Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seminar in Media & Design Studies 11/11/10 Notes

Hayles, N. Katherine. Writing Machines. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002 (Laila)
Written in 2002... it's a book project
Talks about the materiality of language the way the book is printed is impt to it. It has rough cover, glossy sheets
experiment of the book... Kate came up with a persona in order to do an autobiography ...serves the role that the autobiography would play. It's an intellectual autobiography. Felt confined in the chemistry lab ...all these hours and rules, wanted to find out the meaning. Went back to a degree in literature ...she's housed as a literary critic. Stories / vignettes of learning the politics of a place, in a department. Think there are rules in place to prevent issues, however there's always a culture, depends on the people in the department
Using eco-tomes ...the place where we have to get along (fissures, trying to work together)

Read her post-human book in the past
Thought I'd like My Mother is a Computer but liked WRiting Machines alot more, b/c the way its written.
Story of Kay... she's an academic. We find out that Aserteth (student) ...have advised that impt text in the field. She is very interdisciplinary. She looks at 3 texts, framed through the narrative voice of Kay. All hypertext literatures...
1) Lexia to perplexia
2) Humorant
3) House of Leaves

Kay Hills to humanities as Bruno Latour is to social science. Kay's moment is to find that which is simulated or signified as a pre-reference (Post-bart, post-seceur). Words are pre-material and we need to think about
We have a signified and something that we are signifying ...beyond deconstructing that, we need to think of text as being simulated from nothing.
Her mistake was concentrating on the navigation to see the words, instead of the work embedded the narrative in a topical environment. The word was interwoven with the world... layered images, simulated documents. Focus on the words along, she missed the point of the piece. An integrated piece of all components became signifying practices.
** By making text the only domain of signification, before you read it, the form already signifies what meaning is possible **'s about the materiality of the way the text comes to us and the signifying influence of the form itself. (this is in the next book)

It's not just the construction of matter, but the matter of construction to human beings. How else do we find meaning, its not always through the word.

The word
The text
The document

What is the semiotic and performative discourse to the text. Expand textuality beyond the printed page.
Kay addresses the theory in this way... the theorists are interwoven in the fictional narrative of this woman Kay and how she learns about academia.

She pulls out in this autobiography:
* the importance of medium specificity analysis (think about Jenkins 7 principles of transmedia)

Three key pieces / conditions / things to look at when looking at electronic texts:
  1. Materiality of language itself = It is authored what "book-ness" is. This is what gets authored over and over again. [Whether it is designing your own application or taking one that exists ie: twitter and enacting, using it in new ways]
  2. Recursivity language of techno-texts [the role of practice in text-making], This is about practicing theory. Your moving between things, the feedback loop to make better meaning. The relationship between theory and practice, not in one place or the other.
  3. The need of looking at a medium specificity analysis = know the affordances of the text
Interesting conversation on the text the database a text?

Book is designed by Anne Burdick ...a book that is a collaboration between a designer and a writer

Hayles, N. Kathering. My Mother Was a Computer (Laila)
Written in 2005
Computational perspectives and more traditional perspectives ... a way to synergize a theory that respects both.
Technogies of Engendered Bodies talk about it. Woman who did computational work use to be called computers.
Brings together the computational with the natural.
Bring the 2 worlds together in conversations.
Talks about mothers reading their children stories and when we grow up they are replaced by other stimuli

The Making of the Discreet - intermediation and relates to technologies driving the regime of computation. Code is the language system of speech and writing.
Intermediation -- co-evolution, electronic literature is exploring human and non-human, that we are in relationship with technologies... make meaning, age of computing might make this more predominant or more evident.
ie: what kind of subject am i musing in front of the installation. (standing at the presence of a student that has gone beyond you. A child that does something that surprises us.)
Distributed cognition ...jointly articulated activities. i think therefore i connect... human and non-human ...processes that you de-code or ones that you don't even have to de-code.

Laila shares her poetry.
Node Job

it's been a long time, it's been a really long time
since the site of you watermarked on my chest and
fragments of touch embedded in the nodes of my body.
the culture of movement needs lubricant from a whisper of our love
it's been a long time, a really long time
since i extended into you.

she screamed rape at a glance,
and felt whipped by my tongue
remains just like before
when today followed yesterday and tomorrow was fantasy
i leave the scent on my fingers to linger

like a reminder of the experience
made me
and we are the summation of our experiences;
and the people we've touched
leave imprints of their scent on our skin

mediated by cultural logic
and the basic text just extends
into worlds like silly putty
unreal in my fingertips
i kneed your breath
into my imagination of you.

-Laila Shereen Sakr
Los Angeles, 11/09/10

Use poetry to respond to theory. how can you use a poetic performance as my methodology.
Diego - a way to analyze.. take sexual words to make theoretical argument


Alan Sokol ...Sokol Hoax
...point that the poeople of post-modernism theory didn't know what they were talking about. Don't adopt metaphors that you don't understand... especially when coming from another discipline. We've been burned by not understanding... then neither discipline is served.
...what are those non-scientists doing.

