Category Archives: vtclis12

“I Don’t Think, My Fingers Think.”

After reading Sherry Turkle’s “Video Games and Computer Holding Power” one video game came to mind.  That one video game was Beatles Rock Band.  I felt that my experience with Beatles Rock Band paralleled Marty’s experience with Asteroids. I felt that we had similar personalities and played the video game for similar reasons.

Marty describes himself as “a real worrier. A real ‘type A person.’” “The game forces him into another mental space where the thoughts and the cares of his day cannot intrude.” “The game allows him to feel swept away and in control to have complete power and yet lose himself in something outside.” “It’s the relaxation of forcing himself to withdraw from the rate race, yet receiving a score that reassures him that he is the winner.”

I would also describe myself as a real worrier. A real “type A person.” I find it difficult to escape the anxiety of tasks upon tasks I have to complete. However, the anxiety is suppressed when I play Beatles Rock Band. I purchased the game junior year of high school. In a under a week my best friend and I had managed to beat the game on all levels of difficultly from beginner to expert. We couldn’t stop. Marty describes the feeling “where he feels like an extension of the game or the game is an extension of him.” After that week I realized that the movements my fingers made on a guitar were similar to those movements made when on a keyboard. I did not think about what buttons to press but saw the trigger on the screen and my finger pushed the button. It was as if my mind had created a short cut. “Call it ‘muscle memory,’ call it ‘flow,’ call it ‘trusting your instincts’ – the experience of feeling a continuity between mind and body is part of the inner game.” I did not work at this feeling, this feeling simply came. It was relaxing. It was a sort of meditation.

It is this feeling that leads “one to say he or she is more “possessed” by the game then playing it. I think everyone can relate to telling themselves “one more game.” More times than not there will be more than one more game. What is it that causes this addiction? Why doesn’t this addiction wear-out? We may never know. However, what we do know is that the feeling is unlike any other achieved through drugs, alcohol, or any sort of psychoanalysis. Maybe video games will be the next form of medication.

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Only Time Will Tell Where We Go From Here…

Seymour Papert’s ideas in “Mindstorms” were particularly reinforcing for my own ideas that are being generated through our other readings.  Coming from a very small school system, I cannot say that I experienced a lot of advanced computer programs that stimulated me to “think about thinking.”  I think that process came about through other experiences but I did come in contact with a lot of interactive “cultural tools” that make complicated concepts easier to understand.  For example, Oregon Trail was a very popular game in elementary school and provided a more interesting approach to the subject of history and the trials and tribulations of those heading west in the days of pioneers.  There were also games like Zoombinis that focused on complex puzzles and such however for the most part, my teachers used the computer in a systematic way.  In other words, I was not using the computer for “personal purposes” just like I was not learning a lot of material in classes for “personal purposes.”

However, Papert foresaw the price of computers falling to the point that each individual could have private/personal access.  Once this happened, I believe people started exploring, on their own out of sincere interest.  This is when computers started fostering more intellectual, individual action.  This is happening right now.  The only thing I fear is what Papert calls the QWERTY phenomenon, wherein there is a “tendency for the first usable, but still primitive, product of a new technology to dig itself in.”  We are at a fork in the road if you ask me; although our technology does not seem primitive…do the ways in which we use them sometimes seem a little primitive?  Do the ways in which teachers incorporate computers into their curriculum come off as primitive to you?  Typing class…what?  To think I spent a whole year in typing class during middle school, what a waste.  How primitive.  It is socially drilled into us to justify what we are used to, to revel in our comfort zones.  Papert predicted it then and I believe it applies now to some extent:

“The computer revolution has scarcely begun, but is already breeding its own conservation.”

Where do we go from here?

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But I didn’t experienced that at all

So being a nerd of course I wanted to be a game developer when I was little. I didn’t because I’ve decided I like chemistry better. Go figure. But I actually have several encounters with LOGO growing up. I don’t know if it still is, but LOGO was a very popular programming language to teach when I was a kid. It was taught to me on during two different summer school classes (it wasn’t as sinister as it sounded; it was really more of a “hobby class”, I also took classes in calligraphy and swimming, because I wanted to; I was a super nerd and my parents were cool like that). On both occasion I was UTTERLY bored by LOGO. Reading Papert’s vision with LOGO (which I learned, was partly created by him), and the fascinating simulated work of the two children in the end, I can really see the potential he was going with LOGO, but I didn’t experience that at all. I was given a set of instructions: type these commands in, and you’ll be able to draw a star. Okay.

