Monthly Archives: March 2012

Who Are We Really?

First of all, I am terribly sorry for this post being late. My internet has been having lots of problems; but, I think the kinks are all worked out! This was probably one of my favorite discussions so far. We had so much to talk about and I’m really enjoying the experience of tying things together and really making connections to past readings. We are reading them in an order that makes sense! The piece that we read, “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitats” by Morningstar and Farmer, was fascinating. The first sentence gave me one of this sinking feelings when you know that this article is 1) going to take forever and 2) probably because it will be boring and have no significance to your life and 3) you’ll be wondering forever why it connects to this course. BUT, boy was I wrong. My highlighter was going crazy all over these pages at nuggets that are not only applicable to this piece and virtual worlds in general, but to the real” world as we know it, in a very broad sense.

One of the beginning nuggets that I highlighted was, “The essential lessons that we have abstracted from our experiences with Habitat is that a cyberspace if defined more by the interactions among the actors within it than by the technology with which it is implemented.” This got me thinking of several things. 1) the difference between Twitter and Facebook. It seems as though Facebook recognizes that the interactions are there and of course they make up your experience, but it’s more important to make it innovative through changing the layout and adding new features so that it can be, ironically, more “user-friendly”. On the other hand, we have Twitter which for the most part (as far as I have heard in class) has stayed true to its original identity, focusing on incorporating only the necessary and user-demanded characteristics that we now take for granted, such as the # and the @. These symbols represent this idea that the interactions are what matters. They make up the technology. 2) this idea of having multiple “selfs”. Which one is your true identity? Do we need to deciphere betweewn your virtual avatar and you as a human being? Well, why should we-shouldn’t it be a reflection of who you truly are? That’s an interesting question because then you start diving in to later nuggets that I highlighted which including the discussion of whether or not to have weapons and how murder should/if murder should be punishable in the virtual world. Do we punish people at all? Do we even make it possible? Do we punish their avatar or them as a human being? What is that line that marks the difference between virtual and real, and why is it there?

All of these questions are extremely fascinating to me, especially since I am so engrossed in social media through my organizations, major, and just simply living in 2012. Social media is, essentially, a virtual world. Books are, essentially, virtual worlds. Anything that takes you from what you can tangibly see, feel, and hear to a place where you can interact with people without seeing them, feeling, or hearing is virtual. So, who’s to say you need to be accurate in your portrayal of yourself on the internet or even when writing books? It’s an interesting question and in class we talked a lot about good v. evil- whether people are inherently good or inherently evil. This question has been raised several times in varying ways, particularly when talking about deschooling, self-motivation, and productivity farms (all three of which are very closely related). Though it is a question that should be addressed, i think the point we are trying to get at is, why, in this environment where everyone generally grows up with the same fundamental rules that murder is bad and charity is good, do some people think that virtual murder is good and that some people think virtual murder is bad? The answer we proposed was that it involves a lack of consequence. People are trained to react and interact with each other based on the consequences that they will receive or not receive from their actions. So, if you take away those consequences, our innate and raw emotions are brought up again. But, is the idea and act of murder “innate and raw”? OR is it just scandalous and thrilling to pursue an action in a virtual world (with no consequences) that you know you cannot pursue in real world (where there are consequences)? I’ll use the example of something as simple as taking a cookie from the cookie jar before dinner when your mom’s upstairs. If you knew there was no way she could find out you took the cookie, of course you’ll take it. If, however, you knew that there was about a 95% chance that you’d get caught-you might think twice or not even risk it at all. Well, at least I wouldn’t. BUT, there are some people who would do it no matter what (or perhaps be even more likely to if they knew there was a risk). Why is that? Well, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe the thrill? The feeling of being sneaky?

I have raised so many questions in this post and I cannot begin to answer them all. But, I challenge you to take a gander at this piece and attempt to come up with some opinion. I certainly have mine, but I find I am always thinking of new things or hearing new things that make me contradict myself! Hopefully you all can help me sort this out!

