How well have you been reflecting on and documenting your process?
I think I have done a good job with this. I have updated my blog less than last semester (mainly because I am acquiring less precedents), but I have been writing reflections of experiences I’ve had in classrooms and during playtesting sessions.
Describe some insights you’ve made about how you work and the creative process?
I’ve found that I work best after speaking to people about my project. Input from others is vital to my work process, not only because it welcomes new ideas and perspectives, but it also allows me to discuss my ideas out loud and build upon those ideas to create new ones.
I have also learned to trust my instincts more – the overall aesthetic of my project has not changed much from the beginning, and the structure I created early on has helped me to expand upon my project as it grows and develops.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best it possibly could be), please rate:
* How well you are managing your time (8.9) * How organized you are (8) * How self-motivated you are (7) * How well disciplined your work on your thesis is (8) * How hard you have been working (8) * How much you have challenged yourself and your thesis work itself (8)
What are the challenges ahead of you?
Since my project will not be complete by May, I need to think of a very concrete plan for how to accomplish my goals after the semester is over. I am also working on a motion graphic video to introduce and demonstrate my project, which is a challenge for me, because it is very time-consuming and I am still learning how to use After Effects.
What’s your immediate plan for moving your project forward? and how you plan to move forward?
I am working on video visual to help explain my game. I am also going to work with and in more schools (as well as Parsons PLAYTECH) to do more playtesting.
What are your contingency plans if critical elements don’t work out for you?
I will look for other schools/organizations to work with. I will try to promote the game on my own instead of partnering with a larger organization.
How well have you made crucial decisions on your project? have they been arbitrary? Based on research? based upon Feedback?
I’ve taken a lot of critical feedback to heart over the course of the year. I have been open to changes and modifications so that my vision can turn into something useable and practical but still creative and explorative.
Has the inability to make decisions and clearly define your project prevented you from moving forward?
I think I was a bit murky at the beginning stages of my project about how to really make a useable game. But when I decided to work directly with students the vision and goals of my project became a lot clearer.
How much outside advice and feedback have you solicited? How many mentors/advisors have you utilized?
I have solicited a lot of feedback and advice! The meetings with Jane have been very helpful. She was also able to connect me to a bunch of other people with whom I’ve shared my game ideas. I wish those connections had been a bit more long-lasting and in-depth, but they were certainly beneficial in motivating me and moving my process along. I am also beginning to work directly with students and receiving their feedback, which is a perfect study of my target audience.
How open have you been to critical feedback? has your work evolved and become stronger because of feedback?
Yes! I began this project with a very loose idea of what I wanted to do and have gleaned a lot of feedback from gaming professionals, designers, friends, family, and students. They all have different feedback about how to make different elements of the game stronger, and it has definitely helped my process.
In what ways is your project different from your initial ideas?
I guess when I began the project I had thought that it had to be completed by May. This forced me to make decisions that would make it easiest for me to design, create, and code the game very quickly. When I decided that it would be an ongoing project, I began to expand the idea and structure of the game and allowed myself more time for testing and change.
What do you believe your craft to be?
I have found that I am most interested in design that broadens viewer perspectives and promotes empathy, understanding and advocacy.
I never really thought I would be interested in making games (mostly because I was intimidated by the coding portion of the process), but I do know that I enjoy making infographics, and I suppose this is just a much more complicated, interactive infographic.
How much are you collaborating in what ways how has that benefitted your project?
I am currently working with a few different groups of students to playtest my game. My hope is that they will be integral in the structural design of the game, since they are my target audience. In the future I hope to collaborate with a larger organization (GLSEN, GLAAD, etc.) and/or game designers/motion graphics artists/web designers to make my game more in-depth and interactive
In what ways has your project changed with the collaboration?
My project has expanded greatly with collaboration. I have been able to get input from the audience of my game, which has helped me put the scenarios into perspective.
How is collaborating challenging to you?
I’ve had several failed attempts to collaborate with people from various organizations (GLSEN, etc.) It’s tricky to work with people from large organizations. It’s also been hard at times to connect with the students and really explain my game to them in the short amount of time they have with me.
How many failures you had in proto-typing and what have you learned from them?
I don’t know if I’ve had failures per-se with prototypes, but I have certainly expanded upon them over time.
