Information Flux in the 21st Century

Information Sharing, Advocacy, Games

For several weeks, I’ve had a niggling feeling that I have something to say. Finally, inspiration to write and post, after over a year of silence.

I learned about the source of my inspiration through an old-fashioned paper hand-out with an assignment that one of my daughters had to complete over this past winter break.  The assignment was to see the exhibit Design with the Other 90%:CITIES, draw a picture about one of the projects represented and write about it.  The exhibit, curated by the the Smithsonian Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum, was on view at the U.N. Headquarters until January 9th. It featured “sixty projects, proposals, and solutions that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies .” Pretty lofty, I’d say. I wanted to learn more!

I did a little perfunctory research via Google. Nearly all of the links returned at the top of the list were directly to the website for the exhibit. One link went to a page on the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s website. It was on this page that I found out  that the exhibit emerged from Design for the Other 90%, a similar Cooper-Hewitt exhibit from 2007 that featured affordable and socially responsible objects. There were a smattering of links to reviews on blogs. Way down the list was a link to a review on The Atlantic Cities.  Appropriate. What about a review of the exhibit in the NY Times, I wondered. Not seeing a link in the search results, I went directly to its site and found an excellent review by Michael Kimmelman.

But, doesn’t the subject justify more than reviews of the exhibit? There is bona fide substance here, something that should get more visibility and support for the cause. So, how can those of us who believe that this issue warrants more public awareness do something about it?

Since I believe Jane McGonigal’s message, “Gaming can make a better world,” I look to games as a form of advocacy. (Has the term games-based advocacy been used yet?) So, I was happy to see that there are two games related to the exhibit. One, Future City Game, developed by British Council, Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and URBIS- Manchester’s Centre for Urban Life, is team-based design process that brings local residents and people from the public and private sectors together for two days to share their vision for the cities’ future. These players vote on urban planning and development ideas and present them to local stakeholders, professionals and residents. Forms of this game have been played in over one hundred cities since it was piloted in 2006!

The other is a series of games backed by the social initiative, Freedom HIV/AIDS. The Freedom HIV/AIDS games, played on mobile phones, were originally designed to educate India’s rural and semi-literate populations about the disease.  When a player passes a level or answers a question correctly, informative texts are displayed on the screen. The games have been replicated in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

These games have been effective in both getting the public involved and in educating.  You can head over to Games for Change to see more social and civic-minded games.  Still, we need for these types of games to be massively multiplayer. Maybe more celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres can sing their praises, as she did for WeTopia. Come on folks, Let’s bring on the games!

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantastic Voyage

The stunning image caught my eye, as did the title. It was something about cinema and science. The web page with the article sat on my desktop for days, maybe even weeks, waiting to be read. Why was I surprised when it was gone? After all, this is a computer that I share with my husband and two daughters. Oh, why didn’t I bookmark it? Same reason that I do other neglectful things.

Lucky for me, a colleague sent along the link to the article just as I was scratching my head trying to place where I saw it. Where Cinema and Biology Meet. That was it, in the Science section of The New York Times, of course! Because it was the visual that caught my eye in the first place, I went straight to the video before reading the article. Being able to wander through molecules! Fantastic! In fact, it reminded me of the movie from the ’60s, Fantastic Voyage, amplified by the monumental advances in technology that occurred in the last 20 of the 45 years since the movie was made.

So, there I was earlier tonight, viewing a webcast of a joint meetup event between the Science Writers in New York and the NYC G4C meetup group. I did intend to go in person, after all it was a meetup, but was thrilled when I  found out the event would be Livestreamed. Bonus! I could stay home and oversee homework (sort of) and watch the event live! The theme was The Future of Play and the panel of speakers included Asi Burak, the co president of Games for Change and also one of the co-founders of Impact Games, the creators of the game platforms “PeaceMaker” and “Play the News“, Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor at Parsons and Director of PETLab who I had the privilege of seeing before at a Games for Change conference in 2009, Chris Burke creator of the game within a game, This Spartan Life, that uses Halo as its backdrop, and Dr. Melanie Stegman, program director of Educational Technologies at the Federation of American Scientists and project director of the game Immune Attack. Josephine Dorado, the moderator, teaches at the New School and is the live events producer for This Spartan Life.

Worried that the sound quality would be poor, I was reassured when I could hear just fine, through headphones, when necessary, and through the computer’s speaker. There were a few technical difficulties during Asi Burak’s presentation, limiting what he was able to present. But, that didn’t matter much to me because we, the five to six Livestream viewers, rarely got to see what was on the screen anyway. Colleen Macklin went through the history of games during which time I watched her turn her head to see the screen but couldn’t see it myself. I was glad that the question about slide availability came up; I look forward to seeing those. Melanie Stegman was the highlight for me. She talked about how players navigate through parts of the body in the educational game, Immune Attack, and are thus immersed in the experience. There was that Fantastic Voyage image going through my head again. That was better than having to watch yet another milk ad and missing about 15 seconds of a talk (every 15 minutes). Though, I am not complaining. It’s a small cost for free cloud based services.

At eight thirty when the moderator ended the presentations, the panelists could be overheard talking about… what else? Fantastic Voyage.

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Game On

See my post on benefits of game development programs, inspired by a cover story in Community College Week. This post was written for a blog developed for the Global Skills for College Completion project.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Ourcourts.org – Part 2

I didn’t mention in my last post that I told my daughter’s teacher about ourcourts.org. Today, Nathalie came home from school and told me enthusiastically that her teacher gathered up laptops for the students to use so that they could look at the resources and play the games on ourcourts.org. The research and technology teacher (aka school librarian) now knows about ourcourts, and has put a link to it on her website. I’m so glad the word is out, at least in my daughters’ school.

Any math teachers out there developing interesting game sites for kids?

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Ourcourts.org launched!

ourcourtsOurcourts.org is an online initiative conceived of by Sandra Day O’Conner. The goal is to teach civics to children in an easy to understand way that engages and fosters interest. The website offers straightforward information, a couple of games (at least for now?), resources for teachers that include games, links to other sites, and links to news stories.

I first heard about ourcourts.org at the Games for Change conference last June. This is one of the game ideas that got me thinking about how games in new media can inform our education system.

I went to ourcourts.org to find a resource when I was helping my daughter with her social studies homework. Her homework was to put in her own words descriptions about the three branches of government. She had a handout for this assignment that distinctly illustrated the responsibilities of each branch. However, she struggled with the meanings. Legislative and Executive made some kind of sense to her, but the Judicial branch was more difficult for her to understand. “What does interpret laws mean,” she asked. If only I could come up with a good example, and break it down for her.

One of the games on ourcourts.org is The Supreme Decision. This game enlists the player in a case about a student’s rights to wear a band t-shirt after his school banned band t-shirts because arguments broke out over them and disrupted learning. The attorneys for each side state their case and then the player listens to four pairs of judges interpreting the case. The player answers questions about the arguments presented by each pair of judges. There’s even an earlier case mentioned that shows how precedence can be used to defend an argument. My daughter played the game, and continues to play it over and over, interpreting the judges arguments differently to see how the case plays out. She now understands the concept of interpreting laws.

Last night my daughter came home with some more civics related social studies homework which she had no problem with at all. Is this due to the immersive experience she had while playing the game? I’d like to think so.

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Games for Change and Gaming in Libraries

Now that I have time to ponder how I will best make use of my new MSLIS, one of the areas I am focusing on is gaming, and the use of games in libraries. Last month I attended the Games for Change festival. The organization Games for Change “seeks to harness the extraordinary power of video games to address the most pressing issues of our day, including poverty, human rights, global conflict and climate change…” The Games for Change festival is one of a kind; it is the only festival dedicated to the movement of Digital Games for Social Change. The festival offered an immersion in what these games are, who is developing them, how they can be developed, fundraising possibilities, findings on their effects in education, etc. An impressive array of scholars, developers and personnel from fundraising organizations presented insightful topics in thought provoking sessions.

The keynote speaker at the festival was Nicholas Kristof. This columnist, who passionately writes about global issues for The New York Times, is in the process of attaching his name to a game. Unfortunately, he couldn’t say much about the game (sworn to secrecy?), but he did speak about his experiences and perceptions about games and civic engagement. And, he spoke about how the game Darfur is Dying brought the issue to an audience broader than the readers of his column. He mentioned a clever invitation he received via Twitter to visit a website, dearmrkristoff.com. This website was created by English teachers from a middle school in the Bronx to share with Mr. Kristof the experiences of their classes in exploring the game Darfur is Dying. Two classes made documentaries; one on Darfur, and the other about youth awareness of genocide. Here is a clear example of a how a game was used to enlighten students about a profoundly serious issue and engage them in a way that reading and discussing current events in Social Studies classes would not. Does that not sound impressive?

As an information professional, I see tremendous potential for libraries and future information centers (if that is the direction we’re headed) to harness this technology. I am delighted to discover that I am not alone. I recently started following lectures offered by Professor Scott Nicholson from Syracuse University on youtube (Gaming in Libraries). There is much to learn, and I have my work cut out for me. Too bad I’m not getting paid for it. That is my next goal!

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments