Research Review: Attachment Style Differences in Online Relationship Involvement

This week, I figured we would change it up a bit; go more vague media, less specifically gaming.

Dr. Jiali Ye (2007) decided to look into whether or not relationship development and satisfaction differs in ways similar to offline relationships. A questionnaire was sent via Google Newsgroups, fetching just over 100 respondents. On average, the respondents were 35 years old.

Dr. Ye was asked about how long respondents’ relationships had been going on, to what extent they interacted online, and how satisfied they were with those relationships. Repondents were asked whether the relationships were casual, close, or romantic. Finally, items were included that measured attachment types: secure, dismissal, fearful, and preoccupied. Let’s clarify what these mean before I continue.

I knew I was a Lucy fan! Wait…

In this case, a secure attachment style is one which the individual is comfortable being intimate, but also okay doing things on their own. A dismissal attachment style means the individuals tend to want to be alone and don’t really do the relationship thing. Fearful individuals want an intimate and close relationship, but they’re afraid of failure, so they avoid them. And preoccupied individuals are dependent on their partners, but still afraid of rejection.

What Dr. Ye found was not surprising; those who are have closer relationships tend to be more comfortable having deep online relationships and are more satisfied with them, as well. And this seems to be true for all four attachment styles. Dr. Ye theorizes that this may be due to the lack of cues that we tend to make judgments based on, created a more level playing field for the relationships. The only time any of the attachment styles differed was in casual relationships; secure and fearful individuals were okay sharing more online than the others were. The only real difference in satisfaction was that casual relationships didn’t appear to be as satisfying as close or romantic relationships- duh.

So there you have it! Though this is, in no way, the end all authority on relationships and the internet, it is one of the early measures of online attachment styles and how they interact with online relationships. Ooh! Maybe next week, I’ll talk about all the reasons that long-distance, online relationships are likely to create more intimate connections than face-to-face ones!

/digs out research while laughing maniacally

References:

Ye, J. (2007). Attachment style differences in online relationship involvement: An examination of interaction characteristics and relationship satisfaction. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 605-607. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9982

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Research Review: First-Person Shooter Games as a Way of Connecting to People: “Brothers in Blood”

I love this article. There are a few reasons for this. First, in the disclosure statement there is a note about how no competing funding was provided for this research. That is important because there have been other researchers (who I won’t name, but I REALLY want to) who have accepted monies for their research which may have been influential in the results of their research. This makes their research controversial and more pseudo science than psychology. So, I appreciate that this research was done without “competing financial interests”. Second, the findings of this back up a lot of my favorite gaming research and it was done in a much different way than the others. Allow me to illuminate.

Frostling-Henningsson studied players in Stockholm in two online-gaming centers (yes, I know we don’t use them much anymore here, but this is a great place for qualitative research). She spent time from September 2006 to February 2007 observing gaming sessions, and interviewing gamers. Her participants were 19 males and 4 females between the age of 12 and 26 years old. These ages are slightly younger than typical gamers, but seem to be more accurate of typical FPS players.

She found themes of motivation for play in the responses of the participants. The first one she found was communication. Players like to socialize. This is nothing new to us. Other research I’ve reviewed here has shown the same theme in EQ and WoW players as well. The second theme she found was connection in ways that were unanticipated. In other words, players enjoyed the fact that real world identifiers (i.e., age, gender, sexuality, or appearance) don’t affect whether we are willing to connect with others. Rather, things like personality, kindness, support, maturity, and game skill/cooperation inform our connections. This is a very positive theme in gaming. It means that gaming transcends borders and boundaries that tend to stop us in real life. It makes us less biased and allows us to judge based on more solid grounds; things that matter. This is consistent with what Chayko (2008) says of virtual connections as well; our sociomental connections (i.e., connections we make in mental spaces and not physical, face to face spaces) are a more real kind of real and tend to be more intimate because we invest more time and energy into them.

