Media-Specific Historical Thinking: Exemplary Analysis of Epistemic Beliefs Through the Acquisition of Historical Representations from Digital Games

by Daniel Milch.

Abstract

A current research gap marks the acquisition of historical representations in relation
to popuar media formats e.g. digital games. The theoretical model of the mediaspecific perception of historical representations, developed in 2019 by Giere and
already empirically tested, serves as a starting point to use the construct epistemic
cognition in focusing on the decisions of the players as to why such information is
acquired. Based on a mixed-methods approach, five different categories of epistemic
stances could be induced from analyzed historical narratives by university students
(n=58): Knowing, Belief, Doubt, Misinformation and Lack of Knowledge. The rated
epistemic stances helped to describe more precisely which gameplay representations
of the Boston Tea Party from Assassin‘s Creed® III have found their way into the
historical narration of the test persons. Finally, the findings were classified according
to the current state of research and first consequences for the teaching of history were
derived.

Editors Note

You can find figures in higher resolution and the data appendix as downloadable files here:

 

 

Introduction

In the last decade several studies on epistemic cognition focussed on gaining
knowledge about the advancements of the interpretetive process and/or epistemic
beliefs regarding historical thinking.1 If historical learners encounter new information
and have to assess of competing authorities, these beliefs and processes are relevant
for historical thinking and understanding.2 A current research gap marks the
acquisition of historical representations in relation to popular media formats. Especially
with digital games, the interpretive processes that evaluate historical representations
seem to be important.3 The theoretical model of the media-specific perception of
historical representations, developed in 2019 by Giere and already empirically tested,
serves as a starting point.4
With the theoretical model (Fig. 2), the explicit acquisition of historical representations
from the digital game world Assassin’s Creed® III (2012) have been empirically proven
with university students using the game scene of the Boston Tea Party.5 This game
scene is particularly fitting, as the historical event ends in a mass battle due to the
fictional game character.6 The construct epistemic cognition is useful in focusing the
theoretical model on the decisions of the players as to why such information is
acquired. The study data sets will be analysed by focusing on „[…] the processes by
which individuals weigh competing truth claims, justify what they know, and validate
their own knowing“.7 The mixed-methods analysis is used to identify different types of
historically conscious media acquisition which will ultimately be compared to existing
findings for epistemic stances.8

Theory

Historically Conscious Processes and Effects through Media Reception

The goal of this theory chapter is to achieve precision in the construct validity of the empirical investigation of historically conscious epistemic cognition.9 Basically it is not possible to describe exactly how historical information in the form of knowledge is represented in the mental system.10 However, it is possible to ask which information is represented as knowledge in the mental system – historical consciousness is a shareable experience.11 A focus on the basic dimensions of historicity of the structuralanalytical model for individual historical consciousness according to Pandel has proven to be particularly fruitful in this respect, but without including the dimensions of sociality as historical thinking.12 In order to explain historical consciousness as a cognitive instance for information processing through digital media formats, the form in which the historical representations are presented to the recipient must also be examined. In the case of digital games, the gameplay must always be analyzed holistically in order to be able to select exemplary game episodes for the study. Consequently, the analysis of the digital gameplay (object) is of importance in order to distinguish explicit from implicit transfers.13 The analysis of the existing historical narrative through the identification of determined and open-ontological narrative structures is a marker for linear or progressive game episodes, as Chapman explains.14

The communication established by the user between historical consciousness and the historical representations of the digital game world vary depending on the form of representation. Historical consciousness as an individual processing instance of perceived historical representations controls the historical thinking, which can be structurally described by cognitive psychology, especially the schema theory. Schemas influence the attention and perception as well as the expectations and interpretations of the users with regard to all kinds of historical representations. According to this, schemas are activated by perceived stimuli, possibly modified or even newly formed. The concept is widespread, but not uncontroversial, especially in international research on media effects.15 An all-encompassing emphasis on the concept of schemas ultimately includes a focus on latent knowledge that are perfectly hidden from the observer. There is much criticism that the concept of schemas does not suit to analyse complex cognitive processes, has a low predictive power and thus suffers from the construct validity of empirical research.16 The concept of schemas can only serve to describe the structure of the manifest, articulated historical thinking – historical narration.17 In this respect, Fritz’s transfer process model can explain how the two systems of historical consciousness and the digital game world are structurally coupled and that transfer processes (assimilative or accommodative uses of knowledge) and effects (mental representations) manifest themselves between them.18
According to current framing approaches from Media effects and cognitivepsychological research, a distinction must be made between explicit and implicit transfer processes and effects.19
Multimodal perception has to be taken into account, which activates different perceptions (primarily visual, auditory and haptic) depending on the form of representation found in the gameplay.20

 

 

 

Fig. 1: Associated models from the current state of research on the systems of
individual historical consciousness and historicizing digital games and their structural
coupling21

Individuals construct their own ideas of the past in the sense of constructivism. A focus on existing prior knowledge is particularly important.22 If the individual has no mental representations that he or she can use for a meta-temporal comparison (the comparison of something perceived with previous representations on the basis of salient features that allow, for example, the temporal assignment “medieval” or “originating from the 17th century”), he or she will not be able to critically question historical representations.23  Thus, in a reception study it is always necessary to ask for prior knowledge that already exist among individuals. In order to explain how and why certain gameplay representations are processed in a historically conscious way, it was concluded from the previous considerations that there must be a kind of cognitive instance that decides what is perceived and processed as history – hereinafter definied as the historicity-schema. Depending on the amount of prior knowledge, it is to be expected that the historicity-schema will also be less or more differentiated and will possibly enable less or more analytically critical comparisons of what is perceived. This also emphasizes the importance of the concept of individual historical consciousness as a basic precondition for the reception of historical representations. Thus, there must be at least a vague idea of what could be historical. This possibly always happens in comparison with the knowledge about the past that is already represented in the mental system. The comparison of currently received media content with prior knowledge and a temporal classification is defined as temporal coupling. It is not possible to reconstruct historicity-schemas or the temporal coupling as complete processes, especially since these would already be changed by the narration of the individuals. Therefore the distinction between transfer effects and processes is particularly important. Accordingly, transfer effects capture already existing schemas as articulable knowledge. Consequently, the historicity-schema and the temporal coupling represent schemas that stimulate, control and/or modify transfer effects of historical representations and thus enable theoretical assumptions about transfer processes.

