Augmented Reality: Don’t Worry, It Won’t Bite

Though augmented reality (AR) is becoming more and more predominate in the gaming community, it isn’t likely to replace gaming as it stands now. Henry Jenkins (2008) notes that one of the most common fears of media based companies is the advent of new media. He reminds them that new media compliments- not replaces- existing media. This, I believe, is the same idea behind AR’s place in gaming. Still to this day, games built on 64 and even 8 bit graphics are very popular. Gamers tend to be motivated by the content of the game and less by the visual appeal (Yee, 2006). That being said, and in light of the fact that this is obviously a personal preference thing, immersion is absolutely a motivational factor for game play. However, the game has to be done right. Think of it in terms of The Lord of the Rings has to have a good plot, not just good computer graphics.

A good example of this is the  Spider-Man AR app. There are levels/missions that can be unlocked and achievements to be had by going through a variety of activities. Some of these activities involve computers, and some involve going to stores to interact with merchandise; a brilliant way to create consumer loyalty, resonance, and solidify brand identity. Though this game appeals to a variety of motivational types in gaming, (including immersion and achievement), it doesn’t quite fulfill all of them. We’ve seen how a variety of gaming styles, platforms, and media can be- and often are- used simultaneously or thoughtfully chosen between. The Wii didn’t bring an end to controllers and neither did the Kinect. The PS2 didn’t cause every N64 to evaporate off the face of the earth. Similarly, there are still several reasons why someone would choose the XBox 360 game over the AR app; not the least of which is the desire for escapism. Let’s be honest, combining your world with a different world doesn’t exactly let you ESCAPE your world, does it?

Don’t get me wrong, being able to put a contact lens in my eye in order to apprehend the Second Life style bad guy who happens to be running through the super market as I go shopping doesn’t sound like a terrible addition to my sometimes mundane life. But history has told us that retro never goes out of style with gaming, and sometimes you need the click of the mouse, the mashing of the a, b, x, and y buttons, or the “strumming” of the fake guitar to wash away your IRL blues.

References:

Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.
Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(6), 772-775.
Advertisements

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.

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

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.

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

Amani Peoples Theatre. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.aptkenya.org/

Boal, A. (1979). Theatre of the oppressed. New York, NY.: Urizen.

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

Chadwick, J. (2005) The Longest Winter and post-conflict theatre in Kosovo. Az
Theatre
. Retrieved from:
http://www.phila.gov/recreation/conflict_resolution/Conflict_Resolution_10.html

Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved
from http://www.attempteu.org/uploads/media/FORUM_THEATRE.pdf

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative
solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and
the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work
6, 285-293.

Ingraham, D. M., & Nelson, J. (2012). Finding the fun in conflict resolution.
Retrieved from:
http://www.phila.gov/recreation/conflict_resolution/Conflict_Resolution_10.html

Paterson, D. (2008). Three stories from the trenches: The theatre of the oppressed in
the midst of war. TDR: The Drama Review: A Journal of Performance Studies,
52, 110-117.

Solomon, A. (2001). Theatre of the recruits: Boal techniques in the New York police
academy. Theatre, 31(3), 54-61.

TBA Theatre. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tbatheatre.org

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved
from: http://www.irex.org/sites/default/files/USAID%20Success%20Story.pdf

Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from:
http://www.irex.org/project/youth-theater-peace

Cause An Uproar: Social Marketing Strategies for National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

A friend of mine, Crystal Cierlak, and I created a social marketing campaign improvement proposal for National Geographic’s Cause An Uproar campaign. Also, please check out our companion prezi for graphics and visuals representative of the content and suggestions in the proposal. This was SUPER fun. Also, we got 110% on it. That is fun too!

Cause An Uproar: Social Marketing Strategies for National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

            National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative is a campaign aimed at preserving the world’s declining big cat population using education, various conservation efforts, incentives, and awareness. The program suggests several steps, the first of which is to halt the decline of lions by 2015, and to facilitate the growth of the population to self-sustaining levels thereafter. With a variety of partnered groups, including the IUCN Lion Working Group and conservationists from various groups in Botswana, members of local and national groups are encouraged to join the efforts. As such, we have worked to facilitate the growth of this important effort, by producing a social marketing campaign analysis including a constructive and critical look at the current campaign website, as well as offering research supported ideas for improvement and growth.

