August 23, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city not far from Milwaukee, 29-year-old Black male Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police. At the time of this incident, Mr. Blake was reportedly acting as a peacekeeper and attempting to help resolve a heated argument near his vehicle. The police were called and Mr. Blake was accosted while trying to remove himself from the scene. As he attempted to enter his vehicle, he was shot seven times. Blake’s three young sons screamed from the back seat while their father was gunned down right in front of them.

At the time of this writing, Mr. Blake is recovering but paralyzed from the waist down. Last week, Kenosha was waking up to mornings still smoldering from another night of burning, tear gas, and violence. Details about the incident are still being disputed. The officer who shot Blake, Rusten Sheskey, and two other officers, have been placed on administrative leave and are under investigation. We call for justice to be served and that they be appropriately charged for the excessive and unjustified use of force. This would only be a start, however, and so we continue to push for the exposure and subsequent destruction of those systems of racism, white supremacy, and violence that have corrupted the law enforcement industry since its inception.

We are thankful that Mr. Blake is alive but are pained by the impact this will have on him and his loved ones – especially his children and family. We are also incensed that, after the murders of Trayford Pellerin, Salaythis, Melvin, Vincent Harris, Darius Washington, Rayshard Brooks, Michael Thomas, Kamal Flowers, Tyquarn Graves, David McAtee, James Scurlock, Alejandra Monocuco, Momodou Lamin Sisay, Jarvis Sullivan, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Yvette Smith, Alton Sterling, Botham Jean, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Yvette Smith, Alton Sterling, David McAtee, Walter Scott, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Sean Monterrosa, Jamel Floyd, and so many, many others…

…we are still left wanting justice.  

Many of us in the CCCC community are currently poring over syllabi and course designs that we hope are equitable, just, and fair. But we also need to look up from our assignments and lesson plans to witness the systemic injustice, material disparity, and historic displacement that Black Americans continue to face. We must stand in solidarity in our actions as teachers, researchers, gamers, designers, and as humans. 

The Council for Play and Game Studies at CCCC is adamant in our support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We support the peaceful protests that are erupting across the nation and condemn the disproportionately oppressive responses by municipal, state, and federal forces. We will neither accept nor even tolerate the actions and rhetoric of those who would exacerbate hatred. We will not support leadership who would seek policies that oppress and fraction the citizenry. 

The Council for Play and Game Studies vows to amplify those Black voices who would be silenced by the oppressors. We will ensure that our pedagogy accommodates diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We will dedicate the classroom to dismantling those pedagogical structures that, according to Asao Inoue (2019), perpetuate white supremacy and plunder the rich linguistic diversity of our classrooms. We will support the work of Black scholars through research practices that seek out and include their scholarship. 

In light of this, we ask that all play and game-focused pedagogues take a moment to consider and reflect on the values games and play bring to the classroom. How do the games we bring to class foster an understanding of justice? How does our discussion of these games impart the abilities to not only see but confront injustice? Are the games we’re playing privileging compassion over competition? Creation over consumption? Is our playful pedagogy one that embraces those forms of play that are strange to us? Do the games inform a sense of power that can ultimately be used to dismantle the injustices in their lives outside of the game? Are we making games that, from concept to execution, accommodate players of all backgrounds and abilities? 

Who are we inviting to the table? Who is left out?

Cited and Other Recommended Works

Acosta, Melanie M, and Denham, André R. “Simulating Oppression: Digital Gaming, Race and the Education of African American Children.” The Urban Review, vol. 50, no. 3, 2018, pp. 345–362.

Blackmon, Samantha. “Beware the Magical Negro: On Tropes, Race, and Black Lives Matter.” Not Your Mama’s Gamer. 4 Aug. 2016. 

Gray, Kishonna J and David J Leonard. Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Justice. University of Washington Press, 2018.

Inoue, Asao. “How Do We Language So People Stop Killing Each Other, Or What Do We Do About White Language Supremacy?” Keynote address delivered to the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 14 Mar. 2019.

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play. MIT Press, 2009.

Kessock, Shoshana. “Cultural Appropriation and Larp.” The Cutting Edge of Nordic Larp, edited by Jon Back, Gråsten, Knutpunkt, 2014pp. 125-134.

Richard, Gabriela T., and Kishonna L. Gray. “Gendered play, racialized reality: Black cyberfeminism, inclusive communities of practice, and the intersections of learning, socialization, and resilience in online gaming.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 39.1 (2018): 112-148.