 

Fig. 2: theoretical model of the media-specific perception of historical representations 

The individual historical consciousness (subject) is determined by decisions based on the dimensions of historicity (variable – static), objectivity (real – fictious) and time (past – future) in interaction with the historical representations of media (object).24 Fig. 2 represents an exemplary transfer of historical representations from digital gameplay into the individual historical consciousness. The historical representations in the historical consciousness are schematic knowledge structures at different points in time D(x) of possible data collection. The greatest difficulty is, that everyone has its own manifestation of historical knowledge. That is why the temporal coupling is understood as the self-reference of prior knowledge to the acquisition of new information.

The funnel-shaped illustration (Fig. 2, top left) indicates that historical consciousness is developed over a long period of time on the basis of schematic knowledge structures and that prior knowledge is repeatedly applied to historical questions. This poses a major problem with regard to empirical studies, as it is difficult to distinguish between explicit and implicit transfer effects. Therefore, at different points in time D(x) of the survey the current attitudes of historical consciousness have to be recorded by means of numerous items.25 If the historical narratives of the users can be traced back to certain saliences, e.g. within the data collection D(1), explicit transfer effects are assumed, even if, due to the temporal coupling, it cannot be completely excluded that such representations may have been appropriated long before the reception of the gameplay.26 In the end, the recipient, negatively formulated, is always a prisoner of his own historical consciousness. In addition to treatment groups, control groups are therefore of major importance to be able to assess transfer effects as explicit.

The historicity-schema uses knowledge already existing in the historical consciousness to identify certain representations from the gameplay as historical. Certain saliente representations of the gameplay stimulate the historicity-schema, which could classify the saliences as historical and make them available for further contextualization in the historical consciousness. Depending on the dominance of one modality of perception, the representations identified as historical are also represented differently in historical consciousness. This is exactly where the concept of Epistemic Cognition comes into play “to focus more on conceptual understanding and critical evaluation than the mere acquisition and use of information”, in order to differentiate the concept of historicity-schemas in terms of the beliefs about knowledge.27 Epistemic cognition can now be understood as the interpretetive process through the structural and temporal coupling with the historical representations of the gameplay. New information is assessed by the historical consciousness through temporal order and a judgement, whether the new information will mentally be represented as e. g. historical knowledge (real and static), as historical belief (real and variable) or as historical inaccurate (fictious and static).28 Epistemic Cognition now helps to further differentiate these justification schemas of the users.29

Epistemic Cognition as a Historically Conscious Process in Terms of Media Reception

Thorp already outlined that epistemologcial theories are quite suitable to specify how historical consciousness is being developed individually.30 From an epistemological point of view and following a deductive method, it is obvious to „theorize about the range of possible epistemic beliefs people might hold“ about history.31 Thus, it is initially useful to approach the phenomenon in this way in order to get a more precise picture of the actual object of investigation. However, this does not replace inductive methods of a qualitative evaluation to gain a comprehensive understanding of the genesis of epistemic beliefs. Accordingly, epistemic beliefs describe the attitudes of the individual’s historical consciousness towards certain claims, received media content or mental representations. These settings have already been differentiated as epistemic stances by Chinn et al.32 Accordingly, the individual historical consciousness is capable of declaring historical claims as reliable knowledge, or at least to assess them as believable or to doubt them. Epistemic stances of the historical consciousness describe the attitudes regarding the validity of a historical narration (cf. Fig. 2, real or fictious) and its temporal significance (cf. Fig. 2, static or variable). If, for example, there is no doubt whatsoever about a historical narrative, it is presented as knowledge that is timeless significant (e.g. “They definitely disguised themselves, I remember that.”).

In 2009, Maggioni et al. conflated existing theories in a stance model of tree different types: Copier, Borrower and Criterialist stance.33 The copier stance assumes, for example, that historical sources report the truth about the past. Accordingly, information is simply taken over and offered in own historical narratives. The Borrower stance type emphasizes that people borrow pieces of historical narratives for use in own historical thinking through instinctive or sometimes arbitrary selection. The Criterialist stance embraces the „view of history as a process of inquiry, in which the questions asked by investigators inform the analysis of the sources“, which can merely be described as the most scientific aproach to historical thinking.34 In 2014 VanSledright and Reddy refined the types through an inductive approach into the categories objectivism, subjectivism, and criterialism35 Nevertheless, even with this categorization, different attitudes of historical consciousness towards the subject of history are recorded, but no tool for the analysis of individual historical narration is established. If the reception of media content is now to be focused on, the following redefinition to digital game formats would be suggested based on this categorization:

  • Objectivism stance: history is understood as merely a copy of the gameplay.
  • Subjectivism stance: the past appears mainly as the voices of witnesses and historians and not from the gameplay.
  • Criterialism stance: history is understood as a process of negotiation which requires empirical and narrating cogency. Historical representations in the gameplay are being evaluated.36

Epistemic stances thus help to make the concept of historicity-schemas visible in historical narration, since it is ultimately a shareable experience of how realistic one considers one’s own historical narrative to be. However, it must not be the goal of an open-ended, inductive procedure of a qualitative content analysis to prove certain categories in data sets. In this respect, the model of Maggioni et al. primarily serves to place the results of the study in the current state of research, but not to measure the certainty of knowledge in historical narration, which is influenced by media reception.37 In the following, the analysis will be focused on the use of language in historical narration, which provide indications of judgement schemas.38

 

Fig. 3: Variously dimensioned cross sections of historical consciousness with exemplary transfers regarding the work of the historicity-schema as well as a first approximation of possible data collection dates and their relation to the theoretical model.

