May 25, 2007
MIT C3 WEEKLY UPDATE
Weekend of May 25, 2007
*Opening Note: Shenja van der Graaf on the "Digital Native"
*Glancing at the C3 Blog
*Closing Note: Doris C. Rusch Looks at WarrioWare: Smooth Moves, Part I of II
--------------- EDITOR'S NOTE ---------------
Welcome to this week's Weekly Update from C3.
This issue features all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog. Also, the site includes tools to favorite the blog on Technorati, so be sure to do so if you read on a regular basis.
This week's update features an opening note from C3 Affiliated Researcher Shenja van der Graaf, who writes about the "digital native."
This week's closing note is the first part of a two-part series from C3 Affiliated Researcher Doris C. Rusch, who provides a look at the game play of WarrioWare: Smooth Moves. The second part of this piece will appear as the opening note in next week's Weekly Update.
If you have any questions or comments or would like to request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford, Editor of the Weekly Update, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------
By: Shenja van der Graaf
The Digital Native was the reason that Time Magazine chose "you" as the Person of the Year for 2006. "We" won this honor because the true Digital Native doesn't just experience information online. She is much more a creator of information online than a consumer. The Time Magazine honor was bestowed on "you" -- though, in a fundamental sense, on those who live digitally -- for participating in an explosion of online creativity. This story is about the millions of young people who have been born digital. The story is about those who wear the earbuds of an iPod on the subway to their first job, not those of us who still remember how to operate a Sony Walkman.
In 1995, Nicholas Negroponte told the story of how we were to learn what "Being Digital" means. His predictions, for many of us, have already begun to come true. At the time, his bold pronouncements about what the transition from analog to digital would mean seemed fanciful. Today, it's hard to quarrel with his prescience on most topics. Today, the question is what it means to have been "Born Digital." It's that story that is the narrative of the research project that I'm going to work on as a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society from August onwards.
There is much more that divides the first digital generation from the second digital generation than how much they pay for their music. The kids becoming university students and new entrants in the workforce are digital natives. Unlike those of us just a shade older, this new generation didn't have to relearn anything to live lives of digital immersion. They learned in digital the first time around.
The hallmarks of the Born Digital generation are neither good nor bad as an inherent matter. The good part of being born digital is that you might use the technologies to become more connected to friends, to co-workers, to information, to other cultures. In the case of the earnest few, digital technologies enable young people to become more connected to civic life through online politicking. These technologies afford an opportunity to re-energize the way that we educate our children in an increasingly global society. Another hallmark of those born digital is greater mobility. This mobility means that you can be more connected to all aspects of your life as you pass through real space, even across great distances. The nature and pattern of relationships change, too, for those born digital. A young person's relationship to friends, parents, teachers, bosses (present and future), may well take on quite different contours than the relationships her parents had with others. Perhaps more dramatic, her relationship to her own culture, to the culture of others, and her relationship to power might also be altered, and then change quickly over time as the technologies and the way she uses them evolve.
The effects of many of these changes are flat-out worrisome. Those with reason to worry include the parent, the teacher, the employer, and the policy-maker. Parents worry most, unfortunately with good reason, that their digital kids are more at risk of abduction when they spend hours a day in an uncontrolled digital environment where few things are precisely as they seem at first glance. Harder yet to control, children are exposed earlier to hateful ideas and images, even if they live in communities where these ideas and images are not a part of everyday life. Teachers worry that they themselves are out of step with those they are teaching, that the skills they have imparted over time are becoming either lost or obsolete, and that the pedagogy of our educational system cannot keep up with the changes in the digital landscape. Companies in the entertainment industry worry that they'll lose their profits to piracy, while newspapers fear their readerships turning to Drudge, blogs, Google, and worse for their news.
The challenge at the heart of this project is first to understand these trends and then to think ahead to the implications. Trickiest still, of course, is to figure out what to do about them. Despite the uncertainty inherent in predicting the future, now is the time to look ahead, whether as parents or teachers or policy-makers or technologists or Digital Natives themselves, and to shape -- where we can, without doing harm -- the regulatory framework for the emerging digital space in ways that advance the public interest. In some cases, like the surge in online creativity, these trends point to opportunities we should harness. In others, substantial dangers lurk in the digital future that we ought to head off at the pass. As a global society, can we come to understand what's happening with a generation online, to embrace a digital present, and to shape, in constructive ways, a more digital future?