Gardens of Summerfest

With the passing of Summerfest diva Bo Black, there was a little more incentive to run through the Henry Meier Festival grounds where the annual event (at least until 2020) is held for over 50 years. For certain, Black was one of those Milwaukeeans that left an indelible impact on the city and her tenure at Summerfest is significant for the level of expansion she promoted. This has been beneficial to the area surrounding the grounds, which have enjoyed similar expansion and development. But the influx of visitors, and all the hassles that brings with it, has led many city residents to refer to this 11-day festival as “Bummerfest.”

North Gate, Black-Eyed Susans.

Territorial posturing aside, I made an extra effort to run through the festival grounds this past Sunday. It’s familiar territory. In addition to running through the grounds a few times a month, I also work there every summer as a bar manager. Vacant, the grounds are fascinating to me (and the subject of a post that I need to polish up). After working a 12-hour shift of chacking photo IDs, making change for cashiers, and fending off heat exhaustion, it’s refreshing to wander the grounds after hours as the clean-up shift starts their rounds.

Large Planter by Central Gate.

Shortly after the announcement that Summerfest was cancelled this year, I also made a point to run the length of the grounds that face Lakeshore State Park and Lake Michigan beyond. It was remarkable that, despite the cancellation, there was someone tending to the enormous planters that flank the central entry gate. Even while the rest of the grounds allows nature’s reclamation, this stalwart is still watering the flowers.

Surface Tension. Unknown yellow flowers.

This is the essence of service: the hidden and silent acts and labors that have allowed us to feel “in place” during this pandemic. Before the coronavirus, few service workers were acknowledged let alone appreciated. Suddenly, service providers were charged with providing comfort and consumption to Americans who missed their tapped beers and burgeoning plates of food. I hope that this appreciation continues, five months into the pandemic.

Social Distancing Sidewalk Marker.

So as I took a couple circuits through the festival grounds, I focused on the evidence that someone was still taking care of the landscaping. Billowing hydrangeas and deep crimson lilies are found throughout. But I spent more time finding emerging wilderness, the green creeping through the paving. Thistles that line the lagoon shores. As I exited the grounds along the southern road, the images reveal the oppressive design of the grounds themselves and the way this “public” space is actually inaccessible. Service roads wind up the manufactured terrace behind barbed wire fences. Bar facilities, backsides sheathed in brutalist concrete, stand watch over the empty arena.

So while this piece nods towards Ms. Black and her efforts, more appreciation goes towards those who are working after the crowds have dissipated: the maintenance crews keeping the facilities functional; the grade school counselors slinging beers to sunburnt suburbanites; the landscapers who give face to this non-place, these gardens of Summerfest.

Lilies Beneath the Hoan Bridge.
Fly on Lily.
Terrace Wall and Assortment
Dandelions, Milkweed, and Fencing.
Hydrangeas and “Non Potable Water” Warning.
Fenced-off Flowers (don’t know the name)
Queen Anne’s Lace and Central Entrance.
Planters and Skyride Hangers.
Empty Festival Grounds.
Downed Branch.
White Flowers on Fencing.

All photos by author, taken Sunday, July 26, 2020. I’m not a gardener so if I’ve mis-identified any flowers or plants here, please let me know.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License

My name’s Kris Purzycki, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During the summer, I also work the JCI South stage at Summerfest.

Phantoms of Summerfest

Summerfest. July 6, 2014. Photo by author.

Summerfest is Milwaukee’s annual music showcase, spanning 11 consecutive days (except for the single Monday that falls in the middle) in June and July. Nearly a dozen stages line the grounds which lay along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Between them are a handful of “unofficial” stages that host local musicians playing for quaint crowds of exuberant friends and family. Outside of music, food is Summerfest’s other attraction and there are a few unusual items that warrant the excessive prices (I’m still trying to replicate the apricot, goat cheese flat bread that was my exclusive diet last year).

I stopped going to Summerfest in my late 20’s. I hate crowds. I hate drunks. I really hate drunken crowds. It’s that simple.

Summerfest after a hard rain. 4 July 2018. Photo by author.

Since 2014, however, I’ve worked at Summerfest as a bartender to make extra money between semesters. Behind the bar, I found it was easier to avoid the crowds. Drunks were dealt with individually rather than as a throng to elbow through. It’s a horrible job if you are a decent bartender and don’t like being micromanaged. Every year, I said, “never again.” When the boilerplate email arrived asking if I was interested in returning, I inevitably said “yes.” This, of course, became a running joke in the household.

