Below is the prezi from my presentation at the 2013 NASAGA 2013 conference in beautiful Saraosta on 26 October. There is also a PDF handout for basic ARG design considerations. Thanks for NASAGA for hosting me!
The following are supporting documents and slides for a presentation I gave on 3/1/13 at the WTCS Assessment Conference at Waukesha County Technical College.
My colleague, Lisa Kusko, deserves a special thanks to acknowledge her contribution to the Fall 2011 data. We collaborated on a more robust project that examined placement from more than a single focus on testing.
Background Documents and Further Results
Fall 2012 Data Breakdown and Graphs: F12PlacementProject [PDF]
Fall 2011 Data Breakdown [Google Doc]
I’m working on a v 2.0 of my rationale, but thought I’d post this second version for the sake of posterity/transparency.
I’ve opted with the 1.1, as though it dose contain some substantial changes, I don’t feel as though it is necessarily more than a small departure from the first draft. Mostly, I’ve added some explication and connections.
In the upcoming (in a few days) v 2.0, I’ll largely try to do the opposite: discretize these blended areas in order to more clearly define them. I’ll also be following up with a reorganization of my booklist, which is currently on Evernote. I’ve been reluctant to match the list to my areas, as I personally cannot not see many texts applying to more than a single area. Alas, it is time to try!
Rationale after the break… And, as always, comments welcome!
In mid-October, I had the opportunity to lead an hour-long workshop for my colleagues about the use of Prezi in the classroom. It was a wonderful time, and I received enthusiastic feedback from both of my capacity sessions of about 20 faculty and staff members. In fact, I received so much interest about Prezi, that I’m now going to be leading a 3-hour extended intro and training with Prezi.
To talk about Prezi productively, I want to start a conversation that asks why we might use the form in certain contexts, as well as reveal its limitations. Basically, what advantages might Prezi offer in the classroom, but when might we resist using it just because it’s the “new” or “cool” tool?
In leading this workshop, I’m making two assumptions:
- Prezi isn’t a magic bullet that immediately remedies the problems with presentation software or style. Allowing for conversation between presenter and audience–or for collaboration that further destabilizes those roles–isn’t something built into Prezi.
- Technology is not neutral. Prezi allows and encourages us to structure the delivery and representation of information in specific ways. Some of these affordances are advantages in comparison to slideware.
Here’s where you come in.
I’ve listed out some of my reasons for preferring Prezi in my Prezi about Prezi (see below).(And, meta- much?) But, I’d like to know what you like about Prezi. In what circumstances do you prefer it to slideware or Pecha Kucha-constraints or anything else? Do you have any favorite examples of effective use of the form of Prezi with the content of a presentation?
I’d love to read your notes and incorporate them into my workshop.
One of my prelim exam committee members pointed me towards Mark Amerika’s new work at remixthebook.com (@remixthebook) last week. I have previously read–and read about–Amerika’s work, but that isn’t necessarily the focus of the thoughts to follow in this blog post.
Mark Sample has a (great) guest post on the blog this week, in which he deconstructs “remix” a bit, arriving at some questions and conclusions I thought interesting. And that’s what I’d like to hash out, ineloquently, here.
What’s wrong with simply mix? Why the prefix? Why remix? Why use to describe some of the most innovative and startling work of our generation a prefix that evokes return or restoration?
To remix suggests that pieces are tossed and turned and tumbled and reassembled into a whole that more or less resembles the original in structure. Like a kaleidoscope, the parts shift, but they’re always contained and framed by the shaft of the scope.
These, I think, are pertinent questions, especially for someone who has thought about remix, appropriation, interactive narratives, simulations, participatory readers, blah, blah, blah. In my own understanding of how these pieces fit together (perhaps peek at my prelim rationale for a brief overview/context), there is always something that comes first, a ground state: whether it’s a context or mission in a simulation or game; a rabbit hole or puzzle in an ARG; a texton in ergodic lit, etc. The ground state is something supplied by the “author,” sometimes with the express purpose of making it available for derivative works and/or semiotic sequencing (or re-sequencing).
Admittedly, that’s a bit of a daft, simple response.
What really gets me excited by Sample’s post is the smart etymology of “re.” I’d like to move it a step… somewhere: I’m not sure if it’s further, closer, in a different direction, or whatever the appropriate spatial metaphor in relation to the “ground state” of the post.