Knowing where you’re at now, what could you have done differently and what would you have changed in the process of developing your work?
I think I would have started reaching out to different people (teachers, designers) earlier to solidify my idea more quickly. I then would have had more time to work with schools to design the game.
What reactions do you have to the process this thesis section is using?
I really think that individual meetings are helpful. They give me more time to do work on my own and then an opportunity to ask concrete questions and go over weekly issues in an efficient and specific way. I also enjoyed being able to test my game with other members of my class and different faculty members.
Are you satisfied with how your thesis is progressing and the direction of your project?
What things could you be doing differently to get a higher quality of work out of yourself?
I think I could be working more hours on the graphics and the video part, but there are so many hours in a day!
What things about the class could be improved or would you like to see changed to make it more helpful to you?
I think first semester we should have had to solidify our ideas a bit sooner than we were required to. I think we also should have been told to seek out professors and other mentors that would help us along the way so that when second semester started we would already have relationships with these people and could already be gleaning their feedback.
Sharon Ostrowsky, a teacher at Quest to Learn (as well as the leader of Q2L’s GSA), has established trusting and fun relationships with the students, but is also able to maintain control and establish a sense or formality to initiate discussion amongst her students.
I first spend a bit of time with three sixth graders. They are SO young! They don’t really take part in the GSA, but they have lunch with Sharon and sometimes discuss different LGBTQ-related topics. After discussing transgender people and surrounding issues (Sharon had told the students that you don’t always know who is transgender) one of the girls became very concerned that she was going to “wake up transgender” and wasn’t sure what she should do to prevent that.
The sixth graders were generally inquisitive, and actually fairly informed for their age (although one boy did think that the “Q” in LGBTQ stood for “quasisexual”). Their inherent naïveté was actually construed as understanding and acceptance.
The eighth graders were a larger group (6 students) who elect to spend their lunch period meeting together. Usually the students (and Sharon) discuss related issues or share experiences. Some students are out (although only one is fully out), some are straight, and some, like most middle-schoolers, are floating somewhere in between overt and asexuality. I introduced the game, comparing it to the Game of Life (which mostly got me blank stares, but that might have been due to the fact that I was speaking at a rate of 400 words a minute), and told them it was a decision-based game. Perhaps I should think of a better way to quickly describe the game to a younger audience (the thesis statement that I created last semester would be way over their heads). Since we didn’t have much time to split up into groups, and it seemed that the students needed to feed off of each other for energy and dynamism, I decided instead to ask for a different volunteer for each round.
Most of the students wanted to volunteer, and pretty easily (and honestly) answered questions about coming out, reporting hate crimes, and dealing with situations that result through same-sex marriage. It was clear, however, that these kids have not travelled far outside of their comfortable New York City. “I would just ignore it if people were harassing me at work,” Kai, the troublemaker who uses his sexuality to define himself said with confidence. “What if it got worse?” I asked. “I would just ignore it.” When discussing hate crimes, Lily, a straight girl whose total speaking time during school hours is the one hour spent at GSA, said “I would just take their nose and shake them…nobody likes to be shaken by the nose” in a somewhat joking manner, although it was evident that she didn’t fully grasp the gravity and danger of the situations that LGBTQ face daily. “Can I just get married in another state and stay there for like 10 minutes and then move back?” Natalie, a girl who was really only interested it eating her sandwich, asked. I explained that even if same-sex couples get married in a different state, sometimes when they go to another state their marriage is nonexistent. Something she certainly never understood. “It seems like different states are actually different countries.” Lily wisely added.
A lot of the time that I asked a question that involved a decision, the students wanted to know if there were laws in place in the state. They quickly figured out that if the laws weren’t in place, their happiness meter would go down, which would cause them not to do as well in the game. I asked if they would prefer to know factors such as which laws were in place, if their parents would support them if they came out, etc. before they answered the question (which is what it seemed like they were requesting) but most of them said no, it’s more shocking to have those facts revealed after the decision is made. This is the biggest point that I’m currently struggling with.
After the interest in the game died down, we watched the trailer from the 2007 movie, For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary about the intersection of LGBT issues and religion. It’s a fairly adult movie, but Lily had watched it and enjoyed it and wanted to share it with the rest of the GSA, who seemed interested in the trailer, albeit on varied levels. Natalie said everyone in the video was “rude.”
