Category Archives: vtclis12

Participant Observers

Sorry vtclis12ers… I feel a little late to the party.  I’m sitting here blogging my written portion of the meta-team project and think I’m going to take a bit of a different twist on it.  For one reason, I drafted the text about the story of the medianauts here and don’t want to be redundant.  Also, my two wonderful partners did an excellent job as they told of our team’s journey along with appropriate gratitude for your part in it all.

As I try to share with you what being a meta-team member has meant, I want to draw your attention to the notion of participant observer.  In my own understanding, I often think of it as this seemingly paradoxical role of being fully present in the moment, as one of the community, while simultaneously being fully removed – vigilantly tracking every action and experience, big and small, ever seeking to reflect, integrate, and synthesize.  It can be exhilarating – so many life-changing threads of insight flying by while frantically trying to grab them and weave them together.  At other times, it can feel frustrating and limiting… as if the ending of Schrödinger’s paradox is not that the cat is dead or alive, but that you in fact are the cat.  I jumped at the opportunity to be on the meta-team because I fully believe that we should be participant observers all the time.  As scary and challenging as the “both/and” can be, I feel that it is what can help us make tough decisions, persevere through hard times, maximize learning by straddling both micro and macro.  Ok, enough.  Clearly I’m overselling it a bit… but let me try to unpack a bit of how it affected me this semester.

As a student in vtclis12, I read and thought and blogged and tweeted and discussed and linked and clicked and shared.   You did too.  As a near-fully present, reflective participant, I carved my own path through the material.  I had insights that meant much more to me than they did to you.

For example – I got really tied up on the idea of collateration.  I’ve been thinking about it as this cool way for seeing connections in our life, across knowledge domains, etc. between seemingly distinct things.  A reading about how technology might enable us to make such connections got me thinking deeply about how it might relate to my own work, ePs for learning, etc.

Or, take the idea that we might be both augmented and blinded by our technology (or anything for that matter) in a way that should inspire us to actively filter/intentionally employ based on meta-level-aware, self-reflective proactive awesomeness. (insights we hit from McLuhan)

It might be hard for me to claim that these insights occurred just because I was on the meta-team, being encouraged to scour the meta-levels of my involvement in class.  So, let me tell you another story…

I have been thrilled, awed, inspired, challenged, frustrated, and taught by each of you so much this semester.  And, in part, I thank the meta-team for that.  With an ongoing project that asked us to consider the “ongoing legend of the medianauts” I believe I came to observe and respect each of you as colleagues in a different way.  For example, between Apgar’s face and Jordan’s enthusiastic, consistent deep participation, I felt called to be a better student of the class — maybe you felt that too.  I appreciated how Ben’s challenge of a point could help us peel back another layer, even if it caused some discomfort.  Or, how could we forget Julie breaking our brains by reading from right to left… or Adam’s incredible blog posts re: McCloud… or Hallie’s enlightenment… or Lissy’s dackulopatoni (which auto-completes in Google search bar now btw)… or Melissa’s recursive “aha’s” shared in her final project presentation… or Erin’s amazing movies!… or Matt’s dedicated participation to the classroom community… even if it means no sleep and a 3-hour difference via Skype!  Or, did you ever notice how Dr. C would kindly yet persistently ask each of us to continue when we rambled… ever determined to help us both humbly and triumphantly realize our own insights?

I believe I was more aware of these things because of the charge to be aware of our classroom journey.  It is this same awareness, and the awe of/for the magical learning taking place, that leads me to ask another question hoping that you might answer.

I believe we all felt a bit of a spark with the closing of the semester – like we had truly created something pretty cool together.  I felt this even from the hospital as I read this tweet and the one (that I can’t find now) about vtclis12 “creating our own content since…” It is in full appreciation of and consideration of this spark that I wonder, what were some of the key ingredients that made this space for us?  What things did Dr. C do that set us up for this?  What things did we do ourselves and for each other that fostered this environment?

