Intro to New Media Studies, Spring 2008

Final Paper

May 6th, 2008 by · Comments Off

A Blog, A Blorg, A Bloog: The Anatomy of A School Blog

I’ve been running and reading blogs for the past several years. Starting in 2001 I ran a comedy writing blog and I’ve run it in various different iterations to the present day. I’ve had quite a few personal blogs which I’ve gone through various phases of interest with. In 2001, blogs weren’t highly considered. Teenagers had their livejournals and xangas, and tech geeks had their high falutin blogs discussing tech geek stuff, but they hadn’t made much an impact. Skip to today when the word blog is so ubiquitous we don’t even notice that it sounds silly. At the Mets baseball team website, there’s a link to the MLBlog, all major news organizations have their anchors and newspeople keep blogs. It is my aim to create another blog, a blog designed to be an alternative news outlet for the University of Mary Washington.
Before designing that blog, one must define what a blog is. Though observation of a few varied blogs I think I can find a solid idea of what one is. To look at Dr. Campbell’s blog “Gardner Writes” (http://www.gardnercampbell.net) it (generally) is a regularly updated website running off the WordPress blog software. The content on it is personal in nature to the effect that it is all material that is interesting to Dr. Campbell. A lot of the posts begin at a personal experience and then broaden to a greater point that he wants to make. “Gardner Writes” is an example of a personal professional blog. It doesn’t delve into angsty personal information, both because he’s well aware that his students can read it and write papers on it, and because he probably isn’t of a mind to put that on the internet anyway. Instead it projects an online identity that is both personal and professional. Wonkette, (http://www.wonkette.com) is a political website that I’ve read regularly for some time. Wonkette is part of a greater blog network, Gawkermedia. Wonkette, and Gawker blogs in general, are written with tongue firmly in cheek. These blogs are news blogs, make no mistake, but they offer a strong point of view. To look at a post from April 30th, under the heading “Our Flourishing Economy” the post is titled “Americans Selling All Their Possessions On Craigslist”. Snarky, jerky, and mean spirited. Wonkette doesn’t report news; it gets news from other sources and offers its Wonkette opinion on it. A final blog I’m going to observe is The Colonialist (http://www.thecolonialist.com). The Colonialist is a school blog for George Washington University which follows a similar mold to Wonkette. Its cheeky, but not nearly as cheeky as Wonkette is. Most of the news is from other sources, but on occasion it is known to branch off into personal essays, comic strips, and bits of satire. The Colonialist goes out of its way to give the school newspaper “The Hatchet” a hard time.
Looking at all three of these different blogs, it’s easy to find a pattern that arrives from them. They all come from a strong point of view. “Gardner Writes” comes clearly from Dr. Campbell’s perspective, as a personal blog. “Wonkette” has a point of view that all politics is nonsense and all politicians are fools. “The Colonialist” has the point of view that the administration of the school is failing to provide any actual perspective. Every one of these blogs comes from a place where it addresses the reader in more of a personal light. It isn’t like a formal newspaper article which tries to do its best to seem neutral, but each of these blogs laces every post with a strong personal bent which is what makes the blog worth reading. As McLuhan says “The twentieth century has worked to free itself from the conditions of passivity…” (Mcluhan, 202) He’s speaking of a world where there’s an interaction between the writers and the readers. Blogs provide that through the strong point of view. A newspaper is detached from us, where a blog reaches out of the computer screen and addresses you as someone in the writer’s personal little club.
Mary Washington has had an alt-news blog in the past. Its name was Middlesell (formerly at http://www.middlesell.com now empty). Middlesell went through a variety of faces, it was first a political blog absent of content relevant to UMW, then it started to add UMW content, until it became a rival portal to UMW’s own portal. At Middlesell’s height it had more users than the UMW portal did. In February it closed up shop, due to no user submissions, low traffic, and general disuse. Where did Middlesell go wrong? Certainly there was a sense to it that the webmaster of the site didn’t care much about maintaining it anymore, and that’s true. Beyond that, though, there were a few other reasons. In the final days of Middlesell, the content on the site was entirely user submitted. This might work for websites like Digg.com and Slashdot.org but not for a niche school news website. Not only did this slow down the rate of submissions but it also lead the point of view to be diluted. Looking at an August 2006 version of Middlesell on the Wayback Machine shows a series of articles across three columns written by what appears to be a writing staff. This writing had a point of view of a happy go lucky college information website with articles like “The Art of Textbook Bargain Hunting Made Simple” and “Tender, Juicy Pieces of Advice for Fresh Freshmen”. I would also argue that Middlesell’s kitchen sink approach didn’t do it too well either. In this writing staff era Middlesell, there’s no forum, no user submissions, and the portal replacement is relegated to a few links. The later Middlesell which ran more autonomously had a forum, user submissions, and tried to directly compete with the portal. Middlesell sold out its personality to try to be something much larger, and in doing so it lost the audience that had come to look to it. The conclusion I draw from this is that people aren’t willing to go to blogs to get information they can get elsewhere for the same consequence. You could get everything that was on Middlesell in both iterations elsewhere, but the older version had a draw to picking up this information here over a staid news source. If you remove a personality, you remove any reason for people to look at your material.
Next semester I plan on opening “The Devil Goat”. I won’t be running it, as I am graduating and won’t be able to be very relevant for it. However, I am setting the parameters for it and will preside over it for a short time to see it through in how I believe a school alt-news blog should work based off the conclusions drawn from all the blogs above. First, I believe that it should be updated regularly, which I think is a no brainer. No one is going to a blog that doesn’t look like its updated regularly, and anecdotally, I don’t believe most people use RSS readers. Most tech nerds I know do, but the standard college student doesn’t. This isn’t based off of cold statistical facts, so this could be wrong, but you’re as likely to find someone in this college who can define Web 2.0 as you are to find someone using an RSS reader (not bloody likely). Second, the website has to have a clear point of view, which should make sense because I’ve been pushing that idea this whole paper. The point of view will be similar to The Colonialist’s, one that is wry and satirical. It won’t make targets of students, but it will wryly make fun of targets that deserve it (dumb things the administration does). Third, the website will be hosted on WordPress.com. I prefer clean basic layouts, I think the less that a reader has to go through to get the information they seek, the better. No Flash, no javascript, no heavy images, nothing like that at all. The site’s design will be basic; the content on it will be the draw. Too often do websites try to fool the readers into believing there’s a wealth of content when its just obfuscating it through flashy design. Fourth, a main staple of the updates will be regular updates on the events on campus. Certainly, there is a weekly email, but this will be regular, it will have the wry comments (not mean) and it will be sandwiched between other material that the readers should find interesting.
The Devil Goat will not expect many visitors to it from the start. Or even a semester through. It is to be expected that the audience for it will not find it right away. People tend to be suspicious of blogs. There needs to be a long backlog of posts to prove that the staff can prove their mettle and it has to offer that personality that the readers need to connect to. We’ll promote through facebook, and through the improv shows, but word of mouth will be the blog’s best friend. Next semester the school’s next great alt-news source will appear following all of these ideas. Based off of my observations of other blogs, after a while it should find resounding success and become part of the fabric of this campus.

Original post by crowtrobot

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Written Component in addition to post w/attached Powerpoint

May 3rd, 2008 by · Comments Off

My final project is on online dating and in particular, eharmony.  I chose to research this because I know people who tried it and had success. They are happily married with two children.  Since eharmony is the most elite dating site, I decided to see if it was all it was cracked up to be.

The company was started in 2000 by  Dr. Neil Clark Warren in Pasadena, Ca and it now has a 250 person staff.  It was once affiliated with right wing evangelicals, specifically James Dobson. The description of eharmony’s services is that it matching heterosexual couples through psychological testing with the intention of marriage. They also provide marriage counseling, dating tips, advice for singles, etc.  Those excluded from being able to participate in the site are:  homosexuals, people with three or more failed marriages, those with severe depression, those under the age of 21, and those already married.  Eharmony has been sued for not allowing gays and lesbians on the site.

