A Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a way of considering information in order to form an opinion which is based in logic, humility, and research.

Critical thinking lets us decide how we feel about things. It is a practiced set of skills that helps us consider things thoroughly before drawing conclusions about them, and saves us from the assumptions, inferences, and irrational conclusions of anyone who isn’t considering all sides of an argument. Just as we would when forming an argument, we start with our opinion then look into why we think what we do, what others think, why others might think the way they do, and what other questions could possibly be asked about the topic. Then we go about trying to answering those questions (Weston, 2009).

QuestionsCritical thinking takes humility. We have to be willing to honestly consider the possibility that others have valid points, and ultimately be willing to admit that our initial opinion was wrong and adjust accordingly. And, what’s more, we have to be able to either trust that our sources are able to do the same or know how to sift through what in their argument is opinion and what is fact (Browne & Keeley, 2007).

We must either know, or be able to figure out, where to get information. We have to be able to sort through sources, deciding what is reliable and generalizable and what is not (Dowden, 2002; Paul & Elder, 2001; Weston, 2009). We have to understand what our sources are talking about and whether the context fits what we are researching. For example, when John Locke (1689) talks about human understanding, it helps us put his words into context when we know the zeitgeist. Another example is our need to take into consideration the effect that Richard Paul (2001) selling a product has on his discussion of the importance and nature of critical thinking. And when Dr. Dowden (2002) discusses skills needed for critical thinking, is he only targeting those seeking to go to college. Does that change the meaning of the argument for rest of us?

EternalA definition of critical thinking is only the first step in determining whether it is important to us, how to use it, and when to use it; as discussed above, progress requires questions. When researching critical thinking, is it important to know what the end goal is? In other words, does it matter why you want to be able to think critically? Does the definition of critical thinking change when considering media messages as opposed to considering what to eat for lunch? Is there a time when critical thinking becomes unnecessary or overly complicated? Is there a basic formula for critical thinking that can be followed? Does the way in which someone goes about applying critical thinking change the results of their analysis? These questions and more may lead us to making more well-rounded conclusions about critical thinking.


Browne, M. N., & Keeley, S. M. (2007). Asking the right questions: a guide to critical thinking (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Dowden. (2002). A summary of critical thinking skills. Retrieved from: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/d/dowdenb/4/ct-def/ct-skills.htm

Locke, J. (1689). An essay concerning human understanding. In L. Pojman (Ed.), Classics of philosophy (pp 653-689). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Modified from the book by Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2001). Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life.

Weston, A. (2009). A rulebook for arguments. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub.

*Cartoons can be found at http://faculty.spokanefalls.edu/InetShare/AutoWebs/jimp/Cartoons/arethere.gif and
http://faculty.spokanefalls.edu/InetShare/AutoWebs/jimp/Cartoons/questions.gif respectively*

Define ‘Scholarly’

Chris Nitz Photo: Crushed by Knowledge If we objectively define ‘scholarly’ as “concerned with academic learning and research” (Dictionary.com,  2012), we find ourselves with a vague definition. We may be tempted to immediately think of left-brained academics. However, discrepancies in what must be considered academic may change that definition. If, for example, we define academics as pertaining to sciences or literacy, we end with a very different result than if we define academics as pertaining to any subject which facilitates the further development of a particular skill. Sir Ken Robinson (2006) notes that a major short coming of academics now is that we define academics much like the former, but would be served better to treat it as the latter.

Chris Nitz: A Keyboard Kind of LifeHowever, in writing, the target audience is the one that matters. As such, if you are writing to a group of social scientists, the expectation is that the prescribed protocol will be followed (Polkinghorne, 2007), and so on. In this way then, scholarly writing should be defined more along the lines of writing which facilitates the communication of critical thinking and rhetoric within a given field, using the prescribed masteries of that field. This allows for all subjects regardless of the paradigm currently subscribed to in academia.


