Sunday, February 24, 2013

Blogs and Forums are two views of the same information...

Because of a recent post by the Red Gypsy Blog I have started to consider what type of information I put in each of my internet locations(Blogs, facebook, twitter, etc...). Then I got me thinking of how some of these services, like Blogs, are designed primarily promote one's self, but at the same time promote conversation. And other services like forums are designed primarily for promoting discussion and secondarily to promote one's self. But in all actuality the two structures are the same!

I post in the forum to create a topic
Others can comment on that topic

I post on my blog, to create a post
Others can comment on that post

Forums are a way to organize topics and conversations based on the content.
Blogs are a way to organize topics and conversations based on who originated the topic.

Same thing really, the difference becomes how people find it. If I am searched for on the internet, my blog posts will be found, but probably not my forum posts. Honestly though, some of the most interesting things I say online are in forums. Often my blog is just a reformatted version of what I state in forums.

I envision a technological solution: Forums that are linked to personal blogs.

I go to a forum and post there to create a topic. People comment on the topic, a discussion ensues.
The forum topic automatically posts into my blog as a blog post, and the forum discussion populates as the comments in the blog.

This would allow many people to converse together in a comfortable forum situation while simultaneously be promoting their ideas on a personal blog space.

To take this idea further, we don't really need to make a distinction between blogs and forums, it is the same structure, it is just a matter of how we organize and display the same underlying information. The more I think about it the more I realize that the current system developed from logical beginnings, but has become inefficient.

Has this idea been explored already? Is there a way to view a multitude of blogs within a forum structure?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gamifying a MOOC 1 voluntary group wiki?

I have been reading "For the Win" by Kevin Werbach and considering how I could gamify my MOOC in some way. One big point that is made in the book is that the games or gamifying must be voluntary. So, I won't make the game aspects part of the assignment and official grading process. Instead, I can include game characteristics in the social side of the class experience. The first option that comes to mind is rewarding students for developing a music technology wiki. With so many pieces of software, and constant software development,  it is hard to collect all the important information in a single location and keep it up-to-date, but as a group maybe we can, if we all join in. This seems like a likely arena to explore motivating people with game techniques. ---One consideration is term gamifying, maybe crowdsourcing would be a better term? It seems that the two ideas are actually very closely related and maybe crowdsourcing usually(always?) contains aspects of game mechanics in motivating the crowd.

Intuitively, this seems like a good place to experiment with gamification, but is it really? 

--Hey Kevin, What does gamification do well?
Some of the things that games do well include encouraging problem solving, sustaining interest from novice to expert to master, breaking down big challenges into manageable steps, promoting teamwork, giving players a sense of control, personalizing the experience to each participant, rewarding out-of-the-box thinking, reducing the fear of failure that inhibits innovative experimentation, supporting diverse interests and skillsets, and cultivating a confident, optimistic attitude.
Werbach, Kevin; Hunter, Dan (2012-10-30). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Kindle Locations 501-504). Wharton Digital Press. Kindle Edition. 
Developing a wiki is largely a challenge of: "breaking down big challenges into manageable steps."  
The completed wiki, as I see it, would easily include over 500 individual pages. As a whole that is a really big challenge, but for 30,000 people it seems a fairly small task. The first task for me as the "game designer" then is to create a structure for breaking the task into small pieces.

Designer task 1: Build the wiki pages, but allow the group to develop the content within the pages.

--Hey Kevin, do you think gamification might fit my needs?
Let’s define the process more systematically. To figure out where gamification might fit your needs, consider the following four core questions:
1.Motivation: Where would you derive value from encouraging behavior?
2.Meaningful Choices: Are your target activities sufficiently interesting?
3.Structure: Can the desired behaviors be modeled through a set of algorithms?
4.Potential Conflicts: Can the game avoid conflicts with existing motivational structures? 
Werbach, Kevin; Hunter, Dan (2012-10-30). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business (Kindle Locations 556-563). Wharton Digital Press. Kindle Edition. 
1.Motivation: Where would you derive value from encouraging behavior?

Value would be in the future usage of a quality resource. All digital musicians could benefit from this resource. Future classes would benefit from the work of previous classes.

2.Meaningful Choices: Are your target activities sufficiently interesting?

