27 November 2013
A new app has been developed by researchers at Cardiff University that enables users to measure their understanding of different groups in society.
The 'Masquerade' app is based on The Imitation Game (IMGAME); a new research method that can be used to compare societies across space and time. IMGAME is innovative in its combination of collecting quantitative measures as well as qualitative data by asking sociological questions. It is based on a parlour game adapted by Alan Turing for his 'Turing test' for artificial intelligence.
The Imitation Game is a major research project funded by a €2.26M European Research Council Advanced Research Grant and led by Professor Harry Collins as part of the Studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE) Network at the School of Social Sciences. It uses an elaborate computer programme to enable lots of people to play Imitation Games.
'Masquerade' is a stripped down version of the complicated software which enables any three people to play the game in a pub or cafe or at home. It is a simple game of pretence where two players share a trait (for example both are male, or both sports fans) while the third player does not (for example she is a woman, does not follow any sports team) but pretends to share it. One of the two players that shares the trait becomes the judge and must question the others to identify the pretender. 'Masquerade' can be used to measure people's understandings and prejudices of different groups in society.
Professor Harry Collins said: "To develop the app, we used the new concept of Interactional Expertise (IE); the understanding which comes from long immersion in the linguistic discourse of a community. For example, the blind have good IE when it comes to the sighted community because they have spent all their lives talking to sighted people. When we played these games with blind and sighted people we found that blind people could pass as sighted about 80 per cent of the time, whereas sighted people could pass as blind only about 15 per cent of the time."
The social benefits of Masquerade lie in increased social understanding of cultural difference and, in particular, understanding that certain people have certain esoteric skills and abilities.
"There is a tendency in modern society to lose sight of the special skill of experts in the case of say, vaccination scares. Populations are going to be educated in a subtle form of social understanding by playing this game. They will also learn substantive things about differences between men and women and between various other social groups. Masquerade might also familiarise youngsters with the idea that not everything on the internet is what it seems to be and might teach them techniques for investigating the authenticity of those trying to mislead them" Professor Collins added.
The research principles used to develop the app can be applied to many educational and training settings such as helping medical students learn to understand the patient's perspective, measuring the value of internships in promoting in-depth knowledge of organisational practice or testing the extent to which managers understand what goes on in different parts of their organisation.
The researchers behind the development of the app are Professor Harry Collins, Dr Rob Evans, Dr Martin Weinel, Dr Andrew Bartlett and Jennifer Smith from the School of Social Sciences and Dr Rob Davies from the School of Computer Science and Informatics. The app was produced by Cardiff digital creative agency Sequence.
Visit the Imitation Game website for further information about the research project and the SEE Network: http://blogs.cf.ac.uk/imgame/