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Belonging in a Videogame Space: Bridging Affinity Spaces and Communities of Practice


by Sandra Schamroth Abrams & Jayne C. Lammers — 2017

Background: Focusing on ways a common endeavor brings people together, Gee offered the concept of affinity spaces, which suggests that open participation without exclusion or membership is possible. This theory contrasts with Lave and Wenger’s communities of practice, which called attention to situated, hierarchical participatory practices. Bridging these two theories, we look to discussions of Discourses and specialist language and behavior to highlight how doing–being–valuing combinations situate people within a particular space in ways that can welcome open participation while supporting both inclusivity and exclusivity.

Purpose: This article defines and illustrates features of belongingness visible in videogame spaces, underscoring the dynamics of hierarchical participation in interest-driven practices, an important element to consider when attempting to make education more responsive to contemporary youth.

Research Design: This retrospective cross-case analysis includes data from two separate ethnographic studies of videogame affinity spaces. Data displays, as well as anecdotal notes, help facilitate the qualitative analysis of observations, interviews, field notes, and artifacts.

Findings: Within these videogaming affinity spaces, there were practices and value systems (i.e., Discourses) that promoted inclusivity and exclusivity. Data reveal specialist knowledge, interaction, and proficiency, in particular, to be prominent features in relationship-building in interest-driven participatory spaces.

Conclusions: This study calls attention to the doing–being–valuing combinations that situate one within a particular space while supporting inclusivity and exclusivity. A focus on belonging, therefore, revives the concept of community-based Discourses, honors the practices that situate learners in contemporary spaces, and helps researchers and educators understand how youth configure and reconfigure their social practices to seek inclusion by using and honing specialist language and behavior.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 12, 2017, p. 1-
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21962, Date Accessed: 9/26/2017 10:28:43 AM

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About the Author
  • Sandra Abrams
    St. John's University
    E-mail Author
    SANDRA SCHAMROTH ABRAMS is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at St. John’s University in New York. Researching digital literacies and videogaming, Abrams examines agentive learning, layered meaning making, and pedagogical discovery at the intersection of online and offline experiences. Her recent work appears in The Reading Teacher (Emotionally Crafted Experiences: Layering Literacies in Minecraft, in press), The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies (Videogames and Literacies: Historical Threads and Contemporary Practices, 2015), and the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (Layering Literacies and Contemporary Learning, with Michael Russo, 2015, Vol. 59). She is the author of Integrating Traditional and Virtual Learning in 6-12 Classrooms: A Layered Literacies Approach to Multimodal Meaning Making (Routledge, 2015) and coauthor of Conducting Qualitative Research of Learning in Online Spaces (SAGE, 2017).
  • Jayne Lammers
    University of Rochester
    E-mail Author
    JAYNE C. LAMMERS is an assistant professor of education and director of the English teacher preparation program at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Human Development in Rochester, New York. Through her research exploring adolescents’ literacy learning, particularly in online spaces, Dr. Lammers aims to shape classrooms in ways that best prepare youth for 21st-century futures. Her scholarship has recently appeared in Research in the Teaching of English (“The Hangout was Serious Business”: Leveraging Participation in an Online Space to Design Sims Fanfiction, 2016, Vol. 50) and Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (Going Public: An Adolescent’s Networked Writing on Fanfiction.net, 2015, Vol. 59).
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