cjcoughlin

MDW #8

Mystory link

Gamification Explained

Thanks to the prevalence of video games and the coming of age of people who grew up playing video games, the approach of “gamifying” situations and jobs has become very prominent in the past few years. Gamification applies the core concepts of video games such as gaining virtual rewards and experience points for doing tasks to the real world. Getting kids to do their chores without complaining has been a hassle for centuries but turning those same chores into a video game experience can provide motivation and more importantly make it fun; apps like Chore Monster  are customizable by parents and provide feedback to kids and encourages continued progress  to complete more and more chores.

I use the Fitocracy app to track workouts I do and keep records of what exercises I’ve done on a specific day. Fitocracy is heavily integrated with social media and allows the sharing of fitness goals and the encouragement of the community towards those goals. As workouts are completed and logged, users gain experience points that go towards leveling up and earning achievement badges. Fitocracy is a great example of effective gamification of a real world activity; encouraging users to live healthy lives and share positive reinforcement with one another.

The Language of New Media, Chapter Six

After spending the first five chapters of  The Language of New Media alluding to cinema’s place in the digital landscape Lev Manovich uses chapter six to define how exactly cinema technology integrates with the tenets of new media. Manovich deconstructs cinema into the relatable concept of “images”: images are possibly the backbone of new media as they incorporate so many facets of current digital media. A discrete language, modular layers, the existence of compression and an anchor to linked content. As with the last chapter and the ubiquity of digital databases, Manovich hit upon a reality in plain sight but hidden by overuse:

Any unique image that you desire probably already exists on the internet or on some database. As I have already noted, the problem today is no longer how to create the right image, but how to find an already existing one.

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit searching for the “perfect” image instead of using tools already at my disposal to create exactly what I need. I imagine this is due to a couple of reasons: it’s theoretically easier to enter search terms into Google and I am too critical of my own work and would get too wrapped up in the creation of the image.

A.B.C_Cinema_derelict_interior,_Wakefield,_UK_1048321_1ef100d3-by-philld

Images created for any purpose have one goal in mind: to tell a story. Whether it’s a motion picture, snapshot or portrait the image exists to say “This is what is happening right now through this camera lens.” Of course with digital manipulation and compositing the camera lens is extended to the point of view of the screen, but the idea remains the same. Even when dealing with fantastical ideas that do not exist without image manipulation the image still bends to the narrative, stating “This is what is happening right now through this camera lens, even though it doesn’t really exist in the natural world.” Cinema and new media makes this possible.

The Language of New Media was a challenging read at times but the underlying message became much clearer after finishing chapter six. Digital technology has evolved to become a single machine comprised of many components creating an all-in-one tool for work and play. It’s difficult to imagine where media will go next but there was also a time when tiny had-held computers that everyone carried with them seemed like a pipe dream.

MDW #7

Article #1

Effective summaries can make or break an article.

Journalists should be mindful of the power of a successful summary. Readers, now more than ever, are pressed for time and depend on an authors brevity and discretion when finding news and topics that are relevant to them and a good summary can be the sharpest tool in their toolbox.

In his treatise on writing effective summaries, Jim Stovall gives a good rundown of the essential traits a summary should have: it should either inform, educate or entice. An informational summary provides the reader with an overview of the story, giving them an easily digestible sampling of the meat of the article.

The analytical summary presents the reader with the “why”; why did the local team lose, how was the accident caused, etc. The author gives the reader a more refined glimpse into the story by providing more details, but with a brief delivery.

Finally, the author may try the approach of a provocative summary. A strong, somewhat mysterious lead-in can give readers a sense of anticipation that makes them want to discover what a story is about. This seems to be the de-facto tactic today for journalists looking to attract attention to a story. When used appropriately these three summary techniques are sure to deliver results, no matter what the story is.

 

Article #2

Brevity is the essence of successful web writing.

Some of the most successful writers in history have relied upon making their points using an economy of words. Conveying your message in a concise format is essential to effective communication online.

When writing, there’s a natural inclination to illustrate your point with a good deal of words. No one wants to be misunderstood and some authors believe that more words equals better reader comprehension. History has proven, however, that some of the most powerful and memorable documents, speeches and articles have relied upon a sense of brevity. Choosing the right words is half the battle.

 

Article #3

http://www.wired.com/2014/04/free-iphone-5s-deal-proves-apple-isnt-so-special/

Apple’s plan to maintain their grip on the market with phones at different price points seems to have backfired.

With the release of the iPhone models 5c and 5s Apple finally addressed consumer concerns by providing an “entry level” phone to those not prepared to spend the money for the latest and greatest. The unintended consequence is buyers are hesitant to put down their cash for a phone that will be outdated within a year.

Retailers noticed this hesitation and have pounced, offering trade-in deals for the newer and more powerful model, the 5s. When it was introduced the 5s was seen as the “premium” phone in comparison to the bargain priced 5c; the 5s boasted a faster processor and screen while the 5c was a slightly upgraded 5 with a colorful shell. This seemed to be popular with buyers at first but in just a short time the 5s has become the de facto model thanks to Apple’s release schedule and retailer deals. It seems not everything with an Apple logo will sell.

 

Article #4

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/17/netflix-comcast-phishing-_n_5161680.html?utm_hp_ref=technology&ir=Technology

A new phishing scam is targeting Netflix users by drawing them to fake websites via sponsored ads.

Just weeks after Netflix users were warned of a phishing attempt perpetrated by crooks posing as customer service representatives, a new con has emerged: scammers are purchasing advertisements with fake support phone numbers through legitimate companies and pushing those ads to the top of search results.

This is particularly troublesome because these ads look official and are set to fool a lot of people.  When a customer calls one of the crooked numbers, a scammer may ask for login info or account specifics; an old phishing trick but the brazenness of the enterprise should have people worried. Consumers should be wary when searching for support and only trust links that refer back to a service or company’s official site.

