Grad post: Bogost

I know I’ve been talking about Selber a lot lately, but I think his piece just intertwines with pretty much any discussion on technology and education. Bogost indirectly parallels Selber’s assertion that technological education needs to be housed by the humanities to foster critical evaluation of technology and its purposes when he argues that “Video games are appealing, kids want to play them, and they also want to make them. By luring kids into computer science through video game development, we can attempt to increase dwindling interest in math, science, and technology.This is not a bad approach to programming education. But unfortunately, such approaches risk assuming that creating any kind of video game offers the same pedagogical value. Programming education must take care to ensure that it supports sophisticated responses to the medium, rather than reinforcing the idea that play is equivalent to leisure, and that video games are intended to produce fun and distraction rather than critical response” (137).

It is not enough for education to focus on how to make video games, but rather, the educational programs should foster a critical approach to video games, not only developing games, but writing what Bogost calls “computer arguments,” and what begins as a technological practices evolves into a rhetorical practice. Video games become programming and expression, both playing and reflecting on cultural values, norms, and practices. Yet I agree with Selber that the humanities department is best suited to foster this type of rhetorical awareness and skills.

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Seminar Paper: Scott

Scott’s Blog post:

The term “video game cutscene” has a very broad definition (one that I am not inclined to change). Basically, a video game cutscene is any time you are not in control of your character yet still “playing” the game. So, for example, video game trailers fall into this category. They are about the game, you are watching them, but you are not allowed to actively participate. My paper focuses on this and many other types of cutscenes and how they work in relation to different genres of games and the effectiveness of those games to tell a coherent story (whether or not the story stinks). If I have the space I would like to expand on this by also exploring whether the definition should be changed or, at least, divided. Because as the definition stands, specific cutscenes (trailers) raise questions of whether or not they are misleading or possibly even outright lies (ex. the Killzone 2 fiasco when the PS3 was being released). Additionally, examining the video game buying habits of consumers would help determine the overall effect of video trailers (a type of cutscene) on habits, practices, and, possibly, literacies.

Seminar Paper

I’m pretty sure my seminar paper will focus mostly on class and internet use, using a lot of the material that I presented in class. I’m thinking right now that I want to stick with the conversation regarding capitalism and democracy, and the problem that in regards to internet use, the capitalistic model isn’t always perpetuating democratic ends of dispersing information etc. But the biggest problem I am having right now is finding a theory or a larger discussion with which to frame the paper.

In my last paper, I used Pariser as kind of an anchor, and then Selber and the PEW studies branched out and added to/ tweaked Pariser’s argument. I argued that the filter bubble not only isolates individuals, but the filter bubble isolates classes. For this paper, I’m interested in finding a larger perspective with more complex theories and concepts and need to find more significant voices. As of now, I think I will still incorporate Selber for sure and probably Pariser. I think Selber’s piece especially does a good job discussing how the internet could be used, to fight against domination and inequalities, but because technological programs and education is funded by large corporations  technology instead can perpetuate inequalities, oppression, and cultural dominance, but again, I would like to couch Selber’s argument within a larger conversation that I am still in the process of exploring.

GRAD Post: Bogost

Bogost’s piece on the rhetoric of video games reminds me a lot of similar things we have been talking about with the gamification of education. Though, Bogost does not praise video games for their ability to engage students or make learning fun here; instead, Bogost suggests that video games can (and should) be critically analyzed for cultural assumptions on large and small scales (e.g. political systems or our part in the monotonous cyclic feedback loop of consumer debt).

 I am really intrigued by Bogost’s claims here because, as he suggests, this understanding of video games a situated “artifacts” of social and cultural exchanges brings them squarely into the literature, communications, composition, or culture classroom—which Bogost fully endorses. This reminds me of the chapter we’ve read from New Media, where scholars respond to historical manifestations of technology as cultural responses to literacy crises. What makes the skill sets and stories told through Spore or Animal Crossing any different? These games are still culturally-situated responses to social assumptions on creationism or consumerism, and just as Bogost suggests, representations of cultural responses to crises that can be analyzed just as effectively as any piece of writing.

