Week 13: ‘Ask and Answer’

This week I was interested in investigating another one of the ‘popular’ things that surfaced when I was completing my Pinterest board.  Before completing this unit, I had never heard of the social networking site, Ask.fm, and I was curious to learn more about it when it kept re-appearing as something that was popular and used frequently among teenage cohorts.

If you’re like me and are not familiar with this new digital phenomenon, here is the low down:  Ask.fm is a relatively new social networking site.  It is essentially a question and answer site where users sign up and develop a profile page.  The site allows users to ask questions to which anyone else on the site can respond to or answer.  Users can also comment on and answer other users questions and pictures and videos are able to be shared.  Users are supposed to be over 13 years of age to use the site and signing up is made easy via a Facebook page.

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3D SOCIAL NETWORKING by Chris Potter, Stockmonkeys.com (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

So what is all the hype about?  Ask.fm is under a media attack for causing suicide among teens.  The most recent case is that of 14 year old English school girl, Izzy Dix, who took her life after reportedly being bullied on Ask.fm.  There are a number of other suicides that are controversially being linked to the site and Ask.fm is also being blamed for spurring gang wars.  The seriousness of this case was drummed home for me after speaking to my sister, a youth social worker who is involved with a number of schools in the local region.  She reported that she has dealt with a number of serious cases over the past six months relating to students who have been cyberbullied through the Ask.fm site.  I therefore felt this to be something that was ‘alive’ in my region and a trend that I should be aware of.

Ask.fm has been criticised for its privacy settings – or more specifically its lack of privacy settings and poor identity control.  It allows for anonymous posting – so it seems the most damaging part is the hate, death threats and just plain nasty messages that users can receive anonymously on their profile pages.  This lack of accountability on the Internet appears to be bringing out the worst in users and it seems a case where anonymity is breeding faceless, malicious bullies.  Ask.fm has announced that they will be changing their safety policy in the future.  Their full statement can be found here.

Ask.fm shares some commonalities with other social networking sites, like Facebook and YouTube, in that it allows users to construct an identity or presentation of self in a very public way.  Balick (2013) reminds us of the way that SNS’s offer opportunities for self-discovery and suggests that ‘online identity formation can be a way in which young people thoughtfully engage in the possibilities available to them’ (p.134).  It is, in a way, a form of ‘identity testing’ (Balick 2013, p.131) and for young people, having a a space to enact and test out aspects of self is an important task in life (Balick 2013).

While Ask.fm and other SNS’s can be a way for youth to enact powerful identity play, what can become somewhat problematic is the cost of social judgement and validation associated with these sites.  Uses and gratifications research suggests that one of the major categories of motivation relating to people’s media use is ‘personal identity/social utility (ie to strengthen contact with others, to overcome loneliness, to form one’s identity)’ (Calvert & Wilson, p.64).  It comes as no surprise then that adolescents use SNS’s to satisfy strong social and emotional needs and in relation to Ask.fm, Davies (2013) suggests that ‘on a very basic level…it is a popularity competition, with those using it desperately looking for approval’.  Wilcox and Stephen (in Balick 2013) confirm this assertion as they state ‘when adolescents receive positive feedback on their social network profile, it enhances their self esteem and well being’ (p.74).  Furthermore, Balick (2013) reminds us of the power of peer pressure as a powerful form of social influence that extends across both online and offline contexts.  ‘If you care about what other people think of you…then you might go along with the crowd to avoid their wrath or curry their favor’ (Balick 2013, p.77).  With all of this at stake, managing one’s online and offline identity becomes a complicated affair and one that youth are heavily invested in.  The social influence on these sites and their effects are immense.

