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Posts Tagged ‘literacy’

A Second look at Jenkins

December 9th, 2009 No comments

In earlier Writing for Electronic Communities class we discussed changes that need to be made to our collaborative essay.  I have been assigned the section on Remix culture and Youtube.  Prior to this essay, I had every little experience with the art of composing remix. I needed to do quite a bit of research to be able to discuss the components and issues of remixing existing works to create something new and unique.   I looked to scholars such as Henry Jenkins, Chuck Tyron, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Lawrence Lessig, Eduardo Navas, Nick Diakopoulos, and others.  I explored relevant intellectual property laws at the U.S. Copyright Office and World Intellectual Property Organization.

Jenkin’s Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, which I recently (re)explored in light of the this essay, provides an insightful look at remix and sampling. Jenkins, like many others seems, to feel that remixing should be encouraged and embraced.  This is particularly important in the education system where students can learn to analyze remixes and discuss what must be understood to compose a remix such as various materials and relevant copyright law.  Similarly, he discusses how “students learn by taking culture apart and putting it back together again” (p. 55).

Jenkins spent some time explaining the concept of influent and how this is similar to remixing in many ways.  He states, “the digital remixing of media content makes visible the degree to which all cultural expression builds on what has come before it” (p. 55). He discusses the artistic process and explains that artists do not create uninfluenced by other works.  Instead, they “build on, are inspired by, appropriate and transform other artist’s work…by tapping into a cultural tradition or by deploying the conventions of a particular genre” (p. 55). Jenkins points readers to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey as a remix of Greek mythology and the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a “mash up of stories and images from across the entire biblical tradition” (p. 56).

He explains the complex nature of remixing and its many components which may not be well understood by those who have not worked in this area.  Jenkins explains that successful sampling from “the existing cultural reservoir requires a close analysis of the existing structures and uses of this material; remixing requires an appreciation of emerging structures and latent potential meanings” (p. 58). This process may also include making relevant connections between sources that are not usually thought of as related.  Jenkins and the other before mentioned authors have given me much to consider when composing this section of the project.

Procedural Literacy– “Reading” Games

December 7th, 2009 No comments

Since I was introduced to the concept in the Summer of 2007, I have been smitten with the idea that games can make arguments.  After all, this was a seeming justification for a medium which I always believed was superior to film for entertainment purposes, but lacked the depth that writing enjoyed for more intellectual pursuits. Since then, I have learned to not think of which medium is better or worse, and instead have learned to think of what medium’s affordances can be leveraged best for a particular purpose. Our class has focused on how new media, broadly conceived, sheds new light on literacy or otherwise makes obsolete previous notions of literacy. Previous notions of literacy, based on an understanding of alphabetic text alone, do not account for visual mediums, such as videogames, which can certainly convey information.

Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, presents a coherent approach to “reading” and interpreting games, based on his notion of procedural rhetoric. Ian Bogost argues, first, that games can be and are expressive human artifacts. He states that previous notions of rhetorical traditions, such as visual rhetoric, can only shed so much light on games’ rhetorical value; the notion of procedural rhetoric must be employed to explain rhetoric in games more fully. Procedural rhetoric, to the author, describes the computer’s (and in turn, the game’s) ability to simulate a rule system, which can be imbued with an ideology. When taken this way, the “games as container” metaphor can take on a new shape. Games are not simply a site for education, but a medium with real cultural currency, an abstraction of a real-life system that can be filled with any message the designer intends.
One book that discusses the rhetorical capacity for games is Ian Bogost’s Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. The book presents a coherent approach to “reading” and interpreting games, based on his notion of procedural rhetoric. The author argues, first, that games can be and are expressive human artifacts. He states that previous notions of rhetorical traditions, such as visual rhetoric, can only shed so much light on games’ rhetorical value; the notion of procedural rhetoric must be employed to explain rhetoric in games more fully. Procedural rhetoric, to the author, describes the computer’s (and in turn, the game’s) ability to simulate a rule system, which can be imbued with an ideology. When taken this way, the “games as container” metaphor can take on a new shape. Games are not simply a site for education, but a medium with real cultural currency, an abstraction of a real-life system that can be filled with any message the designer intends.
This sounds really abstract, so I played one of the games produced by Bogost’s company, Persuasive Games. His games have appeared on the New York Times website and various government agencies. The game I played, Windfall, discusses some of the challenges energy companies face.