Last, Raiku, an openly gay boy, shared a story about seeing a longtime friend for the first time in five years. He told her that he was gay, and she was shocked. She asked him if he held hands with boys, and he exasperatingly responded, of course. He said that was a stupid question. He seemed uncomfortable about the interaction, but unafraid to share it and share what he said and what he believed. The other students were very receptive to his story.
Next time I meet with the students I hope to have them create their own scenarios. I realized that the text I wrote in my current game is a bit over their heads, so it will be good to write some scenarios that are more relatable for them.
The goal of this game is to inform game-players about different experiences of and situations that LGBT people across the country face in everyday life. There are 7 rounds, each focusing on a different age in a LGBT person’s life. The game-player plays as this person and goes through each round, making scenario-based decisions along the way, that negatively or positively affect their well being depending on the results of their decisions.
Game-players may encounter bonus points along the way. Bonus points raise the game-player’s well being meter (which the game-player should tried to keep as full as possible). Bonus points can occur randomly or in relation to a decision (usually with a positive result) that the game-player has made.
Round 1: 15 years old (Safe Schools Laws, Coming Out)
Round 2: 22 years old (Housing Discrimination Laws)
Round 3: 24 years old (Hate Crimes)
Round 4: 26 years old (Employment Non-Discrimination Laws)
Round 5: 28 years old (Marriage Laws)
Round 6: 32 years old (Adoption Laws)
Round 7: 55 years old (Hospital Visitation Rights)
Intro: A short description of the person’s life in that round that leads into the scenario. Remember to include age!
Scenario: The conflict that arises in each round. The scenario should provide the game-player with a decision that they must make relating to the issue. The decision (usually) has two options, which will lead to different (positive, negative, or neutral) results.
Result: negative – A result that lowers the well-being meter of the game-player.
Result: positive – A result that raises the well-being meter of the game-player.
I think the most successful part of my final critique was my ability to connect my past prototypes to my future plans and create a detailed yet concise summary of my work. I was a bit nervous that the research I had done wasn’t extensive enough for the critics to get the most out of my idea and intention behind my project, but I was able to keep it loose and open enough that they were still able to make suggestions about next steps and directions. They seemed to have positive responses to my work, but obviously thought that the idea was complex will still need more thought and planning.
I am meeting with Shana next week to further discuss my project in more detail. I’m excited to get his input on how to make the game more in-depth, in terms of research and complexity, as well as ways to make it more inclusive.
Over winter break I hope to expand my research and make the questions and situations within my game more complex and compelling so that next semester I can focus more on the execution and technical aspects of the game.
For my next prototype I’m going to begin to focus on the game aspect of my project. I want to test out four different methods of questioning that I may use to frame my game. Each of these methods will pose the same set of questions in a different way. After the participates test the prototype, I will ask them which method was most compelling. This will help me to determine how to phrase my questions for the larger-scale game.
Since I had focused mainly on stereotypes and groups of people for my first prototype, I realized that I had to focus my attention on the legal aspects of my idea, and create a prototype related to the national laws that relate to LGBT rights. This was a bit more of a challenge for me, since I generally find myself more interested in and knowledgeable about the social and theoretical aspects of LGBT issues, rather than the legal. Since this aspect is much more laden with facts and precise information, and since I am less knowledgeable about the expanse and specifics of each law, I wanted to make sure that I found a valid source that could provide me with the information I needed.
After finding a succinct and accurate source, I created icons that represented each of the categories that I wanted to focus on (hate crimes, medicine, marriage, housing, safe schools/bullying, adoption, and employment) and gathered the information relating to these laws for each state. This provided me with a database that I can refer to in the future, and also helped me to understand the legal situations per state more clearly, most of which I was not familiar with.
For my second in-class prototype I wanted to create another interactive exercise. Since my target audience is only a few years younger than the age of my peers, I figure they are a good audience to practice on. I first asked the class what laws they thought of in relation to LGBT rights in the United States. Most people said marriage, but many other categories that I had included (such as hate crimes, medical rights, and adoption) were also mentioned. This helped me put my exercise into perspective and to see if there were any relevant laws that I had missed, or if any of the laws I had chosen were too complicated to use for my project.
