'Connected Learning’ and the Equity Agenda: A Microsociology of Minecraft Play
Ames, M. and J. Burrell (2017) ‘Connected Learning’ and the Equity Agenda: A Microsociology of Minecraft Play, in proceedings of the ACM Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW) conference. Portland, OR (34.5% acceptance rate) (** Best Paper Award, top 1% of submissions **)
We present a microsociology of Minecraft play based on ethnographic observations of a 40-hour co-located Minecraft camp for 28 low-income and minority children in July 2015, supplemented by usage statistics and follow-up interviews. We consider the equity challenges presented by (1) Minecraft itself and the ecosystem supporting it; (2) the multiplayer server we used, which was founded on principles of "connected learning"; and (3) our own attempts to promote equity by providing scheduled access to the game in a computer lab. We were partially successful in overcoming players' at-home computer access limitations and improving their computer/technical literacy. Still, we found that language literacy, parental abilities and involvement, racial and gender identities, and diverging interests set our campers apart from others on the server. Overall, the in-game invisibility of our campers worked against the equity aims of connected learning and point to broader patterns of bias in games like Minecraft and other communities of/for children.