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Gaming

I myself have never understood the draw of online video games and the online video game community. Perhaps it’s because I have never tried one. Regardless, my younger brother is what he likes to call himself “a gamer”. Him and his friends have several online games that they play together and talk through. I always thought it was a little weird, but he absolutely loves it and can spend hour after hour playing these games. My family just moved and he loves that he can go on and play with all of his friends back home in their “virtual world”. So I guess that is a cool component of it, but it also worries me sometimes that he is too sucked in and this “virtual world” is too real to him. It worried me that my brother, along with other kids, can get sucked into these games are start substituting for real life. For example, if they are playing all day with their “friends” or random people, it may feel to them that they are get a normal social experience when in fact they are not. I feel like if people get too sucked in it is hard to draw the line between them. I think it is interesting though because even if it seems real, players are under a veil of anonymity. Players don’t have to act how they would in real life and I feel like that could be a dangerous thing to learn. I hear my brother talking about other players being annoying or unfair. I think that being in a cyberspace makes it easier to act without morals, but if the idea behind the game is too make it  seem like real life, that acceptable human interactions should be constant. It is interesting how developers can make up this whole world and kind of mold it into whatever they want. I also found it interesting how the players can manipulate the game in ways the developers may not have even expected or thought up. For me this piece wasn’t quite as interesting as some of the others, but I want to share it with my brother when I go home because I know he will get something out of it. I am interested to talk further about this in class and spark my interest a little bit more.

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Making Connections

I thought I would have a hard time appreciating Lucasfilm’s Habitat as I have not participated in any video games on a large scale, even Sims.  I was pleasantly surprised when the reading emphasized the importance of realistic environments.  This idea of reality is so inherent in the construction of video games that Morningstar and Farmer assert:

“cyberspace architects will benefit from study of the principles of sociology and economics as much as from the principles of computer science” (676).

That simply amazed me and has honestly reinvigorated my minor interest in video games.  To know that these complex and highly technical games are catered to humans, to the idea that all people are unique and therefore all people will hope to get something different out of a video game, is pretty interesting.  This idea means that there is a place for everyone in virtual reality which I suppose is the appeal, which leads me to my concern…having all these mini-worlds at our fingertips.  Couldn’t this pose a problem?  Couldn’t one get completely lost and cut off from the real world in games like this?  The fact that morals come into question with video games emphasizes my concern but I will touch more on that in my seminar presentation on Sherry Turkle’s essay.

As we get further in our readings, I have noticed many reoccurring themes.  Not to be repetitive but simply for compilation purposes, the idea and importance of individual participation and decentralization (branching, sharing).  I was able to make a theme connection to other readings when the authors talked about the design process and how it should not be restricted to simply designing and implementing but should also include facilitating (this can be applied to teaching).

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Sparks

As I sat in class on Tuesday, listening to others speak about their opinions of Illich’s work, I began to wonder about questions brought up in class…what is the point of teaching? What is the goal? Like I mentioned in my last posting, I feel like some teachers have lost their inspirational touch. Many teachers do their job and don’t make learning enjoyable to kids..so why do they do it? For me, I think the best answer to this question comes from taking a step back and looking at the classes I have taken.

Being a Econ/Marketing major, I have had to take courses in accounting, business information technology, etc. These classes haven’t made my semester enjoyable and I really dislike attending them, but they have made me realize something very important. I have learned that in order to flourish, I need to set my own expectations. Like we talked in class about a certain level that we are expected to perform at, I feel like I have a high level that I have set for myself. I realize though that I have set lower bars for courses that I don’t enjoy. But why?! Shouldn’t I have a certain expectation that I want in all of my classes?

I realize that as a learner, I need that guidance and direction that professors give. If a class, like accounting for example, doesn’t give me that leadership role, I tend to lower my personal goals. I absolutely love economics, but I have also had professors who have been willing to help and answer questions. These professors help create a spark in learning. They have helped me realize why I like their course. It’s not that I am better at econ over accounting, it is the fact that my professors have made me curious. They have made me want to learn the material.

We spoke about how in some classes, teachers just simply go through powerpoint presentations that come directly from the textbook that you are supposed to read. Well if they come right from the textbook why should I read it? I feel like if a greater effort was made to relate classes to real-world scenarios, people would begin to realize how a subject can affect them. They then get a spark…they understand how the class can enhance their well-being in the future. We would begin to become so curious, we would want to become experts in the material! I feel like this is the goal of teaching. It’s not to have the class get the best grades or have the class love the teacher, it is about making students comfortable. If a student is comfortable around these leaders, they will ask questions, they will do work, not because they are required to, but because they want to. Do you think that these characteristics of teaching and learning relate to “Deschooling Society?”