So, obviously it wasn’t very engaging for me. Yes I could draw a star. Whoop-de-do. I can do the same thing on a piece of paper in less than 3 seconds. I didn’t see the point to it, nor do I saw what I did was “programming”. In eighth grade, we had a computer science class. My school then (it was a Canadian School located in Kowloon, Hong Kong, it’s complicated) was rather small and lacking in resource. So, in computer class, where we barely managed to have our own console (some less fortunate classes of other grades had to share). Here we are presented again with LOGO (along with BASIC, QBASIC to be exact), albeit with a better front end. I don’t remember the instruction I received from the teacher to be anymore engaging than the ones I’ve received previously, but because I was one of “those” student, I actually went to town on the help files and playing around with LOGO more so than I was required to do. This, however, I don’t think had anything to do with how LOGO as a programming language were differently structure than say, BASIC. Papert spent a good deal of time in his book chapter arguing that LOGO was fundamentally more encouraging to the “epistemological” development of the user than other languages like BASIC. But in my case, I was equally, and perhaps more engaged when I was using QBASIC than LOGO.

I don’t think Papert was wrong on anything, but perhaps he underestimate how the full spectrum of potential of LOGO can be quenched by teachers who didn’t understand the point of this particular programming language. I do find Papert’s faith in the abilities and creativities of children refreshing and hopeful. I don’t pretend to know a thing about human development or child psychology, so I will believe in Papert’s description of a child’s potential. I really like the simulation of the progress of two children using LOGO to draw flowers and birds. As this didn’t not happen to me I can’t speak for its plausibilities, but I am hopeful, with the hope that Papert has given me.

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Are You A Skeptic, A Critic, or a Papert?

Diving into Seymour Papert’s “From Mindstroms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas” we were met with the all too familiar idea of recursion.  Papert states that in “in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they themselves think.” He then states that “thinking about think turns these children into an epistemologists.” We can all now thank Dr. Campbell for turning us children into epistemologists.

Papert then shifts from the idea of recursion to discussing the cultural divide that exists between not different countries within our world but between precomputer cultures and the computer cultures within our world. After Papert defined this divide I couldn’t help but think of the divide between our generation and the generation before us. I couldn’t help but think of the hours spent attempting to help my mother understand FaceBook, Twitter, and Youtube. All inventions that did not exist when she was my age. When she was my age the idea of a personal computer was uncommon. Of course there were the few who believed it was possible. Overall most did not agree with Papert’s prediction that “long before the end of the century, people will buy children’s toys with as much computer power as the great IBM computer currently selling for millions of dollars.”

The different perspectives on personal computers fell into three categories: skeptics, critics, and what I like to call, Paperts. “Skeptics did not expect the computer presence to make much different in how people learn and think.” “Critics did think that the computer presence will make a difference and were apprehensive.” In the middle lied Paperts who were able to view both perspectives. What intrigued me most was the idea of taking our current society and placing them within these roles. Honestly, I believe society has become a bunch of critics. We are constantly criticizing the medium that has brought us more than we could ever imagine. It has opened up doors we never thought could be opened. Personally I do not think I could fit into any three of these categories. Do you think you could?

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Pride

Simak’s “Immigrant” is by far by favorite reading to date.  I could not bring myself to stop reading, the whole time speculating as to what the deep connections could be and discovering relevant nuggets.  Throughout the reading, I couldn’t help but think of a book I read in high school, a well-known classic by George Orwell, “1984.”  With a futuristic tone about it, one of this novel’s underlying themes is the suppression of individuality and reason, which are referred to as “thought-crimes.”  Something along the lines of Orwell’s “memory hole” seems to exist in “Immigration” when Bishop discovers the inaccuracies of history books as he explores the “live-it” chair.  Some vanity-driven copyist had added in their own twist to make the facts more appealing and interesting.  Another connection between “Immigration” and “1984″ is what Orwell coins as “doublethink” which is described as:

“…know[ing] and not know[ing], be[ing] conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies.”

