The dirt and soil of practice

Henry Jenkins has posted a two part interview with the author of How Computer Games Help Children Learn, David Williamson Shaffer, who draws out his notion of "epistemic games." Shaffer characterizes this as "reflection in action," which in important ways - my view - addresses the problem of knowledge.

The games are 'epistemic' because any professional practice has aparticular epistemology: a way of justifying actions and warranting claims. To be a professional of some kind means you solve problems in a particular way, and you accept some kinds of solutions as legitimate and not others. The way a doctor argues that removing a patient's spleen is the 'right' thing to do is different than the way a lawyer argues about it. If you're in the hospital, you probably want to go with the doctor's way of thinking. If you're in the courtroom, stick with the lawyer--assuming, of course, that you have both a good doctor and a good lawyer.

Put another way, practica are where new professionals learn the epistemology of their chosen profession--along with the skills, knowledge, and values they need to put that epistemology into practice. Epistemic games recreate those practica in game form so players can learn to think like professionals who solve non-routine problems.

The point, as I emphasize in the book, is not for players to become professionals, but rather to have innovative and creative ways of thinking about real problems as part of their intellectual toolkit.

Game theory has been used in a variety of settings, from economics to international relations to psychology. It's only natural, it seems to me, that it be transplanted into the dirt and soil of practice, joining emerging disciplines like experimental philosophy and the more established work of behavioral economics.


Wikipedia: behavioral economics, epistemology, experimental philosophy, game theory