The third theme Frostling-Henningsson found was that there is a feeling associated with gaming that participants experience. One unlike that of reading (though described to be similar to that type of immersion) or movies, tv or real life. Gaming allows us access to experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to; running through the Sphinx, or shooting up a hospital whose only inhabitants happen to be brain munching zombies. These things don’t happen, they’re not experiences we’re ever likely to have. Yet gaming allows us to experience them. One of my favorite thoughts in the article come from this section as well. The comment is made by one of the participants that he feels relaxed when he is playing CS but his girlfriend says it’s really just a way for him to take out his aggression. Do you think expressing or expelling pent up emotions is or can be a form of relaxation? I certainly do, but I just might have to research this and let you all know what I find out.

The fourth motivational theme found was that of teamwork and cooperation. Gamers preferred to work together, even when they were on opposing teams. Think of all the meta rules implemented when you and your friends game, “Let’s kill everyone else first, then square off one on one,” or “NO CAMPING, YOU NEWB!” The fifth theme was gaming allowed for an escape from the anxieties and stressors of the real world. However, some of the participants mention that they play CS rather than WoW because they feel some sense of control over just exactly how immersed (or ‘sucked in’) they end up being. I’ve heard that plenty of times, but I’m not so sure my CS playing compatriots are any less ‘sucked in’ than I am by League of Legends, or my brother is by World of Warcraft. Could there be personality, perception, or motivational differences in who gets consumed by which games? Another item on my research “to do” list, I assure you.

Finally, Frostling-Henningsson found that gamers like to play because they feel like the virtual world is a real world, just a different real world. This is consistent with research that says virtual worlds are just as real, if not seemingly more real, as the offline real world. People can become different selves, try on personalities, let their hair down, as it were, and become disinhibited all without worrying about real world consequences. Don’t believe me? Check out last week’s article about permeability between virtual and real worlds. The bottom line is that we’re social beings who love, live for, and grow from all kinds of exciting experiences; real, virtual, or otherwise.

References:

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

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

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. 🙂

Research Article: Virtual World and Real World Permeability

Finally, some positive research about the virtual world we all love so much. Games can make us happy? Who would have thought… OH wait. WE would have. 😉

Cabiria’s SL Avatar

In his breakthrough research, Dr. Jon Cabiria (2008) studies the potential positive effects of virtual communities on marginalized groups (in this case LGBT). He hypothesizes that positive identity verification is transferable from the virtual game Second Life to real life. In other words, people who feel comfortable being themselves in Second Life are able to feel more comfortable in real life.

Using questionnaires and interviews, Cabiria first established a baseline for each individual’s offline identity (i.e., how they typically acted and felt offline). His goal for this portion of the study was to see if there was a significant difference in behavior from previous research done in LGBT studies. The participants relayed the same themes as in previous research: “loneliness, isolation, depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal, lack of authenticity, and lack of useful information (p.7).” He goes on to say:

Specifically, these expected results dealt with developmental obstruction,
negative psychological affect of being in the closet, the power of hetero-normative forces, and
compartmentalization, to name a few (p.7).

He then asked the same questions of the Second Life self. This time the purpose was to see if there were any differences between the online and offline selves. What he found was:

… seven main themes emerged from the data, namely belongingness, connectedness, improved well-being, higher self-esteem, optimism, sense of authenticity, and evidence of transferable positive benefits (p. 8).

Permeability FTW

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that people who are afraid to be themselves because they’re marginalized, because social norms tell them they’re not ‘right’ or ‘good enough’… they have an outlet for true self-expression; a place to be themselves, and be accepted for who they are. People can try on identities in a safe, anonymous way and when they are ready to ‘come out’ (whether LGBT, gamer, math geek, dyslexic, eccentric or otherwise) as who they really are, they are bolstered up by the knowledge that there are those out there who are like them and who accept them unconditionally. It means there is a way for fears, challenges, self-esteem, withdrawal, anxiety, and any other number of scary feelings and emotions, to be overcome.

Permeability between virtual and real life… isn’t it exciting?