Gardner’s Seven R’s

Howard Gardner, a noted cognitive psychologist, in his book Changing Minds (2006), suggests that encouraging change includes steps which he calls the seven R’s. An effective campaign for behavior, and ultimately attitude, change successfully utilizes these principles. We have used these principles as the backbone of our analysis. Understanding how these principles affect change allows us to continue to reassess the effectiveness of any attitude and behavior change campaign. That is, after all, the purpose of social marketing.

Reason gives the consumer a focus; it communicates the purpose for the change. Reason appeals to those who deal in logic. Tools such as analogies, comparisons, cause and effect relations, and debates may lead consumers to the conclusions sought after. In this case, the Big Cat Initiative (BCI) stresses the decay of the big cat population. An example of this can be found in the ‘About’ section of the Cause An Uproar site. While this site includes reasons for big cat conservation, this is an area which lacks in content.

Research is defined by the amount of information collected to support the reasons given. If an argument does not have supporting documentation, it has nothing to stand on. Research provides this documentation. Though the arguments given for facilitating this change are somewhat weak, the research has clearly been done by the BCI. On the ‘Main’ page, towards the bottom, facts about big cats are separated by cat type. However, as one of the goals of this campaign is global education, information could be more clearly disseminated throughout the site; educating readers at every point in their journey.

Resonance relates to the emotional connection that the consumer has to the material or change. Making the information relevant to the consumer encourages a personal interest in the cause. When someone sees themselves as directly affected, they are more likely to join the fight. This site features two notable activities which bring the big cats home to the consumer. First, the activity “Little Kitties for Big Cats” collects five dollars for the upload of a picture of a consumer’s kitten. This project simultaneously collects monetary donations, and allows consumers to connect the attachment to their kittens at home with the big cats elsewhere. Second, the site invites consumers (specifically children in this case) to write letters to the big cats. In doing so, children are afforded the opportunity to feel a personal connection with the animals. These are  brilliant examples of bringing home the message, and using conditioning to create resonance.

Redescriptions are reiterations of the story being told. This is important because, just as there are several types of learners, there are several ways to present an argument. The BCI uses videos, pictures, and case studies to reinforce the need for action. However, the layout of the site makes these redescriptions difficult to find, and somewhat labor intensive to experience.

Resources and Rewards relate to the gain that a consumer receives from participation; whether it is informational, emotional, or tangible. Sometimes, getting someone to change their attitudes or behaviors is as easy is helping them understand, or see the value in what they personally receive from the change. Just as with resonance, if a change is personally connected to them, they are more likely to partake. There are small rewards for donation and participation included in the BCI. These include descriptions and pictures of grants and their impact, and the pictures of the kittens which appear when the five dollars are donated to the little kitten effort. Another small incentive is the presentation of the avatars of Facebook users who have ‘liked’ the site. Seeing their faces on the front page of the site, and knowing that others see your face as well, gives consumers the emotional reward gained from prosocial behavior.

Real World Events include the utilization of situations which occur on broader scales which facilitate change. The BCI has, on their ‘Main’ page, news articles from around the globe which relate to their efforts. Though real world events are not always plentiful, taking advantage of the learning experiences, or changes which those events inadvertently cause, strengthens the argument made by the campaign. There is not much control over the availability of content in this area, so the news sections, though small and somewhat under exposed, is a thoughtful inclusion.

Resistances denote the reasons why this change may not take place; things which work against a cause. Resistances may include ease of use of the product, reward availability, monetary insufficiencies, etc. Careful contemplation of these resistances, and planning contingencies for them, allows the campaign to overcome many of them. The BCI does this by the inclusion of a variety of ways to contribute and clearly articulating the needs/goals of the campaign. Again, the site format reduces the visibility and ease of use, which is, in and of itself, a major resistance.

Reinforcing the Seven R’s: Suggestions for Improvement

While a sense of urgency is certainly important, educating the public about why big cat species need swift and lasting conservation efforts  must instead appeal to their reasonable intellect. The information in the ‘About’ section should include answers to questions such as ‘What happens to an area’s ecological system when these cats are gone?’, ‘What other species are affected by the declining numbers of big cats?’, and ‘How does even a little bit of support help in the long term?’ In the commercials for Cause an Uproar, the narration states that if we do not act now to protect species of big cats, we will one day speak of them the way we speak of dinosaurs now. This reasonable line of thinking is a good starting place but deserves explication on the website.

