Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

More on ‘hanging out’ on MySpace

Youth and social network researcher Danah Boyd continues her examination of MySpace in a new talk presented to American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this year.

The sizeable quote gives an excellent thesis on what MySpace really represents and defines the three types of space that teens use MySpace to recreate.

So what exactly are teens _doing_ on MySpace? Simple: they’re hanging out. Of course, ask any teen what they’re _doing_ with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out.” Although adults often perceive hanging out to be wasted time, it is how youth get socialized into peer groups. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.

For many teens, hanging out has moved online. Teens chat on IM for hours, mostly keeping each other company and sharing entertaining cultural tidbits from the web and thoughts of the day. The same is true on MySpace, only in a much more public way. MySpace is both the location of hanging out and the cultural glue itself. MySpace and IM have become critical tools for teens to maintain “full-time always-on intimate communities” [4] where they keep their friends close even when they’re physically separated. Such ongoing intimacy and shared cultural context allows youth to solidify their social groups.

Digital Publics:

Adults often worry about the amount of time that youth spend online, arguing that the digital does not replace the physical. Most teens would agree. It is not the technology that encourages youth to spend time online – it’s the lack of mobility and access to youth space where they can hang out uninterrupted.

In this context, there are three important classes of space: public, private and controlled. For adults, the home is the private sphere where they relax amidst family and close friends. The public sphere is the world amongst strangers and people of all statuses where one must put forward one’s best face. For most adults, work is a controlled space where bosses dictate the norms and acceptable behavior.

Teenager’s space segmentation is slightly different. Most of their space is controlled space. Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don’t see it as their private space.

To them, private space is youth space and it is primarily found in the interstices of controlled space. These are the places where youth gather to hang out amongst friends and make public or controlled spaces their own. Bedrooms with closed doors, for example.

Adult public spaces are typically controlled spaces for teens. Their public space is where peers gather en masse; this is where presentation of self really matters. It may be viewable to adults, but it is really peers that matter.

Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents. Hanging out around the neighborhood or in the woods has been deemed unsafe for fear of predators, drug dealers and abductors. Teens who go home after school while their parents are still working are expected to stay home and teens are mostly allowed to only gather at friends’ homes when their parents are present.

Additionally, structured activities in controlled spaces are on the rise. After school activities, sports, and jobs are typical across all socio-economic classes and many teens are in controlled spaces from dawn till dusk. They are running ragged without any time to simply chill amongst friends.

By going virtual, digital technologies allow youth to (re)create private and public youth space while physically in controlled spaces. IM serves as a private space while MySpace provide a public component. Online, youth can build the environments that support youth socialization.

Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Social networking websites for education users

Interesting paper at First Monday reporting on the results into a study of K-12 needs and users on the Internet.

The advantages of SNWs are five–fold. First, they are more likely to save time and energy than supply–oriented sites. Instead of spending a couple hours doing trial and error excavations, the user may take 10–20 minutes doing a few custom matching searches, type a few e–mail messages, and then logoff. Secondly, SNWs lead to more precise results than using a search engine or some supply–oriented site. Individuals have a capacity to reason and share experiences. Reasoning and sharing are inherent to the SNW model. Reasoning and shared experience allow for customization and tackling situational questions. Third, the social networking Web site fosters an environment that encourages informal learning. While expanding knowledge bases, social networking sites facilitate contacts to help bridge understanding and enhance judgment. Research has shown that casual acquaintances, sustained by “weak ties”, are more likely than strong relationships to offer pathways to new and varied information [10]. Fourth, rather than posing as direct competition, social networking will complement supply–oriented sites. The simplest use of a social networking site is to find reference information. As relations develop, users may be pointed to primary sources, whether they are other individuals, K–12 supply–oriented sites, or off–line K–12 organizations. Finally, to some degree, relationships should prosper. This would be beneficial at the individual level in terms of resources, peer support, elaboration, corroboration, collaboration, mobilization, or organization. Communities should also benefit as SNWs foster social exchanges and carry potential for K–12 civic–building.

Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

“Is MySpace Just A Fad?” Subcultural capital and social networking

This neat little essay looking at how Friendster gave way to MySpace was a bit of throwback to my university research days. All this talk of subcultural capital . . .

Portability of identity doesn’t matter. Easy-to-use interfaces don’t matter. Visual coherence doesn’t matter. Simple navigation doesn’t matter. Bugs don’t matter. Fancy new technologies don’t matter. Simple personalization doesn’t matter.

Before you scream “but it does to me!” let me acknowledge that you’re right. It does matter to you. The question is whether it matters to the masses. And it doesn’t. Especially for teens.

What’s at stake here is what is called “subcultural capital” by academics. It is the kind of capital that anyone can get, if you are cool enough to know that it exists and cool enough to participate. It is a counterpart to “cultural capital” which is more like hegemonic capital. That was probably a bit too obscure. Let me give an example. Opera attendance is a form of cultural capital – you are seen as having money and class and even if you think that elongated singing in foreign languages is boring, you attend because that’s what cultured people do. You need the expensive clothes, the language, the body postures, the social connects and the manners to belong. Limitations are economic and social. Rave attendance is the opposite. Anyone can get in, in theory… There are certainly hodgepodged clothes, street language and dance moves, but most folks can blend in with just a little effort. Yet, the major limitation is knowing that the rave exists. “Being in the know” is more powerful than money. You can’t buy your way into knowledge of a rave.

MySpace has grown so large that the needs, values and practices of its users are slamming into each other. It’s facing the archetypical clashing of cultures. Yet, interestingly, most users are not that concerned – they’re trying to figure out how to live in this super public. The challenge is that outsiders are panicking about a culture that they are not a part of. They want to kill the super public rather than support people in learning how to negotiate it. No one knows how to live in such a super public, but this structure is going to become increasingly a part of our lives. It is no wonder that youth want to figure it out. And it is critical that they do, especially since our physical worlds have become more segregated and walled off, partitioned by age, race, class, religion, values, etc. Yet, it is the older generation that did that segregating and they’re not really ready to face collapsed contexts at every turn or to learn how to engage with people who have very different values on a daily basis. Because of their position of power, outsiders are pushing the big red emergency button, screaming danger and creating a complete and utter moral panic. Welcome to a generational divide, where adults are unable to see the practices of their children on kids’ terms.

The rest of the article is a solid discussion of how to MySpace worked because it let its user community do exactly what it wanted to whilst at the same time Friendster was having all sorts of server troubles and locking down its system to any hacks. As the article argues, social networking sites need to maximise the opportunities for expression and personality – that’s why people use them – to create identity – and outside of those such as LinkedIn with an explicit action/goal-oriented ‘reason for being’, they need to be open, flexible and organised by their userbase.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

australian children’s television workshop – kahootz

The australian children’s television workshop, already pretty famous with kids as the creators of round the twist, yolngu boy, lil elvis jones plus much more, are also producers of a clever and versatile piece of 3-D software for students and kids called kahootz.

The philosophy behind Kahootz is to promote creativity, problem solving, and sharing of projects and so actw have deliberately limited the assets (worlds, objects, etc) available within the program. The project files are typically only a few kb which ensures that bandwidth issues dont prevent file exchange via the kahootz online community. (Reminding me of the days before mp3 when MIDI was the way of sharing music online: the midi file contained just the instructions: which sounds/notes to play, how and when to play them. The actual sounds only exist on the users sound card).
You can however import jpegs, so designing and populating a virtual gallery is a justaddwater museum student activity.
This software and its community site represents a substantial and very elegant set of experiential learning opportunities with a focus on design process, collaborative problem solving, and sharing the interactive outcomes.

Some terrific work is being produced and there are genuine exchanges and collaborations taking place, within Australia, and globally. It’s a cool and easy game building engine too, however as yet you can’t export an executable file.

Users can import jpegs, so it’s a great environment for kids to design and populate their own virtual gallery. Some interesting work has also been done blending kahootz and other apps eg vegas/imovie and using chromakey to combine real actors with virtual characters and environments.

