According to Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer in The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat,

as some wag once said, “In the most carefully constructed experiment under the most carefully controlled conditions, the organism will do whatever it damn well pleases.”

Propelled by these experiences, we shifted into a style of operations in which we let the players themselves drive the direction of the design. This proved far more effective.

“How should a professor evaluate student performance and accomplishment in this course of study? asked Dr. C with a smile on his face and a pep in his step.

My friends from Lucasfilm’s Habitat have some more to say,

The goal is to enable the communications between machines to take place primarily at the behavioral level (what people and things are doing) rather than at the presentation level (how the scene is changing). The description of a place in a virtual world should be in terms of what is there rather than what it looks like.

For the last few months we have inhabited the virtual world of “From Memex to YouTube: Cognition, Learning and the Internet.” It is a class about cognition, learning and the internet which really says nothing about the class and also, everything at the same time. It is important not what each of these items – cognition, learning, and the internet – look like, but rather what they are.

Evaluation of comprehension in this class cannot be based on rote memorization of the definitions taken from the O.E.D.

cognition – n. – The action or faculty of knowing; knowledge, consciousness; acquaintance with a subject

learning – n. – The action of receiving instruction or acquiring knowledge

internet – Originally (in form internet): a computer network consisting of or connecting a number of smaller networks, such as two or more local area networks connected by a shared communications protocol

They tell you what the class looks like. Anybody with access to google could tell you this.

What is important then is the demonstration of what these concepts are which is no easy feat. How they, “Interact at a behavioral level,” is important, it is engaging with Nelsons concept of intertwingularity.

Marshall McLuhan in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man quotes Edgar Allan Poe saying, 

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked. If you examine any of Shakespeare’s more successful tragedies, you will find this exact equivalence; you will find that the state of mind of Lady Macbeth walking in her sleep has been communicated to you by a skilful accumulation of imagined sensory impressions; the words of Macbeth on hearing of his wife’s death strike us as if, given the sequence of events, these words were automatically released by the last even in the series.

It is the fantic expression of concepts that is the most powerful demonstration of understanding, whether the understanding is emotional or cognitive (and according to Ted Nelson in Computer Lib/Dream Machines, “These two aspects, exactness and connotation, are an inseparable whole; what is conveyed generally has both.”)

Now Dr. C did give us some rules (every good virtual world needs rules)


* One substantive blog post per class meeting, faithfully. For best results, publish your blog post by 10 p.m. the night preceding the class meeting.

* One substantive comment on a classmate’s blog per class meeting, faithfully.

* Robust participation in

* Robust participation in class discussions, informed by faithful, careful work with assigned readings.

* Robust participation in Twitter commentary.

* Seminar presentation.

* Final project (accompanied by a written component, including a self-evaluation).

* Final project presentation.

* Final exam.

The rules are necessary to orient the user and prevent them from going insane. But they are sort of meant to be there, in the background.


Blogs, comments, robust participation in class and online activities as above: 30%

Final project, including written component and presentation: 35%
Final exam: 20%
Seminar presentation 15%

I would like to think (and it seems based on the prompt given to us) that these are more of what you would call guidelines. They provided us a platform from which to demonstrate our fantic (as opposed to superficial) understanding of cognition, learning, and the internet. It provided a way of “teaching without curriculum” as Seymour Papert says in Mindstorms

But “teaching without curriculum” does not mean spontaneous, free-form classrooms or simply “leaving the child alone.” It means supporting children as they build their own intellectual structures with materials drawn from the surrounding culture. In this model, educational intervention means changing the culture, planting new constructive elements in it and eliminating noxious ones.

The teacher is burdened with the difficult task of passing on knowledge to their pupils. Evaluation and feedback is an important part of improving oneself. The teacher evaluates the students to let them know how well they understood and demonstrated (through various mediums) their fantic understanding of the intended message. The teacher (should) also evaluate themselves based on how well their students understood the topics of the class and compare their expectations with the results and ask lots of questions about their methods and effectiveness.

Are we doing this for feedback? Yes, yes we are.

Leave a Reply