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Visually Impaired Man Sues Sony For Not Honoring ADA

November 11th, 2009 No comments

Hello All,

I just saw this short post from kotaku.com (a videogame news site, run by Gawker Media) that cites another story from Gamespot.com that says that a visually impaired man is suing Sony for not making its virtual worlds more easily navigable for those with disabilities.

Sonys Home, a frequently used virtual world for Playstation 3 owners.

Sony's Home, a frequently used virtual world for Playstation 3 owners.

Here’s some info on a cool virtual world that shared by Clemson University and University of South Carolina- Greenville.

Essentially, the suit argues that Sony’s virtual worlds are not accessible for the visually impaired, and thus are in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. We know websites are must now follow guidelines that make them more easily navigable to those with disabilities. This suit is arguing that virtual worlds should follow this standard as well.

The MIT-Gambit Game Lab, an experimental game design studio in Singapore, is experimenting with making its games more accessible to those with disabilities.

But getting back to the first issue, I’m not sure how I feel. While I understand that any “public accommodations” need to be made available for people with disabilities, I wonder whether virtual worlds should be held to the same standard. In a way, it is similar to arguing that music should be made more accessible to those with hearing difficulties, or visual art should be more accessible to those with visual impairments. I am not trying to sound insensitive here. I just believe that we need to ask these kinds of questions with media of all types.

With the advent of new technologies, it is clear that many laws will need to be revised, or even re-written, to accommodate these new technologies.

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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, http://www.participatoryculture.org/:

“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.”

New Media Education

November 6th, 2009 No comments

The incorporation of new media in the classroom has been an ongoing process.  In the mid-1960s, bulky vacuum tube computers were establishing a presence on well-to-do universities, and smaller miniframes and minicomputers were starting to be used.   According to Catherine Schifter’s 2008 article, “A Brief History of Computers, Computing in Education, and Computing in Philadelphia Schools,” computers were often used in the 1960s for computer-assisted instruction.  Many teachers were hesitant to use this new technology and preferred educating with tools they knowledgeable with rather that this “alien” technology.

It wouldn’t be until the rise of Apple and their donations of computers to schools and universities would a class rely on computers as an educational tool.  In the 1980s, computer classes, or “labs”, became part of the curriculum.  However, the use of computers was still very constricted to the teaching of computer literacy.  This was so because computer skills weren’t needed in other classes, or if they were at all, they were used on a very basic level (simple math problems, science quizzes, etc).  Their use for higher level teaching was not popular outside of programming courses at universities.  Apple’s development of a decent word processing program, the Apple Works suite, became a common in 1984, but high school typing classes wouldn’t be until 1990.

Then textbooks began supplementing their material with 3.5in floppy disks and CD-ROMS.  The multimedia program, Hyperstudio, introduced high school students to multimodality in text.  Computer rooms in school were becoming more and more common as this “Internet” thing was slowly being realized as more than just a fad.

Now, computers and education have become integrated down to the elementary level.  The importance of computer literacy and teachers who are knowledgeable with computers have facilitated that integration.  A first grade teacher at Prairie South School in Central Saskatchewan, Canada, uses technology daily with her six to seven year old students.  They routinely use the Internet and even have their own blog, Blogmeister.  The following video was made by the class and is an example of just how fundamental new media has become in our schools.  (Pardon the music)

However, even though schools across the nation have created a multitude of computer classes and classes have worked computer use into their respective studies, there is still a need for a more systemic educational standards.  The participatory nature of new media presents many obstacles and questions that children, if left on their own, may or may not successfully navigate to became active and intelligent members of this new culture.  This is the argument Henry Jenkins et al. have constructed in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.  They stressed that young people need to develop a certain set of skills to achieve such a participatory status.  Those skills are play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation.

They ask and address three questions on page 56 to which the aforementioned skill set need be applied to:

  • How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?
  • How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding
    of the way that media shapes perceptions of the world?
  • How do we ensure that every child has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that will shape their practices as media makers and as participants within online communities?

These questions raised by Jenkins and his colleagues are one that educators and scholars have been asking since computer technologies were seen as an important and ignored learning tool.  It would seem that teachers all over the world have been grappling with this problem and have been adjusting their courses accordingly, however new media have advanced incredibly fast in the last decade.  Administrations have be hard pressed to adjust so quickly and teachers may be more capable for impromptu adaptations, but the educational system is a slow giant.  We need to look at how schools are helping students become active participants in our “Web 2.0 culture” and determine what we can do to improve that transformation.