Reference

Cabiria, J. (2008). Virtual world and real world permeability: Transference of positive benefits for marginalized gay and lesbian populations. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research1(1), 1-13. Retrieved from: https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/viewFile/284/238

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

Pinterest

References:

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

Collective Intelligence in Gaming

What collective intelligence looks like as a gamer

As Holland touched on, gaming is an area in which tangential learning has become something of a researcher’s playground. Barnett and Coulson (2010) sought to understand player interactions in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). They looked at factors such as socialization, transference of skills from virtual to real world applications, immersion, and group achievements. They note that MMOs have been used as tools for teaching, and players who develop social skills via gameplay (e.g., forming groups, effective communication, etc.) are able to then use those skills in out of game settings successfully. Specifically, with regards to collective intelligence, when a gamer gets onto a game, and comes away with skills such as socialization and effective team participation or leadership, that is a credit to the group as a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

But it isn’t just MMOs that create this kind of tangential skill learning. First-person shooters (FPSs) also allow team coordination, the dissemination of knowledge between players, and real world applicability (Frostling-Henningsson, 2009). Players in this study reported feeling a greater variety of experiences (which they then share with other players… collective intelligence), and were found to be most motivated by the socialization and communication factors inherent in the game. Diane Carr (2011) found that gamers make game choices or have genre preferences based on their own experiences and the experiences others have shared with them. She calls it “peer culture”.

While these games typically don’t change much (some patches are created to accommodate game play or gamer preferences on the whole), people continue to play. In my experience as a game review, replayability is one of the most important factors, and typically the most replayable games are the ones that have a social component. Because, in games like League of Legends (my personal favorite MMO), the game is the same over and over, but the people you play with, the things you learn from them, the experiences you gain via the combinations of players/characters/teams, are what keep you coming back for more.

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

Carr, D. (2011). Contexts, gaming pleasures, and gendered preferences. Simulation & Gaming36(4). 464-482. doi: 10.1177.1046878105282160

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

LoL Raging: Disinhibition Effect at its Most Toxic

I have two mains: Sona and Galio.

Though I tend to experience benign disinhibition online (e.g. flirting more than normal, or sharing personal things/venting where I typically wouldn’t), I try to avoid toxic disinhibition no matter what the circumstance (Joinson, 2007). Though I may be a member of an out-group in that way, a person would be hard pressed to find a gamer that agrees with the assertions that gaming causes aggression. But you would also be hard pressed to find a gamer who doesn’t agree there is a fairly significant amount of disinhibition inherent in games. My favorite example of this is my favorite game, League of Legends (LoL).

League of Legends is a game that is played online either with personal friends, or strangers. In game, there is a chat bar which allows communication between teammates, or with the opposing team. This chat box is supposed to allow for strategy, but typically turns into a flaming war zone (Joinson, 2007). Disinhibited gamers, when provoked by “noobs” or “trolls”, often become belligerent, authoritative, and downright vicious. Nearly all effects of disinhibition can be found (Gackenbach & von Stackleberg, 2007): dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, dissociative imagination, and minimization of status and authority.

You know you hear Michael Dorn’s voice in your head…

When I play LoL, I try to play by the Golden Rule; if I don’t have something nice (or productive) to say, I don’t say anything. However, there are those who become so angry with other players, that they begin flaming (e.g., calling people names, threatening to rage quit, intentionally helping the other team to win, etc.) (Joinson, 2007). It is a widely accepted concept in the LoL community that everyone has a bad game. Be that as it may, however, it is rare that a player will escape unscathed by the hateful words of effected teammates. I have been on the receiving end of this harassment. I remember one time I was so hurt and angered by the comments made, that I cried. Another time, I witnessed someone being so rude in game to someone else (not even to me), that I didn’t touch the game for three weeks. Though the people in game tend to be strangers, the effects of the online interaction are just as hurtful as they would be offline (Chayko, 2008). By the same token, however, when you have a good game, and you “carry” your team to victory, the praise and status are reinforcing and motivating; the pride you feel is real and validating.

Though these are not true of every gaming experience, every game, or every gamer, they are accepted memes in the gaming world. There are very few people immune to it. And gamers who would otherwise be very kind and would never think of being belligerent or aggressive face-to-face, allow themselves to unwind in game. I have several friends who do this, some of which admit they play so that they have a safe place to release aggression- something that Joinson (2007) suggests may account for what is typically thought to be disinhibition. What gamers, and all online users, must remember, is that no matter where the aggression takes place, it is negatively affecting someone.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities: The social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. New York: SUNY Press.

