So who is the Ludic Historian? And perhaps a related question: does it matter? The context for answering that is understanding that I’m not someone who likes the idea of anonymous bloggers or using a pseudonym, particularly when there’s a historical component to the work.
So, for what it’s worth, my name is Jeff Nyman.
I suppose I would be considered a professional technologist by trade. In that context, and if I’m being philosophical, I would say my career-focus has been reducing the epistemological opaqueness and ontological confusion due to cognitive biases we have when we build complex things, like software, that provide value.
Yet, if I’m being honest while also being philosophical, I would say I’m someone that has been very nervous of the technocracy we are building and coming to abdicate more of our unique human abilities to. So my technologist career focused on being a practitioner of quality and a specialist in testing. In fact, I have a blog on that entire part of my life called TesterStories.
This career has provided me with an experiment-driven, historically-minded, scientific background.
Do these career details even matter?
Well, since quality is very much situational and is often a shifting perception of value over time, but one that is ostensibly applied to a type of science — computer science, specifically — I learned early on to aspire toward ascertaining the best available truth. In terms of our ability to specify our designs for technology, including the arguments we make to get that technology funded, I also learned early to recognize that the corrosion of language diminishes the value of truth.
So I learned you have to watch out for what we might term “epistemic degradation,” which is where truth becomes a matter of perspective and agenda, as opposed to something we tie to the empirical and demonstrable. I had to be very aware of how people get their information. As social media came more to the forefront (there’s that technocracy in action), I, like many others, had to figure out what echo chambers and filter bubbles people were living in. This also helped me become very aware of what standards of evidence people considered or, often more importantly, failed to consider.
That last bit required me to act more as a scholar of religion. As such a scholar, you’re generally trained not to weigh in, one way or the other, on the truth or falseness of whatever somebody is claiming from a religious or theological context. In this particular context, when looking at the proliferation of a belief, there is no need to consider whether the belief is justified or not if you are just analyzing its social effects and influence.
Finally, how all of this ties into being a “ludic historian,” as I’ve chosen to describe this, is that I — like many millions of other people — have been an avid gamer all my life. I’ve been equally fascinated by the technology of the games, the culture that games and gaming arose from, and the sociological aspects of how gaming has transformed entertainment.