In the (1.) cross section of historical consciousness in Fig. 3, the work of the historicity-schema is illustrated. The (1.) transfer shows how a previously perceived representation of the gameplay is made available for historically conscious processing, classified as historical and finally mentally represented as a transfer effect. When processing representations from gameplay, the historical consciousness must therefore rely on already existing historical knowledge in order to be able to assess the validity of the perceived representation; Interferences in the sense of overlays of already existing schemas cannot be excluded. In contrast, the (2.) transfer is not executed due to a user’s assessment and therefore no historical representation is transferred into historical consciousness (possible unconscious transfers are not excluded). Accordingly, the saliente stimulus as a representation of the gameplay is not considered historically valid and no transfer to already existing historical representations in historical consciousness – in the sense of a temporal coupling – is established.

The (2.) cross section shows two exemplary data collection points D(1) and D(2), which first frame the gameplay of the individual test persons and correspond to a classical treatment study with control group. In order to create a reception situation in the treatment study that was as close as possible to real life, the actual interest of the study was not communicated to the test persons up to time D(2), since the disclosure would have possibly drawn the attention to the historical representations within the gamplay. The theoretical model is not exclusively designed to measure explicit changes in historical consciousness, but focuses in general on the processing of historical representations by the individual historical consciousness. What exact structure the corresponding schemas have as mental representations is simply not possible to investigate at present. It is only envisaged that initial findings can be derived regarding the latent concepts of historically conscious transfer processes (historicity-schema, temporal coupling) and that at least explicit transfer effects can be proven.

The research design distinguishes between pre-communicative (before the treatment), communicative (treatment) and post-communicative (after the treatment) phases. Accordingly, transfer effects can only be grasped in the post-communicative phase, since a transfer initially always requires that the representations, received from the gameplay, are used in a different context. As already explained, transfer processes cannot be observed, but their existence and existing structure can be concluded on the basis of the collected data of the different phases. Finally, an experimental design in the “laboratory” was preferred to a gameplay situated in a recreational environment. Following this way as many alternative explanations as possible can be excluded and explicit transfer effects can be identified, since all gameplay processes can be recorded.39 However, it is not possible to speak of a real experimental design, since the chosen design cannot completely rule out interactions between the various measurements and the stimulus in the form of the treatment, since only one treatment and control group was selected in each case (cf. Fig 4).40 See Giere (2019) for a detailed description of the research design and data collection as well as the procedures performed to exclude potential disruptive factors.41 The phases of data collection important for the following analysis are the interviews conducted in I(1.2), which are examined for the influence of the gameplay episode Sp(1.2) within the historical narratives of the test persons (see Fig. 4).

pre-communicative communicative post-communicative groups
Information sheet on the conduct
of the study and privacy policy

D(1) collection of demographic data
and previous
experience with digital games
Sp(1.1) explorati ve game phase to get used
to the game
controls

Sp(1.2) play the selected game scene: Boston Tea Party
D(2) recording
the actual state of historical consciousness

I(1.1) guidelinebased interview to minimize disruptive factors

I(1.2) Guidelinebased interview to
capture the historical narrative that
thematically fits to Sp(1.2)

D(3) recording the actual
state of historical consciousness
treatment
groups
Information sheet on the conduct
of the study and privacy
policy

D(1) collection of demographic data and previous experience with digital games
I(1.1) guidelinebased interview to
minimize disruptive factors

I(1.2) Guidelinebased interview to
capture the historical narrative that
thematically fits to Sp(1.2)

D(2) recording the actual state of historical
consciousness

D(3) recording the actual
state of historical consciousness
control
groups
Fig 4: Two group trial design with treatment and control group42

Treatment

Assassin’s Creed® III was selected because following Chapman it is a realistic
simulation that also promises to adequately recreate history in its application and is
particularly promising in terms of research interest. Moreover, since the game is set
during the Seven Years’ War – but above all during the subsequent independence
movement in 18th-century America – the chosen test persons are unlikely to have had
much prior knowledge in this regard, since the American Revolution was only given
marginal attention in the curricula of the past decades in Germany. Moreover, the
American Revolution is a relatively unprocessed setting in both film and interactive
media formats.43 The game is suitable as an object of investigation because during
the game process it is often difficult to differentiate between real and fictional elements
of the representations. Accordingly many transfer effects and processes can be
expected.44 One of the often changeant historic events is the Boston Tea Party, which is also a central part of the gameplay.45 The representation in the gameplay of this
event clearly prevents an adequate historical narrative due to the game mechanics
and offers one thing above all else: counterfactuality. Thus, the player – in the form of
the fictional character Connor – plays a crucial role and transforms the Boston Tea
Party into a big slaughter with dozens of dead people. The game narrative therefore
differs greatly from the common historical narratives of the Boston Tea Party and thus
allows to measure exactly whether the counterfactual elements of the game world are
found in the historical narratives I(1.2) of the test persons.46

Sampling

In order to cover the broadest possible spectrum of different ways of dealing with the
media content received, it was initially planned to survey schoolchildren between 16
and 19 years of age. However, a preliminary study with university students already
showed that complete copies of the gameplay slaughter could be found in the historical
narratives, which is why the decision was finally made to focus on university students
as test persons in order to be able to derive possible results as a top-down process
for less educated groups of people. Through theoretical sampling in the preliminary
study, Master-Experts (Master’s degree in history), Bachelor-Experts (first-year
Bachelor’s degree in history) and Master-Amateurs (Master’s students of subjects
other than history) were identified as productive test persons. The allocation to the
treatment or control group was done by randomization. Control groups to distinguish
whether transfer effects are due to the treatment were set up for the Master-Experts
and Master-Amateurs.

