Archive for September, 2010

Learning By Powering-Up

25 Sep

Mindless, self-indulgent, repugnant, useless, and time-consuming playthings that diminish intelligence and keep children from developing social skills: I am of course, referring to video games and what conservative parents think of them. The truth could not be farther from these statements and beliefs as authors such as James Paul Gee and gamers like myself believe that what you learn in a video game can be applied to the real world in certain situations. That is realistically speaking of course, as it isn’t possible to use a save point before a confrontation with a soon-to-be ex or take more than one bullet in a gunfight with an enemy and still live. Rather, as Gee puts it, “you build your simulations to understand and make sense of things, but also to help you prepare for action in the world” (385). From video games, we can use the same ability to critically think and carry the drive we have to accomplish our goals from the game into our everyday lives.

To help us accomplish this task, we control a character or avatar around a pixilated world that you level up and can distribute skill points to depending on the game. Eventually, “by distributing knowledge and skills this way—between the virtual characters (smart tools) and the real-world player—the player is guided and supported by the knowledge built into the virtual soldiers.” In doing so, “we can study and exercise the human mind in ways that may give us deeper insights into human thinking and learning, as well as new ways to engage learners in deep and engaged learning” (388-89). Schools today generally don’t have students very involved in their learning as they sit and take notes from powerpoints, lectures, videos, and articles. In short, they are without stimulation or engagement and feel less compelled to try hard and succeed.

By connecting something like a school subject to video games, it will be easier for the student to want to learn and develop concepts they are taught in the classroom. These concepts range from the ability to problem solve through critical thinking and creative strategizing to understanding something in what is deemed a “sandbox environment”. This name has been given due to that “sandboxes in the real world are safe havens for children that still look and feel like the real world” and help learning by putting the person “with risks and dangers greatly mitigated, they can learn well and still feel a sense of authenticity and accomplishment” (401). So if a math teacher were to associate something like defeating a boss with solving a math problem, students could begin to understand the need to critically think and find strategies around problems. It is my hope that teachers in the future will begin to associate such things with video games to stop negative thinking about games and bring more positive association that comes with the level of thinking involved.

Works Cited

Gee, James Paul. “Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning.”

Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture.

Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Prentice Hall, 2009. 383-405. Print.

All Work and No Play

25 Sep

Reminiscent to what is said in the speech of Ewan Mcgregor’s character from “Trainspotting”, MMORPG players need to pick a class, pick a species, pick a weapon, pick skills to upgrade, pick your armor, and pick your allies. Gamers all over the world unite on a daily basis on games such as “World of Warcraft”, “Call of Duty”, and “City of Heroes” to use their skills determined by their character’s class to play one another and escape from reality. But what is reality, what does it entail for these gamers? Work, family, bills, so games offer a means to escape from all the mundane of the real world as they become someone else and step into the character’s shoes to utilize their talents and skills to advance in the digital world. In this world, particularly in games such as “Elder Scrolls III: Oblivion” and it’s expansion packs, gamers can have their characters start their own families and grow in a certain skill set to have it become their profession so they can make money. From all of this, it becomes easy to see that the game world and real world are slowly becoming one in terms of the person’s life.

All of this and more is noted in author Nick Yee’s article, “The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and Play.” Calling into question the habits and second lives of gamers, Yee notes “that video games are inherently work platforms that train us to become better workers.” Is this a valid observation of the gaming world? In games like “Star Wars: Galaxies”, yes, as Yee then goes on to point out that “pharmaceutical manufacturing is one of many possible career choices in the game” and that players can “operate a pharmaceutical manufacturing business for fun” (378-380). Essentially, gamers are unknowingly finding themselves developing and creating a separate profession and home life away from and in addition to their real life. Why do they do it then? My idea is that they feel a need to have more freedom in their life but they don’t want to give up the rules or restrictions of reality. This goes back to prove that while the worlds are separate and governed by their own rules, they are becoming harder to find distinction between.

Works Cited

Yee, Nick. “The Labor of Fun: How Video Games Blur the Boundaries of Work and

Play” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture.

Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Prentice Hall, 2009. 377-82. Print.