Though I feel I could talk about many different items, let me pick one that I actually resisted quite a bit — Twitter.  I remember being somewhat hesitant at first.  I did not have a Twitter account before this class, and I was a bit skeptical of how it might enhance our learning environment.  The blog for me, was an easy sell.  But, 140 characters seemed like it wouldn’t generate the kind of conversation I hoped for.  Add to that, that I found it both pleasantly and terribly distracting.  I don’t even mean with things outside of the course itself — I distinctly remember a few times where I would post a link or get into a very engaging series of back-and-forth tweets with someone in class that, when done, left me to wonder where exactly the out-loud train of thought was.  Though the sidebar was both relevant and interesting, I do feel like things distracting us from being physically present should generally be done very carefully, if at all.  With all of that said, and understanding that any tool has both its opportunities and challenges… I want to share one incredibly powerful use of Twitter this semester that shouldn’t go overlooked.

#vtclis12 was our e-high-five in an environment (school) that seems to discourage real high fives.  Again, like when Julie read backwards.  We e-high-fived her.  While we were tactfully saying outloud “Julie, that was pretty cool,” #vtclis12 was lighting up with “holy crap you are reading backwards?! yes.” “like button” and “the reading backwards moment was beyond praise. i heard a click in my head. felt it too.”  can you imagine how encouraged and engaged you would be in classes if your insights were celebrated in the same way that ours were in #vtclis12?  Think Lissy will ever go the extra mile and do what the speaker challenges her to after the positive reinforcement of being an internet-dackalupatoni-sensation?  How many times have you ever had your “aha moments” celebrated as a classroom community?  Oh sure, intrinsic motivation, tracking and understanding our own success is important and all… but really, how inspiring is it to have a whole crowd of colleagues cheering you on?

I truly believe that we have encouraged, poked, prodded, and inspired each other along in a way that we should all be proud.  Yet another interesting use of Twitter’s small 140 characters… who’da’thunk?

With that, I will let my rambling end.  I apologize for the daddy-sleep-deprived incoherence if that came through at all.  I’m hoping for some moments of clarity between 10AM-noon tomorrow for our exam!

But seriously before you leave for the semester… what do you think contributed to the magic?

In paying homage to Twitter’s use, I’ll give you my response in 140 characters or less… :)

#vtclis12 makin’ magic learnin’. 1part diggin’ fer shiny nuggets. 1part @GardnerCampbell crzy mind-blowin’ ideas, 2parts hi fivin’ yer mates


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YouTube Links

Hey Guys!


Here are the links to my YouTube videos from my final project presentation.

Scene 1 – Introduction

Scene 2 – Nelson and McLuhan

Scene 3-McLuhan and McCloud

Scene 4 – McCloud and Maxine

Scene 5 – Illich and Viola

Scene 6 – Conclusion

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did making them!



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Pick a Keyword, Any Keyword…

When I began brainstorming for a final project topic, I was so overwhelmed by all my options and I couldn’t even begin to think about them in a creative way, let alone continuously; my ideas were so fragmented it was hard to create a big picture of all my half-processed ideas. We read so many intriguing essays about cognition, learning, and the internet. Upon meeting with Dr. C, my worries were silenced when he informed me that no student had ever chosen Clifford D. Simak’s essay, Immigrant, as a final project. I was shocked and excited simultaneously (how is it that we can experience more than one emotion at the same time?). Why wouldn’t a student pick a narrative on which to map another layer? A whole other narrative to further tap into the senses and further augment thinking. Already that makes two meta layers, without even considering the viewers of my narrative and the mental places to which my narrative takes them. I felt an obligation to take the challenge, an obligation to those half-processed nuggets that were jumping around in my head; I didn’t look back once. I was so eager at the prospect of  incorporating the ideas of all my favorite essayists. Even more, I couldn’t wait to just think, an emotion that I have never felt or thought about before. Yes, I was thinking about thinking. Why do we always come back to that? It must be an indication that all these concepts, all these bolded words are, need I say it, INTERTWINGLED!

Something I kept trying to do throughout the semester was relate the nuggets from my favorite essays to each other. How better to do this than through a narrative wherein I am able to govern the conversations between say for example, Nelson and McLuhan? I really had to engage my imagination and let establish the necessary connections. I knew if I attempted a webpage I would inadvertently start making unnecessary divisions. The movie-making forum of Xtranormal enabled me to incorporate my thoughts with the characters and conveyed a sort of individual reflection through my use of scenes, emotions, and character scripts. Although I didn’t incorporate a lot on the augmentation and education power of computers, the WWW, and the Internet, I think the mere fact that I, Erin Passaro, created a small movie of my own is an indirect ode to the influence of these mediums/messages.