This screenshot shows the game’s interface, which is present all the time. The icons on the left represent the various actions the player can perform. The information on the right shows the player’s funds, popularity, and the amount of energy being generated.
Because games are different from prior media forms, a new means of interpreting and critiquing them must be devised. Ian Bogost performed such a work in Persuasive Games. He argues that, “videogames open a new domain for persuasion, thanks to their core mode of representational mode, procedurality” (p. ix). This new rhetorical approach, procedural rhetoric, is defined as, “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures” (p.ix). Bogost explains that “procedural rhetoric is a technique for making arguments with computational systems and for unpacking computational arguments that others have created” (p. 3). It is this trait of computers, procedurality, that “fundamentally separates computers from other media” (p.4). Thus, if we take this assertion seriously, we cannot ignore this element of videogames that make them unlike other media. It is a “form of symbolic expression that uses process instead of language” (p. 9). This lengthy summary is in place to flesh out this novel idea that may at first sound foreign to those with humanities backgrounds. It may be helpful here to discuss a particular game that represents these ideas, Windfall, a  “A strategy game about building wind farms to create clean energy profitably,” according to Bogost’s company’s website, Persuasive Games.

In this game, the player is charged with building windmills for particular geographic location. The view is top-down, like other strategy games such as Civilization. The player uses the mouse to pick and action, on the right of the sceen, to “Research”, build a windmill, build a power line, or “recycle.” The game’s recycle feature allows a player to buy back a windmill or power line that he or she bought for half of the original price. On the right of the screen are icons, which indicate the various actions the player can perform. There is an optional tutorial in which the game teaches the mechanics of the game. Normally, there is clock that runs for “three years” in the game’s time. During this time, the goal of the game is to reach a certain energy output. But, there are a few rules to keep in mind. First, that a windmill must be connected to a powerline, which must be connected to the transformer. Also, there are some places where windmills cannot be placed, such as on hills, sidewalks, touching bodies of water, or on other buildings. And there are suggested rules, such as, “Be careful. Nobody likes large windmills in their neighborhoods.” The player can, in fact build large windmills in neighbords, even next to houses. But, when that happens, people will protest, which will affect your company’s popularity. If your popularity decreases because the people are unhappy with your actions, namely, where you are putting windmills and power lines, they will protest, which will actually cost you money in the game. Popularity is tracked with an icon the right side of the screen. Under the icon, the player’s popularity (or lack thereof) will be translated into a loss in dollars if the when the player’s popularity dips below 100%.

Players can choose to make small, medium, or large windmills. The larger the windmill, the more it costs, but it will generate more energy. People, however, resent the larger windmills more, forcing your company to incur political costs, calculated in real dollars.

This shot shows how the “research” function works. Players can pay a small fee to conduct research on a certain piece of the grid. The “windier” the location, the more efficient a windmill placed in the location will be.

The player can perform “research” on a particular block, as the game is laid out in a grid-like structure. For a price, this research will reveal information about the earth, such as how much wind the area garners. Making this small investment is worthwile to player, which ranges between $100 and $200 dollars. By putting the windmills in the most advantageous places, the player will acrue the most revenue. The player essentially has to balance multiple interests. He or she wants to first, make money by building windmills. But there are times when the player must decide whether he or she will opt to build near neighborhoods if the land is particularly desireable or it he or she is better off keeping the people happy. When the people are unhappy to the extent where it is no longer politically expedient to keep a windmill and its adjecent power line in the same location, the player can recycle the item. This will provide the player with half the value of the item, and will raise his or her popularity in the game. The game makes a claim about the complexities of the energy business. Businesses have a job to do, and sometimes this upsets people. Those who run businesses must decide where his or her priorities are. However, when businesses realize that they are upseting people, they can compromise, to make the make the people happy, and improve the bottom line, even if this entails taking a momentary hit to the bottom line. Instead of being an overtly political game, this game, through the abstraction of a simulation, evokes the spirit of the real-world system, while keeping it simple enough that one can learn how to play the game very quickly.