Gackenbach, J., & von Stackelberg, H. (2007). Self online: Personality and demographic implications. In J. Gachenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (55-73). New York, Academic Press.

Joinson, A. N. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gachenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (75-92). New York: Academic Press.

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.

References:

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

Sing it with me… “Social media change AGENT MAN!”

In How to be a social media change agent (2008), interviewee Josh Bernoff provides insight and tips into how to integrate social media into the corporate world. He notes that anything that encourages people to connect with each other, and draws strengths from that connectivity, will generate success. Even if the success is initially small, by focusing on one brand or objective, businesses can create a foothold which may be elaborated on later.

Remembering that success is often measured monetarily, and that to some extent the monetary gain from social media is difficult to measure, the first step Bernoff encourages is finding someone high up in the organization (or with a lot of pull such as shareholders or an executive sponsor) to support the endeavor from the onset. Another important note emphasized in this interview, is the wisdom in starting right away. Engaging in forward momentum, and adjusting as needed throughout the process, creates more productivity than planning for a year or more, starting, and then finding out you were on the wrong track.

Bernoff also encourages comparing the accomplishments and attempts of others as a way of gauging what may or may not work for the company. Lee & Kotler  (2011) also encourage researching previous attempts, concurrent attempts, successes and failures where comparable to the marketing one is preparing for.  Similarly, Bernoff suggests making bonds and alliances with those in closely tied situations (i.e., endeavoring to bring a company onto the social media scene). As Frank Rose (2011) points out in Chapter 9, we are empathetic beings. Social media is not only a good venue for reaching those who share similar plights as we do, but it seems to me that making connections with those people may afford us the encouragement we need to continue fighting uphill battles.

Finally, Bernoff makes it clear that one of the most important steps in successful social media/business integration is a way to measure success. He relays the somewhat intuitive, but often overlooked note that being able to show evidence of gain, improves the changes that the program will continue to find support. Again, this is a notion that Lee & Kotler (2011) support.

In a post modern world, where connectivity and social media accessibility may mean the difference between success and failure, businesses are encouraged (and to some extent expected) to have an online footprint which allows a sense of comfort and communion from the consumers’ perspective. When individuals begin expecting that a company or business will be accessible by specific means, the company would do well to sit up and take notice.

References:

Harvard Business Publishing (Publisher). (2008). How to be a social media change agent [Webvideo]. Available from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB9Npo3qtH0

Lee, N., & Kotler, P. (2011) Social marketing: Influencing behaviors for good (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Rose, F. (2011). The art of immersion: How the digital generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

 

A Social Marketing Proposal to TBA Theatre

Proposal Companion Prezi (A summary of the prezi, with photos, videos, and links)

TBA Marketing Proposal (The PDF version of this proposal, in case you like the double spaced goodness of APA formatting)

  TBA Harnessing the Transformational Power of Theatre

            Augusto Boal introduced the concept of Forum Theatre in his book Theatre of the Oppressed. Forum Theatre is a type of play which encourages audiences to participate in the resolution of some social issue. The core of the story is scripted and presents a protagonist with a conflict. However, the protagonist is unable to overcome the conflict, and the audience is brought in to suggest possible solutions to the conflict, turning the audience into what Boal referred to as spect-actors.  Those solutions are then played out by the actors. (Forum Theatre, n.d.)

This type of theatre was originally created to deal with sources of external oppression (in Boal’s case the Brazilian government), however, it has since evolved for use in things such as employment training and problem solving. Boal extended his theories in his book The Rainbow of Desire, which focused on the individual and dealing with internal oppressions. The techniques and theories in this book are the basis for drama therapy.

An example of how Forum Theatre has effected positive change in global communities may be seen in the Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) (2011) project. This IREX supported project was created to train educators, implement student participation in Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT), and facilitate the presentation of these forum theatre performances throughout communities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The stated goal of the YTP is to successfully affect a sustainable community change in the prevention of conflicts via forum theatre. Additional examples of how forum theatre has affected change include conflict resolution in Philadelphia, Kosovo, and Amani. These examples, along with innumerable others, only begin to scratch the surface of our understanding as to how, and why, theatre has the ability to affect global, community, and personal change.

