UAH Department of English welcomes Dr. Joy Robinson, avid gamer, researcher and geek

joy robinson

Dr. Joy Robinson, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, English Department.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Joy Robinson is an avid gamer and researcher, who loves messing around with technology and nerdy things. The "newly minted" Assistant Professor in Technical Writing and New Media begins her tenure at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) this month in the Department of English.

She grew up in Chicago, but spent a lot of her early years visiting family in the south. Robinson was the first in her extended family to graduate from college and the first to pursue a doctoral degree. "I did a two year postdoc in Atlanta at Georgia Institute of Technology and that was my first time living in the south. I have traveled all over the United States, and I have six states left to visit. I really like living in the south. I admit I hate cold weather, so that has a lot to do with it, but I have been pleasantly reminded how friendly and straightforward southerners are. I think, you create 'home' any place you live. I know I will be happy in Huntsville."

Robinson learned about the university during the recruitment process. She decided to join UAH's English faculty because of the collegiality of the department. "I figure as a teacher and researcher, (especially one that works a lot virtually) I can do most of my work at any engineering university. But daily, you have to work with the people you are surrounded by, those in your department or unit. It is incredibly important that you feel like you fit. I accepted the offer here at UAH because the English department is full of warm and inviting people, and I feel like I fit here."

Her teaching duties this fall will concentrate on new media and technical communication at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and she will also teach a Document and Information Design class. Subsequent course offerings include usability, grant writing, and strategic new media. "Technical communication has a wide reach, which is one of things I like about the discipline. I hope to also teach some gaming classes in the near future." Find out more about her courses by watching the following video:

Dr. Joy Robinson's teaching duties this fall will concentrate on new media and technical communication at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and she will also teach a Document and Information Design class. Subsequent course offerings include usability, grant writing, and strategic new media. "Technical communication has a wide reach, which is one of things I like about the discipline. I hope to also teach some gaming classes in the near future."

Dr. Joy Robinson

Robinson is a self-described mediaologist, and innovator, and she proudly embraces her geekiness. "I read and watch sci-fi and fantasy, attend comicons, attend the first showings of hero movies, collect comic books, and love cosplay. I see myself as an innovator because I love coming up with ideas to make things, fix things, make new things. The mediaologist part comes from my media background. Videographer, audiographer, gamer doesn't quite describe me. I do more than work in any one medium, thus mediaologist," she said. "Technical communication is a great nexus for people who have a mix of skills. The ultimate skill is to be understood, and techcomm is all about communicating specialized information to specific audiences."

She earned an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, but after graduation was unhappy with her career options. Robinson returned to graduate school, earning a Master's degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. She found work in a steel mill, making steel and producing shaped products. After a short time in sales, Robinson wound up as a technologist and media person at The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT-Chicago).

"I became the director of a digital media center, where for 10 years I worked creating digital programs for the community, leading computer labs, and developing new technology and programmatic solutions for IIT. My best friend and I decided to pursue a PhD together. IIT had recently developed the technical communication program, and this degree fit best with my current work and how I saw my future, I wanted to move to an academic unit so that I would have more opportunity for research."

Lately, Robinson has been examining the field of gaming, and uses gameplay as a learning tool for students. Specifically, she is now working on understanding what games have to contribute to technical communication. "My research involves using multiplayer games and the teams in virtual environments to inform what we know about traditional leadership. That is to say, we can use games as ready made environments to study how we go about being human, how we communicate, organize, and socialize."

While parents, psychologists and other professionals believe young gamers are too plugged in, leading to social isolation, and addiction. Robinson believes instances of "over gaming" are rare. Rather, she says, gamers are simply misunderstood. "In general people do not understand the dedication of gamers. This type of genre participation sometimes called 'geeking out' was, up until now, something that occurred behind closed doors, or was spent outside; mostly out of the view of other people," she explained.

"For example, hobbyists fixed cars, or gardeners gardened, and crafters made crafts, or whatever. For those activities, people were not standing around you observing the activity. There was no accounting of the time and endless hours people spent with these activities," she explained. "Not only that, these activities were not accessible almost everywhere (you couldn't fix cars without a car, you couldn't do much gardening with a place for your plants). With the invent of technology, now, we not just witness the activities (e.g., gaming), but we can more accurately count up the total number of hours spent on these activities.

"When you hear someone spends 20 hours a week gaming they are looked at as if something is wrong, as if the time spent is different than some other 'geeking out' experience. But, if you spend an entire weekend pulling weeds, whacking aberrant grasses, and planting flowers - no one bats a lash. As a result of this, and other highly publicized issues, gaming gets bad press," Robinson said . "And of course gaming, perceived as the activity of choice for teens, doesn't help. I think future research will help to contextualize and clarify what we can do with games and how we can make better decisions, in general, about how to best use them." Robinson said her ultimate goal is to contextualize gaming, so that we can use games and gamers to better understand virtual work, education, and experiences. "As an avid gamer and researcher, I can not help but be concerned about the toxicity in some gaming and online environments. On top of trying to understand what we can learn from games, we have an opportunity to ensure that those experiences are civil to all those who play. I am currently examining ways to better understand and potentially quantify this toxicity issue."

Like most researchers, Robinson doesn't believe that all learning comes from formalized experiences. But it is important to structure the classroom experience to provide students as much opportunity for learning (and more importantly retention and transfer) as is possible. "That starts with teachers and educators. I am currently conducting a study to investigate how teachers of composition and technical communication structure these experiences and what type of digital pedagogy is employed in order to do so. For this multi-institutional effort (Armstrong University, Georgia Tech, and UAH) we are surveying teachers, collecting teaching documents, and performing interviews nationwide. We hope to publish some of our findings later this year."

 

Contact

Joyce Anderson-Maples
 256.824.2101
joyce.maples@uah.edu

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