School started this past week, and I've got mostly good news. We got a huge shipment of games up at the game farm; while we were pretty good on PS2 games (mostly from my collection) and XBox stuff (thanks to a very kind donation from Microsoft), we were low on PC and Nintendo games. Well, now we've got a whole bunch of new stuff to play, including half-a-dozen Nintendo DS games. Whee! I totally need to borrow the DS and see what they've done with alternate interfaces, but I'm way too obsessed with World of Warcraft to play much else. Yikes!
(By the way, I've got my druid up to level 28. Good times.)
I finally managed to sort out my PhD. requirement mess; it turns out that I'll be formally switching departments, but keeping my full funding, my fantastic advisor and my research topic. The only downside is that I've got a number more requirements, particularly a four-course sequence of statistics courses which have to be done in order. Ah well, I'll take classes in both summer semesters next summer and be ready for a literature review and dissertation proposal the following year. This might add an extra semester to my time at school, or it might not. I hear these "dissertation" things can be awfully fluid, so it's hard to predict exactly how long I'd be in school anyhow.
Of course, given that I've got all these new requirements, choosing courses this semester has been a bit of a pain. I've got three of my classes set, though (see my schedule below), and I could use some advice about my fourth class.
Monday's for getting peripherally academic things done; I've got physical therapy in the morning (though that may taper off as my wrists and elbows are much improved), and the rest of the day is for working on administrative tasks for our research group, maintaining the lab website, researching new games, etc. It's also particularly dedicated to professional correspondence and to writing abstracts, two kinds of writing that don't directly help me in school but that are still really useful in the long run for forging contacts and making a name for myself. And, of course, Monday nights are Gloria Mundi nights!
Tuesday is my heaviest class day, with class from 1 to 7. From 1 to 3 I've got research practicum, which is basically a class where you work on your own academic research as homework, and then present it for critique and assistance once or twice in the semester. I really need to focus more on research, so I thought this class would help me get some additional work done without overburdening me. Basically it lets me get credit for doing the work I'm already doing. Then from 3 to 5 I have statistics, which seems like it might be interesting if a) the teacher didn't have an extremely thick accent and b) the other students weren't effective mathematical incompetents. Finally, from 5 to 7 I have Cognition and Computing, a course which focuses on the cognitive processes that using technology fosters and allows. I haven't had that one yet, but it should be interesting. Of course, I may be a little classed-out by that time in the day.
Wednesdays I've got nothing at all scheduled, save that I have to be in the lab in the afternoons from time to time. This is going to be my major research-and-writing day. Very important.
Thursday is a school-oriented day too; even though I've just got one class, I'm up at school from 1 to 8. From 1 to 3 we have our weekly research group meeting where we talk about ongoing projects, set our research agendas, etc. This meeting is part of why I want Wednesday as a work day; my goal for the semester is to have something new to show each time we meet. From 3 to 5 I have statistics again, and then from 5 to 8 I'm manning the game farm. This basically means I've promised to be up there, and people can come by to talk to me or try out new games. It promises to be fun, actually, and I can work if no one shows up (as, most of the time, no one did last semester).
Friday I've got nothing specific scheduled, mostly because Shabbat makes that rather difficult. This day is for doing my academic work like homework, and for making Shabbat. Until the days get shorter, this is also a research-and-writing day, but I doubt that'll last long.
So, here are my questions:
Should I switch Statistics from T-Th to M-W? It would allow me to take Herve Varenne's class on psychology and anthropology, which will be really useful for my qualitative research, and will also free up some time on Tuesdays. On the other hand, I find that I can't write or do research without long stretches of time to muck about in. Having uninterrupted time on Monday and Wednesday afternoons is going to be a major academic boon to me.
Should I take an independent study with my advisor as my fourth class? I've got four or five conference presentations and publications of various sorts coming up, and it would be useful to have a context in which to work on them, since it's a huge amount of work. On the other hand, Duncan Watts is teaching a class on social networks, and my friend Ulysses is doing a really neat-looking course on social software, and there's always Varenne's anthropology class, and some of those (particularly Watts) won't be offered next semester . . . .
Should I run a Game Practice Group (for which I would also want a better name)? This would basically be a student group that got together once a week to talk games. I'd probably rotate weeks between theory, critique, research and practice. On theory weeks we'd do reading about games, on crit weeks we'd play games and discuss them, on research weeks we'd look at existing game research and suggest ideas for studies of our own, and on practice weeks we'd do game design jams. I could also cut it down to every other week, and just alternate between reading (of both theory and research) and game design. If I were to do this, how much commitment should I make to it, and when do you think would be a good time to run it? This is also related to the question of whether I should volunteer to teach a game class next semester . . . though I suppose they would pay me to do it. Fun. :)
Thanks for any input you've got, guys!