Groups/Sampling Bachelor-Experts (History): Master-Experts (History): Master-Amateurs (no History): Total:
Treatment group
Assassin’s Creed III
12(-1) 12 11 35(-1)
Control group
no treatment
12 11 23
Total 12 24 22 58
Fig. 5: Composition of the control and treatment groups

However, one data set of the Bachelor-Experts had to be excluded from the evaluation
because no historical narrative was offered by the person in Interview I(1.2). With a
total of 34 test subjects in the treatment group, sufficient data is available for an
inductive analysis. In addition, analyses of descriptive statistics (rank correlation
coefficients) can show which possible correlations exist between the various items
surveyed and how the quality of the categorization of the qualitative content analysis
can be assessed.

Overall, it must be assumed that, due to the primarily qualitatively oriented main study
with a small number of cases, no representative statements on the population of
players are possible. The goal is first of all to develop a practicable research design
as well as survey and analysis methods in order to sharpen the described concepts
inductively.

Explicit and Implicit Transfers

In order to test whether the identified transfer processes and effects can be traced
back to the treatment, the game-inherent historical narrative of the Boston Tea Party
was first recorded and analysis units were marked in the interview data of all test
subjects, which process fragments of this narrative or contain direct naming of the
game. Thus, in contrast to the treatment group, no fragments of the game-inherent
historical narrative of the Boston Tea Party or direct naming of the game could be
identified in the control group. In addition, the videographed gameplay processes of
the individual test persons of the treatment were used to check whether these
fragments could also be found in there. Thus it is concluded that identified transfers of
the treatment group are due to the treatment and therefore promise valid results as
explicit transfers.

Categorization of Epistemic Stances in the Historically Conscious Reception of
Media Content

In the guideline interview of data collection point I(1.2), the test persons were exposed
to the following question: “Would you please try to tell what happened at the Boston
Tea Party in Boston in December 1773? Please describe a sequence of events that
you believe really took place at this historic event.“ Basically, the question has to be
criticized that it is not possible to tell what happened in “reality”. Based on the results
of the preliminary study, the research question was formulated in such a way as to
encourage the test persons to examine their knowledge in detail and make decisions
that promote the revelation of epistemic stances with regard to the narrative offered.
The transcription of the interview data I(1.2) was accomplished according to Dresing
and Pehl.47 The transcribed interview data obtained in this way was then evaluated in
an inductive category formation according to Mayring.48 In the first stages of analysis,
it was found that the personal pronoun used in the narration is crucial to whether a
person formulates epistemic stances. If the 1st person is used singularly or as plural
in a historical narrative, a reflection of the own narration in the form of epistemic
stances could be proven in all cases. Narrations in the 3rd person, on the other hand,
induced the offered historical narrative to be considered realistic and static. From this,
in further analysis steps and category formulations, the grammatical analysis of the
conjugated verbs was identified as a profitable distinguishing feature. Thus, the
grammatical mood of narration is crucial in determining whether the person is
confident or unsure about the narrative. In addition, negations were identified as
important distinguishing characteristic for the differentiation of epistemic stances.
Subsequently, a rating system was created in which the findings were recorded as
rules for raters and the analysis units were determined more precisely. As a final step,
five main categories of epistemic stances were deduced from the theoretical
assumptions and named: Knowing, Belief, Doubt, Misinformation and Lack of
Knowledge. In addition, certain verbs could be directly assigned to the main
categories, which allows quick rating using a coding list of unique verbs. In individual
cases, a content-related decision on the rating must be made, since a clear
assignment could not be worked out during the inductive categorization. The formation
of the coding list can therefore not yet be considered as empirically nor theoretically
saturated, since further constellations of formulations and the use of other verbs are
quite conceivable. Therefore, further studies with larger numbers of cases should
follow. Overall, the rating system for the preliminary categorization as shown in Fig. 7
could be induced from the data sets.

Fig. 7: rating system of the categories of epistemic stances in historical narration

Based on the rating system (Fig. 7), all data sets of the control and treatment group
were rated by three independent researchers. In total, the coding of the 463 analysis
units showed an agreement of r(A) = 0.8203 and an interrater reliability according to
Krippendorf’s Alpha of r(α) = 0.8051 at a confidence level of 95 %. The rating is
therefore to be regarded as reliable.49 The possible references to the gameplay
representation in Assassin‘s Creed® III were rated separately from the above rating
system, since they always have to be explicitly adapted to the situation of reception.
The analysis units for the rating are therefore sentence parts that belong together in
terms of content. It is quite conceivable that entire sentences or text passages have
the same rating in one analysis unit. For a better understanding, see exemplary ratings
in appendix 1.

