The annual International Studies Association conference finished yesterday here in Montreal—just it time, it seems, to miss the snowfall predicted for Monday. There were huge numbers of panels (over a thousand—too many, if you ask me), including several that examined the use of simulations to explore international relations.
One of the problems with an academic conference in your own city is you can’t so easily escape other obligations, so I didn’t get chance to attend all of these. I did, however, get a chance to drop by several:
- Naomi Malone and Houman Sadri (University of Central Florida) had a poster session on their development of a virtual United Nations Security Council simulation using Second Life. I’ll admit that I’m a bit allergic to Second Life, but they’re doing interesting work and it will be interesting to see how the project develops.
- Skip Cole (USIP) was there talking about the Open Simulation Platform. I should also mention that USIP is at risk of having its budget axed in the current round of financial tug-of-war in Washington, despite the Institute’s remarkable contributions to policy-relevant knowledge on issues of peace, security, and development in fragile and war-torn countries. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
- There was a (potentially) fascinating panel scheduled on Performing (Representations of) World Politics: The Everyday Practice of International Relations in Video Games. However, this fell victim to the conference version of dreaded Yellow Light of Death: when the appointed hour came, there was a big audience, but no panelists. After 20 minutes I finally left.
- Yours truly won ISA’s Deborah Gerner Innovative Teaching in International Studies Award. Both my classroom simulations and this blog were a very large part of that, so I certainly owe a big thank you to all of the POLI 450/650 students who make living in the basement and reading 10,000 emails during SIM week worth while, as well as those of you who spend time to visit, comment, and contribute here at PaxSims.
- The folks from Statecraft had a booth showcasing their recently-launched online international relations simulation. It’s rather Civilization in inspiration, combining resource management and grand strategy:
Statecraft is an immersive simulation that allows students to experience the challenges, opportunities, and complexities of international relations in a very vivid, intense, and personal way. Through ten years of in-class testing and refinement, it has been fine-tuned to take key theories, concepts, and cases that are crucial for understanding global politics (but are often difficult for students to grasp) and make them tangible—often painfully so. Building on the most addictive properties of gaming and social networking, Statecraft creates a universe in which students are masters of their own destinies but find it more difficult than they ever imagined to achieve goals such as world peace, equality, the rule of law, and cooperation among nations. Although the countries, domestic factions, and global issues in Statecraft are fictional, they have been carefully designed to provide maximum insight into parallel real-world dilemmas: as students grapple with the Orion slavery issue, the threat posed by the melting Ice Mountain, and the temptation to seize Sapphire Island’s vast resources they come to understand the security dilemma, the tragedy of the commons, two-level games, the challenges of cooperation under anarchy, and many other constructs not as theoretical concepts but as visceral truths that permeate their conversations with classmates, friends, and parents, and may even keep them up at night.
They’ve promised us an account so that we can review it here once they do their next upgrade this summer, so stay tuned.
In other news, the annual Brynania civil war simulation starts at McGill this coming week. I’ll be busy with that until March 30, so don’t expect to see many posts. I have chaos to sow!