Writing Machines is the course website for English 170L at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
If you've read my comments on anonymity on the internet, you might know why I've had such problems posting on this blog. If you've put up with me talking about it, I appreciate it greatly. So here are my thoughts on why I've had such trouble (or stop reading. also a feasible response)--
Everything on the internet is tracked and permanent. Although I appreciate KF's gesture to our digital responsibility by giving us all pseudonyms, I have no illusions that there are any number of ways people can figure out who's who on this blog. From extremely technical methods to the very basic social engineering, it's fairly simple to circumvent the pseudonym system. So people can figure out who I am -- big deal, right?
Through the miracle of Facebook fliers (yes, I clicked on one -- it looked pertinent and interesting! I promise I'm not a sucker), I stumbled across one write thing. Although I could have gobs to say about the web design of the site (indeed, it's the first thing that jumped down my throat), I'd like to talk about the idea behind the site. What is the idea behind the site? Well my dear reader, I'm glad you asked (what was that you were saying about coercive writing?).
The idea behind One Write Thing seems to be that if the writer can get people interested in the site, whether it be through his journalistic abilities or the prizes he plans to give away, he can get people to donate to a cause they care about. It's an interesting theory, and I want to consider it with respect to attention theory.
For those of you who haven't read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, you've missed a mid-brow piece of addictive literature about two English magicians during the industrial revolution in Britain. With lots of references to Arthurian canon and a bit of artistic license with history, Clarke has created an immersive world. The world does not end with the last page of the book, however.
Clarke continues to continue the lives of her characters online. In an interesting piece of metafiction, she describes her characters' responses to the publication of the book the details their stories.
One of the most interesting experiences in this class has been watching people create final projects after listening to commentary all semester. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I was fascinated to see people encounter web design after making design commentary all semester long.
For all the criticism that we provided on interface design and the frustrations we had with the various site designs, I was surprised that I didn't see more attention paid to form. Or perhaps I'm simply not seeing innovation where there is some. I absolutely loved the projects, but I was stunned to see how many people imposed arbitrary restrictions on how people viewed their projects, whether it was in using pixel dimensions in their web design or making comments about what resolution users should use to view the projects.
For anyone interested in podcasting, I highly suggest that you check out Podsafe Audio. Podsafe Audio is interesting in that it is a collection of music that is shared under a Creative Commons license. In other words, it is music that can legally be used in mashups of all types, but with a focus on podcasts. Even if you're not interested in podcasting or copyright, Podsafe Audio is a good place to find socially aware and progressive music by smaller artists (usually unsigned, but some signed). Organized by genre, it's a great way to experience a wide variety of music.
If you've done any web developing in the past two years, you've heard of mashups. If you're interested in copyright law at all, you've also heard of mashups (most notably Google getting sued by various news sources for aggregating their content). If you haven't heard of mashups, you've probably experienced them in the likes of Facebook or MySpace. So what's the big deal?
A mashup is a big deal because it blurs the lines between content ownership and use (if you think this is all fairly normal and there are no issues here, check out the linking policy that BoingBoing created in response to previous ideas of web ownership. Can you imagine the fits these people must be having over mashups? And how that would even work in the attention economy is beyond me--). For example, if I view something shared on Facebook that is hosted by YouTube, then I'm never visiting YouTube while still experiencing their content. That means that I never see any of the advertising on the YouTube page, while still using up bandwidth and getting the same experience. So how is YouTube going to make money if I never visit? Their sponsors will never get any clicks, and the whole advertising revenue model goes down the drain--
Slashdot has an interesting review of a book about game based learning. Although the review is well worth the read for anyone interested in this subject (especially the part on how the prevalence of videogames has rewired our brains), I'd like to focus this entry on one of the comments made by a reader.
In this comment, the reader says:
A good chunk of going to primary school is learning how to behave socially. Learning ramifications for social action/inaction. One can argue this is true all through schooling, even in college, as people mature they need both other students to interact with and teachers to help guide those behaviors. This is, excluding a few "health" type classes, all done along side the normal learning that goes on. If you replace many teachers with machines, and students are in an e-learning environment where they don't interact with other students (or interaction is limited) then I'd guess you're going to lose an important part of what people actually learn as they go through the school system.
For those of you who haven't had any contact with the Free Culture movement, I suggest you do some reading. Pioneered by Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford University, the Free Culture movement concentrates on a number of things, the most interesting of which (to me, of course) is the concept of proprietary culture.
But wait, you said this was about Free Culture! Well yes, it is, but only because of it's exclusive opposite, the proprietary culture. I've already discussed this to some degree, but proprietary culture involves a culture in which the products of culture (music, art, literature, etc.) are owned by commercial interests and may now be used in any other cultural production through the miracle of copyright.
Looking back at the blog entry I can't get out of my head, it appears that there is a response to it from another member from within the same guild. A good read, if nothing else.
I don't find this response particularly interesting. Perhaps it's because of the different nature of the two people, but this article is far more laid back about the nature of gaming. "If you enjoy it, and you aren't sacrificing things in your real life for it, then it's fine" seems to be the gist of the argument, but the first comment points out the easy counter argument: simply by playing the game, you're giving up analogue opportunities.
It never fails to amuse me that the best research about anything seems to always come out of commercial objectives. Game theory seems to be no exception. This study (pdf), commissioned by a game design company, has some very interesting insights as to why we play games.
Hard fun, as described in this paper, is the challenge that people find in games. Easy fun, in contrast, is the same fun we find in watching movies or reading books. A fully immersive experience can be nice every once in a while.
One of the more interesting descriptions in this paper is that of altered states -- the paper claims that a significant percentage of the gaming population plays games in order to achieve an altered state. This state may be one of artificial relaxation or excitement, similar to the states induced by a massage or mind altering drugs.