Analysis

The rating of the data sets shows that the epistemic stances Knowing and Belief
prevail in historical narratives. This is not surprising, given the research question.
Nevertheless, a closer look at the distribution of the different epistemic stances within
all test groups is worthwhile (see Fig. 8). The Master-Experts have a significantly lower
number of Knowings compared to the other groups. Overall, it is noticeable that the
treatment groups also offer significantly more Doubts, which, on closer analysis of the
data sets, can be attributed to the competing narratives of the gameplay. Overall, Fig.
8 indicates that a progressive university education and more intensive study of history
generally leads the test persons to offer less epistemic stance Knowing or to tell history
more tentatively.

Fig. 8: percentage distribution of rated epistemic stances in the treatment and control
groups

What influence does the reception of the gameplay have on the historical narration of
the Boston Tea Party? If we assume a linear correlation between the frequencies of
the epistemic stances’ rating and the frequency of the game naming, no statistical
correlation between the frequency of the categories Knowing and Lack of Knowledge
and the game naming can be found.50 On the other hand, there are clear linear
correlations in the frequencies of the mentions of the categories Belief, Doubt and
Misinformation. As a moderate correlation after Spearman’s Rho with an effect
strength of 0.359, it can be concluded that Beliefs appear more frequently when
received game content is increasingly incorporated into the historical narration.51 A
large correlation of 0.560 between Doubts and the processing of gameplay content in
the historical narration can even be proven.52 This indicates that the gameplay
representation is above all questioned by the test persons, which is illustrated by an
moderate correlation of 0.386 between the frequency of Misinformations and the
frequency of game naming.53 The gameplay representation therefore has an influence
on the way the historical narration is offered by the test person. The distinction
between objectivism, subjectivism and criteralism stances, which was previously
established, can be helpful in assessing the extent to which the rating reflects the
general attitude towards history.
The historical narrations of the test persons, in which explicit reference was made to
the historical account of the Boston Tea Party in Assassin’s Creed® III, were assigned
the epistemic stances objectivism, subjectivism and criteralism based on the
definitions given. The difference between the actual and the previously rating is that
the epistemic stances according to Vansledright & Reddy focus on the entire narrative
and not on each analysis unit of the narration independently. Accordingly, the focus of
the categorization was on the extent to which the gameplay representation was
incorporated into the historical narrative. If the depiction of the Boston Tea Party in
Assassin’s Creed® III was simply taken over into the own historical narrative without
criticizing it, an objectivism stance can be assumed. If, on the other hand, the
gameplay representation was not integrated into the historical narrative, which is
largely based on Knowing and Beliefs, the subjectivism stance is assumed, since the
gameplay representation was not considered as an adequate source for the required
historical narration. The criterialism stance is characterized by a differentiated process
of weighing up, which not only lists criticism or Doubts in relation to the gameplay
representation, but also deals just as critically with its own prior knowledge.
Accordingly, the criterilism stance is characterized by a high flexibility in the use of
Knowing, Belief, Doubt and Misinformation stances, whereby the gameplay
representation is clearly questioned (cf. appendix 2: analysis units 6-7, 10-11 and 14-
16). The weighting of the narratives of various sources of information (cf. appendix 2:
analysis units 3, 7 and 14) can be seen particularly clearly in the example of appendix
2: “Rather, it was simply a performance that is not worth more than my lack of
knowledge, so to speak.“
The subjectivism stance is thus characterized by a well-established historical narrative
about the Boston Tea Party (cf. appendix 3: analysis units 3-8), in which, however, the
gameplay is seen as an inadequate source of information and is being criticized (cf.
appendix 3: analysis units 10-13). In this way, one’s own prior knowledge becomes a
reliable source of information in a historical narration that is primarily based on
Knowing stances.
The objectivism stance is generally characterized by a high density of Knowing and
Belief stances. Gameplay content is simply incorporated into the historical narrative
of the Boston Tea Party (see appendix 4: analysis units 9-13) without reflecting or
questioning it.

Fig. 9: quantity of epistemcis stances according to Vansledright & Reddy regarding
historical narratives that explicitly include the gameplay representation of the Boston
Tea Party

In total, four of the Master-Experts, eight of the Master-Amateurs and six of the
Bachelor-Experts of the treatment group explicitly addressed the gameplay plot in their
historical narrative of the Boston Tea Party (cf. Fig. 9). The number of objectivism
stances is particularly striking. In all treatment groups at least half of the stories are
based on this epistemic stance. The information must be qualified in that the other test
persons of the treatment groups did not integrate the gameplay representation of the
Boston Tea Party into their historical narrative. In this respect, the historical narratives
based on subjectivism or criterialist stances which do not involve the gameplay
representation, understand the gameplay representation of the Boston Tea Party as a
questionable source of information (cf. Fig. 10).

 

Fig. 10: number and percentage distribution of epistemic stances according to
Vansledright & Reddy of all test persons in the treatment groups