Dictionary.com (2012). ‘Scholarly’. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/scholarly?s=t

Polkinghorne, D. E. (2007). Qualitative inquiry: validity issues in narrative writing. Qualitative Inquiry13(4), 472.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Ken robinson says schools kill creativity.. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Sherpani: Part of Your World

The Little Mermaid (the original Hans Christian Anderson version) is an example of Campbell’s ‘monomyth’ (Vogler, 2007). As archetypes go, it is a story of the Lover as well as the Explorer (Mark & Pearson, 2001). This story speaks to both of these archetypes through the goals of the Little Mermaid; the love of the prince and an eternal soul (and in some analyses of the story, experiencing the unknown). A brand that resonates well with both of these concepts is Sherpani. Sherpani’s brand embraces the concept of “Breathe, Give, Stretch, Go.” The idea behind Sherpani is that women are unique, active, and should be able to have bags that embrace femininity and the outdoors. In their concept, breathe stands for “breathe fresh air”, give means “give your love”, stretch represents “stretch your mind and body”, and go reminds us to “never stop moving”. The Little Mermaid embodies all of these notions.

As such, one might harness the existing story in the form of a text-based novel for the main story anchor medium (Rutledge, 2013). The Little Mermaid could have an online journal (blog) which serves as a diary for collecting her thoughts, contemplations, events/experiences, and perceptions of what is happening. She could also post photos of the prince and links to dances she learns for him. And the Little Mermaid’s blog could allow for comments which could encourage readers to share stories of love, advice on how to interact with surface dwellers, princes, and/or general feedback on posts. This resonates with each of Sherpani’s core words.

The Prince may have an interactive online nautical map, complete with notes on trips, information about ships (e.g., costs, crew lists, photos, checklists for expedition preparations, etc.), information about the sea (from a surface perspective), and may solicit ideas about future trips from readers, as well as their photos, maps, and suggestions for gear. This, while not feminine per say, embraces the core concept of ‘stretch’.

An interactive game could allow readers to attempt to make it through the trial period of a Daughter of the Air to their rise to the eternal kingdom by allowing them to visit houses and collect smiles while avoiding tears. The game could be made as a downloadable mobile app or as an indie game on XBox or PS networks. The game could allow readers to accept the fate of the Little Mermaid as immortal, even after her loss, which assures the safety of the reader (Nell, 2002) regarding the immortality of his/her soul. This embraces, quite literally, Sherpani’s concept of ‘breathe’.

The Little Mermaid could also have an Instagram account on which she takes pictures of the adventures she has with the prince (i.e., exploring the kingdom). She could also have a Twitter account on which she posts observations about the trips, is able to post the Instagram photos, can mention the prince, and allow them to communicate (as she has no tongue). This resonates with Sherpani’s core concept of ‘go’.

The Little Mermaid’s five sisters could have a Vine account which would allow them to discuss hair care, the hottest products, and the latest trends in merfolk fashion as well as connect with surface dwellers (aka readers) and exchange fashion savvy. The fashion account allows the sisters’ sacrifice to be more meaningful, while allowing for immersion which carries on throughout the readers day as decisions about clothing and accessories are made. To this end, the sisters could even create a Postmark account and sell accessories by artists who have partnered up with Sherpani, as a means of supporting a social campaign like The Cove. This also embraces the core concept of ‘give’ in a variety of ways (i.e., giving love but also loving individual uniqueness and styles).

The Little Mermaid, as a fairytale allows readers to experience a roller-coaster of emotions, as she moves through her hero’s journey. Allowing readers to be involved in that journey by harnessing the innate archetypes contained therein, propels this timeless classic into its next evolution, and allows Sherpani the embrace archetypes and the telling of universal truths, an ability exhibited by icons (Mark & Pearson, 2001).


Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

Nell, V. (2002). Mythic Structures in Narrative. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations (pp. 17-37). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum

Rutledge, P. (2013). Case study example: The three little pigs. Retrieved from: http://athinklab.com/transmedia-storytelling/case-study-example-the-three-little-pigs/

Vogler, Christopher. (2007). The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Third ed.). Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books. p. 3-27.


Being in love with technology (aka ‘technophilia) is not as shocking as it may seem. A passion for inatimate things, living things, things that make our lives easier, and things that facilitate secret (or not so secret) desires has long since been a common thing; unspoken though it may be (Kelly, 2010).