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SOCIAL NETWORKING – FRIENDSHIPS AND MUSIC by Jlaytarts2090 (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I feel that this emphasises the need for adolescents to navigate these spaces critically and to engage in positive identity play.  I feel there is a role for educators here, to ensure youth are not only engaging with media ethically and responsibly, but that they are aware of their role as empowered subjects to write their own identities and create their own histories.  Social networking sites do open up children’s identity play to a networked publics and expose them to peer and pubic scrutiny.  Youth need to understand the repercussions of this and they need to be guided to make choices and decisions that yield positive results in terms of how they represent themselves online.

What is interesting in relation to the Ask.fm saga and the case of Izzy Dix, is the way in which Dix’s friends have been proactive in developing an anti-bullying and anti-Ask FM stance in response to the teens death.  They have set up a Facebook memoir page that calls for a stand against bullying and have also publicly encouraged users to cancel their Ask.fm accounts in protest against the social website.  For them, social media has allowed a voice for change.  Rather than being passive or accepting of the situation, they have capitalised on the transformative potential of the medium.  As Sandberg (in Balick 2013) states, ‘the strength of social media is that it empowers individuals to amplify and broadcast their voices.  The truer that voice, the louder it will sound and the farther it will reach’ (p.76).  Education can encourage youth to harness the transformative rather than the harmful potential of digital media so that they impact their lives and the lives of others for the better.

Balick, A.  (2013).  The Psychodynamics of Social Networking: Connected-up Instantaneous Culture and the Self.  Karnac Books:  London.

Calvert, S. & Wilson, J. (Eds.) (2008).  The Handbook of Children, Media and Development.  Blackwell Publishing: United Kingdom.

Davies, B.  (2013).  My sickening trawl through the website go back to where slit yourself children are trolled to death.  Daily Mail.  8 August.  London, UK.

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Week 12: Selfies for good or evil

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DEVIL INSIDE 224/365 by Dennis Skley (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When searching online for videos and images to attach to my Week 11 Pinterest board on ‘things that are popular among youths’, I was surprised what a simple google search on the term ‘selfies’ revealed.  Search results declared: ‘Naked Selfies on Flickr’ and ‘Selfies 18+ on Tumblr’.  This combined with alarmist media headlines all portray an overwhelming impression of the selfie as a potent, harmful and extremely unwholesome cultural phenomenon.

I am aware of selfies as a popular and somewhat addictive practice among teens and have  observed smart phones being ‘snuck out‘ in class or in the schoolyard on countless occasions so that students can snap digital portraits of themselves and their friends. While I am aware of some youths engagement in distasteful selfies, including provocative poses at parties or engagement in illicit behaviour, it was my view that the majority of teens engage in selfie sharing as a form of self-expression or self-investigation through new media.  As Hardey (in Day 2013) states, ‘the selfie is revolutionising how we gather autobiographical information about ourselves and our friends…it’s about continuously rewriting yourself.  It’s an extension of our natural construction of self.  It’s about presenting yourself in the best way…[similar to] when women put on make-up or men bodybuild [in order] to look a certain way: it’s an aspect of performance that’s about knowing yourself and being vulnerable.’  I was interested to investigate the ins and outs of the selfie phenomenon further and explore the advantages and disadvantages the selfie may have in the context of using popular culture in the classroom.

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SEE-MING LEE by See-Ming Lee (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 Selfies have notoriously been described as the ‘ultimate symbol of the narcissistic age’ (Day 2013) and John Paul Titlow, the American writer described selfie-sharing as ‘a high school popularity contest on digital steroids’ (Day 2013).  Even the online Oxford dictionary, which added the term as a new word this year, cautions against the egotistical nature of the selfie, as the definition below shows:

 Pronunciation: /ˈsɛlfi/ (also selfy):  noun (plural selfies):  informal

  • a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website:
  • occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary
  • http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/selfie

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SHE’S JUST COOL LIKE THAT by D. Sharon Pruitt (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

