In your review of my manuscript you made
some comments that I felt were highly useful for improving the paper, both in
terms of content and readability. As I
now submit a new version of the manuscript, let me comment on how I have
addressed the points you make.
Moira: The title of your article is clearly
about making connections between two big ideas, and so as a reader I was
expecting to find links throughout about them both, which would finally lead to
conclusions about your findings. And I imagined the connections you would be
making would constitute a genuine and original contribution to Living Theory
research. Certainly I’ve read nothing of this kind in a Living Theory context
before, so I was eagerly anticipating the chance to review something of overt
originality and creativity.
In terms of setting off on my reading-journey,
I was expecting from the title that some description and analyses would be
required in terms of familiarising the reader with the Pac-Man game (as most
readers would come to this journal as Living Theorists or people with an
interest in Living Theory).
Petter: The title you refer to is “Towards
Living Theory as a Social Movement: On the use of Pac-Man video game models in
TQM research”. When Jack read an earlier version of the paper, called “Using
the Pac-Man game for translating living theories on total quality management
from educational institutions to government agency”, he found it interesting in
terms of how it could be seen as a contribution to the development of Living
Theory into a social movement. To me
this was exciting because my aim was originally only to communicate the idea of
how video games like Pac-Man could be used for extracting insights from Living
Theory accounts without necessarily seeing the larger picture about the social
movement. Nevertheless, by making it
easier to interpret Living Theories through game theory structures, it would
certainly become easier to communicate insights from accounts across widely
different fields, so I agree that seeing this in the context of the making of a
social movement is indeed a tremendously important point.
However, I then made the mistake of
changing the title of the paper from “Using the Pac-Man game for translating
living theories on total quality management from educational institutions to
government agency” into “Towards Living Theory as a Social Movement: On the use
of Pac-Man video game models in TQM research”.
While the original title explains what the paper was all about, the new
title was about the implications of the paper.
As I see by reading your comments, this was a fundamental mistake as it
gives the reader a totally wrong impression on what to expect.
I have now chosen a new title “Evaluation
of the Pac-Man game as a tool for extracting structural insights from Living
Theory accounts” to emphasise that the “two big ideas” that I want to explore
are (1) the readability of Living Theory accounts and (2) the Pac-Man game as a
On the other hand, when it comes to your
expectations for the reading-journey, I agree.
The intent was indeed that the paper was written for an audience that is familiar with Living Theories but less familiar with Pac-Man. It was written with the intent of having
people with background in Living Theory research ask themselves what can be
gained from game theory, educational game studies and in particular what I say
about the Pac-Man model.
Moira: The Abstract, however, apart from the
final sentence, doesn’t offer an overview of the paper, but argues through some
complex ideas instead. It’s important, I feel, to offer the reader a framework
into which the ideas can become more articulate through their explicit
Petter: I would not agree that the abstract
does not offer an overview of the paper, as the argument is indeed a summary of
the paper. However, I agree that it
perhaps got unnecessary complex due to the way I spend too much of the abstract
on the motivational part (about social movement) and too little on the essence
of the paper which has to do with the experiment on how to develop necessary
Pac-Man skills for translating Living Theory accounts. Inspired by your quote from Oliver Wendel
Holmes about reaching simplicy on the other side of complexity, I have now
rewritten the abstract from scratch.
Moira: In the Introduction, similarly, I
couldn’t see the signposting that would help me to navigate through your text.
At a simple level I was expecting something similar to: ‘first I will do this,
and then I will do this and from this point I will’…’and this will show etc..
Then you make an assumption which I believe isn’t sufficiently argued or
substantiated and that is about the equation – as you present it – between TQM
and Living Theory, as if such a connection already exists sufficiently to be
theorised about. I am not sure this is the case and it needs qualifying in some
way so that it’s clearer.
In addition, you don’t state the intentions of the paper until p. 3 when
The aim of the study is to investigate this WikiHow strategy
as a means for becoming competent at Pac-Man and thus be able to translate
Living Theory studies of TQM implementation from one context to another.
Perhaps this needed to be placed right at the beginning in order for the
reader to be able to follow the purposes and processes of the text.