A look at Participatory Culture

November 6th, 2009 No comments

With advances in the internet and the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, individuals can better utilize digital recourses.   The features of this evolution according to Tim O’Reilly include; “Services… with cost-effective scalability, control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them, trusting users as co-developers, harnessing collective intelligence, leveraging the long tail through customer self-service, software above the level of a single device, and lightweight user interfaces, development models, and business models.” Users of Web 2.0 have greater ability to interact with content.  Thus, they have moved from a consumer driven culture to a participatory one where users actually produce content and inform others.

A participatory culture according to Henry Jenkins and the other contributors of Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture is “a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices… [a culture] in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection” (p. 3).  In this text Jenkins, provides an in depth look at how technology is impacting our culture. I was particularly interested in the idea that individuals that have moved from consumers of information to producers of information may have done so primarily because of popular culture and to some degree societal pressures not as much because of their education.

Jill Walker Rettberg also pointed to these changes in Blogging; Digital Media and Society Series. From the title of the text we can guess that Rettberg is talking mostly about blogs and their functions as a means of self exploration, citizen journalism, creating a dialog between the author of the post and those who wish to comment, etc.  However, these same ideas are relevant to other aspects of digital literacy.

Such is the case with Jenkins discussion of video games and their possibility to communicate valuable information to players. Jenkins states that “contemporary video games allow youth to play with sophisticated simulations and, in the process, to develop an intuitive understanding of how we might use simulations to test our assumptions about the way the world works” (p. 23).  Jenkins continues on to highlight a conversation between a boy and his father that shows that the game provided valuable historical and political information.  We can see this sort of participation in an ever growing number of spaces including but certainly not limited to music such as with youtube and sampling as is described in Copyrights and Copywrongs; The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity by Siva Vaidhyanathan.

On Participation and its Consequences

November 6th, 2009 No comments

Henry Jenkins et al., in their e-book, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, discussed some of the more significant features of participatory cultures and how they pertain to education. By definition, participatory cultures are groups of people who share a common interest, and work collaboratively, informally, to share information about this interest, and improve their skills within the field. Jenkins et al point to middle school students who write fan fiction, elementary age students who design their own maps in Sim City, and how these examples point to a shift in the way young people consume, and now, produce media.

It is amazing to see that popular culture is providing young people with such valuable texts to work with. Whereas I always felt guilty when I was a kid spending hours reading Sports Illustrated or Electronic Gaming Monthly, and ignoring the work I should have been doing in my English class, I was really building my literacy skills that was just as good as the kids who did their homework. If I began writing my own feature articles, maybe I could have been better. In any event, the scholarship on participatory culture the the super-literacy of alienated youth always strikes a chord with me.

One of the features about the book I found most telling is how the authors look at such diverse and varied skills as writing, game playing, video editing, and music editing  all falling under the umbrella of “new media literacy.” But really, this makes a great deal of sense when we consider the remediation of older media on the web and the carbon copy nature of digital reproduction. We can make limitless copies of any media on the web. To creative and industrious youth, they are quickly becoming indispensable tools, just as much as words and numbers to the generations before.

However, Jenkins et al. make the seemingly obvious, but all-too-rare statement that new media literacies cannot simply replace the old, but most augment them. They explain: Before students can engage with the new participatory culture, they must be able to read and write. Just as the emergence of written language changed oral traditions and the emergence of printed texts changed our relationship to written language, the emergence of new digital modes of expression changes our relationship to printed texts” (p. 19). This is a sticking point with many. We cannot throw  away the wonderful utility and cultural richness of centuries of traditional written language. At the same time, however, we cannot stand pat and ignore the changes technology has wrought on communication, learning, knowledge, and meaning-making. I think the position that Jenkins et al. take, which builds on the definition of literacy by the New Media Consortium covers all the bases.

Jenkins et al will take this argument a step further, and argue that traditional literacy skills are even more important than they were previously. They explain: “If anything, these traditional skills assume even greater importance as students venture beyond collections that have been screened by librarians and into the more open space of the web” (p. 20). Fair enough. Information that students encounter in schools is largely sterilized, approved, and largely trustworthy. Such is not the case in the Wild, Wild, Web, and I believe that Jenkins et al are correct in saying that traditional literacy skills take on a much greater importance because it is that much more difficult to ascertain where a give piece of information came from.

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Good Info About How Games Can Be Educational Tools

November 5th, 2009 No comments

I suppose a lengthy discussion of new media literacy, such as the one in which we’re engaged in our class would be incomplete without a fuller discussion of the use of videogames as educational tools. Henry Jenkins, who was the primary author of Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, is a central figure in the field. James Paul Gee, whose video I’ve posted below, also has some excellent ideas on how games are good learning tools, as does Ian Bogost, whose article “Videogames and the Future of Education,” serves as a rousing call to action, urging concerned citizens to think more critically about K-12 education in the United States.

