April 20, 2009


by Nick Montfort · , 10:54 am

I’m here in Urbana, Illinois at the third and biggest annual HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) conference. We’re being hosted by the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (I-CHASS) at UIUC.

There are actually official, HASTAC-appointed bloggers for each of the events, so I’m not planning to step on their virtual toes by doing summary blogging of every panel. But I’ll mention some things about the first panel, to try to get off to a good start and give a sense of the conference. Later, I’ll hope to reflect on the Grand Text Auto exhibit a bit, too.

First up was the Innovations in Participatory Learning Panel. Craig Wacker, a program officer at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, described the foundation’s initiative in participatory learning and related a particular positive experience with Black Cloud, and environmental game that led to unexpected types of engagement and discussion among students.

Then Tim Lenoir presented his project, Virtual Peace, which simulates providing humanitarian assistance. It was developed with Virtual Heroes, the company that developed much of the back end of America’s Army and had a platform for assessment. Virtual Peace simulates Hurricane Mitch hitting Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998, and it lets people practice negotiating skills in virtual conference rooms.

Suzanne Seggerman, president of Games 4 Change, spoke about how her organization supports and promotes socially responsible games. They provided a toolkit and workshop for nonprofits, providing help on making such games at every step. (In the toolkit, Let the Games Begin, Mary Flanagan’s talking head is featured, speaking under the word CONCEPT.)

Jan Reiff discussed HyperCities, implemented using the Google Maps API. She showed images from a project about Los Angeles’s Hi Fi, Historic Filipinotown that was implemented in the system, with research done by a UCLA history class.

The panel ended with Ed Bender, of Follow the Money. The site analyzes and makes available data on political donations at the state level, something the project originally did, many years ago, by mailing out floppies.

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