PhD Journey

Welcome to Gotham

This is the syllabus for the first course I’ve ever created. I am VERY proud of this, though I recognize it isn’t perfect. I hope to teach this class soon. It was mocked up as a UAA class, and used a Fielding syllabus design with altered colors for the format, but is not currently being offered (obviously). Anyway… enjoy!

Welcome to Gotham (annotated syllabus)

A Letter from the Future

2535397-poApril 2, 2034

Dear Po,

I am SO glad mommy chose this nickname for you! When your mommy was a little girl, I used to call her Monkey. I still call her monkey, actually. But sometimes she looks at me and goes, “Really.” It makes me laugh, so I keep doing it. You’re mommy is silly but I know she’s gonna be a super great mommy. She had a pretty good example. 😉 Anyway, I am writing this letter on the day you’re born so when you’re older you’ll know what things are like now, and how they’ve changed! BUT. Before I can do that, I want to tell you how much things have changed over the last two generations of our family. I’ll start with when I was little,  talk about what your mommy was like growing up, and then I’ll tell you what it’s like while YOU’RE a baby!

When I was a little girl, I remember we used to have analog phones. That meant, we had to have them wired into the wall so we couldn’t take them with us. And the only thing they did was call people. We pushed buttons (or put our finger in a hole and dragged the hole around in a circle and then let it go! HA!) and the phone rang at someone else’s house. Then we could hear their voice and they could hear ours. That was it. If they weren’t home, we just tried again another time. Then we got tape recorders for when people were out, and we could leave a message. We used to have to rewind the tape, though. Otherwise, we didn’t have room for the messages! I remember my first gaming console was an Atari 2600. It had one joystick and one button. I had a computer too. But the computer required commands, so we had to know what we were doing to start programs (and those usually came on “floppy disks”. I got to play the Nintendo, I had a tape deck/recorder and a VCR, I used to change the channels on the TV (there were only 3 or 4) with a knob that was ON the TV, and I had a pager. I kid you not… a pager.

Major_League_GamingSo I grew up, had a monkey, and my little monkey grew up. She got things like Web 2.0, social media (that’s stuff like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine… you can look those up). She loved to play games, too. We used to watch Twitch together. That’s where people play video games in front of their friends and people who want to watch them. They use a camera, a green screen, and some fancy software to project themselves onto their own channel. Then other people can come type into a chat room and the streamer can talk back at them. In fact, Twitch is probably one of the main reasons we ever got Major League Gaming. That started around the time I was in graduate school. We played games called MOBAs. People got really good at the games and started competing for lots of money against teams in other countries. The events got so big they made it into a major sporting event. It seemed pretty strange to be saying that games were a kind of sport, but the mental and physical exertion was pretty taxing and they figured that gaming and sports were two sides of the same coin.

world-of-warcraft-cumple-ocho-años-720x430Anyway, your mommy loved to play games called MMORPGs. Her very favorite was World of Warcraft. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it IS the predecessor of World of Hexcraft. In fact, she loved playing WoW so much that she decided to go into game acting as a career. She was SO excited when she got the job as the main hexenbeast antagonist! She works hard, but she loves interacting with the players and she gets paid really well to do it. Guess all that improv as a kiddo paid off for her. It’s funny when I go into the game and she sees me cause she comes up to me and hugs me, then says something evil to me and throws me out. It’s pretty cool to see her being a really great NPC. In fact, that’s how she met your daddy!

Brielle and Elrond met while working on WoH. Brie has been doing work as an actress on several popular video games. Your daddy, who was a developer for several of the games mommy worked on had a little bit of a crush on her, and he invited Brielle to play the main NPC. Video games, specifically augmented reality video games, thrive on immersive environments. During their time both creating and beta testing Hexcraft, Brielle and El had time to get to know each other. Of course, the first thing that Brielle noticed about El was his New Zealand accent (mommy used to do lots of silly accents when she was little… especially Monster High voices back when MH was a web series). Anyway, your daddy and your mommy used to Usher all the time, and sometimes mommy would go on dates with daddy in a closed beta game. Even though she was still in Saint Louis working at Blizzard, and El was in Portland volunteering at a chromo-change clinic, they still spent a lot of time Ushering back and forth and going on dates.