But is the selfie really a ‘trashy’ artefact of our ‘me me me’ culture and is this generation of digital natives really more narcissistic than the last?  I vaguely remember myself as a self-absorbed teenager, fussing over my outfit before I graced the public eye and spending an entire morning working on my hair before the school photo shoot so I’d look good in the yearbook.  Furthermore, self-portraiture has been a popular art form and highly expressive media for centuries.  Surely Van Gough or Frida Khalo’s obsession with painting themselves didn’t see them branded as narcissistic.  So what has changed?  I suppose the difference now is the speed and ease with which a photograph can be shared and disseminated to such a wide audience at the simple click of a button.  As Day (2013) suggests, the selfies’ ‘instantaneous nature encourages superficiality’.  While the selfie may give us more control over our image and the image we intentionally project to the world, it seems there are dangers inherent in that.  We are still struggling with the private made public conundrum.

At their most extreme, selfies have been branded as contributing to the rise of amateur porn and of degrading and disempowering women.  There are now entire internet sites dedicated to ‘young women posing for selfies in a state of undress’ (Day 2013) and according to author Gail Dines, ‘because of porn culture, women have internalised that image of themselves.  They self-objectify, which means they’re actually doing to themselves what the male gaze does to them’ (in Day 2013).  In her critique of selfies, eleven year old school girl, Olympia Nelson (2013) says that girls post images of themselves in sexually suggestive poses to score approval and to increase their number of ‘likes’.  In this way selfies may be seen as a perverse popularity contest that demeans young women.

At the other end of the spectrum, selfies may actually work to empower individuals and give voice to the marginalised.  Janmohamed (2013) writes about the potential for the selfie to shift social boundaries.  She points to a recent case in India in which selfies were declared as un-Islamic and Muslim girls were banned from posting pictures of themselves on social networks (Janmohamed 2013).  Janmohamed (2013) suggests ‘it’s possible that for some, publishing pictures of themselves living lives their foremothers could only have dreamt of, is itself a way of breaking traditional gender oppression and of finding their own place in society’.  Furthermore, Janmohamed emphasises the selfie as a medium entirely within the individual’s own control.  The selfie enables one to construct an identity and project an image the way they want to be seen (Janmohamed 2013).  ‘The mere existence of such photos moves boundaries about what is acceptable, bringing into the mainstream what might once have been hidden.  It subtly changes our social boundaries’ (Janmohamed 2013).

Delving into this idea further, I was interested to come across numerous selfie movements or causes that are dedicated to giving the marginalised or disadvantaged a voice.  For example, Selfie for Silence is a movement that encourages people to ‘end the silence around anti-LBGT bullying and harrassment’.  Individuals are encouraged to post a selfie on Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter with a written message on how they can ‘end the silence’.  Fedoras for Fairness is another campaign that uses the ‘fedora as a metaphor of the many hats that women wear to create a brighter future for all’ and encourages women to share their own fedora photos.

Beth’s blog on Selfies for good? Or Just Tapping into Another Narcissistic Trend was another site I came across that had some interesting and novel ways that selfies can be used for social good.  Of particular interest to me, as an aspiring teacher librarian, was how the New York Public library was using selfies to attract ‘selfie-loving patrons’ and to engage an online presence.  As Snapshots from NYPL and How Selfies are Re-energizing the New York Public Library describes, the New York Public Library installed photobooths in two of its libraries and encouraged visitors to step inside, with results then being uploaded onto Flickr.  The initiative was highly popular and proved valuable as a marketing tool and in establishing communication with patrons in a physical as well as digital format.  This idea could be modified or appropriated to extend the online identity of the school library.  Selfies of students posing with their favourite book during book week or even just using the library could be uploaded as a means of engaging students and forging an online relationship with them.  Images could be kept private on a library blog or wiki or on the library intranet site if privacy was a school issue.  Given the popularity of the selfie, this may be one novel way of encouraging students to develop a relationship with the library.