So I was more than agreeable when asked to train as an assistant manager in 2018.

Why? Like many shitty jobs, it’s because of the people I worked with. In addition to the vast number of students, most “front of the house” positions are filled by professionals from the public sector. Teachers, parole officers, principals, social workers, and park rangers all behind the bar slinging suds for Midwesterners looking to spend their hard-earned cash on overpriced beer, french fries, and a “free” George Thorogood show… but I digress.

I have always had a fascination with the Summerfest grounds themselves. I can’t tolerate being on the grounds when they’re being used for one of the myriad festivals that occupy the space. But I relish those periods when the grounds are empty. Each night after the last Summerfest patron has stumbled out the gate, the residue of mass consumption lay strewn about: among the piles of Summerfest cups (all crowned with the fill-to line that has irked many a goer) lay crushed water bottles and whorls of grease-soaked wax paper. As I head out towards the trailer where we turn in our final numbers,the clean-up crews are already moving dunes of trash with industrial strength leaf blowers. I am always amazed at the pristine state of the grounds each morning when I return.

Between festival seasons, I return to the grounds several times a month. Although most of the grounds are gated off, a sliver of trail that traces the lagoon remains open to pedestrians. It’s an easy way to pick up a couple miles during a long run.

Henry Meier Festival Grounds in the Winter. 26 Jan. 2019.

Earlier this year, Summerfest organizers announced plans to postpone the festival due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than 11 days, Summerfest would be spread across three weekends in September.

Today, organizers cancelled the event altogether.

At first, the news disappointed me. It wasn’t really much of a surprise, however. Every time Milwaukee seems to be turning a corner, something seems to erode all precautionary measures. Our numbers continue to rise even though other regions of the state have started to surpass the city.

So it seems fitting to pull out some images taken over the years of an empty Summerfest. You see, the festival is really a victim of its own undoing. The same behaviors the festival relies on to operate are those same needs and wants that have contributed to the virus’ spread.

The floor of the bathroom was already cleaned by the time I was done for the night. 30 June 2018. Photo by author.
Another bathroom hadn’t been taken care of yet. Note the slick trail of footprints. 30 June 2018. Photo by author.

At the end of the evening, the evidence of our consumption are everywhere. One could literally wade through our waste.

Backstage, under the Hoan Bridge. 4 July 2018. Photo by the author.
Mannequins? An uneasy sight at 1 am. 2 July 2018. Photo by author.
Toe rings. 1 July 2018. Photo by author.
Each of those bleachers protected a small pile of garbage. 1 July 2018. Photo by the author.
Entrance. 30 June 2018. Photo by author.
The lingering crowd is usually pretty solid when I would leave so this must have been a late night. 30 June 2018. Photo by author.

Harvest of Hun Hunahpu

This is the recipe Sarah and I made for the 2020 Riverwest Co-op Chili Cook-off. It’s named after the Mayan maize god, Hun Hunaphu. All of the ingredients except hominy are fairly common and can be picked up at the Co-op.

This is the third or fourth time making this recipe and it has changed a bit almost every time. Additions to this version include orange juice and cinnamon.

Ingredients for Spice Blend

This is the spice blend used in the chili. Mix this up first. Adjust to taste.

  • 2T chili powder
  • 1T cumin
  • 1T garlic powder
  • 1T paprika
  • 1T fenugreek leaves
  • ½ T black pepper

Ingredients for Roasted Yams

You can roast the yams right before serving. After a couple days, they break down into mush. Deep frying might solve this but…

  • 2 large (really large!) yams
  • Spice blend
  • 1/2 c coconut oil

Preparation of Roasted Yams

  1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees
  2. Dice yams into ¼ inch cubes
  3. Melt ¼ c of the coconut oil
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of the spice blend to the oil (save remainder of spices for chili)
  5. Toss yams in the spicy oil so that they’re evenly coated
  6. Roast in single layer on sheet tray for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 mins or so

Ingredients for Chili

  • 2 large onions
  • 2 red, orange, or yellow peppers
  • 2-3 T of minced garlic
  • 1 large cans of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 large cans of hominy, drained
  • 6 cups of cooked black beans
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 2T of the adobo sauce
  • 6 cups of veggie stock
  • 4T molasses
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1T cocoa
  • 1T cinnamon
  • 1T liquid smoke
  • Juice of one orange

Preparation of Chili

  1. Saute onion, peppers, and garlic i the remaining coconut oil
  2. Stir in diced tomatoes and hominy
  3. Add stock and bring to boil, stirring frequently
  4. Turn down to a simmer after a few minutes
  5. Stir in spices and liquid smoke
  6. Stir in black beans
  7. Simmer for approx. 30 mins. There should still be some liquid in the chili still. If not, add more veggie stock. 
  8. Simmer until it looks thick enuff!
  9. Stir in the yams before serving. They’ll get pretty squishy come day two!