Shenja van der Graaf is an international scholar who has studied at Utrecht University, Leiden University, the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the London School of Economics, where she is currently working on her doctorate. She studies the Japanese, American, and European media industry and markets.
She will be moving to Cambridge for her work at the Berkman Center and writes to C3 community members located in the Boston area: "I'm really excited to start working as a research fellow at the Berkman Center. As a result I will be moving to the Cambridge/Boston area and hope you can help me with finding a suitable place to stay... Needless to say, you will see much more of me in the near future!"
---------- NEWS FROM THE C3 BLOG -----------
Most Popular Content on C3 Site--RSS Feeds. In this continuing look at how to measure the most popular content on one's site, the most popular posts from C3's Feedburner data is analyzed, to compare with page views from Google Analytics.
Most Popular Content on C3 Site--Page Views. The most popular content on C3's blog since it began being measured last Halloween includes posts on the soap opera industry driven by links from fan discussion boards, content largely driven from search engines on MTV Scarred and the Cartoon Network/Boston situation, and content that was linked to prominently by other blogs, including a piece on Turner's Super Deluxe.
Links to Interesting Posts from Bryant, Mittell, Baym, Jenkins, Shark. With more interesting content being written across the blogosphere than the C3 blog possibly had time to respond to, this post provides links to a variety of interesting stories from C3-affiliated researchers and others looking at similar areas.
Looking Back at Some Posts from C3's First Year. As the readership for the C3 blog has increased significantly in the past academic year, this post provides readers with a look back at some work from the first several months of the blog, emphasizing posts that have not been linked back to often since but remain somewhat relevant.
Cultural Biases and Academic Research: Housel's Review of The Toothpaste of Immortality. A review in The Journal of Popular Culture looks at a book on consumer culture and deconstructs what the reviewer sees as cultural biases on the part of the author, in a reminder that human beings lie behind any type of research--and the stereotypes that come with them.
Understanding Celebrity Endorsements and Meaning Transfer. An interesting piece in The Journal of Popular Culture builds on Grant McCracken's work on celebrity endorsements by trying to better understand the way in which meaning transfers from celebrity to product to consumer, although the attempts to quantify it may be problematic.
Joost Inks a Deal with the CAA. The upstart Internet video platform hopes to differentiate itself by providing high-quality visuals, and the company hopes to secure further content by working with the Creative Artists Agency.
Fan Videos and Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm joins Sci Fi in providing video to fans for them to remix and edit in new configurations, opening up a variety of questions as to what such "official" fan creativity means for the fan community.
VOD vs. Online Video: Alternative Methods for Television Content. These two alternate platforms for television content both have their upsides, but companies are still managing the best strategy to use for distributing content in each format.
YouTube Expands Role in Providing Branded Channels, Encouraging User-Generated Episodic Content. The Google-owned company opens up a new contest for sketch comedy from its users, in conjunction with Sierra Mist, while also creating a new branded channel for National Geographic video content.
Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib. Henry Jenkins cross-posts a recent piece from his blog looking at the FanLib site as a home for fan fiction, in response to Ivan Askwith's piece mentioned last week.
Media Industry Jobs in a Convergence Culture. As media companies strive to get a handle on new media technologies and new cultural practices, the industry must find a way to deal with new problems using the corporate infrastructure that has built over the years...making finding the position that is a perfect fit increasingly hard for media professionals.
Reframing the Text: Television and New Ways of Viewing. C3 Affiliated Faculty Jason Mittell recently wrote about how new technologies for distribution (and redistribution) have greater effect on television than film, in response to a piece from David Bordwell on how changes in presentation and consumption do not necessarily lead to changes in how stories are told in film. This piece looks further at how DVD sets, etc., create contexts on how to divide a television series into clear categories and make sense of a much larger text than a singular film provides.
