Tiltfactor Laboratory Awarded Three-Year NSF Grant for Interactive Story Research


For Immediate Release:
September 30, 2014

The National Science Foundation’s Research on Education and Learning (REAL) program has awarded Dr. Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor Laboratory at Dartmouth, and collaborator, Dr. Melanie Green, University at Buffalo, a three-year, $1,134,208 grant to develop and research an “interactive narrative” technology for use by students and instructors in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classrooms.

The project, entitled “INTRINSICS: An Interactive Narrative Technology for Classrooms in STEM,’’ involves students in introductory STEM courses. Students will write fictionalized accounts of their academic and social experiences with science, and share their stories anonymously with other students and instructors. This new technology will provide students with a novel forum to express their perspectives. The shared experience of writing and reading stories is expected to increase students’ awareness and understanding of each other’s life experiences. Through the course of the three-year project, Flanagan and Green will conduct a series of randomized experiments testing the impact of the approach. While much research has pointed to the power of fiction in transforming readers’ real world behaviors, this is the one of the first studies centering on interactive fiction accounts of personal experiences, and the first to use fiction to transform real world STEM environments for students and instructors.

Principal investigator Dr. Mary Flanagan is an artist, scholar, and designer, and Dartmouth’s Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities. Co-investigator Dr. Melanie Green, a social psychologist, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University at Buffalo. This groundbreaking project marks a first-time partnership between the two researchers. Prior work at Tiltfactor has employed a psychological approach to game design and research, and this project represents an exciting new direction using interactive stories.

Dr. Flanagan is the founding director of Tiltfactor (www.tiltfactor.org), a conceptual design lab at Dartmouth College that creates, studies, launches, and publishes games and interactive experiences related to technology and human values. Tiltfactor is the first academic center to focus on critical play, a method of using games and play to investigate crucial and complex social and psychological issues. Dr. Green is one of social psychology’s foremost researchers of narratives, and her work has shed new light on the profound impact of fiction on readers’ beliefs and behaviors.

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