I spent hours trying to determine a clever story but I wanted to make sure it was something my viewers were still somewhat familiar with, so I could better reach out to them with these complex thoughts…because after all, not all my viewers on YouTube will be accustomed to the ideas we discuss in #vtclis12 (well let’s hope not anyway). I found that the introduction style utilized by MTV producers in  the making of the Real World television show provided the proper stage to engage curiosity.

Going through my old blog posts and notes proved to be very beneficial. I stumbled across a Word document entitled “My Revelation” and it talked about McLuhan’s signature phrase “the medium is the message.” It only seemed appropriate then, for me to start with the point at which I felt revolutionized. In thinking about the medium, which is the channel through which an idea is communicated, I realized that WAIT a second…our minds can be channels right? Because when I think about something and then relay it to another part of my body, well that’s a channel right?! And then when that part of my body does something with it (whether it be my hand or my mouth), there’s another channel, and therefore, another medium! So where does the message part come in then, right? Well can’t an idea, which is the preconceived notion of a message, be a channel? Because can’t one idea lead you to another idea? Can’t one idea help a person gain insight into another idea? YES. So we’ve established that an idea, is obviously the message and less obviously the medium

Of course, that’s just my way of thinking about it…remember, we’re all our own individuals, with our own thought processes. My path of thinking might not lead you to the same idea but the two together could create something so complex and so much more advanced and meaningful, which is why I also talked about the holistic view, which Nelson emphasized a great deal. “THE UNIFYING VISION MATTERS A LOT MORE THAN THE LITTLE TECHNICAL PARTS.” Insert line about the unifying power of the WWW and Internet…here………………………..and here……………and…..right..about….HERE.

Did we just move in time and space simultaneously? Well of course not, it’s a continuous sentence, therefore a single instant in time, RIGHT? Not exactly, according to McCloud, “words introduce time by representing that which can only exist in time — SOUND” (p. 713). Our eyes have been trained well, huh? Speaking of our eyes, sometimes they play tricks us. Did my use of the grid-lined backdrop in scene three with McLuhan and McCloud do anything for your perception of time? Maybe a sense of “lingering timelessness” (p. 721)?  Since we’re on the topic of time, let me pose this question, the question of the semester: is time linear? Well, it must depend how you’re thinking about it…if you’re hopping around from past to present to future to fantasy…then where are you in time? It all depends on your first meta level, but good luck finding that!

Since McCloud is so willing to let his mind play tricks on himself (or so it seems in his comics), I thought it would be kind of funny to introduce him to Maxine. Not only did I want to see how that scene would play out, but I also wanted to snap viewers back into a semi-normal level of consciousness, to provide a sort of “comic” relief from all the complex thinking. Maxine represents the only person in this movie who is concrete and unyielding. By concrete and unyielding, I mean something that readers can hang onto for a second and be POSITIVE they know what she is saying for she doesn’t allow curiosity or uncertainty into her brain like the others do but do not fear, McCloud threw in the monkey wrench (does that surprise you?) when he started talking about teleportation, mass, and matter. I know we never talked about that in class but I thought it was relevant and when I thought about it while making my project, my brain was screaming “nugget” at me, so I just went with the flow.

Anyways, Maxine’s pride and defensiveness led me into my next frame with Viola and Illich. Maxine, to me, represents the typical student so I thought it would be a smooth and relevant transition. Also, as I’m sure most of you picked up on my casual mentions of Bishop. The characters touch on this progression through thinking about thinking and at the end of scene five, you will pick up on the strides the others see in him. That is because, Bishop to me, represents students like US, students who are willing to open ourselves up to randomness.

Viola and Illich make this whole episode recursive; Viola when he talks about the learning structures. The fact that schizo even exists clarifies to me that time/thought do not necessarily have to be linear, which is pretty cool. I want to have a day where it will be socially acceptable for me to voice aloud all my nonlinear thoughts. That would be cool, maybe we should start a petition for yet another national holiday. Off topic. Thanks Dr. C. Back to Illich and how recursive his thoughts were. He takes us back to the importance of individual-based education system, tailored to each and every learner’s needs. Funny how that works though, because when individual-level learning takes place, the sum of the parts (society as a whole) benefits exponentially more…than when we are educated in a “one size fits all” manner.