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Habitat: What do players actions say about themselves?

I can’t say I wasn’t surprised when I read this article, because with technology and the advances it’s made, anything is possible, especially virtual worlds. I found it interesting that when the players were polled for certain things the creators wanted to fix and understand, they were ambiguous, even on moral issues, such as killing people. Yes, it is a make believe game technically, but morals shouldn’t really change. I feel like the 50% of the people who said it was okay should probably get checked out for anger issues. Another thing I thought that showed poor planning on the creators’ part was the ability for some players to hack the system so easily, but when they were confronted, they made it seem like nothing wrong had been done. To me, it sort of reflects how so many things can be twisted to look innocent, especially in today’s society. I also found that the complexity with the whole project was so much more massive than I thought it could be. When they talked about the one big activity they created for their players, that took them months to create, and then said it took one person only 8 hours to complete it, and instead of being upset, they were able to open their eyes and really see that even though they created it all, they didn’t have as much power over everything as the players did.

On the virtual world part of it all, it reminded me of Sims so much because that really is the interactive world of my generation. In that game, you could do so much, but people could do things to you and your possessions, such as light them on fire and honestly leave you with nothing. It all comes back to the having morals thing, and some of the people who play these types of games don’t think morals exist in virtual worlds, but in my opinion, they do and they should matter when it comes to anything, no matter reality or virtual worlds. Overall, this essay was not the best because I was not a player of virtual world games and it repeated what I already knew about them. The only new thing I learned was that it was far easier for players to manipulate the game than the creators thought.

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Deschooling Society

I felt that for this blog post, it would be best if I put my notes from what I wanted to say/the discussion, because this is about as organized I could be about it.

 

I thought it was very insightful because everyday you hear at least one student get frustrated with a teacher, and its inevitable that teachers get frustrated with students who either don’t get “it” or don’t try and still do well in school. Thinking about the overall sense of the essay, apprenticeship comes to mind, which in a sense, would allow people to really live in what they want to do with their lives. I found it interesting with the nursing example in paragraph 67 that due to the increasing needs and wants of medical boards and whoever else decides who becomes a nurse and who doesn’t, that nurses are in short supply because schooling is just so expensive. And not only does money come into play, but you have to get top grades to be even considered to go on to the next level, which seems to to be a daunting task in itself.

– talk about Bon Secours and how people who can’t afford a four year institution plus higher level nursing school can choose to attend these programs when they already know what they want to do in life and can skip all of the other things such as general education requirements and save a ton of money

  • bring up tech centers in high school and how those allowed students to start their own sort of apprenticeship

-Four networks of newer education:

  • Reference Services to Educational Objects
  • Stop restricting use to non-studentsà this creates frustration towards tons of people/committees/boards and just high level power in general
  • Library books: only people with cards can check out books, can be hard to obtain library cards, which cuts people off from learning about things they are interested in
  • Rich v. Poor kids à mainly third world countries and the gap is not getting any closer, actually getting larger with the increases in technology and the lack of funding for proper resources there
  • Skill Exchanges
  • This screams apprenticeship and really sets up a great system for creating connections
  • Allows for people to really see what the job is like firsthand instead of reading out of a book for hours on end, when its not the same as dealing with situations as they occur.
  • Peer Matching
  • Not the same as skill exchanges, but its better than being stuck in a partner or group project and the other members don’t care about the project when at least one person does
  • With peer matching, both people want to do well and understand that this will help them in the future, and they may be able to help the other with something that was hard to understand at first and that way they are able to grow as students
  • Chess example: if you play with someone who doesn’t understand the game or doesn’t care to learn, what do you gain from it?
  • Professional Educators
  • This can go either way for me, because there definitely 1) are some teachers out there who should not be teaching and 2) some subjects are difficult to teach and need to thought out when it comes to presenting it to students
  • The lack of communication between all educators within one organization has a lot to do with why teachers become frustrated. When boundaries aren’t clear with how educators and teachers are supposed to do their jobs, people tend to lose focus of their goals and just sort of coast until the next school year starts
  • Paragraph 98 specifies the 3 different levels of education that should be distinguished.