The company’s growth doubled in its early stages but now growth has slowed to 10% because of free social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook.  However, it still remains among the most popular dating sites though it has recently been facing increasingly harsh criticism from competitors. Prices at eHarmony range from a flat monthly fee of $60 to a 12-month upfront fee of $251 ($21 a month). There 250 million page hits a month from 15 million registered users.

In relation to our class and the readings we’ve done over the semester, my discussion related to: the Internet —globalization—interconnectivity-Global Village: the future of eHarmony and related sites such as match.com etc is uncertain—are they fads or culturally reshaping phenomena?  It is too soon to tell the effect of this reshaping and rethinking the concept of dating (psychological, sociological impacts, etc).  Will face to face human interaction be faded out more and more with the continued development of online companies and networks? 

Related to Marshal McLuhan, the Gutenberg Galaxy — that media are “extensions” of our human senses, bodies and minds.  Putting ourselves “out there” on the internet as analyzed people (analyzed by dating sites in order to match people with profile and specific identities/biographies which can not be completely verified before meeting someone in person.  The medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.  So the medium as (dating websites, emails, chats) turns our attention to the effect of online dating on society and society being reshaped. If we are moving toward a global village, electronic mass media will collapse space and time barriers in human communication, enabling people to interact and live on a global scale.  The quality of the interaction is still uncertain in the virtual world of the WWW.  For fun/interest, go to kiamatch.com.  It is a great example of American cultural commentary on online dating, making fun, also using core ideas to gain customers/market products.

Hope you enjoyed the video clip of my eharmony friends.

Enjoy your summer. Good luck to graduates!!!

 

Original post by Anika

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Thursdays Presentations…

May 3rd, 2008 by ghart · Comments Off

So once again all of the presentations were wonderful.  I especially liked how the three Myspace/Facebook presentations took different approaches.  They showed different perspectives of using the two programs.  Personally, I was a little freaked out and second guessed using either one of them.  However, both of my accounts are still active.  Now they are just on severe lock down, or as locked down as I can get them.

I also really enjoyed the presentation on the YTMND site.  I had never heard of that before and it was really interesting to see how it works and some examples of the site.    The Digital Story Telling was also very interesting.  I’ve heard a lot about it lately.  In fact, my computer even has digital story telling software on it but I haven’t gotten a chance to play with it.  After the presentation, I’m inspired to use it.

Some other things: I was shocked to learn how expensive EHarmony is but I really enjoyed the differences between the husband’s and the wife’s take on it.  I also really enjoyed the New Media Studies Myspace page.  It was really clever.

Original post by ghart

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My Project Video…

May 3rd, 2008 by ghart · Comments Off

So, after creating an account with youtube and uploading my video, I had to wait HOURS for it to be processed. It finally was so hopefully it will attach correctly to this post. Sorry that it is just getting up now. WordPress wouldn’t let me just upload it to a post so I had to go the youtube route.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Original post by ghart

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What Happens in College…Stays on Facebook

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

Final Project Summary

As a senior who is about to enter the “adult” world of jobs and interviews, I have been wondering lately whether my facebook page will become a liability. One day my mom called to tell me she’d read an article about a young man being fired from his new job because of scandalous content on his Facebook page. I responded that I didn’t have anything very objectionable postetd, and that even if I did, my “privacy settings” were adjusted to “friends only.” Wasn’t my information safe? I decided to use this final project as an opportunity to study the nitty gritty details of how students’ information is really being used.

I found an article from The New Media Reader that, though dense, seemed most applicable to the topic of Facebook’s collection and dissemination of users’ data. On page 740, I read Philip E. Agre “Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy.” Agre predicted that advances in technology would help the government dig up information on you, and spread it around. He contrasted this new “capture” model with the old “surveillance model,” explaining, “Whereas the surveillance model originates in the classically political sphere of state action, the capture model has deep roots in the practical application of computer systems (Agre 744).” Facebook data storage resembles the capture model.
***
In order to share my disturbing findings with others, I created an amalgamation blog at pageflakes.com/miss4nthrope. It consolidates feeds from various searches regarding “Facebook and privacy concerns,” etc. I initially showed a link to a Facebook watchdog video by an anonymous YouTube user, but after realizing that my classmates had created such a video for their final presentation, I think I will plug their video by putting a link on my amalgamation page.
Figuring out how to find “RSS feeds” and arrange them on one page was surprisingly difficult for me, since I had never worked with them before. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the page, and I hope a lot of people will see it. The hardest pill to swallow, though, was not the act of researching or of creating a page, but coming to the realizaiton that I will eventually have to myself undergo the (deliberately?) convoluted process of deleting my data myself.

Original post by Gwen

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My Final Project Powerpoint: eharmony

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

In addition to this kiamatch.com is an example of society spoofing the cultural phenomena of online dating. I can not post the video due to privacy of the 2 children. Powerpoint is attached.Powerpoint

Original post by Anika

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My Final Project: eharmony

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

In addition to this kiamatch.com is an example of society spoofing the cultural phenomena of online dating. I can not post the video due to privacy of the 2 children. Powerpoint is attached.Powerpoint

Original post by Anika

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Written Component of my World of Warcraft Presentation

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

            On September 2, 2001 Blizzard Entertainment announced that they were developing World of Warcraft (WoW), the company’s first massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG or MMO).  This was somewhat surprising considering the company was most famous for its real-time strategy games such as Warcraft III and Starcraft.  After nearly five years of development the game was finally released on November 23, 2004 to widespread critical acclaim.

            WoW is a MMORPG which means that it is a role-playing game that takes place in a persistent online world where space is shared with large groups of other players.  Unlike some games that concentrate mostly on winning individual “games,” WoW focuses on long term goals with a consistent group of people.  In WoW your character is consistent and while he or she may evolve over time, they can no more change their key attributes than you and I can.

Two predecessors to WoW were Everquest and Ultima Online.  Ultima was a sequel to an already existing single player game franchise and therefore relied mostly on their already established niche community.  Ultima also had a steep learning curve and had little to no protection from “griefers” or players who spend inordinate amounts of time attempting to ruin the experiences of beginner and casual players.  Everquest improved many of these problems and introduced rudimentary 3d graphics.  The result essentially set the standard for most MMO’s to come.  Despite this, it still had its share of problems that kept it from reaching the mainstream, most notably the hours of mindless grinding necessary to level up characters as well as the unforgiving level of difficulty. 

Although WoW works on a similar template to Everquest, it acknowledged and fixed many of the things that held its predecessors back.  Unlike both games, WoW has almost no penalty for death.  Making for a far less frustrating experience.  WoW also introduced a far smoother learning curve that introduced game concepts slowly over time so as not to be overwhelming.  WoW also had the most impressive graphics of any MMO at the time of its release.  They weren’t just sharp, but also stylized and diverse, giving the user the impression that WoW is a breatihing real world.  Similarly to Ultima, WoW also came prepackaged with an audience, but the Warcraft universe games were far more popular and therefore brought over larger numbers of players out of the starting gate.  Lastly, WoW links up directly with the story and mythology of the previous games which makes the player feel like they are an integral part of a struggle they have been following for years.

When a player starts a new game of WoW, the first thing they must do is join a server and create a character.  Servers are divided into normal, pvp and role-playing.  This gives options to players who would prefer not to engage in combat with other players or for people who enjoy playing their characters as if they were actually part of the WoW mythology.  Character creation is very important because it determines an unchangeable path that the player must follow.  For instance a gnome mage will start in a different place and have a completely different play style from an Orc Shaman.  Players can choose from ten races which are split into two opposing factions.  Each race has slight statistical differences but are most different aesthetically.  Class choice is also essential as each class plays radically differently although they are each created to balance with each other so no class becomes overpowered.  Lastly, players must choose how they will distribute their talents.  Each class has three distinct talent “trees.”  Each level a player gains also comes along with a talent point which can be placed in any of the trees to further customize the character’s specialties such as healing, offense etc.  This wide breadth of options ensures that there are rarely two players with the identical characters or play styles. 

