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Rise of Rome, historical simulation using Civilization V

In the year 264 BCE, Rome sent a military force across the Straits of Messana to intervene in a dispute between Carthage and Syracuse. This military action, a prelude to Punic Wars, represented a fundamental change of direction in the course of Roman history and capped a crucial period of expansion. Five centuries earlier, Rome was nothing more than a collection of huts on a hill near the Tiber river and its salt beds. By the time the Romans sailed for Sicily, they had mastered the Italian peninsula and invented a system of political subjugation, population control, and military calculation that would eventually make them masters of the known world.
The year 264 also marks a shift in the security of our evidence and understanding of the course of Roman history. From that point onward, we have more and more valuable and trustworthy sources, but before that time our tradition is, as Mary Beard says in her recent history SPQR, “based on garbled hearsay and misunderstood myth—not to mention the propagandist fantasies of many of the later leading families at Rome, who regularly manipulated or invented the ‘history’ of the early city to give their ancestors a glorious role in it.” Our most important ancient source for the period is the Ab Urbe Condita of Livy, who composed his history during the principate of Augustus (27 BCE–17 CE). Originally, the work covered the history of Rome from its legendary beginnings, Aeneas’ flight from Troy, to his own era, the death of Drusus in 9 BCE. Of the original 142 books, only 35 have survived: books 1-10, which cover Roman history from its mythical beginnings to 293 BCE, and books 21-45, which cover 218-167 BCE. While Livy is a valuable resource for understanding the history of this time, and while the study of archaeology and the material record have supplemented our literary sources to a degree, there is still much we do not know or understand about the story of how Rome came to dominate the Italian peninsula by the middle of the third century BCE.

To understand the early history of Rome, then, we must closely scrutinize and creatively manipulate every precious piece of evidence we have, and this project was intended to do precisely that. We proposed to create a simulation of the expansion of Rome throughout the Italian peninsula using the game Civilization V. Grounded on thorough research into the primary literary sources, the material record, and recent scholarship, the finished simulation presents the gamer with a more historically accurate representation of the history of Rome.
Our team consisted of research intern Ian White, coding intern Catalina Ionescu, research advisor Scott Farrington, and coding advisor Todd Bryant.

We expect several concrete outcomes from the project. First, we hope that the general public and the Civilization gaming community enjoy the modified game and through gameplay gain a basic understanding of the history of the period. Furthermore, we intend to integrate the mod into the Introduction to Roman History course at Dickinson College. Furthermore, we hope to present the results at upcoming digital humanities conferences.

We hope that by developing an innovative and creative way to interact with early Roman history, we have opened new avenues of inquiry into a historical question that is current, by no means settled, and often overlooked.

Read the entire ReadMe file documenting the research – http://bit.ly/DickinsonRiseOfRome

Download via Steam – http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1091032377

Screenshots:

WorldBuilder Map

Opening Screen Game Map Puppet Options

Evolution of the Mixxer

The rise in the number of MOOCs in the past year has been nothing less than astounding.  Perhaps even more surprising is the uniformity of the structure used by 99% of these offerings: videos of lectures posted within a very traditional looking LMS along with a discussion board and multiple choice quizzes.  It seems strange that an innovation deemed to be so disruptive would follow such a traditional pedagogical model.

Having a course that is entirely open and online certainly presents some unique challenges.  The large numbers of students in these courses is no doubt the reason why their creators followed traditional lecture models.  However, along with these challenges come opportunities as well.  Their scale allows them to participate in large real world projects, alternate reality games, and simulations.  This opportunity to engage the real world is especially valuable for the foreign languages.

For as long as people have been learning foreign languages, access to native speakers and authentic materials have been valued.  As a result, educators have taken advantage of each new development of the internet.  At first teachers used the web as a source of authentic reading materials and later multimedia.  As the web became a communicative platform, teachers connected their students with native speakers as part of a language exchange, first via text and then via voice and video.  A MOOC in the foreign languages should not follow a model whereby increased enrollment is inversely proportional to the opportunities for feedback and communication available to the student.  Instead, it should embrace the open aspect of the course to foster partnerships among language learners, allowing each student to be a tutor of their native language.

With the Mixxer I have already created such a community.  Over 100,000 users already use the site to find language partners as part of a mutual exchange for conversational practice.  Some of them, including our own students, are enrolled in a traditional course.  Most are independent and non-traditional learners looking for an opportunity to communicate that otherwise would be unavailable.  For both of these groups, it would be very helpful if I could provide lessons that progressed from beginning to intermediate level grammar and vocabulary and integrated the language exchanges.  In many cases, the grammar and vocabulary portion already exists on open content sites produced by universities or governments.  I’ve begun creating these lessons using content from the British Council and Voice of America for English and the Cervantes Institute for Spanish.  I’ll use these lessons to launch a combination Spanish/English MOOC in the summer.  However, to extend these lessons and MOOCs to other language combinations that I do not speak, I will need additional support.

Thank you for considering my proposal.  I’ve created a very short video which I will use to help publicize the combination of MOOCs and language exchanges below.  It provides a view of the Mixxer website to give a better idea of how the MOOCs can be created within the language exchange community and describes the role ACTFL and other foreign language standardized assessments can play in the future of open language learning.