I then gave each small group a blank map of the United States with the key indicating the meaning of each symbol next to the map. The goal of the exercise was for each group to label each state with as many laws as they could. I indicated (and to indicate if they were permitted or banned). I explained that they didn’t have to choose the correct answer – I was more interested in seeing what people’s assumptions about these laws were, because this will help me to frame how much people know about National LGBT-related laws in the future.
In the end, I asked the class for feedback about the exercise. Most people said that it was challenging but also fun (which kind of surprised me, because I never really thought about exercises that involved legal information as ‘fun.’) Ernesto asked a question about immigration rights relating to LGBT couples, and I realized that although I want to keep my focus at a National level, this was another important category to include.
Overall I’m satisfied with the way my prototype went. I was able to acquire the factual information that I need for the next steps of my project, and the class gave me good feedback about other categories to include and were generally positive about the exercise, which makes me feel more confident that my finalized project can be fun as well as informative.
I was pleasantly surprised with the results of my thesis prototyping session. Initially I was pretty worried that my project would be deemed too difficult or time-consuming of an activity and would be skipped over. It seems, though, that people were interested in participating.
My prototype was intended to be an exercise in association. I created a list of words (mainly stereotypes) that could fit into any or all of the categories (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) that I placed on a board. I asked people to place the words (as many as they wanted) into the communities with which they associated the words. This would then create four different lists of adjectives that the participants associated with these communities. I also encouraged people to create their own words to put on the board in order to create a more personalized and diverse list of results.
I was actually fairly surprised in people’s reaction to the exercise. I thought that most people would place a few words under “Gay” and walk away. But there were several people who really struggled with the exercise. Many people told me that they thought the words were too negative and harsh, and didn’t feel comfortable assigning them to a community. Although I agreed, I also argued that that was partially the point – stereotypes don’t generally make those affected by them feel particularly comfortable. I also encouraged those who felt uncomfortable putting the words on the board to think of their own, which they did.
After the exercise I sorted the results:
LESBIAN SEX GRAPHIC
A HUMAN BEING
MILITANT GENDER FEMINIST
ANAL SEX GRAPHIC
STRONG SENSE OF SELF
FLAVOR OF THE DAY
A HUMAN BEING
A HUMAN BEING
STRONG SENSE OF SELF
LGBT (Participant-Created Category)
I could look into them further and try to analyze them, but I felt that since the testing group was fairly small and the entire exercise was pretty subjective, the analysis would be equally as biased and skewed. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with the results of this experiment yet. Overall, though, I’m pleased that people responded so well (or, so intently) to the exercise. It was interesting to note that interaction, even in a non-virtual format, can be successful. I may turn these results into some sort of graphic or another constructive form of presenting the data. I would be curious to try this exercise with a different audience or a different location – perhaps in a less contained environment – maybe on the street? I’m not sure. For now I will continue to do more research that will back up my prototypes and help to create a solid foundation for my project.
I am exploring how the queer community is perceived in relation to policy and human rights issues by creating a simulation/situational game that broadens a user’s perspective in order to foster empathy and understanding within systems of education and platforms for social media.
I have begun to do some more in-depth analyses of different simulation games and activities. I first went back to one of my earliest precedents – the online game, “SPENT.” I replayed the game several times, as well as looked up some reviews of the game and had my roommate (Tile) play it.
Do I play to “win” or play the way as if it were real life and I actually had to make these decisions?
I wish there was more exploration about what healthcare/food stamps, etc. means/entails
Curveballs after decisions = BAD, no real learning or decision-making
Is there a way to ask a friend for help other than through Facebook?
Unrealistic – your landlord makes you pay for a broken window
Some decisions have consequences, some don’t? (library)
Consequences of actions? Grocery shopping?
Way to share facts?
Random confrontation questions?
“You can’t help if you don’t knew your stuff”
Situations off of other situations
Scared before playing
Relating a lot of the decisions to her personal life
“…it’s what I’ve been raised with”
Made housing decisions based on quality of life
“This is so stressful, I can’t even imagine.”
There shouldn’t be a time limit – wouldn’t think about the questions as much
“I would be really feeling this.”
Didn’t like connecting with Facebook – Internet identity/persona/apps/privacy
“This makes me feel like a bad person.”
