Monster High: Transmedia Education

Whole_monster_high_crewIndividuals learn in a variety of ways (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). One method for educating is storytelling. Storytelling is a way of communicating and processing events and information; taking away the lessons that life has to offer (McKee, 1997). Understanding that people learn in a variety of ways, and that storytelling is tradition of humankind, it makes sense to tell stories using a variety of media. Hence, transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, 2007).

An example of how transmedia storytelling can teach children is Monster High. Monster High began as a web series; short 3 minute videos which tell the story of a group of students in high school. The catch is that they are all the children of famous monsters (e.g., Dracula, the werewolf, zombies, the Mummy, etc.). From there, Mattel created dolls, games on both computer and DS, art projects on their website, teen paranormal novels, kits to create your own dolls, a wiki, and a whole host of other media telling different parts of the Monster High story. Tim Kring (2008) notes that transmedia includes a central world (he calls in the ‘mothership’) from which all other media branch and to which all other media reconnect. Part of the educational aspects inherent in Monster High come not only from the facilitation of media literacy development, but from the history which is included in the creation of its world. If a child wants to know more about Cleo de Nile’s background, personality traits, habits, and interests, they must research her father (aka the Mummy) and his origins (i.e., Egypt). The same goes for every character. Children who are immersed in this story are guided to topics such as steampunk, French cathedrals, musical theatre, and mythology.

Monster HighAnother aspect of transmedia storytelling which Monster High accounts for is collective intelligence and user-generated content. Countless YouTube videos feature tutorials on recreating the makeup looks of the characters, creating custom dolls, and fan fiction. Monster High has also supported pre-teen focused social marketing content, allowing social issues to be addressed first via web video, then via wiki.

Because of the expansive ways in which transmedia storytelling reaches its audience, it can be harnassed for education as well as entertainment. Monster High is an example of that combination, though many other examples may be found throughout history (MIT, 2006).

References:

Felder, R. M., & Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability and validity of the index of learning styles. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 103–112.
Jenkins, H. (2007, March 22). Transmedia storytelling 101. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of HenryJenkins. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks.
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What is Social Media?

Defining social media is just as important as operationally defining any variable in any research. When a term or concept remains undefined, communication breaks down on a fundamental level. Individuals may discuss the same word with two very different concepts in mind. Social media has been defined as any platform facilitating communication, as well as the content which people share over social networks. Either way, before progressing into a world thick with social media, we must define it.

Social media facilitate and enhance existing and prospective social connections (Donath, 2004). Social media, in all their numerous forms, create opportunities for individuals worldwide to communicate (Rutledge, 2012).

Social media types vary based on their main functions in communication (Rutledge, 2012). Categories includes searches, blogs, wikis, folksonomy, and social networking; each category comes with a variety of applications, sites, platforms, and technologies to facilitate their particular function (2012).  Additionally, individuals may use the same social media in a variety of ways (Chayko, 2008).

Twitter is used to connect like minded communities based on interests and geographical locations (Java, Finn, Song, & Tseng, 2007). Facebook tends to be used to maintain and strengthen pre-existing relationships (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). MMORPGs have been used to develop skill such as teamwork and leadership, as have first-person shooters (Cole & Griffiths, 2007; Jansz & Tanis, 2007). Social media are also used as a means of identity verification (Burke & Stets, 2009), overcoming social phobias and marginalization (Cabiria, 2008; Orr et al., 2009), and education (Barnett & Coulson, 2010).

References:

Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology14(2), 167–179. doi:10.1037/a0019442
Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/id/10329671
Cabiria, J. (2008). Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 575-583. doi: 10.1089/cpb.200739988
 Donath, J. (2004). Sociable media.
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication12(4), 1143–1168.
Java, A., Finn, T., Song, X., & Tseng, B. (2007). Why we Twitter: Understanding microblogging usage and communities.
Jansz, J., & Tanis, M. (2007). Appeal of playing online first person shooter games. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(1), 133–136. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9981
Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M. G., Arseneault, J. M., & Orr, R. R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of Facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(3), 337–340. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0214

Rutledge, P. (2012, September). Social media 101 [PowerPoint].

