Author Archive

Wii – Video games PROMOTING physical activity

December 15th, 2009 1 comment

For over two decades, video games have been blamed for the steadily increasing number of overweight and obese American children.  Unreliant on fair weather conditions and friends to participate, children are able to “play” without exerting any energy or engaging in social, yet physical activity – or rather, they were until the Nintendo Wii came along.

My father asked me this weekend to pick up a Wii console as family Christmas gift. I thought the idea to be ridiculous at first. I knew my father and brother would get a ton of us out of the thing, but I’ve always been more of a gym junkie than a gamer. My mother certainly wouldn’t have any reason to use the thing, I thought.

I’ll admit now that I’m actually pretty damn excited to open the Wii and get it running in two weeks. The Wii console includes the “Sports” package, with tennis, bowling, baseball, golf and boxing already loaded. The game’s design encourages the player to physically move his/her body parts, simulating movements of a player engaged in the actual sport. Not only is the system incredibly accurate, but the movements required to perform well on the screen are almost as vigorously demanding as they would be outside!

The Wii Fit and fitness games are also offered. I picked up a pilates video to share with my mom, in hopes that the digital workouts and pilates exercises would act as substitutes for rainy days when running outside is difficult.

I’ll add that I’m battling a head cold this week, one that’s prevented me from hitting the gym – not because my sick body isn’t capable of physical activity, but because don’t wish to share my germs with the healthy. The Wii system will allow me to continue to exercise in confinement when I come down with any future illnesses.

One has to wonder, if the Wii is now enabling an individual to stay active 24/7, unreliant on the weather, gym hours, or work out buddies, is it actually a superior mode of exercise? My, have we changed our playing fields!

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Google helping newspapers?

December 9th, 2009 No comments

I recently retweeted Siva Vaidhyanathan’s link to Eric Schmidt’s op-ed, “How Google can help newspapers.” It’s a great article. For anyone that missed it, I’ve included the link here.

The article begins with how Schmidt envisions Internet technologies in five years, describing optimum speed and accessibility promised now, but not always available. He addressed the events we’ve witnessed – the death of the afternoon newspaper with the introduction of 24-hour news and the creation of hand-held technology with FREE access to whatever stories the consumer wants. But Eric Schmidt takes a very different approach from the article’s beginning. Online writing, valued for its free, easy and fast accessibility, Schmidt says, often isn’t any of the three.

“I can flip through pages much faster in the physical edition of the Journal than I can on the Web. And every time I return to a site, I am treated as a stranger,” he says.

While Schmidt values print as a preferred news source, he adds that newspapers, losing their revenue from advertisers to the Internet, are dwindling. Rather than blaming search engines such as Google for their failure, Schmidt says that newspapers should be embracing Google as just what they need to fight for existence.

“Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free. In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.”

Schmidt also claims that Google recognizes that the many inaccuracies published, viewed, and linked to on the Internet create issues for the news consumer.

His solution:

“Google is serious about playing its part. We are already testing, with more than three dozen major partners from the news industry, a service called Google Fast Flip. The theory—which seems to work in practice—is that if we make it easier to read articles, people will read more of them. Our news partners will receive the majority of the revenue generated by the display ads shown beside stories.”

His (or rather, Google’s) ideas are great. Maybe the death of print news isn’t inevitable.

Essay structure: case study conclusions?

November 14th, 2009 1 comment

We see chapter conclusions in Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence and some of the other texts we’ve read. Our essay will be considerably shorter, but does anyone think we could/should do something similar at the end of each case study? It might make for easier transitions between topics. Just a suggestion. Anyone else have ideas?

Sorry for the really short post. I would have needed a few Twitter posts to get my whole question out!

An interview with “Bill”?

November 13th, 2009 No comments

Blogger Francis Heaney posted an interview that he claims to have had with “Bill” about his flash mobs. Bill’s interview answers seem to agree with what we read in Wasik’s And Then There’s This, but I still questioned the validity of the interview. After some Googling, I found Heaney to be the author of a few books. He blogs for Stay Free! Daily at, a collection of blogs claiming to be an online magazine (“blog-azine”?) voicing media and consumer culture criticisms. Not a big-name publication, but the site’s content does seem to support some of the views we just read.

Heaney does appear to be from Brooklyn – local, as far as proximity to the original flash mob goes. Whether the interview is legitimate or not, it’s interesting to see a blogger that took interest in the origins of the flash mob.

I read through a few of the posts on Stay Free! Daily’s site and found a post by “carrie” on January 19, 2009 titled “YouTube, the Search Engine?” I had trouble linking to the individual post, but here’s an excerpt that seemed relevant to some of our recent discussions:

“This New York Times story about about the use of YouTube as a search engine caught my eye. Apparently, people — particularly kids — are using YouTube as their primary search engine for research projects, news, and other information. The Times paints this trend as the inevitable march of technology but I can’t help but see it as the devolution of our collective brain. What we don’t get in this story in the fact that defaulting to video-only search is, um, pretty stupid. While I can understand why a 9-year old would do it, you’ve got to wonder where his teachers are to give him a basic lesson in media literacy: video and text communicate differently and each has its strengths and weaknesses.”

This is the original New York Times article. Her last comment about the strengths and weaknesses of video and text to communicate information seems all too familiar.

What would she have to say about my reliance on a Google search for information about Francis Heaney?

Another computer game encourages innovation

November 10th, 2009 2 comments

We’ve already discussed how multimodal computer games promote interaction and participatory culture for the expanding minds of children. Henry Jenkins, Ravi Purushotma, Margaret Weigel, Katie Clinton, and Alice J. Robison thoroughly discuss the coupling of pedagogical uses of new media technology, such as computer games, with the development of literary skills in their research text, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

Teachers and researchers recognize hands-on learning as often being a preferred and faster method of learning for school-age children. “Metagaming” and simulated programs, such as The Sims, help broaden experiences and skills that cannot be taught effectively through verbal lectures (Jenkins 40). Countless other simulation games are valued by teachers for their help in building problem-solving skills, such the early 1991 game, Myst.

Perhaps the most impressive game that I’ve seen, however, is Crayon Physics. Michael Thompson’s review of Crayon Physics offers a great description of the game and what skills it builds in its players:

“The basic idea behind Crayon Physics is that gamers have to get a ball to a point that is marked by a star. This is accomplished by drawing a number of different items that can act in a variety of ways to help get the ball from Point A to Point B. On a basic level, the drawings act as ramps or barriers, while more advanced implementation accomplishes a number of feats like creating weights and levers, as well as malleable platforms that can be affected by other creations.”

Thompson calls the object a “puzzle,” identifying the game’s real pedagogical value – players can solve these puzzles by “drawing” innovative solutions, instead of relying on items already provided by the game. There will obviously be more than one way to solve each “puzzle.” Thompson says players can be “creative and solve each puzzle through whatever means they can conceive, as opposed to only having one convoluted method as the only solution.”

crayon physics

Jenkins may have valued knowledge of Crayon Physics in arguing for Ian Bogost’s theory of “procedural literacy, a capacity to restructure and reconfigure knowledge to look at problems from multiple vantage points, and through this process to develop a greater systemic understanding of the rules and procedures that shape our everyday experiences” (Jenkins 45).

Jenkins stresses the value of simulation in games, arguing that schools need to build on skills afforded in each to help students become both literate and  critical readers. His idea of “distributed cognition” explains how students learn the affordances of different tools and information technologies (Jenkins 65). Crayon Physics perfectly argues his case for the use of computer games, as players must choose apply different solutions to different problems based on context.

MIRO Community

November 8th, 2009 No comments

I wish I had seen this while we were still talking about Vaidhyanathan’s, Copyrights and Copywrongs. Participatory Culture Foundation’s MIRO Community ties in Vaidhyanathan’s ideas of free, open spaces to share creativity, while working toward more participation. The non-profit’s mission is to build a service allowing people to become more engaged in their culture.

Here’s a little about it from the site,

“In addition to providing simple and convenient access to diverse video content from anywhere on the web, it creates a unique, personalized video site in minutes. Best of all, it is free to create a site (and it’s open source, so you can host your own).

Miro Community tackles two fundamental issues facing online video—the navigation of content dispersed all over the web, and the difficulty for less tech savvy producers to establish their own attractive video site. Audiences and creators know all too well the hassle of searching unsuccessfully for a video or maintaining unified video content across a growing number of popular hosting platforms.”

Model for our essay?

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

Though Jenkins may have a different audience and different goals in mind in his Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, the structure of his essay seems to be a good model for what we’re trying to do with our own collaborative essay. Jenkins seemed to echo many of the authors we’ve read thus far, organizing their theories in such a way to argue for schools’ support of participatory culture. Jenkins touches on many different topics, separating each with subheads and clear transitions. We can learn from this.

It’s important for us to see how Jenkins first defined literacy, then explained why it must be modified.

“A definition of twenty­-first century literacy offered by the New Media Consortium is “the set of abilities and skills where aural,
visual, and digital literacy overlap. These include the ability to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and
use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute them pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new
forms.”36 We would modify this definition in two ways. First, textual literacy remains a central skill in the twenty-first century. Youths must expand their required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new. Second, new media literacies should be considered a social skill” (28).

I like the mention of his two modifications: Textual literacy remains a central skill, and to participate in new media literacies requires social skills, as well as technical skills. Before students can engage in participatory media, they must first be able to read and write.

Anthony, I think maybe we could add this to your introduction.

Also, we were asked to think about how we will organize and outline our essay to include each of the theories and themes we’ve dubbed salient.

Here are some of the topics I saw reappearing in Jenkins’ essay:

  • Web 2.0 ethics – or lack thereof. Jenkins notes that participants feel empowered by their anonymity. The lack of a watchdog in casual settings is causing questionable behavior.
  • Creativity operating differently in an open source culture, such as sampling (Vaidhyanathan)
  • Multitasking and multimodality (Kress)
  • Coupling pedagogical use of new media technology with a greater focus on media literacy (Selber)

Jenkins covers all of these topics that we’ve already discussed in different sections of his essay. What does everyone think about sectioning our essay similarly? It would certainly be easier to divide the work up.

What’s in a NAYME?

October 27th, 2009 No comments

Before offering my thoughts on name and title copyrights, I’ll first apologize to Anthony Bakowa for using the title of an earlier Godzilla blog post that he had written. “What’s in a Name?” is a post reflecting Bakowa’s reading of Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. Though I may have used the same title, our posts address very different subjects and do not compete for readership. My intent is to support some of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s arguments for “thinner” copyright protection in his book Copyrights and Copywrongs. Plus, my spelling of “name,” while incorrect, is different from Bakowa’s. Doesn’t this make our titles different? Is an apology even necessary?

My intentional misspelling of “name” helps me introduce lawsuits filed by the widely famous Metal band, Metallica. Apparently, the band has sued several times over the use of its name. My blog title addresses Metallica’s suit against furniture store owner, Kim Hodges in late 1999 for calling his store “Metallika.” An online ABC blurb does state that the owner was a fan of the band, but clearly wasn’t marketing any music or products that would hurt the sale of records.

Earlier the same year, the band pursued a lawsuit against lingerie-giant, Victoria’s Secret for creating a line of “Metallica” lip pencils and cosmetics without the band’s permission. Victoria’s Secret, according to MTV article, Metallica Tell Wheel Company: Don’t Tread on Me, later settled out of court.

The MTV article first addresses a settlement proposal at the time of its publication on August 22,2001. A California wheel manufacturer was asked to discontinue and recall its “Metallica” wheel, named for its metal composition. The sales manager assured interviewers that his employer knew little of the rock band when chosing the product’s name.

