Digital Literacy and Dragonborn: Observing a World Within Skyrim ...

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<ul><li><p>DigitalLiteracyandDragonborn:ObservingaWorldWithinSkyrimKeriFrazer</p><p>LIT530ResearchSeminarDr.Parsons12/9/2012</p></li><li><p> 2</p><p>Mysister,Lindsey,hasbeeninterestedinvideogamesforthepasteightyears.Ihaveobservedhercharacters,herquests,andherbattleskills,allthetimewonderingwhatintriguedhersomuchabouttheseroleplayinggames.Herinteractionswiththegamingworldstartedtobecomeaserioushobbyofherswhensheenteredhighschool.LindseywouldsavemoneyforthenextElderScrollsvideogame,talktoboysaboutCallofDuty(eventhoughshebarelyplayedit),andfrequentthelocalGameStopstoresjusttoseewhattheyhad.Lindseyisincrediblycomfortablewiththeknowledgeoftechnologyandabilitytoproblemsolve.Sheiswhatyoucouldcalladigitalnative,someonebredintheageoftechnology(NortonMeier,2005,p.430).NortonMeier(2005)talksaboutthecomplicationsofbeingadigitalimmigrant,essentiallythecounterpartofthedigitalnative,andhowmuchofastruggleitcanbetobecomeaccustomedtotheageoftechnology(p.430).Theideaofdigitalimmigrantsmayexplainpartofthereasonthatsomanyteachersseemresistanttousingthenewtechnologieswehave,itsnotthattheydontwantto,butrathertheymaynotknowhow.Ontheotherside,digitalnativesarelearningincompletelydifferentwaysfromtheirteenagecounterpartstwentyyearsback.RichardVanEck(2006)writes,Onecouldargue,then,thatwehavelargelyovercomethestigmathatgamesareplayandthustheoppositeofwork(p.17).Therearegamesthatcanhelpstudentslearnandgrowasreadersandwritersinthisnewage,thequestionishowcanweseparatethosefromtheonesthatmaynotbenefitstudents?</p><p>Wedontneedresearchtotellusthattheadvancementintechnologyhasincreasedvastlyoverthelasttwodecades.WhathappenedtotheCDplayerIlovedwhenIwasseven?Well,likemosttechnologyfromthe1990s,theCDplayerhasbeenreplacedbysmallerandmoreconvenienttechnology.Steinberg,ParmarandRichard(2006)state,</p></li><li><p> 3</p><p>DrivenbyMTV,clubbing,music,video,advertising,television,videogames,MangaandAnime,instantmessaging,cellularphones,theWorldWideWed,Disney,andtherelentlesskindercultureofadolescence,todaysyouthareexpertsontheoperationandpurposesofmedia(p.xvii).Thequestionthatremainsinthemidstofallthechangeishowcanwemakethistechnologyworkinourclassrooms?NortonMeier(2005)says,Playersactivelycreatenewvirtualworlds;participateincomplexdecisionmaking;andthinkreflectivelyaboutchoicesthatweremade,includingthedesignofthegame(p.430).NortonMeiermakesthecasethatgamerslearntothinkcognitivelyandsociallybyplayingthesegames(p.430).Studentsworkondecisionmakingskills,creativethinkingskills,andcognitiveskillseveryday.Understandinghowwecanrelatethoseskillstothetechnologywehave,aseducators,canhelpusbuildbetterclassroomcommunities.StudentsarenotstudyingthecontentbecausetheyrenotinterestedinthetextbookversionoftheAmericanRevolution,butmaybetheyreplayingAssassinsCreedIII,ahistoricadventuregamesetinbefore,during,andaftertheAmericanRevolution.Ifweunderstandwhystudentswillspendhoursplayingagamethatisitsownformofliteracy,thenmaybewecandothesamethinginourclassrooms.Forthosewhoarelessinclinedtounderstandtechnology,thetaskbecomesthatmuchmoredifficult.Butevenforthoseofuswhodobelongtothedigitalnativeculture,thereisadiscrepancybetweenhowwewanttoutilizetechnologyandwhetherourstudentsdirectlybenefitifwedoso. Ididnotsetouttouncoversomegreattruthsaboutvideogames.IreallywantedtoanalyzeYouTubevideousageintheclassroomafterIhadgoneintoaschooldistrictthathadbannedtheuseofYouTube(evenfromthefaculty).ThereasonIwassointerestedisbecauseIremembermyteachersinhighschoolusingYouTubeasaresource.Ithoughtit</p></li><li><p> 4</p><p>wasstrangethatsomethingsousefulwouldbebannedinschool,thoughschooldistrictsdefinitelyhavelegitimatereasonsforwantingtoblockaccesstothatparticularsite.Istartedtothinkaboutthekindsoftechnologyweuseandwhethertheuseoftechnologyhelpsstudents.DianeOblingerandJamesOblinger(2005)write,Theabilitytousenontextexpressionaudio,video,graphicsappearsstrongerineachsuccessivecohort(p.2.2).Teenagersareusingtechnologytocreatewebsites,postvideos,updatetheirstatuses,andtheseareallformsofliteracy.ShinandHuh(2011)write,Whilepeopleofallagegroupsplayvideogames,gameplayingisespeciallymoreprevalentamongtheyouth(p.946).Itisclearthatteenagersaretheoneswhoaremostinterestedandengagedinthisformofliteracy.DianeandJamesOblinger(2005)refertothisgeneration,thosewhogravitatetowardsvisualliteracyexpressionandsocialinteractionviatechnology,astheNetGen(p.2.7).TheresearchIworkedonwithmysisterwouldshow,throughmyowninterpretationsthatsheisateasewithtechnologyandexpressesherselfthroughvisualliteracy(Fieldnotes,12/8/2012,p.1).</p><p>IwaspickingupmysisterfromclassonedayandsheimmediatelyhookedupheriPhonetomycarstereo.ShebegantoplayasongthatatthetimeseemedsooutlandishtomethatIcouldntimagineanyoneevercreatingasongquitelikethis,Whoserapping?Dovahkiin!Dragons?Imnotoverkeenmydragonshoutflowissweeterthanasodastream(Bull,2011).ThesongwascreatedbyaYouTubesensation,DanBull,whocreatesmanydifferentgamingraps,thelyricsbasedontheactualgamesthemselves.Istartedtothinkaboutwhatitwasthatmadesomeonewanttocreatearapbasedonagame.Ibegantobemoreinterestedinhowthisworldofgamingfunctionedbothinsidethegameandoutsidethegame.Inmymind,Iwasbeginningtostumbleoveraformofdigitalliteracy,</p></li><li><p> 5</p><p>onethatIneverwouldhaveconsideredasanythingliterate,atleastnotinmyreality.Youngkidsandadolescentswereengagingintheirownformofliterateculturethatperhapsoutsiderscouldntunderstand.Ifiguredthatmysisterwasapartofthisphenomenon,somethingthatIdidntevennecessarilyunderstand,andsoIbeganmyquesttolearnmoreabouttheworldofgamingasaformordigitalliteracy. ResearcherslikeJamesPaulGee,LoriNortonMeier,andConstanceSteinkuehler</p><p>supporttheideathatvideogamescanactasaformofliteracy(Gee,2003,p.4)(NortonMeier,2005,p.430)(Steinkuehler,2010,p.61).Theremaybeteachersandadults(orthosewhoaredigitalimmigrants)whoarenotcomfortablewiththeideathatthistypeoftechnologyhaschangedthewayliteracyfunctions.Darby(2011)examinesthewaysinwhichstudentshavehadtoadapttothechangingtechnologyandliteracy,Theabilitytointerpret,analyse,selectanddecodemultiplemessagessimultaneouslytocreatemeaning,iskeyfor21stcenturystudents(p.23).Studentswhoarefamiliarwithtechnology,thosedigitalnatives,arerequiredtofunctionwithvisualliteracyandhigherlevelthinkinginordertoparticipateintheworldtheyenjoy(Sheffield,2007,p.2).ThisworldincludesYouTube,Facebook,Tumblr,EBooks,videogames,andallformsofentertainment.Icantturnonthetelevisionwithoutseeingaboxintheupperrighthandcornerofmyprogramwithahashtagandatwitteraddress(#thevoice).Smagorinsky(2000)writesaboutideaofthepurposesofliteracyasabletoconstruct,preserveanddocumentframeworksforsocialpracticeandtoenablecommunicationwithinthoseframeworks(ascitedinDarby,2011,p.23).Darby(2011)suggeststhatthepurposesofliteracyhaventchanged,buttheskillsrequiredtobeconsideredliteratehave,asfarasthe21stcenturyisconcerned(p.23).</p></li><li><p> 6</p><p>SanfordandMadill(2007)researchedagroupofadolescentboysandfoundthattheyparticipateinliteracythattheyenjoy(p.434).TheboysinthatstudywerealladolescentswhowerereadingandplayingYuGiO,readingsciencefictionandfantasy,andfoundinterestingraphicnovels(p.434).Similarly,mysisterfindssolaceinplayinghergames,namelySkyrim(anElderScrollsgame),andconnectinghergameplaytothecharactersshecreatesinthefictionbooksshewrites.SheiscurrentlyworkingonwritingabookthatdoesntdirectlyrelatetoSkyrimorhergameplay,butoffersimilaritiesbetweenthetwo.Forexample,herstorysequenceisbasedonalongtimelorethatextendsfurtherthantheactualbookitself.Skyrimisalsobasedheavilyinloreandfictionthatisnotjustpresentinthegame.ThislorethatLindseyhascreatedhasnothingtodowiththegamesheplaysinSkyrim,butIinterpretthatthefactshewrotetheloremeansthatshewantssomecongruencyinhergameplayandhernovelwriting.</p><p>GamerswhoappreciateorfollowtheElderScrollsstoriesknowthattheyarebasedonaworldsetinTamriel,afictionalcountrythathasstruggledthroughwarandconflict.ThevideogamescomewithmapsofTamrielthathelpplayerslocatethevillagesandtownshipsthattheywilleventuallyplaythrough.IhaveincludedamapofTamrielbelowtoofferavisualaidasIexplainthehistoryandloreofSkyrim.SquireandJenkins(2011)writeabouthowgamersarentjustlearningthroughthegames(asintherulesofthegame),thegamersarelearningawholesystem,loreandhistoryincluded(p.5).SquireandJenkinswrite,Videogameplayersdevelopafeelorintuitionofhowsystemsworks(p.5).Thisintuitionmaybewhatleadsgamers,likemysister,todeveloptheirownunderstandingofthegamethroughwriting,reading,andotherformsofvisualliteracy.Icantexplaintheexcitementthatmysisterhaswhenshebeginstotalkaboutthelore</p></li><li><p> 7</p><p>behindSkyrimorhowthelastElderScrollsgame,Oblivion,relatetothenewergames.IobservedmysisterplayingandconnectingSkyrimtoherownreadingandwriting.</p><p> (ElderScrollsWikia,2011)ItwasevidentfromthemomentmyresearchbeganthatIwasgoingtobeobservingaworldcompletelyunfamiliartome.Mysisterhandedmethebook,TheInfernalCitybyGregKeyes,anovelthatisbasedontheElderScrollsseries.