Ralph Abraham (father of fractal theory)


Reflexive Practices as Transformative Research
  1. Self-reflexive practice
    1. Personal interest (cross-generational digital media & learning)
    2. Creative insight (cyphibian theory, hybrid models, images, audio not as an observer but as a participant itself)
    3. Discipline knowledge (constructivism [Piaget], social constructivism [Vygotsky], constructionism [Papert], participatory culture [Jenkins])
  2. Reflect on information gathered or conceptual strategies
  3. Dialogue ..what is its significant meaning
  4. Question content and context

Thursday, October 28, 2010

10/28/10 Notes for Seminar in Media & Design Studies

1) One page Methodology

2) Research Practices in Media Studies Programs
  • Go back to thinking about methodology (initial paragraph, visual representation)
  • Think about my methodology in relation to the question of Arts-based practice as transformative research (page 110)
  • For panel, would be more multimodal ...piece of interactive experience
  • Notion of my own research practice, coming out of a creative practice, exemplary for transformative research
  • Action Item: Read Ch 4 in Arts Practice as Research
  • Methodological stance on a set of practices, demonstrate what we mean by practice as research, research as transformative (how does your practice inform research)
  • ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Media Art) and CAA (College Art Association)
Virtual Window by Anne Friedberg
Presentation by Gabe and Discussion with class
  • overview of visuality, how it develops through practice, schools of practice
  • Alberti ...visual idea of perspective drawing & painting ...practical philosophical school up to computer, tv, mobile screens being post-perspectival
  • Central metaphors grounded in frames, windows & screens ...tracing development over time from renaissance through to today
  • replaced books with screens ...all of my input through my devices.
  • for a couple of weeks, didn't read traditionally for a while. Stepped into reading this book with those ideas in mind.
  • First sat down to read book ...videotaped myself. What does reading look like?
  • Relationship between books and screens. relationship between printed page and the screen can become a page. In the introduction but not throughout
  • Think alot about what's not in the book -- a real compiltation of the book, it interesting moment when this book was released, everything exploded ...questions, extensions, further lines of inquiry could happen to now. She finished reading the book in 2004, released in 2006 (pre-youtube or on the edge)
  • One youtube icon in interactive part but not in the book
  • Virtual mobility within cinematic frame ...virtual mobility of the cinematic viewer
  • Images & Ideas of mobile framing, recording playback, consumption, devices that carry around
  • context given by professor and then learn to read for that goal
  • sift, scan, extract info really easily -- visual, verbal, textual learner
  • found i could read for about 2-3 hours, more i read, the easier it got
  • always take notes by hand ...whatever scrap is around

The Practice of Everyday Life is a book by Michel de Certeau
Chapter on Reading as Poaching
  • A misunderstanding of reading
  • An image of ourselves reading, sitting at a table reading a bound book, but we read in all sorts of ways
  • The readers body is a wild orchestration of ticks, manners, shifts that are evoked by the reading of the book. We don't read in a state of quiestence.
  • Is reading in an absence of ubiquity? When one enters and leaves as one wishes...
Interactive Extension on Virtual Window ...great after you read the book

Book is loosely chronological along different themes. Each chapter went back and forth along a different inquiry.
Mining and interpreting the metaphor of the window
Historicity of these things ...looking not just the technical development (Alberti in Renaissance period, he invokes the window of the metaphor but also as a practical point in perspective & drawing) You paint as a look out on the world, paint the window as where you're seeing
Frame of a painting ...frame a view
Window -- imagine a line that you'd replace with an opaque substance to draw on, as a tool from 3d to 2d space
Create a virtual imagined space that shares a connection

Moving from single viewer perspective to multiple perspectives
From window, she goes to the frame
link camera obscura as a perspective tool (though this camera was there before perspective drawing)
early example of virtual movement. Within projection of camera obscura -- it as own device for moving, perspective ...linked what the cinema would become, fixed, immobile frame, virtual mobility, image moves but you as spectator does not move
Apparatus theorists -- focus on unique quality of cinema apparatus

Suturist Theorists --

Sequential multiple perspective, temporal multiple perspective -- The window

Ch 3
Material history of glass
how windows changed over time
as glass became bigger, more transparent, stronger -- than windows changed. Able to see how visuality changed over periods and time
Make buildings completely out of glass, architecture is framing the world, viewing devices that connect it to cinema, cubist paintings

Ch 4 - Architecture of Screening Places
dynamic space of movie palace is to distract u from the edge of the frame
edge never moves, its fixed and immobile... it kills the experience of mobility and movement that is happening at the center of the frame

Courbousier framed windows horizontally not vertically -- viewer of the world
arguments / discussions on cinematic and tv aspect ratios. There was a time when aspect ratio was not set
Orientation of aspect ratio come up. Eisenstein wanted vertical, horizontal frame ...argument of cinema and television
Talk about pillow talk (movie) -- how it divides up the frame, multiple frames, multiple persectives are contained simultaneously in mainstream films

Ch 5
Sequence and stackability
deeper fleshing out of multiple criticisms
1968 exhibition, 1st video monitor connected to a computer
could have focused on the computer screen as multiple perspectives

President Obama on campus
Recording, experiencing them through the screen, posting them on FB and reliving them with friends. I wanted to see him with my own eyes. We're doing what Anne Friedberg tried to pre-sage...