Needs to follow you and your decisions
Already empathetic to the situation
Scarier to play online rather than offline – “in it” – design = dramatic
Paychecks helped the narrative and made it less overwhelming
Add nice things that happen?
Want to actually get the scholarship, not just apply
Need info about healthcare, “worker’s comp” etc.
More stats/numbers – less facts
Make online action affect offline action
Phone call simulation was the most effective/real
Don’t include actual people except in the end – donation incentive
Wouldn’t want to get involved – but would maybe tweet about it
Should be shorter - overwhelmed
"We’re not asking you to pretend that you’re somebody else. We’re not asking you to make the decision that you think somebody in this situation would make, given the situation. We’re asking you to make the decision as you would."
“The last option opens up a pre-written statement in Facebook where you can email one of your actual friends for “help,” bridging the gap between virtual reality and the real uneasiness of having to ask a friend for assistance. This simple act also helps spread awareness for the game by attaching a logo and small description to your request.”
“I played Spent and got through the month with a little cash to spare, but I made choices I wouldn’t make in real life, like letting my dog die to avoid a veterinary bill and denying my kid lunch money.”
"Even though the campaign is clever in its use of game mechanics to educate people about the shortcomings of America’s economic system I’ve noticed that the game’s tone had a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” caveat to every decision. In short, almost every situation presented is a curve ball. You have absolutely no luck and everything sucks, making the game very linear."
“The other criticism of the simulation aspect of the game is that you don’t get a complete bird’s eye view of the situation before you start to manage your $1000 over the coming 30 days. For example the game fails to inform you at the start that you have a kid, presumably no family to help you (although you can ask your friends on Facebook for loans or help with some tasks), a sick pet that needs expensive medical care and will incur a $350 pet fee from your mean landlord, and invariably an evil slave-driver of a boss who scoffs at worker’s comp or any benefit.”
“The nitpicker in me wishes it would cite its sources when it presents facts and statistics about life in the poverty zone.”
Brian is a 17-year-old high school senior in rural Kansas. He was raised in a Catholic family that condones any sexual attraction and activity that is not purely heterosexual. Brian uses the word “faggot” more often than he uses correct grammar, and has no intention to change his beliefs. In school, he and his friends beat up classmates for looking and acting different than what they believe is normal, or at least, like them. Brian doesn’t get particularly good grades in school, because all he cares about is football practice and hanging out with his friends after (or during) class time. One day, in health class, Brian’s teacher has his class play a computer game. Brian is intrigued, because this seems to be a more interesting activity than copying down notes or watching a badly-made movie from 20 years ago. Brian is actually pretty excited to play this game in class, (until his teacher says it’s about “diversity,”) but he decides to stay awake in class attention just a second longer.
Anna is a 29-year-old public school teacher in Maine. She teaches English to high school junior and seniors, and is generally well liked and thought of as a good and influential teacher. Anna is a great believer in collaborative education, and would also love to find ways to bring more experimental and interesting material into her classroom. She notices that her students are obsessed with their phones, ipods, and ipad, and sometimes she has to spend much more time telling her students to stop using social media or text messaging their friends in class than on actually teaching the course material. She wants to find a way to incorporate her students inherent love for these platforms into her syllabus or a work plan. She happens upon an educational game about LGBTQ rights in American society. She’s intrigued, but doesn’t know much about the issues herself, and feels that she may misrepresent the issues to her class if she teaches about them on her own. After playing the game, she notices that there is also printable information about LGBTQ rights that accompanies the situations encountered in the game. Anna is delighted – she prints out this information for all of her students, and plans to have them each play the game in class the next day and discuss it afterwards.
Jesse is 15 years old. For years, she has felt different. She feels trapped and confused, and unlike any other student in school or in her town. She doesn’t feel comfortable talking to her distant parents, and she barely has any supportive friends or mentors at school. She, like many young teens, goes to the Internet for help. She happens upon a simulation game that assigns her a character – a transgender man. She plays the game several times, as several different characters. She also reads the information that accompanies the game. She decides to bring this game to the teacher in school that she feels closest too – she hopes that maybe they can discuss this game with the class, or maybe just between the two of them.