</p><p>LindseyisnineteenyearsoldandisacoupleyearsolderthanthestudentsthatIwillbeteaching.Itmaynotseemlikeacoupleofyearswouldmakeadifference,butIwouldarguethatshehasauniqueinsightthatmanyfourteenfifteenyearoldswouldnothave.Forexample,Lindseyoncespoketomeabouttheracismthatshehasseenwithinthegame.ThereisalotofconflictinSkyrim,thebiggestofwhichresultingfromtworaceswhodonotgetalong.Lindseysuggeststhattherearetimeswherethegamementionsthetension</p></li><li><p> 8</p><p>betweentheracesandthisreallyservesasatypeofsocialcommentary(Fieldnotes,09/16/2012,p.3).Therearemanywaysthatvideogamesrepresentandperpetuatestereotypesandvariousstigmas,buttheycanalsodefythosestereotypes. Skyrimisnotmyfirstinteractionwithdigitalliteracy.Iplayedvideogamesgrowing</p><p>up,moreofthelikesofSuperMarioBrosthananintenseroleplayinggame.Irememberonegameinparticular,AssassinsCreed,wherethemaincharacter(whomyouarecontrolling)stopstheantagonistfromburningbooks.Whatmessageisthissendingtoourstudents?Doesthesceneinthisgameactasapoliticalstatement,andifitdoes,arethegamersthinkingcriticallyaboutgamestheyareplaying?InmyownresearchIfoundthatLindseydidtendtothinkaboutthecriticalaspectsofthegame(Fieldnotes,09/16/2012,p.3).IthinkthatthisspeakstoLindseysownpersonalabilitytoconnectcriticallytothegameinawaythatmanyadolescentsmaynot.However,itmayalsohavealottodowiththematerialshereadsaboutSkyrimthatisnotnecessarilyapartofhergamingexperience.WhenIbeganreadingTheInfernalCitybyGregKeyes,Iwasreallyconfused.IbeganlookingupmapsofTamriel,thecontinentthatSkyrimisseton,becausemostofthelanguageissimilartowhatIwasfindingthroughoutthevideogame.IstartedthinkingthatforLindseytobeabletoreadandcomprehendthisbook,shewouldhavehadtoputalotoftimeintolearningandunderstandingthiswholeotherworld.Skyrimismorethanjustagame;itsawholeotherreality.</p><p>Inthegamingworldtherearealotofpreconceivednotionsaboutwhatvideogamesentail:sex,drugs,violence,andrevenge.Bijvank,Konijn,andBushman(2011)didastudyonboysandvideogamesandthefindingsshowedthatboysinthelowesteducationalgroupsfoundviolentvideogamesmoreappealingcomparedtoinhighereducational</p></li><li><p> 9</p><p>groups(p.158).Theseoutcomesareconcerningbecausewewantourchildrentosurroundthemselveswithpositiverolemodelsandexamples,andtobehonest,theviolencethatpresentsinsomevideogamesisjustdownrightscary.Thestudyalsotriedtodeterminewhetherthelowereducationalgroupalsoshowedsignsofhigheraggressivebehavior(Bijvank,Konijn,andBushman,2011,p.154).Bijvank,KonijnandBushmanbrokeupthevideogamesintothreedifferentcategories,Standalonegames,LocalandWideAreaNetworkgames(LA[W]N),andMassiveMultiplayerOnline(RolePlaying)Games(MMO(RP)S)(p.154).SkyrimwouldbeconsideredaStandalonebecauseitdoesnotinvolvemorethanoneplayerorgivetheplayertheabilitytoconnecttotheInternet.However,categorizinggamessosimplywouldntbecorrectinthiscase,becauseofthediverseandexpansivetechnologythatwehave,whichallowsplayerstoplayandenjoythegametogetherthroughsocialcommunities,YouTubeplaythroughs,andforumswheregamerscaninteract.BelowIveincludedarecentpostfromLindseysTumblrpagewheresheinteractswithotherpeople,mostofthemshedoesnotknow,totalkaboutSkyrimandtherestoftheElderScrollsgames.AANNOOTTHHEERRSSkkyyrriimmCCoonnffeessssiioonn??</p><p>Yes.</p><p>Inevereverusethehousecarls.Iliketheideathattheyjustsitinmyhouses,eatingfoodthatwasmiraculouslyplacedinmyhomesjustbecauseIboughttables.PlusIfeelawkwardhavingsomeonefollowmearound,fightingformeandcarryingmystuffbecausetheywereassignedtome.