Thursday, October 24, 2013

Free Choice: Understanding My Project

For the free choice blog, I decided, like most of us probably did, to write a reflection of my project. My reflection is on the purpose of my look at the TVTropes wiki, because honestly I have not been entirely sure what I am doing up to this point. For those of you still reading this blog, I hope this discussion of where I'm at helps clarify my research intent. Understandably, there was some confusion and questions raised about the data sheets I posted and the discussions of them. In order to convey my newly found purpose, this entry is to show what I am looking at from here on out. Simply put, my project at this point is looking at the affinity space of the tropers, and what it takes for outsiders to gain access to the community of practice.
My two data sheets might have seemed like disjointed pieces of information about the site, but I really wanted to show the interaction practices of members of the site in the first one, and that discussion made me realize that I needed to get some information on how posts are made to the site in the first place. So, my second data sheet was purposefully chosen from a different section because it represented a moderator making a statement about uploading new information on the wiki. While there were a number of different forums I could have chosen for this style of data, I chose the “Trope Repair Shop” (TRS) because it is the section of the wiki directly involved with the first data sheet because both are about fixing the individual pages, though by different standards. That is, the first data I collected was an attempt by a user to “fix” something he saw on a page that was potentially abusing the wiki’s advertised purpose, while the second set was a set of rules for tropers to follow in making 'major' repairs.
The TVTropes wiki makes no claims to perfect, peer-reviewed additions to knowledge, but they do require a definite sense of understanding before a user just runs off and edits their favorite book or television show’s page--as evidenced in both pieces of data. In the TRS data sheet, I reflected on the need for multiple skills needed to be a part of the community of TVTropes. I will spend a lot of time in revising that data sheet in the first major overhaul, but right now, I just want to get my feet underneath me and focus my project in a way that will make sense for my readers.
I want here to set out my intentions in looking at the TVTropes site. My intent is to find out what literacy practices specifically are needed for an outside member (someone who simply uses the site as a fun time-killer like myself) to be able to participate in the community. I really went into this community blind, so my first few tasks have been to figure out where to ask questions (I started out wrong but got put on the right track!) and to understand the forms of digital literacy I need to make changes to a page on the wiki. As I began figuring that, out my second piece of my project (the actual participation through editing) became a feasible thing to do. I have no shame in admitting that it is taking a lot of time to learn how edits are made; I intend to get to the point in this project that I can make a substantial change to the Brave New World wiki by adding a set of tropes to that page.
With regard the tropes I will add, the main one is to add a “All The Other Reindeer” trope for two characters: Bernard is left out of society in the first half of the novel, John the Savage both as a child in the American Indian reservation and in London when he gets there. It took me a lot of thinking and a random thought while reading BNW to come up with an interactive portion of my project that did not seem contrived. This is an actual need on the wiki, so I hope it goes well. It may well take until the last week of school to learn just how to link between other examples of this trope on the site, but I will be sure to document my struggle for the benefit of all! :D

Friday, October 11, 2013

Data Sheet The Second: Trope Repair Shop

This second piece of data I collected because it represents more of the bureaucracy at work on TVTropes. The “TRS” mentioned at the top means Trope Repair Shop, and this post was compiled to keep the wiki running smoothly, by a moderator. There are a lot of terms and hyperlinks in the data from figure 1 that represent some things I talked about in the first piece, but which I will touch on again briefly.

Figure 1:

From the top, there are a few notable pieces of this datasheet. The first is that underneath the logo is the name “Cutmaster-san” with some symbols. The symbols represent some of the possibilities for digital capital on TVTropes. Digital capital on TVTropes works by crediting users for interaction that is meaningful or letting them purchase badges as a way of celebrating the wiki and donating to its running costs. Cutmaster-san is wearing three badges: the first is called  “Aleph 0” and is an interest badge, the second is a Mod Badge, which is noted in the badge shop as “if someone s wearing this, you should probably listen.” Third, he has a games trope, the blue d20, which represents an interest in gaming tropes at a moderate level.

Moving to some of the data from the thread itself, it is notable that this thread, while very important to the running of the site, is capped at 100 conversations. The purpose is clear, to ensure that tropers are fixing issues, rather than just making complaints about them and leaving it at that. The implementation seems to work because the TRS is always rotating and the site is well kept. The other purpose of this post is to welcome repair shop newbies and orient them as what this particular conversation is for.