Petter: I think the introduction became too
complex when I tried to make use of Living Theory as Social Movement as a
motivational factor. I have now
rewritten this chapter completely. The introduction
now follows a sequence of three steps, as follows:
First the paper is motivated by the belief
that TQM Living Theory could be used for solving the problem that about 80% of
all TQM efforts fail, if it had not been for the fact that it can be difficult
to understand how a TQM living theory account from one domain can or should be
understood in the context of a different domain.
Secondly, I point out that game scholars
have suggested using video games as a way of translating skill-oriented
insights from one domain to another, and I suggest how I could test this idea
in the context of Living Theories by trying to extract insights from
Whitehead’s Living Theory account in my own account by way of how I have
previously written about Pac-Man. I then
explain the Pac-Man idea for the Living Theory audience.
Thirdly, I point out that making use of
video game models requires skills at playing, so what I want to find out is how
much time and effort is needed in order to develop this level of skill by
following a learning strategy like the WikiHow strategy. This exposition leads to the “aim of the
study” sentence you refer to above, and I conclude the introduction by giving a
structural overview of the paper.
Moira: In the main body of the text there is
are too many pages given over to the description of the Pac-Man video game and
your own specific attempts both to master the skills and see the connections.
However, I feel that much of this description of how the game works would have
been better off in an Appendix, with your description and explanation for the
mastery of the game and consequent connections to be made with LT presented as
a process of living-theory itself as the whole purpose of your paper. Pip
mentioned this in her reviews on the Community Space and you responded by
suggesting you were going to look at her – and Jack’s – responses and then
submit your paper for review. It doesn’t seem to me that you’ve done this
sufficiently at all in terms of the sheer length of your descriptions. At the
moment, Living Theory – and particularly Living Theory as a social movement -
seems to come second to your absorption in the Pac-Man video game.
And I think this over-writing of the descriptions without making overt
connections to their relevance to your title (which is about looking at Living
Theory as a social movement through a new lens) is a major imbalance within the
This would need to be ironed out before I would be
willing to recommend it for publication in EJOLTS.
Petter: It is true that Pip suggested that
the main part of the paper could be slimmed down by moving much into an
appendix (Friday, 30 October 2015), but my
response was not that I agreed to this being a good idea. On the contrary, my response (Monday, 2
November 2015) was that I was getting the impression that she was reading my
paper as a “LET account”, which it was clearly NOT, and I was indeed very
reluctant to make the kind of changes she suggested as that would destroy the paper. She then responded to that it a very nice
manner (Wednesday, 4 November 2015), and after further discussion with her and
Jack, I was told (Monday, 9 November 2015) that the only thing that needed to
be updated before they could recommend it for review process was a reference to
social movement in the abstract and some specific comments in the final part of
the conclusions that I have added exactly as suggested.
Please remember that this is not a “LET
account”. It is a study of using the WikiHow strategy for becoming sufficiently
skilled at Pac-Man for the purpose of using the video game to translate between
LET accounts. This is something Pip and
I discussed a lot on the Community Space; the difference between “LET account”
and “LET research”. In retrospect I
wonder if it had been easier to set the kind of expectations I had been hoping
for if I had submitted the paper as a “theoretical paper”. In a sense it is a strictly theoretical paper
concerning itself with methods of extracting insights for LET accounts and
categorising them. But, it is not really
a theoretical paper. It is an empirical
paper aiming to suggest how much time and effort is needed for becoming
sufficiently proficient at Pac-Man for making use of the model as a translation
tool between LET accounts.
When I apply the method of action research
as means of researching “how can I improve my practice as a Pac-Man player”,
this is more like a simulation study than Living Theory action research. It is not based on any value judgements
beyond my need for developing a sufficient level of skill and it is evaluated
by numerical measurements rather than by some group of critical
colleagues. There is no need for having a
validation group or anybody making subjective comments on how I am developing
as a Pac-Man player as the necessary feedback is provided by the time chart
that is investigated through the use of logarithmic regression.