A large portion of the game is spent questing and leveling up.  The higher level a character is, the more powerful he/she becomes.  Increased levels are gained by getting experience points (xp) from quests and monsters.  The amount of xp needed increases greatly with each passing level, forcing the player to constantly search for new challenges in order to progress.  Characters also increase in power as they acquire gear, a task that takes precedent over leveling when a player reaches the “endgame” or the highest possible level.  Gear is generally considered the primary means by which a character’s skill is judged since epic level gear can only be acquired by completing long and extremely difficult and/or tedious tasks.

Because I was already familiar with leveling and doing group dungeons, I decided to concentrate my presentation on the pvp (player versus player) aspect of the game.  When WoW first launched, there was no formal pvp in place.  Horde and Alliance players were free to kill each other, but there was no rewards for doing so.  Eventually the honor system was introduced and offered rewards for players who were unusually proficient at killing players of the opposing faction.  Later on, Blizzard added the Battlegrounds which matched similarly leveled pvp seeking players together in an enclosed area to do combat with each other.  The battlegrounds eventually became the most predominant form of pvp in WoW, but many players felt that the ability to quickly come back to life in battlegrounds made it a question of time, not skill when it comes to receiving rewards. 

Blizzard’s solution to this was to add the arena combat system.  Arena fights are either 2v2, 3v3, of 5v5 and when a player is defeated, they are out of the fight for good.  This forces players to refine their skills as one weak player can greatly weaken the team’s chances of victory.  Each week Blizzard ranks the teams against each other based on their win/loss record.  Although this system does force players to rely more on skill, the fact that some players have vastly superior gear still keeps many games hopelessly unbalanced.

As we saw in Morningstar and Farmer’s “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat” creating online social worlds is ain inherently unstable process that can lead to unexpected occurrences.  In Habitat, players were able to exploit price differences to make extreme am oungs of money, or illegally obtain a death ray gun that was more powerful than the developers intended regular players to have.  Although WoW has been mostly successful in keeping players from cheating, unexpected things still happen.  The most famous incident was the “Corrupted Blood Plague.”  Blizzard added a new dungeon with a patch, the boss of which gave players a disease called corrupted blood that transferred to others around them.  Instead of disappearing after leaving the dungeon as was originally intended, the disease spread throughout the whole world, killing lower level players instantly and repeatedly.  Interestingly, the corrupted blood disease spread in much the same way that epidemics do in real life. 

One of the most interesting things I found in my outside research on the game was a website called “The Daedalus Project.”  The runner of the site named Nick Yee has surveyed over 35,000 MMO players and keeps the statistics available on his site for people to read as well as writing articles on his findings.  The site has a wealth of information, far too widespread to accurately cover here, but there were a few things I found particularly interesting.  Many people assume that the majority of online game players are children or teenagers, but Yee’s surveys show that the demographics are actually far more complex.  Only 25% of WoW players are teens, 50% work full time, 36% are married and 33% have kids.  This was interesting to me because it shows that WoW clearly has appeal to a wide group of individuals despite the seemingly niche market of fantasy and role-playing game fans.

One of the issues raised in Turkel’s article on videogames is that of potential gaming addiction.  She says: “If there is a danger here, it is not the danger of mindless play but of infatuation with the challenge of simulated worlds.  In the right circumstances, some people come to prefer them to the real.”  This has clear applications to WoW as many players seem to prefer the complex but ruled and ordered world of Warcraft over the often more mundane aspects of reality.  Yee also sees the potential for gaming addiction, saying: “There are a variety of mechanisms in MMORPGs that may encourage obsessive usage. MMORPGs employ well-known behavioral conditioning principles from psychology that reinforce repetitive actions through an elaborate system of scheduled rewards. In effect, the game rewards players to perform increasingly tedious tasks and seduces the player to “play” industriously. These environments also encourage making friends or joining guilds that then become sources of social obligations.”  I can personally attest to the truth of this statement, as the game starts out quite easy with tasks that are easy to accomplish and give good rewards but as the player grows in level it takes increasingly longer times to get things done.  This eventually creates a situation where the player finds him or herself playing for hours at a time and still not feeling like they have accomplished all they hoped to in the session which in turn makes the player feel like playing even more.  I hope this presentation has been informative and helpful to anyone who was interested in a brief introduction into the history, society and play mechanics of World of Warcraft.

Other links:

My character page on the WoW armory

My WoW movie

Original post by gettodachoppa

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Hey Hey, You You, I wanna do your final project.

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

Glad thats over, i think it went well. So not my fault that IE crashed.

For those of you that liked my presentation, here’s the links to the sites that i used.

yourethemannowdog.ytmnd.com

picard.ytmnd.com

lohanfacial.ytmnd.com

http://tcruiseko.ytmnd.com/

http://snapetiger.ytmnd.com/

timetraveler.ytmnd.com

historylouisiana.ytmnd.com

historyroman.ytmnd.com

ckjcwf.ytmnd.com

•http://medievalgoogle.ytmnd.com/

•http://m404.ytmnd.com/

http://medipod.ytmnd.com/

http://windowserroe6.ytmnd.com/

http://blueballfixed.ytmnd.com/
http://themesong.ytmnd.com/
http://ultimatesuffering.ytmnd.com/

http://easilyimitated.ytmnd.com/

Thelonelydavis.ytmnd.com

guitardavis.ytmnd.com

davisdancing.ytmnd.com

zombiedavis.ytmnd.com

http://lostfortunecookie.ytmnd.com/

The last five are mine. Gotta give some credit to my friend Davis for being an awesome sport with this P

Wish the report wasn’t PG13, would’ve loved to throw some DZK in there P

Have a nice summer everyone! Your projects rocked!

Original post by mpena

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Final Project – Digital Storytelling

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

    Digital storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional content. Digital stories can be instructional, persuasive, historical, or reflective. Constructing a narrative and communicating it effectively require the storyteller to think carefully about the topic and consider the audience’s perspective. Digital storytelling relates closely with Marshall McLuhan’s ideas, who emphasized how technology could change patterns of human communication. McLuhan stated that technology could be used to amplify or accelerate existing processes.

            Digital storytelling has many uses within the realm of education. Teachers can use digital storytelling to help students realize their creative talents. Students can use digital storytelling to develop their communication skills. Storytelling facilitates and prompts students to ask questions, express opinions, construct narratives, and write for an audience. There are many studies that support the idea that by having students tell stories in their own voices, children develop greater self-esteem and confidence.

            Digital stories typically begin with a script. Storyboards can be created simply by using a table in Microsoft Word. The storyteller assembles the media to support the ideas and emotions in the script, including music or other audio, personal or public domain images, animations or video, and other electronic elements. Stories result in short movies usually ranging from a minimum of two minutes to a maximum of eight minutes long.

            Digital storytelling is significant because the oral tradition of knowledge transfer and exchange has served as the basis for education since humans began teaching one another. Digital storytelling creates opportunities to reflect on life and find deep connections with the subject matter or a course. Just as we have used blogging this semester in New Media Studies, digital storytelling is another way that students can deepen their connections with course content and follows the dual-coding theory of cognition. Dual-coding theory postulates that both visual and verbal codes for representing information are used to organize information into knowledge.

            My creation is a digital story using Microsoft PhotoStory3. There were some glitches with my experience. I could not get the music and narration to synch together, and also found that once a segment of narration was recorded, I could not edit part of a segment without re-recording the entire piece. My microphone was relatively inexpensive, and it would have been smoother with a higher quality microphone or mixer. However, the overall result of the experience was that it forced me to reflect on my experience at Mary Washington and create a story based on my experience in my own voice. With all of the rushing to get assignments done at the end of the semester, the digital storytelling project was valuable in that it forced me to think about what I was doing, rather than constantly react and work to meet deadlines. It made me take a step back and consider what the meaning of the experience was while I was going through it, which I think is precisely why educators are so excited about the benefits of digital storytelling for students.

Original post by eliz1

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Presentation Notes

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

This is my first bit of commentary on the presentations…I missed the first group because I was visiting Virginia Tech in honor of the shooting that happened last year.  I have to say, though, that the presentations from last Thursday were well done.