Collaborative Essay Structure

November 11th, 2009 No comments

After sifting through the collaborative essay structures that you sent me, the consensus reveals itself in the below structure. I have summarized your ideas and added some further suggestions for subjects to be discussed in each section. Each section will, I think, require some additional research to make it thorough, but that is a good thing:

Introduction
general consensus that we should build on and revise Anthony’s introduction; here we also need at least a brief introduction/definition of new media

Literature Review
general consensus that this is where we introduce the frame texts (Selber, Kress, Brooke, Jenkins, and I would add Wesch on YouTube in here) to provide an historical perspective on the main questions: What is literacy? The goal of the rest of the paper is going to be to building to an understanding of how new media challenges that understanding.

Case Study #1: Blogging
Discussion of blogging and its literacy practices, including both examples of and—and this is the most important part—how one constructs such spaces. This is the largest of the case studies.

Case Study #2: Microblogging
Discussion of twitter and its literacy practices, including both examples of and—and this is the most important part—how one constructs such spaces (including the 3rd party app community, API, and cellular usages)

Case Study #3: Video and Remix
Discussion of YouTube and remix culture, including both examples of and—and this is the most important part—how one constructs such spaces (including copyright, intellectual property, Creative Commons, and idea of video as a text)

Case Study #4: Video Games
Discussion video games (1 video game would be best) and its literacy practices, including the games as texts but also how users construct such spaces through their interaction

Case Study #5: Information Processing
Here is the real Web 2.0 discussion, where we think about how we understand, organize, structure, and deal with the massive amounts of information out there. Examples to think about using are We Feel Fine, RSS readers, and so on)

Conclusion, or What To Make of This?
This is going to reveal itself after we put together the other sections, but it will also need to include a brief discussion of the kinds of things that are not covered so that readers understand that it is a limited discussion (that the limited space of the article does not allow for a lager discussion).

We’ll discuss this in class tonight and will divvy up the responsibilities for each section.

A Little Context

October 31st, 2009 No comments

This tern our Writing for Electronic Communities class has been working on a collaborative essay.  We have each analyzed a text that relates to literacy and/or New Media and added about five pages.  Those texts have included; Selber’s Multiliteracies for the digital age, Kress’s Literacy in the new media age, Brooke’s Lingua fracta: Toward a rhetoric of new media, Hayles’s Electronic literature: New horizons for the literary, Jenkins’s Confronting the challenges of participatory culture, Rettberg’s Blogging, Vaidhyanathan’s Copyrights and copywrongs: The rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity, Tryon’s Reinventing cinema: Movies in the age of media convergence, Wasik’s And then there’s this: How stories live and die in viral culture, and several articles related to web 2.0. The results have been a little bit of chaotic (which is to be expected with any project such as this) but a very rewarding experience.  We are now prepared to set aside our work and begin a new to create a more cohesive, focused text.

One of the challenges that we must tackle is to decide on the goal of the article.  What is it that we wish to accomplish? What is the purpose of the text? What is it doing? What is it saying? These questions are somewhat complicated because there are several of us working on the project and our interests and ideas for it may be different. We will also need to discuss how that article is broken up, what to include in the literature review, which case sources to explore, what contextual information we need, etc.

This is a collaborative project so we are adding to, changing, and deleting each other’s work.  ThCollaborative essayere is an excellent chance that what you had written initially will not find its way into a later draft.  Such concepts challenge the definition of authorship which has been addressed by several of the texts we have read this semester but most recently in Vaidhyanathan’s Copyrights and Copywrongs; The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity.

It will be interesting seeing how the collaborative essay, Toward an Understanding of New Media Literacy changes and develops.  And it will be equally interesting to see which challenges provide difficulty in the upcoming weeks.

Kress, Literacy, and Language

October 18th, 2009 3 comments

There has always been a discussion of whether the language of the people controls the standards of the dictionary or the standards of the dictionary control the language of the people.  This can be argued either way, up and down, and ad infinitum.  Our dictionary gives us a set of words with their agreed-upon meanings (or I should say, strongly suggested meanings), and we go about our lives happily using those words.  I can only guess that most of the time, we use them appropriately and correctly, like we have been in this blog.  It’s foolish to think that the dictionary holds all we have to use.  Our language is changing everyday, thanks largely to new things to name and new ways of naming things.  For instance, crunk is now in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Issue, as well as ginormous.  They both were two of 100 accepted entries.