All of this is described in detail, trying
to follow Einstein’s “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not
simpler”. However, I can understand your
reaction as this is technical writing that is necessary for the purpose of
testing the WikiHow strategy rather than a biographical story about somebody
making efforts to live out his values of love, cooperation, justice and so
on. The Pac-Man self-improvement study is
not emotional or biographical like that at all.
It is a technical study of learning how to play Pac-Man with the intent
of using the Pac-Man model as a tool for translating insights from these kind
of fascinating biographies, from one context into the other, like how I see
similarities between Jack’s experiences in the educational institutions and my
own in the government agency.
The only way I can think of to “iron out”
the relationship between the title of the research paper and the content of the
paper, as I see it, is by way of admitting that the title was poorly
Moira: There is another imbalance is also discernible in some of your
use of language such as on p. 30 completely out of place in EJOLTS. You write:
“The autobiographical story told by Øgland (2013) is similar to
Whitehead’s story in many ways. Like Whitehead he is trying to help a group of
people to develop as responsible professionals by living according to his
ideals of care, trust and workplace democracy while observing how such ideals
are often difficult to follow when they are inconsistent with the values
expressed by the institution itself. He consequently tells a story about
implementing TQM through the use of critical theory for the purpose of aiding
members of the organisation against institutional oppression.”
Whether or not your intention is conscious, this kind of writing
(putting ‘the researcher’ instead of ‘I’) goes way beyond the merely
linguistic. The researcher in such an account is ‘out there, distant, not
personally identified with’. ‘I’, on the other hand, as the narrator of the
action and reflection, takes responsibility for the words on the page and the
living meanings behind them. This
is a fundamental problem with this paper, to my mind. It is also something that Pip
commented on in her responses to your earlier submission.
Why do I see this as such a problem? Your use of the
third person places a writer’s view of knowledge and theorising as remote from
the author’s, i.e. from yours.
Yet you are central to this whole process. This is your paper, your processes,
your ideas, your originality and creativity, throughout. The way you’re writing
about it is as something ungrounded in living relationships and values and
developing over time (Laidlaw, 1996). Yet you have an intention: to make
connections in order to facilitate deeper learning, not only in others, but
also in yourself. Using the apparently safe, and objective title of ‘the
researcher’, you miss out on a closer analysis and synthesis that would have
been possible if you had included as central your own processes of learning.
Petter: The use of ‘the researcher’ rather
than ‘I’ is something I discussed with Pip on the Community Space, and the
point is the same that I have been trying to make over and over again. In a paper like this, when I focus on making
theoretical or methodological contributions to Living Theory practice, the aim
of the study is not to develop Living Theory about my own practice. The aim of the study is to investigate the
WikiHow strategy for learning how to play Pac-Man at a level where it becomes
possible to use the video game model as a tool for extracting structural
insights from a LET account to be used in another account. When I refer to ‘the researcher’ rather than
‘I’ in this context, it is exactly because I want to place myself in the
background as something ‘out there, distant, no personally identified with’, as
you say, while the Pac-Man model as a research tool occupies the central place
If I had submitted a paper called “A living
theory account of trying to implement total quality management by mean of
critical systems thinking”, and then kept on referring to myself as ‘the
researcher’ rather than ‘I’, then I would agree with you that this would be
problematic. However, that would be a
completely different type of paper.
Actually, I have also been working on a paper using that particular
title, but that is a paper that will build on the ideas presented in this
paper, so I need to get this paper published first. In the case of this paper, I find it highly
problematic to refer to myself as ‘I’ as I feel that would imply that I was
writing about something that had to do with living relationships, values and
developing over time, which is precisely what it is not.
The very point of the paper is to use a
mathematical model (the Pac-Man game) to address LET accounts in an objective
manner without living relationships, values and time because I want to use the
model for connecting LET accounts that express different living relationships,
different values and different developments over time. In order to discuss values and variation we
have to have standards for comparing.
The Pac-Man model is such a standard.
It is just a video game. It is a
thing. It does not have values,
relationships and evolution over time.