 To start, I’d like to say a little about the Webkinz presentation that I worked on with Meredith.  I’m actually really pleased with the way that it turned out.  I think that we flowed together pretty well and seemed to generate some interest within the class about Webkinz World.  I am a little disappointed that we had technical difficulties with our video…but I am glad that we have gotten it up and running.  You can check it out on Youtube here.  I do get a little nervous while doing public speaking and feel that I have spoken more clearly and found a better way to articulate things…but that’s in the past and there’s no need dwelling on that.  I’m still working on it.  Basically, I think that our presentation went pretty well, technical difficulties and all.

I missed almost all of Ben’s presentation because we came in late…I’m not too sure of what to say since I missed all but two minutes of it…I’m sorry!

I thought that Jacqui’s presentation was FANTASTIC! She had very clearly thought a lot about how to present amazon.com. I really liked the forum that she made; I had no idea that amazon was so much of a community.  And I loved the milk video…I’m not really sure if I’d ever pay 30 dollars for a gallon of milk, but it was interesting to hear about it (and that some people actually will).  Lastly, I really appreciated how she really got the class involved in her presentation.  I’m actually considering hitting up amazon more…I’ve been thinking about getting a Kindle (they seem like so much fun!)

Missak’s presentation was interesting as well.  I had never heard of half.com and his presentation told me quite a bit about it.  I think that it’s crazy that you can set up your own online store.  I feel like half.com is kind of like amazon on steroids…it seems to cater to those amazon addicts: they can set up a place for all of the items they are selling…

I thought that Gracie’s video was really cool.  First of all, I love South Park and I mean, who doesn’t love playing the Wii. Every time I play that thing, it gets really intense.  I feel like it truly does take gaming to a whole new level:  it literally puts you into the game.  Because of this, things do get escalated. 

 All in all, I thought that Thursday’s presentations were interesting.  Good job everyone!! 

Original post by jessica

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Final Paper…not on the Wiki

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

I think that we were supposed to post our final paper on the wiki but I can’t quite seem to figure out how to do that. So I’m just going to put it here…

           Once someone buys a Webkinz stuffed animal, they are linked to the virtual Webkinz World.  Webkinz appeals to the younger generation, with the average user being age twelve.  While it is designed for a younger target audience, it gets the attention of people of all ages.  Located only at select retail stores, Webkinz stuffed animals can be purchased for anywhere from eight to fifteen dollars.  With the stuffed animal, the customer gets a “secret code” that is unique to their pet.  This code can only be used once to activate their Webkinz account online.  Through the activation, you can officially “adopt” their pet and begin the virtual process.  

            After purchasing a Webkinz, individuals create a username and password and log into Webkinz World.  Users are directed to the Adoption Center where, with the help of a penguin named Mrs. Birdie, they bring their new virtual pet to life.  Each Webkinz comes attached to its own unique code that corresponds to its “species” and personality.  After adopting their pet, users get a “bio” that discusses the pet’s characteristics, favorite food, best friend, and often their most wanted toy.  Once they have completed the adoption process, users are sent to their pet’s new room.  Owners are given a medium sized room and 2000 KinzCash, the virtual money used throughout Webkinz World, each time they adopt a new pet.  This 2000 KinzCash can be used to decorate the new room or to buy food for your Webkinz.

            KinzCash, the currency of Webkinz World, is the main way that Webkinz motivates users to log on daily.  KinzCash is most frequently earned by playing games in the arcade: the longer you make it through the games, the more money you earn.  The game of the day is an arcade game that gets a bonus 10, 15, 20 or 25 percent KinzCash for playing.  The Wheel of Wow and Wishing Well 2 are two arcade games that people can play once a day to gain KinzCash just by luck.  The daily activities are the most addicting way to make money.  Hourly events are listed on the events page, telling the user when they can log in to get “free” KinzCash.  In addition, every eight hours Webkinz users can go to the employment office to do a job.  Selling items in the W or Curio Shops that you have purchased is yet another way that Webkinz owners can collect more KinzCash.  Mining in the Curio Shop allows users to gain a gem collection, but if they already own the gem they have most recently found they have the option of selling it back to Arte, the shop owner, for KinzCash.  Lastly, a Webkinz pet can have a garden that they have to tend to everyday.  About once a week the garden will produce crops that can either be eaten by the pet or sold back to the W Shop for KinzCash.  All of these activities are ways to gain additional KinzCash while in Webkinz World. 

            Most of the purchases made in Webkinz World are done through the W Shop.  Users can buy clothing, food, toys, and games for their Webkinz.  In addition, they are able to decorate their room through purchases made in the W Shop:  appliances, electronics, decorations (such as paintings or clocks), lighting, paint, carpet, couches, chairs, and tables may be acquired here.  The W Shop offers multiple themes of room decoration.  These themes range from a country antique look to a baseball or football field image.  Each theme has unique pieces to help fill out any room.  Rare items can be purchased from the Curio Shop at higher prices.  The items available in this location change every hour.  Before making a purchase in the W Shop it is best to check the Curio Shop because some items are available at a lower price here. 

            Items may be purchased at the W Shop to send to friends within Webkinz World via the KinzPost.  Users may send a friend one gift per day, ranging from one to three items. Sending gifts does cost KinzCash; the more you send, the more you have to pay.  Each gift is sent with a prescribed message attached.  These messages range from “Thanks for being such a great friend!” to “For you on your special day!”  Furthermore, users can send notes (without attached gifts) to their friends for a much smaller fee.  These messages are also prescribed but can be personalized by purchasing unique stationary or stickers to attach to your note. 

            In addition to sending notes and gifts, users can communicate with other Webkinz World inhabitants by visiting the Clubhouse.  There are many different rooms with varying themes within this Clubhouse.  Each room has a unique purpose and a different visitor capacity. Users can meet, “talk” using prescribed messages, and play games with the other visiting individuals while they spend time here.

            While Webkinz bridge the gap between really life cuddly stuffed animals and the virtual world, this is not what has given these stuffed animals the most attention.  Article headlines talk about how “Kids [are] hooked on Webkinz World”, “Toy Causes Classroom Distraction” and ask “Is the Webkinz Craze Bad for Kids?”  One article describes Webkinz as being “Beanie Babies on Steroids.”  Webkinz has several things that cause this sensation that the articles talk about.  For example, the Webkinz World has several activities that influence its users to constantly log in during the day to check and see what else they can get for “free.”  While KinzCash does not correlate directly to the dollar, there is a factor that makes its users want to keep building up the money on the account:  they can improve their niche in Webkinz World.  When users log on everyday there are certain things that they can do to make money.  The arcade is the main place where games like “The Wheel of Wow” allow people to once a day spin a wheel and get free KinzCash or goods for their room.  Every hour, there are bonus activities going on that allow users to get additional money.  These daily responsibilities and activities make kids want to log on throughout the day to avoiding missing anything.  This addictive quality is what makes Webkinz so appealing to its users, but also can be frustrating to other people.

            While there are many people that find the addictive qualities of Webkinz a problem for children, there are also aspects of Webkinz that are good influences on preteens.  One article entitled, “Webkinz: Big Money Lessons for Little Kids” describes how the KinzCash in Webkinz World is a good influence on children.  The KinzCash teaches children the responsibilities of ownership.  Webkinz furthers these qualities by having an employment office where children can do jobs every eight hours to gain more KinzCash.  The employment office teaches principles based on math and English in a fast paced environment.  The Webkinz World even has a garden that needs tending everyday and produces fruit that the Webkinz can actually eat.  This not only teaches children a sense of responsibility, but also teaches them to tend and nurture something other than themselves and their pet.  These aspects help in the development of children and certainly are a vital part of the Webkinz World.

            The activities performed by the inhabitants of Webkinz World relate to many of the essays discussed within our New Media Studies class.  First of all, the article written by Sherry Turkle entitled “Video Games and Computer Holding Power” relates to this virtual world.  She argues that the “most important element behind the games’ seduction [is that] video games are interactive computer microworlds” (Turkle 501).  Webkinz is, in fact, a microworld that is navigated in many ways.  The user’s Webkinz walks through their rooms.  All of the other locations can be reached through a “Things to Do” menu that is always at the lower right corner of the screen.  As Turkle argues, the individual must follow the rules governing Webkinz World, but the user is the ultimate judge of what he or she does within the World.

