#moocmoocbar

8bitmooc:

Last night, I had the pleasure of hanging out with @readywriting, @martinlugton, @jessifer, and @patlockley on a Google+ hangout called #moocmoocbar. For those of you who don’t know, #moocmooc is a meta-, mini-, micro-, and (I guess) anti-MOOC where the question on everyone’s mind is “how many times can we turn this idea of online education inside out and still pretend we know what we’re doing.”

Before the Bar actually started, Martin and I actually got to talk about #8bitmooc quite substantially. I revealed all of the blog entries left on my queue for this week and talked about some of the deeper ideas behind how my course takes the best from both cMOOCs and xMOOCs to make something insane out of it. Martin is a good person to know, I suppose, since he runs the Connectivist MOOCs directory that could definitely help give me some visibility. 🙂

Visibility was one of the many important questions we came up with while participating in the Bar, mostly dealing with this notion of the Superstar Professor that is so prevalent in MOOCs. One reason for the success of these online courses comes specifically from the legitimizing effect of having big-name universities behind them. After all, if a student takes a CS1 class from Stanford, that is obviously more valid than if they take a silly course in 8-bit video game programming from some plucky grad student from North Carolina who’s taking way too long finishing his Ph.D. Isn’t it?

Jesse said that despite “best practices” saying that in an online environment, the teacher should have a video of his or herself to help give the students a face to recognize, #moocmooc intentionally went against that “belief” saying that it shouldn’t be about the professor – it should be about all of the students. If anything was fun about #moocmoocbar, it was that it reinforced the idea that a Google Hangout would be a great way to get my students on camera and talking for a weekly podcast! This fireside chat proved to be an excellent way to help demonstrate that at its heart, HybridPedagogy is a community, and that’s pretty awesome.

In a way, #8bitmooc is very focused around building an online community rather than emphasizing video lectures. I discussed previously in my post on UI, emphasizing the development of actual games with classmates as well as the discussion of games and the game development process. All such paths are equally valid in my eyes towards “passing” #8bitmooc. But what’s the best way to encourage discussion in a community? Forums (yuck)? Twitter? IRC? Smoke signals? These are all questions that I’ll need to answer before I go off and code yet another Django forum. 🙂


T F m
May 30, 2013

criticaltoys:

Critical Toy work in progress. Still have to learn how to align the “work piece” (the stock, the material) with the device and the driver software. High temperature wax, machined on Modela MDX-20.


T F m
May 30, 2013

Critical Toy work in progress. Still have to learn how to align the “work piece” (the stock, the material) with the device and the driver software. High temperature wax, machined on Modela MDX-20.


T F m
May 30, 2013

Critical Toy work in progress. Still have to learn how to align the “work piece” (the stock, the material) with the device and the driver software. High temperature wax, machined on Modela MDX-20.


T F m
May 30, 2013

Geoffrey West’s Fever Dream

stoweboyd:

Geoffrey West takes a look at the unknowability of the innards of complex systems, and wonders if big data — and a new big theory to corral big data — could act like a flashlight, revealing the inner workings of financial markets, urban communities, and ecosystems under stress.

Geoffrey West, Big Data Needs a Big Theory to Go with It

Complexity comes into play when there are many parts that can interact in many different ways so that the whole takes on a life of its own: it adapts and evolves in response to changing conditions. It can be prone to sudden and seemingly unpredictable changes—a market crash is the classic example. One or more trends can reinforce other trends in a “positive feedback loop” until things swiftly spiral out of control and cross a tipping point, beyond which behavior changes radically.

What makes a “complex system” so vexing is that its collective characteristics cannot easily be predicted from underlying components: the whole is greater than, and often significantly different from, the sum of its parts. A city is much more than its buildings and people. Our bodies are more than the totality of our cells. This quality, called emergent behavior, is characteristic of economies, financial markets, urban communities, companies, organisms, the Internet, galaxies and the health care system.