My last scene, the preview for “next week’s” episode recaps on the nuggets that truly interested me throughout this class and they convey the sincere hope I have for myself, for us, and for the future of a more meaningful education.

As I sat down to write one of my last blog posts for class I tried not to let myself approach the essay as I normally would when writing a final term paper. Although for a second, I did allow myself to get psyched out by the gravity of importance that always accompanies the word “final.” I found my mind reeling for a decisive or purposive point of From Memex to Youtube; a question for which my essay must provide a conclusive answer. I still couldn’t provide you with a concrete answer and I don’t think I ever will be able to, but I think that’s the very thing that has preserved my interest and pleasure in this class…the fact that there is never a right or wrong answer.



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thank you, it’s been an interesting, recursive, meta-journey

My journey with the Meta-team started out as a confused one. Confused as in “I have no idea what a “meta-team” is”. It was also a little horrifying when Dr. Campbell said he didn’t have a clear idea about it either. Essentially, we were told to be “participating observer”, which was a very interesting concept. In order to observe something, we must be “outside” of it looking in. However, in order to be participants, we must in “inside” the something, doing whatever it is.

Meta- (from Greek: μετά = “after”, “beyond”, “adjacent”, “self”).

So, the Meta-team is the team about the TEAM. Our project is ourselves. We are to be engaged and participatory, yet able to remove ourselves from the class and view ourselves and what is going on from the outside. This is daunting and comforting at the same time to me. To be honest, it is sometimes nice to be told what our project is, since I really didn’t have a clue what I would have done. Yet, this is daunting because even though we know (vaguely) what we aim to accomplished, we had so idea how to go about doing it.

Because of the nature of the class, each of the participants of the the class generates a lot of content. There are blog posts, tweets, links and so forth. So, the Meta-team must first not only archive these contents, but also make connections within, and hopefully makes some sense of it all. Our immediate thought was to utilize a website. The class was already about the internet, so have the meta-team’s meta-project on the internet seems extra meta. We were drawn to Jordan’s idea of using “Wordles”, which is a webapp that analyzes text for the most frequently appearing words. The Wordle itself is artistic arrangement of these frequently appearing words, with the most frequent word rendered to be the largest in the final product, and so on. The nice thing about these Wordles is that at one glance we are able to see what words are the most frequently used. For the input text, we plugged in the text of the blogs of our colleagues. Depending on the purpose of the Wordle, different blog entries were used. For example, we made a Wordle pertaining to Douglas Engelbart, where the input text were blog entries written by everyone during the week we read about him. On some other Wordles we made, we picked a broad theme related to the class, for example, “Learning”. We searched all blog posts and tweets that contained the word and compile those into the Wordle. At first I was a little afraid that there would be too much noise the resulting Wordle would not be representative to the theme we picked (Turns out that in a class titled “Cognition, Learning, and the Internet” we use the word “Learning” a lot in most of our blog posts, go figure, right?). However, the output Wordle are often very enlightening. For example, for the Wordle with the theme “Media”, the most often appearing word (minus common English words like articles and propositions) is “People”. How cool is that!

Once we have the Wordle idea settled, we needed a way build upon this representative framework of our thoughts during the course of the class. So the we bounced around the idea of making a website that is a bit non-traditional. Jordan was familiar with the website-making online platform called “Wix”, which makes attractive, modern-looking websites with a very easy to use online interface. How easy was it? Well, suffice to say that I’ve never made a website before and I was able to pick it up with literally no learning curve at all. Basically if you know how to use Microsoft Powerpoint to make slides, you can use Wix with ease. We spent a good amount of time thinking about the aesthetics of the website, but more importantly, how to made connections with all of the ideas and thoughts we (as in all of us in the class) generated during the past semester, on a very wide variety of subject areas.