Secondly, Webkinz helps create the intrinsic motivation that Nelson discusses in his article “No More Teachers’ Dirty Looks.”  He writes that “education ought to be clear, inviting and enjoyable, without booby-traps, humiliations, condescension or boredom.  It ought to teach and reward initiative curiosity, the habit of self-motivation, intellectual involvement.  Students should develop, through practice, abilities to think, argue and disagree intelligently” (Nelson 310).  Webkinz achieves all of these goals.  Not only is it inviting and positive, but it insights curiosity (users are always discovering new nooks of Webkinz World) and allows for intrinsic motivation:  if users would like to purchase something in Webkinz World, they need to simply play these educational games to earn KinzCash.

            Lastly, the images of Webkinz World relate very clearly to McLuhan’s argument that the “medium is the message” (203).  The ads throughout Webkinz World often relate to recommended ways of living: “Brush Your Teeth,” “Drink Milk,” “Stay Active,” and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” for example.  Instead of parents telling children what to do, the colorful characters that they interact with on a daily basis are promoting these ideas.  It is much less daunting and, probably, more effective.  A child is more likely to follow the directions of a cartoon character of which they are fond than those of a parent screaming at them.  Thus, McLuhan is entirely correct: the medium through which we receive directions has a profound impact on how we take those instructions. In short, Webkinz creates a positive environment for children to explore and learn.  They are taught many valuable lessons such as responsibility, patience, and skills for school.  The inhabitants of Webkinz World are enriched by their time spent there.

Original post by jessica

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Finally, a last reflection on Webkinz

May 1st, 2008 by · Comments Off

So, I wanted to post up the link to the youtube video that we couldn’t quite get to work last Thursday for our presentation.  But before I do so, I wanted to blog about our presentation.

Once someone buys a Webkinz stuffed animal, they are linked to the virtual Webkinz World.  Webkinz appeals to the younger generation, with the average user being age twelve.  While it is designed for a younger target audience, it gets the attention of people of all ages.  Located only at select retail stores, Webkinz stuffed animals can be purchased for anywhere from eight to fifteen dollars.  With the stuffed animal, the customer gets a “secret code” that is unique to their pet.  This code can only be used once to activate their Webkinz account online.  Through the activation, you can officially “adopt” their pet and begin the virtual process.
After purchasing a Webkinz, individuals create a username and password and log into Webkinz World.  Users are directed to the Adoption Center where, with the help of a penguin named Mrs. Birdie, they bring their new virtual pet to life.  Each Webkinz comes attached to its own unique code that corresponds to its “species” and personality.  After adopting their pet, users get a “bio” that discusses the pet’s characteristics, favorite food, best friend, and often their most wanted toy.  Once they have completed the adoption process, users are sent to their pet’s new room.  Owners are given a medium sized room and 2000 KinzCash, the virtual money used throughout Webkinz World, each time they adopt a new pet.  This 2000 KinzCash can be used to decorate the new room or to buy food for your Webkinz.
KinzCash, the currency of Webkinz World, is the main way that Webkinz motivates users to log on daily.  KinzCash is most frequently earned by playing games in the arcade: the longer you make it through the games, the more money you earn.  The game of the day is an arcade game that gets a bonus 10, 15, 20 or 25 percent KinzCash for playing.  The Wheel of Wow and Wishing Well 2 are two arcade games that people can play once a day to gain KinzCash just by luck.  The daily activities are the most addicting way to make money.  Hourly events are listed on the events page, telling the user when they can log in to get “free” KinzCash.  In addition, every eight hours Webkinz users can go to the employment office to do a job.  Selling items in the W or Curio Shops that you have purchased is yet another way that Webkinz owners can collect more KinzCash.  Mining in the Curio Shop allows users to gain a gem collection, but if they already own the gem they have most recently found they have the option of selling it back to Arte, the shop owner, for KinzCash.  Lastly, a Webkinz pet can have a garden that they have to tend to everyday.  About once a week the garden will produce crops that can either be eaten by the pet or sold back to the W Shop for KinzCash.  All of these activities are ways to gain additional KinzCash while in Webkinz World.
Most of the purchases made in Webkinz World are done through the W Shop.  Users can buy clothing, food, toys, and games for their Webkinz.  In addition, they are able to decorate their room through purchases made in the W Shop:  appliances, electronics, decorations (such as paintings or clocks), lighting, paint, carpet, couches, chairs, and tables may be acquired here.  The W Shop offers multiple themes of room decoration.  These themes range from a country antique look to a baseball or football field image.  Each theme has unique pieces to help fill out any room.  Rare items can be purchased from the Curio Shop at higher prices.  The items available in this location change every hour.  Before making a purchase in the W Shop it is best to check the Curio Shop because some items are available at a lower price here.
Items may be purchased at the W Shop to send to friends within Webkinz World via the KinzPost.  Users may send a friend one gift per day, ranging from one to three items. Sending gifts does cost KinzCash; the more you send, the more you have to pay.  Each gift is sent with a prescribed message attached.  These messages range from “Thanks for being such a great friend!” to “For you on your special day!”  Furthermore, users can send notes (without attached gifts) to their friends for a much smaller fee.  These messages are also prescribed but can be personalized by purchasing unique stationary or stickers to attach to your note.
In addition to sending notes and gifts, users can communicate with other Webkinz World inhabitants by visiting the Clubhouse.  There are many different rooms with varying themes within this Clubhouse.  Each room has a unique purpose and a different visitor capacity. Users can meet, “talk” using prescribed messages, and play games with the other visiting individuals while they spend time here.
While Webkinz bridge the gap between really life cuddly stuffed animals and the virtual world, this is not what has given these stuffed animals the most attention.  Article headlines talk about how “Kids [are] hooked on Webkinz World”, “Toy Causes Classroom Distraction” and ask “Is the Webkinz Craze Bad for Kids?”  One article describes Webkinz as being “Beanie Babies on Steroids.”  Webkinz has several things that cause this sensation that the articles talk about.  For example, the Webkinz World has several activities that influence its users to constantly log in during the day to check and see what else they can get for “free.”  While KinzCash does not correlate directly to the dollar, there is a factor that makes its users want to keep building up the money on the account:  they can improve their niche in Webkinz World.  When users log on everyday there are certain things that they can do to make money.  The arcade is the main place where games like “The Wheel of Wow” allow people to once a day spin a wheel and get free KinzCash or goods for their room.  Every hour, there are bonus activities going on that allow users to get additional money.  These daily responsibilities and activities make kids want to log on throughout the day to avoiding missing anything.  This addictive quality is what makes Webkinz so appealing to its users, but also can be frustrating to other people.
While there are many people that find the addictive qualities of Webkinz a problem for children, there are also aspects of Webkinz that are good influences on preteens.  One article entitled, “Webkinz: Big Money Lessons for Little Kids” describes how the KinzCash in Webkinz World is a good influence on children.  The KinzCash teaches children the responsibilities of ownership.  Webkinz furthers these qualities by having an employment office where children can do jobs every eight hours to gain more KinzCash.  The employment office teaches principles based on math and English in a fast paced environment.  The Webkinz World even has a garden that needs tending everyday and produces fruit that the Webkinz can actually eat.  This not only teaches children a sense of responsibility, but also teaches them to tend and nurture something other than themselves and their pet.  These aspects help in the development of children and certainly are a vital part of the Webkinz World.
The activities performed by the inhabitants of Webkinz World relate to many of the essays discussed within our New Media Studies class.  First of all, the article written by Sherry Turkle entitled “Video Games and Computer Holding Power” relates to this virtual world.  She argues that the “most important element behind the games’ seduction [is that] video games are interactive computer microworlds” (Turkle 501).  Webkinz is, in fact, a microworld that is navigated in many ways.  The user’s Webkinz walks through their rooms.  All of the other locations can be reached through a “Things to Do” menu that is always at the lower right corner of the screen.  As Turkle argues, the individual must follow the rules governing Webkinz World, but the user is the ultimate judge of what he or she does within the World.
Secondly, Webkinz helps create the intrinsic motivation that Nelson discusses in his article “No More Teachers’ Dirty Looks.”  He writes that “education ought to be clear, inviting and enjoyable, without booby-traps, humiliations, condescension or boredom.  It ought to teach and reward initiative curiosity, the habit of self-motivation, intellectual involvement.  Students should develop, through practice, abilities to think, argue and disagree intelligently” (Nelson 310).  Webkinz achieves all of these goals.  Not only is it inviting and positive, but it insights curiosity (users are always discovering new nooks of Webkinz World) and allows for intrinsic motivation:  if users would like to purchase something in Webkinz World, they need to simply play these educational games to earn KinzCash.
Lastly, the images of Webkinz World relate very clearly to McLuhan’s argument that the “medium is the message” (203).  The ads throughout Webkinz World often relate to recommended ways of living: “Brush Your Teeth,” “Drink Milk,” “Stay Active,” and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” for example.  Instead of parents telling children what to do, the colorful characters that they interact with on a daily basis are promoting these ideas.  It is much less daunting and, probably, more effective.  A child is more likely to follow the directions of a cartoon character of which they are fond than those of a parent screaming at them.  Thus, McLuhan is entirely correct: the medium through which we receive directions has a profound impact on how we take those instructions. In short, Webkinz creates a positive environment for children to explore and learn.  They are taught many valuable lessons such as responsibility, patience, and skills for school.  The inhabitants of Webkinz World are enriched by their time spent there.