It is also unclear who the target audience is. The same approach to educating adults does not necessarily apply to children, for obvious reasons. While there is a section ‘For Kids’, much of the content on the site seems to be a combination of adult and youth content. Separation of the site for kids from the site for adults (e.g., rather than a tab for children, redirecting the user to a completely separate site just for children), allows the reasoning to be clear for each target demographic. Where the urgent message currently presented might work for a child’s level of reasoning, more specific information, such as that turned up by research, could be advantageously aimed to reason with the adult demographic.

Documented research need not be confined to a column of text and an accompanying cartographic image. A great majority of the website appears to be targeted at children, perhaps with the aim of eliciting their young minds to adopt a stance on big cats early in life. This may also ensure they will be long-time partners of positive change for the Big Cat Initiative. As such, research presented to children should appeal to their young minds by being interactive as well as educational.

Again, being mindful of the target audience allows the research collected to be representative of what appeals to that audience. If the target audience is children, research presented on the website should be two-pronged: fun and educational. Alternatively, if the target audience is the adult demographic, the research collected should appeal to them. This is another aspect in which separating out the sites may benefit the cause: two sites, two demographics, more room to affect change in more consumers. This also, however, means potentially more work and more capital invested. The good news is that BCI has seemingly done most of the research necessary for both demographics.

Also inherent in the separation of sites, is the opportunity to create content that further resonates with two varied target audiences. Utilizing the varying sensibilities and concerns of each demographic, to convey the most appropriate message, would allow BCI to resonate with target audiences appropriately. If a consumer isn’t exposed to a resonating message immediately, there is nothing keeping them interested, and therefore nothing encouraging them to contribute.

In fact, resonance may well be the most important principle where consistent repeat donations are concerned. Consider the “foot-in-the-door” concept: ask something small of a consumer first, and once they have committed to that small request, they are more likely to commit to something more substantial. Take, for example, ‘Little Kitties for Big Cats’. In this scenario, the initial commitment (i.e., paying five dollars to upload a picture of their kitten) has been made. The consumer is therefore more likely to engage in a second activity (were one to be plainly and readily available) because they were a part of, and saw results from, the first commitment. In tandem with the “foot-in-the-door” concept, producing more and varied content that resonates with the consumer on a deeper level that is appropriate to their particular demographic, will create an opportunity to increase consistent and repeated donor support.

While it is clear that a large variety of resistances were considered by the BCI team, we have found one that consistently affected our research: website build. While there is a plethora of valuable and educational content on the website, it is difficult to find and, in most cases, seems haphazardly placed. Rather than indirectly forcing the user to explore the website like some puzzle with an unknown picture, content should be made readily available from a top-level portion of the website. While pages are currently labeled, the menus are layered with menus from other parts of the National Geographic website. This makes redirecting an accidental click, or attempting to further self-explore the site, very challenging.

In general, it should not take more than two clicks to find the most relevant information and content on the website. There are two consequences to not making this content readily available: 1) if a user does not know the content exists and they don’t happen to come upon it, they will miss out on what valuable information the content has to offer, and 2) if a user spends too much time trying to find content they may give up and leave the website altogether. In order to facilitate the separation of content by target demographic, as well as ease of site use, we propose the following adjustments.

Cause An Uproar: A Site Focused on Kids

Cause An Uproar has a tremendous opportunity to create an awareness campaign that will not only appeal to adults who are able to help now, but also to children and young adults who can create a lasting bond with, and facilitate the continued presence of, big cats throughout the world. Done properly, a social media and networking campaign targeted towards children and young adults can be the catalyst of that desired lasting bond.

The proposed campaign addition is comprised of five main components: character, story, game, socialization, and awareness. Each component is explained below in detail, along with examples of how each component can be accomplished. These changes are based on readily available content from the Cause An Uproar site, and necessitate only a small amount of extra work for implementation.

Character

We’ve created a character to serve as an amalgamation of everything The Big Cat Initiative and Cause An Uproar stands for: Teagan Tigress. Teagan is a young tigress with an appetite for knowledge and a passion for big cats. She travels the globe to study various species of big cats with the purpose of finding solutions to their declining populations. She can serve as a role model to young minds who want to make a difference in the lives of big cats everywhere. Allowing for a role model or authority, someone children (and even adults where appropriate) can look up to or identify with, adds not only resonance, but helps to act as an easily identifiable resource for guidance along the learning and helping path. The creation of a heroic character may also serve as a springboard for developing a transmedia promotional campaign incorporating a cartoon show, products, further games, and much, much more!