 Transformational Powers of Theatre

Theatre affects the lives of those who experience it not only via patronage, but also as a result of the creation of the art. Though this may be easily illustrated by performing an internet search, hearing stories directly from the individuals who have experienced them, allows for the emotion which accompanied the experience to become palpable.

Becky Sheridan (personal communication, 2012), a local actress specializing in comedy, recalled a play she performed in while attending college. When Scott Comes Home, based on a true story, is a show about a kid who goes to college in the 80’s for a few years. Upon returning home, he comes out as a homosexual to his parents; this doesn’t go well for him. Eventually, he dies of AIDS. This play was written by Becky’s college professor; the adaptation of a book Scott’s mother wrote. Becky recalls performing the play and being protested by other Christian groups. She remembers feeling very profoundly influenced by the message of the show, as well as the reaction of the others around her. She says it was this show that exemplified the acceptance of others as a part of the Christian life that she strives daily to live. (B. Sheridan, personal communication, 2012)

Justin Oller (personal communication, 2012), another actor in Anchorage, has been involved in theatre since elementary school. Justin fondly remembers an experience in which he travelled to Scotland with an unusually varied group of actors: different theatre backgrounds, incomes, experiences levels, etc. Justin notes how the coming together of artists who varied this intensely, simply for the love of the art, solidified theatre as his career objective. Justin also mentions that every show he is in opens his eyes to some aspect of life or himself. For example, having grown up with a single mother, his work with TBA and, specifically the artistic director, Shane Mitchell, helped guide him towards becoming a gentleman. Shane also affected his perception of what theatre was for: art as a means to communicate, problem solve, and better a community rather than just to entertain from on stage.

Rhiannon Johnson (personal communication, 2012) agrees with Justin. She reflected on her perception of theatre before starting classes with TBA and how they compare to her perception now. She describes Shane’s philosophy on theatre as she has come to understand it: one shouldn’t do theatre to show off, but instead should do it to affect positive change. She says she has learned that the more you learn and embrace art, the more good you do for your community and for others; you facilitate less conflict. Being in theatre has made Rhiannon think more about the effect theatre has on people, and it’s long term effects as well.

Anthony Cruz (personal communication, 2012), who specializes in dance, remembers a yearly HIV/AIDS play that was performed in order to help the students understand the severity of the disease, and what it might be like to live with it. His recollection of this show, exemplifies how theatre that takes on a social cause may affect those who are exposed to it. Anthony also recalls the first time he saw To Kill A Mockingbird. He says he was very taken aback by the transportive feeling that came with the set and the attention to detail. He notes that reading the book didn’t convey the feel or perspective of the time like experiencing the play did. He said it was like history right in front of him.

A Community Based Approach

TBA Theatre’s mission statement is, ” To enrich our community by providing innovative and comprehensive theatre arts experiences through which artists of all ages can develop their creativity and self-expression; and in so doing stimulate human potential.” (TBA Theatre, 2012) It is clear, through numerous interviews with individuals involved in TBA that artists of all ages are, in fact, developing creativity and self-expression. Additionally, they are clearly stimulating human potential. Justin, Becky, Anthony, and Rhiannon are only a few examples of individuals associated with TBA who have uncovered what may have otherwise been a very abstract truth about life, who they are, who they want to be, and how to become that self.

In performing shows during the daytime, and charging minimal rates, TBA also allows for students of all ages to attend shows, as well as providing educational resources for teachers, parents, and students alike. TBA also provides course through the Theatre Store during the winter months, as well as a Summer Academy, and Spring Break Academy, which not only allow students to enrich their understanding of theatre, art, and creativity, but provide a safe place to do so. Parents can rest assured that there is a safe place for their child to play, think, and grow during the long Summer days in Anchorage. These are certainly ways in which TBA enriches the Anchorage community.

