Print Project – Hackers – Final Thoughts

At the beginning of this project I felt that it would be difficult to talk about hackers, because the lack of a consistent “face” and their predisposition towards secrecy over the internet would make it difficult to create an “image” of what hackers were. But with more research, I realized that the media creates the medium which the image of the hacker is created. Works such as film and articles that use the hacker as a character become valuable sources in tracing the changes in what the public thinks about hackers.

It was through media that the public was introduced to the hacker subculture community, where in the 1980s the film War Games features a young hacker played by Matthew Broderick, and his actions unwittingly create as a dangerous situation with the government’s weapons system. The hacker in this film is the first major attempt of creating an image of a hacker, and it reflects public sentiment on what role hackers played in the emerging field of computer programming.

With advancements in computer and information technology, the part hackers played in this field expanded, along with changes in how the public views them. These changes in public opinion on the importance of information would be reflected in the depiction of hackers. In the 1980s the hacker was seen as a free spirit, championing free information while blazing new trails in an expanding internet/computer frontier. But in the 1990s, increasing fears on the damage hackers were capable of would change the hacker character into a more sinister figure, a mercenary working for self interest. The hacker image would shift into a middle road from 2000 into the present, a more diverse group with figures representing both ends of positive and negative portrayals of hacker intentions.

In only a short period of 30 years between 1980 and the present, the image of the hacker has come through numerous changes, reflecting the thoughts and perceptions of the public regarding information technology. Even at the end of this project, I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of a group that surprisingly is deeper than the initial images they project.

Digital Project: Roundabout Kentucky

My digital project is up and running at this website: roundaboutkentucky.wordpress.com.

I am using the Library of Congress website, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, to tell the stories of the people who lived in Frankfort, Kentucky at the time the Frankfort Roundabout, a local newspaper, was being published.  I have chosen to do this because I want to make local history come alive for people.  Reading the stories behind the names is always more interesting than reading a list of people.  In order to find the stories I have delved into state government records that are open to the public, archives, and other treasure troves of information available thanks to the internet.  I have had success in finding birth and death certificates as well.  Another feature that has added greatly to my project is google my maps.  I created a tour of buildings in Frankfort, that were contemporary with the publications dates of the Frankfort Roundabout.  This has added an element of interactivity to the blog.

I would like to attract readers of all ages and backgrounds.  Schools may find this site interesting and useful to teach local history.  It is linked to the Lexington History Museum website already.  I am still waiting for a response from The Lexington Herald-Leader, which published an article about Chronicling America back in February; which can be found here.  The article states that local genealogists would find Chronicling America helpful; I’m hoping to attract these same people to my site because they may be able to add depth and richness to the conversation.

I have run into a few problems with wordpress so far.  One of these is that wordpress has shut down on me twice.  The second problem is that no matter what I do I cannot seem to get my headline picture clear.  Everything else is running smoothly.  I have had consistent readership at an average of 6 people a day.  Unfortunately there have still been 0 comments.  This is a number I would like to change drastically before the project is due.  Any suggestions regarding this would be appreciated.

Print Project Proposal

Look Away, Video Land: Is historical accuracy more important than playing another action Game?

The American Civil War is the one topic than never goes away. Several books and articles are published each year detailing and reassessing pivotal battles, biographies, and recent discoveries.[1] From Douglas Southhall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants to James and Walter Kennedy’s controversial The South was Right! the historiography is static yet ever changing. As contemporary audiences study and learn about the Civil War, it is important to consider this generation’s familiarity with, and exposure to technology. Many individuals have become techno-savvy, owners of IPods, laptop computers, and possess a comfort level with the Digital.[2]

While historians debate how to reach this new audience, we should note that video game creators moved beyond these considerations years ago. Real time action is often portrayed from the “shooter’s perspective,” although more sophisticated play takes into account various camera angles, overhead perspectives, maps, and the ability to give battle from the Confederate or Federal point of view. Historically accurate conflicts, troop movements, and terrain add to the realism. We can argue that video games based on fact have become an extension of learning. In this way, some gamers get their first exposure to history while others work on their problem solving skills – with adventure and shooting thrown into the mix.

In less than 2 months, we will remember and contemplate what occurred 150 years ago.  The start of this bloody conflict, and the ensuing four years, left more than 620,000 dead, thousands wounded, produced countless numbers of widows, and orphans, and changed a nation.  In creating this proposal, I would draw on recent postings from Wikipedia and Gamespot, reviews from game manufacturers, as well as sites pertaining to Civil War culture and the study’s historiography. Are players learning about the Civil War as they interact with the games? Are they already versed with the topic and play because of that fact?  Is historical accuracy more important than the ability to blow things up; is that period in history secondary to another shooter game? Understanding these points will show the enormous impact that the war had, and continues to have on our culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] David G. Smith, “Clear the Valley: The Shenandoah Valley and the Genesis of the Gettysburg Campaign,” Journal of Military History 74 # 4 (October 2010). Smith argues that Robert E. Lee needed to clear the Valley of occupying Union forces and he hoped to accomplish this by attacking the North.

[2] “Parents Beware: Your Toddlers are Tech Savvy,” Tech.Blorge, accessed 6 February2008: http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2011/01/25/parents-beware-your-toddlers-are-tech-savvy/

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

I feel like I have walked through the wrong door when I read this book. I am a gamer who can talk at length about the benefits of video games. When I read this book, I am inundated with complex phraseologies for what I already knew about video games. In short, this book is not for gamers. It is for linguists and specialists in education to understand video games. But let us look in more detail at this book.