The History of Scrollbars [PIC]

See on Scoop.itOomph! Media Garage

Take a trip down memory lane with a look back at the history of scrollbars.

See on mashable.com

Just the Tip of the “Gamification” Iceberg

Earlier this year, I was exposed to Seth Priebatsch via assigned reading/viewing for my Immersive Media & Mobile Advocacy class at Fielding. His TED Talk got me thinking; how is my life like a game? How could it be? As a gamer, are there ways to take what I know of my gaming motivations and use them as motivations for success in the real world? Can that work for motivating others around me? The contemplation is really endless; considering types of games and how they can be implemented into real life, what type of gamer you are and why, and how realistic would it be to implement gaming elements into you real life routine? I could go on and on.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me to see an article about a prison using gaming elements as reinforcement for desired behaviors. Scoop.it, how you know what I’m craving to read. I was also, surprised (again… shouldn’t have been) to see that it was written by Seth. He describes a prison (Louisiana State Pen) using various rewards (e.g., an annual rodeo, pet ownership, the opportunity to hold a job, etc.) as reinforcement for desired behavior. Some of the rewards require years of work and appropriate behavior to earn. Seth describes the reasons the game works: pride and meaning. He notes that the rewards (particularly the rodeo) means freedom, accomplishment, and notoriety. He also explains that these accomplishments are similar to levels in a game. Sometimes, we play games just to say we got to that unreachable level, or to see what came after reaching the top. The same elements can be applied to real life situations if we consider “gamification” fully and take its potential and power seriously.

References:

Priebatsch, S. (2012, August). Gaming reality. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/08/tech/gaming.series/prison.html

Game Review: Smite

First, let me start by saying that I’m a League of Legends (LoL) fangirl. I tell you this because when I say Smite might motivate me to leave LoL, it should have impact. Smite has all the things I like about LoL, but takes care of a few of the things I don’t; including the excessive number of trolls and flamers that Riot bans people for reporting. More on that another time. For now, let’s talk Smite!

I’ve always been interested in mythology; no secret there. I have written before about Joseph Campbell and his words of wisdom, not the least of which include the hero’s journey and the universality of myths as truths. Smite uses gods from a variety of mythologies (e.g., Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Egyptian, etc.) and turns them into mages and melee fighters. In teams of 5v5, you set off down the three lanes, all full of towers and minions (and yes, there are jungles too) all leading to your goal; the Minotaur. Take down the fierce golden Minotaur, and you claim victory for your team. Simple as that… in theory.

The view is third person, so it feels more like World of Warcraft than LoL in that respect. Movement is very familiar if you play WoW as well: WASD for running, number keys for abilities, and the mouse guiding your direction of travel. Like with LoL, you use favor (aka IP) or gems (the in-game currency that has to be purchased with actual money) to unlock gods and a variety of skins. There are some gods who excel at defense, some at magic use, and some at melee fighting; as in most any MOBA. And, of course, you can purchase a wide variety of items to passively buff any number of stats on each character. One of the great things about Smite (at least as compared to LoL) is the ability to have your items and abilities auto leveled for you. This means those who are consumed with trying NOT to nerf their team can focus on other things. As you’re entering the game, you simply unmark the boxes for either or both when you’re ready to customize your toon.

Since I’m sure you’re well versed in MOBAs by now, I’ll talk about particulars only briefly. The graphics for this game are phenomenal. The detail to the characters both in character select, in the animations for the skins, and in game play is breathtaking. The sounds for the game aren’t spectacular, but they’re not overwhelming either. The characters have their taunts and musings, and the voices are well done, but they are by no means meant to make or break the game. Something auditory, however, that I did find amusing/helpful was a verbal cue for team notifications. In other words, when someone is trying to warn you that the right lane that you’re trying to push is about to be ganked, a voice says, “Right lane under attack!” and whether you look at the map or read the chat log, you know what’s coming. To be honest, I prefer that to a “PING” any day. Especially when people are spamming the ping… but I digress.