The band’s lawyer, Jill Pietrini, explains “it’s just a matter of a company having the right to protect its name. I couldn’t start up a Coca-Cola record company.”

I suppose both the wheels and cosmetics could have been titled differently and simply used the adjective “metallic” to describe the metal-like appearance of the products without risking copyright/trademark infringement. I’m not sure I agree that the sound of the word “Metallica” should be protected, though. Vaidhyanathan discusses “derivative works” the copyright of “The Death Disk,” first published as a short story by Mark Twain. He asks if D. W. Griffith infringed on the copyrights of Mark Twain in his creation of the film “The Death Disc,” although he had changed elements of the story and the spelling (85-100). The same spelling of “Disk” is later used by Biograph and STILL falls into a gray area of copyright protection.

Vaidhyanathan offers justification in the use of “Disk” and “Disc” for the use of different elements in each of the works. Attempting to apply some of his thoughts and arguments, I wonder why a furniture, cosmetic, or wheel company couldn’t then use “Metallica” if not selling anything musically-related.

Should copyright cover chord progressions?

October 22nd, 2009 4 comments

I was intrigued by a lawsuit filed against the hit band Coldplay last December. Guitarist Joe Satriani claimed that the Coldplay’s hit “Viva La Vida” infringed on his rights to his song “If I Could Fly.”Satriani claimed that Coldplay had copied “substantial and original portions” of his song. According to an MSNBC article, the case was dismissed in court last month.

After the lawsuit was filed, I listened to this comparison, Coldplay Vs. Joe Satriani on YouTube, to see if I could pin-point the “stolen” material. The chord progression did seem similar, if not the same. Siva Vaidhyanathan talks about the limited number of keys and chords musicians have to work with in his Copyrights and Copywrongs several times. After exhausting every possible combination of keys to make both single chords and progressions, are all of the following works considered unoriginal?

Coldplay claimed the similar sounds were completely coincidental. I believe them. In discussing why “thinner” copyright laws should replace our current ones, I have to argue that claiming ownership of a particular chord progression, played by different string instruments, to produce a different song, is a little ridiculous. However, under the current laws and language, should Satriani have won his case?

Archiving app for Twitter – another new media database

October 11th, 2009 2 comments

While exploring the very many Mac apps available as add-ons for Twitter, I stumbled upon “TW3 Business.” Here’s the app description:

TW3 Business— A “tweet-processor” and database for Twitter, for reporters and those who must post to Twitter as part of their jobs. Stores your tweets in your own computer. Compose messages offline; save for posting later — great for those times when Twitter is unavailable! Generate activity reports for your editor or boss, sorted according to client or date. Retrieve and re-use old tweets. Mark tweets “evergreen” and duplicate them as needed. Mark unfinished tweets as “drafts”. Make notes about tweets. Works without the Twitter API: keep on tweeting when other applications are waiting for the API to be turned back on after a disaster. May be overkill for casual users; but a lifesaver in the newsroom!”

Before even recognizing its capabilities, I am wowed by the description of whom the application is designed for – “those who MUST post to Twitter as part of their jobs.” My, how far we have come! Many journalists and business writers MUST use a social networking site to post news.

In the second half of Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media, Collin Gifford Brooke reviews his definition of a database and memory. In regards to new media, both terms imply the storage of information held online. “I believe that certain new media offer us tools for building persistence of cognition, the inductive perception of connections, and patterns across multiple sources” (157).

TW3 Business archives Twitter messages to be searched and then retrieved by users. Reporters can quickly search for articles to reference or pull for dates. The program also marks unfinished tweets as “drafts.” If new media programs are capable of remembering everything we have even started writing, then we most certainly will depend less on our own memories for storage of information.

Brooke tells us that persistence, as a memory practice, is the ability to maintain patterns. It is still the reporter, only assisted by the application, that recognizes patterns and references found in old tweets. Reporters possess the ability to cognitively apply what is recognized as a pattern, while new media tools can only generate a collection of words and ideas that seem to be alike by arrangement.

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