Vertical framing to happen ...what type of videos would look like? how will that be viewed?
pocket of our pants dictate the size of the iPhone, or our hand...
illustation of when things converge

Are these practices contribute to globally, industrial marketplace?
Made bigger through digital practices ...recording, remixing, sharing
Market is changing that, effecting it... take strength and comfort in that
find room for intervention, invention of imagine the future

Transformative works that reflects on my real world
Big commercial can be used for creative, artistic expression

mobility and immobility
agency ...doesn't extend to talk about them
spectator of being immobile and frame as static is impt to Anne

what's going to happen originated, shifted, used
do u notice if your seeing a digital projection or 35 mm production ...existential connection to the image. Existential link back to the original...

a word pins down a meaning
space for interpretation that happens in your mind ...reading the words

Wondering what is at stake?
** memes aren't history
** diy culture ...history is memes
what history are you giving up and not?
what is that form that you will take, do in the world that will be in perpetuity ...leave a mark in the world of thinking

Anne: own obsolescence is quicker than our deathbed

Vice versus focus ...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Launch of PBS Kids Go! Webonauts Internet Academy

This past year, I had the privilege of working with PBS Kids Go! as educational advisor to their new media literacy game. Webonauts Internet Academy encourages young children to reflect on privacy, credibility and what it means to be an ethical participant in a community. I had a chance to sit down with Abby Jenkins, PBS Online Community Manager, to reflect on the development of the game and how this fits into the PBS Kids Go! experience.

Knowing that PBS KIDS had an original game on media literacy, what sparked you to want to develop a new one? And how is this new game, Webonauts Internet Academy, different than the other?

Today’s media landscape is much different than it was ten years ago, when PBS KIDS first launched a game on web safety. Since that time, the media kids are exposed to have become increasingly social. For that reason, a focus on digital citizenship was important because kids’ social interactions and presentation of self are increasingly blurred by “online” and “offline” interactions. The Webonauts Internet Academy game is part of the new PBS KIDS GO! Digital Citizenship Initiative to help kids and parents navigate today’s digital landscape.

With this new initiative, PBS also supports parents and educators by offering discussion guides and other resources to help foster discussions about online safety and good digital citizenship with children.

Creatively, the Webonauts Internet Academy is new world we created, where kids take on the role of the Webnonaut and complete a series of missions. There’s a cast of characters that includes the Bamdudes, who are the best cookie makers in the galaxy, and a mysterious enemy called the Great Static who is set on stealing the Bamdude’s secret recipe. While entertaining kids, it is designed to teach kids about online privacy, how to deal with bullying and how to distinguish credible sources online.

How does Webonauts Internet Academy play into the entire PBS KIDS GO! experience?

Like other games on, we want to put kids in the driver’s seat. We carefully develop game mechanics and content that are age appropriate. We also know that kids now expect to be able to customize their experiences online to reflect their interests and personality. At, kids can customize and shape the content in many ways, including the creation and sharing of video mashups, modding games (to modify or make changes to games), creating a playlist of favorite videos, customizing the look of their Secret Box, and more. Webonauts is reflective of the PBS KIDS GO! experience in that it offers kids the opportunity to shape their experience through the creation of their suit. On, we step kids through the account creation process and provide help with creating username and passwords. After setting up an account, kids can save their customized Webonauts suit in their “Secret Box,” which is a customized place for saving creations and points from across with the option to share it with friends.

PBS KIDS GO! also has content that focuses on other aspects of media literacy. The site, Don’t Buy It, focuses on helping kids identify and understand advertising And for parents, PBS Parents Guide to Children and Media offers tips on how parents can use media to support their childs development and other strategies for raising children in the digital age.

What are the key media literacy themes you wanted to get across in the Webonauts Internet Academy game? And why did you find these concepts most relevant for kids to learn?

Designed for kids 6-9 years old, the game consists of a series of 12 scenario-based missions around three themes: privacy, credibility and citizenship. As we set about thinking what topics to address, these three themes emerged. Developmentally, kids are discovering who they are as individuals and are starting to make some of their own decisions both in screen mediated environments and offline. Many of these decisions involve understanding what information is ok to share publicly and how that information gets shared, sifting through vast amounts of information to find answers to questions, and learning what it means to be part of a community.
We took a scaffolded approach to each of theme, with game scenarios that introduce a topic and then build on the concept throughout the game.