The end of menI remember when El first told Brie he was born XY. He was afraid mommy was gonna be upset, but we had a lot of friends who were transgendered when she was little, so she grew up around it and it totally didn’t faze her. In fact, your Great Guncle Micah and I used to go to support rallies when they were first considering legalizing chromo-changes. Nearly all of my friends were gay or trans, so when they discovered the chromo-change technique, we were all very excited. I’m sure by the time you read this, the chromo-change is old hat. I bet they’re even choosing the gender of their babies by now. But people are still getting used to it right now. It has changed the lives of so many people. Before the chromo-change, XY to XX couldn’t have babies after their change cause they were taking hormones to slowly make a shift, but their DNA wasn’t being changed to make the process complete. So they still had to live with some distinctly XY features depending on how early/late in life they made the change. Your daddy was born Arwen. New Zealand always had a pretty advanced set of medical and social norms, so they were among the first to begin using the chromo-change technique. Your daddy was very excited to go XX to XY. He went through the chromo-change when he was 10, the youngest person to be changed at that point. He was very lovely (I’m sure you’ve seen pictures), but puberty was much easier for him already having changed to XY. And he let your Grandma and Grandpa choose his name. Of course, since he was named after the elven princess from Lord of the Rings, they chose Arwen’s daddy, Elrond, to name him after.

Tap Tap BraceletAnyway, When your mommy was young, we used to have a program named Skype. That’s what I would use to being in voice chat groups with my friends when we played games. Well.. I used Skype and Team Speak, but TS was too structured, so we usually just used Skype. Skype also let us use cameras to talk to each other. We used to sit around smiling at each other like idiots. I remember one of my boyfriends, Ryan,  and I would have our video chats open while we played games so that every time we died in game, we could just watch the other person play. Then, when people got sick of just looking at each other, they made these cool bracelets that you could buy that when you tapped one, the person with the other one could feel it. It was cool to feel two taps for I love you, or whatever your secret code was. Then we got these machines that connected to computers. Each person could have one, and they could kiss it, and the machine on the other end would move the same way! So two people could kiss these machines, but it felt like you were kissing the other person! It wasn’t quite the same, but hey! With all the long-distance relationships going on, it was at least better than just staring at each other. 😀

holodeckAnyway, after a lot of these types of machines, and people making augmented reality applications, 4D movies, they finally realized that they could make what everyone has come to call Holodecks (they named it after this OOOOOLD show, Star Trek). Basically, we have these rooms that we can walk into and we tell the rooms where we want to go. The rooms are pretty big, so you can travel in the space, but you can only go so far (it’s not the same as games, where you don’t move physically, so you can go where ever you want in the game world). So you just tell Usher exactly where you want to go, and you can go. But the cool thing is it’s just like you’re actually there. The temperature in the room, the sounds, the interactions… the room transforms into the space and you can see everyone else in that spot. So even though you can’t walk past a certain point, you can see people who are further away from that spot (and you can readjust your spot if you need to). They have all kinds of suits and machines that you can get as mods for Usher so you can hug people, or do all kinds of other things (sadly, some people are still cyber bullying, but it seems like we’ll never quite get rid of that disinhibition).

I remember when Papa and I got married (I was just about your mom’s age), we all went to Girdwood (a town about a 45 minute drive from Anchorage, where your mommy and I grew up). We all had to drive, and a few people even had to drive all the way out two or three times cause they were bring stuff to us. Who would have ever thought that by the time your mommy and daddy were getting married, we would be able to use Usher to just attend the wedding in virtual-person? I remember the last time I had Ushered to France before that was for your Great Uncle Frankie’s performance of Tartuffe. But mommy was always excited about Paris, so that’s where we went. It was a private event, though, so we were able to do it right in front of the Eiffel Tower. In private event rooms, Usher uses the place but doesn’t show you the people. Since we were all Ushering in, we didn’t need to see anyone that was actually there. I just love virtual layering. I am so glad I was able to go to your mommy and daddy’s wedding, get to see all of our friends from over the years (mommy’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Krumland was even there!) and see how they’re all doing.

mlp__friendship_is_robots_by_uc77-d4d9jgfMommy’s best friend, Paige, works for a toy manufacturer as a designer. When she and mommy were little they used to watch a lot of My Little Pony (generation 4… right now we’re on gen 7), so she designed a virtual toy of their original characters from when they were little. Mommy projected it onto her wall at home in her office so she can always smile when she sees it. I’m SO glad for virtual wallpaper. I was TERRIBLE at painting (even though your papa keeps trying to get me to paint walls… he just won’t let go of the old ways of doing some things). But Paige did a really great job on mommy’s virtual toy. I used to have a stuffed animal collection of over 200 stuffed animals. Some of them got passed on to your mommy (but she didn’t want them so they ended up in my room when I was her age). When Paige started her design career, she took my animals and made them virtual so I could always have them, but they didn’t take up space. It’s like they’re there, but I only have to pick up the toy chip when we clean or move. SO much easier, and I still get to look at my happy memories. It’s also how your mommy still has her collection of all of the original Monster High and Ever After High dolls. She did save a few just for you, though. In fact, you’re gumming Ghoulia’s head as I sit next to you and write this. I’m so glad you turned out to have red hair like me. I hope you give my monkey just as much grief as she gave me. I’m so proud of her, though. And I can’t wait to see how much smarter you are (us Metcalf girls keep getting smarter and smarter!)