Conclusion

Overall, it could be shown that epistemic cognition and epistemic stances in particular
are valuable concepts that, together with the theory model and research design
developed by Giere, allow for an in-depth analysis of the influence of received media
content in historical narration and narratives. A limiting factor is that due to the
relatively small number of test subjects in the treatment group (n=35) the study has
only exploratory character and the range of results is limited. Nevertheless, there are
implications for further research as well as some important indications for the teaching
of history.
First of all, it could be shown that the system of categories used to distinguish
epistemic stances in Knowing, Belief, Doubt, Misinformation and Lack of Knowledge
by means of content-structured analysis units corresponds to the quality criteria of
qualitative research. The rated epistemic stances helped to describe more precisely
which gameplay representations of the Boston Tea Party have found their way into the
historical narratives of the test persons. This underscores the fact that the transfer
process of the historicity-schema described in Giere’s theoretical model is a valuable
concept for describing the reception of media content more precisely. The historicity-
schema is thus the instance that decides whether or not transfer effects are initiated
from received media content. These decisions can be made visible in the form of
epistemic stances by means of the rating system. Thus it could be shown that already
with university students of history and other subjects a multiplicity of completely
unreflected acquisitions of the history represented in the gameplay could be
documented. Nevertheless, the number of those who did not incorporate the gameplay
representation into the historical narration or expressed direct criticism of it outweighed
the number of those who did. It is to be expected that the effects of the adoption of
gameplay representations would increase among students in the secondary school
sector. A more precise differentiation of the concept of temporal coupling could not be
achieved on the basis of the appointed analysis.
Furthermore, it was examined whether the categorization of epistemic stances
introduced by Vansledright & Reddy on the basis of the Beliefs about History
Questionnaire (BHQ) can be applied to the analysis of the reception of media content
in historical narratives. Here, too, the evaluation must first be assumed to be
explorative. Nevertheless, by including gameplay content in the definition of the
categories, a final classification of the entire historical narratives of the test persons in
objectivism, subjectivism and criterialism stances could be made. With the help of the
rating focused on the content-structured analysis units, it was thus possible to
differentiate how the categorization of Vansledright & Reddy expresses itself in
historical narration. Further studies on this could help to differentiate the form of
objectivism, subjectivism and criterialism stances not only in terms of media-specific
reception. Unfortunately, the BHQ Questionnaire was not taken into account in the
data set from 2016 on which this study is based, which makes further comparisons
with current research results (cf. Brauch et al.) difficult. Furthermore, an ongoing
evaluation of the data sets used here would be compatible with Ammert’s focus on
cognitive processes and dimensions of knowledge.54
Basically, the results of the evaluation suggest that a more critical reflection of
historical media content is particularly important in teaching the subject of history. In
the future, historical products of pop culture in particular will have to be brought more
strongly into the focus of a critical approach to sources that takes the specifics of the
individual media formats into greater consideration. It is particularly noticeable from
the evaluation that only few of the test persons explicitly included the game mechanics
in the analysis of the Boston Tea Party’s gameplay processing. However, it is easy to
ask critical questions about the representation of history in Assassin’s Creed® III,
considering that one of the main game mechanics marks the role of an assassin who
tries to kill his opponents in the most stylish way possible. It is a logical consequence
that this game mechanic will be included in the historical narrative of the Boston Tea
Party, which is represented in the gameplay. Thus, the historical event turns into a
bloodbath of English soldiers and revolutionaries, which does not at all match the
current narratives of historiography.55 Besides this criticism, I would like to emphasize
that digital games in particular offer a multitude of new possibilities for historical
thinking: „Games add another channel of potential meaning in that they can also
communicate ludically, by carving out a unique role for their audiences quite unlike our
other historical forms.“56

 

 

Literature
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Repräsentation und Rezeption von Geschichte in digitalen Spielen. Schwalbach/Ts:
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Hopkins, W. G. (2013). A Scale of Magnitudes for Effect Statistics, Retrieved
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(Eds.): Handbuch Praxis des Geschichtsunterrichts (Vol. 1, pp. 112–120).
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Maggioni, L., VanSledright, B., & Alexander, P. A. (2009). Walking on the borders: A
measure of epistemic cognition in history. The Journal of Experimental Education,
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Maggioni, L. (2010). Studying Epistemic Cognition in the History Classromm: Cases
of Teaching and Learnung to Think Historically. Retrieved Octobre 7, 2020, from
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Prüfstand. Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung und Weiterentwicklung eines bestehenden
Instruments zur Erfassung epistemologischer Überzeugungen in der Domäne
Geschichte. In M. Waldis, & B. Ziegler (Eds.), Forschungswerktstatt
Geschichtsdidaktik (Vol 15, pp. 177-190). Bern: hep verlag ag.


Mitgutsch, K. (2012). Learning Through Play – A Delicate Matter: Experience-Based
Recursive Learning in Computer Games. In J. Fromme, & A. Unger (Eds.):
Computer Games and New Media Cultures (pp. 571–584). Dordrecht: Springer.
Pandel, H.-J. (2013). Geschichtsdidaktik: Eine Theorie für die Praxis.
Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau.


Potthoff, M. (2012). Medien-Frames und ihre Entstehung. Wiesbaden: Springer.
Raupp, J., & Vogelgesang, J. (2009). Medienresonanzanalyse. Wiesbaden: VS
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Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2010). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals.
Cambridge: The MIT Press.


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Kerner, & D. Thomä (Eds.). Theorien des Computerspiels (pp. 38-74). Hamburg:
Springer.


Schnell, R., Hill, P. B., & Esser, E. (2011). Methoden der empirischen
Sozialforschung. München: Oldenbourg Verlag.


Schwarz, A. (2014). Narration und Narrativ. In F. Kerschbaumer, & T. Winnerling
(Eds.): Frühe Neuzeit im Videospiel (pp. 27-52). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.

Seixas, P. (Ed.). (2004). Theorizing historical consciousness. Toronto: University of
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Study of Cognition Among Prospective History Teachers. Revista Tempo e
Argumento, 6(11), 28-68.


VanSledright, B. A., & Maggioni, L. (2016). Epistemic cognition in history. In J. A.
Greene, W. A. Sandoval, & I. Braten (Eds.), Handbook of epistemic cognition (pp.
128–146). New York: Routledge.


Waern, A. (2012). Framing Games. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from
http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/12168.20295.pdf.


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schülerorientierten Unterrichtsgespräch? Internationale Schulbuchforschung, 20(1),
295-311.