To further understand the world of the Webkinz, watch our video: here.

Original post by mere

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Final Project Write-Up

April 30th, 2008 by gardnercampbell · Comments Off

The first question to ask is, perhaps, What is a webcomic?  The easiest answer is, of course, a comic on the web, but that’s not exactly it.  This is a comic on the internet, but it is one written and produced for newspaper publication and merely archived online, so it’s not a webcomic in the strictest sense of the word, which is the sense I’ll be using in my exploration of the medium.  A webcomic is then defined as a comic produced for and first published on the web.  Therefore, this is not a webcomic, but this is.

One of the first things that could be defined as a webcomic (T.H.E. Fox) was started in 1986, and  Where the Buffalo Roam began in 1991 and Doctor Fun in ‘93.  If you’ll remember from “The World-Wide Web” article we read, these early webcomics coincide with the early days of the web itself, showing that for about as long as there has been the web, there have been webcomics.  Early webcomics are relatively basic and similar to printed comics, but as the internet and computers advanced, however, the possibilities for webcomics advanced as well.  Whether or not these possibilities are being utilized to their fullest potential is another story, though.

If, as McLuhan said, the medium is the message, then what are these possibilities for webcomics that other comics don’t have?  To boil it down to the simplest answer, webcomics have the “infinite canvas.”   This is a theory of Scott McCloud’s that basically states that a webcomic is not bound by the restrictions of page dimensions, and can therefore extend as far and wide as you want.  Theoretically, according to McCloud, you could have entire graphic novels existing on a single page.  Hence “infinite canvas.”  What if, however, you take that idea to the next level?  If you think of this as not just no limit to the page size but also no more having to turn sheets of paper sequentially to get the story, then the possibilities are suddenly seeming limitless.  When I Am King comes closest of everything I’ve found to trying to achieve an infinite canvas effect, which has the downside of also being kind of creepy at times.  Alternately, Scott McCloud’s Carl webcomic plays with the idea of sequence.  (You all might remember a version of this from the Time Frames chapter we read.)  Here, then, is The Right Number, McCloud’s alternative to conventional “page turning.”  It’s a little distracting, though, and it begs the question: What is added by these “novelty” approaches?  I mentioned the medium being the message, and I’m fairly certain that in these cases, the stories come second to the experimentations with the webcomic medium that they represent.  As a whole, I think these innovations should somehow enhance the story or contribute to its theme, since such an emphasis is suddenly placed on the format (the zooming, the scrolling, the non-sequential addition of panels).

When it came to diving into the wide, wide world of webcomics, I started by looking at sites like this, which provides seeming endless lists of what was out there, but did little to gauge  whether or not the things they listed were any good.  That’s when everything that class members tagged on del.icio.us started to come in handy.  I combined the webcomics you tagged with the recommendations I gathered from the maybe twenty or more friends/acquaintences/younger brother/younger brother’s high school friends that I polled for their favorite webcomics.  It was then that I was able to get a better sense of the sorts of things that made a successful webcomic, if, by successful, I mean “one that people read.”  From this, I sort of gauged which ones were recommended the most.  After looking through probably forty or fifty different webcomics, however, I found a certain number of things I could sort of sum up as typical themes–Namely, the internet, technology, pop culture, gaming/sci-fi/fantasy, and other variants and strains of geekdom.  (Which I really can’t poke fun at; I’m a geek myself.)  I suppose that this might be because the sorts of people who typically start a webcomic are more likely to be people already involved in internet culture and other aspects of New Media.

The typically New-Media-skewed subject matter brought to mind Turkle’s “Video Games and Computer Holding Power,” where she talks of existing in and losing oneself to a simulated world in video games.  Most immediately, I made the connection between this essay and webcomics when I learned about sprites while doing my research.  They are, essentially, webcomics where the characters are images taken from video games, sometimes with colors altered, but often looking just as they appear on the screen.  The first of these is said to be Neglected Mario Characters, and the first really popular one was Bob and George.  I personally feel that the creative possibilities for these, both visually and otherwise are limited, but I find it interesting to see how the simulated world of video games that Turkle writes about is extended here, where the creator can essentially “play God” in an existing world, where the rules of play are suddenly much more flexible.  The results, however, are still directed at people who are fans of the video game world from which they originate.  Taking this a step farther, however, one can start to apply Turkle’s idea of alternate world and identity to other webcomics.  For instance, the writer-artist of Toothpaste for Dinner often uses his strip to vent his own thoughts.  (Or poke fun at himself.)  Meanwhile, the two main characters in Penny Arcade (interestingly the webcomic that the most people recommended to me) can relatively easily be seen as avatars of their creators.  On the flip side, the protagonist of Planet Karen is the creator, and the strips are recaps of her actual daily life.  (Or so she says.)

From here, there are so many other things in my findings I want to discuss, from the evolution in art from a webcomic’s first strip to its most recent (for instance: the start and end of Planet Karen and the start and end of Penny Arcade), the utilization of “free speech” on the internet (there’s more swearing, violence, and sex in webcomics than, say, a Green Lantern comic book, even if the basis subject matter is more or less the same), and the transition many webcomics are making (or trying to make) from internet to printed book.  I will, however, move on to the final project part of my final project.

Clearly, the cumulative result of my work on this project was creating my own webcomic, which I titled Tilting at Windmills, because, honestly, that reflects how I felt throughout much of the process. I toyed with the idea of the infinite canvas but ultimately went with the more traditional format, mostly because I don’t yet have the coding skills to have panels zoom or go on forever.  In fact, until this project, I was more or less computer-illiterate.  I could essentially surf the internet and use a word processor.  Creating a webcomic, then, forced me to learn how to use an FTP client (to a certain extent), how to do a limited amount of html coding, and the pros and cons of various venues of free webhosting.

Firstly, I spent awhile fooling with ideas for a webcomic, most of which never made it to paper.  I decided against doing any one-shot humor strips, because I’m afraid I won’t be funny, and then played around with a bunch of running storyline ideas, including one that resulted in me drawing this.  (And then questioning my sanity.)  I then decided on a sort of combination high-school-and-superhero story, which, while admittedly not original, was something I was fairly certain I could do.  At the same time, I knew I’d fall into the traps of pop culture references, geekery, and poking fun at myself.  (All of which I did by the third strip, which is the one currently on the front page of my site, where I make fun of my own extreme liking for Doctor Who.)