Milwaukee Map for CCCC 2020

This is a map made for those visiting Milwaukee for the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) this year. This page was created to help test the map’s appearance when embedded within a WordPress page. The Restaurant layer was produced automatically from information provided by collaborators serving on the Hospitality Committee – it was a privilege to cannibalize y’alls hard work!

Hey! So it works! As expected, slapping the HTML into the page worked just fine. I’m also happy to see that the map layers can be accessed by opening the side tray.

Preliminary Reflections on Live-streaming and Platform Pedagogies

by Kristopher Purzycki

This is an abridged version of a presentation given at the Computers & Writing Conference, Michigan State University, 2019.

My interest in Twitch comes not from my gaming scholarship but from an interest in broadcasting. I’ve always been attracted to those media that enable the public to cast a wide net to an audience. From guerrilla journalism to pirate radio to mainframe shareware, my interests always turn to those that offer an open, accessible platform to a general public. So live-streaming, which essentially combines the social interaction of talk radio with public access cable television, seems to serve in this capacity. 

Fascinated by this aspect of Twitch, I started experimenting with how the platform could be used. One of these experiments involved writing a dissertation chapter which I had been having a difficult time initiating. Knowing that successful Twitch streaming entailed a regular schedule, I dedicated several three-hours sessions during the week to writing while live-streaming. Surprisingly, this worked for several weeks and I was able to complete a decent chapter draft shortly thereafter. Along the way, a number of people became regulars and would pop in whenever I began streaming. Dutch philosophers and Midwestern game scholars popped in for a visit, oftentimes offering resources that might help whatever passage I had been working on. 

At the same time I also began attracting novice writers. Many visitors seemed to just want to be to witness the activity of writing. As one regular noted, “we’re not here for your writing, we’re here for your company.” And so an amorphous circle or writers formed, dispersed, connected not by theme, discipline, or level of expertise but by platform. I began receiving requests to review short passages. Links to pages of prose were sent to me. I would receive invites to check out others’ writings on their own streams. By the third week of writing, I was spending less time working on my own writing and more time helping others with theirs. And I liked it. For the sake of finishing the project, I stepped away from streaming for some time. Signaling a return to a project I’d held off on, I streamed my dissertation defense on May 20th of this year. 

With this in mind, it may make more sense why a cohesive writing community exists on Twitch. It’s contributors range from amateur fan-fic creators to doctoral students. “Rexadoodle,” for example, studies for her doctoral preliminary exam in economics on stream. Using the pomodoro technique, rexadoodle is able to focus on specific tasks while limiting chat with the audience (of course, I discovered this after interrupting with an introduction). Rexadoodle averages over 20 viewers at a time who wait patiently for her to finish her 20-minute writing sessions. Conversation ensues at the onset of each break but, as far as I could tell, never discussed the act of writing. Most interestingly, this streamer does this as part of the ASMR Twitch category, or those shows that evoke an “autonomous sensory meridian response” that is aroused when receiving personal attention. At the time of this writing, I’m unsure how these two imperatives operate together.

One facet of Twitch that certainly stokes this response is the incorporation of a tipping economy. In Twitch, this is embodied in the use of bits that are given through chat. These bits animate your chat input, essentially making your voice stand out in the chat window. Bits earn streamers 1 cent per bit. For the spectator, bits currently cost $1.40 per 100 bits. According to a 2017 Variety piece, Twitch raked in over $12 million in a ten-month period (Spangler). During a break in a recent writing session, rexadoodle received numerous “cheers” from spectators. During this break, two spectators competed for the title of “Top Cheerer.” This week, over 10000 bits ($126 in value) had been given between the two, earning rexadoodle an $100. 