Here’s a link to a very good video with James Paul Gee: http://vimeo.com/4513412. I was unable to embed it.

One of the reasons that commercial games, which are not designed with any pedagogical goal in mind, are so effective at teaching its player how to play them is because of the profit motivation at work for the game developers. Gee explains, in his article, “Good Video Games and Good Learning,” that, ” If no one could learn these games, no one would buy them—and players will not accept easy, dumbed down, or short games. At a deeper level, however, challenge and learning are a large part of what makes good video games motivating and entertaining.” Ahh. I think Dr. Gee is on to something here. Because games are “long, hard, and complex” as Gee asserts, why would young people give a damn about learning to play them? Because game designers have become experts at keeping people engaged in their products. One of the reasons they can do this is by doing a fantastic job of teaching players how to play the game. Unfortunately, the public education system is not competing with anyone else, so they don’t have the incentive to be effective the way videogame designers do.

At the start of the video that I posted earlier, Gee is quick to point out that he isn’t discussing educational games per se- games designed with the purpose of teaching players something academic in nature. Rather, Gee is interested in analyzing the way games teach players the rules of the game, such as in tutorials. For Gee, “educational games” are another thing entirely. Simulations, such as Madden NFL Football, which most of you have already had the misfortune of hearing about from me, fits this mold nicely. As do role-playing games (RPGS, or in the case of massively multiplayer rpg, MMPRPGs), which need to teach the player scores of different functions to successfully navigate the terrain, engage in the battle system, and work through the story. At the heart of both types of games is the question of problem solving: how do I use the affordances of the game mechanics to find a solution to this problem. In the case of Madden, the player must determine whether a run or pass play is most appropriate in a given situation. For a RPG, a player must use the right piece of equipment, the right weapon, or the right spell to defeat an enemy. While some games are more complex than others, Gee points to the problem-solving nature all well designed games as a place we can look to where applied knowledge trumps rote memorization.

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.

Thoughts from a Twitter User

October 31st, 2009 7 comments

Recently I noticed that one of the people I follow on Twitter had been having what I thought of as interesting twitter followersconversations with someone that they follow.  Since I was interested and could only see half of the discussion I decided to follow that individual as well. I didn’t think that there was anything unusual or surprising about that decision. The following day I received a message on my Facebook account from that individual stating that they had noticed that I was following them and asking if I knew them.  I am paraphrasing their words which were said in what I perceived to be a slightly more harsh and accusatory tone.   I was a little surprised and I did not know exactly how to answer the question.  I had not thought that a face to face meeting was a necessary prerequisite to following someone via Twitter.  I did not think that was so for friending someone on Facebook either but I can see where the term “friend” and the idea of calling someone a “friend” might imply that your social spheres have crossed or that there was some level of cordial communication involved.  I did not see it that way at all for Twitter.

I was under the impression that the site promoted following based on the ideas and interests that the individual is tweeting about, among other things of course. Lisa Brookes Kift stated about social networks that they are “a great way to network and foster relationships with like minded people and those interested in learning more about topics that I know something about.” Twitter itself explains that this is a way for individuals to “stay hyper-connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing. Or, you can stop following them at any time. You can even set up quiet times on Twitter so you’re not interrupted. Twitter puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload.”  Dr.John M Grohol PsyD states that Twitter “is a unique form of online socializing. Twitter offers no real beginning, middle or end to a conversation. As a result, the open universe of non-stop, rolling chatter makes people feel like they don’t want to miss anything.”

Twitter is also not just for individuals and small businesses.  More and more twitter activity has become a corporate endeavor.  The suggestions for a successful corporate twitter presence differs somewhat from the common sense etiquette that individuals should follow but not all too much.   According to “Corporate Twitter” by Chris Miller these guidelines include listen to followers, add value and provide useful content, only follow others when followed or mentioned so to not to annoy or appear as spam, respond to every tweet directed at you, and use replies rather than direct messages so to appear more transparent.

Despite recent news hype warning of Twitter’s ability to destroy your non-internet related relationships by making you “less available to your children, friends and partners in your real-life world,” states Soren Gordhamer, an expert on the over-stressed and over-connected, as a new vehicle to “bruise our digital egos”, as a means to lower productivity through distraction,  etc. this is in my opinion an excellent tool for anyone interested in staying informed.

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.