Marking machinima

The article Graham Barwell, Ruth Walker and I wrote for the Australian Journal of Australasian Journal of Educational Technology on our machinima experiment. I always enjoy writing with Graham and Ruth and using Google Docs and Skype to  collaboratively generate the peice, although we probably spent the most time trying to decide what to cut out to meet our world limit.

Graham and I have been putting the final touches on a book chapter for a collected edition titled Understanding Machinima: essays on filmmaking in virtual worlds, in which we focus on adapting and remediating the works of Chaucer and the availability of a machinima as a means for expressing an understanding of a text through a set of  digital literacies.

The data was assembled from focus groups, interviews with teaching and technical support staff to the trial (conducted by Ruth) , which was enabled by a teaching and learning grant from the University of Wollongong. During the pilot, I moved from Wollongong to Deakin University and using Skype and email we were able to get the pilot run. It took a lot of time to organise, but it was great to see the students make their own version of Chaucer’s Tale and get to communicate the analysis and the results of research.

Independent game design in the Australian industry

Freeplay is an Independent Games Festival this weekend in Melbourne. The festival includes a free arcade and expo in the Experimedia room of the State Library of Victoria. The conference program over the weekend at the Library’s conference centre has two stream of speakers, from whom I am hoping to find out more about the lifecycle of the local games industry and what it means to be ‘indie’ and ‘independent’ to video games developer in Australia.
I think the winnitron AU will be popular, and going to treat the event like a practice run for the research trip to Sweden. I am only going to have couple of days I have in Stockholm and Umea and I am going to have to cram as much into them as possible. Freeplay will provide a very timely chance to observe the local industry and its public reception. The festival first ran in 2004, and seems pretty well known in Melbourne.

Destroying the myths of original creation one episode at a time

One old cliche I should have paid more attention to is ‘never meet your heroes’. I discovered this the hard way back when I was writing my PhD and I attended a law symposium on the Creative Commons in Brisbane. The keynote speaker Lawrence Lessig, whose books and blog had inspired the political direction of my thesis, simply replayed his ‘Remix’ lecture I’d seen often before on the web and later scoffed at my attempts to engage him in debate on the issues I was interested in. Sure he was tired, missing his kids, and stuck on a dinner cruise on the Brisbane River, and my attempts to engage him with questions I had about his views were clumsy and ill timed. Still this experience led me to taking a step back from emulation and further towards interrogation, providing a much more balanced approach for my own arguments.

The experience further led me to question the merits of debating, both the experience with Lessig and the debates following seminar presentations during the Symposium on the merits of ‘copyleft’ within the Australian legal system, seemed to follow the pattern of merely antagonizing the various camps that had already made up there mind about the situation. I had forgotten, the lesson I’d acquired back in Grade 11/12 on the debating team: it really doesn’t matter what you say in a debate, only that you impress your view on the audience and judges, in a logical and entertaining manner: the delivery method is almost everything. When both sides have prepared and researched equally it comes down to the quality of the performance over the quality of the information being shared.

I was intrigued to read recently that the philosopher Michel Serres has really engaged in philosophical debate, in an interview with Bruno Latour he complained that debating was merely a tool for reinforcing your opponents position. This is more clearly evident in debates between atheists and theists. Anyone skilled in the art of rhetoric and debating can make a preposturous position appear credible see: see the record of debates at Common Sense Atheism. Atheists often loose the debates practiced debates like William Lane Craig, having adopted a rationalist position and overcome the internal illogical ‘belief’ in myths they then fail to see how these beliefs become entrenched and unshiftable in the minds of others. Confronted by well researsed, often charismatic delivery and creative logic that proves nothing but rhetorically impresses in a verbal slight of heand magic trick, atheists often appear disorganised, over complex and muddled.

If sociologist Gabriel Tarde has refused to debate Emule Durkehime, perhaps sociology would look extremely different than it is today. Or perhaps not, that is one of the messages (after the credits) in the third epsidoes of the great series on Remix culture, Everything is Remix.

Rather than debating the merits of the arguments against the draconion features of intellectual property and copyright that usually accompanies the remix approach, the series simply presents its position with precise and engaging real world examples, beautifully presented media. It this kind of video that agains leads me back to the view that the future of higher education, especially in the arts and humanities will come to rely on media production over traditional forms of assessment in terms of exams, essays and tests. I realise now that it’s exactly what Lessig was doing. He knew the debates, he knew the arguements, he’d heard and made them many times before, even though they were still relatively new to me, everything he had to offer was already in his videos, his blog, his well-edited Remix lecture and presentation performance peice.

