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.
For my 5 x 5 assignment I created 5 different campaigns for DoSomething.org related to LGBT issues. I was inspired by one of DoSomething’s current campaigns, "Step Up to Bullying", which encourages participants to “step up,” or intervene in bullying situations. DoSomething includes “Gay Rights” as one of their causes, but has never centered a campaign on an LGBT issue. LGBT bullying is extremely prevalent and more common in school environments than most would suspect, and in some cases can be life-threatening and even fatal. Although most of DoSomething’s audience is younger than the normal age of those who are sexually self-aware, LGBT awareness and promotion of the importance of being an ally is imperative in quelling the bullying and harassment issue around LGBT issues.
There are several existing campaigns that are related to this issue. The "It Gets Better" campaign, for example, has been immensely successful in rallying support from large corporations, celebrities, and everyday people – sharing success stories about growing up as an LGBT person. IGB does have some controversial opinions, however (such as, “what if it doesn’t get better?”), and also may not appeal to young adults on a more intimate level because most of the popular videos created are made by adult celebrities or employees of large corporations. I wanted to create a campaign that was aimed at youth, created by youth.
I think most people responded positively to my 5 x 5 work. I realize that my project was pretty in-depth and therefore I might not have been able to explain it in its fullest form – but I think that most people seemed to understand the general idea. The most common form of feedback I received from the critique was to choose one campaign and develop it fully. I decided to go with the “Don’t Say Gay” campaign because it was the most original and expandable of the campaigns I created.
A few months ago the "Don’t Say Gay" Bill was passed in Tennessee. This outrageous piece of legislation has made it illegal for teachers to discuss homosexuality (or even say the word “gay”) in classrooms with students younger than ninth grade. In many other states throughout the country this rule exists even without the instatement of the bill – and not only keeps students misinformed about non-heteronormative sexuality, but also perpetuates LBGT-related stereotypes and encourages LGBT-related bullying and hate.
I decided to turn this on its head in order to prevent the spread of this situation. The “Don’t Say Gay” campaign will encourage participants to respond when they hear a friend or classmate using words that may be hurtful to themselves or friends who identify as LGBT. By telling their friends these words are hurtful (with the help of stickers/buttons/flyers provided by DoSomething.org), participants will be able to help decrease the amount of hurtful words used, intentionally or unintentionally; most young adults use words without knowing what they mean or whom they are hurting.
So far I have a brief outline of the campaign including the mission, sponsor, related celebrities, and a short description of the campaign. I have created a landing page for the microsite as well. For the mid-term review I plan on expanding this campaign. I will do more in-depth research about LGBT-related bullying in school settings and explore other organizations that could be possible partners for this campaign (GLSEN, It Gets Better, HRC, The Trevor Project, etc.). I will also mock up a mobile application that can be used in addition to the stickers/buttons/flyers as a resource and a form of promotional awareness.
My goal is to propose this campaign to DoSomething and encourage them to launch it as an future campaign.