Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Literacies - Discussion

by Karen Hamilton - Thursday, 30 July 2009, 01:01 pm

Compare the Lankshear & Knoebel article and the Wesch video in terms of their themes, the technologies and activities they refer to, and their formats. Which did you find most convincing or compelling, and why?

The Wesch video and the Lankashear & Koebel New Literacies article share some similar themes especially in their investigation of new literacies that involve sharing of content, and production of content. Both talk about participatory culture and the remixing of content that lead to questions of copyright. Both also tend to approach their subjects from the inside out. Wesch includes video expressions of himself and his students and Lankashear & Kobel discuss how their approach is not the usual “functional applied orientation,” but inclusive of the “perspectives of the insiders.”

The Machine is Us/ing Us takes us through a visual overview of the web’s change from a linear text model using basic html to today’s Web 2.0 that provides a rich medium where form and content are separate and almost anyone can participate. His visual representation illustrates the interactivity in a deep and real way. The video shows how these changes allow us to become a part of the teaching machine through our participation in social activities such as tagging, sharing of images, and videos and the remixing and mashing of content that gets added to the database. This new literacy enables sharing, and collaboration and allows us to interact with the world in a very different way. His conclusion mentions that there are several things we will have to rethink. Among those are identity and copyright.

Similarly Lankashear and Kobel investigate new literacies and attempt to show how fan fiction, manga , synchronous online communication and Web 2.0 sites are examples of a different kind of literacy. Where Wesch focuses more on the technological change that has enabled a shift, Lankashear & Kobel acknowledge that technology has enabled a shift but they also see that Fan Fiction, Manga and Zines “have emerged independently of digital electronic media.” (Lankashear, 2)

Where Wesch’s video takes us through a visual of the technological change, Lankashear & Kobel introduce the concept of Fan Fiction which they say generally dates to the 60s television show Star Trek. Both again touch on or investigate the subculture of the fan, an area that is both interesting and creepy. In one of my courses I talk about subcultures and define different levels of commitment that fans have. When we discuss the true insiders, the students always mention Trekkers (or is it Trekkies? I never remember which is PC.) Invariably laughter breaks out. I have a writer friend who was such a Star Trek fan that she actually had a record that not only had the original Star Trek song but a version with words. Interesting enough, she became a teacher and professional writer but also a writer of fanfic. Her version however is from the Slash Fiction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_fiction genre which to some of us is even weirder. As an insider she has written about the group from both inside and outside. To be honest it creeped me out! However, reading the Lankshear & Koebel article I’ve been able to see the genre from another perspective, the one that Wesch also mentions the social participatory one where a piece of culture is taken and remade. Lankashear & Kobel suggest that fanfic, “is a contrived communal practice of reading and writing.” (4) and they talk about researcher Jenkins who sees the group as “ skilful manipulators of content from commercial programs; nomadic poachers and bricoleurs constructing their own culture from borrowed materials.” (4) Wesch’s investigation in the Machine is Us/ing Us as well as in this recent presentation The Machine is (Changing) us: YouTube and the Politics of Authenticity also talks to the communal nature of sites such as YouTube. The difference here is where the material is shared; one is text, the other video. A specific example of this communal practice would be the Juan Mann Free Hugs Campaign seen by 45 million youtube viewers. Somehow this positive message is a lot less creepy than the insider subculture of slash fiction!

Lankashear & Koebel also give a historical overview of Manga and explain how a sub culture of amateur manga has emerged. Again we see a genre that borrows from another to recreate new content. Here as well as with fanfic the authors note the importance of technology in facilitating the sharing and growth of the culture. They also mention the “blurred boundaries between physical and cyberspace.” They discuss synchronous communication like chat that keeps people in touch. The article predates things like facebook and twitter but it does mention short fragmented communications that relate, “what I’m doing now.” They see this texting as one part of a multimedia mix. In light of the growth of both facebook and twitter, the authors seem to have hit on a cultural key, a simple shared expression of what a person is doing.

Both the video and article relate interesting concepts that are applicable to education. From the constructivist point of view, both illustrate how students could take charge of their own learning, engage with material and construct not just new learning but creative products. From a text perspective, a teacher could engage a student in reformulating something from popular culture. This might provide a hook to motivate a student to write. The Wesch video shows a number of the social tools that encourage engagement on the web. Using tools that are familiar to the Millennial generation would engage them in more meaningful ways.

Which did you find most convincing or compelling, and why?

I’ve seen all of Michael Wesch’s videos and been lucky to have seen him speak as a keynote at the League for Innovations CIT 2008 conference, so it’s hard not to be more convinced by his work. Being a visually oriented tech lover, I find a good video that makes a complex subject visual and simple will engage me more that a long text. Lankashear & Koebel presented interesting content that did make me appreciate something that I found quite creepy- fanfic in a new way. Their article also tended to lay a foundation for the concepts of mashing and remixing which I found interesting. The simplicity of the Wesch video and the way it presented its topic within the form had a more transformative effect. This video and the revision have over 10 million views on YouTube. His video has become part of the culture of sharing. Others have set it to dance and copied its style. It’s hard for an academic article to compete with that!

Read the Berkeley article, then check out the examples we've provided. Comment in the forum on these resources from a new literacies perspective. What is machinima? Is it film-making? Is it script-writing? Is it literacy? Is it possible we don't have the terminology or frameworks currently to classify this type of activity?