This is a challenge. How can I make the activities(adding to a wiki) interesting. Hmmm, what if I mandated that a single person could only add a single sentence to any page? And that information should not be duplicated on any page. This puzzle/ruleset would lead to a set of brief  statements about the topic, each of which could be contested in the comments, and would stop a single person from dominating any topic. The rules of grammar would effectively control much of the game.

I will post now, but plan to edit the post to respond to Werbach's points 3 and 4...

What is your License?

As far as I can tell, a license is two things:

1. What you are allowing other people to do with your intellectual property.
2. What you expect in return for that allowance.

I challenge you to ignore law and tradition and come up with your own language for your license. This will establish your moral stance, allowing you to move to the practical with a clear guiding principle.

Here is mine, still working on it though.

Draft license #4:

Use this audio and visual information for any purpose. Loudon Stearns requests only credit.

Draft license #5:

Please use this audio and visual material for any purpose. Loudon Stearns requests only credit.

As you go through this process you will find that there really aren't many variables, and Creative Commons has done a wonderful job of creating a "complete" set of licenses. You could consider both of the licenses I have placed here to be the Creative Commons Attribution license. But, I feel they have a different tone and honestly I think they convey the meaning of the CC attribution license better. Most people I introduce to CC licenses do not know what "attribution" means. So, using it in the license name is problematic.

Language conveys more than meaning, it is also conveys emotion and intent. Draft license 4 and 5 are not very different, they have the same meaning, but I believe they convey different emotion and intent.

Starting the license with "please" sets up a level of civility, which I think is the real fundamental aspect of a license in the first place. "Please" also implies that I desire the material to be used further, which is true. #4 seems to say that I am OK with the material being used in another way, it seems apathetic toward the media. #5 also encourages further usage by calling the licensed media "material." Material, in common usage, is a building block, it is something used to create other things, which is exactly how I would like all my artwork to be considered.

In the end I understand the need for a legally binding and legally tested license, but the limit with that is it is meaning without emotion or intent. I will still place a "legal" license on my artistic output(the CC Attribution license) but in addition I will add my paraphrased version that conveys my desire and sets a specific tone.

So, I guess I have two challenges for you. Write your own license and come up with the CC license to use along with it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ARGs ---> ARGHs

Just read "Through the Rabbit Hole" the "rulebook" for playing ARGs ("Alternate Reality Games"). I finished it and walked away knowing, uh, not much. Honestly, the book was fine, and for the uninitiated I can see how it would be helpful. Really though, I think creating a "rulebook" misses the ENTIRE point of an ARG(more on that later).

First off, the name "Alternate Reality Game" is redundant. A game is already an alternate reality, that is a central component of what it is to be a game!

From "Rules of Play" by Sales and Zimmerman: "A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome."

"system" and "artificial conflict" that adds up to an alternate reality in my book. What is a reality but a set of rules that we all live by (physics).

Then, are ARG's games even? According to Szulborski from "Through the Rabbit Hole": "Many ARG endings don't have the feeling of finality and sense of completeness that most traditional video games do. On other words, there is no blatant "Game Over" message. In some cases, because ARGs try to mimic life so closely, players aren't even sure if a game has ended or not"

So, the game requirement of "a quantifiable outcome" is missing too.

Maybe I am being too tough on ARG's, so far I have just insulted the name, that isn't fair. The truth is ARG's do have the characteristics of game play, but I think they actually fit the category of "puzzle" much better. Puzzles, again according to Sales and Zimmerman, are a subset of games with absolute correct answers created by the game designer. And in ARG's we clearly see how there are "correct" answers embedded at every step which are crafted by the "puppet masters." So much of what goes on in ARG's is solving word puzzles.

Finally, what is the motivation in creating a "rulebook" of ARG's? ARG's belong to a set of puzzles where the rules are unknown. In creating an ARG the creators decide how much instruction to give, they decide how well defined the rules are. Then an integral part of the puzzle(and often the most interesting part) is figuring out the rules of the puzzle! The fun of an ARG is being immersed in the unknown. It is getting into the mind of the creator. It is in the thinking "if I were to have created a puzzle like this, what might I have done..." It is the process of creating a hypothesis and testing that hypothesis. It allows the player to approach an unknown system(alternate reality) like a scientist approaches our well-known system(reality). Throw the rulebook out! I know if I were to create an ARG I would look at the rule book and deliberately try to break every "rule." So, you can be sure that the next "puppet master" will too.