In my opinion, the significant advantage this game has over LoL is the immersion. Because this game is done in third person point of view, the game is far more transportational than LoL is. There is no overhead view; you are IN the battlefield. This, of course, makes map awareness vital, but allies and opponents are labeled well from the third person view as well, so as long as they’re visible, you can easily weave your way through the jungles and lanes. Team fights are also facilitated well by the ease of map awareness and the point of view change. Another bonus (or frustration depending on how you play) is the immersion in fights. As a ranged character, every ability is a skill shot; you HAVE to aim your shots and be in range. However, you’re given an arrow to line your shots up with (making my life SO much easier). As a melee character, you can also see where your ability is going to hit (you can walk around with your ability range lit before you take the shot… VERY handy), but when you’re auto attacking, you have to stay oriented; much harder to do when you aren’t look on from above. 

From a psychological perspective, the social aspect of the game is definitely present; there are chat tabs that you’re constantly exposed to in the lobby (much like you are with WoW), and this is where you friend chats pop up as well. Anyone who has managed tabs on a web browser, can manage these. Though the game is in closed beta, current players have been given invitations to send to friends, and you can always request a game key directly from Hi-Rez (mine took only a few hours to arrive). Either way, the ability to play with friends is definitely a motivator for some to play this game. If your friends aren’t on the game (or you want to get REALLY good before you invite them… ahem…), there is still the team play socialization that facilitates cooperation, planning, leadership, and social adeptness. This game has levels, favor, and types of game play which become available only after reaching certain levels as a player; all of these become reinforcers and promote achievement based game play motivation. The increased immersion, thanks to the third person view, makes escapism and transportation easier and more fulfilling.

Whatever your reason for playing MOBAs, this game covers it well. If you’re a player who likes a laid back, stress free game there are solo training matches where you go one on one, and all characters are available for play. You don’t get favor here, but you get to try before you buy and you can get a feel for the game before you wade into the waters as a noob in the pvp realm. Once you get really good, there are ranked games with more game play styles being released soon. Now is a great time to start playing. If you like MOBAs, my guess is you’ll love this one; it’s not out with the old, in with the new. It’s, “Now here’s something we hope you’ll REALLY like!”

Target Audiences in a Virtual World

Smith and Wollan (2011) discuss barriers to using online social media for customer feedback. The need for instantaneous response to feedback is a grave one. Work of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. As such, it also has a large effect on negative feedback. This is called aggressive consumer activism (Smith & Wollan, 2011). By immediately addressing concerns and comments, companies can effectively minimize the damage done by this negative feedback. Of course, it isn’t possible to deal with every single piece of information/feedback/criticism given by customers. This is challenge number two. Companies must have a fluid and well constructed way to deal with customer input. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--N6cn5nBwkE/T8rH8nUm9FI/AAAAAAAAAVc/u-sU9YbkBWk/s1600/targetaudience2.jpgThis is a challenge in and of itself. There are a variety of media at the customers’ disposal for feedback. It all has to be monitored, data input and checked against the company’s goals and measurement standards. And, even if they did have a program for dealing with customer data, no one can please everyone all the time. What one customer likes the other may not; even within the same target audience. For that matter, there may be a significant difference between what the customer who expresses himself thinks/wants/feels, and the customer who doesn’t express himself, but whose opinion matters all the same.

Smith and Wollan (2011) also offer suggestions as to the way around some of these barriers. By partnering with influential users of social media, companies can target audiences within a certain area of their market. Organizations can allow existing networks to work for them. Influential social media users have the ability to harness their credibility with followers and friends in a persuasive manner. By obtaining the support of these influential few, companies are able to zero in on their target audience, monitor feedback in a more concentrated way (e.g., monitor the youtube comments of their video blogger who is followed by zillions), and immediately respond to that feedback.

It is my opinion that we all have trusted sites, bloggers, and critics who we find closely represent our personal opinions. By accessing those key people, marketers can reach a larger group of customers. I know that I personally read very specific websites for game reviews. If they don’t like the game, I won’t buy them.