Juan is 35 years old and works for an LGBTQ activist organization in New York City. His organization focuses on spreading awareness about policy and legal discrepancies surrounding LGBTQ rights around the country. People have heard of his organization, but they are having trouble acquiring members and even spreading awareness. He has set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for his organization, but he does not have as many followers and fans as he hopes. He and his fellow members realize that they need to target a younger audience that will want to stick with his group for a long period of time and help to shape it in the future. Out of all of the members of the organization, he is the most “tech savvy,” so he has been dealt the task to remedy this problem. Juan starts looking around on the Internet for ways to involve younger people in policy issues, and happens upon an interactive game that deals with LGBTQ rights. He’s intrigued, and also excited that there is accompanying information to the game that he could draw facts from for his organization’s Facebook page and Twitter account. He posts this game online as well, and suddenly, his current fans and followers begin reposting and reblogging it. Not only that, but the organization is getting several more fans and followers a day than they had in the past. Juan decides that his organization should hold a meeting in the near future, and hopes that these new online fans will join them offline as well.
-Educational material/activities related to diversity/LGBTQ rights
-Educational methods for high-school senior-aged students
-Other LGBT-related campaigns/games (?)
-Sex and Gender syllabus
-Check for sources to read
-Queer Culture syllabus
-Check for sources to read
-Emic and Etic – interviews
-Text response prototype
-Outline of Syllabus
-Outline of classroom/workshop activities to accompany game
3/2. User Testing:
-Adults/children (outside of target audience) (?)
-Members of target audience
(The order of the creation of prototypes and user testing will be interchangeable because as I test certain prototypes I will create new and different prototypes based on my user testing results and findings.)
I found the mid-term critique pretty helpful. It forced me to solidify my ideas into a more succinct summary and eventual project. I realized that my 5x5 was interesting and successful, but I also did not feel very excited or challenged by its prospect. I felt that the idea was going in too stagnant of a direction that was not open to exploration (of myself, my ideas, etc.).
I decided to rethink my goals and interests. I started to think of things that I was constantly talking and thinking about. I brainstormed ideas related to topics that have and/or still do compel(led) me. I realized that the incorporation of social media/the Internet and queer issues were both important realms that I needed to include. I then started to break down these two topics in order to find commonalities between them. I realized that the strongest connecting link between these two topics was the idea of communities, or, at least, “pseudo-communities.” I’m really interested in online interaction – especially how groups of people interact on and offline – and if these communities even exist in an offline realm in the same way that they do online.
I was a bit nervous that my ideas would not translate in presentation form (especially in only 5 minutes!), but it seems that I was able to get my point across. I did get pretty good feedback, however. I began to rethink my project a bit – and not to only target those who identify outside of the queer community, but to make my project applicable to those who define as queer as well – because there’s always more aspects to a community that one can empathize with, even if they’re in it.
I also have to think about where this project will be housed if the game and educational material will be available in a cohesive website where teachers/workshop leaders can access the game as well as the accompanying education information/syllabus/workplan.
From the suggestions during the critique, I’ve compiled a list of next steps for my thesis:
Find a way to define my topic and project in one or two clear, detailed sentence
Explore more theories related to communities, queer culture, etc. as well as do a more in-depth analysis of Jenkins’s Participatory Culture theory
Talk to professors, etc. about my topic
Further develop how the gaming aspect will be incorporated into my thesis – start designing prototypes, etc
Interview people who define as within the queer culture – for real-life testimonies for the game
I still have a lot of things to figure out, adapt, and change, but the midterm crit definitely helped me to put my project plans into perspective and overall made me feel more at ease (and also more excited!) about the months to come!
The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other ‘good’ kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, ‘burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids,’ ‘art fags,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.