As the list shows, this is not the place to ask common questions about tropes; that is the job of the welcome forum or the sandbox. The TRS page is for tropers familiar with the affinity space already. TRS is the place to come if there are misguided edits or accidents within pages, and those need clarification and fixing.

As I discussed in the previous data memo, the blue highlighted text is a portal to the discussed info, page, trope, etc. Further, the language of the site is specific and difficult, which causes some difficulty in entering conversations without gaining foundational knowledge through observation. The central concept that sticks with me in thinking about this weeks data is from "Literacy in Virtual Worlds" by Black and Steinkuehler, where they discuss the "constellation of literacy practices" that refers to the need for more than one set of skills to be a gamer (277). This concept transfers easily to the TVTropes setting, because you need skills in the semiotic nature of the site as well as proficiency in writing, html code, and diplomacy (see the reminders in the data about language and courtesy) in order to be a troper. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Data Sheet 1 Discussion

For an initial data analysis of, I chose to take a snapshot of the discourse surrounding one of the websites expressed concerns. In the example I will discuss here, the moderators of the site interact with the members or TVTropes and come to consensus (or at least seem to be on their way to consensus) on an issue of usage and spatiality. The use of space on TVTropes is important for a number of reasons. Frist, the site is used for improvement by writers as per the introductory statement, which says that the wiki is for learning “the tricks of the trade in writing fiction” and not for railing or “bashing things.” TVTropes takes itself seriously, and therefore readers and interested learners feel confident in exploring the site with confidence. 


Within the brief data set I collected, there are a number of interesting things going on. First, the affinity space at work here are quite clear; the site is for the celebration and dispersal of interesting tropes and idioms that span many works of art. The audience clearly takes this seriously, as “Catbert” shows in his unasked for policing of the site and the use another member has put it to: Catbert’s comment is that “opinion on creepiness is not what the discussion page is for” because the bylaws and spatial agreements on TVTropes provide separate spaces for different types of interaction, and the discussion page within works’ pages (in this case the work is “Vocaloid”) is strictly for, as “Kuruni” helpfully tells us, “[talk] about the article itself.” An interesting note here is that the moderator initially dismisses the original claim, because discussion pages are opinion-based areas, whereas pages themselves are strictly informational and should be fact-checked and impersonal (though wittiness is encouraged). 

Through the back and forth discussion, however, this data shows that the TVTropes moderators are simply members with experience, and each person interested has a say. The conversation takes on a level of debate after the moderator chimes in, and the decision on what use the discussion page is meant for seems to be decided in favor of the original poster (OP). 

Another interesting piece of this data sheet is the use of code mashing. In Fraiberg’s definition, code mashing is the multi-use of literacy practices in teaching and research. This definition fits well when looking at TVTropes forums (and the entire wiki), especially in the use of specialized language in different forms. HTML language, trope naming, and the specific language of the site are interesting to look at as keys to understanding the literacy practice of TVTropes. The HTML coding for hyperlinks to specific tropes, pages, or users is a necessary literacy practice for being deeply involved in the site. Further, trope naming and understanding what it means when someone refers to a trope like “uncanny valley” is helpful in tracking both conversations and summaries of either works or tropes within many works. And finally, knowing the language uses of the site (troll, specific meaning of discussion page, etc.) are needed basic literacy as well. So, a new member such as myself needs to create a “constellation of literacy activities” (Black 277) that will form the basis for literate practice within 

Terms of note:
Spatiality—the ways interactions can become orienting or can push readers in specific ways. 

Affinity Spaces—“spaces that cohere around a common affinity for a certain topic, passion, or endeavor rather than say, those features that more traditionally define a given community such as social class, gender, location, or age.” (from Rebecca Black, “Literacy in Virtual Worlds”)

Code Mashing—“the complex blending of multimodal and multilingual texts and literacy practices in our teaching and research.” (from Fraiberg, “Composition 2.0:Toward a Multilingual and Multimodal Framework”)

Disclaimer: I apologize for the probable lack of coherency in this post, but its very late and I am very sleep deprived! :D 
I will be happy to answer any clarity questions anyone might have.