Word meanings change when we want them to.

I still have trouble (and still don’t like) considering image to be text.  I simply don’t expand my definition of text to include images.  I also still consider Pluto to be a planet and I don’t consider indigo to be a rainbow color that I have to memorize.  So just because an assumed authority defines a word as such doesn’t mean the public will listen.  Still, our words have definitions.

Kress appeared to be struggling to define that ugly word of today, literacy.  What felt odd about that chapter (What is Literacy?) was that for a learned man, a professor at the University of London, he approached a definition of literacy from a surprisingly simple angle, broke down the terms, and played with them for a while.  Only images and text were discussed while many other forms of literacy were left untouched.

When I was in middle school, I thought of literacy as pertaining only to images and text.  Now I’ve entered a world in which text doesn’t just mean actual text, where the screen dominates, where everyone needs a cellphone, where watches are becoming useless, where Pluto is now just a dwarf planet, and where literacy is rocking on a fence that runs between obsolesce and useless generality.  The world has changed so much in my measly twenty five years, so why are we still clinging to this clearly abstracted term?

But can’t the same situation be said of the word animal?  It’s also an umbrella term, underneath which lies six other classifications (phylum, class, order, family, genus, species).  Through this classification, we can identify and name every living thing we encounter.  It seems to me that this scientific approach would help us with this struggle.

Linda Dubin, a reading specialist at West Bridgewater University, has on her website the most reasonable definition of literacy that I’ve been able to find:

In broad terms, literacy is the ability to make and communicate meaning from and by the use of a variety of socially contextual symbols.

I hope we can embrace the largeness of this term as something of importance while creating under it a classification system for the various literacies.

We need to gain a little control over how we name things in our world.

Video regarding information literacy

October 17th, 2009 No comments

This is a very interesting YouTube video regarding information literacy called e-literate produced by the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies hosted on YouTube by Howard University for their freshman seminar. The video inclues some historical perspective and works its way all the way to present with information overload through the information we can access. It’s a very long one (almost 9 minutes) so be sure you have the time to view it. It is definitely worth a look

Categories: literacy, YouTube Tags: ,

Support for Kress and early literacy

October 17th, 2009 No comments

According to the National Institute for Literacy, “The building blocks of literacy develop beginning in infancy. Day-to-day activities expose babies and toddlers to sounds, words, speech, and print. Researchers have found strong evidence that children can learn reading and writing in their earliest years, long before they go to school. ” This provides strong support for Kress theory on sign-making in early childhood.

National Institute for Literacy

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Sign-making

October 17th, 2009 No comments

There are many tangents one can go off on with regard to Gunther Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age. I have chosen just one of those tangents: “reading as sign-making,” especially as it relates to childhood writing. Adults make the erroneous assumption that children learn to read and write wholly as imitators and copiers of existing adult writing. Kress states, “notions of ‘copying’ or of ‘imitating’ … ensure that we ourselves misread what is at issue … whatever else the child’s sign might have been, it was not a copy…” (p. 143) He then goes on to discuss his daughter’s attempt to write “thank you” after he has written it on a page for her. There are randomly written letters on the page, but below the words “thank you” that he had written for her, there is a symbol below it that she drew to represent his words. A graphic image of that early writing can be observed on p. 144.

Kress goes further to relate sign-making by adults as well. He states, “outward production results in signs which are visible, audible and communicable.” (Kress, 2003, p. 145) Kress relates this version of sign-making to drawing a picture of his car – he basically admits that his drawing of the car would only be a “partial representation” and “representation is always partial.” (p. 144) So the imperfection of represenatation exists not only with children, but also adults.

Kress returns to early childhood writing or sign-making. He states, “the sign made outwardly … is based on the sign made before, inwardly, as the result of the ‘reading’ made.” (Kress, 2003, p. 145) Kress says this gives us a basis for understanding early sign-making in relation to reading and learning.