MySpace, MyIdentity

25 Sep

For many teens, fitting in becomes the number one goal in their adolescent lives. In recent years, many teens have found themselves establishing themselves on SNS (Social Networking Sites) such as Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace through the usage of profiles that display their picture, biography, interests, and favorites. From a combination of all of these things, people viewing the profiles develop their own ideas about who that person really is and what they are really like. In high school, identity is important to and completely tied to social status, making what people decide to put on their profiles even more important to the average high school student. MySpace in particular has a higher means of determining a teenager’s identity in the eyes of their peers, mostly due to the features such as top friends, blog posts, profile songs, and the choice of layout and names on the profile.

Every generation has had an item or possession that determined whether or not in the eyes of peers if a person was cool. This generation, it is the online social network profile, as Donah Boyd writes “by early 2006, many considered participation on the key social network site, MySpace, essential to being seen as cool at school.” She then goes on to point out that “the rapid adoption of social network sites by teenagers in the United States and in many other countries around the world raises some important questions” such as “why do teenagers flock to these sites?” and “what are they expressing on them?” (423). The best answer that can be reached is to establish an identity of their own and to gain control of that identity and what aspects of it that people can see. As Boyd points out, “in conveying who we are to other people, we use our bodies to project information about ourselves. This is done through movement, clothes, speech, and facial expressions. What we put forward is our best effort at what we want to say about who we are” (431).

The reason I feel most teenagers escape to social network sites and away from reality and interpersonal communication face-to-face is that it becomes easier to assume an identity because no one can really identify who you are if you do not let them. That is, unless you refuse to let someone view your profile or engage in conversations with you, at a length of your choosing of course, then no one can truly tell what you are like. For adolescents, the desire to be and feel accepted is compounded by a need to change who you are to fit in and to hide or deny aspects of your personality that would otherwise alienate you from your peers. What this shows is that “to be cool on MySpace is part of the more general desire to be validated by one’s peers. Even though teens theoretically have the ability to behave differently online, the social hierarchies that regulate ‘coolness’ offline are also present online” (433). With this ability to categorize, MySpace makes this easier to group and classify someone based on their backgrounds on their profile, their interests, what they choose to look and dress like, the content of their blog posts, what their name is, and who they have as their top friends. Does this help with social skills? Somewhat, but it drives a further wedge between self-actualization and the ability to make oneself who they want to be, and what society decides is the ideal category for them.

Works Cited

Boyd, Donah. “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics

in Teenage Social Life.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American

Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper

Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. 422-444. Print.

The Influence of the Social Networks

18 Sep

In 2004, a Harvard undergraduate named Mark Zuckerberg started what would become an overnight phenomenon in his college dorm room. Of course, this website would later go on to become the social network juggernaut, Facebook. A website that would make Zuckerberg famous and rich, but also form new ways of connecting with our social circles, particularly for students in college. On Facebook and other social networking sites like MySpace or YouTube, people have found newer and faster ways to share information. It is so useful to the point where people are motivated to become addicted to these websites, even when they are away from their computers by using their phones to check these websites. Facebook, more than any other website, is popular mostly due to the speed at which information is shared, the random amount of activities it contains (poking, joining groups, etc.), and the primal aspect of voyeurism.

As author Brett A. Bumgarner writes about how a study was conducted to test why people enjoyed watching television so much, I believe the same results could be applied to Facebook. These results being that they “were diversion, personal relationships, personal identity and surveillance needs”, with each result having its own description. Diversion for example, was described as “a need to escape or a need for emotional release” (411). So it could be said that the need to connect, to express oneself, and to do so without any ACTUAL social interactions could be the true reasons behind the mass usage of Facebook. In addition, the same variables make it easier for one to be spied upon and spy upon others using their profiles. Granted, privacy features have been added, but it still is easy to get around those things somehow. It could be said that Facebook is like the force in that it has a light and a dark side, and it binds us all together.

Works Cited

Bumgarner, Brett A. “You Have Been Poked: Exploring the Uses and Gratifications of

Facebook Among Emerging Adults.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about

American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. 408-420. Print.

Define: Technophobia

18 Sep

As times change, so does the environment we live in and the tools we use as a society to survive. Some tend to change their ways and adapt to embrace these changes to social norms while others fight against it. Neil Postman belongs to the latter category, as can be seen in his article “The Judgment of Thamus.” Citing Greek philosophers such as Plato and psychologists like Freud, Postman makes a case for slowing of technological advancement, if not for its demise. Such technophobic statements and beliefs, I believe, can be a hindrance to our society and prevent breakthroughs. With all due respect to Postman, by remaining stagnant we would cease to develop as a race and would die out.

