Chapter 5: Playful Affinity: A Case Study of the Digital Writing and Research Lab as a Collaborative Graduate Student Research Network

Reviewed by Michael Joseph Tharnish Roby

In the fifth and final chapter of Part I of this book, Seán McCarthy and Lauren Mitchell Nahas (2011) discussed the use of "affinity spaces," or those "places of learning where people interested in or 'passionate' about learning particular topics congregate" (p. 148) to facilitate learning, such as  the Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL) at the University of Texas at Austin. The primary purpose of the chapter was to advocate for the development of affinity spaces that rely on game structure, play, and tinkering (see chapter 10). These approaches to learning, they claimed, are particularly useful in the fast-paced world of digital humanities.

McCarthy and Mitchell Nahas's negotiations of play and structure challenged readers to once again consider the field as a whole and the way the future of the field will be shaped. Their discussion of affinity spaces and play emphasized process, where failure becomes part of the learning. This chapter provided a platform for future application, particularly in response to the changing nature of the digital work being done in English studies.

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