The Scholars' Lab Praxis Fellows are thrilled to announce the beta release of the Ivanhoe Game! Ivanhoe is a collaborative role-playing game in which players make critical interventions in a text, cultural object, or topic to help them learn. Ivanhoe is about connecting ideas, crafting new interpretations, and inspiring creative scholarship.
The Ivanhoe Game is now available as a WordPress Theme! It is the practicum project of this year's Praxis Fellowship, an intensive year-long program in the UVa Scholars' Lab that trains humanities and social-sciences graduate students in digital-project management, design, development, troubleshooting, and distribution. Fellows work together to compose a project charter, wire-frame ideas, give dynamic conceptual pitches, and write code to build a digital humanities tool, all the while being mentored by the brilliant and ever-patient Scholars' Lab faculty. Fellows blog throughout the year, reflecting on their triumphs and learning experiences and sharing them with the wider DH community. See posts from Veronica and Scott about the perplexities of coding with PHP, alternative design ideas from Zach, reactions from Eliza at first learning version control in GitHub, thoughts from Francesca about the nature of game play and collaboration, and my own project-management musings as I discovered my role within the group. Praxis is an innovative approach to graduate training which emphasizes collaboration and iterative learning: Fellows work together in a trial-and-error process to discover how to take a project from being a mere idea to a useable product ready to be introduced to the world.
Our project, the Ivanhoe Game WordPress Theme, is now ready to take its first steps into the world of digital scholarship and pedagogy. This tool is a vibrant reimagining of a game originally developed in the UVa SpecLab. (For more on Ivanhoe’s history, see "Designing Ivanhoe," by Johanna Drucker; "IVANHOE: Education in a New Key," by Jerome McGann; and "Subjectivity in the Ivanhoe Game: Visual and Computational Strategies," by Bethany Nowviskie. ) The Ivanhoe Game can be played on any type of cultural object or topic. In Ivanhoe, players assume roles and generate criticism by pretending to be characters or voices relevant to their topic and making moves from those perspectives. We think of these moves as interventions—a text or work is not stable but, rather, dynamic and ever subject to interpretation by its readers. Furthermore, these interventions are reflective and deliberate: they are "self-conscious acts of interpretation," as Scott so concisely and perfectly puts it. Ivanhoe thus provides a way of delving into a subject while also maintaining a firm focus on the players themselves.
A few features of our Ivanhoe distinguish it from the original. Whereas the SpecLab Ivanhoe Game was largely text based, we have designed Ivanhoe to accommodate subjects from any discipline and moves with all manner of media. Another element of Ivanhoe that the Praxis Fellows have found particularly provocative and have given special attention is the network of moves that these games generate. From one move can spring forth a multitude of other moves. We have programmed ways of linking moves together as “Source” posts and “Responses” to emphasize that network. Lastly, we have always seen Ivanhoe as something which should above all be accessible, so that the concept of Ivanhoe may be freely adapted by as wide a user base as possible. We have built it as a WordPress Theme, which anyone with a WordPress page may easily apply and use for whatever purpose they like.
Now that you have heard just enough about Ivanhoe to be a little baffled but exhilarated nonetheless, we invite you to try it out and explore its possibilities. To download the Theme itself, visit our informational site. There, you will find out more about us and Ivanhoe, as well as documentation to assist you in using Ivanhoe. If you wish to try Ivanhoe but do not have a WordPress page, visit our testing app, hosted on Heroku and available for a limited time for Ivanhoe trial. As Ivanhoe is a work in progress, we would love your feedback, so feel free to post any issues you find to our GitHub page.
Thanks, and we hope you enjoy connecting, creating, and inspiring with Ivanhoe.
Stephanie Kingsley, for the 2013-2014 Praxis Fellows