In-game missions address the importance of protecting passwords and maintaining privacy settings, teach how to differentiate between credible and non-credible sources of information, and how to react to bullying, among other topics. When all missions are completed, kids become full-fledged Webonauts and earn their certificate, which they can print and share at home.

People are always eager to learn the process of how a game like this is developed. Can you tell us how many people were involved in developing Webonauts Internet Academy? How long did it take to create the game? What are some of the skills of the team that makes Webonauts Internet Academy a success?

Game development involves the work of many people working closely together. The core PBS Kids production team included two designers, two content leads, one educational advisor (thanks, Erin!), an advisor for parent and teacher content, a team of Flash developers, and our design intern. You can see who produced the game here

This game was developed over a period of about six months. Because it involves such a variety of skills and areas of expertise, it really could only have been produced as a team effort.

And if I were to want to one day work for a company like PBS KIDS GO!, what are some of the skills I would need to have?

The team that makes up PBS KIDS Interactive is a group that’s passionate about making the most educational and best designed interactive games for kids. Besides being committed to PBS’ mission to deliver the highest quality educational media, you would need experience developing media for kids—whether as an educator, developer, designer, or producer. Plus, you need to like playing games and have fun!

In developing Webonauts, what was one thing you learned in the process? Did you learn something new about media literacy that you didn't know about before? And if so, what have you done with this new information?

In researching for this project we learned that there is still surprisingly very little media literacy material out there for kids 6-9 years old, so we saw this as an opportunity to do something new and fill a gap for addressing this topic for this age group. We also learned that it’s important to also provide support material to engage the whole family and classroom teachers, since the true effectiveness in addressing issues related to privacy, credibility and citizenship involves an ongoing dialogue between kids and grownups. Webonauts Internet Academy can be a conversation point to address these important issues and also to empower kids as informed decision makers.

And we also confirmed that game development is totally challenging!

Abby Jenkins is Online Community Manager for She joined PBS KIDS Interactive in 2005, and has worked with producers on many award winning television program sites and web original projects.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10/21/10 Seminar in Media & Design Studies

These are my notes from class take it all with a grain of salt.

In Looking at Sullivan's Art Practice as Research
  • Applied Research and how digital humanities has taken up Applied Research... engage technologies in research

  • always necessary transformative research ...rearranges how things are taken up and done. Rearrange habits, rituals, cultural habits.

  • inflection of applied research as transformative research

  • Digital humanities ...there are people who are not happy with this. Evacuation of the intellectual property of humanities. Not suppose to take up with fads. Their province of research was in transcendental questions ...anything that smacked of doing anything that was part of addressing the populist

  • Train classics, ancient greek / latin -- still need to be documented. There's still plenty to be done. Traditional humanists don't see it as applied in the same way... don't want to be justified in contemporary terms.

  • Traditional humanists ...text based interpretation of research
Digital Humanities state out of these new practices come new questions to ask.

Producing Techno-Culture Innovation ...Anne Balsalmo's idea

The Humanities for Tax Payers by Megan Morris

Art Practice is interventionist work. Art engages with the material, what its researching and in its engag

Anne: Technology is broader than the tools. It's the arrangements

Cultural Studies
What is culture?
Culture is always technological, technology is always cultural ...don't bifurcate, ie: technology = tools, and then it separates it from culture. Apprehension of the technolocgical is always culturally inflected. It differes throughout history, and culture from culture.

Anthropological approach to culture ...anem for human practices that are exhibited in a group of practices in a
Margaret Mead, study of islanders ...culture approach, culture is the practices and several kind of meaning-making practices (language, etc) -- particpated in meaningfully ....naturalized culture, a way of bounded way. (ie: in the 60s)

After the 60s Antrhopological issues ...discipline of Anthropology ...culture as abounded concept
Multiple cultural theories
Anthropologies as acoloniast project ...has tools in a way of fixing it in time. Naturalize culture as a provence of that group that is bounded.
We impose on them a definition of culture (less developed culture, primitive culture ...invocation of a natural culture)

Post-colonialism forget that ...we're transforming that group into a technological way

It's not you studying someone else's culture ..but way to engage with multiple cultures.
Technological process, resources, part of the natural world.
Coloniasts have science on their side ...any concept of culture was always processing

The Colonial Harem by Malek of the others watching the observers, when the others look back.