Jackie Gerstein’s educational blog and her post on User Generated Education: Photography for Enhancing Social Emotional Learning includes a number of valuable ideas on how selfies and other forms of photography can be used in the classroom to build students social emotional skills.  Gerstein suggests that learners can ‘use photography and digital images to make personal connections with themselves, the content, each other, and other “cultures” with the ultimate goals of increased self-awareness, cultural awareness, and empathy’.  The website suggests how selfies and self-portraiture can be used in a number of disciplines, including history, art and language arts. There’s even a Science link with lesson ideas and website links on how students can research and then take selfies to communicate what type of scientist they are or aspire to be.

The website also details how photography can be used to empower and give the marginalised or disadvanted a voice.  I found Photovoice, a form of participatory photography, an interesting concept and one that could be adapted for use on a smaller scale in a classroom or school context.  More information on this initiative can be found on the Photovoice website and The Community Toolbox provides information on Implementing Photovoice in Your Community.

Other resources focused on using photography for social good includes Bridges to Understanding, which includes a Gallery of Digital Stories and Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling.  Although these resources again move beyond the selfie to photography in general, the same ideas and attitudes could be applied to the selfie in a smaller classroom context.

Whether you love them or hate them, it seems that selfies have lodged themselves into the digital lifeworld of the adolescent. Given the popularity of the selfie among youth today, I can see only the benefits of integrating the selfie concept into the curriculum in a way that impacts positively on students’ lives and the world around them.  This is one area that I will definitely be willing to incorporate in my Art and/or English classes in the future.

Day, E.  (2013).  Selfie Obsession.  Sunday Independent, 4 August.  Independent News and Media: Dublin.

Huppke, R.  (2013).  ‘Selfie’ photos say me, myself, mine.  Chicago Tribune, 16 May.  Tribune Publishing Company: Chicago.

Janmohamed, S.  (2013).  How the selfie has shifted the boundaries.  The National, 17 August.  Abu Dhabi Media Company: Abu Dhabi.

Nelson, O.  (2013).  Dark undercurrents of teenage girls’ selfies: Pouty self portraits have turned boy-girl relations into a cut-throat sexual rat race.  The Age, 11 July.http://www.theage.com.au/comment/dark-undercurrents-of-teenage-girls-selfies-20130710-2pqbl.html

Week 11: ‘Top of the Pops’ : What is popular with young people

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SHOPPING WITH IPHONE by Jason Howie (Flickr image, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This week I created a Pinterest board documenting some of the things that I have found to be popular with youth today.  My board can be accessed via the following URL:

http://www.pinterest.com/michelle7454/top-of-the-pops/

I found this task to be more difficult than I first expected and I found I kept questioning what is meant by the term ‘popular culture’ as I sourced different images and videos to ‘pin’.

One conflict that kept arising for me was the fact that the term ‘young people’ encompasses such a broad demographic.  Even to narrow the category of youth down to a more specific age group such as ‘primary-aged children’, ‘teens’ or even ‘senior students’ still makes the task of deciphering what is ‘popular’ among a cohort of young people with an amalgamation of individual interests, tastes and personalities very difficult.

Young people inhabit many different physical and virtual spaces and belong to a wide array of sporting, community, music, dancing and other niche groups.  Their participation and membership of different groups, not to mention their personal/individual interests, to a large extent, influence the texts and other artefacts they engage with and what they therefore deem as ‘popular’.  For example, I know a number of young girls who are obsessed with the band ‘One Direction’ and there is no denying that this young pop group have a very large tween following.  However, to the members of the school football team, ‘One Direction’ may be viewed as the epitomy of ‘geekiness’ and things such as ‘The Footy Show’ may be favoured as ‘popular’ among this group of macho sportsmen.  Youth who define themselves as ‘gamers’ will again engage with different aspects of popular culture as those who are ‘non-gamers’.  Likewise, a young person’s physical location and their surrounding community may also influence what is ‘popular’.  Youth living in beachside communities may strongly identify with a ‘surfie’ culture and this may influence their consumption of certain texts/artefacts.