Welp! I should be wrapping this up. I’m sure you have better things to do than sit around reading a novel that your Nana wrote just cause she got emotional the day you were born (can you blame me? I’ve been waiting forever to me a Nana!). And you probably know all of the stuff I wrote already. So I’ll just end this by saying that no matter how many things change in your lifetime like they did in mine, no matter how many technologies come and go, no matter how many ways people find to solve problems (or create them), no matter what happens in your life… I will always be proud of you, I will always love you, and you will always be my little Panda Po. Nana loves you, baby!

 <33333333 Nana Melody

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Media Bias: Personal Reflections for a Less Cynical Future

To infinityEveryone has biases, and the inclusion of media does not change that. In fact, just as media is biased towards certain people (e.g., handheld gaming consoles are biased towards young people) (Ohler, 2010), we are biased towards certain media. Conducting a media bias inventory allows us to understand our biases and determine the best way to either overcome them or embrace them. In this post, I will address my media biases by discussing my reaction to them, what I think I should improve, and how I can use this specific knowledge as a media psychologist.

My media biases did not surprise me. I tend to be very aware of what I am doing whether it’s right or needs to be improved. Personality affects our media biases, as it does so many other things. In my case, my drive toward perfection, drives my need to have an intimate knowledge of, and proficiency in, as many media as can get my hands on. It drives me to learn about it, both in their intended uses and their “meta” uses. aggregateIn other words, I strive to understand how people typically use it, whether those uses were intentional or not during it’s creation/development. It was not surprising, then, that my bias was very much social, exploratory, philosophical, and escapism driven. I use media to connect to my friends, to understand them (and others) and their preferences/opinions as a means of broadening my perspective, and a way to escape my physical micro-environment and connect to my sociomental environment.

I tend to be incredibly cynical in all aspects of my life, but where media is concerned, I am pointedly so. I approach my media use with reckless caution- my new term… you’re welcome to use it as you see fit. Though I love diving head first into new media and exploring its capabilities, I tend to be cynical about the information/people I meet while using them. Claims are, in my opinion, things to be verified by my experience and the experience of the collective (Borg, anyone?).

I do, I don'tI am proud my ability/tendency to be cynical and critical of that which is presented as fact via various media because I feel it allows me to learn more and work outside my biases. That being said, this cynicism is also the thing I must work to improve. I don’t mean that I should learn to be MORE cynical. I mean that I still tend to trust certain sources. Manjoo (2008) notes that we look to sources that already back up our opinions. While I agree that we have that tendency, I do not think it insurmountable. I tend to favor word-of-mouth reviews, information from sources I have agreed with in the past, and media that make logical sense to me. If I’m going to truly overcome biases (not that it is possible, but that striving to keeps them in check), I must seek out differing opinions and allow myself to remain flexible and better informed.

As a media psychologist, being able to pursue truth in spite of personal biases, and being able to determine and articulate the biases of others is paramount. We cannot understand how and why people use and are affected by media if we cannot look past our own biases. The very essence of our jobs is to remain open-minded and receptive to all forms that the intersection between individuals and media can take. We cannot teach others what media literacy means, without being media literate.

One sizeUnderstanding my biases is the first step to consistently perceiving the biases of others, and a step towards becoming a successful media psychologist. Though I am passionate about an extensive variety of media, and I remember when media meant only TV, radio, 8-bit game consoles, and circularly dialed analog telephones, I am cautious about what is presented on these media unless I am familiar with the source. Understanding these biases allows me to work past them, focusing on broader horizons, keeping in mind that doing so better prepares me for helping others do the same.

Reference:

Manjoo, F. (2008). True enough: Learning to live in a post-fact society. Wiley.

Hand-held Gaming: An In Depth De-tech-tive Analysis

Digital-Community-Digital-Citizen-Ohler-Jason-9781412971447In his book Digital Community, Digital Citizen, Jason Ohler (2010) presents a way to analyze technology and Digital community, digital citizen media that can help us not only “see” the technology, but understand how it is best used, why we use it, and why it came about in the first place. In this post, I will analyze hand-held game consoles (e.g., PS Vita, WiiU, 3DS, GameBoy, etc.) using the first step in Ohler’s De-tech-tive process; investigate. Though mobile phones are often considered hand-held gaming consoles, I will not be including them in this specific analysis, though most of the “de-tech-ted” concepts apply to them as well. When specific differences arise, I will default to specifically considering the PS Vita (as it is in front of me right now).

Physical Characteristics

Most handheld gaming consoles are small (conducive to being held in hand during play) and made of a combination of metal and plastic. They traditionally have a directional pad, buttons, bumpers, thumbsticks/joysticks, and most recently include touch screens (the Vita has a touch screen on the front and the back of the console). Typically, these handheld consoles are made overseas (e.g., Japan).