Birmingham tradition. Bifurcation of technology and culture isn't useful.
Technology Culture Primer (Greg Weis
** notions of formations, notion of a cultural assembly
** constitution of the social ...doesn't pre-exist, constitute through the practices

"Circuit of Culture" models what culture reproduces (taken from Culture, Media and Identities series (london: Sage, 1997)

Marxism as Cultural Theory Marx talked about why the workers continued to be oppressed. Rise of the middle class. Theory of exploitation. No longer a direct relation to the production. I produce and unlike producing on the farm where I have a direct relationship to what I produce (farm = food for home). Marx unalienated my fruits of my labor. Move into the urban spaces. Wanted to talk to them about how they can be masters of their own destiny

Cultural Studies starts with a critique of high culture. Founded on a critique of the form of value. Everyday culture is not worthy. Purpose of education (early culture studies critique) is to inculturate the masses of the value system of the elite. Brought into schools, treated to literacy, etc. Not for the purpose to empower them, but to bring them into power dynamic where culture elite is what we should aspire too.
  • Question posed: How does culture get reproduced so it can be reproduced in more powerful ways? How could you change culture to be more empowering?
Modalities of Culture in Cultural Studies
  • High / Low Culture (that is a value judgment, see it institutions all the time)
Popular Arts by Paddy Wenell -- looks at all the arts that are created by everyday people. Founding moment for cultural studies ...our transformative intervention is to not just study high culture but everyday life.

This leads Raymond Williams to redefine culture as the practices of everyday life. He also comes up with a different way to taxonomize culture ...dynamism of culture (dominant, emergent, residual) ...always in a process of reproduce. Its value doesn't get set up once and for all. Value of high art is reproduced.
  • Interested in the conditions of emergence ...whereby new forms of cultural expression are created, incubated, expressed, designed, manfested -- intentionally or not.
  • Some cultural products become valued and they're maintained over time... There's an ediface that's affixing them with cultural value.
  • Seeing an explosion of popular forms of culture... start to see the popular arts of everyday people. What are the dynamics? Based on analyzing the popular arts that this model comes up, "Circuit of Culture"
  • Example -- Discourse Analysis of the Sony Walkman
  • Today, reflection between consumption and production would not be so separate today -- think HJ's convergence.
What is the circuit of culture for DIY culture? How does DIY culture reproduce cultural understandings and practices?

Cultural reproduction as a circuit through which flows happen...distributed cultural formation -- image that shows school in the 21st century. Someone has to intentionally produce the relationships between the different places, ie: universities, home, afterschool programs, libraries, streets, museums, recreational / entertainment venues, cultural and religious centers, etc

Discussion of Anne Balsalmo's Ch 4 models
* Where the digital generation learns?

* The University as Site of Technoculture Innovation
  • In a circle and all connected -- Learner-Centered Pedagogies, New Research Questions, Transformative Applied Research, Technology Prototyping, Publications & Outreach, Technologies of Literacy, Disciplinary Programs, New Educational Programs
  • Where did Labrynth (USC Cinema school project) a decade ago come up with their new forms of teaching?
  • Technologies of Literacy is the most lacking do you change your classroom to allow your students to read / write in new ways, participate in the media they are studying.
  • Account for the reproductive moments in the innovation cycle
  • Innovation is not about technology ...its about helping to shift culture
Articulation practices ...what are the broader cultural practices meaningfully now
Why are we studying this now?

Mimi ...interest driven relationships, object of study: creation of a community of interest / anthropological look

Model of a distributed learning environment, the nodes that represent spaces and places of learning
de Certeau ...difference between space and place. "A space is a practiced place."
Look at Whyville, etc (spaces) ...where are these
"A place is a practiced space."
Not look at the virtual spaces but the actual places that organize practices, stage that embodies practice. The role of the body, reinsert the body to virtual possibilities... School in the digital age is the place where bodies go.
Another constellation of practices shaped in different ways
Articulation = Notion of this that's central to cultural studies, notion that articulation is the connection between 2 things (2 disparate elements) ...make an art piece and they become one, a sutured ensemble.
Stuart Hall -- Cab of a truck / Bed of a Truck ...meeting of the 2 is an articulation and we call it a semi (Sutured Ensemble). Elements that have the integrity on their own come together and create a new ensemble.

Material practices
Building technologies are articulatory practices
Adding a chemical to a chemical is an articulatory practice
Articulating symbolic meaning of the ensemble ...physical bring into connection, forging a new ensemble ...articulating the meaning of, not in isolation. Dual meaning of articulation. This is the basis of Articulation Theory (grounded in Gromsky) ...culture gets reproduced moment to moment by people's individual activities. Gromsky sees the individual as a plurality.

Identity is itself an ensemble... construct my identity by pieces of my lived experience... clothes i wear, technology i use, sense of my competency, networks all the way down.

Every node is a constellation, its already an ensemble, embedded in networks.
We inherit this intellectual enterprise...

Use that we are a network of networks to inform your theories. Philosophical foundation.
How does that network configure? Regularities in the network?

