Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Katherine H. Greenberg

Committee Members

Joel F. Diambra, Carolyn I. Staples, Marina Santi


This study emerges from the observation of an increasing divide between generations: a lack of a shared ground that carries profound social, cultural, and educational implications. In particular, the broadening differences between academic and “grassroots” approaches to learning and creativity are transforming formal and informal enterprises into seemingly incommunicable realms. This clash between different (and distant) practices, inside and outside of school, is inhibiting the construction of a common language between teachers and students, and, more broadly, between generations, thus hindering the development of any educational discourse.

In this study I inquired into an online participatory space in order to advance our understanding on how its participants, driven by their interest in gaming and game design, discursively constructed learning and creativity. In particular, I looked into a community dedicated to designing, sharing, and critiquing digital game levels (i.e., “mini-games”) created with LittleBigPlanet (a digital game and creative tool for the PlayStation 3 game console) and discussed in the “Forum” section of the LittleBigPlanet Central website (

In this qualitative study I applied a hybrid intertextual methodology based on discourse analysis, studio critique, and design process analysis to analyze discursive texts (threads/posts in the discussion forum), interactive artifacts (user-generated game levels), and constructive practices (deigning, sharing, and critiquing game levels).

The findings suggest that participants socially construct and negotiate learning and creativity by enacting specific discursive functions that entail the use of humor, specialist language, and the negotiation of effort and self-appreciation. By engaging in multimodal and intertextual practices in an attentive and competent community, users create a safe social space that fosters reciprocal trust, togetherness, participation, planning, and reflectivity.

By furthering our understanding of a situated interest world, this research advances our knowledge on informal participatory spaces in which learning and creativity emerge as intertwined phenomena that develop through social-constructive endeavors spurred by people’s interests and passions.

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