Reading Blog 16 – November 9, 2015

“Chapter 1: What is Twitter?” (p. 1-13) by Dhiraj Murthy from “Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age.”

This week’s reading is talking about the social media platform of Twitter. Twitter has been a recent internet craze that people are using to publish personal content. Murthy talks about how Twitter is a form of a microblog because it is like a daily log or journal of your activities. People publish content on Twitter without expecting any sort of response. They just do it in order to post information or news about themselves, so that people can get to know them on a global scale. Because of this, Murthy emphasizes how Twitter is a form of social media, rather than social networking. For social networking sites such as Facebook, the main purpose is to create connections between people. Social networking sites are very publishing-oriented, while social media sites (such as Twitter) are very broadcast-based. Social media is more about people being aware of a certain person’s content, rather than creating global connections between people. Twitter is much more focused on its audience rather than sites like Facebook, because you are publishing pieces of yourself, and you don’t really know who’s receiving this information. Murthy calls this “interactive multicasting,” in which people don’t really care who sees or hears what they tweet, as long as it IS being seen or heard. Therefore, Twitter is such an important part of technology because it’s creating vital changes within digital communication.

Links:

  1. “What Facebook and Twitter Mean For News” – http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2012/mobile-devices-and-news-consumption-some-good-signs-for-journalism/what-facebook-and-twitter-mean-for-news/
  2. “Facebook vs. Twitter: Which is best for your brand?” – http://sproutsocial.com/insights/facebook-vs-twitter/
  3. “Social Media vs. Social Networking” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fauzia-burke/social-media-vs-social-ne_b_4017305.html

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does a person’s Twitter reflect a coherent self or a splintered self?
  2. The author doesn’t really emphasize Twitter’s privacy settings. Is it more uncommon to have your Twitter on private? Why?

Reading Blog 15 – November 6, 2015

This week’s set of reading focuses on the divides caused by technology within a student’s learning. In the first interview, Henry Jenkins talks about how the internet is such a valuable resource to a student’s learning. These days, anyone can post their content online. Because of this, there are certain freedoms and powers granted to internet users that weren’t accessible before. Because of this increase in technology use, more and more kids are becoming media literate, and therefore media is becoming their main source of learning. However, Jenkins brings up the point that more classrooms need to facilitate and expand this media literacy. It’s not exactly a question of access, but rather strategies for getting people to participate in this new media environment. Eszter Hargittai also holds this point of view. She claims that in order to improve media literacy, it takes a lot more than providing access to different parts of the country or the world. She argues that parents, as well as educators, need to be supportive of media usage and literacy. A lot of the time, parents are fearful of what their kids will encounter online. Hargittai suggests that that is a contributing factor as to why there’s a discrepancy between lower class students and upper class students in terms of their online skils. Hargittai’s main point focuses on the socioeconomic gaps that only continue to grow wider in terms of using technology. Both authors want to explore new ways of bridging these gaps in order to effectively use digital media. 

Links:

  1. “Making a Case for Media Literacy in the Classroom” – http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/making-case-media-literacy-classroom
  2. “News literacy declines with socioeconomic status” – http://www.cjr.org/news_literacy/teen_digital_literacy_divide.php
  3. “Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century” – http://www.pbs.org/program/digital-media/

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways can we bridge the media literacy gap between lower and upper classes?
  2. If it’s not a concern of access in terms of media literacy, then is it about exposure? Are upper class students more media literate because they are more exposed to technology, and therefore have a better grasp on it?

Reading Blog 14 – November 2, 2015

“Q&A: Howard Rheingold on Using Technology to Take Learning into Our Own Hands” and “Q&A: Constance Steinkuehler on Games in the Classroom.” Excerpt From: Spotlight on Digital Media & Learning. “Leading Thinkers: Digital Media & Learning.” iBooks.

The MacArthur foundation has conducted a multitude of interviews with digital technology educators across the United States to gauge their opinions on how digital media correlates with educational learning. The first interview that we read was with Howard Rheingold, who is a digital media critic and educator. Rheingold argues that digital media is a way for students to take their learning into their own hands. He elaborates on this idea that we’ve already talked about in class which is about the “empowered user.” Rheingold believes that because of digital media, students are able to break the mold of traditional learning. This idea is what scares digital immigrants the most, especially educators. Rheingold brings up the factor of compliance, and how educators like traditional forms of learning because it teaches students how to comply to traditional roles. However, new advances in digital technology allow students to collaborate on new ideas and gain knowledge on their own. Rheingold coins the term “peera-gogy” to describe the way students bounce ideas off of each other. Of course, these new forms of learning can’t be attributed to just technology, Rheingold argues. It is the combination of access to technology and critical thinking that helps students empower themselves and take responsibility for their own learning.

