A few weeks ago an older relative mailed me a newspaper clipping. “Free Speech Is the Basis of a True Education” is emblazoned in staunch…
Austin Skyline at Dusk by Randall Chancellor
Right now I am sitting at work, watching the minutes tick by until I have to field a call from a distance learning company to see if I can cajole them into paying me a living wage. Later I’ll have to squeeze in another phone call for a research position. Both jobs are in Austin, Texas. I live 1,500 miles away, and I’ve told my interviewers that I’ll be living in the city by the last day in September. That’s one day after I turn 26 and get booted off my parent’s health insurance plan, and one day before my landlady can legally evict me from the condo I’ve been living in, which she suddenly decided to sell.
I feel like I am going to puke.
I initially wrote this post for the Games and Culture class blog taught by Dr. Zach Whalen at the University of Mary Washington. I wanted to archive it on my own blog as well, partially because this topic is so dear to my heart and partially because I want to revisit this piece soon, perhaps with some new conclusions.
A fellow classmate already tackled this topic, albeit in regards to race. I highly encourage you to read that post, and, depending on how angry you want to be today, the discussion that followed.
At the end of the day, there’s no arguing that the bulk of the gaming industry, just like any other industry, must be profitable in order to survive. That truism has been used for years to justify the narrow demographics represented within video games: video games have traditionally had excellent sales among straight white young cisgender men, so the majority of characters represented in games should, accordingly, be straight white young cisgender men. As anybody who isn’t actively living under a rock can tell you, the audience for video games as a medium is rapidly expanding (and was never all that narrow in the first place), but the demographics and kinds of stories represented within video games themselves are still lagging way behind.
While it would make some sense to assume that gaming companies might not want to produce a game with, say, a female protagonist out of fear that doing so might damage their earnings, it stands to reason that making more games appealing to a wider audience brings in more profits. I’m not suggesting that game companies should start marking to every categorical niche in existence, but when every conversation about diversity in games seems to conclude with “everybody’s playing something,” investing in more diverse video game casts seems like a rock-solid business decision. At this year’s Game Developers Conference, Microsoft narrative designer Tom Abernathy structured an entire talk around that point:
Abernathy also pointed to a study which said 56 percent of the US urban population plays games, compared to 47 percent of the rural population. Abernathy said with more rural areas of the country tending to be less diverse, the numbers would seem to shift the gamer audience even further away from the idea of an average gamer being a straight white male.
“Our industry, our art, and our business stand to gain in every sense simply by holding a mirror up to our audience and reflecting their diversity in what we produce,” Abernathy said.
This has more or less been my life to date, both literally and digitally (yes, even the crazy bit where you freefall out of your…
Image courtesy of puuikibeach That’s more or less what my room looks like right now (sans awesome pirate flag). I’m trying to get all of…
Before I get into the bulk of this post, a minor update: I’m going to be presenting this project at UMW’s Kemp Symposium, which is in actuality kind of a big deal. I’m not sure how I’m going to present the project yet or what kind of resources I’ll have at my disposal (i.e. a screen, or just a podium) but it’ll come out to a 15 minute overview of my research. I am both super excited and quite nervous, but what else is new?
Back to the actual project, I’ve recently realized that the idea of “liberal arts education” is a far more complex concept than I had assumed. I’d always taken it at face value: “liberal arts” refers primarily to the humanities, and therefore a “liberal arts education” has a similar focus. Turns out I was working under a painfully narrow assumption of what the liberal arts really are. Since the phrase crops up quite frequently in discussions of open online education, though, I finally asked Dr. Whalen what exactly all of these researchers and teachers and scholars mean by “liberal arts.” He informed me that there is (surprise surprise) an entire mindset and tradition informing the concept behind it. This week on “Haley’s Mind Is Blown,” I’m going explore those definitions, and look into how that informs my research overall.