Imagine, however, combining the enriching and educating power of TBA with the community based and conflict resolving power of forum theatre. Using TBA’s existing educational structure as the foundation for a week-long intensive, forum theatre could be used to exemplify the mission of one or more of Anchorage’s local community based organizations (CBOs) (see Appendix A). Not only does this afford TBA cross-promotional opportunities in which they gain additional exposure in the community, but they are furthering the enrichment of their community by supporting family based causes similar to their own.

Furthering Theatre’s Reach in Anchorage

Strategy

This plan suggests that TBA include a one week intensive in their existing curriculum structure. This intensive would teach students to write short scripts, based on the mission of a local CBO, in which the protagonist becomes unable to resolve the driving conflict. The students would then sell tickets to the show at the end of the week, in which they act out the scripted parts of the shows and encourage audience members to suggest resolutions for the protagonist. Those resolutions would then be acted out. CBOs would be encouraged to supply TBA with information to be disseminated to audience members who are interested in more information, or volunteering.

Perceived Barriers

As is often the case with CBOs, monetary cost of any marketing strategy is a concern. Costs for this plan may include space rental for the performance and for the class itself, script printing, and light design.

Time may also be a concern, as volunteers are needed to run light and sound, stage management, direction, and, of course, teachers. Though students would be selling tickets, volunteers would be needed to organize tickets, man the box office, and process any monies involved. Additionally, a volunteer to be the liaison between TBA and involved CBOs would be necessary in order to ensure the promotion of TBAs production by the CBO(s) being represented.

Resources Maximized

Several of these barriers may be overcome easily by taking advantage of the existing structure. If students are charged tuition for admittance into the intensive, several costs may already be covered. Also, as this would be presented as a performance, admittance fees may help cover the costs of things such as space rental. Scripts would be minimal, as they are meant to be unresolved in script. This will save on the costs of reproduction, but also environmental costs associated with extensive copying.

By grouping the intensive in with an already volunteer rich educational structure, volunteers may be asked to include paperwork, money transactions, and data entry in with efforts for pre-existing classes at a minimal time/effort increase. Because social marketing is a function of both media studies and psychological studies, volunteers from those fields may be sought after to act as liaisons between TBA and any involved CBOs.

Benefitting Us All

Possible benefits to incorporating the missions of local CBOs into the TBA curriculum may be the desirability that TBA be involved in future social marketing campaigns. Not only does working with local charities and social betterment efforts make TBA an example to the community, but it also makes TBA a commodity which parents, adults, teachers, professionals, and corporations alike, would be desirous to be aligned with. Ensuring that funders may feel secure in their donations bettering not only the arts community in Anchorage, but by association other family based charities and organizations, sponsors and donors are given more incentive to support TBA.

Financial benefits may be reaped as well. By reaching out to a CBO, you are also reaching out to their existing supporters, funders, volunteers, and the families involved or affected by the charity. In the vein of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” assisting CBOs in achieving their goals, creates a bond through which they are likely to help TBA achieve theirs. The financial benefit may come in the form of additional donations, corporate sponsors, or patronage in the form of students or attendees.

Measuring Success

Because the measure of success, regardless of the level of integrity the group, is necessary for the evaluation of any plan, a measure for the success of this plan must be put into effect. Where the goal is to cross-promote with another CBO for the furthering of both groups’ agendas, the attendance for all classes, and shows performed using the forum theatre format should be recorded and compared. If the desirability of the courses and performances climb, or remain at a level which produces a profit, rather than a deficit, it should be considered a success. The initial goal, however, should be to implement the plan, and begin immediately measuring attendance and profit above the costs induced. A record should then be kept comparing subsequent years’ attendance and profit.

In Conclusion

It is true that maintaining an already established habit is easier than affecting change. However, transitioning ways of thinking, learning, and creating, allow for the introduction of forward thinking and problem solving techniques. In a post-modern world, where education means self-directed research, stories are told by thousands of people who have never met, and the advancement of technology creates new venues for storytelling, theatre remains an emotionally charged medium for the stories, myths, and journeys which define us as individuals, families, communities, and nations. Continuing to use the transformational power of theatre to focus on positively affecting those who are exposed to it, ensures its survival and secures its foothold in the future of storytelling.