-I felt that even though the majority of this article is about changing the school system to be less curricula based and somehow more of discussion and hands-on based so students can take more from their peers views and not have their nose stuck in a book all day.

-Coming of age part: paragraph 51. I didn’t really think it was necessary to bring religion into the discussion because those are traditions you can’t just get rid of. I understand the letting kids become adults when they are younger to teach them responsibility at a younger age, but some things you just can’t change. Yes, it is important for children to understand what is going on in the real world, but to force them to change their way of life for that is a bit much.

 

Do you think a deschooled society would help or hurt us? Who would it be more beneficial for? Rich or poor? Will it allow other parts of the world in a different light?

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Cyberspace As The Wild West

“It was clear that we were not in control,” Morningstar and Farmer concluded.  Their Habitat was a wild-land.  It was lawless.  It was completely free.  In other words, it was, on some level, the last frontier.

For us, the Internet is the last frontier.  It represents opportunity.  Nobody really knows what’s out there, or what to do about it.  It’s an uncharted exploration, and because of that, no one can tell you what to do, because nobody knows.  And because nobody knows, everyone is exploring in the same moment.  This exploration is both an independent and interdependent journey.  You must rely on yourselves to be intuitive, smart, brave, and confident, while relying on others to trust you as much as you choose to trust them.  Exploring a frontier is an incredibly empowering experience.  We desire that.  We need that.

The Internet’s incredible expansion and adoption, I think, reflects a deep desire for this frontier, for personal autonomy and freedom.  We feel stifled and oppressed by work, school, society/ culture, family, etc… and the Internet, in its unending freedom, gives us our escape.  When we explore that frontier, we embody a similar spirit that drove people to take boats across oceans and hike west towards the sunset.  Uncharted cyberspace- boundless, with infinite possibilities, is too tempting to resist.

It’s all so fascinating.

But… will it be won?  Can it be won?  Time will tell.

 

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The Usefulness of Blogging.

Since I am presenting this thursday on “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat” by Morningstar and Farmer I thought that I would save my ideas for presentation day.  I have a lot of ideas that I don’t want to you all to get previous exposure to before presentation day. With that being said I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my blogging experience.

Before taking this course I had been slightly against blogging. It seemed like an activity created to gloat about oneself. Something that was created to say “hey look at me,” “listen to me,” “I’m so interesting.” Being an introvert I like to keep my thoughts to myself. Sharing these ideas was a challenge for me. However, like most activities, with time I became more accustomed to it and more comfortable with it. It has evolved into a form of conversation. The conversation being before me and the read. Or more specifically, me and my blog. As if my blog was just another one of my friends.

Now, at this point in the course, I am completely pro blogging. Honestly, I never thought I would be saying that. However, blogging has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me I never thought imaginable. This summer I am interning for a company called Job and Talent in Madrid, Spain. As a Finance and Accounting major I’ll be helping the company in investing its assets. Surprisingly, the blog is helping me with this internship. Job and Talent offers a scholarship for those who will blog over the course of their internship about their experience in Madrid, Spain. The qualifications to apply for this scholarship included having a previous blog. I was able to use my blog from this course to apply for the scholarship. I haven’t heard yet but if I do receive it you all will be the first to know. The fact that the blog gave me this opportunity is only the start of things to come.

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Unintended consequences.

I struggled trying to blog yesterday after reading the excerpt from “Deschooling Society” by Illich.  It was one of those moments where there are so many things that you want to say, that you actually say nothing.  I often felt the same in class today – we were all riled up and sometimes it was hard to get a word in.

I will try to be brief here because I want to (again) draw attention to something scary and ominous that has stuck with me since our discussion.  Before I dive in, I want to point out that, to me, discussing the scary and ominous need not be a pessimistic act… but rather one that helps us to ground and orient ourselves so that we might find hope.