First, I tried drawing a strip in colored pencil, which not only ended up about an inch-and-a-half too long for my scanner, but also was too difficult to do cleanly and consistently to make it a good medium for my webcomic.  I decided, therefore, on inking very simple artwork and coloring it in Photoshop, which wasn’t really something I had ever done before.  (I scanned some random doodle in and colored it as an experiment first, before starting my actual webcomic.)  About halfway through being Photoshopped, a page of my webcomic looks something like this.

Then came the issue of webhosting the comic.  Currently, I have it hosted on two different sites, because I was trying out the pros and cons of each.  The first one is on freesitespace.net, a free webhosting service that has been around for a month or so.  The nice thing about the site I have there is that I figured out how to add an “About & FAQ” section, which is sort of nice but sort of pointless, as nobody’s asked me anything yet, so I had to make some questions up.  I also have an external links page there, which I rather like, but again, is rather pointless.  The problem, however, is that it’s not a hosting site designed for webcomics, so editing it to serve my purposes was really awkward and still unsatisfactory and unwieldy.   It also won’t let me edit the coding for the basic page manually, although I can edit (and gloriously mangle) all of the sub-pages.

The other site I’m hosting my webcomic on at the moment is comicgenesis.com, which while having the most painfully recursive sign-up process imaginable, is still more amiable to webcomic hosting.  (Hence the site’s name.)  The only real problem I have with my webcomic site here is the advertising, but that’s not too bad.  It was on this one that I got to build my site more or less to my liking using an FTP client.  (Yes, I actually–more or less–know how to use that now.  I am ridiculously impressed with myself.)  To be fair, I did make some epically unpleasant errors while working my way through; for instance, I had my strips running in reverse order for awhile and then had the second one about five times.  Now, however, it’s doing more or less what I’m telling it to.

In conclusion, I mostly just want to say that I learned how to do far more with New Media in this project than I imagined I ever would when I first started and I’m really looking forward to improving my webcomic site and continuing it.

And, of course, I’ll be happy to answer any questions and elaborate on anything I’ve talked about.

Original post by Alyssa Johnson

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Final presentation

April 30th, 2008 by · Comments Off

Podcasts in Education

“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded, that in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium — that is, of any extension of ourselves — result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” Says Marshall McLuhan in his article “The Medium is the Message”. (NMR p.203)

What does this mean for us? To me it means we have to go with the flow, changes and developments that happen every day. In our daily lives we are exposed to all kinds of media around the clock. McLuhan does not mean we are helplessly exposed to the Medium. Instead, he suggests that we ourselves shape the medium, make it an extension of ourselves. So by denying this we simply make life more difficult.
My major is education; thus most of my thinking revolves around education as well. McLuhan is quite inspirational to me. By reminding us that the medium is the message, he basically motivates us to integrate media into the classroom. Of course we have already integrated media in the schools; the black board was used much less when the overhead projectors made their way into the classroom. They were soon joined by VCRs, which replaced the old film rolls. Have we come to a stand still or why does McLuhan see the need to remind us of the important role of media in our daily lives?
His article was published in 1964. Even though it is almost 45 years old, it still carries the same meaning. It applies just as much today as it did 40 years ago. In some American classrooms whiteboards have been replaced with smart boards. Amazing technology, but many teachers do not even know how to use it. Somehow technology or new media is intimidating for many of us. McLuhan points out, though, that it is simply an extension of ourselves.
The majority of today’s youth doesn’t leave the house without an mp3-player. In order to help them focus on the material in the classroom, we have to find new ways to catch their attention. We can do that by including the modern media with which they surround themselves. Podcasts can be a wonderful addition to the classroom. As I became an expert on podcasts, I decided to make a few podcasts introducing several ways of integrating them in education.

My first podcast is a short videopodcast. It is very simple. As it focuses on teaching foreign languages I wanted to make sure the focus really is on the language. Nonetheless, I felt adding some of the text spoken in the podcast helps different learner types as they can read along. Also very practical is the space to explain unfamiliar vocabulary.

Podcast #1

podcast11.mp4

The benefits of Podcasts are plentiful.

1. Podcasts are generally short, so the attention span of our students is long enough to fully concentrate on the content.
2. Podcasts are already out there and can be a great source of authentic target language. I will talk about this in my third podcast. (coming soon)
3. Students might get interested and start subscribing to podcasts which will augment their knowledge
4. Podcasts can be used as a means of oral assessment; my second podcast explains the benefits.

Podcast #2

podcast2.mp3

5. Podcasts are fairly easy to produce when scaffolding the students. However, the fact that it is a medium our students approve of, the motivational factor is much higher than with many other projects.
6. Anxiety levels are much lower than when talking in front of everyone as opposed to simply talking into a microphone.
7. Students may be proud after succeeding in making their own podcast, which is another motivational boost.
8. Authentic podcasts may foster interest in different cultures or promote interests in sciences or other subjects students never thought about before.

Podcast #3 authentic material coming soon…
2 examples of authentic podcasts great to use in the classroom:

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/podcasts/moreorless/
British podcast on statistics and current issues, also comes with newspaper articles on BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/more_or_less/default.stm
Great for activities…
2. http://www.spoton.de/doc/24881
Easy English on pop stars, made for the classroom, with native English speakers and interviews of stars as well as a short grammar exercise at the end. Only about 5 minutes long, full interviews can be read in their magazine and some facts can be found online…

http://www.spoton.de/

Seymour Papert’s article from Mindstorms, “On Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas,” was the article that inspired me most, because I am talking about using New Media in education. Papert examines Piaget’s ideas in his article and comes to the conclusion that innovations are of tremendous importance in education. I’ll quote him to show the immense amount of significance Papert ascribes to new media: “Stated most simply, my conjecture is that the computer can concretize (and personalize) the formal. Seen in this light, it is not just another powerful educational tool. It is unique in providing us with the means for addressing what Piaget and many others see as the obstacle which is overcome in the passage from child to adult thinking.” (Papert, p.425 NMR) Papert believes that the computer makes such a big difference because it concretises formal thinking.
Seeing the role computers have in students’ lives we have to agree with Papert, that bringing them into the classroom can only enhance learning. Papert says further, “The intellectual environments offered to Children by today’s cultures are poor in opportunities to bring their thinking about thinking into the open, to learn to talk about it and to test their ideas by externalizing them. Access to computers can dramatically change this situation.” (Papert p.418 NMR). Podcasts are a great example of these new possibilities that computers have brought to the classroom. As said before they are a fantastic way of bringing authentic language and culture into the lives of students, in a way a textbook cannot keep up with.

Sources:

- http://www.boutell.com/newfaq/creating/makepodcast.html
- http://www.apple.com/quicktime/tutorials/videopodcasts.html
-http://educational.blogs.com/instructional_technology_/2004/10/podcasting_for_.html
- http://recap.ltd.uk/podcasting/info/educatortips.php
- http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~nshelley/
- http://www.schulpodcasting.info/
-http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/ldc/resource/interactions/current/aballan/allan
- Magedanz Joseph (2007), How to get a student’s ear? Try podcasting,  The Language Educator (October 2007)

Download Podcast Video
Download Standard Podcast

Original post by toyota

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Midomi Outline/ Written Component

April 30th, 2008 by · Comments Off

Why did you choose Midomi for your project?

I was skimming through an issue of Popular Science a while ago and found an article explaining the concept behind and creation of midomi. Of course, this article was written in response to midomi receiving a Best of What’s New 2007 award. I’ve always been interested in music, and have recently been following technology trends, so I naturally was drawn to the article. I had always meant to look further into midomi and try it out on my own, but never did. This project was the perfect opportunity for me to try midomi out. I promptly went out and bought the cheapest microphone I could find, then found that it wasn’t working! Upon further testing, I realized that it was not the cheapness of the mic (as I had originally assumed) but was, instead, a problem with my laptop. So I have used midomi’s search features and can attest to their accuracy, but this explains both why I have not uploaded any renditions of my own and why I chose to make my creative portion the way I did. 

So what is Midomi?