The digital revolution is driving much of the increasing complexity and pace of life we are now seeing, but this technology also presents an opportunity. The ubiquity of cell phones and electronic transactions, the increasing use of personal medical probes, and the concept of the electronically wired “smart city” are already providing us with enormous amounts of data. With new computational tools and techniques to digest vast, interrelated databases, researchers and practitioners in science, technology, business and government have begun to bring large-scale simulations and models to bear on questions formerly out of reach of quantitative analysis, such as how cooperation emerges in society, what conditions promote innovation, and how conflicts spread and grow.

The trouble is, we don’t have a unified, conceptual framework for addressing questions of complexity. We don’t know what kind of data we need, nor how much, or what critical questions we should be asking. “Big data” without a “big theory” to go with it loses much of its potency and usefulness, potentially generating new unintended consequences.

When the industrial age focused society’s attention on energy in its many manifestations—steam, chemical, mechanical, and so on—the universal laws of thermodynamics came as a response. We now need to ask if our age can produce universal laws of complexity that integrate energy with information. What are the underlying principles that transcend the extraordinary diversity and historical contingency and interconnectivity of financial markets, populations, ecosystems, war and conflict, pandemics and cancer? An overarching predictive, mathematical framework for complex systems would, in principle, incorporate the dynamics and organization of any complex system in a quantitative, computable framework.

‘The emergent is everywhere and nowhere.’

Complexity isn’t a clock. You can’t open one up and see it’s innards. There are no gears and cogs. If there was a way to ‘look inside’, all you’d find would be more complex systems. And those complex systems aren’t connected in purely physical way, made up of computable inputs and outputs: they are united by emergent behaviors: the system manifests it character my acting in ways that are inherently unpredictable, and incalculable. These behaviors arise from the interactions between the components, but reside in none of them. The emergent is everywhere and nowhere.

We have no math for this.

West might as well be saying ‘We need to be able to see into the future . It would be helpful.’ But that doesn’t mean we have a way to do it, or that it is doable at all.

The tempo of modern life has sped up to the point that the future feels closer, and since it’s only a heartbeat away it seems reasonable to imagine being able to glance around that corner and know what is about to transpire. But that’s just a feeling.

‘The more we have wired everything into everything else, the less we can know about what will happen tomorrow.’

The future is actually farther away than ever, because we have constructed a world that is the most multi-facted astrolobe, the most incestuous interconnection of global economic interdependencies, the deepest ingraining of contingent political scenarios, and the widest pending cascade of possible ecological side-effects. The more we have wired everything into everything else, the less we can know about what will happen tomorrow.

In essence, West hopes we can create a math that can pile up all the big data and crunch it, in a Borgesian infinity. A machinery as complex as the world it hopes to fathom, allowing us — or at least it— to know everything about everything.

I suspect we will have to settle for something less.

We could start by intentionally decoupling complexity that poses threats. Derivative trading, and credit default swaps are a good example. Efforts by banks and brokerages to diffuse risks, and sharing them with other finance companies leads to increased risk, systemically. When there is a big downturn the risks are amplified, and the cascade leads to huge ‘unintended’ results. The solution to this is not predicting when and how it will happen, but stopping the increased complexity inherent in derivatives and credit default swaps. The only cure for increased complexity is decoupling components of the larger system. 


T F m
May 29, 2013

“But Plot!”

compmachines:

I’m tempted to lump this one in with “But I Ignored Her Video!” but I’ve seen enough responses like this to give it its own category. Here’s a representative quote:

Your sojourn to rescue Eleanor isn’t simply a grail quest—she’s not an object—it’s a quest to be a father. Through the game, the decisions you make impact Eleanor’s view of the world, leading to a multitude of endings. Bioshock 2 is a game about how parents impact their children more than anything else.

Sarkeesian specifically mentioned this point toward the end of her video. Most games with the damsel-in-distress trope have a plot-based reason for her to be distressed, or killed, or killed and then in distress, or (and I’m sure this exists somewhere) killed, then in distress, then mercy-killed by the hero. But just because there’s a narrative reason for it doesn’t mean that it’s not problematic.