 



Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
AKGWDS Redaktion (2024, 31. Januar). Media-Specific Historical Thinking: Exemplary Analysis of Epistemic Beliefs Through the Acquisition of Historical Representations from Digital Games. gespielt. Abgerufen am 29. Mai 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/vq5y

  1. Cf. VanSledright, B. A., & Maggioni, L. (2016). Epistemic cognition in history. In J. A. Greene, W. A.
    Sandoval, & I. Braten (Eds.), Handbook of epistemic cognition (pp. 128–146). New York: Routledge,
    here pp. 134-143. []
  2. Cf. Greene, J. A., Sandoval, W. A., & Braten, I. (2016). An Introduction to Epistemic Cognition. In J.
    A. Greene, W. A. Sandoval, & I. Braten (Eds.), Handbook of epistemic cognition (pp. 19–38). New
    York: Routledge, here p. 1. []
  3. Cf. Giere, D. (2019). Computerspiele – Medienbildung – historisches Lernen. Zu Repräsentation und
    Rezeption von Geschichte in digitalen Spielen. Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau, here pp. 7-15.
    []
  4. Cf. ibid., pp. 155-170 []
  5. Cf. ibid., pp. 340-364 []
  6. Cf. Giere, D. (2018). Let’s Play the Boston Tea Party. Forum for inter-american research, 11(2), 15-
    29. []
  7. Cf. Hofer, B. K. (2016). Epistemic Cognition as a Psychological Construct: Advancements and
    Challenges. In J. A. Greene, W. A. Sandoval, & I. Braten (Eds.), Handbook of epistemic cognition (pp.
    19–38). New York: Routledge, here p. 20. A flaw in the data collection is the survey of epistemic
    beliefs according to the BHQ model, which was only available in German after the study was
    conducted, cf. Mierwald, M., Seiffert, J., Lehmann, T., & Brauch, N. (2017). Fragebogen auf dem
    Prüfstand. Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung und Weiterentwicklung eines bestehenden Instruments zur
    Erfassung epistemologischer Überzeugungen in der Domäne Geschichte. In M. Waldis, & B. Ziegler
    (Eds.), Forschungswerktstatt Geschichtsdidaktik (Vol 15, pp. 177-190). Bern: hep verlag ag. []
  8. Cf. Green, Sandoval, & Braten (2016) p.3; Cf. Mierwald, Seiffert, Lehmann, & Brauch (2017) p. 179;
    Cf. VanSledright & Maggioni (2016), p. 141. []
  9. 9 Cf. VanSledright & Maggioni (2016), p. 143. []
  10. Cf. van der Meer, E. (2006). Langzeitgedächtnis. In J. Funke, & P. A. Frensch (Eds.). Handbuch
    der Allgemeinen Psychologie – Kognition (pp. 346-355). Göttingen. Hogrefe, here pp. 354-355;
    Pandel, H.-J. (2013). Geschichtsdidaktik: Eine Theorie für die Praxis. Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau,
    here p. 138; Kölbl, C. (2012). Geschichtsbewusstsein – Empirie. In M. Barricelli, & M. Lücke (Eds.):
    Handbuch Praxis des Geschichtsunterrichts (Vol. 1, pp. 112–120). Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau,
    here p. 119; Giere (2019), pp. 51-65. []
  11. Cf. van Drie, J., & van Boxtel, C. (2008). Historical Reasoning: Towards a Framework for Analyzing
    Students’ Reasoning about the Past. In Educational Psychology Review, 20(2), 87-110. []
  12. Cf. Pandel (2013), pp. 137-148; Giere (2019), pp. 51-65. []
  13. Cf. Giere (2019), pp. 155-170 []
  14. Cf. Chapman, A. (2016). Digital games as history. London: Routledge; Giere (2019), pp. 66–104. []
  15. Vgl. Giere (2019), 105–149; Mitgutsch, K. (2012). Learning Through Play – A Delicate Matter:
    Experience-Based Recursive Learning in Computer Games. In J. Fromme, & A. Unger (Eds.):
    Computer Games and New Media Cultures (pp. 571–584). Dordrecht: Springer, here p. 573;
    Schemer-Reinhard, T. (2011). Steuerung als Analysegegenstand. In M. Hagner, I. Kerner, & D.
    Thomä (Eds.). Theorien des Computerspiels (pp. 38-74). Hamburg: Springer, here p. 59; Mandler, J.
    M. (1984). Stories, scripts, and scenes. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Salen, K., &
    Zimmerman, E. (2010). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge: The MIT Press; Björk,
    S., & Holopainen, J. (2003). Describing Games. Retrieved Octobre 22, 2020, from http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/05150.10348.pdf; Juul, J. (2005). Half-Real. Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge: The MIT Press; Järvinen, A. (2009). Games without Frontiers: Methods for Game Studies and Design. Tampere: VDM Verlag; Fritz, J. (2011). Wie Computerspieler ins Spiel kommen: Theorien und Modelle zur Nutzung und
    Wirkung virtueller Spielwelten. Berlin: LfM; content/uploads/digital-library/12168.20295.pdf []
  16. Cf. Potthoff, M. (2012). Medien-Frames und ihre Entstehung. Wiesbaden: Springer, here p. 141; Giere (2019), here pp. 124-131 []
  17. At the very least, research from German history didactics has already confirmed that historical
    schemas become effective in pupils’ reception of text and image sources in order to enable certain
    patterns of interpretation through the activation of existing historical knowledge. Cf. Werner, J. (1998).
    Wie deutet eine 9. Klasse Text- und Bildquellen im schülerorientierten Unterrichtsgespräch?
    Internationale Schulbuchforschung, 20(1), 295-311, here pp. 296–310. []
  18. See Fritz (2011); Cf. Hofer (2016), p. 21. []
  19. See Giere (2019), pp. 116-124. []
  20. See ibid., pp. 131-135. []