This sense of autonomy and empowerment is especially important when discussing the relationship between video games and learning. A lot of the times, people think that they can just apply any old concept to a video game, and kids would automatically learn about it because they like to play games. However, Constance Steinkuehler argues otherwise. She claims that in order for video games to be an effective tool in a students’ learning, it needs to give the student a sense of autonomy from the classroom. It’s a way for students to be in charge of what their learning. Steinkuehler suggests that the best way for video games to really assist in the learning of students is by making sure that it has a clear purpose. However, it can’t be a straightforward representation of that purpose. But rather, it should be like a “trojan horse.” That’s why Steinkuehler believes that indie video games are one of the best ways students can learn, because indie game designers are creative in the way that they convey their message, while posing a challenge to their players.

Links:

  1. “Using technology as a learning tool, not just the cool new thing” – http://www.educause.edu/research-and-publications/books/educating-net-generation/using-technology-learning-tool-not-just-cool-new-thing
  2. “Here’s how we can reinvent the classroom for the Digital Age” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vivek-wadhwa/heres-how-we-can-reinvent-the-classroom-for-the-digital-age_b_7027300.html
  3. “Are we losing our ability to think critically?” – http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2009/7/32082-are-we-losing-our-ability-to-think-critically/fulltext

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some examples of games that have shown a clear purpose, without being too obvious? As a class, do we feel like these games are effective?
  2. Do students like using technology in the classroom because it helps them to think critically, or because they feel like it just makes hard work easier? Or both?

Reading Blog 13 – October 21, 2015

“Chapter 13: Relaxation” (p. 89-95) by Ian Bogost from “How To Do Things With Video Games.”

This week’s reading discusses how video games can actually be a form of relaxation for some people. Before reading this chapter, I thought that video games, if anything, were prone to increasing aggression between teenagers. I didn’t even think that some video games could help wind some people down. In this chapter, Bogost describes the difference between “lean forward” and “lean back” media. Most violent or aggressive video games are a form of “lean forward” media, because it requires a person’s full attention, so much so, that they are immersed in the video game. However, Bogost argues that there are certain games that people play and they don’t even think about it. These “lean back” games are “associated with relaxation, passivity, and even gluttony” (Bogost 89). These games don’t require much thought or motion. They’re the kind of games that you can play in the background, or right before you go to bed. Though they are still visually stimulating, they don’t get your heart rate racing or increase your aggression. An example that Bogost uses in this chapter is the game of Solitaire. Solitaire doesn’t require much thought, especially when it’s in the form of a computer game. You don’t even have to shuffle for yourself, the computer does that for you. These “casual games” as Bogost calls them, have repetitive patterns that lessen the need for thought or attention. That’s why they’re so relaxing. They’re just games to pass the time, or they can serve as a form of meditation. It’s definitely an interesting side to video games that I hadn’t thought about.

Links:

  1. “Rethinking Video Games’ Impact” – http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-26/features/sc-fam-0726-video-game-relax-20110725_1_entertainment-software-rating-board-kellee-santiago-neutral-games
  2. “Stressed out? Watching TV, playing video games may make you feel worse” – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/stressed-out-watching-tv-playing-video-games-may-make-you-feel-worse/
  3. “Two Years Later, Sleep Researchers Now Say Gaming Before Bed is Bad” – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/stressed-out-watching-tv-playing-video-games-may-make-you-feel-worse/

Discussion Questions:

  1. Wouldn’t video games just stimulate your mind instead of relaxing it before you go to bed?
  2. Which type of video game helps you de-stress more, relaxing ones or aggressive ones?

Reading Blog 12 – October 19, 2015

“Chapter 7: Branding” (p. 52-57) by Ian Bogost from “How To Do Things With Video Games.”

Whenever video games are played, it’s hard not to notice the brands that make an appearance in each game. In this week’s reading, Bogost discusses the relationship between video games and branding. As his example, Bogost refers to the recent edition of Monopoly called Monopoly: Here and Now. This game uses certain brands like Toyota, McDonald’s and New Balance as their new tokens for the game. At first, critics found fault with Hasbro because they were intentionally advertising for these major companies. However, Bogust argues that the reason why Hasbro included these brands in their game was due to strategic branding. Hasbro didn’t include these brands in order to help them sell products, but instead, they chose to include these brands in order to make the game more culturally relevant. These brands were cultural markers of the 20th century, and therefore to exhibit the history and progress of Monopoly, Hasbro chose to include them. The same rules apply for video games, Bogost argues. Video games don’t implement brands in order to sell more products, but instead they implement brands in order to improve the authenticity of the games. We, as consumers, encounter these brands on a daily basis. So much so, that they just become a part of our lives. We don’t even realize that these brands have become such an integrated part of our language and culture. So, in order to improve the realistic aspects of a video game, these brands obviously need to be included. Branding and video games have a symbiotic relationship that are closely intertwined, and it’s hard to separate the identities of the two.