Tell me this isn’t bad ass…. Also… it clicks SO PRETTY!

When I worked for one of these review sites, marketers gave free copies of games to me, asking me to write a review. By giving me a free copy, they were getting their foot in the door, and I was more likely to enjoy the game, as I had a good taste in my mouth about the company gifting it to me. My favorite example of that was when I was given a keyboard to review. My review was so positive and reached so many people, that the company gave me the $130.00 keyboard as a gift. I STILL rave about it. A good example of reaching one to affect the masses (also, I LOVE THIS KEYBOARD!)

Desperately Seeking Future

This is the portion of the show where we contemplate what our dream social technology would do. I’m not great at dreaming big (the hazard of being a realist). I am, however, great at explaining why I like what I like; we start there.

First and foremost, my favorite social media is Google; all of it. The reason being that there are so many ways to connect, types of uses, and useful media all under one roof. That being said, Google doesn’t work under one application (at least on my phone), so moving from one to the other can be challenging. Google, as a company, seems to be mindful of ways in which the internet COULD be used better, rather than just coming up with more options for current use (although Google+ did kinda do that).

I love Skype because it allows me to see and hear friends who are far away (same reason I enjoy Google Hangouts). I like Twitter because it allows me to connect with people I don’t otherwise know via networking and like-minded communities. Most of my new friends come from Twitter. Twitter, for the record, is also where my secret venting account is. Control over who sees you ginger rage is good. Facebook allows me to keep contact with friends from long ago, keep up on current events (because that’s where they get posted… sadly), and keep in (distant) touch with family that is, well… family. StumbleUpon and Pinterest allow me to explore sites and places on the interwebs that I would likely never find on my own, as well as connect with people who are like minded. Foursquare feeds my competitive side while I’m out doing chores I would be doing otherwise, helps me connect with people in my community who frequent similar places, and gives great access to great tips and discounts. I love texting because it allows me to have instant access to my friends and let’s me word things deliberately. Email gives me a similar outlet, but I tend to use it more formally, and typically when I don’t need an immediate response. I love Pandora because it let’s me discover new music for when I’m studying or gaming, as well as let’s me customize a playlist of music I don’t necessarily own. Dropbox allows me to share things that I don’t want everyone else to see. Gaming let’s me socialize, achieve, and escape. And I love the skills I develop from gaming as well. Finally, WordPress, of course, gives me a place to share my passion, as nerdy as they tend to be. 😉

So, now that I’ve nearly exhausted my list of social technologies I love already, what can be better? Having them all in one place. While the cell phone is nearly that (and allows for immediate and mobile access to boot), I’m talking about an all in one, open source (Apple and Microsoft give me a headache with their exclusivity and partnering), simply designed but fully customizable, social technology that allows for all of my contacts, venting, exploring, connecting,  sharing, etc.

Oh… and here’s the kicker; the reason it’s a dream: I want it to be ad free. No sponsors begging me to allow them to control all of my doohickies… none of that.  I know it’s a lot to ask. But this is MY dream, right?

OOH! And since we ARE dreaming… I want it all to be in an AR contact lens that allows me to drive and still wear my vision correcting lenses. 🙂

Portable Media: What Will These Crazy Kids Come Up With Next?

Mobility means the ability to take something outside of it’s typical physical limitations. It means not having to adhere to a specific locale. But this doesn’t have to only refer to our ability to carry something with us, it can also mean the movement of metal property from one sociomental space to another. Messages may travel from one person to the next; this network of consumers (who are simultaneously producing content) becomes a very powerful, very intimidating thing (Shirky, 2009).But the fact that we can also carry physical connections to our networks means we are able to distribute our mental property at any time, to any one in the world.