The Wordles helped a lot in organizing out thoughts. Jake and I had the idea that to identify key words (that is, the big ones; the ones that appeared frequently for a particular set of texts), and link those to the content that we generated. For example, the word “Language” appeared very frequently in blogs pertaining to Brenda Laurel. We then link the word “Language” in the Laurel Wordle to a blog post specifically discussing language in the context of Laurel’s article. We repeat the process for a lot of the prominent words in each Wordle. Things become interesting once we start cross-linking within the webpage. “Media” is another word the appears frequently in several Wordle. In that case we link from one Wordle to the “Media” Wordle. The idea is that we can show how ideas are not exclusive to a subject. This is an notion that is especially prevalent in this class. The readings that we read are not strictly classified within an identified theme. While Illich talk more focused with the topic of education and learning, his discussion bleeds into the subject area of cognition and thoughts. We can see this especially in recurring words in several Wordles.

Another thing we tried to do is to link outside our generated content. There are videos and other web content that we discussed and tweeted about (and some we posted on Delicious), that we would link to as well. For example, the word “Education” appears a lot in the many Wordles. On some of these we would link to the TED talk the Ken Robinson gave on revolutionizing the education system. We would also link the word “Read” or “Reading” to Addison record of books related to the word. Sometimes, just to be devious (and recursive) we would link some words to other parts of the Website. The word “Thoughts” on some Wordle we would link back to the main page titled “Insert Cognition Here”. On the word “Comments” we would link to the page on which the visitor can leave a comment about the website to us. Overall, we are trying to achieve a very crazy (schizo, as some would say) criss-crossed network connecting our generated contents, both to each other, but also to outside content as well. All this is to show how interconnected the ideas we discussed so far is.

The final hope for this project is for it to be sustainable. We hope the next Meta-team will be able to pick up where we left off and perhaps evolve the webpage into something more. The website is set up such that the template is there, and the content is easily changed. Also, attached to the webpage is a Gmail account, where comments left by visitors would be sent to. The Gmail account can also be passed on so that the next Meta-Team would have access to those information, and hopefully be able to use that information as another level of the meta-ness.

Well, it is my, Jake’s, and Jordan’s hope that all of you would be able to enjoy the website. The coolest thing is that YOU help made this website! So thank you, it’s been an interesting, recursive, meta-journey.


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W3: A Tool for Associational Thinking and Augmenting Intellect

“The World-Wide Web” was on the technical side for me which normally gets a little fuzzy for me but I was surprised by the understanding this essay provided in respect to  the relevance of all the letters in the URL bar, which is mentioned in “W3 Broken Down.”  It was a fairly followable breakdown and for that I was appreciative.

However, as I was looking for nuggets I thought WAY back to the beginning of the semester when we read Bush, “As We May Think,” Licklider, “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” and also a little Engelbart, just because W3 aided so much in augmenting human intellect.  The authors hoped through the use of W3 that knowledge would be able to extend across “boundaries of nations and disciplines.”  If I recall correctly, Bush called for this very same idea; in class I remember talking about taxonomies and the way the Library of Congress was indexed in a way that made searching for something specific so difficult.  Why was it so difficult?  This organization did reflect the way humans think, which is highly “associational.”  It seems like W3 kind of wanted to aide in automating this humanistic way of thinking through hyperlinks and such.  By providing more sensible ways of navigating such a vast and rich pool of knowledge, has the World-Wide Web enabled us to have “unfettered thought?”  To think “creatively, continuously?”

The authors talked about future developments in information technology such as a “name service” that will allow internet users to discover information not based on a specific location but on the name.  This screams Google to me, or simply search engine for that matter.  They called for an integration with teleconferencing…Skype, Facebook video.  The authors also wanted to facilitate commercial uses, such as online charging and virtual clothing stores (Paypal, any online store).  These advances do not necessarily indicate a complete augmentation of human intellect but they sure do make things more efficient.  In being more efficient, W3 eliminates all the processing which enables constant thinking and decision-making.  I think that’s a sure sign of augmentation and associational thinking.

