Friday, November 19, 2010

I Will Survive...

First, I Was Afraid. I Was Petrified...

or something like that...

I must admit that I struggled with the Deschooling reading for today. Something deep and, seemingly, primal screamed out in slo-mo, "NOOOO!!!!" when the author appeared to belittle the hierarchical order and engagement with knowledge.

"Of course one needs to find and engage with knowledge in order. It's obvious." Or, additionally, the "reorganization" of schools in a deschooled environment, a web of learning, would resulted in further divisions between the haves and have-nots.

But I Spent So Many Nights Thinking How You Did Me Wrong...

Then, however, I began to think as I encountered different examples about how resources were used in ways similar to the author's descriptions, like the tape recorders and mechanical donkeys, that mirrored my experiences in teaching. I teach about half of my day at a relatively lower privileged high school where money seems prevalent for football and computers that remain locked in closets. I see textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars that cost only that much for the reason that they control the flow of information and are driven by the profit motive.

I was also angry about the article's assertion that it was the teachers who held onto this structure. I would love nothing more than to let students be self-directed. In fact, I've structured my final paper in my freshmen writing class to be inspired by a reading of their choice and tried to serve more as guide than a "TEACHER". I encourage them to ask questions that they are interested in and follow the directions that their research sends them. However, they have been so strictly trained against inquiry that these appears to cause the same anguish as ordering them to kill their pet rabbit.

Clearly something is NOT right.

I Grew Strong. I Learned How to Carry On.

The problem that I see in this debate, and the reading itself, is that educators and policy-makers seek answers rather than a dialectic. Just as Ms. Gaynor states in her totemic song, the strength comes from struggle, not the solution. It comes in the realization that the narrator has about what they should have done in the distant and recent past AND in their practical response to what they should do now.

The error of complete reconstructionalists is that they can imagine the world and relationships in that world in any way that they want. They have the luxury of a known fantasy. Gloria Gaynor, along with the vast majority of educators today, knows that the what-if's are as self-interested as the no-good-nic attempting to return.

Perhaps, just maybe, the solution to the education/tech debate rests in the song as she sings to not just focus on
all the strength I had not to fall apart kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart and I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself

But rather on the direction provided by the example...
Now I hold my head up high and you see me somebody new. I'm not that chained up little person still in love with you

Yes, we could completely recreate ourselves to meet the expectations of one constituency or another, but then we succeed only in demonstrating something of the lack of value of the very thing that we offer to provide.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

A bit of background is necessary before I get into my belated discussion of Turkle (which I thought I had put on timed release but did not, I suppose).

First, I love games of all sorts. One of my favorite things to do with my family has always been to play games. My brother and I used to fight over the monthly arrival of the Games magazine. We love crosswords, computer games, arcade games, car games, and any other sort of game known to mankind.

I believe that this game-centric lifestyle has warped me to no end. I constantly play games in my mind at almost all times. One of my favorites is to take things that people say and try to think of songs or quotes from movies/TV that fit or follow from this. "Come on!" almost always elicits an internal completion of "Eileen" and a subconscious break-out into "toora loora toora loo rye aye" etc. (Albeit, my version is the Save Ferris version rather than the Dexy's Midnight Runners').

Second, I did not have a console gaming system for a long, long, long time after all of my friends had one, other than an Atari 800, which was ostensibly a computer. So, Nintendo, Sega, and Playstation systems were always a bit of a fetish item for me. I did eventually buy a PS1 and a PS2 after they went down in price, but by that time, it was not cool.

This means that my sort of my gaming came a series of fits and starts that depended on what my friends had and were playing. It meant that I never got really good at any of the games that other people played and would constantly have to submit to the query of, "Do you want to have me help you through is part?"

Combining these, I feel a polarity that I'm not sure I see in Turkle's work, although I might see it reflected. It is that gaming, whether it was a form of social connection and/or mental expansion and challenge, was never, for me at least, a matter of this zen-like connection that Turkle observes.

For me, it was a battle with the movable parts that Turkle claims to not exist in video games, despite my battles with sticky controller buttons, high ping/lag, or have the less-than-modern mouse or joystick. it was a battle with not being able to devote the time and energy to claim some social status.

Even in the faculty seminar with the fact that I'm more gamer than most of my colleagues, I am noob of all noobs in comparison to those around me. My student toss off their kill ratios and ask me about whether I've played the new Fallout (no), and I'm left without a response. A couple years ago, I taught a mass media intro class and had a day on identity construction in video games. I brought in my PS2 and Guitar Hero II, a wonderful example of mastery and the zen-like meditation that Turkle describes, and I was pawned in ways that I'm sure you can imagine.

Fortunately, now, I can retreat to my farm and enjoy a leisurely time of planting tomatoes.

Or, better yet, I can turn down the lights and watch "Dory" mate.

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 05, 2010

Laurel: Where's the Hardy?

Oh, That's Right It's in the Humanities!

It's argue ably not the first approach that we've seen from the Humanities, both Nelson and McLuhan have some pretty humanistic undergirding. However, Laurel makes no excuse for her roots AND their usefulness in the realms of the digital.

It's the Story, Stupid!

Consider me biased, but I think that throughout all of the reading to date a large quantity of great ideas have been given, a lot of these ideas have been tied to potential ways of seeing the world of work and thinking in new and original ways. What has been missing, and I think Nelson was pointing to the to a degree, has been the ability to analyze and critique these stories of the digital age.

It is to here that Laurel brings her thinking and from whence that I think people like Tom Chatfield and Jane McGonigal draw their ideas for their, relatively recent TED talks, Found here, where they begin to draw out some interesting potentials for human-computer interaction.

What's It To You?
Well, to me, it's nearly everything in terms of research but also filters down to my teaching to a large degree. The concept that the interaction between agents involves their actions and also the motivations and beliefs behind those characters and actions is a powerful one. It clearly filters into any number of situations: advertising, politics, history, and even science. The structure of the narrative affects its meaning.

In almost every class that I teach, I give at least one example of how looking closely at the form of something can give us an understanding of how it works. This hierarchy, or should I say hierarchies, presents a method of analysis that not only goes beyond the efficacy of something being studied but also can contain and explore the discussion of efficacy itself.

In other words, it gives a process for both the exploration of the process but also for the reasons behind the processes that is not always available to more scientific approaches to phenomena. In this way a researcher can employ a transmedia approach to interactions that could be analyzed as narrative.

An Example?

Really? I'd love to.

Let's say, hypothetically, that you were interested in the changes in characters/agents that one might commonly call "detectives". Let's say that you want to also look at agents that seem to border on the definition of that character based on their actions, language, or motivations.

Well, traditionally, one would need to do literary analysis on the literary examples, applying film theory to the cinematic examples, and mass media approaches to the televisual sorts. Additionally, techniques might need to be formed for musical, video game, comic, and advertising examples to name a few.

Applying Aristotelian approaches to narratives and ins that we agree on as narratives is not new, but the idea of applying them to non-narrative characters and interactions is very valuable. now, we can compare the driving of a character in a 1940s noir to the use of a controller in playing Max Payne. We can unpack the agency of the characters involved and compare the different modes of thought and ethical questions behind them in a way that more resembles the ways that individuals use media and engage in narrative.

The modern human agent does not really differentiate between computer time and movie time and TV time and Video Game time. it's screen time and needs to be studied as such.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad