Digital History: Designing Virtual Environments That Support Critical Thinking and Idea Exchange, Motivate and Engage Users
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In my thesis I argue for the use of system designs that: a) open access to a variety of users and allow for collaboration and idea exchange, while at the same time, b) are designed to motivate and engage users. To exemplify my proposed systems design, I created an interactive and open digital history project focused on Romanian culture and identity during Communism, from 1947, when the Communist Party took power by forcing the King to abdicate, until the revolution in 1989, which marked the end of Communism in Romania (Gilberg, 1990, Boia, 2014). In my project, I present the possibility to recreate Habermas’ notion of public sphere and “the unforced force of the better argument” (Habermas, 1989) and Dewey’s (2004) understanding of democracy as a mode of associated living imbued of the spirit of inquiry within contemporary digital history projects. Second, I outline system designs that motivate and engage users, by satisfying the basic psychological needs outlined in Ryan and Deci’s (2000) self-determination theory: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Two more concepts are included to complete the proposed digital history project design: presence (Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006) and learner hero (Rigby & Przybylski, 2009).