Midomi is the “ultimate music search tool” and is powered by singing, humming, or whistling. It was launched in January 2007 by Melodis Corporation. Melodis was founded by several friends at Stanford University who wanted to develop technology to identify songs that get stuck in your head. Currently there are over 2 million songs for legal download in midomi’s online store. Users have the option of either buying the album from Amazon or downloading songs from iTunes. The site is now available in 10 different languages. In addition to having this search option, midomi is a social networking site. Users can become friends or fans of each other, comment on user renditions, rate songs, write messages, post notes (either through text or audio), post pictures, follow recording artists, and create playlists.

How does Midomi’s search work?

Users can search for songs by using either a traditional text-based artist/song/album search or by singing their own renditions of a song via a microphone connected to their computer. If searching by the latter, users are shown matches according to how well elements of the rendition match up with other songs. Midomi uses a technology developed by Melodis called Multimodal Adaptive Recognition System (MARS). This technology identifies pitch variation, rhythm information, location of pauses, phonetic content and speech content in various songs and matches these with songs in the midomi database. More weight is given to stronger components. For example, phonetic and speech content would play more heavily in the search of songs sung with lyrics than in songs that are hummed or whistled. MARS searches independent of key, tempo, language, or singing quality, which means that you don’t have to be a great singer in order for the search to work! According to Melodis, MARS has 95% accuracy. It makes sense that with the more user submissions that are uploaded to midomi the more accurate the search becomes, since there is more data to search from. MARS is marketed as the future of search, and its creators feel this is the first step towards the day when we will all be able to give commands to our computers just by talking to them. Midomi features an introductory video tour for first-time users showing them how the search works.

How does this relate to what we’ve read?

In “As We May Think” Bush focuses on both the fundamentals of search and the future of recorded speech. He predicts the creation of a machine that is a hybrid of a Vocoder and a stenotype which “types when talked to” (40). He also describes a faster method of searching that narrows down the possibilities by first applying a class, then a subclass, then other subclasses until there is only one possibility left (43). This is reminiscent of MARS technology, where possibilities for song matches are found by applying certain weighted characteristics to the search process. Bush also writes that a more effective way of searching would mimic how humans think. Results would come about by a system of association rather than a system of indexing (44).

In “Man-Computer Symbiosis” Licklider predicts how computers and humans will coexist in the future. According to him computers will perform diagnosis, pattern-matching, and relevance-recognizing tasks. He believed that computers would take a secondary status in these areas (77). Indeed MARS does rely on the input of humans for the search to be effective. Additionally, humans did first specify which components were to be weighted in particular situations in the model that MARS uses. Finally, Licklider predicted in 1960 that speech recognition technologies would take at least 5 years to be developed (77).

Tell me more about the Home page.

This is where you start. Recording options are listed at the top. “My Updates” are updated hourly.

Tell me more about my Profile.

This is where you can see your updates, notes that have been posted to you, photos of yourself, your friends, your fans, your favs, the fan clubs you belong to, and your personal info. You can edit you profile, status, and preferences here, as well as upload photos and listen to your playlists and recordings.

Tell me more about the Studio.

When recording a song for the midomi database users must first identify either the song or artist name. In order for the information about artists to be viewed on midomi, that artist’s information must first appears on allmusic.com. In the case of local or lesser-known artists, this information might not be there.

Tell me more about the midomi Stars page.

This is where the top recordings, top performers, and up and coming performers are listed. Also included are recently playlisted, recently recorded, and recently featured feeds.

Tell me more about the Hot Artists page.

This is where you can view the most active and top recording artists on midomi. These are updated every two weeks. You can also see the top tracks, largest fan clubs, hottest recordings by language, and a “What’s Happening” feed. Here is where you can access artist pages/fan clubs. On individual artist pages the biography, photos, albums, songs, tour dates, and midomi fans of the artist are listed. Similar artists are also listed. User renditions of the artist’s songs are found here. Users may listen to 30 second previews of original songs and have the option of either legally downloading songs from iTunes or purchasing albums from Amazon. Users may post notes to fan club/artist pages and upload photos of the artist to the gallery.

Tell me more about the Explore feature.

Here is where you can see what renditions are available on midomi. You can narrow your search by genre, language, and date recorded. Searching is done in the categories of Recommended, Up and Coming, Top Recordings, Recently Featured, Recently Playlisted, and Fan Clubs (of which you belong). Users can listen to renditions, post notes and comments, share this rendition with friends, and buy the original version. This is a great way to find out about different midomi stars and unusual renditions! 

Is there anything else I should know about midomi?

The creators regularly update a blog which addresses user interests and queries. A forum was also launched in 2008 for the same purpose. There is also a standard Help page organized by topics/FAQ. Midomi and Melodis appear to be very open to suggestions and problems from users. Also, there are several career opportunities at Melodis for tech-saavy people. Midomi recently launched a search application for cell phones in 2008.

Why were you allowed to make your creative portion like that? Isn’t it stealing?

Here is an excerpt from the Terms of Use:

You also hereby grant to each user of the midomi Service a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the midomi Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform such User Submissions only to the extent as permitted by the functionality of the midomi Service and these Terms. If you desire midomi to prevent other Users from accessing your User Submissions, please remove them as allowed for in the midomi Service. However, we cannot guarantee that your User Submissions will be completely removed from midomi, nor that other midomi Users will not misuse any content that you supply.

And here, from the Privacy Policy:

Any member profile information, media, music, audio recording, image, comment, or any other content posted onto the midomi Service at your direction becomes publicly-published content, is not considered personally identifiable information subject to this Privacy Notice, and may be collected and used by others.

What did you use to make your creative portion?

I used a two-ended jack and plugged it into both my audio and mic holes (um, the pink and green places- excuse my lack of tech lingo). By doing so, I was able to record renditions from midomi. I then listened to the recordings and told my assistant where to edit them/ mix them. He then compiled and edited the versions into one song in Tracktion, which was then converted into an mp3. From there, I decided to make a humorous video using Windows Movie Maker that would accompany the song.

Original post by grace

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World Wide Web

April 30th, 2008 by Jacqui · Comments Off

Forgive me for this being so late…I have had A LOT to do! I do not remember when the WWW first made its debut because I was only 6 and still playing outside or something ;-) But I definitely know that the internet was always there for me as I got older. The internet can be good when I need answers or when I am bored…but it is bad when I need to be writing final papers and I am getting sidetracked surfing the web! Fortunately for my grades though I was able to stay disciplined and off the internet. Until now. (dramatic music now). But that is fine by me because I need to blog to boost my blog counts and consequently boost my grade (yippee!) I think the first tool I was using to do research was Encarta when I was in elementary school and middle school. Then after that it was any intellectual site on the web. Which reminds me that the WWW was a life saver for one of my final papers. I found out the topic a couple days before it was due and had other papers to finish so I felt I didn’t have time to stop in at the library. So instead I went to the library site and looked through journals and WA-LA, got everything I needed for them. Like I say, YAY for the internet. I love how the World Wide Web makes everything so much simpler than if we didn’t have it…sure there are millions of sites and only a few may pertain to what you are looking for…but that is the beauty of it – never running out of something to look at. Imagine if there were only a few websites and no more…BORING! Alright everyone, get offline and study or write papers!

Original post by Jacqui

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preparation for presentation

April 30th, 2008 by Jacqui · Comments Off

podcast1.mp4

Alright, sometimes it is necessary to get a little help. Thanks to Jim Groom my videopodcast now made it onto the UMW blog!

We will listen to it during the presentation…

Download Podcast Video

Original post by toyota

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podcast #1 second try…

April 29th, 2008 by · Comments Off

Already, because wordpress is being difficult, I opened a blogger acount and uploaded the video podcast there. I am not sure if it qualifies as a podcast though, cause with blogger I haven’t figured out how to add the RSS feed… but at least you can see what it’s supposed to look like…

Have fun watching video podcast #1 !

Original post by toyota

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podcast #2

April 29th, 2008 by · Comments Off

podcast2.mp3

Well, as the videopodcast is so difficult to be uploaded, I decided to go with the majority of podcasts and produced an audio podcast only this time.

Let’s hope this one was just as successfull in uploading as the first one.

Download podcast2.mp3

Original post by toyota

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