Leading Thinkers: Introduction & Interviews: Howard Rheingold & Constance Steinkuehler

Zachariah James Watson

The opening introduction of this particular reading begins with a statement about how digital media is changing the ways in which the modern generation (young people) is learning due to the undeniable influence that it possesses. According to research by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation beginning in 2005, the ultimate result is a “moving feast of ideas and means of engaging children, teenagers, and young adults though digital media.

The interview with Howard Rheingold focuses on we are able to use technology as a means to take learning into our own hands. This is a man who has been part of the ongoing development of the internet since it first came into being (around 20 years). He discusses how digital technology can be used to address particular issues in regards to social media (identity, presentation of self, community, collective action, the public sphere, and social capital). He also addresses how media technology is mainly about day-to-day experiences as well as his life’s journey toward becoming a leading professor and teacher in the study of digital media.

The interview with Constance Steinkuehler addresses the functions of “Games in the Classroom.” Steinkuehler is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madision who co-directs the Games+Learning+Society (GLS) at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. According to her, digital media can be used as a means toward engaged learning and exploration. She also believes that it is important to form partnerships/relationships between game designers and academics through investment.




Discussion Questions:

1) What is your personal position on what it most important role of digital media?

2) In what ways do you believe that games can or cannot be used as a means of exploration and engaged learning?


Bogost: Relaxation

Zachariah James Watson

As Bogost begins his chapter on video-games and the purpose they serve when it comes to relaxation, he points out how video-games can be called either a “lean forward” medium, or a “lean back” media. Leaning back is typically associated with control, activity, and engagement. It is also most associated with relaxation, passivity, and sometimes even gluttony.The process of leaning forward requires continuous attention, thought, and movement when it comes to video-game activity. Leaning forward is useful when the desired effect of a video-game is high attention and twitchiness. Depending on what sort of mindset and/or mood you are in, either one of these approaches to video-games can be utilized in order to achieve your desired goal and purpose (relaxation, activity, etc.). There are multiple examples of video-games that can simulate either one of the desired states of mind and/or being. For instance, open-world and/or story driven games like Skyrim Dragon’s Dogma, and/or Mass Effect can allow you to explore countless possibilities with your custom designed character and have the story unfold as you see fit. This creates a sense of relaxation in terms of personal empowerment and fulfillment. Bogost uses a term for this topic known as Video-game Zen.




Discussion Questions:

1) Do you believe that video-games can serve as an effective form of relaxation?

2) What ways do you think that video-games do or don’t serve as tools for relaxation?

Bogost: Branding

Zachariah James Watson

As Bogost begins his take on branding, he starts by pointing out the reality of how monopoly has had a long, complex, and unknown history with the structure and design of business practices. He then states how the established set of values of being a business tycoon were once different when they were first set in place. Around 1903, about thirty years before the established form of monopoly as we know it, a woman named Elizabeth Maggie Philips designed a board game called The Landlord’s Game to promote a philosophy known as Georgism. This form of economic philosophy suggests that land cannot be owned by any one person, but belongs to everyone equally. With this in mind, video-games can also be perceived in this manner as public property. However, there have been countless attempts by companies to brand certain names, titles, and ideas as their property in order to capitalize on them as a means of increasing their personal wealth and income (Hasbro, Activision, Capcom, EA, etc.).



Discussion Questions:

1) What is your personal take on how branding should work within the video-game industry?

2) Should there ever be any sort of monopoly within the video-game industry? Why or why not?

Bogost: Empathy, Skim, and Reverence

Zachariah James Watson

Bogost’s chapter (2 & 3) on empathy, skim, and reverence dives into the ways that video-games allow us to associate them within the realms of the virtual reality of the video-game world. He begins by stating how video-games enable us to experience empathy by allowing us to take a walk through someone else’s shoes, at least in a manner of speaking. When we play video-games, we are able to find a sense of fulfillment through “power fantasies.” From wielding deadly weapons to engaging in warfare with other characters, video-games allow us to experience a personal/psychological sense of empowerment without having to deal with real-life consequences.

Bogost also points out how video-games are often accused of promoting disrespect, particularly with their visual representation, or “celebration”, of violence and encouraging disdain for our men, women, and culture. However, he also address how video-games can be used to “promote” embracing respect, deference, and reverence for one another.

Discussion Questions:

1) What do you believe video-games promote the most in terms of content and conduct?

2) Do you think video-games are more of a negative influence or a positive one?




How to do things with video-games: Art

Zachariah James Watson

Ian Bogost begins his take on “How to do things with Video-Games” by asking the basic question about whether or not video-games are a form of art. He backs up his position on the subject with the development of twentieth-century avant-garde. That it has changed the landscape of how art can to be created and interpreted. Avant-garde is any form of artistic movement that are experimental and/or innovative, particularly with respect to art and culture. Video-games were once perceived as a form of advent-garde because of how they were once in a stage of experimentation and development. Of course those who are involved with the video-game industry know that they are constantly undergoing stages of experimentation and development because of how video-games are proving to be an ever evolving force in terms of gameplay, visuals, mechanics, and interactivity. With all of this in mind, it is save to say that video-games are definitely a form of art that stands out from all the rest in terms of capability and influence.