Story

Teagan Tigress is an example of a character that could be the heroic narrator of the story which introduces youth to the plight of the big cats worldwide. In her various travels around the world – from the Americas to explore Puma concolor, a.k.a., the cougar, to Southeast Asia to explore Neofelis nebulosa, a.k.a., the clouded leopard – she has amassed a generous amount of information in the journal she travels with. The journal itself can be utilized as an encyclopedic reference guide; something akin to a Wikipedia-like resource, and would encourage students to participate in post modernistic information gathering and distribution, as well as media literacy. This is very useful for kids and young adults who are stronger learners visually and proactively, as well as reinforcing traditional literacy. These additional elements take little to no additional effort, but encourage a more hands on approach to learning, allow youth to better articulate and share the message implicit in the campaign, and creates a learning environment that parents can be comfortable letting their children explore. With a few beautiful graphics, information can be shared in a visually pleasing way that facilitates a variety of learning and processing styles.

Game

Design a game that anyone can play on the website: The Chronicles of Teagan Tigress! Imagine a storyline such as the following:

Have you seen Teagan Tigress? The last time we heard from Teagan, she was camping out by the Amur River. However, that was almost a week ago! We sent out an expedition team to search for Teagan, but all they were able to recover was her trusty journal. Can you help us? Take her journal and look for clues as to where Teagan might be. Don’t worry! We’re sure you won’t go missing too! (At least, we hope you don’t.)

Using one clue from the game prompt (i.e., Teagan was last seen camping along the Amur River), is the first of many steps that will create a tangential learning experience. In order for the player to begin their journey, they must know where to start. They can search through Teagan’s journal to find a reference to Amur River. This tells them where to start, and the clues lead them on a scavenger hunt. Maybe they’ll have an extremely rare sighting of an Amur leopard while they’re there, and maybe they’ll have to learn something about the Amur leopard being the most endangered big cat in the world, in order to discover the next clue about where Teagan is! Including facts, images, an engaging storyline, and other opportunities for tangential learning (e.g., not one, but two Amur leopards are at the Santa Barbara Zoo in California), can create a deeper learning experience, which can, in turn, be further augmented by visiting real and accessible places throughout the country (in the form of pictures, videos, or wiki entries).

Socialization

With a heroic character in place, a story for her to tell, and a game in which kids can be transported to a rich learning environment, an element of socialization adds to the higher end of the target audience age range. The game itself can serve as a large component of a social network site where young explorers (users) can get together to share clues about where Teagan may be, what they have discovered about big cats, and share ideas they’ve come up with to combat the various issues affecting the population of big cats (e.g., poaching and a variety of human and environmental factors). Another approach may be utilizing already existing social networking sites, such as Facebook, Google, or Twitter. Allowing users to share their progress, facts that they found interesting, or hints about Teagan’s whereabouts allows not only socialization, but word of mouth advertising, and positive reinforcement; it enhances the feeling of resonance. Best of all, these sites are already a part of the Cause An Uproar campaign.

Conclusion

By creating a tangential experience for the user, as well as enhanced and separated sites with content aimed at specified target audiences, Cause An Uproar and the Big Cat Initiative will promote awareness in a manner unlike most other campaigns. When learning and awareness is fostered via means of entertainment, the capacity for growth is exponential. Consumers are spending a great deal of time online. Appropriating a small chunk of that precious time for the much needed opening of hearts and minds to the issues plaguing big cats across the globe, allows for the global awareness articulated in the goals of the BCI. With some minor adjustments to the current content, the addition of a website specifically aimed at youth, and continual reinforcement of support, the Big Cat Initiative can implement a campaign that will provide edutainment to the future minds of our nation while encouraging continued support, of an adult target audience, for the preservation of the beautiful big cats we all love so much.

References

Floyd, D. (Writer) (2008). Brain training: Video games and tangential learning [Web]. Retrieved

from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN0qRKjfX3s

Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other

people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Kotler, P., & Lee, N. R. (2008). Social marketing: Influencing behaviors for good. (3 ed.).