This discussion by Kress was meaningful as I have seen such ‘sign-making’ with my children and with young relatives. My daughter was continually creating signs by scribbling on paper random mixes of letters from the time she was able to hold a crayon in her tiny hand. Books were always present and being read in our house. It was my assumption at the time that reading to her so often, nurtured her abilities to transform random scribbles to letters. Perhaps it isn’t just being read to that creates this ability with children – it is also the pervasive culture of TV, especially children’s programming, that teaches the first instinct regarding writing letters. Whether those letters come together and make sense or not, the child has still created a sign that is just a taste of what is to come later.

What Google found:

October 11th, 2009 1 comment

So I went to Google and plugged the term “literacy” into Google Images. It found a huge number of images that ranged from serious to comedy.

Of course with my fondness for animals I especially liked this image from the blog Mighty Red Pen (a very funny blog site to explore)

literacy-cat

There are also more serious issues noted at my Google Images search for literacy

This was on a site for a Canadian university – University of British Columbia – this graph is a particularly good illustration of some of our discussions in class:

bloom1

Categories: literacy Tags:

Stuart’s Multiliteracies

September 19th, 2009 No comments

This book was written to help teachers of writing and communication develop full scale computer literacy programs that are both effective and professionally responsible.

Stuart Selber opens his book, Multiliteracies for a Digital Age, with the above introduction, letting us readers know that what he plans to address in the next 239 pages will be a comprehensive plan for teachers. This book is more or less a persuasive argument and you should enter it with that thought in mind.

Sliding gracefully across fourteen pages, Stuart then announces in a clarifying voice what the problems are in today’s (2004’s) teaching of computer technologies and literacies. Initially, his focus falls on how many schools with computer competency courses lack in one of three crucial literacy categories that he outlines throughout the book. These are functional literacy, critical literacy, and rhetorical literacy. Stuart presents the example of Florida State University’s computer science requirements, explaining that it “…promotes skills for working productively in practical terms, on the other hand, fails to offer the perspectives needed for making rhetorical judgements.”

Thus, Stuart defines what he claims:

Students who are not adequately exposed to all three literacy categories will find it difficult to participate fully and meaningfully in technological activities.

Stuart enters his chapter on functional literacy and identifies computers as tools. His list of competencies, that the ideal functionally literate student has, hold within them parameters Stuart finds important: ability to achieve educational goals, understands social conventions that determine computer use, makes use of associated discourses, effective management of online world, and confident resolution to technical impasses. These skills provide a sound foundation for functional literacy.(45) However, Stuart warns that the literacy hides the political leanings embedded in technologies, and while a functional literate student can manage himself effectively, such work is shortsighted and dangerously malleable without a critical understanding of technology. And so, he addresses that in his next chapter. (72)

It is the why and then the how that is stressed in this next chapter. Under the flag of critical literacy, Stuart encourages teachers to instill in their students a questioning, almost skeptical, frame of mind. He asks critically literate students to be aware of the dominating politics inherent in technology, to contextualize it, and to criticise the sculpting forces of culture and institutions. To achieve this, he prescribes metadiscourse heuristics. He quotes Michael Joyce as saying, “…technology, like any other unacknowledged representation of power, endangers learning.”(133) To counter, students and teachers need to be able to recognize the ebb and flow of power, and need to be able to act accordingly.

This action, as Stuart puts it, is reflective production, constitutes the majority of his definition of rhetorical literacy. Within this literacy, he visualizes computers as hypertextual media, digitized text engaged in the mass dissemination of information. Viewing these hypertexts as form of rhetoric, students can engage in discourse with them, much like conventional conversation. This is largely done at the interface, where the user and the technology meet, where the user asserts control. Stuart idealizes rhetorically literate students as being able to negotiate the persuasive techniques of the producers, and to be able to become producers themselves. (160)

Stuart sums up his beliefs on page 179, 58 pages from the end, by saying:

The more associations that individuals can form between old and new knowledge, the better their understanding of that new knowledge is likely to be.

While the phrase can be applied in many way to many subjects, we can tweak it ourselves by replacing “knowledge” with “technology”. Proceeding, he explains his suggested pedagogical procedures in matters of layered contexts, enabling the students to heuristically climb to higher and broader levels of understanding. Or rather, he says what he thinks is a good way to help students learn about technology and learn from technology. And although rather broad and idealistic, we, as students, can already see his changes in our education. It’d be a wonder to see if they’re being applied to the younger generations.