I believe this happens a lot within our education system for teachers and students alike.  We are all stuck in a system that we know is flawed but it seems so difficult to transform it that we continue to tell ourselves great things will come out of extensive education but in reality the system places value on inherently empty and meaningless benchmarks, letters, and/or numbers.  “Doublethink” happens to Bishop when he is feeling used by his Kimonian peers while simultaneously decrying the prideful, vanity-stricken, stubborn culture from which he comes because he recognizes the Kimons are much more intellectually and philosophically advanced than the human race. Bishop’s doublethink is more adequately deciphered by Jake in “Both and” (A and B).  He contemplates writing to his fellow humans on Earth and telling the truth about what people experience on Kimon but pride won’t let him do it.  He wonders why no one has gone back to Earth, once again pride does not allow for this type of failure.  Are these aliens condescending or enlightening?  He cannot decide and neither can I.  I think the closing line holds the answer though:

“You’ll want to get up early,” said the cabinet “so you aren’t late for school.”

Now at first glance this sentence definitely sounds belittling but prior to this, Bishop establishes that he, as a human lacking the cultural advancement of the Kimons, truly is a child in comparison; he must listen to his elders and stop reinforcing his “shield” of pride that is a huge obstacle to learning.  Just as we have discussed in other readings, children have the humility and humbleness to ask questions, to seek guidance from their elders, while also letting their own minds do the work (if permitted).  After all, being truthful to ourselves is a defining theme of so many of our assigned readings…I think this idea indirectly contributes to a better application and therefore appreciation of human talent and values.  Being truthful to ourselves fosters what I call natural development which involves the process that “start[s] out by saying, I don’t know. Then say[s], I want to know. Then say[s], I’ll work hard to learn” which is touched on in “Out of This World.”  The key component of this process is the first part; in today’s educational culture, one must swallow their pride to admit to not knowing.  Is that the difference between Kimons and Earthlings?  Pride?

 

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It is because this has happened to me

Sort of.

The thing about science fiction is that “fiction” is still the operative word here. So in some ways the fantastical futuristic speculative science is really only there because it was necessary to tell the story the author wanted to tell. As in the case of Simak’s “Immigrant”, the imaginative backdrop of aliens and far away world is really just a tool for him to tells us the story of being human. Selden Bishop was human, like all of us. Through hard work and the intelligence he was born with, he was identified as the best of the best. In the world Simak described, a race of extraterrestrial aliens from the planet Kimon were known to mankind. Kimonians were speculated to have evolved well beyond human’s current development. They seem to have extraordinary psionic abilities; exhibit moral and social structures that is not based on profits; even in their “dumbed-down” physical manifestation they are more beautiful than any human. Bishop, being the best of the best, was qualified to be sent to Kimon, in a sort of one-way “cultural-exchange” program. Kimon has been described as “El-Dorado” multiple times in the story, a mythical promise land where everything was the best. It is, of course, no such thing.

In science fiction I often have doubts about the treatment of aliens. For example, in “Star Trek” almost all aliens are really just human with a different forehead. They are usually humanoid (to a point that they are not distinguishable from human), have two genders, and in a baffling twist, speaks perfect English. Here, Simak’s treatment of the Kimonians are different. We can see this especially in Bishop’s conversation with the “goddess”. She insists that most Kimonian concepts will simply be incomprehensible to Bishop. In a crucial exchange, it became apparent that all the training, all the hard work that Bishop endured to qualify him to come to Kimon had been for naught. Kimonian society and thoughts are so far evolved that human knowledge and Kimonian concepts are incompatible. Bishop had to accept that while on earth he was the best of the best, here on Kimon he is literally below the bottom tier.

This rung a chord with me. It is because this has happened to me. Multiple times. It happened when I went to college, and it happened when I went to grad school. I feel that we are all indoctrinated by our education institution that: “we are the best”. The secret that Bishop discovered in the end of the story is humility. It is when we admit that we don’t know that we can finally say I want to know, and I will work hard to learn. Grad school in particular is like that. The more I study, the more I am entrenched in my research work, the more I realized how much I really don’t know. It is from that unknown I am inflicted by the disease of curiosity. It is because I am not satisfied with what I DO know that I must work hard to know more.

It’s pity that we will not be discussing this piece face to face. I was originally scheduled to moderate the now cancelled seminar on Tuesday. I am very interested to what everyone think, as it is rare that we study a fictional work in this class. I also was able to read most of the extra-reading (pro-tip: Google the title of the reading, plus the word “pdf” for online versions for most reading) for this seminar which I highly recommend that you do so if you have the time. They are similarly themed Sci-Fi short story, and a thoroughly good read.

 

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Both and.

