Conceptual Vertigo

In their 2006 working paper “The Play of Imagination: Extending the Literary Mind,” Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown use the term “conceptual blending” to describe the ways in which players of massively multiplayer online games are able to take into account multiple worlds simultaneously, and in so doing, find “new and unusual opportunities for learning.”[i] One key to the success of these games, the authors argue, is that they are eminently social, but perhaps more importantly, the rich social fabric of the games “blurs many of the boundaries that we tend to expect such as the distinction between the physical and the virtual, the difference between player and avatar, and the distinction between work and play” (2). The essay, part of a growing body of work that highlights the potential of video games for learning and pedagogical practices, considers how conceptual blending is essentially a process for using “one’s imagination to read across boundaries” (2); it’s a creative act that contributes to ways of “seeing and making sense of the world” (20); it is a process that “does not simply project one space onto another or privilege one view and subordinate another to bring them into concert,” but instead constructs “something that is altogether new, a blended space that is able to account for the vividness and complexity of each perspective, doing violence to neither, by producing something that is undeniably true of both elements that compose it” (19); and finally, it is a process that is, the authors argue, especially pertinent to functional engagement in and with the 21st century.[ii] Continue Reading →