Through completing this exercise, a number of general things have surfaced as being very popular with the majority of youth, though how they use them may differ.  There is certainly no denying the predominance of Facebook and mobile phones among young people today.  These forms of media are ubiquitous amongst youth and form a very important part of their lifeworlds.  They influence how they communicate with each other, establish and maintain friendships and interest groups and develop and enact their changing identities.

Another interesting issue that arose as I was completing this task, was the heavy banning or censorship of popular cultural texts/artefacts in schools.  In my experience, mobile phones, texting, gaming, Facebook and YouTube have always been a source of controversy and have been strongly monitored and banned on schools grounds.  As I was racking my brain, trying to think of what was popular among youth, I found my thinking starting to lean towards what was being censored in schools as a means of deciphering what was ‘popular’.  In this way, I remembered ‘Mother’ – the energy drink, as being a popular beverage among teens I have taught – often  heavily consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I recall too, the recent media uproar regarding the school principal who banned the consumption of energy drinks on school grounds – see this report in The Australian. It made me think, do schools ban or censor these things because they are ‘popular’?  If only a minority of students are consuming Mother or using Facebook or texting in class, the issue is relatively controllable, however, once the majority are using or consuming, the repercussions are much more far-reaching and are a lot more difficult to monitor by the authorities.  Surely this idea of banning/censorship isn’t a new phenomena though – after all, wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll once banned in many households and deemed the devil’s music at one point in time?

Some things surprised me as I was surveying different youth/groups on what was popular.  I was quite shocked to discover that ‘Home and Away’ was still popular amongst young people these days as this was a show I watched as a teen.  It also seems some elements of popular culture remain ‘classic’ in a sense – like youths’ undying love of magazines and celebrity gossip and the act of adorning one’s bedroom/books/diary with posters and artefacts from the pop culture world.

Week 10: Youthspeak

This week I interviewed three children regarding their popular culture interests.  Lily-May is a 7 year old girl, Daniel a 9 year old boy and Sarah a 12 year old girl.  While they all showed that they engaged with some of the same popular culture texts as their friends/cohort did, their responses show that their tastes in books/films/TV etcetera are largely influenced by their own unique interests or hobbies.

1.  Can you list what you like to read?  (eg.  titles of books/series, magazines, comics, picture books, graphic novels etc)

Lily-May:  Chapter books about fairies

Daniel:  Long books about animals

Sarah:  Ned Kelly, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, ‘Harry Potter’ and sporting books

2.  Why do you enjoy reading these so much?

Lily-May:  I like the names of the fairies

Daniel:  They explain about animals, they are interesting

Sarah:  They are interesting and get my attention.  They don’t get boring.

3.  How many hours a week would you spend reading?

Lily-May:  20 minutes at school.  1 minute at home

Daniel:  At school I read for 20 minutes each day.  Hardly ever at home.

Sarah:  2 hours and 30 minutes

4.  What are your favourite programs on TV and why?

Lily-May:  Peppa Pig on ABC2.  I like it because it’s colourful and funny.

Daniel:  Deadly 60 on ABC3.  It shows the most deadly animals in the world.

Sarah:  My Place on ABC3 because it retells the olden way of life to the more modern.

5.  How many hours a week would you spend watching TV?

Lily-May:  4 hours

Daniel:  A long time

Sarah:  10 hours

6.  Can you list some of your favourite movies and why?

Lily-May:  I like Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale.  It’s cute.

Daniel:  Harry Potter, it’s very scary.

Sarah:  Like Mike 1 and 2 because it’s a basketball movie.

7.  Are these books/movies/TV programs popular among your friends as well?  Do your friends read/watch/play with the same things as you?

Lily-May:  My friend Deon likes Barbie as well.  Don’t know if my other friends like it.  My friends don’t like Peppa Pig, they might think it is baby.

Daniel:  Nah, not really.  People at school like Minecraft.

Sarah:  Some of my friends watch different channels but we like to read the same things.

