Knowledge Work

Lesson 7: Knowledge Work
C&I 675: Researching Virtual Worlds
Dr. Constance Steinkuehler
Spencer Striker

Using online (in- and out-of-game) WoW resources, find the answer to one genuine question related to your character class. Using the articles as the basis, trace your problem solving process & the resources you were able to leverage toward developing an answer.


· Thomas, D. (2009). Scalable learning: From simple to complex in World of Warcraft. On the Horizon, 17(1), 35-46.

· Steinkuehler, C. & Duncan, S. (2009). Informal scientific reasoning in online virtual worlds. Journal of Science Education & Technology.

“Where can I get the best gun possible for my Dwarf Hunter?”

I started with this simple question, which led me down the rabbit’s hole of inquiry and investigation. Naturally, there was no direct or best answer. In fact, the answer changed over time, as my character leveled up, accumulated more money, and unlocked more areas of the map. Concomitantly, the answer changed as I learned more about the World of Warcraft, investigated more online and offline resources, consulted experts, and of course learned to ask better and more informed questions.

The process of discovering where and how to obtain the best possible gun for my Dwarf Hunter required me to utilize an informal scientific methodology, starting out with a research question that led to an intensive engagement with the bricolage of resources available. The process of inquiry was complimented by hands-on trial and error exploration. Ultimately, I arrived at a temporarily satisfactory conclusion—one that will need to be reexamined and updated at a later time, when the field inevitably advances, (ie. my character grows stronger and richer and certain elements of the world update and other relevant information refreshes).

The answer turns out to be that the level 15 gunsmith, Irene Sureshot, who lives in a remote community on the southeastern edge of Loch Modan, sells a Large Bore Blunderbuss, which costs a hefty 35 silver and 83 copper.

But getting to that information was no easy feat.

The journey of scientific inquiry first began when I asked Adrian—our Virtual Worlds resident expert—on the first day of class which hunter and class he recommended I choose. He recommended a Hunter Dwarf because the character would eventually be able to deal lethal amounts of damage per second, but not until I’d acquired a tank pet that I could sick on enemies, and a powerful gun that I could meanwhile use to blast them from a distance. I did not get a pet until level 10, and even then, I got the wrong kind of pet, (a spider), having to do research, consult, and explore through trial error, in order to figure out how to abandon my spider and then tame an Elder Black Bear, (which I later learned I could rename Hrothgar). I then attacked the question of how to obtain the best gun possible—an inquiry that required several attempts before I arrived at a satisfactory conclusion.

I studied a variety of resources—almost entirely online—including World of Warcraft’s massive forums, WoWWiki, Thotbot, Wowhead, Curse, and the Game Manual. I experimented with a variety of Google searches including such terms as: “…hunter dwarf best gun merchant gunsmith loch modan blunderbuss ironforge rifle auction where how to most damage per second dps…” etc., in different orders and combinations, unearthing various nerd conversations from the recesses of the Internet, living and dead.

I paid attention to the conversation threads of fellow players in the world in order to immerse myself in WoW’s discourse, unconsciously becoming more confident of what I knew and didn’t know about how the world worked and where best guns for a hunter dwarves can be found. And once again, I consulted my local expert, Adrian, both online (via in game text) and offline (in person). He could not be certain where such a gun existed exactly but believed it could be found either via an auction in Ironforge or via concentrated research like I described above. Finally, I continued to explore the map either through the in game overview layout, hovering over different elements and reading about them, and via running around the World of Warcraft ‘in person,’ both living and dead. (Dead exploring has certain advantages, like the fact that you can’t be killed…again).

The key breakthrough came via a combination of different strands of research. I learned that the right search term was ‘gunsmith loch modan’ which revealed the page on Thotbot, which had since become my favorite resource site for its clear presentation highlighted by maps. I discovered that Irene Sureshot, the gunsmith, dwelled in a remote area of the map I’d been exploring for days, though I had never uncovered her neck of the woods. By keeping the Thotbot page open in the browser and using ‘windowed’ mode in WoW, I followed the in game map to her position, unlocking a whole new section of Loch Modan, and simultaneously the achievement for having fully explored the area. Irene did indeed sell the strongest gun I’d yet encountered.

Combining the Large Bore Blunderbuss with various spells, such as the Aspect of the Hawk, and my leveled up tank pet, Hrothgar, I had at last become what I set out to become in the beginning—a mean, lean, Dwarf Hunter, dps machine. And I had arrived at this glorious moment via a long, arduous process of informal scientific inquiry, reasoning, trial and error, and discovery.