TBA Theatre, already the gold standard in entertainment in Anchorage, also maintains the unique ability to spread its influence to those in need by using the emotional connection inherent in theatre, to connect supporters with causes worthy of their support.

Appendix A

Community Based Organizations in Anchorage, AK

Friends of Alaska CASA

Target: Children, Youth, & Adults

Mission: More than 2,000 of Alaska’s children are victims of abuse and neglect and are living in foster care. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) speak out to help abused and neglected children. Our Goal: Help CASA programs achieve the goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one by 2016.

Anchorage CASA

Target Audience: Youth, Children, & Adults

Mission: The mission of CASA is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.

Challenge Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Adults, & Disabled

Mission: Improving the lives of people with disabilities and the whole community through recreation, sports and education. Through the programs offered by Challenge Alaska, participants can develop skills, expand their social horizons, become physically healthier, and increase their self-esteem.

Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Target Audience: Youth, Adult, & Blind

Mission: Equipping Alaskans who are Blind and Visually Impaired for Success in Life and Work. The Center helps youth grow in independence and capability through a summer training, career development, and enrichment program. The Center also supports blind and visually impaired students in Alaska school districts thanks to a grant program providing up-to-date technology and staff training to ensure accessible learning materials.

RurAL Cap

Target Audience: Low income, & Families

Mission: RurAL CAP encourages the efforts of low-income people attempting to break the cycle of dependency and gain control of the changes affecting their lives. Its mission is to protect and improve the quality of life for low-income Alaskans through education, training, direct services, decent and affordable housing, advocacy, and strengthen the ability of low-income people to advocate for themselves.

Standing together Against Rape

Target Audience: Youth & Women

Mission: The Mission of STAR is: To provide the best quality of crisis intervention and advocacy services to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and to provide education on these issues to the community.

Access Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Access Alaska is a private, non-profit, consumer-controlled organization that provides independent living services to people who experience a disability. As an Independent Living Center, our mission is to encourage and promote the total integration of people who experience a disability to live independently in the community of their choice. Through our assistance and support individuals with disabilities can identify and obtain needed services in an effort to maintain their independence as opposed to living in an institution.

Stone Soup Group

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Stone Soup Group exists to sustain the health and well-being of Alaskan children with special needs and their families. Through listening to the stories of families, we identify areas of need and work with communities to find solutions.

Friends of Pets

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Friends of Pets provides vital animal welfare and protective services for abandoned animals, with respect, compassion and integrity.  We intervene to reduce the euthanasia rates at the Anchorage Animal Care & Control Center, to promote responsible pet ownership and to improve the quality of life for companion animals. FOP is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers and supported by donations.

Intervention Helpline

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Intervention Helpline is a non-profit organization based in Anchorage, whose sole focus is to bring hope, help and solutions to those battling addiction and provide support to those in recovery. We actively work to find a solution for every person who calls us asking for help—whether they are looking for a place to detox and receive treatment, a safe place to stay, some words of encouragement, or calling about a family member they are desperate to save and want to know what they should do.

Alaska Cares

Target Audience: Children, Youth, & Families

Mission: Alaska CARES is an outpatient clinic located near Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The clinic provides sexual and physical abuse evaluations for children, newborn to age 18 years, and 24-hour on-call services for cases that are considered emergent. These cases usually come to the attention of law enforcement or the emergency departments of local hospitals.

The Alaska Zoo

Target Audience: Families

Mission: The Alaska Zoo is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing homes for orphaned and injured wildlife. We pride ourselves on providing educational opportunities for visitors, both Alaskans and tourists.

References

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Boal, A. (1995). The rainbow of desire. London, England: Routledge.

Chadwick, J. (2005) The Longest Winter and post-conflict theatre in Kosovo. Az
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Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved
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Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative
solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and
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Ingraham, D. M., & Nelson, J. (2012). Finding the fun in conflict resolution.
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Solomon, A. (2001). Theatre of the recruits: Boal techniques in the New York police
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TBA Theatre. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tbatheatre.org

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved
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Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from:
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