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we will be able to build bridges to anywhere we want, whenever we want

It’s hard to imagine the days when I was not connected. My home back in Hong Kong first got its 56k dial-up connection through my Mom’s work connection (my Mom works at a university, employee’s perk). I still remember that I had to unplug our phone cord to insert the computer cable into the phone jack, then the computer would dial the modem and make this awful noise… Wait, I’m pretty sure I talked about this in a blog post a long time ago! Full circle huh? The web had came a long way. We are passed the half-way point for web 2.0, where user-generated contents rules. There was such a time where both Google and Facebook did not exist, today most of us have difficulty imagining life without them. In “World Wide Web”, the internet was boiled down to its basic components. It is, at its heart, information that were generated in a very decentralized way, which are hyperlinked together. An important fact was raised that, the act of this “hyperlink” do not change the nature of the two piece of information that were linked. Internet today still boils down to essentially that. You can click on a link on Facebook and be transferred to a completely unrelated webpage. That link itself however, do not impart any changes between the two parties. So essentially, the internet is like a giant crazy bridge building process. Even if the content creators are expanding toward the users as well, the connection, and the accessibility of these contents and information is what make the internet so unique. In recent years, these links can now also be dynamically generated; we no longer have to wait for the content provider to put the link there, but we the users can dynamically create the links as well. Dr. Campbell mention the sharing feature of Kindles, which is a great example of this. Any phrases or words from a book can be generated as a link to social networks. Not long from now, we will be able to build bridges to anywhere we want, whenever we want. On the web that is. What does Web 3.0 hold for us?

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Computers Sharing Data?

Unfortunately I did not find many nuggets within this article. I found that the article was extremely technical. However, after some research I found some interesting nuggets on the world wide web (W3) about the world wide web (W3).

What I find most fascinating about the world wide web (W3) is how it came to be. It is mind blowing that Tim Berners-Lee single handedly invented the medium. Even more mind blowing is the fact that he handed the medium over to humanity rather than making a profit off of it. Can you imagine how wealthy he would be?

What I also find fascinating is the fact that Tim Berners-Lee was the first one to come up with this idea. The idea for websites, https, and urls. The idea to share information in a new medium. We often think of such an idea as a norm. However, we rarely think about how revolutionary ideas are when they do not have direct competition. We rarely think about how difficult it is to come up with an idea that has never been thought of before. I believe the following video says a lot about Tim Berners-Lee and his devotion to humanity.

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The medium is the message

Inevitably my time management all went to heck in April, so here’s a belated post regarding Turkell and video games. I feel that we have touched many interesting areas on Tuesday. My main concern about Turkell’s article is that I’m not sure I see video games as a unique media to achieve the altered state Turkell was implying. Now, I don’t think Turkell was claiming directly that video games were uniquely special in that regard, but I think the fact that she wrote a whole article about it makes me think that at the very least she thought about this uniqueness. She does, however, mentioned table-top role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. There is a good reason why table-top RPG like D&D hasn’t disappeared yet, it is because video games cannot come near to replicating the experience of playing such a game (or, so I’m told. I know I know, it’s surprising how I have not ever played this because it seems like it is right up my alley. But I grew up in China so reading 15 rule books written in English would be difficult for us given the language barrier). I feel like the altered state Turkel mentioned in the article can be interpreted broadly. She talks about how playing slightly less complex games like Asteroids or Pac-man lead to a state similar to transcendent meditation. That is one kind of altered state. However, immersing yourself in WWII via Call of Duty seemed to me to be another kind of altered state. Isn’t participating in a game of D&D another form of altered state as well? It is through this line of thought that I feel that the “altered state” described by Turkell is hardly unique to video games. Video games, after all, is really just a media. There is increasingly more video games that were created with less “game” in mind and more “art-piece” in mind (some good example include “The Shadow of the Colossus”, and “Journey”). The medium is the message. Video games is unique in its ability to create almost whatever kind of world (like a novel) the author wants in a very visual way (like a movie) but has the intrinsic characteristic that it is interactive (unlike a novel or a movie); players MUST participate in that game. It is this interactive aspect in a addition to the visual aspect that truly makes video games, as a media, unique.

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Freedom, Perfection, and Control in a Rule-Governed Environment

Although I was not planning to blog for Sherry Turkle’s “Video Games and Computer Holding Power” as it is my seminar presentation, I have found the whole process of blogging very helpful in reflecting on the reading and gathering my thoughts.