Discussion Questions:

1) Do you believe that video-games are a unique form of art?

2) What place do video-games have as an art-form within our society?

Bogost: Media Micro-ecology

Zachariah James Watson

Ian Bogost discusses the topic of media micro-ecology through a series of multiple takes on the effects of media related activity throughout our society. For instance, Bogost begins by summarizing the argument of journalist, Nicholas Carr, which is about how the internet has been contributing to a “major decline within the realms of careful, reasoned, and imaginative human mind of the period between the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. While we may feel like we are getting smarter, we are actually just experiencing a fleeting burst of energy from a surgery snack instead lasting nourishment (Carr).”

Bogost later goes on to discuss the counter arguments toward Carr’s assertion of how the Internet has having a negative impact upon society. For instance, he uses Matthew Battles as an example of those who perceive the Internet as a much larger whole compared to Carr’s “literary” take on the subject. That their are multiple modes of reading that can and have coexisted with one another  for years.





Discussion Questions:

1) Who’s point of view do you find yourself siding with more? Carr or Battles?

2) What are some examples of how modern media has had a major impact upon our micro-ecology within society?

Why is it important to understand copyright law?

Understanding copyright law is essential for anyone who is striving to become any sort of artists in every known medium. Particularly within the mediums of online and/or cinematic media. Having a basic understanding of how copyright law operates and what each law entails enables one to navigate through both the pitfalls and potential opportunities that it can present when it is approached with diligence.

Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism

Zachariah James Watson

Christine Rosen’s article begins by stating the connection between how people (particularly the rich and powerful) would often like to have portraits of themselves painted and preserved as a form of documentation. This is also perceived as a form of narcissism. Today self-portraits are more democratic and digital compared to the paintings of recent centuries. They are crafted with pixels instead of paint. This if often distributed through websites like MySpace and Facebook. They can come with background music, manipulated photographs, stream-of-consciousness musings, and a list of hobbies and friends. Basically the new narcissism has become much more elaborate than ever before.

Rosen later goes on by discussing how narcissism can spread more widely and broadly now that the Internet has become a massive global phenomenon. Anyone can basically express themselves through all sorts of channels and means of connectivity in order to get their desirable identities known to people.




Discussion Questions:

1) How  has modern technology lead to more open and democratic narcissism in the 21st century?

2) What are some of the upsides and pitfalls of this “New Narcissism?”

The People’s Net

Zachariah James Watson

Douglas Rushkoff’s essay begins by stating just how much the Internet has become incredibly social, more alive, participatory, and engaging than ever before. He then goes on to discuss the statistics of how much time is spent on the Internet by the average user (20.2 hours in 2001, and 12.8 hours the year before according to data from Jupiter Media Metrix).  Now more than one-hundred million Americans now buy may of their goods and services online.

Rushkoff later goes on to state how investors, and analysts have both disconnected themselves from the business of the Internet along with those who have used the Internet as a profitable investment. Basically, the Internet has become a controversial landscape of business that has both attracted and repelled potential investors.

Rushkoff concludes his essay by pointing out that the Internet is more than capable of empowering those who have the capacity to embody it with transparency, participation, openness, and collaboration.




Discussion Questions:

1) How has the Internet become a major source of empowerment?

2) Why are people so divisive over the existence of the Internet?

Digital Divide: “Identity Crises” & “They Call Me Cyberboy”

Zachariah James Watson

Sherry Turkle’s essay on the phenomenon known as “identity crises” begins with a breakdown of how each era constructs and abides by its own metaphors for psychological well-being. That it was not long ago that stability and order were deemed as the most socially and culturally important values that were often reinforced. From rigid gender roles to repetitive labor, the expectation of being in one type of job without one’s life, or remaining in one location for a lifetime, each of these established values were perceived as consistently central to what was frequently defined as a healthy way of life (D.D. Pg. 99). Turkle then goes on to state how the current idea of mental stability involves flexibility and adaptability with an ever-changing world that now demands that one be able to evolve and integrate into constantly changing roles in society along with ever-changing circumstances.

The essay titled “They call me Cyberboy” by Douglas Rushkoff states how participating in cyber-culture used to be percieved by many as an unusual phenomenon by the masses and that only a handful of people could fully understand it. Now with the rise of modern technology and its unavoidable integration with everyday life, cyber-culture has become one of the most influential norms of the masses. Rushkoff also elaborates on how the Internet can be either effective or ineffective with practical areas of life (business, marketing, networking, etc.)




Discussion Questions:

1) Why does Rushkoff perceive the Internet as an ineffective marketing tool?

2) How is the modern expectation of being flexible and able to adapt to a changing world most associated with modern technology?