Turning points in Praxis: new roles, wire-frames, and programming languages

The last couple of weeks have been exciting ones in our program.  Our team has now specified our individual roles for the year.  Eliza, Scott, and Veronica will be our coders; Francesca and Zach will be the design team; and I will be performing project management duties, with assistance from Francesca.  I am excited to see these groups forming, people beginning to specialize, and a greater sense of direction inspiring everyone.

After weeks of theorizing what the Ivanhoe Game SHOULD be, our talks about what it actually COULD be based on time, money, skills, etc., inspired some new questions:

What platform should we use to build our tool?

  • Which type of tool will be the most accessible and inviting to users?
  • Which type of programing language will we be able to master in this time frame?
  • What kind of tool is most likely to prompt open-source contributions by other academics?
  • What is the easiest to maintain time-wise (and time is, after all, money) for the SLab once the fellows leave the program?

Our end decision has been to build our Ivanhoe as a WordPress plugin which users can download and use on their own WP sites, rather than as a stand-alone, hosted service.  We saw WP as familiar and widely-used enough that it would make start-up as easy as possible for users.  (See Francesca’s thoughts on our decision to use WordPress.)  It also means that other programers can play with our code and contribute to Ivanhoe’s development and maintenance.

Eliza, Jeremy, Zach, and I met Wednesday to draw up some wire-frames for our revised Ivanhoe.  After a couple weeks of discussion about what our Ivanhoe would be, we have a more concrete–but still highly viscous–vision of what our game will look like.  We plan to have a game which will allow players to make moves which link to other moves–a key feature.  Players will be able to incorporate text, image files, sound files, and video files into their moves.  We also have plans for a role journal which will aggregate the “Rationale” entries made every time a player makes a move.  Ivanhoe strongly resembles blogging platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress blogs, but we hope our particular setup with linking possibilities will inspire new ways of posting.  We also hope, through our design strategies, to encourage a more multimedia approach to making posts.

Our journey now takes us forth into the strange world of PHP–which, if you had asked me about a month ago, I’d have guessed was some sort of chemical.  To embrace our multimedia tenet, I will conclude with a not-so-subtle homage to our new best friend:

File:PHP-logo.svg

As we ring in the new year, here’s to magic… only a few queries away: <?php {endless possibilities} ?>

This past May, 2014, I completed my M.A. in English at the University of Virginia. As a graduate student I focused on American literature, textual studies, and learning as much about digital humanities as possible. I served as project manager for the 2013-14 Praxis cohort, rebuilding the Ivanhoe Game. I now work at Rare Book School and the Washington Papers doing bibliographical research and social media. In my spare time I enjoy jamming on my violin, researching family history, and having movie nights with friends. I love ballroom dance, can't get enough opera, and enjoy making gourmet pizza at home.

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