While I don’t anticipate such vying for tutoring attention, it’s tempting to consider what sort of alternative economy this opens up for those in higher education, many of whom are poorly paid and/or insecure in their field. Being one of these, I’m currently experimenting with a system where I offer tutoring services across a live-streaming platform. One of the numerous issues that has inhibited this is the intellectual property rights of both myself and students. Another is ensuring that the system of communication maintains privacy, compliance with FERPA regulations, as well as pedagogical ethics. Much of my own hand-wringing occurs where the public institution meets the capitalist platform. How to preserve a creative commons license on my intellectual property on a platform where that’s unavailable?  YouTube provides this option but is a much less accessible platform focusing even more on games than Twitch.

Other live-streaming experiences have continued to reinforce my predication that live-streaming will be a tremendous boon for higher ed. In June, I was able to play Occupy White Walls with Dr. Kyle Bohunicky (University of Florida) and the Looking for Good streaming group. This was an incredible experience that demonstrated just how potent live-streaming can be for education and collaboration.

For my most recent experiment, I live-streamed one of the panels I presented with at the Computers & Writing conference, held at Michigan State University in June of this year. With the approval of Dan Hocutt and Megan Mize, we broadcast the entire panel on Twitch. Most in the audience were unphased (or unimpressed) with this – a few (notably younger) in the audience were far more intrigued by the motivations of streamers and how those “desires” could be tapped into by educators.

Still, we didn’t receive any questions across the stream, as I had hoped. Yet there were a few viewers and the tech held up on the conference center’s WiFi. Let’s chalk that up as a win for now.

Based on these experiences, it seems clear to me that there is great potential for live-streaming in higher education. While streaming my dissertation, people would join the stream to see how much progress had been made. I maintained a word count and shared daily and weekly goals as it was one of the more common;y requested updates. As I mentioned, other scholars suggested works to pick up – some of which turned out to be invaluable to the project. In addition to revealing the raw writing process, streaming can also potentially dispel the fog of higher eds more cryptic practices. After live-streaming my defense, one person thanked me for sharing the experience noting that it had helped him understand what exactly a defense was. But what other rites and rituals of the academy can be opened up through live-streaming? How can this service, for example, enable participation by those with limitations of mobility (or funding)?

Given the rapidity that live-streaming has developed into a lucrative platform of considerable breadth, it might be surprising that the medium has not branched its way into more fields. Yet Twitch, which once offered a vehicle for everything from gaming to performance art, is no longer interested in catering to a diversity of interests nor providing a stage for participatory culture. Categories are limited to those that possess the better capacity for providing Amazon the most profit. So while this motivation it not surprising, what is odd is that Amazon hasn’t taken more steps to usurp education in some way: “Want to pick up this work being referenced by StarLord789? Here’s a link to a used copy.” 

Setting aside this low-hanging critique for the time being, we may want to ready ourselves. There are opportunities to be had on both sides of the lectern. Yet there are also numerous considerations and concerns. Admittedly, the ones I offer here are only those encountered in my own experience, which is limited in scope. Despite this trepidation, I find it difficult to imagine any other future than one where one can receive a humanities degree from or Google Online University, where the curriculum is bound to products and proprietary services.

Given the current state of higher education, maybe this future isn’t much different after all.

Slides from the presentation can be found here. This presentation was also live-streamed via Twitch and can currently be found on my YouTube channel.

Works Cited in Original Paper

Rexadoodle. Accessed 17 June 2019.

Looking for Good. Accessed 17 June 2019.

“FAQs on Photos and Videos under FERPA.” FAQs on Photos and Videos under FERPA | Protecting Student Privacy,

Hamilton, William A et al. “Streaming on Twitch: Fostering Participatory Communities of Play within Live Mixed Media.” Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM conference on Human factors in computing systems. ACM, 2014

Handrahan, Matthew. “Any Henning: Streaming must be more than ‘just an invisible console.” 24 April 2019. Accessed 14 June 2019.

Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place. De Capo Press, 1999.

Payne, Keith, Schuetzler, and Giboney. “Examining the Learning Effects of Live Streaming Video Game Instruction over Twitch.” Computers in Human Behavior 77.C (2017): 95-109. Web.

Spangler, Todd. “Twitch Will Let More Streamers Earn Money, After Users Spend Over $12 Million on Cheering Emoji.” 21 April 2017. Accessed 19 June 2019.