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--------------- CLOSING NOTE ---------------
The Challenges, Pleasures and Pitfalls of WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Part I of II
By: Doris C. Rusch
I stand in the middle of a cheering crowd at my work place (isn't it great to be a game scholar?), holding my wii controller in the graceful stance of the sketch artist, and when I finally realize what I should have been doing, my chance to throw that "pen" at the dartboard has already passed. There goes another turtle, oh no!
The Nintendo wii game WarioWare: Smooth Moves belies its title in that it is rather a cognitive than a kinesthetic challenge. Of course, from the perspective of the viewer, seeing your esteemed colleagues clumsily wagging an elephant's trunk in order to collect virtual apples has a certain appeal. But as a player, the main challenge lies in figuring out what action is required in a very limited amount of time. The following is an analysis of the sense-making challenges, pleasures and pitfalls that occur in the course of the "Evil Attacks Diamond Dojo" episode.
In the introductory video sequence, the Dojo is threatened by an evil demon. The fierce warriors Kat and Ana rush to the rescue. Before entering the Dojo, they turn into four turtles, symbolizing the four lives the player has at her disposal in the fight against evil. The goal is to advance through a corridor of minigames and to win the boss fight at the end of the episode. With every lost minigame, the player loses one precious turtle and rescuing the Dojo becomes more unlikely.
One main objective of WarioWare: Smooth Moves is to show off the many different ways to operate the Form Baton (i.e. the controller). The special attraction of these operation modes is the physical analogy between input method and on-screen action. These physical analogies make the interaction with the game world feel very intuitive and immediate.
Every new operation mode is introduced by a cut-scene which not only explains how the Form Baton has to be handled, but also puts the new input method in a fictional context, clearly labeling it for future ease of recollection in reference to this context. E.g. "The chauffeur" cut-scene explains that one has to grab the Form Baton left and right like a steering wheel. In "the samurai," the image of a hungry Sumarai defending his lunch by vigorously drawing his sword from the hip is evoked, and, in the "sketch-artist" cut scene, the situation of a pop quiz and an artist drawing an apple is called up.
How these cut-scenes are composed is interesting in itself and deserves some analysis here. In the middle of the screen, written text slowly unfolds while it is read voice over. The text /voiceover explains how the player has to hold the controller by comparing the stance to an easily recognizable fictional situation (see above). Additionally, the scene contains two illustrative clip-art images: in the foreground is the image of the Form Baton and how it has to be held (e.g. two hands grabbing the controller at both sides), and, in the background, one sees the fictional reference to this operation mode (e.g. a man in the front of a car with both hands on the steering wheel).
The foregrounding / backgrounding of images implies a hierachical order of their information content (i.e. it is more important to remember how to hold the controller than to remember the fictional setting) that is undermined by the labeling of the interaction method (e.g. "the chauffeur," "the sketch artist") as well as the text / voice over that also refers strongly to the fictional context. E.g. in the case of "the sketch-artist": "Hold the Form Baton as you would a stencil during a pop quiz, delicately but defiantly. Mastery of this move can change a pop quizzee into a pop quizzer."
These elaborate introductions of new operation modes establish distinct metaphors that can be easily recalled at the beginning of each new minigame by only showing the foregrounded image of the initial cut-scene in combination with the label.
The introductory cut-scenes address not only one aspect of every operation mode, but three:
1. how the Form Baton is held;
2. how it is moved; and
3. what it represents in the fictional setting it has been introduced in (e.g. a steering wheel, or a pen).
This threefold attribution of interaction techniques is a source of confusion in the "Diamond Dojo" episode and presents many, mostly pleasurable, sense-making challenges. A close analysis of these challenges and pleasures but also pitfalls follows in part 2 of this article.
The conclusion of Think Smooth: The Challenges, Pleasures and Pitfalls of WarrioWare: Smooth Moves will appear in the opening note of next week's C3 Weekly Update.
Doris C. Rusch is an affiliated researcher with the Convergence Culture Consortium. She has done postdoctoral work at the Institute for Design and Assessment of Technology at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. She has been working as community manager for the online game Papermint through Austrian game company Avaloop.
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