This is the text of my presentation to CCCC11, 8 April 2011, in Atlanta, GA. My fellow panel members were Dale Jacobs (Univ of Windsor) and Andre Buchenot (IUPUI). As I’m mostly a reader (gasp!) when it comes to presentations, the text below reflects almost perfectly what I said. I’ve also pasted my Prezi at the bottom of this page.
In this presentation, I will propose that Lynda Barry’s comic “Common Scents” provides an opportunity for students to engage with multimodal rhetoric in a manner that introduces them to an expanded set of rhetorical strategies and possible ethical perspectives. I will then detail a sequence of in-class activities that I have successfully used in the first year composition classroom to facilitate those aforementioned opportunities.
[I] call for a “new medium-specificity, one based on what is specific to a work or practice… a new materials-ism.. [in] response to attempts to assign a single aesthetic to ‘the digital’ (information aesthetics, code)” [or, in our case here, the products of multimodal production.]
- Sean Cubitt
“An exclusive emphasis on digital literacies is not what most advocates of technology-rich composition advocate. Such an emphasis would limit students’ access to other modes of expression.”
-from the NCTE’s Strategic Policy Goals on Multimodal Literacies and Technology
Many, if not most, of our classrooms are influenced by the constraints of the printed page. Thus, when we seek to explore multimodal pedagogy, we are subsequently limited. These limits apply to both multimodal analysis and multimodal production, though unequally so.
Yes; most of us may have or can arrange to have digital networked projector technology in our classrooms, so we can explore animations, games, videos, and other multimodal communications from a single source–or ask our students to explore these on their own time with their own technology, in front of their own home computers or digital media devices. But, if we project multimodal communications for mass viewing, we often limit individual students interaction with the object of analysis; for instance, students don’t have the agency to individually explore games and interactive animations, they can’t pause or replay sections of a video. (Displaying one object for all is also potentially boring, as you might know if you’ve watched someone else play a game like Animal Crossing). If we remove the object of analysis from the classroom, we limit our ability to interact simultaneously with both student and object; we can’t facilitate more critical understandings for ourselves and individual students. It’s harder to ask and answer questions when those texts aren’t in our students’ hands.
These limits are even more severe when it comes to production. Chances are we (both teachers and students) are not well versed in composing with Flash, even if we had wide access to the application (which most of us likely do not). Though, the lure of simplistic notions of “digital nativism” might try to convince us otherwise, there are barriers to the tools required to produce animations, videos, games, and other digital multimodal compositions.
Comics, however, make many of these limitations less imposing. We can distribute them widely with little technological barrier: all we need is a standard office tool, the copy machine, or a scanner and printer. Our students are familiar with them; they’re likely to have picked up the comics section in a newspaper or a comic book–or maybe even have had a piece of Bazooka bubble gum. They are usually produced with pen and paper, not through more complex code-based or GUI-based design/production software, such as Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop–common tools used for producing a typical infographic.
In a sense, comics are available and accessible. Continue reading
The following is the first version of my Preliminary Exam Rationale, including: the major area of transmedia narratives, production, and aesthetics; a minor area on ergodic and nonlinear literature; a minor area on ludology and simulation.
Preliminary Exam Rationale
My major area of focus is on the production, aesthetics, and analysis of transmedia narratives, with a specific focus on Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). In Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture, he explores transmedia storytelling–“entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium”–in terms of the eponymous media convergence, which “represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections amongst dispersed media content” (97, 3). Therefore, in order to explore transmedia, my foci will concentrate on media studies, with a specific focus on “new media” aesthetics and production, as well as transmedia narratives and traditional narratives that explore the notion of “alternate reality.” Some of these texts include: Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media, Waldrip-Fruin and Montfort’s New Media Reader, and Mitchell and Hansen’s Critical Terms for Media Studies for media studies; texts, message boards, and other paratexts from ARGs, such as The Beast, I Love Bees, The Lost Experience, Year Zero, and Push, Nevada; narratives that represent “alternate realities” of a dystopian, science fictional, and magical realist variety, such as the works of Borges, Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and VALIS trilogy, Robinson’s The Wild Shore, Chesterton’s The Club of Queer Trades, and Link’s Magic for Beginners.