Although Postman makes a very compelling argument by displaying his ability to quote philosophers and psychologists, he never really expresses why technology is such a bad idea. The most prominent and compelling thing I could find from his work was that whether or not previous generations could accommodate their behaviors or way of life to the advancing technology as well as “that technology imperiously commanders our most important terminology. It redefines ‘freedom’, ‘truth’, ‘intelligence’, ‘fact’, ‘wisdom’, ‘memory’, ‘history’—all the words we live by” (367). My response to the first claim is that the new generation could provide instruction to the former, in spite of how annoying it may be to both parties, and that ways could be found to ease the transition and make it smoother. As for redefinition of values, is it necessarily a bad thing? Our values now are not what they were 50 years ago, and although some may consider that a bad thing as they belonged to that generation, I see it as just time passing and the cycle of life continuing. Ideas are maintained, civilizations rebuilt, technology is improved, and the last generation is forced to change while the new is born into it. Like it or not, it’s just how the world works and how it will continue to work for many more years.

Works Cited

Postman, Neil. “The Judgment of Thamus.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about

American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. 363-375. Print.

Is Technology closing the gap between public and private?

18 Sep

In this day and age, technology is leaving our homes and is being carried with us no matter where we go. What was once something that could only be found in the home, like phones or computers, has now been made convenient and easy to carry around. With this advent of new technology comes the breaking down of the barriers that the lack of portable technology brought on our lives. As Robert Samuels notes in his article, “Breaking Down Borders: How Technology Transforms the Private and Public Realms”, people have begun to lose feel of where they are in the public realm due to the existence of cell phones and laptops and with that, different cultural and social values arise as well. Not only is technology changing the way we interact, but also how our behavior in private is shifting to being more public.

All aforementioned technologies in addition to websites such as Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, and Twitter are leading us to one conclusion: there is no such thing as secrecy or anonymity anymore. In the article, Samuels supports this by writing about how one day he noticed people behaving as if they were in private while in the café’ of a Borders. These people included “a man sitting at a table, the sports section of the L.A. Times spread out in front of him, a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin to one side, his cell phone close at hand on the other side” and a young woman in her twenties “wagging” her foot back and forth and humming to the music on her ipod. If nothing else, this should show that with portable technology it becomes easier to lose oneself to the world around them and act like we are still in our offices, homes, or any other personal space. This can be seen even greater with another patron of the café as she has “her laptop computer open on the table” and her conversation on her cell “getting all her attention—and of course, the attention of everyone around her” (359-60). Her conversation being about canceling a job interview so that she can attend a trip to Vegas with her friend under the pretense of a doctor’s appointment.

We see how this can be a dangerous thing, this transition to the public hemisphere, in that you need to be aware of what information you give out to the world around you. In the last situation, imagine someone who knew the girl from company she was supposed to give the job interview was there and heard about her lie. It would have damaged her chances of getting the position. Easier access may make our lives easier, but can also make things more embarrassing in the case of the girl with her ipod all the way up, or risky. As a cautionary tale, it would be wise to keep work and play separate as much as possible and to be mindful and aware of your surroundings.

Works Cited

Samuels, Robert. “Breaking Down Borders: How Technology Transforms the Private and           Public Realms.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular               Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle                   River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. 259-262. Print.

Giving this generation a bad “rap”

11 Sep

Since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Hip Hop has been the voice of a generation lost to urban decay and moral ruin. Initially envisioned as a way for the repressed youth culture of the African-American community to voice their displeasure in their social standing and in this country. With this movement and change in status quo came new dress, slang, and stereotypes that never seem to stereotype a generation of young African-Americans. It is through these stereotypes that many young African-Americans find themselves unable to make their own place in the world or earn an education as they are immediately pigeon-holed into being a “hoodlum” based on their appearance when in fact they are anything but what the music gives off in perception. The point is that just because someone looks like a typical person you’d see in rap videos, there is no reason to believe that they are just another person comfortable being a walking cliché’.

In her article, “The Miseducation of Hip-Hop”, writer Evelyn Jamilah gives voice to a generation feeling scorned by the genre as they are stereotyped and categorized based on their preference of style choices. One such student, Jason Hinmon, a senior at the University of Delaware feels that his professors “didn’t know how to deal” with him and figured he “was some hip-hop hoodlum who wasn’t interested in being a good student” (245). Two of Jason’s classmates, freshman Kholiswa Laird and junior Davren Noble, also have differing views on the style choices of the hip-hop generation. Laird views it as a “stupid reason” to dress like that because she feels “a lot of them feel like they’re selling out if they wear proper clothes.” On the other hand, Noble sees it as “just keepin it real” and believes that “if somebody wants to hire me but they don’t like my braids, then either of two things will happen: they’ll just have to get over it or I just won’t get the job” (250). Keeping in mind that it is a culture and that those who follow it or a member of it wish to dress in an imitable way, I feel there should be some discretion to what situations (like job interviews) that they should dress in this fashion.