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

IREX Consulting: Youth Theatre for Peace

When considering the McKenzie-Mohr (2000) model of successful psychological involvement in social marketing, we find that the Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) (2011) successfully incorporates several of presented principles. As youth make up approximately half of the population of Tajikistan (Tackling Community Issues on Stage, 2011), IREX, with the support of USAID has created this project in order 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.

Forum Theatre is a type of play in which audiences are encouraged to participate in resolution. The core of the story is scripted to present an identifiable conflict via the protagonist, which the protagonist is unable to overcome. The audience is then asked to suggest possible alternative solutions, and those are played out (Forum Theatre, n.d.)

YTP addresses barriers both internal (e.g., educating individuals via scripted plays then soliciting participation for critical consideration of how the problems may be resolved) and outside the individual (e.g., creating a summer camp which trains students and educators, providing continued guidance, and facilitating touring) (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000).

No information is given regarding any specific attempts at identifying barriers, nor pilot studies that may have been used to evaluate potential alternative programs. However, examples of social change via forum theatre are widespread (Forum Theatre, n.d.; Houston, Magill, McCollum, & Spratt, 2001; Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions, n.d.), and may have motivated the assumed effectiveness of the medium. If these steps were not taken in this specific case, this is certainly one thing I would recommend. McKenzie-Mohr (2000) points out that these are steps which are often overlooked.

Case studies were provided as evaluative materials, as well as, presumably, agents for reinforcing support and donations. However, a final evaluation was provided (Youth Transformed: Final Evaluation Of Youth Theatre For Peace Released, 2011) which cites the use of focus groups, comparison groups, surveys, and the like.

Executive Summary

References:

Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.attempt-eu.org/uploads/media/FORUM_THEATRE.pdf

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work6, 285-293.

McKenzie-Mohr, D. (2000). Fostering Sustainable Behavior Through Community-Based Social Marketing. American Psychologist, 55(5), 531-537.

Tackling Community Issues on Stage. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/news/tackling-community-issues-stage

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/sites/default/files/USAID%20Success%20Story.pdf

Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/project/youth-theater-peace

Youth Transformed: Final Evaluation Of Youth Theatre For Peace Released. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from: http://www.irex.org/news/youth-transformed-final-evaluation-youth-theater-peace-released

Kaw Lah Films

The plight of the Karen who are indigenous to Burma led to several epiphanic moments for me. Exploring possible causes via analysis using Garner’s (2006) factors may lead to more epiphanies. I only hope that one day I can use media as effectively, and to such valiant ends as these.

Cease Fire (Kaw Lah Films, 2009) is a film created by an indigenous film group which strives to educate the Karen, as well as those outside Burma, about self-determination, steps toward freeing the Karen of the oppressive SPDC tyranny under which they “live”, and examples of courage in the face of SPDC adversity. The most striking notion expressed in this chapter is the idea that the international audience can best help by not giving charity to those struggling, but by supporting their self-determination. Allowing them the support to brave this tyranny and overcome the Burmese themselves by standing up for themselves.

Because it is important the Kaw Law to encourage self-determination, the audience I believe is targeted by Kaw Lah, is the indigenous Karen. Were Kaw Law Films able to distribute this message to those Karen struggling to survive, the factors in play would be using reason, research, resonance, real world events, and redescriptions.

Kaw Law uses reason by examining facts about historical populations, land control, military, and previously enjoyed rights; basic rights owed to humans. They use research by seeking out specific examples of rape, death, forced abandonment of homes and villages, case studies, etc. This kind of information would resonate with audiences who have lived through similar examples of tyranny. Real world events (in the case of Cease Fire they specifically highlight the cease fire ordered in January of 2004) give examples of how no self-determination leads to even worse consequences (e.g., no Karen military to defend the Karen ended in much more abuse and violence). Finally, filming the events and distributing them throughout villages and Karen refuges allows for redescriptions of the events and stories which seek to encourage self-determination.

The Kaw Law media group relays a variety of stories; courage, loss, abuse, and accomplishment. Their message doesn’t ask for hand outs, rather it asks for the intolerance of abuse and the courage to reject that abuse. It asks for us, as an international audience, to become aware and supportive, while refusing to enable. The fact that Kaw Lah Films are willing to go into dangerous places, interviewing Karen, and braving Burmese, shows their drive towards self-determination as well; a great example to those who may not know a world where it is acceptable to stand up for yourself.

References:

Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaw Lah Films. (2009) Cease fire. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL6F93A963CC913B16&feature=player_embedded&v=ZOH529OwYZo