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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

More on Spore — and Seed

My Wife Used to Live in Greenwich Village, and So On an Anniversary Date

we strolled through her old neighborhood and visited a great magazine store on Sixth Avenue that we both used to haunt. But the store looked different, shifted around — clearly under new ownership. The delicious clutter of obscure publications replaced by clear, clean efficient shelving. We were sad: one last eccentric spot scoured clean and made to look like every other store. Still, they needed to fill those endless racks, so there were some magazines you don’t see everywhere, and I picked up the new issue of Seed seedmagazine.com/ which looks interesting. 
 
The design has a hint of Wired in it, the mission statement indicates that — perhaps unlike Scientific American — this is about "science and culture," and an interview with the founder makes an analogy to the early days of Rolling Stone. The writing aims for a moxier, more approachable tone than most science magazines, while clearly showing its smarts. I bet it would make a good fit for a smart high school junior or senior who grew up loving Muse www.musefanpage.com/.  And I found an article in it on the Spore launch that had one really interesting fact in it http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2008/09/the_creation_simulation.php. Apparently the creators of Spore are able to gather data on what all of its users do with it. In other words, Spore that game is itself a kind of spore — it is sent out to propagate itself, and as it evolves, its creators will know ever more about how human beings handle running evolution. As we play, they learn about how humans play.

I am not pointing this out as ominous — though I do feel a tremor of that (thinking of, say, Feed, www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Feed.html). But rather it adds a whole new dimension to what this game, and other simulation games, can do — not just offer fun and interest and insight to those who play it, but to those who watch us play. So — and we now finally get to my usual subject — if as part of our standard social studies classes students played simulation games of key decision moments in human history, not only would they learn, but we would be building up a great deal of information about how young people view decision making, and history, and life. Then our social studies lesson would be interactive, and as much about psychology, sociology and anthropology as history — and what could be better than that?