I mentioned this in my last post, but it bears repeating. Games don’t just exist in a vacuum. They don’t spontaneously come into existence, fully formed and thus beyond criticism. People design them, write them, render them, and voice them. The things they write aren’t above criticism or discussion. Claiming that there’s a narrative reason for a problematic element doesn’t cancel out the problems with that part of the game. Just because there’s a narrative reason to mow down civilians in Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t mean it’s not a problematic scene. The protagonist in Bioshock 2 has a narrative reason for chasing Eleanor, but that doesn’t prevent Eleanor from also being a damsel-in-distress.

The damsel trope is not based on plot. Tropes in general aren’t based primarily on plot. Plots are endlessly variable, and so very difficult to broadly characterize (and broad characterization is the purpose of the trope-as-category). No, I’d tentatively argue that tropes are built on function. Tropes do things. The damsel-in-distress trope motivates the player. The problem is that it motivates the player by using a woman as a finish-line, rather than a person. That’s the functional reading, not the narrative reading. When we’re talking about tropes, we’re talking about functions.

Sarkeesian could be making videos about women in game narratives, but she’s not. She’s making videos about tropes. Trying to switch the argument away from tropes and toward narratives (where an endless series of exceptions and particularities can smoke-bomb the issue) is just bad arguing.

Finally, the presence of a sexist trope in a game doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It just means we need to be aware of the problems it presents. You can shoot virtual civilians in MW2, but it’s probably good to question it, to take a closer look. That’s all Sarkeesian is asking for. She wants you to take a closer look, not toss it on a problematic videogame bonfire.


T F m
May 29, 2013

Android “Fairphone” looks to give power back to customers | Ars Technica

Android “Fairphone” looks to give power back to customers | Ars Technica


T F m
May 28, 2013

Progression in #8bitmooc

8bitmooc:

“Welcome to #8bitmooc. You all have an F”.

This is my take on the introduction to the Multiplayer Classroom,

#8bitmooc works like an RPG. Every student begins at level 1, and reaches new levels every 100*(level**2) experience points. As students gain levels, they unlock new course content as well as new abilities they can take advantage of in the course.

There are three main ways to gain experience points in the class. The first is by doing clearly defined “challenges”. These include the traditional autograded programming assignments, as well as ‘achievements’ that students can win by doing things in the playground or project editors. Students can also gain challenge experience by submitting the projects they work on to game jams like One Game a Month and Ludum Dare.

The second approach comes from helping out other students. Students can ask questions on the message board (I decided to just go ahead and make one) as well as by helping with more targeted SOS requests, and the helpful students are rewarded for helping their peers out. I also really want to create a system where students can create learning content such as videos and worked out examples and earn points for that, to demonstrate the “learning by teaching” approach.

The third approach comes from doing projects, which I believe is the most authentic way to learn how to program. Unlike the game library in the original #8bitmooc, the new incarnation features an almost Github-like project management system that allows students to work together on large projects. Students are encouraged to publish these large projects in the forums and students get experience points as other students provide feedback and “like” the project. This will require manual grading, but students who demonstrate the ability to plan a project and see it through to completion show just as much learning as someone who completes all the autograded assignments.

When students gain levels, they unlock new challenges up until they reach level 10, when the final challenge is revealed: create a game, on your own, with some certain requirements. Students submit their game to this project, just like a game jam, and both the source code and the final project are evaluated.

This pathway to completion shows how I value the ability to choose your own approach to demonstrate learning. Students are free to pick any one approach or mix all three together. This nonlinear growth path is much more gamelike than the directed acyclic graph used in Khan Academy (which is what my original vision for this system looked like).

Now that I’ve blogged about it, let’s make it happen!


T F m
May 28, 2013

(via Negative space animal masterpieces on Behance)


T F m
May 28, 2013

pritheworld:

The Struggle for Female Soccer Equality in Brazil

In a little more than a year, Brazil will host the World Cup of Soccer.  It’s time for the “country of soccer” to host the marquee event. But while the Brazilian men’s soccer players will continue to be celebrated, it has long been a different story for the other half of the population. The World’s Jason Margolis has a story on the state of girl’s and women’s soccer in Brazil. 


T F m
May 28, 2013