Latour focuses on the assembly of narrative. John Law / aircraft stories
Look at Decentering the Object in Technoscience
** object was preassembled to be fixed. Law takes up how to decenter an object, never priviledge it as being the only thing to answer the questions.
** Gets from latour ...creation of the stories that circulate the object that in the end makes the object something different than it actually it is. The heterogeneities ...object in multiple stories, the object is something different for each story.
** Every stakeholders had a different story.
** the object is all of these things but it does cohere across stories. Law has this great notion of assembling and reassembling the project / object and the identity of itself. How do you create an identity for yourself as the one that has a priveledged relationship wtih the object ...his identity as pre-digest of the object of something
Chronicle his own identity and its relation to multiple stories ...its networks all the way down.
Identity about being reassembled through the process of tracking the object in multiple stories
How do I write the story of the projects I've been involved in when none of the projects were singular? I enact a subject position through my writing. I am the subject who was remembering. I'm not the subject of one that participated in the story... the fixity of my own story, this is only one story ...a fiction as much as a cultural archiving.
Latour ...fantasm and the symbolic
Law ...makes sense of it through material practices, an account of analytical processes of an object

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm currently taking Anne Balsalmo's class, Seminar in Media & Design Studies, one of the required courses for the iMAP PhD program at USC's Cinema School. This is one of the assignments she had us start out with.

My Philosophy
Often I start developing a project when an idea comes to me sparked by some issue in culture. Here are some examples from my past on that:

  • Zoey’s Room -- the AAUW report on women and girls in STEM

  • xDREAM -- the lead article in Time Magazine on youth in America as the most obese in the world

  • Learning Library – Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century white paper combined with what I learned from ZR’s Tec-Treks

  • Sk8-66 – My family’s exodus from east coast to west coast and its relation to Grapes of Wrath

Ideas that I get from reading the papers, articles, books or having experiences are further explored by me through searching and synthesizing what already exists in the areas I’m interested in. I wouldn’t say it’s purely a lit review, because I often don’t just look at articles and such, but instead look at media projects that already exist in those areas. Looking at what has come before my idea, helps me to lay out a core argument …why create this?
In designing technology, I’m constantly looking at the agency of the users and the environment to figure out how it will work within a larger ecology.

My Methodology

I take a mixed methods approach when developing technology. Having been a documentary filmmaker in my past, in my next phase, I often take the role of an ethnographer. I try to immerse myself in the subject I’m interested in exploring by observing, talking and interviewing people who are active participants in the subject. By doing this, it helps me define my scope of work and ensure I address the social need of the people.

Coming from a film / tv background, I don’t think I’ve ever worked alone. I often bring a core team together from varied disciplines and really work to have the expertise of each person create the project. The methodology at this point is to step back from talking and interacting with people and synthesize findings into a design project. This often includes combining game design with Internet-Speed Development cycle to create the storyline, world, where the content will come from, the architecture, wireframes, user-interface and use-case models. Enough is done in this phase to create a paper prototype to take back to people in the field and get their reactions and feedback.

Based on feedback, we redesign and build a prototype. If I have the funding, then Internet-Speed Development is important at this point because often I’m attracted to an immediate need in society. I believe in sharing sooner rather than later and sharing often to continue to iterate during this phase. The methodology I use is a combination of structured usability and focus groups, as well as just let them play with it and see what happens. I find the later always being the most informative.

When the technology moves into beta phase, I often am writing about the experience or about design principles that emerged in the process. I try to create all projects with a database, one that I can sift through and review often to see if what’s been created actually is effective. Because in the end, I’m an interventionist at heart, so my hope is that my work helps to improve the issue that sparked me to begin the journey.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What is Distributed Cognition?

I posted this originally on New Media Literacies blog, and thought I'd re-post it here for you. This gives you an idea of what I'm currently working on at work.

This post is pulled from NML's 6th webinar from our monthly series on the new media literacies. What is Distributed Cognition? was a big success! I'd like to share with you the presentation we gave for those of you who couldn't attend. This presentation was created and made possible through the collaboration of Henry Jenkins, Katie Clinton, Vanessa Vartabedian and myself. Over the past few weeks, we came together (via Skype and email conversations) to reflect on what was written in the white paper and to further explore what distributed cognition means and how to foster this new media literacy with educators and students.


We define distributed cognition as the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities. One of our past webinars focused on the new media literacy, collective intelligence -- the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal. Collective intelligence focuses on the ability of humans working together and is a complementary skill to the new media literacy, distributed cognition which can push our notion of pooling knowledge and expanding our capacity to include not just humans but the tools we use in sharing and expanding our knowledge.

In having us talk more deeply about distributed cognition, I want to share that I think this literacy is different than the others in NML's list. For one, we saw that it wasn't a skill educators and students gravitated towards as an entry point in beginning to understand the new media literacies. Perhaps, its because distributed cognition is more of a philosophy of mind, meaning its ever present in something we practice, an unconscious practice that we're hoping more people become aware of. It's different than our other nmls, for example transmedia navigation that is more tangible and applicable. Including distributed cognition, as one of the new media literacies is our tipping of our hat to the education research that we think the new media literacies aligns with and a chance for you to better understand what cognition is in the 21st century.