However, I also feel that it is sill wrong to stereotype someone based on how they dress, act, or what music they listen to. This not only applies to the youthful hip-hop culture, but also to “emos”, “goths”, or any other ridiculous stereotypes. While music has a way of speaking out to other people and connecting them, as can style and lifestyle choices, it is wrong to classify someone based on those standards. Rather, professors like Jason’s should make an effort to get to know him as a person or as a student more than just a caricature. Then again, I suppose it is always easier to classify than to identify, isn’t it?

Works Cited

Jamilah, Evelyn. “The Miseducation of Hip-Hop.” Common Culture: Reading and

Writing about American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael

Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice

Hall, 2009. 244-252. Print.

Hip Hop-A Key to Understand Other Races?

04 Sep

Music in all of its forms is a vital part of society, culture, youth, and of life. It has a way of transcending time and bridging gaps between age, gender, time, and can be relevant to anyone who can connect with the meaning or message of the song. But can it truly allow for understanding or education of the problems of other races? That is what author Rachel E. Sullivan of the Journal of Black Studies hopes to find out in her study on the role of Hip Hop in “racial identification even as its audience grows in size and racial diversity” (229). In light of politician’s critique and disgust at hip hop music and its lyrics that demean women and promote violence, hip hop was seemingly watered down into a form of music that now relays messages about materialism and arrogance. Has this change allowed it to be more universal and more accessible to other races or has lack of a political message left hip-hop without meaning?

To test her theory, Sullivan passed out a survey to teenagers of African-American, White, Latino, and other ethnicities with questions such as “’Rap is a truthful reflection of society,’ ‘I find myself wearing clothes similar to rappers,’ and ‘I find myself using words or phrases similar to rappers’” (234). Of the 54 who took the survey, only 3 didn’t respond and the group consisted of “twenty-one Blacks, seventeen Whites, seven Latinos, and six who marked other categories.” In addition, “Nineteen of the respondents were girls and thirty two were boys, and the mean age of respondents was sixteen years old” (235). Overall it seemed that hip-hop was a big interest to those who took the survey and a majority of those who took it and responded with strong agreement to all of the above statements were African-American with only a few agreements coming from Whites and Latinos. Additionally, when asked to name their three favorite rappers, only a few Whites could respond.

In my opinion, this tells mostly two things: that the majority of the audience for hip-hop and its culture is African-American and Latino, due to the fact that Whites are unable to relate to the struggles of either minority group or their cultures fully. Sullivan theorizes “many whites who listen to rap may be motivated by curiosity” and that curiosity is satisfied “without ever having face-to-face contact or interpersonal relationships with any African Americans, so rap can be a way for Whites to vicariously learn about African Americans” (238). I can’t help but agree with her to a degree because there are certain Whites out there that grew up in mostly white towns or cities that had little diversity and are curious but uncomfortable with dealing with the culture shock. This is not the best way to experience the culture as “it may perpetuate prejudices, particularly the view that African Americans are materialistic and hedonistic, which could inadvertently promote stereotypes more than it dismantles them” (239).

So is hip-hop good or bad for inter-racial relations? I feel that is a very narrow-minded way of looking at the genre. I feel it is what it is, that is simply entertainment and should not be taken very seriously. Rap has lost some of the political message it once had in the late 80’s-early 90’s, and has now become another genre that is now pumping out manufactured music every month it seems. For every 2Pac or Biggie Smalls we now have another Soulja Boy or BOB, another one-hit wonder. Therefore, it would seem that most of the music has now become just fictional and soulless and shouldn’t be taken seriously. So as a racial gap, I feel that it fails and falls short, as it doesn’t represent anymore the aspirations, upbringing, or struggles of the people as it once did. My solution: talk it out and figure it out.

Works Cited

Sullivan, Rachel E. “Rap and Race: It’s Got a Nice Beat, But What About the Message?” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael

Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice

Hall, 2009. 229-240. Print.

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