If ARG is a poor name, what is an appropriate name for what this is? I would go with: Trans-media Puzzle or even better: mystery hunt.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Ulmer Analogy

Central to Ulmer's apparatus theory is a division of history into three epochs: Orality, Literacy, and Electracy.
A standard practice of his is to create analogies that connect the three epochs showing how we have developed with each epoch:

Orality: church
Literacy: school
Electracy: internet

Orality: religion
Literacy: science
Electracy: entertainment

Orality: faith
Literacy: knowledge
Electracy: fantasy

I love this form of understanding as it relates theoretical knowledge to our personal experience(John Dewey would be proud).

So, I figured if I really understood apparatus theory I should be able to make my own "Ulmer Analogy" and here it is:

Orality: Idea 
Literacy: Storage 
Electracy: Relation

Oral culture developed ideas or concepts.
Literary culture developed a way to store those ideas.
Electrate culture is developing relationships between those stored ideas.

All epochs had ideas, storage, and relationships. The change has to do with which aspects technology aids us in.

In orality the mind is responsible for creating the idea, storing the idea, and accessing the idea. Permanence of ideas is a function of social interaction, they must be passed on to someone. This highlights the importance of rhetoric. Knowledge, to be permanent must be stored in many minds. The relationships between ideas can only happen if a single person has the information to be connected. It is impossible to relate all knowledge because knowledge storage and relation happens solely in the mind. It is certain that many great ideas were lost, and those people that were considered the originators of specific ideas were probably not the first to come up with the idea. They were just the ones still remembered when the tools of literature formed.

In literary culture storage is moved from the mind to a page. Ideas become more complex and diverse. One could build on the knowledge of others and easily pick up where others left off. Relation must still be done in the mind though. All relations that could be made, were made through a human mind. And those things that were related must both reside within a single mind (for a time being at least, read from a page related then forgotten). Cross referencing, translating and map-making, these are tasks of the mind in the literary culture.

In the electrate culture relation is done by technology. Computers relate vast databases, translate statistically(google translate), and create maps automatically. Connections multiply exponentially increasing information density by orders of magnitude. This is "choraspace" the web of interrelated symbols. The extent of this is relating all knowledge with all other knowledge: the creation of a complete map of knowledge. What does that leave for the brain to do?

The mind can focus on what it has done from the beginning: creation, invention, heuristics and.. choice?

Throughout all the epochs the mind had to choose. In oral culture it had to choose what to relay, in literary culture it chose what to store, in electrate culture it chooses what to relate. I am looking for food: I relate my position to the database of restaurants. I am looking for a mate: I relate my desires with a database of others' desires.

Ulmer mentions the "symmetry of history" and the importance of looking back to look forward. We have seen three epochs, does this trend give us predictive powers, could we use "Ulmer Analogies" to predict the future?

With other analogies I didn't get the sense of a next-in-the-series, but with mine I do: Idea, Storage, Relation... Computation.

Technology has repeatedly been given the task of functioning as the mind, and it has taken on the easier tasks, in the next phase it will take on the harder task of computation. You may say, computers are great at computation, but no they really aren't. Computers are incredible at a the small subset of problems that are discrete: definable with ones and zeros. Where there is a clear binary representation, computers are great. But the vast majority of our computation is symbolic, and our symbols are complex and fuzzy. Language is a complex web of ideas and half meaningful relationships isomorphically related to reality and to other languages. Computers can't compute until humans reduce that complexity, till we discretize the concepts and choose the relations. If you study sampling(the science of discretizing) you will find that information is invariably lost in the process. So, if I were to use this analogy as a predictive tool, I would say symbolic computation would be the next technological phase that will change our concept of self and thus bring in a new "Ulmer Epoch".

OK, that was fun :) <--- smiley: an electrate artifact, signifying the importance of "body" and demonstrating the electrate person's unease with literary traditions.

Can you create your own "Ulmer Analogy?" I'd love to know what you come up with.