8.  If not, what do you think is popular with your friends?

Lily-May:  Monster High is popular.

Daniel:  Everyone likes Minecraft.

Sarah:  My friends watch Home and Away and Big Brother.

9.  Do you have any other personal items/toys/merchandise relating to your favourite books/movies/games etc.?  eg. backpacks/towels/water bottles?

Lily-May:  I have Barbie dolls.  I would like a Peppa Pig doll even though people think it is baby.

Daniel:  No, only the Harry Potter movies

Sarah:  I have a polar bear teddy that my best friend gave me.

10.  Is it important that you have these things?  Why/why not?

Lily-May:  Yes, because I love them.

Daniel:  Yes, because if I didn’t have them what would I do?

Sarah:  It’s important to keep it for memory when you’re older.

11.  What about the internet?  Do you have access to and use the internet at school?  At home?

Lily-May:  Yes, at home, not at school.

Daniel:  Yes, at home and school

Sarah:  I use the internet at home and school

12.  How many hours would you spend online each week?

Lily-May:  5 minutes

Daniel:  At school 3 hours, at home 1 hour

Sarah:  1 hour

13.  What kind of things do you like to search on the internet?

Lily-May:  Reading Eggs and Mathletics

Daniel:  At school Minecraft.  At home Mathletics and Sumdog

Sarah:  Research for English, History

14.  Do you use any forms of social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace?  If so, how often do you use these spaces?

Lily-May:  No

Daniel:  No

Sarah:  Don’t have it

15.  And why do use these spaces?

Lily-May:  N/A

Daniel:  N/A

Sarah:  Dont’ have it

16.  Do you have a mobile phone?  What do you use your phone for?

Lily-May:  No

Daniel:  No

Sarah:  Yes, to call my mum when I’m away for basketball

17.  What about games?  Do you play computer games, video games, games on social networking sites or on your mobile phone?

Lily-May:  I play games on my Ipod.  Mostly Minecraft and Angry Birds.

Daniel:  I have an Ipod and I play heaps of games.  I love Minecraft.

Sarah:  I have the game Despicable Me and social networking as Instagram.

18.  Is there anything else you can think of that is ‘popular’ among you and your friends at the moment?  If so, please list them.

Lily-May:  Monster High dolls.

Daniel:  Minecraft – lots of people talk about it.  We play it at school in the computer lab.

Sarah:  Facebook.

19.  Do your teachers draw on any of the ‘popular’ things you like to read/watch/engage with when they are teaching you in the classroom?

Lily-May:  No

Daniel:  No

Sarah:  Yes

20.  Do you think they should?  Why/why not?

Lily-May:  No, they would think that I am a baby.

Daniel:  No, it would waste learning time.  You can access Minecraft EDU at school.

Sarah:  Yes, to share others interest.

Week 9: ‘Game literacy, gaming cultures and media education’

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I was interested this week, in exploring how gaming can be used to enhance classroom learning, specifically within my teaching areas of English and/or Art.  I came across an article titled ‘Game literacy, gaming cultures and media education’ by A. Partington, which explores how one teacher used gaming within the English/media classroom.  The article was applicable to my teaching area of English as it privileged a critical literacy approach and recognised the inherently social functions of language.  By drawing on the 3C’s model of literacy, which posits that literacy has cultural, creative and critical social functions (Partington 2010, p.73), the reading made suggestions as to how a course combining computer game play and creation can provide opportunities for students to extend their critical literacy and creativity.

In the article, Partington (2010) outlines how games can be ‘read’ and critically analysed in much the same way that other media forms like films or books can.  Cultural, creative and critical literacy strands can be explored, for example, through analysis of the strong characters and narrative/s that become apparent through gameplay.  An example of this is ‘unpacking’ the character of Lara Croft in the ‘Tomb Raider’ game series to determine who she is aimed at and whether she represents the power or subordination of women (Partington 2010, p.77).  It is suggested that the 3C’s can also be applied through an examination of the relationships between text, audience and institutions (Partington 2010, p.76).  How games are intentionally created for particular audiences and adapted to suit the tastes and desires of the players is one instance of how this relationship can be critically unpacked and analysed (Partington 2010, p.76).