 

MDW #11

My research paper will detail the rise of online learning and the impact it has made on traditional learning methods. I will approach the subject as both a student and an administrator of a learning management system. Here are a few sources I will cite in my examination of the modern LMS.

Understanding the Implications of Online Learning for Educational Productivity

http://ucaft.org/content/being-present-critique-online-education-bob-samuels

This report from the US Department of Education gives a high-level overview of distance learning. There are many facets to an online education that do not exist for face to face classes and this is an effective primer for anyone unfamiliar with the concept. This report is comprised of a great deal of research from many different sources to provide the “official” word on distance learning.

Being Present – A Critique of Online Education

http://ucaft.org/content/being-present-critique-online-education-bob-samuels

As big of a believer in the idea of online learning as I am, I believe it is important to include criticisms of it in my paper as well. In this article Bob Samuels makes his case for the value of a face to face education, free from the distractions of outside influence. Samuels makes valid points, although I don’t necessarily agree with him in regards to classroom experiences, especially in regards to the elimination of digital distractions to the students.

Is Your LMS Social Enough?

http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1204/elearning-guild-research-is-your-lms-social-enough

Major companies such as Blackboard and Canvas have placed more and more emphasis on social media integration and functionality within their LMS’s. It seems it is not enough to just pass information back and forth between applications like Facebook and Twitter, the LMS itself should contain a sharing and social collaboration within the system itself. I would like to explore if this is just a distraction or if it could serve a greater purpose towards connection students.

The Language of New Media, Chapter Five

Lev Manovich outlines a theory in Chapter Five of The Language of New Media that I hadn’t realized I’d been forming in my own head as I played video games, navigated websites and explored Second Life over the years: modern interactive technology is built upon repositories or databases of information that form the digital backbone of our entertainment and work. Moving through a virtual world filled with objects, texts, pictures and videos its easy to forget that they exist in a digital space, they take up room on a hard drive or external media. I smiled at Manovich’s description of interactive CD-ROM encyclopedias that seem ancient today but brought hours of enjoyment in my younger years. Each encyclopedia had the same structure: a “lobby” scene with a list of subjects to visit. This paradigm can be seen throughout other simulations and games, although it has been skewed to represent a 3D environment.

Navigating these environments calls upon a database of objects that provide information; this information helps complete the narrative that has been designed for us. All of this information, however, threatens to overwhelm the narrative. Manovich states:

If traditional cultures provided people with well-defined narratives (myths, religion) and little “standalone” information, today we have too much information and too few narratives that can tie it all together. For better or worse, information access has become a key activity of the computer age.

Progressing through this narrative and accessing the database in the desired order allows us as users and consumers to solve the puzzle, or underlying algorithm of the media. Manovich brings up the valid point that databases work best when they are following this algorithm in a narrative or structured context; “infodumps” have their place, but a narrative roadmap gives us the tools needed to get what we need and get out.

…Narratives and games are similar in that the user must uncover their underlying logic while proceeding through them – their algorithm.

As I said before, this is something I’ve noticed in my digital travels but I have a feeling I’ll be doomed to notice how I interact with virtual objects and what it means to access the hard drive information behind them.

cinemagraph

The Language of New Media, Chapter Four

The “Uncanny Valley” is a phenomenon introduced in the 70’s that describes an inevitable reality of technology: we will create something so realistic and humanlike that it will cause us to recoil and shudder. This will eventually occur most predominantly in the field of robotics but the foundations can be seen in the past 20 years in breakthroughs of computer generated movie special effects. Manovich goes into great detail in chapter four of The Language of New Media about how media and technology have evolved over the centuries to produce photorealistic art that aspires to trick the human eye.  An unintended and unanticipated consequence of this pursuit is a sense of “wrongness” on our part: there’s a line that can be crossed when something is just a little too real.

Frank Pollick at the University of Glasgow has gathered research and offered some ideas about the uncanny valley in his paper “In Search of the Uncanny Valley” :

The primary evidence to support its existence comes from research by MacDorman and Ishiguro (MacDorman & Ishiguro, 2006) that explored observers reactions to facial morphs from a mechanistic robot – to a human looking robot – to an actual human. What they found was that at the boundary of the mechanistic robot and the human looking robot there was a rise in judgments of the eeriness of the display that was consistent with judgments of the morph being seen as less human.

HONDA_ASIMO

Creating the illusion of the “real world” seems to be the goal when constructing virtual worlds and simulated environments, but one thing a computer may not account for is that the real world is not pristine; it has dirt, grime and character. For a while, CG artists were producing scenes that were too clean and had to learn how to gracefully “degrade” the results. Manovich states:

Typical images produced with 3-D computer graphics still appear unnaturally clean, sharp and geometric looking. Their limitations especially stand out when juxtaposed with a normal photograph. Thus one of the landmark achievements of Jurassic Park was the seamless integration of film footage of real scenes with computer-simulated objects. To achieve this integration, computer-generated images had to be degraded; their perfection had to be diluted to match the imperfection of film’s graininess.

I love movies that promise spectacular effects, and like many others, I’m immediately taken out of the experience when I see an effect or other CG that doesn’t look real or like it doesn’t fit into the scene. I can appreciate the advancement of technology, though, and know that bigger and better advancements towards photorealism are on the horizon. The uncanny valley is a ways off but the illusions of modern media are getting more refined and believable every day. I think I want to keep them on the screen though; I’m not thrilled about hyperrealistic robots getting in my face.

Video Time Challenge One

MDW #10

A brief piece of visual storytelling detailing the struggle of coming up with the right words.

https://storify.com/cjcoughlin/writer-s-block