Mobile technology can become a powerful tool. When we forget the latest and greatest features, and get back to the basic operations, remembering it’s very basic functions and putting them to work creatively is when we are empowered by them (Shirky, 2009). Indigenous people are using social media to communicate their struggles, pass on tradition, and overcome oppression (Wilson & Steward, 2008). People find it their personal mission to deploy social agendas via portable technologies (Chayko, 2008). Chayko observes that the ‘have nots’ are falling further behind as technology swiftly progresses. However, I would argue that the ‘haves’ are more aware, willing, and able to take part in supporting those agendas than ever before. That being said, the uses for these mobile technologies need not be so profound.

Cell phones may be used as tools for writing (Pertierra, 2005). Excellent examples of this are cellphone novels. Though most of it’s popularity comes from Japan, cellphone novels are a great way to create, distribute, and receive feedback on novels in microbursts. Those subscribing to a story can elect to read them on the internet, or have them sent via SMS text at varying intervals. This would be a great addition to the Whisperer’s Web portfolio. Being able to share the gossip that is created via SMS novels would allow for the gossip to spread, be immediately responded to, and allows for a whole different level of improvisation and socialmental connection to others in the group.

In my opinion, the really fantastic thing about portable media is the way it demolishes physical boundaries and pulls the world into a much smaller sphere. Connecting with people all over the world- listening to their plights, building foundations of trust based on universal truths, and greatly reducing the effects of prejudices- in order to accomplish anything the most creative person could dream up… it is something magical, motivating, and scary as hell.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Pertierra,R. (2005). Mobile phones, identity, and discursive intimacy. HumanTechnology1(1), 23-44. Retrieved from: http://www.humantechnology.jyu.fi

Shirky, C. (2009). How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook make history [Web video]. TED Talks. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0

Wilson, P., & Stewart, M. (Eds.). (2008). Global indigenous media: Cultures, poetics, and politics. London: Duke University Press.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

As I consider the chapters for this week’s post- the paths of the waves of information contained in each, and how they are relevant to me- it occurs to me that these Chayko and Shayo et al. are discussing different sides of the same coin. 

Chayko (2008) explains the parts of the whole. The individual phenomena that are a result of the post modern ‘information highway’ that is the current technological explosion. She discusses how post modern work and personal relationships may be similar to, or an advancement of, more traditional relationship development. She also presents reasons for these developments (e.g., how social media functionally support close emotional bonds in which physical spheres need never be the same). She is able to articulate how we process this new technology, and how it is able to work its way into our social norms. In other words, Chayko presents us with the ingredients to our virtual society 7-layer dip.

Shayo et al. (2007) may be described as the sum of its parts. In other words, explaining that we’re headed for a virtual society, where it comes from, where it is headed, what the challenges that come from it are, and what we can do with it. They have effectively zoomed out from Chayko’s perspective. Understanding that virtual societies need specific support and have specific roots, but facilitate a vast array of activities within work and social organizations and communities, allows us to help mediate these developments.

In my life, personally, I have experienced astounding changes in the way I approach school, relationships, and even work. Being able to attend Fielding is one example of how virtual organizations and communities work. Last semester I worked on a project with my friend Crystal. I met Crystal via classes at Fielding, we began skyping and building cognitive resonance. When the opportunity to begin a team project came up, we took it, having found that we get along very well, and even have complementary strengths. Using only virtual tools (e.g., Skype, Google docs, SMS, and Prezi), we were able to create a presentation that we were both very proud of. In previous posts, I’ve discussed my long distance relationship with my best friend. I successfully directed our court in the 3 Barons Renaissance Fair with the help of several types of media, thus creating a virtual community with which to share information, documents, immersive storytelling opportunities, and more.

Chayko (2008) recognizes that cyberspace is a place that we go to; not unlike the library, zoo, theatre, or school. We have learned- and continue to learn- to use a variety of media to achieve the desired results, to nearly every task we undertake. In my opinion, it is important to understand all sides of this coin; to comprehend the pieces, causes, results, and uses to the virtual society and sociomental spaces that are created by web 2.0 and all of it’s co-conspirators (i.e., mobile phones, applications, email, etc.) if for no other reason than the dissolution of borders and prejudices.