To better understand distributed cognition, the first thing to grapple with is --What is a Tool? In the 21st century, our minds might immediately go to the digital technology that has become an extension of ourselves and provides us with the ability to sample music, capture video, and edit media to socially construct meaning of the world. It is these tools that are talked about and are becoming the tools that we are comfortable with in shaping our idea of the world.

However, if you look back in history, you can see that the tools of today were not available back then, and so in thinking of the definition of distributed cognition, we need to broadly define the word tool as a device used to communicate, perform, make or facilitate. These devices work in conjunction with our mental capacities, a combination of "hybrid systems" interacting with one another. These tools can take many forms of externalized memory. For example, a database holds a lot of information in one place and alleviates humans from having to remember or store all of it in their own brain. We all can't be Rain Man but we can work with databases to remember large quantities of information, and free our minds to be used for other things - such as asking the right questions when we are analyzing that data.

Or we can use the tool to do work with us in gathering new information - like Facebook or Wikipedia, or the periodic table. We use these tools to expand the pool of knowledge we access. The ability to use these tools becomes increasingly important as the amount of information available to tap into becomes bigger and bigger! An example of this is the spell checker. We work with the spell checker to check our spelling. If we were to take everything the tool said at face value, than we wouldn't be using it at its capacity and our spelling wouldn't be right all the time, especially if you take into account the different ways to spell words like their or two. The spell checker shouldn't be seen as just a crutch; it can support our learning, especially if it's used within writing that the child is engaged in. It offers an intrinsic goal of aligning learning how to spell with something the child is interested in.

Henry Jenkins admits that he is a terrible speller and has learned how to spell words after the spell checker has caught his mistakes on many occasions. It's the reminder of being shared this new information by the spell checker that has him fix his spelling errors going forward and he's learning the words in conjunction with the subjects he is passionate about.

Language is a central tool in intellectual activity. We can think of language as a tool. Take for example a book you read. I'm currently reading Harry Potter to my son who is decoding and making sense of the story through performing as Harry Potter in the backyard as he makes up his own wand tricks or draws pictures of quidditch matches. This sense of play helps him to better understand the stories we read together. Or you can look at the millions of young fans who've joined communities, like FictionAlley to chat in detail about every character, and who have written fan fiction to extend the stories of many scenarios in Harry Potter. All of this doesn't happen in isolation. It is a cultural and social practice that uses the delivery technologies available today to be understood and remixed by others.

Lisa Gitelman offers a model of media that works on 2 levels. 1) The Tools that enable communication, like a television and 2) the Protocols, which are the social and cultural practices, that grows up around it. These protocols include the shifting content and the changing audience.

Do you own one of these tools?
* Record player
* Radio
* Still Analog Camera - like a Polaroid

If so, how are you using these tools?

Are you using them with their original intent (such as a record player is a place to listen to music) or have you looked at today's social and cultural practices and shifted the content with the changing audience. DJs sampling music with the record player is an example of the tool taking on new protocols.

I don't think that when the Internet began, they foresaw how people use it today. It's those that used distributed cognition and asked the right questions to encourage new protocols to emerge, like social networking, and new audiences, like Cosplayers, to find their niche in this delivery mechanism. So as teachers, a key attribute to foster is to look at the tools that you have available and ask new questions on how they can be used to meet your learning objectives. But this doesn't have to reside solely on the teachers, What do you think would happen if you offered your students a tool and ask them what they would do with it without a pre-determined learning outcome?

As new tools develop, society shifts to include these new tools to tell new stories; and yet the old tools remain and take on new purposes than what they originally were for. The medium that tells the story may shift and the audiences that participates in that medium also shifts... so it is in our classrooms similar with new tools and how we engage our audience, the students, in these new practices.

But distributed cognition doesn't just use language as a tool. Using tools allows us to look at bigger problems and expand our knowledge because we now have new capacities to do things that were not available to us before.

Are you wearing a watch?

You might not realize this because it is second nature to us now, but telling time is a form of distributed cognition. How many of you are wearing a digital watch versus an analog watch where you have to know how to read the clock hands?

Before we had clocks, people still knew the time of day. Perhaps it wasn't exact as we have it now, down to the millisecond but through reading the sun and having sundials, they knew if it was mid-day or evening. The watch, whether it's the clock on our computer or the watch on our wrist or because our favorite television program is on tells us the time and we believe it. We take it at face value and we don't consider the cognition that is happening in that tool to keep track of that process for us.

Do any of you know Ken Robinson, he often speaks at Ted and he tells this great story about his 20-year old daughter who doesn't understand why anyone would wear a watch, it only does one thing - tells time. Think about the young people in your life they wear a watch? More importantly, when they ask what time it is in class, do they ever look up at the clock on the wall? There are so many ways now to find out the time of day's often embedded into many of the new tools that we have at our fingertips. This understanding of what time it is becomes second nature because there are so many means of gaining this knowledge.