“Adolescents need to learn how to integrate knowledge from multiple sources, including music, video, online databases, and other media. They need to think critically about information that can be found nearly instantaneously through out the world. They need to participate in the kinds of collaboration that new communication and information technologies enable, but increasingly demand. Considerations of globalization lead us toward the importance of understanding the perspective of others, developing a historical grounding, and seeing the interconnectedness of economic and ecological systems.”—Bertram C. Bruce (2002)
“Look at it this way: Near the end of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara asks Rhett Butler what she’s supposed to do with the rest of her life, and he says that (frankly) he doesn’t give a damn. Now, the meaning of those lines can be interpreted in many ways. However, what if that dialogue happened only sometimes? What if this scene played out differently for every person who watched Gone with the Wind? What if Rhett occasionally changed his mind, walked back into the house, and said, ‘Just kidding, baby’? What if Scarlett suddenly murdered Rhett for acting too cavalier? What if the conversation were sometimes interrupted by a bear attack? And what if all these alternative realities were dictated by the audience itself? If Gone with the Wind ended differently every time it was experienced, it would change the way critics viewed its message. The question would not be ‘What does this mean?’ The question would be ‘What could this mean?’”—Chuck Klosterman
Today I attended the Mobility Shifts discussion, “Education (in so many words): Online Short Form Dialogue and Narrative in Learning Communities” led by Henry Jenkins and Elizabeth Losh. I was interested in this talk because I have been familiar with Jenkins’s work since few I wrote a paper about his Participatory Culture theory in opposition to Adorno and Horkheimer’s Consumer Culture theory within the scope of fan culture and online fan participation a few years ago.
I have always been interested in the ways that online communities and communication are formed and remain a longstanding force and presence within a culture or phenomenon, regardless of the significance of the relationships that these people build on and/or offline. Through my studies of Adorno and Horkheimer’s works compared to Jenkins, I came to the conclusion that the unavoidable pressures of advertising and consumption are not forces to fight, necessarily, but perhaps aspects of our culture and society that can be turned on their heads to produce and communicate in other formed communities – anti-communities, extensions of cultures with common interests and goals. These communities, generally started online due to the expedience of widespread communication and connection, provide opportunities and outlets for those who have an immense amount of passion, interest, or opinion about an issue to converse and create. Although many argue that the Internet, particularly any form of interaction via Web 2.0, can be isolating and a catalyst for a generation of narcissists, I believe that using the Internet as any form of media that has come before it – in a critical, interactive way – can (and will) drastically change the forces of society and cultural implications that surround us.
Jenkins and Losh spoke (all too briefly) about the role of Participatory Culture in educational environments (specifically, in public school systems). Jenkins and Losh discussed that the solution to the standardization of education is through direct engagement, but not necessarily the tools provided within the Web 2.0 spectrum. Instead of utilizing technological advancements, gadgets, and other forms of electronic media (which most public institutions do not have access to), it is important for teachers and school systems to implement social and cultural practices that change the way school environments are run – from the bottom up.
Jenkins and Losh argued that the Internet and technology are being sorely misused in educational settings, and I agree. They state that not only is the potential for Participatory Culture reduced significantly depending on the access students and teachers have to media, but teachers are much less likely to adapt new and creative forms and uses of technology into their educational curriculums in fear that they will be fired for not teaching to the book.
I constantly find myself dancing around this issue – how do social media systems and other forms of participatory Internet interfaces play a (significant) role in our everyday lives? Where does one draw the lines between socially integrated, socially acceptable and socially isolating? How do we use tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to implement change, innovation, and progress, instead of narcissism, isolation, and stagnant observation?
Jenkins and Losh also touched on the issues of incorporating a more participatory standard into their classroom environment – those of inappropriate participation, or, more commonly, an even greater lack of participation in the classroom. They discussed the issue of public schools becoming so focused on standardizing their methods of education in order to succeed on tests that supposedly measure intellect and problem-solving. They explained that students become so mainstreamed into the way they respond to assignments and other forms of learning that when they are offered a more open and participatory form of education, they are unable to utilize to the best of their ability. It is the job of the teacher, then, to implement a strategy that provides opportunities for success for these students while utilizing this technology – teachers cannot just expect students to utilize the technology they incorporate into their every day lives the same way within a classroom environment.
Jenkins and Losh were clearly conflicted about this issue as well – it’s impractical to totally disregard Web 2.0 as a helpful and important part of the way in which the Internet is used today, especially because they are universal tools that connect millions of people worldwide. But some aspects of these mediums, such measuring popularity through likes or views, is detrimental to the foundations of the idea of Participatory Culture, because it is not the “success” of the participation that matters, but more about if the participation pushes a user (and the observers) towards further process, reflection, and articulation of the ideas and creations shared. This same question can be applied when using media within a classroom setting – even if the technological assets are very minimal.