Enhancements/Reductions

The-future-of-mobile-and-handheld-gamingUsing the notions of enhancement and reduction as described by McLuhan, I would say that handheld gaming devices amplify our eyes and our fingers. I would also say that our reasoning, reaction time, and attention to detail is amplified. Our ability to multi-task (such as it is) is diminished because of the immersive nature of gaming, and the reduction in space between our faces and the game screen. There is less space for distractions or other tasks to “intrude”.

Predecessors/Future

Handheld gaming consoles replace board games, card games, and toys. Depending on the game being played, they may also replace books, movies, and television. Because of the immersive nature of handheld gaming, I would say the future holds augmented reality games. In fact, some already exist, but the technology continues to develop further and further. Eventually, we will have things like Google glass that doesn’t require us to hold anything, and we can move about in a continual state of gaming reality.

Social Contexts

tumblr_lpaupuEFFU1qzpbdsThe social cues that contributed to the implementation of this technology undoubtedly include boredom and anti-social awkwardness. The inability to go without a stimulus, or the desire (but fear of) social interaction are both resolved to some degree when using handheld gaming consoles. Where things like a long car ride or waiting at the doctor’s office  may facilitate impatience or anxiety, the ability to distract oneself with a game is a relief. Additionally, socially phobic or awkward individuals are able to experience social interactions, and in some cases become more socially adept via connected interactions (Chayko, 2008; Cole & Griffiths, 2007).

Biases

Handheld gaming consoles favor young, socially inhibited, perceptive, motivated, achievement driven, impatient, and/or active/over-active individuals. Because handheld screens are small, those with better eyesight thrive. Additionally, those with quicker reflexes, better joint movement, and more acute perception of surroundings are more successful in-game. Along those lines, gamers are motivated by a variety of things including socialization, achievement, and immersion (Yee, 2006). As such, handheld consoles are biased toward those who are driven by these motivators. Those who have a hard time focusing, sitting still, or enduring stagnant conditions are more likely to play handheld consoles.

Benefits

339918-playstation-vita-vs-nintendo-3ds-which-gaming-handheld-reigns-supremeThe benefits of handheld gaming consoles are entertainment, the development of hand-eye coordination, socialization through connected gameplay, an understanding of social norms and social cue interpretation, and tangential learning in a variety of subjects (e.g., auction houses to learn economics and math, farming to learn resource management, etc.). More subtle benefits that may be overshadowed by arguments against gaming may include staying home rather than loitering or vandalizing places outside the home, a safe environment for the expression of frustration or aggression (e.g., yelling at the game rather than getting into a fight), and becoming immersed in creative worlds which encourage independent and unique participation (e.g., fan fiction role-playing).

Impacts

Handheld gaming consoles, in most cases, allow us to connect to others in-game. they also provide more ways to message (e.g., Skype, instant messaging via gaming networks, etc.). In this way, we are connected to each other, and those we haven’t met before but who have similar interests. However, when we escape into what Chayko (2008) calls our sociomental space, we disconnect from those around us physically. What is happening to/around us “in real life” becomes second to what is happening in our immersed state.

Handheld gaming consoles allow for the benefits of video game play, while providing convenient and consistent access. Understanding the uses for, benefits of, and challenges with handheld gaming consoles, may help us specifically target behaviors to either be replicated or extinguished. This is a technology which should be accepted and embraced, so long as it can be managed and used in functional and positive ways.

Nintendo_3DS_and_PS_Vita

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 575–583. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9988

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(6), 772–775. Retrieved from http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.2006.9.772

Mantra Explained

I chose my mantra because it is simple, it is vague enough to apply to a changing landscape, but specific enough to me that it helps me remember what my values are. While applicable to every aspect of my life, they were chosen in the context of digital community and technology use (hence the hashtags).Be confident It is important to me that I set a good example, as many of my dealings using technology (especially gaming and social media) are with those who are much younger than myself. It is important to me that I am original because while it is tempting to try to fit a mold, or fill a hole, if I’m not myself, I won’t be able to keep up the charade for long. I never want to be something that I’m not. It’s taken a long time for me to learn how not to mold myself to expectations and I don’t intend to forget myself now. It is important for me to be confident because there are a lot of people everywhere who will disagree with you, put you down, and try to push you beyond what you’re ready for. Being confident means having faith in yourself, in your standards, and in the quality of what you produce while still being able/willing to push yourself further and continue to get better at everything you do. Being kind is similar to being exemplary to me, but I feel that it must be specifically articulated. So many times, I see people online who rage, become aggressive and cruel… I never want to be one of them. I want to be me. I am all of these things, and I never want to lose sight of that. No matter what.