As I was thinking through this presentation, I decided to ask my son, what time it was? On his own, he knew to just read the digital time on my computer, but then I asked him to read the watch on my wrist and he didn't understand why I was showing him that way when he could gain the information another way. So much for that watch I bought him for Christmas, I don't think he'll ever want to wear it. But should I be upset that he might not learn how to read an analog clock? Here is a new example of a shift in our culture. New tools have given way to letting go of old tools - and that thinking is still being done for us by a tool.

There's a healthy, on-going debate that relates to distributed cognition. People who study distributed cognition are not technological determinists nor social determinists. They're interested in what cognition is. In all versions of the theory it is about how people and tools act together to accomplish thinking and doing. The debate for them is in whether the "essence" of cognition is solely in people's heads or whether it is actually *in* the integrated brain-body-world systems of extended processing, including combinations of thinking with our brain, physical gestures, our relationship with others and the objects we use.

When I joined NML, I came because in my role as a practitioner, I had gotten to a point where when I created new ways to engage children in their learning, it worked and they loved it. I knew using social media as a tool for learning was powerful but I wanted to better understand why it was working. In taking up the new media literacies, distributed cognition was not one that I actually understood at first. It was one that I had to grapple with over time. But having done that, I think that this new media literacy is part of answering the why in my initial questions that put me on this track in my career.

This is a list of guiding ideas for how NML uses the term, distributed cognition:

* Technologies don't change how we think; it's how we use technologies that changes how we think.

McLuhan notes, technologies are often put out before they are thought out and thus they can have unintended consequences. These consequences can also be good, especially when people see beyond the original intent of a tool and use it for new benefits to humanity.

* Even when technologies can do many things, it's humans who are at the helm and who need to take responsibility for their actions.

At NML, we worry about the tendency to make causal claims about how technologies change how we think. It bothers us when we read articles that say technology makes us dumber, makes us more violent, and so forth -- including Obama's recent mistake in his address to students graduating. I think right now there is a far greater tendency to exaggerate the impact of technology than to under-estimate it. Humans for a range of reasons want to deny their own agency and accountability for their actions where technologies are concerned.

* Human nature is dynamic; as we act within new sorts of extended networks of people and tools, human nature, itself changes.

Looking at the history of storytelling showed that what it is to be human can be qualitatively different in different eras and tools play a key role in enabling change (always keeping in mind that it is how humans use the tool that matters).

* We need to resist a humanizing of technologies; machines have capacities, not minds.

Technologies do have agency though they have capacity only in regards to what a human does with it. This idea is the one we most debate internally at NML.

* Think holistically and be aware of the entire system.

Work to identify and understand everything that is contributing to the process of thinking.

Participants in the webinar added to the discussion and I encourage you to listen to the archived recording in Elluminate to hear the whole discussion that happened. Also, feel free to pass this link along to others:

But most importantly, from reading this -- can you identify distributed cognition in your life? If so, share -- I love to have more examples on this topic.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What are we looking at?

So what am I going to blog about... hmmm, a couple of different things

Ok, I’m finally doing it. I’ve been known to get irritated with those who are studying media yet are not really practicing what they write about. I’m one of those people that thinks you really understand something once you step into the role yourself and try it out. So there ...if I think blogging is an important practice in learning -- than, I might as well try it out myself and see what I learn in the process.

I have a lot to say but usually its verbal communication and never felt like much of a writer, even though I’m doing it more than I use to and practice always helps ;-) Though I must admit, I’d rather be in a room with others conversing about many topics of interest... so, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this -- you are in the room with me and we can start a conversation about something that interests us both.

So if you’re not sure if you’re in the right place or just not sure, since we are just getting to know each other... than, why don’t I tell you a little bit about me and what I most likely will share here in hopes to have conversations with you, and you and yea you too -- lurking in the back ;-)

For one, I’ll probably want to talk about media and learning. This is the research that I’m involved in at Project New Media Literacies but, as a mom -- it also is very predominant in my own life at home with my son.

I also am hoping this helps me get organized ...I have a stack of papers on my desk and this dream that one day I’ll have read them all and summarized them here. Not only will this be a personal accomplishment but I’m hoping that it can become a way for me to keep track of my references but also share them with you.

And then there’s personal projects I’m working on. My family arrived in California last week from the east coast so that I can finally not work out-of-state. For our trip out west, we took our son out of school early so that he could live history instead of just reading about it. We did the Americana Adventure starting with New York and the Statue of Liberty then down to Philadelphia for a NAMLE board meeting and a look at the Liberty Bell and US Constitution. We then headed west and drove Route 66 the whole way, exploring Americana through the relationship between underground sub-cultures and mainstream that surfaced first in the US. So, you’ll probably be hearing a lot about Sk8-66 project as we move into post-production and synthesizing all the great stories.

So, perhaps some of this interests you too and I want you to stay :-) Seymour Papert said that we use "objects to think with." Knowing that, I hope to share some pretty awesome “objects” and reflect on how we can use them in our own lives, put them into practice -- why not... after all, we all have something to learn.