Complicit with Jenkins’s understanding of transmedia narrative–and perhaps new media, at large–is the engaged reader/viewer, or, in Jenkins’s words, “participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands” (3). As such, I’m interested in exploring the boundary between reader and author as found in metafiction, an area with which my own creative work often intersects. I’m also interested in exploring the breakdown of this boundary as a print medium example of the superimposition of the virtual and the non-virtual (or “real”) in order to create a different (or “alternate”) experience of reality, what Virilio refers to in Information Bomb as a “field effect” view of reality that is a result of the collapse of time and distance facilitated by light-speed digital networked communication technology (43). Texts that explore this metafictional boundary include many short works of Borges, Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel), and Marias’s All Souls and Dark Back of Time.
My first minor area, ergodic literature, is both an extension of my interest in transmedia narrative as well as a reflection of the desire in my own creative work to incorporate a more active, participatory reader. In Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Espen Aarseth defines ergodic literature as a form which requires the reader to “[effectuate] a semiotic sequence,” or order the text in a nontrivial, self-selected manner. This active role for the reader can also be seen in what Manovich describes as the “database logic” of new media, which requires a reader to sort narrative elements, much like players in ARGs sort narrative clues in to a narrative. Some representative examples I will explore include both non-electronic ergodic literature, such as Cortazar’s Hopscotch and Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and the electronic, including Joyce’s afternoon and Jackson’s Patchwork Girl.
My remaining minor area of interest is ludology and simulation, which is, again, related to my main interest in transmedia. The theoretical intersection of ludology and narratology is a turbulent space, as evidenced in Waldrip-Fruin and Harrigan’s First Person. Transmedia narratives that incorporate video games, such as Star Wars or The Matrix, blur this boundary; moreover, ARGs are definitionally positioned as games, yet are frequently presented as transmedia stories, as they lack the interface of the screen and controller and purposely confuse gamespace with “real,” everyday spaces. Similarly, Aarseth asserts, in “Nonlinearity and Literary Theory,” that “simulations are somewhere in between reality and fiction” (79). I will explore this transliminal space between reality and fiction in terms of “alternate realities” and as a dominant form of representation in post-modernity, through the visual representation of computational and dynamic rules. Some texts that will be applicable to this area include Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx & Crake, the films Run Lola Run and The War Game, the reality television show The Colony, and the critical texts The Order of Things, by Michel Foucault, and Suspensions of Perception, by Jonathan Crary.
A common method of critically examining media is to approach the study through the dichotomy of production and consumption. With the turn from the pre-industrial, artisanal mode of media production—represented in textual production by the scribal system and in image production by the painter—to mechanized production and reproduction—represented in part by the printing press and the lithograph—the scale of this production and consumption grew exponentially. More recently, digital networked technology has also increased the sophistication of media production and, sometimes, increased the accessibility and speed of media distribution. Marxist media theorists from Walter Benjamin to Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer to Guy Debord have focused on the mass production and consumption of media and culture, a condition precipitated by the production technologies of Fordism and industrial capitalism. In a very broad view, these approaches have largely considered production and consumption as functions of separate spheres of society: production is set by the bourgeoisie by means of the labor of the proletariat; those who have power produce, those who lack power consume. Thus, as Guy Debord argues in The Society of the Spectacle, this contemporary media, especially mass media, is “essentially one-way” (19, emphasis original).
Recent approaches to media studies, however, seek to complicate this simple dichotomy of production and consumption as being mutually exclusive categories. One of the common threads to these studies has been the importance of digital networked technology. Henry Jenkins, in his 2006 book Convergence Culture, explores fan production as a complicating factor in this dichotomy. Examples of fan production, or consumer production, cover a wide range of examples: vidding—creating video mashups of favorite scenes in tribute to a favorite television show or movie; machinima—using video game graphic engines, such as those of the Halo and Grand Theft Auto franchises, to create narrative movies, with the game world as the backdrop and the players’ avatars as the actors; writing fan fiction (fanfic) that creatively extends characters from mass media produced narratives into new—and sometimes transgressive—contexts, such as “slash” fiction for the Harry Potter narrative world; fans of films and television series flocking to message boards where they exchange theories, interpretations, knowledge, and experiences and build community in order to appreciate, critique, and celebrate their enjoyment of a particular narrative.