The purpose of my paper is to argue that standards like these are
important communication standards that we can use for extracting structural
insights from reading LET accounts by people we did not expect to have anything
in common with and suddenly realise that we may have very much in common
This is how I felt when I read Jack
Whitehead’s book “The growth of educational knowledge” (1993), and that is how
I feel with some of the EJOLTS artices and LET videos I watch on YouTube. I live in a different world from these
people, but still I get touched by their LET accounts, and I want to translate
those insights into something that gives meaning to me. The Pac-Man model is a tool for making such
translations, but it comes at a cost, and the purpose of this paper is to
investigate this cost.
Moira: I have a rather sweeping suggestion,
Petter. I’m proposing you couch the whole paper as your own Living Theory
enquiry, i.e. setting up what you wanted to do from your 2009 insights to the
present day in terms of your findings about Pac-Man acting as a useful tool in
seeing the dimensions of Living Theory as a social movement, with its personal
and developmental value to you in terms of making connections both intellectual
and experiential. In this account, whose main middle section already has the
shape of an action-reflection cycle (McNiff, 2013), you could show the
development of growing insights (captured in the title to the paper) about the
usefulness to Living Theory of making connections between the learning enabled
by engaging in the processes of the Pac-Man video game and Living Theory as a
social movement. In this way it could become an original and creative
contribution to Living Theory research itself. I also think it would facilitate
the readers’ orientation to your stimulating ideas. As it stands your writing
sits awkwardly, in my opinion, between an analysis of the Pac-Man game and
connections to be made with Living Theory as a social movement. As a result, I
am left at the end of the paper not really fully understanding what the paper
Petter: As I mentioned, I am considering a
follow-up on the current paper with a paper that is for the present called “A
living theory account of trying to implement total quality management by mean
of critical systems thinking”, and one way of focusing this paper could be by
means of how I focused on the Pac-Man model as a strictly conceptual model in
2009 while I know think of it as a “living model” (i.e. that it is not
sufficient only to know what it is but we also need to be skilled at playing
it), and tell about my journey from there to here. However, batching these two ideas together
would in my opinion make one bad paper rather than two potentially good ones.
Why is it so important to me to have this
paper published in EJOLTS the way it is?
What is the paper for, as you say?
The purpose of the paper is to propose a solution to the problem of how
we can translate insights from one LET account into another. Is this a relevant problem for the EJOLTS
community? I don’t know, but for me it
is a relevant problem. I have read
Jack’s 1993 account where he tells stories about how he was fighting
institutional oppression and dealing with all kinds of challenges and problems,
and I found it an extremely important book because he captured so many of the
emotional experiences I have had in my work-life. Usually we don’t hear the stories of
alarmists and people who dare to speak up against authorities, and when we hear
such stories it is usually in the shape of how they had to pay the price of
loosing the jobs, families, and all sorts of sad consequences. Jack’s story, however, is different. It is extremely positive because, as far as I
can see, he is one of the few people who got out in the other end of the tunnel
as a celebrated hero and the father of a new way of thinking about action
I think it would be sad if only those
“brainwashed” into the way of doing Living Theory research by means of writing
Living Theory accounts were to prevent the rest of the social research
community from sharing from these immensely important stories, and thus be prevented
from getting enrolled in the Living Theory community where they could help the
community evolve into a social movement.
I find it almost paradoxical that some of us almost have to fight
getting published in EJOLTS in a similar way as Jack was fighting to get
published and have is work recognised in more traditional scientific outlets.
However, I was touched by how Jack
responded to my paper on the Community Space, and I see that each and every
person I have met at EJOLTS mean well and try to help. To me it is important to get the current
paper published in EJOLTS without having it destroyed in attempts to make it
fit into formats that are incompatible with the research question and research method. What is the paper for, you ask. The paper is written for EJOLTS with the
intent of raising debate about models like the Pac-Man game for extracting
structural knowledge from individual LET accounts and to improve communication
Moira: In conclusion, there are three areas that need to be reworked
before I can recommend publication. Both are concerned with originality and
creativity, and readability:
description and explanation of the Pac-Man game as a helpful metaphor for
Living Theory as a social movement more overt and clearly spelled out for the
reader. This would entail changing the lens through which you’re currently
writing – from someone distancing himself from what he is doing, to someone
immersing himself in the process and becoming one with it. This would give you
insights that an outsider-perspective cannot. Living Theory is created through
immersion, not distance, through living rather than theorising about it
2) Connected with this would be the judicious pruning of descriptions about
the game to an appendix. This would enable deliberations about the significance
of the game’s processes as a way of seeing Living Theory as a social movement
to take place more upfront. At the moment they appear to be almost
3) You need an overt structure by which the reader can navigate their way
through your text. You need to let them know the significance of what they’re
going to read, what they’re reading and what they’ve read. This isn’t about
talking down to your reader, Petter, but helping your reader to cope with some
very complex and intricate ideas.