This post probably won’t mean a great deal to anyone who’s immersed in teaching or administration at a liberal arts college (or anyone who didn’t utterly miss the memo about this) but it strikes me that I might not be the only student who isn’t 100% clear on this definition. I’m mostly attacking this for my own benefit, though.
Martin Weller’s The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice has finally come up on my to-read list, and I’ve realized that I probably should have started with this book in the first place. Because Weller and Jim Groom share a lot of the same ideas on how digital and open education should operate, Digital Scholar does a great job of illustrating the ethos behind ds106, which Jim Groom was instrumental in founding (Weller actually mentions Groom in his Acknowledgements). While his work relates specifically to how teachers and scholars are interacting with digital tools and how they might approach digital pedagogy, his work is highly accessible and relevant to anyone interested in how digital media applies to education, including your very own intrepid student. Digital Scholar is more or less an overview of the ethos behind ds106, so I’m excited to explore how it’ll inform my final paper.
In an effort to make this blog an actual thing that actual humans (and the occasional small rodent) might enjoy reading, I’m going to stick a few personal posts here. Hopefully that will also make it easier to transition it back to ds106 work and whatever else I want to do with this space post-graduation.
Last week I attended the annual Sweet Briar Creative Writing Conference, a four-day event for undergraduate creative writers who’ve been nominated by the faculty of their respective schools. My poetry workshop was headed by Leah Naomi Green, the conference was organized by John Casteen, and I was introduced to the poetry, prose, and nonfiction of some amazing contemporary authors (if you aren’t reading Dave Lucas’ poetry, by the way, you are missing out on some astounding work). The good: after being immersed in brilliant creative writing and keeping the company of amazing writers for four days, I felt like the writing thing, maybe even the teaching-of-writing thing, was a real possibility for my life. The bad: where does that leave all of my work with new media?
Seriously though. I know astrological spring and meteorological spring are different concepts and I’m all for more snow, but the bouncing back and forth thing has got to stop. GET IT TOGETHER, VIRGINA.
This post is
a day late thanks to the Sweet Briar creative writing conference eating most of my brain really late because my brain is a strange, unpredictable thing and I do not work well under vague, looming stress. Forthcoming: a post about how I need to figure out what I’m doing after graduation, and whether or not that plan involves an MFA (spoilers: probably).
The problem with crafting a reading list for this project before I’d actually begun doing the bulk of my research was that I wasn’t entirely certain what kinds of texts would be the most useful to me. With that in mind I collected anything and everything I could find that seemed vaguely scholarly and added it to my reading list, and now the time has come for some weeding.
My final paper is proceeding apace. And by “apace” I mean WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS LAST SEMESTER? What made me think this was a good plan? DEAR GOD I GRADUATE IN TWO MONTHS!
Panicking aside, I’ve made some decent progress on sorting out how I want to conclude my paper, and how I’m going to get there (kudos to my adviser Dr. Whalen for all the awesome conversations in that vein).
First and foremost, I think that for the purposes of this paper I’m going to define online learning as a branch of edtech. It makes a lot of sense to me: anything that happens on the internet is facilitated by technology, which, to my thinking, makes online education a function of educational technology. Therefore, when I use to the term “educational technology” or “edtech,” I’m also referring to online courses, open and otherwise. I hope to use “edtech” as an umbrella term, and then narrow my terminology when needed, such as when I’m referring to open educational resources or massively open online courses in specific. Then again, if that usage is completely wonky in the actual edtech/online ed world, I’d love some feedback so I’m not producing a paper that’s unintelligable.
I think one of the struggles I’ve been having in trying to pin down where I want my paper to wind up is that, as usual, my focus wasn’t narrow enough. I’m not going to be able to make large pronouncements about The State Of Edtech with this project, no matter how much I feel like that’s what I should be doing. What I can do is narrow my focus back down, like I keep talking about, and bring things back to ds106. Finally. After about three blog posts insisting that’s what I was going to do.