Perhaps that is why the climate scientists are loosing (especially in Australia), they have the information, they know all the debates, but they need to start talking with experts in creative communication practice. I’m not talking about advertisers, who think Cate Blanchett is a good way to sell a carbon tax. They need some like Kirby Ferguson.

Made in Australia: a brief exploration of Australian iPad apps (June, 2011)

The Apple Store (accessed via the iPad) ‘Featured’ tab now includes a ‘Made in Australia’ section subtitled ‘Great Apps for Australians’. What counts as made in Australia, or an Australian app, let alone Apps for Australians isn’t clearly defined, and something I plan to unpack further in the future. Similarly, there is no information as to what it takes to make this secion and there seems to be plenty of apps made by Australian developers that are missing. An earlier report mentions that 70 apps are featured in this section, but only 45 are currently listed (perhaps the higher figure refers to both iPhone and Ipad apps?).

Currently the ‘Made in Australia’ section includes 45 apps and the page can be sorted via Name, Release Date and “Featured” status (note-to-self find out how apps become ‘featured’). Sorted by name, 12 apps are displayed per page.

starting with the A’s…

ABC Foodi
Category: Lifestyle
Seller: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
This app includes 120 recipes from chefs on various ABC TV shows. The app itself is very well produce, and the recipes include nice elements like the ‘cook mode’, inbuilt timers and a shopping list function. There are no details of who actually worked on the app, there is no credit section, but digging around a little it seems that all ABC apps are developed ‘in house’ under the auspices of ‘ABC Innovation’ a branch of the ABC formed in 2007 that includes the ABC’s entire online presence, the ‘BlueBird ARG’ and the Gallipoli: The First Day Web application which seems to be a co-production. According to The Australian, the ABC Innovation producer is Caroline Kinny-Lewis, and there appears to be a presence as Southbank, Victoria, so I plan to check out that further.

There are currently 85 user ratings, which doesn’t give a good indication of the total number of downloads or active users.
The user reviews are very positive.
67 users rank the app 5/5 stars
8 rank 4/5 stars
1 rank 3/5 stars
2 rank 2/stars
9 rank 1/5 stars

ABC iview
Category: Entertainment
Seller: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The ABC, in my purest form of opinion is the only network in Australia that offer any real innovation when it comes to contemporary television, especially in regards to distribution. It has advantages as the national broadcaster, funded by the commonwealth, which leaves the network largely independent from advertising, but it offers a digital service with iView that makes all the other networks look positively last century. iView is great on the web but even better on the iPad. The video streaming is smooth and the sound and picture quality is excellent. The navigation is easy to use and Miss 4 can find her programs with ease. Useful features like a watch list are handy, and there is a ubiquitous share function for email and posting notifications to Facebook and Twitter. I don’t have the 3G version of the iPad but I’ve heard the 3G network is terribly for streaming video and I imagine quite expensive (I will have to research this further).

There are currently 141 user ratings, a few reviews reveal some interesting issues, a couple mention that 3G doesn’t work, which is a major issue for users in rural areas where the only connection available is 3g. The video can’t be viewed out side of Australia due to copyright restriction and some of the feature cause the app to crash on occasion.
91 users rank the app 5/5 stars
12 rank 4/5 stars
9 rank 3/5 stars
12 rank 2/5 stars
17 rank 1/5 stars

43 more apps to go…

CleanSlate – Mobile Devices and Research and Teaching

Having used the iPad since launch, giving up my gorgeous Dell XPS laptop that was previously in operating my Digital Games Studies subject, I’m looking at creating a starting a blog/wiki/page on information regarding the best practices for Teaching and Research with the Ipad. The title CleanSlate is a pun, on what I consider to be the major problem with haptic (touch) interfaces for mobile devices: fingerprints. For the sweaty handed and touch typists ( less so for the one-finger typists)  the iPad accumulates fingerprints, dust and grot at an amazing rate.

The title, CleanSlate, is also a playful dig at reviews and articles like this by Alan Kohler at the ABC online news portal The Drum. My favourite response to the obvious statement that the iPad isn’t a laptop replacement from the comments: “iPad is fine. You’re holding it wrong.” There are some pretty compelling reasons for and against the Ipad, but I want to focus on its application for Research and Teaching. I see a lot of scope to talk/research/advise about usage, management and other related approaches for the iPad, and other mobile devices. The title reflects my approach to the mobility of devices, that requires us to continue rethink our practice – the layering of old habits, new environments, and discovering for ourselves what works, a mode or type of embedded experiential learning.