Partington (2010) also details how games are distinctly unique from other texts and how this may affect the way they are incorporated and studied in the English/media classroom.  Games have a number of distinguishing features, such as ludic elements like time limits, health points and economies (such as beans, coins and bullets).  The fact that games do not comprise of one linear narrative, but are rather dynamic and navigated by the player/s’ choices and actions is another feature that makes their analysis and creation in the classroom different from other texts.  These many unique features and representational factors are purposefully combined to make particular meaning/s therefore have much scope to be unpacked and examined from a critical/cultural and creative perspective.

The educational program detailed in the article was trialled with a group of secondary students and involved them in the play and creation of games.  The program firstly drew on the novel, film and game versions of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and analysed how each text catered to specific audiences and how the differing ways in which characters and events are constructed, affects readers’/viewers’ experiences.  Text, images and logos from marketing packages were also analysed and students were then required to take on the role as a gaming studio to produce a level for an action adventure game.  This required students to make choices relating to characters, locations and objects and to design rules that impacted on the players’ gaming experience (Partington 2010, p.78).  A program called Mission Maker was used – a simple game editing software which provided a means for teachers to draw on game creation without the need for detailed programming.

While detailing a number of successes of the program, the authors described the pressure for measurable outcomes as one of the factors that greatly limited students’ gaming creation.  They suggested that the need to measure, chart and report students’ progress tended to squeeze out the creative and cultural aspects of the course.  With regards to students’ own game creation, which was one of the most important elements of the program, Partington states, ‘some students, who simply include all the details that they have been shown using the skills of recall, which features as a lower-order skill in Bloom’s cognitive domain…might do better than those who do not follow the instruction of the task and reorganise the elements into a new product’ (Partington 2010, p.79).  This posits that the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy – creating – was somewhat negated due to the need to chart the ‘assessable critical (and competency/functional) components’ of the course (Partington 2010, p.79).  This, I feel is not unique to the study of gaming, but is an issue that I have felt the pressures of as a teacher on a number of occassions – where many beneficial elements of learning are somewhat negated due to the priority of measuring, charting and reporting students’ progress.  As Partington (2010) states, the cultural function of literacy is often ‘neglected for those functions that are easier to measure’ (p.73).  The article reminds us of the importance of finding the time to draw on and build upon students’ own ‘cultural capital’ as a means of making learning relevant to students’ lifeworlds and also relays the benefits of ‘messing around’ or playing and sharing games can have in the cultural and affective elements of learning.

In a revised version of the program, Partington (2010) outlined the need to better explore the ‘culture of the students as creators and critics’ (p.84).  Rather than looking at the history of gaming in the early parts of the program, course adaptations involved students in creating a ‘Games and Me’ poster.  While displaying the 3C’s, the poster revealed how students engaged in the creation of other media texts linked to their gaming.  This included critical discussions of ludic, narrative and character elements on official and cheat wikis.  Partington (2010) detailed the potential to extend the program to include the creation of wikis or blogs to reflect upon and share students’ experiences of developing a game.

While I found this article most beneficial for the way in which it linked the critical, creative and cultural literacy strands to an investigation and analysis of existing games (this is something I could see myself manageably incorporating into the English classroom), the actual creation of an original game level is something that still seems quite daunting.  Having no knowledge of the ‘Mission Maker’ game editing program used in this reading, game creation is one area I will need to further resource, explore and test out.

This investigation has encouraged me to further research how gaming can be used to enhance teaching and learning and annotated links to blogs, wikis and gaming websites that I have found beneficial can be found in the Gaming Resources page of my blog.