Kahootz is a powerful set of 3D multimedia tools that allows students and teachers to be creators, designers, inventors and storytellers. Kahootz is also an active, online community. Kahootz students and teachers can publish their work and exchange, share, collaborate, de-construct and explore with other schools in the Kahootz community.
Students can share Kahootz narratives, inventions, designs and projects with classrooms around the world.
Students of all ages can create fantastic three-dimensional environments that allow them to use animation extensively, add sounds to events and objects, link from one scene to another and navigate through their created world. They can also export their Kahootz creations as AVI or QuickTime movies.
Kahootz facilitates non-text based learning, develops visual literacy skills and allows students to create and construct their own text. It can be used in the maths and science classroom to develop measurement, spatial awareness, estimation and thinking skills. Kahootz helps students demonstrate their understanding of a range of artistic concepts, can be used to enhance cognitive skills across the curriculum and promotes higher level thinking through construction and design.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

Wonder Wall software

Michigan State University have started selling licenses form their nifty Wonder Wall software which uses Flash Communication Server, MySQL and PHP to create a lovely familiar and child-friendly interface for an online forum.

This may be something to consider for the childrens’ microsite.

Wonder Walls are a breath of relief from textual discussion boards, chat, and IM. A Wonder Wall is like a bulletin board. Well suited to relatively short important and/or fun messages and images. Wonder Walls are colorful. They are spatial. Messages can be placed alongside or on top of other messages. Wonder Walls are a little goofy – when two cursors collide, we hear thunder. Kids especially love Wonder Walls. Grown up kids do too. The moderator can answer questions asynchronously, or pop in live and broadcast audio to all who are connected.

Wonder Walls are not intended to replace text-based discussion boards. Wonder Walls help build community and encourage participation in a different way. They are oriented towards fewer, more important words worthy of attaching to a bulletin board for the (password protected) group to see. Moderators create and assign many different Wonder Walls during a semester, each dedicated to a particular topic, question, or week.

For slightly more info check out their short paper from Siggraph.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

Games, learning & gender

More interesting research over at NESTA.

2.Social cultures – games play, it is often reported, is not characterised only through playing the games, but through the systems of exchange and discussion that surround them – the purchasing of magazines, the swapping of software and cheats. All of these are seen as centrally important aspects of what makes games an important social activity. To date, however, these ‘games cultures’ seem to remain predominantly male. Certain commentators have argued, for example, that boys are more likely than girls to participate in these activities because games are seen as a ‘safe’ way for boys to maintain friendships, while girls are less reliant on these mechanisms (McNamee, 1998). Research for the Screen Play study reported that boys tended to dominate classroom discussion of games and, even where girls were games players, boys tended to retain the ‘authority’ in the classroom and peer group for determining which games were ‘good’. Similarly, in the home, boys were seen to be significantly more intense games players, with 33% of boys compared with 13% of girls reporting playing games every day and, in detailed observations, boys were seen to ‘own’ the games technology in the home on a more regular basis. (Facer et al, 2003 forthcoming)

And from Justine Cassell (ex MIT) on gender and human computer interaction. Cassell also has some work available on the same site about StoryMat and digital storytelling and learning in classrooms.

As we move in this article from the example of videogames for girls to other aspects of designing technology for women, it is instructive to apply McIntosh’s model to the design of technology. We have left phase one behind: no longer is it possible to build womanless technology. Currently, there is widespread recognition of the importance of taking gender into account in interface design (witness the presence of this chapter in a handbook on HCI). And we have passed through phase two: public perception of the role of women in technology has changed radically, due to the efforts of activist computer scientists and historians who have highlighted, among others, Ada Lovelace’s seminal role in the birth of the computer, and Grace Hopper’s essential contribution to computing. Now, however, we find ourselves at a stage where women seem to pose some kind of problem for the design of technology. Tech companies pay consultants to help them figure out how to design for women. One gender and technology consulting firm refers to its ability to help companies succeed at “the notoriously selective and lucrative demographic of teenage girls.” A consultant for online businesses advertises its knowledge of “what makes women click”: a six-step program from initiating the relationship through subtle tactics of banner and home page design, through deepening the relationship by asking motivating survey questions. The goal is “the inside tract to get inside women’s minds and keep them inside” the website. In fact, many websites for women have sprung up, but the majority treat the same topics as women’s magazines that have been around for hundreds of years (the banner on one women’s website invites readers to learn about “Making your home a haven for your family”).