MOOCs for languages can connect language learners and native speakers

 

Todd Bryant
Dickinson College
bryantt@dickinson.edu
717-254-8941

 

 

Notes for Digital Humanities

Below is a list to the notes of past trainings we’ve done in the Willoughby that are likely to be useful for those considering or starting in the digital humanities.

  • Blogs, RSS & Collaborative Writing – If you’re new to Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, rss readers and Google Docs this is a good place to start.
  • Google Earth and an Introduction to Spatial Literacy – Overlay maps with data or other information, this can be historical data, significant places in literature, etc.  Google Earth is simple and easy to use.  For more advanced projects Jim Ciarrocca in Academic Technology with introduce you to the ArcGIS software.
  • Visualizations – Includes networks, timelines, and word trees.  Newer tools allow anyone with a basic understanding of Excel to create effective visualizations.
  • Scholarly Communication – Introduces changes in scholarly publishing and communication.  Pay especial attention to Zotero at the end of the notes.
  • Copyright and Open Content – What rights do you have for re-purposing content on the web, and where to find resources that provide more generous rights to educators.

Mixxer Visualization with Gephi – Languages by Messages

MixxerVisualizationMessagesByLanguages

 

How it was made

  1. I exported a csv from the database with three columns: native language of sender, native language of recipient, and date.
  2. I installed and used this tool, Eonydis. http://www.clementlevallois.net/software.php
  3. Opened that program and selected the file.
  4. Next clicked the Select Field button.
  5. I only specified the source, target and date fields.  Just click the Next for others.  Note, it lets you specify the format of your date, mm#dd#yyyy.
  6. That then creates a graph file that can be opened by Gephi.  Download and install Gephi.  https://gephi.org/
  7. Open Gephi and import the .gexf file you created.
  8. You network will probably look like gibberish at first.  To untangle and made sense of it, choose a Layout and click the Run button.  I’ve seen Force Atlas 2 mentioned, but I had the most luck with Fruchterman Rheingold.  You can then use the hand to tool to move nodes around.  Check out the other tools as well, especially the Heat Map.  Click the T (text) button on the bottom of the main window to see your labels.  The top box on the left is how you determine if weight is displayed by size or color.  Click the ranking tab.  I set my Nodes to Degree and then chose the color wheel. Choose the diamond to have the node labels size be a reflection of their weight.
  9. When your happy with the structure, click the Preview tab at the top.  This is where you’ll make it look pretty, or try.  Nodes are the dots, edges are the connecting lines.  You’ll probably want to check the box for Node Labels, and note the Proportional Size check box as well.  Play with colors, labels, and opacity.  If you have a time field, you can also enable the timeline.  Important note, you have to hit the Refresh button to see your changes.
  10. Export your file as an image

Social Media

While several campus organizations such as WDCV and the college farm use Facebook as a way interacting with the community, Dickinson faculty make greater user of Twitter.  Some of our favorite examples:

  • Ed Webb  – Professor Webb’s personal Twitter feed focuses on the Middle East.  By continually engaging with a wider audience he’s able to bring his students into a wider discussion with other users from around the world.
  • Dave Richeson – Professor Richeson uses Twitter as a way of interacting with colleagues with news and questions about math and teaching.
  • Dickinson College Commentaries – The official Twitter feed  of the Dickinson College Commentaries project maintained by Professor Francese includes discussion on the classics, digital humanities and updates from DCC.

Civ IV Modding, step by step

The worksheet walks you through step of a creating a historical scenario in Civ IV.  It starts with the capabilities provided by the World Builder GUI interface then moves into editing XML files to create new civilizations and technologies.  It finishes with a brief introduction to python generated events.

The ini file is a config file for the mod you’re going to create, and the Age of Conquest zip contains the example mod I created for a course.

ModdingWorkshopFinal

Workshop.ini

Age Of Conquest

Willoughby Workshops

We had our annual “Willoughby Week” of workshops for a small group of faculty.  Notes from each of the sessions are below.

Mixxer as an Open Course

I’ve been looking at courses that are open to the general public for free as part of an upcoming presentation on open content.  The idea is quite amazing.  One “facilitator” is needed to organize the students and set up discussions.  The rest of the course depends largely on the students themselves, though it usually consists of online group discussions, readings (recommended and self-chosen), and a final project that is peer reviewed.  Example courses include the FacebUOC project and the Connectivism course from Downes and Siemens.

The Mixxer up until this point has focused on organizing single and isolated exchanges between one of our students and a native speaker.  It seems the student would benefit much more if we could provide a system that encouraged this relationship to be maintained for the duration of the course, if not longer.  Students often do friend their partner via Facebook etc., though no structure is given to encourage future meetings.

Beyond friending each other on the Mixxer and Facebook, I’m a at a bit of a loss.  The current exchanges work, largely due to their incredible flexibility and reliability.  By directing a student to work with an individual, both are mostly lost.  Unlike the connectivism course, the language exchanges don’t scale very well.  I could increase the flexibility and reliability by adding students to groups.  The larger the group, the more flexible and reliable.  However, the size is inversely proportional to the amount of language our students would use.

The key would seem to be to offer both sides an incentive and easy format to follow to continue the relationship, without it becoming a requirement for either.  I’m very open to ideas if anyone has any suggestions.