  21. Based on the considerations of VanSledright & Maggioni (2016), p. 134. []
  22. Cf. Greene, Sandoval, & Braten (2016), pp. 4-5. []
  23. Cf. VanSledright, & Maggioni (2016), pp. 134-143. []
  24. See Giere (2019), pp. 155-170; Cf. VanSledright & Maggioni (2016), p. 134. []
  25. Cf. Giere (2019), pp. 249-260. []
  26. Salience as a psychological term describes stimuli that are perceived as dominant features, e.g.
    obvious information that serves a desired goal and is therefore more easily accessible to the
    consciousness. Salience thus describes an attention generating property of objects or events,
    depending on perceptual aspects such as the vividness of the event, the sensitivity of the observer or
    a combination of bot. Cf. Jonas, K., Stroebe, W., & Hewstone, M. (2014). Sozialpsychologie. Berlin:
    Springer, here p. 92. []
  27. Cf. Greene, Sandoval, & Braten (2016), p. 1.; Hofer (2016), p. 19. []
  28. Cf. Greene, Sandoval, & Braten (2016) p. 3; Giere (2019), pp. 155-239. []
  29. Cf. VanSledright, & Maggioni (2016), p. 142. []
  30. Cf. Thorp, R. (2014). Towards an epistemological theory of historical consciousness. Historical
    Encounters: A journal of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education, 1(1), 20-31. []
  31. Cf. VanSledright, & Maggioni (2016), p. 134. []
  32. Chinn, C., Buckland, L., & Samarapungavan, A. (2011): Expanding the Dimensions of Epistemic
    Cognition: Arguments From Philosophy and Psychology. Educational Psychologist, 46(3), 141-167,
    here pp. 152-156. []
  33. Cf. Maggioni, L., VanSledright, B., & Alexander, P. A. (2009). Walking on the borders: A measure of
    epistemic cognition in history. The Journal of Experimental Education, 77(3), 187-214. []
  34. See Maggioni, L. (2010). Studying Epistemic Cognition in the History Classromm: Cases of Teaching and Learnung to Think Historically. Retrieved Octobre 7, 2020, from
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271429471_Studying_epistemic_cognition_in_the_history_classroom_Cases_of_teaching_and_learning_to_think_historically, here pp. 118-120. []
  35. Cf. Vansledright, B., & Reddy, K. (2014). Changing Epistemic Beliefs? An Exploratory Study of
    Cognition Among Prospective History Teachers. Revista Tempo e Argumento, 6(11), 28-68, here p.
    42. []
  36. f. ibid., p. 42 []
  37. Cf. Klopp, E. (2014). The structure of epistemological beliefs: an empirical and theoretical analysis. Saarbrücken: Universität des Saarlandes, here pp. 18-30. []
  38. Cf. Chinn, Buckland, & Samarapungavan (2011), pp. 152-156. []
  39. Cf. Schnell, R., Hill, P. B., & Esser, E. (2011). Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung.
    München: Oldenbourg Verlag, here pp. 201–205 []
  40. Cf. ibid., pp. 216–217 []
  41. See Giere (2019), pp. 241-280. []
  42. Cf. Schnell, Hill, & Esser (2011), pp. 207-217 []
  43. Cf. Hochgeschwender, M. (2016). Die Amerikanische Revolution. München: C.H. Beck, here pp.
    336–337 []
  44. Cf. Schwarz, A. (2014). Narration und Narrativ. In F. Kerschbaumer, & T. Winnerling (Eds.): Frühe
    Neuzeit im Videospiel (pp. 27-52). Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, here p. 50. []
  45. Cf. Jennings, F. (2000): The creation of America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, here p.
    142. []
  46. The gameplay scene can be viewed under the following link: https://youtu.be/GD2uhXBc8uw. For a
    detailed analysis of the gameplay scene, see Giere (2018). []
  47. See Dresing, T., & Pehl, T. (2015). Praxisbuch Interview, Transkription & Analyse. Marburg:
    audiotranskription.de, here pp. 21-25. []
  48. Cf. Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Weinheim: Beltz, here pp. 69-89. []
  49. Cf. Raupp, J., & Vogelgesang, J. (2009). Medienresonanzanalyse. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, here p. xiv []
  50. For the estimation of the corresponding effect strengths of the rank correlation coefficient
    (Spearman’s Rho) the classification of Hopkins (2013) is used. According to this, significant
    correlations between 0.1 and 0.3 show a small correlation, between 0.3 and 0.5 a moderate
    correlation, between 0.5 and 0.7 a large correlation, between 0.7 and 0.9 a very large correlation and
    between 0.9 and 1 an almost perfect correlation. See Hopkins, W. G. (2013). A Scale of Magnitudes
    for Effect Statistics, Retrieved Octobre 17, 2020, from
    http://www.sportsci.org/resource/stats/effectmag.html. []
  51. The rank correlation is two-sided significant at the 0.05 level with n=34 of all treatment groups. []
  52. The rank correlation is two-sided significant at the 0.01 level with n=34 of all treatment groups. []
  53. The rank correlation is two-sided significant at the 0.05 level with n=34 of all treatment groups. []
  54. 4 Cf. Ammert, N. (2014). What do you know when you know something about history? Historical
    Encounters: A journal of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education, 1(1), 50-
    61. []
  55. Cf. Giere (2018). []
  56. Cf. Chapman, A. (2013). The Great Game of History: An Analytical Approach to and Analysis of the
    Videogame as a Historical Form. Hull. Unpublished dissertation, here p. 22 []

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