Links:

  1. “The Importance of Branding in Video Game Development” – http://trios.com/career/?section=Whatsnew150
  2. “Does the Video Game Industry Hold The Keys to the Future of Advertising” – http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/engage-consumers-brain-chemistry-155531
  3. “Branding in The Video Game Industry” – http://www.ign.com/blogs/codsquallic/2014/05/23/branding-in-the-video-game-industry

Discussion Questions:

  1. Bogost mentions how certain brands communicate specific qualities about certain people. Do the video games that use these brands do the same thing?
  2. How positive of an effect has video games made on our economy?

Reading Blog 12 – October 16, 2015

“Chapter 2: Empathy” (p. 18-23) by Ian Bogost from “How To Do Things With Videogames.”

One of the biggest benefits of video games is that it helps you develop a new perspective on life by putting you in someone else’s shoes. For a few hours in a day, you get immersed in someone else’s environment, and you get to see what a typical day in their life is like. Whether that be in the middle of a battlefield or a foreign planet, video games give you a first-person perspective into a whole new world. Bogost writes about this phenomenon, and argues that it helps people develop a sense of empathy. At first, I found this a bit hard to grasp. I couldn’t understand how violent video games helped you develop a sense of compassion for someone else. If anything, I would think that you would develop less compassion and more aggression towards your enemies in video games. However, Bogost uses the example of video games modeled after serious world issues. For example, he talks about a game called “Darfur is Dying” which puts the player in a position of a Darfuri child who needs to avoid militia soldiers in order to gather some water. This game is formatted like a normal action-adventure game, which really highlights the issues that it’s trying to address when playing the game. By taking on the vantage point of a Darfuri child, you get a sense of what their environment would be like and develop a sense of compassion for them. Bogost relates this ideal to a lot of other games, such as Hush and the E.T. game. In these games, the player is put in a position of weakness rather than power. Through these vignettes, players are able to understand what it feels like to fulfill these peoples’ roles, which isn’t always pleasant or gratifying. It’s an interesting way to look at video games, one that I’ve never considered before.

Links:

  1. “Why Video Games Can’t Teach You Empathy” – http://motherboard.vice.com/read/empathy-games-dont-exist
  2. “How can playing a game make you more empathetic?” (Podcast) – http://www.npr.org/2015/03/27/395039920/how-can-playing-a-game-make-you-more-empathetic
  3. “Can A Video Game Teach Empathy?” –  http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/02/trip_hawkins_s_next_act_if_you_can_a_startup_for_social_emotional_learning.html

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other roles or perspectives can video games teach you?
  2. Do video games help you understand someone else’s experience (like Bogust argues) or just an experience that’s outside of your comfort zone? To me, those are two different things.

Reading Blog 11 – October 14, 2015

“Chapter 1: Art” (p. 9-17) by Ian Bogost from “How To Do Things With Videogames.”

Since it’s rise in popular culture, there has been a heated debate about whether or not video games should be considered as art. In this week’s reading, Ian Bogost makes an argument about why video games should be considered as an art form. Bogost claims that in the past, the definition of art has been reformed and recreated. Art doesn’t have one standard definition, because it keeps changing as generations go on. For example, Bogost discusses the avant-garde movement, and how it made art hard to distinguish because of it’s rejection to art’s traditional roles. Video games, Bogost argues, fit this criteria as well. Though it may not fit society’s traditional view of art, video games are creating new standards for art. He goes on to describe the idea of proceduralist games which “rely primarily on computational rules to produce their artistic meaning” (13). This means that the expression of art comes from the way the players play the game. These games, though their template may be simple or two-dimensional, still have a deeper meaning when you play them. They emulate an experience that you may have had, an emotion that you may have felt, or a way in which you have viewed the world. Bogost also claims that the art isn’t just the video game itself. It’s the experience of playing the game, and analyzing what it might mean. It’s a new, interactive way to experience art. And just because it doesn’t fit the traditional roles of art, doesn’t mean that it can’t be considered as an art form.

Links:

  1. “Video games and art: Why does the media get it so wrong?” http://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2014/jan/08/video-games-art-and-the-shock-of-the-new
  2. “Video games can never be art” http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/video-games-can-never-be-art – the infamous article discussed by Bogost in the beginning of the chapter
  3. “The Art of Video Games” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-art-of-video-games-101131359/?no-ist

Discussion Questions:

  1. Bogust mentions how certain video games like to keep their templates simple in order for the players to understand its deeper meaning. Does this mean that more developed or more realistic games don’t relay deeper meanings as well as simple games do?
  2. What kind of deeper meanings can derive from, what Bogost calls “concrete games” such as SimCity and Madden?