</p></li><li><p> 10</p><p>ItalsohelpsthatIprettymuchdespiseLydiaseeninanearlierpostfrom,yesterday?Ithink.</p><p>Andsidenote,yes,Imtotallycomfortablehavingmycharacterpay500septimsforafriend,solongasthatfriendisonebythenameofMarcurio(whoImayormaynotbeinlovewithasinIdefinitelyam).</p><p>;D (L.Frazer,personalcommunication,November29,2012)LindseyspostonTumblrhowshedoesntusehousecarls(thosecharactersthataregiventoplayerstohelpthemthroughthegame).Gamershaveachoicetotakethehousecarl(forfree)ortopayforamercenarytofollowyouandhelpyouinbattle.LindseyhadmentionedtheracismthatsheseeswithinSkyrim,butshenevermentionedtheuseofhousecarlsormercenaries(Fieldnotes,09/16/2012,p.3).Housecarlshavenochoicebuttofollowthecharacters,theyactassoldierstotheJarl(themayor/king),andhavegiventheirloyaltytoprotectwhomever.Couldthisbeconsideredaformofservantorslave?ThroughmyowngameplayexperienceIwouldnotconsiderthisoneoftheformsofracismshowninSkyrim.Bijvank,Konijn,andBushman(2011)showedthatlowereducationalgroupswereattractedtomoreviolentgames,whichhappenedtobetheStandalonegames(p.157).IbelievethattherearepeoplewhoplaySkyrimsolelyforthepurposeofslayingdragonsandkillingthieves.Afterexaminingmysistersgameplay,agamersconnectionwiththetext,inthiscasethegame,isdeeperthanjustthesurfacelevelviolence,especiallyinagamelikeSkyrim.</p></li><li><p> 11</p><p> ObservingLindseyplaythisvideogamewasunnervingforme.Lindseyplaysthegameinalmostcompletedarkness,whichIwasnotfondofbecauseofmytendencytogetfrightenedbywhatishappeningonscreen.Atfirst,IwasreallyinterestedinthechoicesthatLindseymakesthroughoutthegame;hercharactersname,whatraceshechoosestobe,andwhatspecialpowerssheupgradesthroughoutthegame.Lindseytypicallyfocusesonsneakabilitiesbecauseshelikestopickpocket,somethingthatIcategorizeashernaturalinstincttojustbebad.WhenLindseyischoosinghercharacter,shethinkscarefullyaboutwhatshewantstobeandwhotheyareasacharacter.IinterpretthisasfromthepartofLindseythatismoreofawriterthanagamer,butIimaginethattheyareinterrelated.Frommyownfieldnotes,Aftermuchdeliberation,LindseychoosesthenameYsobelforherImperialcharacter(fieldnotes,09/16/2012,p.2).IthinkthatitsinterestingthatshespendssomuchtimeonanamethatIdidntevenrememberafterthatparticularday.Thegamewontmentionthecharactersnameanditisntreallyimportantforanyotherreason.Lindseyspentsomuchtimelookingupnamestodeterminehowtheymightbespelleddependingonhercharactersrace.Shespendssomuchtimeduringthisprocessbecausesheisinvestedinthegameandhercharacter.Sheis,atthismoment,relinquishinghercontrolinrealityandcreatingherownidentityinthegame.Gee(2003)suggeststhatallpeoplewilltakeonnewidentitiesduringlearning,Itrequirestakingonanewidentityandformingbridgesfromonesoldidentitiestothenewone(p.51).Geeexplainsthisbysayingthatachildinscienceclass,whoisactivelyengaged,isnotpassivelylearning,butrather,thatchildisbecomingascientificthinker(p.51).Mysister,whilecreatinghercharacter,isnotpassivelyplayingthegame,sheiscreatinganewidentityoutofwhatshealreadyknowsaboutSkyrimasaworld.</p></li><li><p> 12</p><p> Gee...</p></li></ul>

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