(Sorry LDRSers, this post probably won’t make too much sense unless you”ve read “Immigrant” by Simak)

I just finished the reading and I am struck by to seemingly opposite notions – a both/and rather than an either/or.  Fortunately, I feel like I am in good company, as I’m not the only one “Out of This World

Here are the two seemingly opposing thoughts:

(A) Bishop was on the verge of great discovery, of giving up his pride of naming Kimon for the exploitative place that it is.  In so doing, he would free Earth of the obsession of chasing after a false dream.  His act of shame (of admitting that his ambition was all for naught) would in turn be freeing – he would be a hero, though he likely would still feel immense guilt and shame.  He is on the verge of this brilliant act, when he is won over by his pride.  If he just tries harder, if he just feigns that he doesn’t know anything, and “goes to school,” then this is the path to greatness!!!  In fact, this is the moment where he becomes yet another mindless drone.  A pawn of the Kimonians.  A puppy.

(B) Bishop is like all of us on the verge of great learning – skeptical, doubting, uncomfortable, resistant.  He pushes back against the method.  His pride for his past knowledge makes him want to vilify rather than embrace this new culture and the idea that he can learn from it. Just as he is on the tip of closing his mind entirely, he has a breakthrough – that “aha moment” where all the puzzle pieces come together.  He can be both expert and eternal student.  He is humbled by the body of knowledge before him.  Recognizing this, he frees his own mind up to be expanded and challenged.  He has cast away the shackles of his “expert-ness” and is beginning a new journey of enlightenment.  Don’t be late to school Bishop… you have a long day for you tomorrow!

As I reflect on this reading, I am struck that it is perhaps less important whether (A) or (B) be the “true meaning,” but rather that we find a way to consider both options at once (simultaneous awareness of complex alternatives anyone?!?).  What if we need to embrace that we both have something to contribute and something to learn at the same time? (B) feels like a passive receptacle for knowledge.  (A) feels like an expert who outsmarts, outwits, and is infallible.  Can there be some happier medium with bits of both (A) and (B)?

Or, from another both/and angle… can Earth’s striving to make it to Kimon be both helpful and hurtful at the same time? (like the notion of meritocracy in today’s society?  I claim it to be a false notion… but to some end, it can be generative and inspiring when not taken to the extreme). It reminds me of the simultaneous blinding and augmentation that we discussed with McLuhan…

I look forward to reading posts from the rest of you and commenting!  All the “nuggets” I could seem to find kept pointing me to the things above… all similar to the thoughts that have been swirling around my head all semester.  Please poke and prod me into some new  lenses I haven’t yet looked through in quite the same way!

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Synonyms: Adoptive Citizen, Alien, Colonist, Documented Alien, Foreigner, Incomer, Migrant, Naturalized Citizen, Newcomer, Outsider, Pioneer, Settler, or Undocumented Alien.

“Immigrant” by Simak stuffed my noggin full of both questions and answers… Of these questions and answers, there were two nuggets in particular that left me asking question upon question upon question.

This first of these two nuggets came from the title of the reading itself. I didn’t quite understand what such a title could be referring to. However, this class has given me the ability to think thoughts that lead to additional thoughts that lead to additional thoughts. After reading “Deschooling Society” by Illich and “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat” by Morningstar and Farmer I have developed a new perspective on society as a whole. This perspective takes into account a lot of factors I had never considered before. For example, the first thought that came to mind of my series of thoughts was that the immigrant was a person within the experiential level not able to access the infrastructure level. I think of an immigrant as a foreigner who is able to experience (experiential level) the United States but not able to live (infrastructure level) within the United States. Thinking even deeper, this immigrant is able to live (gain access to the infrastructure level) within the United States with time. What I then asked myself was with time could one gain access to the infrastructure level? I believe this is a question we may never know.

The second of these two nuggets came from the general idea of “Immigrant.” Once again I felt that “Deschooling Society” by Illich and “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat” by Morningstar and Farmer resonated within this article. What sat most with me was the idea of the IQ tests. I believe that these IQ tests were a direct comparison to our modern schooling system. In “Immigrant” only a few select humans were permitted to emigrate to the alien world.  I viewed these IQ tests as SATs or ACTs where only a few select humans are permitted to enter college.  Everyone who has the ability to attend college will tend to share their experiences with those who did not have the ability to attend college. However, due to the fact that our society is full of glamorous actresses and actors it is too easy to think that the quality of life once one enters college may not necessarily be what one imagines beforehand entering college. What I then asked myself was why did Simak choose to put these IQ tests within his story? I believe that he shared a lot of the same views as Illich, Morningstar, and Farmer. The three best friends that anyone could have.

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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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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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