While these are all ways of viewing production by individuals we might traditionally view as consumers—the purchasers of video games and novels, viewers of television and movies—most of these productions do not require a community, per se. An individual can make a machinima, write a fanfic, or edit a fan vid on their own and choose or not choose to share it with others. It’s produced in isolation and doesn’t necessarily meet a community or even an audience. In this manner, then, these examples of production might complicate the “one-way” claim of Debord; they do not, however, address another of Debord’s central claims:
The reigning economic system is founded on isolation; at the same time it is a circular process designed to produce isolation. Isolation underpins technology, and technology isolates in its turn…” (22)
This isolation is not necessarily overcome through many of the types of production about which Jenkins writes. Fan communities centered on the narratives produced by mass media corporations do exhibit shared production, however, and do so in a manner that resists Debord’s claim that technology is only an agent of isolation. This specific type of production can be understood through Pierre Levy’s concept of collective intelligence (or CI). CI seeks to understand collaborative production enabled by the proliferation of digital networked technologies, such as the internet. Levy argues that the exchange of information and ideas through global digital networks should “mobilize and coordinate the intelligence, experience, skills, wisdom, and imagination of humanity” (qtd. in “Why I Love Bees” 199). It is important, though, to also view productive fan communities within the “reigning economic system” of today—which, of course, is not unaltered from the time of Debord’s writing in 1967. In one sense, the CI production of the aforementioned engaged fan communities is in reaction to the content produced by the dominant forces (or the administrators of society, as Debord might state); as a reaction, it is dictated by what the entertainment industry chooses to produce. Another way of approaching this distinction between production and consumption in CI communities is through Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s notion of a “socialist strategy” for using contemporary media to undermine and resist the power of bourgeois society through collective production and manipulation of media (Enzensberger 267).
For this paper, I will explore one specific genre of CI-infused media: the alternate reality game (ARG). Through this exploration, I will seek to show how ARGs problematize the distinction between producer and consumer that Debord enacts, that Enzensberger seeks to reverse, and that Baudrillard, in “Requiem for the Media,” seeks to transgress. In order to show this blurring of producer/consumer, I will examine the effect and agency that players—who are a type of collective intelligence community or communities—exhibit in controlling not only the outcome but the development of ARGs. In a sense, players collaborate with the game designers (or puppet masters [PMs]) in order to create the game as it unfolds. To show this, I will examine a discrete set of ARGs: The Beast; Push, Nevada; World Without Oil. This examination will be, in part, carried out through published player and PM reflections.
Furthermore, I will explore how ARGs operate within the current economic reality in order to closely examine the degree to which strategies of resistance to the dominant system are available and affected. For instance, if most ARGs are produced as marketing for the products of the entertainment industry, how transgressive or revolutionary might these sanctioned forms of CI be? One way I hope to approach this specific question is to study ARGs through the lens of digital networked technology’s (DNT) and ubiquitous computing’s (ubicomp) effect on our experience of reality. I will argue that it is, in part, the ascendance of DNT and ubicomp that aligns the ARG with the conditions of fast capitalism, which the New London Group (among others) see as a major influence on the literacies required to be active citizens in a networked world. The CI structures of ARGs also provide potential to resist and shape these economic conditions and power structures through the power of the collective. As Mitchell and Hansen argue, ubicomp and DNT change time and space—which are, in combination with communicative media, the components of collaboration (Mitchell and Hansen).
For my digital project, I created an interactive supplement to my essay on ARG player production using Inform 7, a language used for writing Interactive Fiction.
I chose to do this for a few reasons. The main reason is that I wanted to gain some experience working in Inform 7. This is a contextual programming language that looks very different from most code that I’ve previously tried to work with. As I’m interested in interactive narratives and games, I figured learning this language was beneficial to me, personally, as both a writer and academic (which is most of the time a meaningless distinction for me).
My interest in interactive narratives, however, also reveals why I chose to mediate this digital project in the way that I did. In general, I’m interested in exploring different patterns, ethics, and logics for “texts”, modes and media. By working in Inform 7, I can still work with type on a screen/page, which is both comforting and potentially subversive (I hope!). It is comforting, in that this project uses writing, just as a print (or digital copy of a print) essay does. I hope that it is subversive, as it allows the reader (or interactor) more agency in determining the shifting logics and coherences of the work, through making choices within the possibilities I have written.
You can visit the (rather generic) homepage for the project here. Clicking on “Play In-Browser” will allow you to do just that.