Seminar Paper: Cyborg-ification in the Classroom

For the final seminar project, I am continuing to explore the intersections of identity and technology, specifically as it is contributing to a growing sense of cyborg-ification of the human race. For the previous essay, I experimented with taking Haraway’s metaphor for the cyborg a bit further into thinking about the assimilation of technology into the human form a bit more literal, and while I find that I’m still influenced by this thinking, I plan on scaling back a bit and focusing instead on created identities through technology.

I am writing a paper for another class in which I’m looking at writing technologies within the classroom; however, in that paper I am being more deliberate in cutting out theory and instead focusing on practical applications for different writing technologies (such as Typewell, Dragon Naturally Speaking, and eye-tracking software—Google Glass is going to be in there, too) within the composition classroom. What I’m thinking of for this paper, then, is to think more critically about the theory and cultural implications of the ‘taking on’ of these technologies. How has our new technology changed the ways in which we think about composing? How have they changed us? Hasn’t technology always been a part of our abilities to compose? Haven’t we always been a little bit cyborg?

Seminar Paper: Gamification in Education

As we discussed in class, gamification falls into two categories:  using games in place of traditional teaching methods (such as the often-mentioned “Darfur is Dying”), or applying game-like structures to traditionally non-game systems to make them more engaging (as Jane McGonigal talked about in her TED talk). My paper is addressing both of those points, but moreso the later portion, largely by consequence of the operational definition of “gamification” I’m using in my paper (James Portnow, an extremely well-known games industry consultant, defines it as utilizing game systems to make the real world more engaging).

The big problem I’m facing with this essay’s later portion is largely the same problem we addressed in class when discussing the Jane McGonigal piece. That is, how does one make the mundane engaging in such a way as to encourage sweeping, positive change? My paper up to now (the “Entering the Conversation” paper) largely focused on how corporations use gamification to encourage customer behavior, while examples that fit into a (largely) undebatable “good” are much harder to come by. With some research, I did manage to come up with a few arguments and examples that should really carry the point:  a video in James Portnow’s Extra Credits series that actively discusses using games for teaching (http://extra-credits.net/episodes/gamifying-education/), the game Fold-It, which is a puzzle game about protein folding wherein the solutions actually contribute directly to protein folding research (http://fold.it/portal/), and The Fun Theory, an ongoing project that uses gamification to encourage more socially aware behavior (http://www.thefuntheory.com/). I also recall a large research project that was commissioning flash games with varying educational goals from some time ago, though I have been unable to find it again, and I may have to pass up that discussion.

In any case, I think I have a strong direction at this point, and though I didn’t get nearly as much done on it as I had hoped for this weekend, I’m well on track.

Seminar Paper: Real and Imagined Communities

The paper that I’ve been working on focuses on the relationship between real and imagined communities and how specific technologies, online community based sites, have enabled real communities to develop and prosper. For the sake of the paper I’ve borrowed Benedict Anderson’s definition of an imagined community as any community that is so large that no one member can know, or maintain a meaningful relationship with, every other member of the community. So far in my paper I’ve tried to provide evidence that this is true, mostly by using the articles in class, Turkle’s early work has been especially helpful here, and a number of research papers that I have found about online communities.

One of the greatest issues with my argument, that real online communities are enabled by these emergent technologies, is that these same technologies hinder or prohibit community in a way that ultimately affects the “realness” of the relationships. To expand my argument I would like to refute this point, mostly by bringing in social information processing theory; specifically I am going to talk about the idea that users adapt their communication to work within a framework, so that practiced, or experienced, users can have a conversation that is not substantially different than face-to-face verbal communication. If possible I would also like to talk about the difference between these online real communities and offline real communities, and how our expectations have changed in offline real communities or vice versa.