Meaningful Play 2018

The Collaboratory at Meaningful Play. Pictured from left: Nathan, Kris, MSU librarian Jonah Magar, Krista-Lee, and Josh. Photo by Laya Liebeseller.
The Collaboratory at Meaningful Play. Pictured from left: Nathan, Kris, MSU Library Gaming Coordinator Jonah Magar, Krista-Lee, and Josh. Photo by Laya Liebeseller.

Meaningful Play is a conference held at Michigan State University where academics and indie game developers gather for a three-day event. Like most conferences aimed at higher education, this one includes panels, roundtables, and workshops. During the evenings, however, the developers take center stage to showcase their games, discuss motivations behind the project, and describe what makes their project “meaningful.” For those of us on the academic side of the table, this is time when we can simply enjoy games and engage their creators face-to-face. Board and computer games were both present in abundance with each table usually occupied by players overseen by a gaggle of spectators eager for a turn.

Members of UWM’s Serious Play group attended this bi-annual conference to present our panel, “Serious Play on Twitch: Experiments in Academic Streaming,” where we described some of the affordances of streaming technology when applied to scholarship. Each of us took on a different facet of producing the Serious Play channel, posing questions that had been raised throughout the past year and a half since we began streaming. Although the panel went well enough, there were some interesting questions and concerns raised by the audience during the Q&A and on social media.

One audience member addressed issues regarding the vulnerability of the streamer and being “out there” and exposed. Although there has been occasional trolling, we responded, the channel has not been too frequently targeted. Being an academically motivated channel that plays less popular games tends to attract fewer hassles. We also suspect that trolling a bunch of people heavily interested in social dynamics would make for poor targets (so please, please feel free to troll us!). There is something to be said for the exposure that live streaming demands of its producers. What to make of this impromptu scholarship? For an industry accustomed to works that are typically only shared after rounds of revision, testing, and editorial scrutiny, how does a streaming channel contribute to the larger discourse (if at all?). One of the qualities of streaming and live broadcasting that elevates scholarship is the way it promotes off-the-cuff discourse. The ability to speak to one’s own thoughts and work is something not taught on campus. Playing a game within a group of academically-minded folks teases out the half-baked thoughts and impulsive responses that must be chiselled into more refined comments later on. Streaming also has the potential to disseminate this raw scholarship to a much wider audience, though this potential is complicated by the platforms that provide these services.

This also raises questions about accessibility which have been culminating among conference planners and attendees for some time. In hindsight, it seems strange that a panel on streaming would not be streaming their presentation. When planning for the conference, it was determined to be too much of a hassle. Travelling with the proper equipment such as microphones, webcams, and suitable laptops can be difficult and cumbersome. Setting up ahead of time is also difficult and relies on assumptions about space, internet quality, and connections that are often unknown. Given that one of the persistent issues we’ve had has been set-up, we figured it best to leave the mics and cams behind and focus on the discussion.

Screen capture of Twitter post: "ANd now were talking about arcane things like the ethics of taking money from twitch as an affiliate, IRBs and if using public funds for something that isnt accessible to everyone is ethical"
Screen capture of Twitter feed.

The issue of access was hinted at by another member of the audience who was critical of several aspects of our panel. With everything from the lack of diversity among us to the topics we were sharing, this person took umbrage and voiced their concerns on Twitter. This provided us with a remarkable opportunity to continue the discussion in ways unanticipated. Perhaps this is one positive aspect of having one’s panel documented – so that an archive of the discussion can be properly preserved without having to rely on social media for such documentation…

One of the charges against our panel – the lack of diversity – is something that we have wrestled with for some time. Despite our efforts to address gendered and queer themes within games, we are woefully homogeneous when it comes to ethnic diversity. This inadequacy has had an impact on the Collaboratory in the past and, as was pointed out, there is still work to be done. Representation within the Collaboratory is also limited to faculty and those who currently have or are pursuing a graduate degree. No undergraduates! While there are logistical issues we’ve found that inhibit representing undergrads, there is nothing that excuses our lack of ethnic diversity. One of the solutions we’ve discussed going forward is to address this in the vetting process for when a new show is pitched. The question should be asked: what will you (the producer) do to attract and accommodate players of backgrounds that are largely underrepresented in academia and/or in game studies? 

The Twitter discussion carried on into the next day. While initially disconcerting to a point, the conversation enabled both sides to clarify themselves and address issues.