Read the full PDF.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

More Schaller & Allison-Bunnell on educational interactive media / Egan, Gardner, Prensky

Schaller & Allison-Bunnell’s paper here offers an excellent study of game types and learning models/stages.

What Egan’s theory offers us as designers of online learning experiences is valuable guidance about the kinds of abstractions people will find innately relevant and meaningful. We were inspired by these ideas during the development of the Shedd Educational Adventures online activities with the Shedd Aquarium. Since this project entailed producing online learning modules for five grade groups: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10, and 11-12, we kept Egan’s kinds of understanding in mind during our development process, letting them inform the themes we developed and the stories we told.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

Augmented reality and primary school learning

Interesting piece from NestaLab in the UK.

For the first project, Adrian’s team worked with BBC Jam, the new interactive learning service for 5-16 year-olds. BBC Jam’s literacy team had come up with a story, written by Rob Lewis, called Looking for the Sun, about some creatures on a beach trying to find the sun after it has disappeared behind a cloud. The team worked with animations and interaction designers to build a proof-of-concept based on the story that could be used in primary schools. The idea was that, with the use of an interactive whiteboard and a webcam, a teacher could guide a group of children interactively through the story. “It works very like a mirror,” says Adrian. “You have the webcam placed above the screen. So as you move to the left it moves with you. As you move closer things get bigger, and as you move further away things get smaller.”


.It is also a much more collaborative technology than traditional ICT. When primary school teachers work with children, they usually get them to do a lot of moving around and acting out stories, but when it comes to ICT, children end up sitting at a PC and working alone. AR enables eight or nine children to work together at a whiteboard, says Adrian: “It offers a highly stimulating way of moving beyond the keyboard and a solitary learning place.”

Interactive Media Young people & museums

Schaller on educational games in Museums

David Schaller’s workshop at Museums & The Web 2005 was one of the highlights of last year.

Schaller and his cohorts at Educational Web Adventures are not only educators, web developers and interactive game makers, they are also very passionate about analysing what works and what doesn’t work.

The intrinsic appeal of gameplay makes games an attractive format for educational media developers, but the particular characteristics and challenges of a game magnify the usual concerns over design, intentionality, and outcomes that all educational designers deal with. Only through careful design and thorough evaluation can we hope to overcome these challenges and realize the potential that games offer.

Here’s a recent paper of Schaller’s looking at some specific examples of games that have been developed and used online and in museums.

Interactive Media Young people & museums

marc prensky vs digital immigrants in adelaide

Mike and I had the opportunity to see Marc Prensky present to an audience of educators – 90% digital immigrants – in Adelaide last week. He raised a number of points I found provocative and relevant specifically to our shvl programs, if not more broadly to exhibitions and exhibition development. He structured his presentation into 4 main themes:
1. dealing with change
2. producing engagement
3. mutual respect
4. sharing success

Some points which resonated with me include:

  • one important difference between analogue and digital is that with digital you can program it – make it do what you want.
  • – a website capturing and sharing opinions of students (and teachers) – interviewing over 150000 students in one day!
  • learning can no longer be push, only pull
  • engaement is more important than technology
  • empathy for students is more important than content
  • fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally – Rafe Kotter
  • learn. have fun. do good for others. the new triple bottom line eg The ESP game.

The presentation he gave is not yet up in the EdNA website but here’s a previous ppt with some of the same slides we saw which will give you his main argument. Š

Unoffical audio recording is here (PHM internal use only).