Partington, A. (2010). Game literacy, gaming cultures and media education.  English Teaching: Practice and Critique. 9(1), 73-86.

Week 8: ‘Gaming in the 21st Century’

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This week I have chosen to explore a reading linked to the culture of gaming.  As I am not a gamer myself, I feel this is one area within the broad realm of ‘popular culture’ in which I am lacking knowledge and information.  As I am well aware of the popularity of gaming among youth today and having also been aware of games being used as a successful educational tool, I have chosen to explore this area further through a book chapter titled ‘Gaming in the 21st Century’.  This reading looks at the emergence of gaming as one of the most ubiquitous forms of global popular culture and the chapter outlines how gaming has evolved by detailing a number of key trends in the 21st century.

The reading firstly explores the disruption of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ categories of gaming.  Devices such as the iPhone and Wii as well as online games linked to social networking sites has made gaming much more user-friendly, which has consequently altered the gaming demographic by making it accessible to a greater number of people.  While gaming may have previously been the domain of male youth, contemporary gaming has significantly widened the demographic to include both the young and the old from mixed social, cultural and educational backgrounds.  The abundance of games associated with social networking sites has also seen gaming infiltrate the age of participatory media.  In this way, gaming is no longer an anti-social pastime, but is now a medium that connects people.

Furthermore, the type of engagement and commitment demanded of players in this new gaming climate has transformed, and participation in gaming has evolved from being a completely solitary form of immersion to a state of ‘distracted immersion’ (Hjorth 2011, p.130).  The reading points out how mobile phone users, for example, are likely to play casual games at bus stops or while waiting for friends and that they negotiate a state of ‘in-between or semi-engaged attentiveness’ (Hjorth 2011, p.130).  This ‘in-between’ state is exemplified through the example of the online game ‘Happy Farm,’ with one feature of this game involving stealing produce or assets from other players.  This can encourage players to be online all day, flicking back and forth between work and leisure, to ensure they keep a watchful eye on their produce so it does not get stolen.  Thus by maintaining a semi-engaged presence, players are engaged in a form of ‘distracted immersion’ that could be defined as ‘hardcore’ in so much as the game takes up so much of their time and energy.

The reading goes on to detail how play labour (referred to as ‘playbour’) is greatly shifting the boundaries between players and gamemakers, and has consequently seen the emergence of ancillary gaming cultures, such as cosplay and eSports.  It is suggested that cosplay (or costume play), which involves participants dressing up as game characters or roleplaying a game character offline, allows players to become ‘produsers’ of games which can then lead to players becoming game makers themselves.

As Hjorth (2011) points out:

‘Cosplayers are a key example of the fan as a co-producer in interpreting and adapting game characters into the offline world.  Cosplay highlights the boundaries between fans, players and those in creative roles such as designers and producers, which are transforming as a result of media cultures’ participatory character’ (p.137)

Gaming in this way can be seen to contribute to the power and agency of players and all of this signals the continued popularity of gaming within mainstream culture.

You can view some amazing forms of Cosplay in the following You Tube clip:

While this reading has broadened my knowledge of the gaming culture and how it has been transformed by mobile media and social networking sites, I am interested to further explore how games can be used practically and specifically in an educational context.  This is one area I will continue to explore through my blog posts and the resources I source.

Hjorth, L. (2010).  Chapter 8:  Gaming in the 21st Century.  In ‘Games and Gaming: An Introduction to New Media’. Bloomsbury Publishing: Oxford. 127-147.

Welcome

Aside

Welcome to my blog for the unit CLN647 ‘Youth, Popular Culture and Texts’.

This blog will become a platform where I will post my reflections, new knowledge and resources relating to youth and popular culture.  As a high school Art and English teacher and aspiring Teacher-librarian, my posts and resources will, where possible, relate to these contexts with the aim of improving my own (and hopefully others) professional practice.

Header Image:  SOCIAL MEDIA CLASS by mkhmarketing (Flickr Image CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)