James Paul Gee’s thesis is that video games can teach more than just basic hand-eye coordination. Gee believes that games can teach and that we can learn a lot from how they teach. Gee has 36 points of what games teach. 36 points that I will not explicitly state because there is providing basic information and then there is padding, and listing and explaining all 36 points is what the book is for, not the book’s summary. I think I agree with all 36 of the book’s points. I know I read the book, but I’m not sure I fully absorbed it. I’m not sure what a semiotic domain is or if video games ever taught me about them.

Despite all of this, I still feel the need to recommend this book to some people. I think the reason I am not getting the full message out of this book is that I am arriving from the perspective of someone who not only knows that games can teach and teach us about learning, but I already have my own examples. What this book teaches me is how to phrase what I already know in a different way and talk to a different group of people about the same subject. There are other people who approach this topic. I think particularly of Extra Credits, a video series about video games and video game design on TheEscapistMagazine.com (links to specific episodes will be included at the bottom), but there are other people on the internet who talk about this subject. But there has been one massive flaw in how they have talked about them in my previous experience. All of the people I know of who talk about video games and there value to society have been coming from the perspective of people who grew up playing games. They are not the 60 year-old linguists, but mid-20s adults who played video games for most of their lives. I think this book’s biggest value is just that it brings a different perspective to a dialogue that is already going on.

 

As far as the video series I was discussing concern, there were two episodes that come to mind. One is on gamification and incorporating game design into other aspects of life  http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2985-Gamification. The other video I think is important to this discussion is on tangential learning http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2957-Tangential-Learning. They also make reference to an older episode about The Skinner Box and psychology that you can find here, but I do not necessarily think that this episode is as relevant or is entirely necessary to understand what they are talking about http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2487-The-Skinner-Box. I cannot guarantee that all of the content on this site is 100% safe for work, so visit at your own risk, but the videos themselves are SFW. Hopefully, these videos will help to illustrate my point about understanding the point of this book without understanding the language in it.

What Can We Learn about Video Games from those who change the rules?

Granted, this is a strange way to begin analyzing this subject, but it seemed like a reasonable question. Trevor Owens, formerly with the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University certainly thought so.  He took Sid Meier’s popular game Civilization – both praised as an educational tool and criticized for promoting Eurocentrism – and studied the problematic issues in interpreting this game by examining the ways in which gamers modify play and how they approached the history of science, technology and knowledge represented in the game. Owens discovered that Civilization modders (gamers who modify the game) use reason and argument rather than their intuition for developing historical models. Community members value a form of historical accuracy, they prize subtlety and nuance in models for science within the game, and they communicate through civil consensus building.

Instead of mining information from interviews, surveys, or questionnaires, Owens used message boards and forums to explore discussions about science and technology in the Civilization games. He keyed in on two specific game communities: the CivFanatics and Apolyton web sites.  The two groups provided a way to discuss game play and work collectively on modifying projects.

He then focused on how game modders were working with the system of civilization commonly known as the “tech tree.” Owens’ examination included a single thread discussion allowing him to record the objectives and considerations that Civilization game modifiers pursued and discussed.  From the Apolyton site, four main points emerged in the modders’ philosophies and values. They established a desire to increase historical accuracy in the game. They assessed how game mechanics mirror socio-historical behavior. They introduced distinctive changes to make the game more factual. They held their discussions by consensus building.

Unique to this game is a “science advisor” who provides potential cultural progressions and technologies. Players decide on a research agenda, generate research points and acquire technologies yielding game play advantages. Gamers create the research points by assigning a portion of their civilizations taxes to research. More points are earned if citizens are turned into scientists and buildings constructed which produce additional research points.

Most revealing was one gamer’s reason for modifying the game. Simply put, the gradual progression of human learning and advancement cannot be summarized into 100 unrelated milestones and a player is unrealistically limited to doing one thing at a time. In this example, historical accuracy and authenticity helped better reflect this gamer’s concept of the past.  Additional posters finessed how Civilization could be altered to reflect their understanding of how knowledge, science, and technology:

Technology should be affected by what the player does in the sense that if he builds a lot of ships, his shipbuilding technology should go up, and if he stops making ships, the technology deteriorates. Maybe technology level could be a property of a population whereas scientific knowledge is the proper of the whole civilization?[1]

The shipbuilding argument explains this gamer’s line of reasoning that a specific technology should develop additional expertise with that technology. His idea settled a perceived problem from a previous posting, namely that rudimentary scientific and applied technical skills are modeled in the same way.

Instead of examining the flaws in Civilization’s representation of the history of science, game modders looked at this as an opportunity to consider their own understanding of technology and science.  Changes within the paradigm of a “See the game, play the game” mindset allowed players to discuss historic fact. Along the way, they developed the methods and courtesies of scholarly conversation. Modders replayed history; they constructed, critiqued, proposed, and developed real simulations for understanding historical events.[2] Civilization was designed to be altered and changed. Owens’ presentation illustrated that a positive discourse, accuracy, and consensus building can occur within the worldly confines of digital imagination and can help engage both the public and students in a valuable process of developing and refining their understanding of science and its role in society. A true win, win scenario for all.


[1] Trevor Owens, “Modding the History of Science: Values at Play in Modder Discussions of Sid Meier’s Civilization,” accessed 4 April, 2011, http://www.sagepub.com

[2] Hayden White, Metahistory:  The historical imagination in nineteenth-century Europe, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.

Sources-
www.realgear.net