Our other presentation, a roundtable with the Games Studies Guild at MSU, explored similar questions in a more informal gathering between the two schools and other attendees. During the roundtable, Serious Play shared some issues we’ve had pertaining to technology, representation, inclusion, and outreach. Because UWM lacks a designated games studies program (or a conference like Meaningful Play), the comparison might seem lopsided. This difference was surprisingly absent from the discussion. Despite this major difference, we found that many of the issues and concerns were shared between both campuses. Faculty representation, exposure to the greater campus, and inclusion proved to be at the foreground of each group. It was a discussion that we hope will be continued!

One of our frequent contacts, Nick Lalone (University of Illinois – UC), posed a question after lunch that went something like:

“Has studying games made games less fun for you?”

For this author, the answer is simple: I have a lot of gripes with games and I spend a lot of waking time thinking about how games exploit players. But a gathering like Meaningful Play is special because it helps sooth that critical beast. More importantly it does so among a community that is growing through the enjoyment of games simply as creative and important works.

Classic Quests: the Mise en Abyme of Ultima IV’s Opening Screen

Author’s note:  This post originally appeared on the blog for the Digital Cultures Collaboratory at UWM.

screenshot of opening splashReleased over three decades ago, Origin Systems’ Ultima IV in an anachronistic computer game to be playing in an age of ultra-real aesthetics and NPCs fueled by rudimentary forms of artificial intelligence. True, it’s graphics are crude even by Cold War era standards. The interface resists logic. Interactions with entities within the game are clumsy and robotic.

These elements obscure a sophistication with regards to development that is significant in the history of computer game design and the medium’s position in the lineage of media writ large. At the time, this emergent art (yes, art) form was struggling to break free from traditions rooted in tabletop role playing games and literature. Ultima itself was born of creator Richard Garriott’s love of Dungeons & Dragons and live action role-playing (LARP). Both activities are among the primary influences of Garriott’s work and are evidenced in too many ways to list here. Generally speaking, there was no shortage of motivations for creating games. What developers and enthusiasts wanted was for games to be taken seriously.

Ultima IV‘s opening scene, discussed at length in Classic Quest’s first U4 episode, exemplifies the approach developers took to legitimizing games as an artistic achievement. Used in literature, film, and painting, the mise en abyme is a technique in which a work is placed within itself. By opening the game with a miniaturized theatrical acting-out of the game, Ultima IV is asserting a position beside the works of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein, Orson Welles’ Citizen Cane, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Splash screen for The Stanley Parable
Menu screen for The Stanley Parable.

Within games themselves, this knack for self-referencing has become common. The latest installments in the Wolfenstein series, for example, each contain bonus levels where one can play levels reminiscent of the original Wolfenstein 3D. This takes a sardonic tone in Galactic Cafe’s The Stanley Parable (2013). This meta-gamewhich offers a scathing existential commentary on the game player, opens with a menu image depicting an infinite mise en abyme of computer screens. This intentional self-reflection negates immersive effects, says Piotr Kubiński, instead placing the player in a state of “emersion” (2017, p. 54). This design choice, according to Kubiński, demands that the player engage the game in a new way through an “experience [that] is transferred to the level of a critical play with the medium and its rules (p. 55).

"Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp
“Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp. Photo taken by Alfred Stieglitz (1917).

This capacity for self-commentary is a signature for modern art, most (in)famously by Duchamp with his guerilla installation “Fountain.” Duchamp’s upturned urinal has been the source of interpretation and critique for a century due in large part to the work’s stance as meta-art. Duchamp did not likely care what the opinion of the viewer was only that the viewer be forced to confront the existence of such a thing. Although Duchamp’s repurposed urinal left an indelible mark on aesthetics, it did little to slow art’s commercial trajectory or slip into graphic design. Still, over a century later, “Fountain” (or its replicas at least) still demands that the viewer reconcile her own attitudes about aesthetics (“How do I know it’s art?”), the value of whatever might be called “art” (“How important is art?”) and the forces that affect our definition of the form (“This is art!”).

Ultima IV doesn’t quite get to this point. By staking a claim in the high arts, however, Garriott was prompting players to recognize that games were more than just the sum of their design elements, algorithms, and feedback loops. The sophisticated device of mise en abyme found in the most revered of the visual arts – now seen in a computer game – demonstrated the capacity for the form to reflect and intelligently consider itself as something of value and merit.

Featured image, The Play Scene in “Hamlet” by Daniel Maclise. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)


Kubiński, P. (2017). Play it again, stanley: Mise en abyme and playing with convention and narrative in the stanley parable. Tekstualia, 1(3)