Connected to the overall readability are some examples of technical
weaknesses that you need to look at.
Petter: When it comes to your three areas in
need of rework, my impression is that they reflect the idea that the body of
the paper should be changed to match what you saw as the intent of the
title. As I have said above, I think the
title was wrong in the sense that it gave the EJOLTS reader wrong
expectations. When I have now changed
the title, change the abstract, change the introduction, changed the conclusion,
and made effort in trying to improve some language issues in the rest of the
paper, I hope it will be possible to find a path forwards towards publications
without having to destroy the paper as it is now.
Concerning the details of your three
points, in the first point you describe the Pac-Man model as a metaphor. This is not what the paper is about. In my 2009 paper I used the Pac-Man model as
a metaphor, but that was not sufficient when we want to learn skills. The central point of the educational game
scholarship is that playing games is learning by simulation. It is not sufficient just to think of a
political scenario as thought it were a Pac-Man game, we also need a certain
level of skill at Pac-Man to be able to understand what that means in
practice. An aeroplane pilot needs to
spend time with flight simulators before he can be allowed to experiment with
real planes. A flight simulator is not a
metaphor. It is a video game. In other words, in such a context my research
question would be along the lines of how much time and effort does it take to
learn how to operate a flight simulator in order to become sufficiently skilled
to be able to understand the practice of real flying. I understand you mean well with your
suggestions on how to change the writing style by going from distancing towards
immersion, but as I have explained in previous paragraphs, I think this would
be the wrong approach considering the nature of this particular type of LET
research I describe.
Your second point has to do with moving the
technical aspects of the Pac-Man theory and experiments towards an appendix in
order to make it easier to understand the study as a LET account. As I have explained above, my LET research is
not a LET account, and I cannot see how moving any aspects of the central part
of the paper into an appendix could do anything but reducing the quality of the
paper and ultimately destroy it with respect to what it is trying to
Your third point is that I need an overt
structure that makes it easier for the reader to navigate through the
text. To me this comment explains the
previous two comments. As you point out
in the beginning of your review, the title gave the reader certain expectations
of what the paper was about, and the abstract and introduction were not sufficiently
helpful for making the paper easy to read.
As a consequence of this, I have change the title, rewritten the
abstract and rewritten the introduction in a manner that I believe should improve
make the paper easier to understand.
Included is a revised version of the
manuscript. I feel I have something
important to contribute to the EJOLTS community with this paper, and my hope is
that the conversation we are having as part of the review process will
gradually help to convince you, Moira, and the rest of the review team that the
paper has been written with a particular style and structured in a particular
manner for the purpose of presenting the ideas and results it contains in an
effective manner. My hope is that the
paper can be recommended for publication without making the adjustments described
in your summary points 1 and 2, as I feel the rationale behind those
adjustments are based on a misunderstanding of what the paper aims to do, and
that we can reach agreement that the current style and structure is the type of
style and structure that is most useful for this kind of LET research (summary
This is a paper I have spent almost two
years writing for the single purpose of having it published in EJOLTS, as I
believe it makes an important contribution to Living Theory methodology, so if
it were to be rejected (heaven forbid!!!) I would like to have it rejected on
grounds of there being no interest in the problem of translating LET accounts,
or that my suggested solution of using game theory for addressing this problem
being unacceptable for some I reason I can understand, but I would be extremely
disappointed if I were told that this was interesting and important “LET
research” but unfortunately unpublishable as it was not presented in the format
of a traditional “LET account”.