According to Berkeley there are a few different forms of machinima. He considers it to be “filmmaking within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, it is the convergence of filmmaking, animation and game development” (Berkeley,1) Berkeley’s definition focuses on the interaction of the machinima creator and the uncertainty of the game. “the user/filmmaker can interact with a programmed game environment that is sufficiently complex to have substantial elements of uncertainty and randomness structured into the gameplay experience.” (2) He considers this to fit into the documentary film or improvised drams process. Others have called it a filmmaking approach. From my point of view, I’d say it is a form of filmmaking. It contains the basic elements of film. According to wikipedia, “Filmmaking is the process of making a film from an initial story idea or commission, through scriptwriting, shooting, editing and, distribution to an audience.”

The links provided on Machinima were interesting. I could see some of the basic elements of film to varying degrees. I did a search for Berkeley’s machinima “Ending with Andre.” After viewing it, I definitely saw it as fitting into filmmaking. Ending with Andre has a very developed script that has all of the elements of film. The fuzzy part comes in with the borrowed assets. It made me wonder how different this borrowing was compared to Disney’s borrowing from many including Brother’s Grimm. (See Chapter 1 of Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture. http://www.authorama.com/free-culture-4.html )
According to the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization’s definition, "'Literacy' is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.” For me machinima fits this definition of literacy.
To me machinima fits into the same genre as fanfic, manga, remixing and mashing. Do we have a terminology that fits this? I’ve got mixed emotions about this. In one way it does seem new, in another not especially if you really look at the history of creative works. I’m reading and thinking a lot about this for my project. Today I found this resource http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/ on Public Domain.

Berkeley reserves the term machinima for works that are performed in real time, where the characters are under the direct control of human actors. Others would stretch the definition to include productions in which some (or all) of the characters perform according to a computer program written by the filmmaker. What do you think? Is this an important difference? Why? (hint: think about how a stage play is different from a movie)

A stage play is strictly constructed, all elements are predetermined. Randomness is not something a director wants. A movie on the other hand no matter how well scripted will have elements of randomness. For example on occasion an actor may ad lib or make a mistake in dialogue. That could lead to an alternate concept making it to the film. In documentary film there is a wider chance for randomness to occur. Bekeley’s definition of machinima has elements of both film and theatre. He sees the characters as completely under control of a human, but also acknowledges the randomness of the game. Others definition of machinima that include the possibility of the some of the characters or all performing according to a program might be even more like theatre or more closely related to animation. To me there does seem to be a distinction

Berkeley seems disappointed that many machinima films adhere to existing conventions about story, camera work, etc. Why do you think that's the case? Is that necessarily a bad thing?
I think it’s natural that most machinima films would adhere to existing conventions. They seem to fit into a derivative form where usually people follow the basic elements. A lot of the people who produce work in this form would be considered fans of these games and machinima, so it’s natural that they might imitate what is out there. From a learning perspective, this might not be a bad thing. If we consider the story of Tony the second language student mentioned in the Lankashear article, he wrote a narrative that included elements of games. Doing that he was learning about language and narrative. It engaged him. In this way machinima could engage a student similar to the ways we saw that Scratch engaged students in after school programs.

He discusses the copyright issues at some length. In this and other classes, we will examine the burgeoning world of free content. Is there any reason to suppose this won't happen in the machinima world as well? How would that affect Berkeley's arguments?

In the article Berkeley talks about the complicated relationship between the corporate game owners and the creators of Machinima. The corporations both encourage and restrain them. While the machinima creators promote the games, they do not want them to use any of their games to make money. Berkeley sees this obstacle limiting machinima to a “fringe role.” (70) However, the open access movement could possibly change some of the rules and make it so that some of this use could be allowed. If that happens, it’s possible that more forms of machinima would develop. From my point of view something has to change in the copyright world. It’s difficult for me to understand how quoting and documenting written text is allowed and yet the use of equivalent material properly documented that happens to be in another form such as video is different or more restricted.
Discuss the educational machinima from Tony's 590 VE students, keeping in mind that these were beginning efforts from students who (in most cases) had no prior experience with filmmaking. Are they effective? What could make them better? Note also that several of these teachers got their own students involved as voice actors.
I found the student productions to be effective to varying degrees in different ways. The best from an outside viewer perspective was Virtual Worlds in Art & Design. This one really gave a viewer a good view of how a virtual world could bring a subject to life, and also act as a learning environment. I didn’t like the part II of this because of the loud music and the views of tiny text. The 3 point lighting showed the techniques of lighting very effectively. From a viewers point of view the Julius Cesar act wasn’t too successful for me; however, I could see that if this were a group of students who were trying to learn about the play who act in the virtual world this could be a very effective learning experience. One thing for sure is that students would quickly learn that acting isn’t easy. To improve this one- better costumes, acting coaching. La vaca was simple and cute and might be an effective teaching tool to bring a written text to life. To improve this one, I’d recommend having the speakers practice their roles and accents. From a learning point of view, I’d say that all were effective in that they gave the teacher-learners an opportunity to represent concepts in an alternate way one that might be appealing to their students.

What applications do you see for this technology in your content area? If you don't see any applications, explain in detail why you think that's the case. What possibilities do you see for cross-disciplinary projects, which might involve students from several different content areas (visual arts, language arts, math, computer science, social studies...others?).

I could see some application to my subject areas. One example would be visual communications. This might be an area that I could suggest that my students investigate. It might also be a topic I could add to the group projects. I could have students in a group investigate the topic and perhaps create a machinima. My courses are electives that are made up of students from all different areas, so I can see the subject have some broad appeal. Obvious links would be visual groups, but also those interested in narrative, computers, and history. It actually would fit anywhere there’s a story, so that’s pretty much every subject.

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