12 Oct 2009

Decimals are sooooo much better.

October 12, 2009 501A, assignments Comments Off

I’m getting a little frustrated, because every time I have an idea, the readings in some way address it (and usually better) a few weeks later. This time, it’s Cass R. Sunstein’s “Democracy and Filtering.”

At least last time I was smart enough to wait to talk about fractionalization, even though I wasn’t about democracy. Oh well, at least I went more in a public policy direction.

Sunstein addresses something I think is really important: that content customization is detrimental to democratic society, because people will self-limit information to that which does not challenge their own worldview.


So I did that whole riff on identity, which yeah, but I think I’m going to go somewhere else this time. Let’s try democracy, because now I’m kind of in this place that makes my little social science-y heart go pitter-pat.

(What can I say? The theory, it infects! Read a bunch and then play spot-the-philospher with the Matrix! As a drinking game!)


6 Oct 2009

Do you wanna date my avatar *

October 6, 2009 501A, assignments, responses 5 Comments

I think our understanding of gaming lends itself well to a discussion of broader concepts of identity and the creation (or re-creation of identity).

While Steven Malliet tries to explore the concept of an external identity change (that is, how gaming influences out-of-game actions by game players) in his piece, “Adapting the principles of ludology to the method of video game content analysis,” I think a more interesting subject is how games allow players to explore their own identities within the context of the game itself. As Malliet states, “It is an essential part of games that players are allowed (and required) to be creative within the framework provided by the game rules.”

That creativity, whether in play style or in other game aspects such as socialization or even in creation of an avatar, is related to the formation of identity. A new identity, an idealized identity, a trial version: all things are possible in-game (or, in a broader context, on the Internet itself.)

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

The New Yorker cartoon, typically invoked in discussions of trust, but which also has applications to ideas of identity and the digital world.

I mean, look at MySpace pages (which, unlike Facebook, are less connected to real-life identity), or even earlier, IM handles and profiles, all methods of a digital recreation of identity in a more idealized or trial form.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson illustrates this struggle between the ideals of identity, albeit in a fictional setting.

Your avatar can look any way you want it to, up to the limitations of your equipment. If you’re ugly, you can make your avatar beautiful. If you’ve just gotten out of bed, your avatar can still be wearing beautiful clothes and professionally applied makeup. You can look like a gorilla or a dragon or a giant talking penis in the Metaverse.

In Snow Crash, how a user creates his or her avatar is a point of pride. Hiro appreciates individuation, as “most hacker types don’t go in for garish avatars, because they know that it takes a lot more sophistication to render a realistic human face than a talking penis,” but there is an element of classism and elitism in looking at others’ avatars:

“When white-trash high-school girls are going on a date in the Metaverse, they invariably run down to the computer-games section of the local Wal-Mart and buy a copy of Brandy.”

Similarly, the black-and-whites, no matter what they look like, are judged on the basis of their use of a public utility to access the Metaverse.

The Metaverse isn’t a game, per se, much the way We Live Here,” describes that a player’s level and in-game wealth end up being secondary to the personal character traits of the person behind the character in the social milieu of the game world.” Riches don’t buy leadership skills, relationships are built upon human connections. Games offer a way to tweak those connections in a non-destructive way — an individual social experiment that allows for growth and change outside the strictures of a real environment, where outside expectations and history weigh heavily on action.

We don’t just communicate identity visually. Actions speak louder than words.

That experimentation with identity is a function of any game, digital or not. C. C. Abt, in his 1970 work Serious Games, identified play as an important component of understanding interaction and forming identity. Again, as with ideas about convergence technology doesn’t change or destroy real-world interaction; it merely extends it.
*I’m not going to link it. Felicia Day doesn’t need my help in her pursuit of geek love. I don’t begrudge her, but I see no need to help. Google is your friend.

A final note: So remember how a few weeks ago I was all, “blah blah Roy Oldenburg, blah blah Third Places blah Internet?”

Why do I not make sure someone else didn’t do it better, first, before I haul off and try to make what I think is an intellectual point? Because otherwise it just ends up being obvious. Hello, Hinton.

P.S. I write most of my posts in the HTML window and write my own tags. This one is no exception.

29 Sep 2009

Penguins aren’t cute.

September 29, 2009 501A, assignments, responses Comments Off

To paraphrase, “It’s the experience, stupid.”

(I tried to post this last night, but was having some issues. I think WordPress lost a few of my posts as well.)

This cute little penguin was posing for photographs. Coincidentally this is a Gentoo penguin. It's nice that they named the species after a Linux distribution. I wonder what a Debian Penguin would look like?  -photo from Paul Boxley (Lord Biro) on flickr.com

This cute little penguin was posing for photographs. Coincidentally this is a Gentoo penguin. It's nice that they named the species after a Linux distribution. I wonder what a Debian Penguin would look like? -photo and caption from Paul Boxley (Lord Biro) on flickr.com

Penguins and experiential learning

Linky goodness:

Penguin Experience at the Mystic Aquarium
Beluga Experience
The Secrets Inside Your Dog’s Mind
Mars 2112
Max Brenner
The Overscheduled Child
Obama would curtail summer vacation

Other stuff about reading, play and developmental readiness:
Can the right kinds of play teach self-control? (New York Times Magazine, Sept. 25 2009)
Educators differ on why boys lag in reading (Washington Post, March 15, 2005)

28 Sep 2009

You got to know when to hold ‘em

September 28, 2009 501A, assignments 1 Comment

I play games all the time! I bought myself a Wii about a year ago, and I love it — I really need to buy Shaun White Snowboarding, because I’ve rented it too many times — and of course I play silly little games like Snood (on my computer) and Text Twist (phone), because they’re a good little brain break. I’ve wasted months of my life playing Tony Hawk on XBox; I went to a LAN party when Halo 2 came out (even though I hate first-person shooters, I’m terrible at them); I bought myself Neverwinter Nights last time I was unemployed to give myself something to be involved in. I’ve personally owned Atari, Sega, Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Game Boy (that’s not really an impressive list) and owned several games for XBox (though the console wasn’t mine).

I’m pretty lame in that I don’t really like multiplayer games — I’d rather play stuff by myself than against people. One of my favorite games ever is Settlers of Catan, which a friend introduced me to the online version, and then gave me a copy of the board game. I still like playing against the bots in the online version best. For me, gaming is an escape and a chance to lose myself in a story, which is why I’m more likely to play Tony Hawk in the story mode and gravitate towards games like Crash Bandicoot than the new Halo. It’s just a game, so why be serious? Unless we’re playing blackjack. Blackjack is Serious Business.