First off, it is important to note that Turkle frames the chapter by establishing the culture of computers as “a culture of rules and simulation” (501).  This is a defining theme throughout because somehow, through the underlying programming of a video game, which although is highly rule-governed (by the programmer), anything is possible.  Users revel in the endless possibilities because they can somehow make sense of this rule-governed world.  How can sense be made in an environment of infinite possibilities?  An environment of infinite human thought?  The games require so much attention and concentration, that users are able to lose themselves in the action of it all.  So lost that the user doesn’t even realize how big their imagination is at the time.  I could not accurately call this process a “mindless addiction” but more of a “holding power.”  Now the only thing left to the reader is to determine if it is healthy…

This freedom is because video games are a simulation of the real-world, and with this simulation comes freedom through the idea of control.  Ironic as it sounds, it is common for people to strive for control and perfection in their lives.  The real-world makes this practically unattainable due to the existence of outside, unforeseen, uncontrollable variables.  However, in video games, just as David describes, the circumstances are “fixed, invariant” (513).

The fact that users find peace in games which enable them to feel “close to the edge” is hard to grasp at first but the video game is a “perfect mirror” or a “perfect contest” as it tests the user and only the user.  The obsession to do well in these games is not merely for the purpose of getting the highest score, it is to provide a sense of self-worth and competence.  I wonder if this interactive media we call a video game is a reflection of our culture which calls for perfection.  Turkle relates it to how we use our bodies and our money to establish control and measure perfection and therefore success…so the only answer is yes, this is a reflection of a somewhat oppressive culture that only accepts perfection.  Video games then, must be humanity’s way of reacting to the loss of control which has been imposed by social norms.  Each story (Jarish, Jimmy, David) conveys this idea.

Back to the idea of the healthiness of video games and their holding power…I see them as a means to an end.  An end that must be met because the alternatives to video games could take many unhealthy forms, such as violence or constant self-disappointment.  Whether these games are an extension of self, an entirely different personae, or just a way of re-centering, they can help us to develop identification and  a sense of self.


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Mastery, mystery, and…?

As I read Turkle’s essay on video games, I am truly shocked at just how universal it seems.  While the medium seems to be focused on “techies” or “sci-fi/fantasy aficionados,” I am struck by how the motivations for gaming seem to boil down to two powerful, essential drives in our lives – mastery and mystery.

The first (mastery) is discussed at length – this notion of Zen-like centering on the task at hand, the perfect contest with self, the ultimate striving for perfection with only ourselves to celebrate or blame for each success and failure.  The idea that we can figure out all of the rules, and utilize them in such a way that we become masters.  It seems that this might explain why we do a great many things in this world – why we learn to play an instrument, or cook, or go to school, or play Space Invaders, or…

The second that seems to be discussed is mystery – that concept that we seek to discover and uncover that which is already defined but not yet known.  This is linked in the article to the discussion of Dungeon and Dragons to a certain extent, and also connected to video games when we see ourselves as the character acting through a novel or narrative.  Mystery seems to be that motivation where we roll the dice – where we do or say something where (because?) we don’t know where it will lead.  We say “I love you” first. She/he already loves us or doesn’t – the “rules” or “answer” has already been defined… it is just up to us to discover.  Some believe scientific discovery to be this way — that we are unearthing “rules” within our world and naming them… that discovery and knowledge are one big scavenger hunt for eggs that have already been hidden.

Already you can see that Turkle has enticed us into philosophical questions of “why?” that have captivated us for generations – I am reminded by Dr. C’s mention that we are all examining the same fundamental questions, just through different lenses (in this case, life via video games).  Both the article, and my own reflections, seem to have an ellipsis and a question mark at the end of mastery and mystery.  It seems that most anything from “Habitat’s” experiential level might be described in terms of a desire to master or to unravel mystery.  However, what about beyond that?  Are we motivated to do things beyond mastery and mystery?  It seems that Turkle’s mention of “programming” – that idea of authorship, or of tugging at the “infrastructure level” seems to be another key motivation.  Though creativity often might be describes as an extremely developed form of mastery, there also seems to be an overarching theme related to our ability to bend the rules as we understand them, to write ourselves in and out of stories in spite of “fate” or “predestination.”  Many like to believe that the world and time are not simply a wind-up toy, but rather a living, breathing, changing, amoeba… who knows where we will end up?

I find it fascinating that an article on video games that starts with a foul-mouthed teenager could so quickly dive into the most fundamental questions about the human condition.  As I think back on the article, I wonder – can we truly reduce our motivations for doing most anything be reduced to either mastery, mystery, or authorship?  Are there things you do that can’t be described by one of these three drives?  What do you think?

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