Ben mentioned Skinner boxes early in class and I couldn’t shake the connection from that to our conversation.  We like to think (and often rightfully so) that much of our learning involves sophisticated cognitive and/or social processes – that we are meta-cognitive masters in constructing knowledge and regulating our learning.  Yet, ever since Ben reminded us of our more animal-istic, somewhat subconscious, tendencies to be trained (<phone buzzes>, text back, or check the twitter mention, or…), it was all I could think about and hear as we talked.

Today in class, as we chatted about our education schooling(?) system, I heard that we good little students have learned very valuable lessons:

  • don’t ask questions
  • especially don’t ask naive questions
  • especially especially don’t ask stupid questions (as a novice, your question is probably stupid)
  • don’t say anything that isn’t perfect (don’t do anything that isn’t perfect either)
  • don’t like books (we can’t learn from them anyway)
  • i can’t be an expert until i’m credentialed
  • i can’t contribute until i’m an expert
  • if i display vulnerability, weakness, or any possibility that i might be wrong, i will be eaten, mocked, thrown out, oppressed.

Like the adage “we become what we eat,” how much of these messages do we internalize and allow to dictate our everyday actions?  I know I fall prey to many of these in spite of my best intentions not to.  I think some of these lessons, when internalized, keep us from being our most full, authentic, creative, beautiful selves.  I think they can keep us from seeing the best in each other and in our communities, and even in our institutions (school being one of them).  The hope (I believe) springs from the realization that these aren’t intentional outcomes.  No one is masterminding “schooling” to oppress and to stifle.  Rather, some of these lessons have become “unintended consequences” for some of us.  Fortunately, we can be better and do better.  Critical reflection can lead us to positive change.  Even as cogs in the “machine,” we have agency. (Thanks @shellifowler and @rebeccakmiller for our tweets about this)

 

 

 

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Why are you so surprised when you get a bad teacher?

Most commencement speeches will bombard its graduates with empty phases like “you are the future.”  Virginia Tech tells you to “invent the future.”  We hear them, we read them, and it passes as a “banal platitude”, to borrow David Foster Wallace’s terminology.  But, to our detriment, it is also the simplest, most profound truth that we never seem to learn.

We are the future.

We too often think of the future as something that is going to happen to us.  The fact, the reality, is that we are the future, here and now, and we are creating what we think “happens to us.”  We get angry with people who cheat the system (e.g. Wall Street), but this is learned behavior.  This is not innate.  These people were simply “working” the system.  We get upset and think “how could they… people’s lives were at stake,” but we do the same thing everyday, just on a smaller scale, and nobody really gets hurts.  We are no different.  We work the department, work the professor/ class, work the part-time job… no harm done, right?  We sugarcoat it and call ourselves industrious, diligent, and assertive.  Or we could just be an opportunist.  It’s all based on intent.  Were you thinking about yourselves?  In relation to others?  When we grow up in a system that requires us to “work” the system to our benefit…

Why are we so surprised at the state of our world?

From the very beginning, in school, we perpetuate this behavior.  We think that, as adults, we will outgrow it, but why assume such a thing?  If our educational system is navigated by “working the system,” we have only habituated ourselves to act this way and carry it into our “real world.”  We get angry with professors who don’t “teach.”  Why?  They were students once, doing the same thing that we now do, and as professors, they must continue working the system to get along.  Teaching just becomes another part of the game.  There is no larger picture, and certainly no progression on the scale that it could be.  Moreover, it won’t go away… because if you don’t work the system, someone else will, and you’ll get screwed.

The “tragedy of the commons” is what I see.  We live in our small worlds… everyone wanting his or her piece of the pie.  We focus on grades, levels, AP, IB, GPA, salaries, jobs, relationships, promotions, retirement, etc… but do we notice the commons?  No, we notice the competition.  But, we say, we need a measure of comparison, right?  Perhaps, but what are the consequences?  Where there is a comparison, there is a competition.  Where there is a competition, there will be a winner and a loser.  By all means necessary… be the winner, because you don’t want to be the loser.   This is what our educational system teaches us.  What does that get us?

Don’t be surprised by our future… we created it.  If you want to know what’s in store, look around and observe how people act, and by what means do they reach their ends.  You’ll start to get an idea of what to expect.

 

On a lighter note… relevant words of inspiration… “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”  -Reese Bobby (Talladega Nights)

 

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