Readers of this blog know the story of Edward Owens–the “Last American Pirate“–fairly well by now. Owens, a creation of my students in the course Lying About the Past, lives on, but in the way of all things in the academic world, I have managed to morph him from a fun classroom project into a metaphor for something bigger. In much the same way that historians love to take a seemingly trivial moment, person, or artifact, and turn it into a key to understanding something much bigger in the past, I’ve been trying to use Owens to think about something much bigger in the present and future of our discipline.
Later this month I’ll be attending what bodes well to be a fascinating conference called Playing With Technology and History. If you take a look at the papers being presented, you’ll see that what we’re going to try to do in this conference is really push the limits of playfulness in our discipline. The draft of my paper, “True Facts or False Facts — Which Are More Authentic?” is available on the conference site as a .pdf and I invite you to read it and offer feedback here in the comment field. I would love to hear from readers before I go to Canada for the meeting.
And while you are thinking about playfulness and history–they really aren’t antithetical concepts–I want to commend to your attention a TED talk by Jane McGonigal, “Gaming can make a better world.” It is a fascinating meditation on how gaming has the potential to make the world a better place. As the father of two boys who are deeply infatuated with WoW and Mabinogi, I’m glad to know they are doing something constructive after all!