Harlow (1958) introduces the concept of love after measuring a monkey’s preference of articial mothers. If, in 1958, a monkey can show an affinity for an inatimate object, why is it then so hard to admit or imagine that we are able to have real emotions for technology? Mary Chayko (2008) relays the emotional connectedness that we find using virtual technologies; relationships are formed and brought to fruition virtually every day. People, frustrated with their real life situations, find solace in virtual communities and online games which provide alternate realities for them to escape to (Zhou, Jin, Vogel, Fang, & Chen, 2011).

How can technology facilitate these accomplisments, and escape our attention and our devotion? An appreciation for the thing allowing us to reach our goals is inevitable. The more we embrace technophilia, the more prevalent it will become (Kelly, 2010).


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

Harlow, H. (1958). The nature of love. The American Psychologist13, 673-685.

Kelly, K. (2010). Technophilia. In J. Dibbell (Ed.). The best technology writing 2010. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Zhou, Z., Jin, X.-L., Vogel, D. R., Fang, Y., & Chen, X. (2011). Individual motivations and demographic differences in social virtual world uses: An exploratory investigation in Second Life. International Journal of Information Management, 31(3), 261–271. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.07.007

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).


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].

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.


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

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!)

Gender Bender Project

It doesn’t get any sexier than the amazing Yara Sophia.

Tyanne Olson (Olson, 2012) does a great job of creating a comprehensive transmedia portfolio which seeks to challenge the social construction of ‘gender’. She uses Twitter (@gendertweet) to target in-group individuals by sharing insights, photos, and creating a community for the safe identity verification of those affected by marginalization. Facebook is used as another way of connecting with the in-group and providing socialization, support, and links to related articles, blogs, and alternate social media outlets. Tyanne also uses Pinterest as a creative element; its purpose is to resonate with in-group and general populations via visual stimuli. To round out the transmedia goodness, she uses Time Magazine to reach the general populous, branching out to begin a reformation of marginalizing social norms.

Tyanne’s project works because she has a targeted audience and uses specific media to reach them (i.e., those affected by marginalization and the general population). She is conscious of the needs of the in-group and provides support for them, allowing for a safe community which facilitates the trying-on and verification of an identity which may be easier to come to grips with in a virtual community first. She also provides a clearly defined identity for the project, which immediately allows the viewer/participant/community member to understand where they are (e.g., what sociomental space they’ve stumbled into) and what is being addressed.

For more information click the links below:

Facebook Page

Twitter Feed



Olson, T. (2012).  The gender identity project [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from:

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.

If You Love It: Long Distance Relationships Revisited

There’s no doubt about it: Relationships are tough. But the age old saying, “If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be” has plagued hearts young and old for what seems like ages. First of all, no one WANTS to let the <person> go, because they don’t want to take the chance of losing it forever. What if it doesn’t come back? This advice is one of two traditional responses when someone decides to try a long distance relationship. The other, of course, being, “Long distance relationships don’t work.” Either way, not something people want to hear. With traditional media a connection was possible, but the immediacy- the sharing of current thoughts, feelings, events, etc.- was difficult, if not impossible. 

Chayko (2008) mentions a sociomental connection that allows us to connect on a deeper level. She brings attention to the amount of emotional and mental investment needed to create a concept of someone who we haven’t necessarily been wholly exposed to. Though we miss the things that Harlow (1958) helped us understand our deep seeded needs for, we are able to maintain a mental and emotional connection that, at times, may supersede the strength of those connections in person. This idea got me thinking, very intently, about long distant relationships and how viable they are compared to before such facilitating connectivity. Especially living in Alaska, when a friend left the state, you were likely never to see them again. Now, when my best friend leaves the state, we’re almost MORE connected than we are when we’re cuddling in front of the television. I guess my point is that there are benefits to both connections.

In general, however, the readings got me thinking about how I relate to others around me, whether in online communities, or in person. I have taken a more specific attention to the ways in which my actions change based on which group I’m currently in, and what about that group makes me a part of it, or WANT to be a part of it. Though the catalyst for this focus was Identity Theory (Burke & Stets, 2009), it has carried over into the Chayko (2008) readings as well. On the one hand, how do I connect to my communities and what do I bring to the table. On the other hand, how has that changed based on connectedness. The result, as mentioned above, is a focus on the relationships I have and do have, and how they’ve been effected by not only portability, but emotional and mental availability.


Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Classics in the History of Psychology — Harlow (1958). (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2012, from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Harlow/love.htm