Thursday, November 20, 2008

5 minute interview with Professor Jackie Marsh

The second of our 5 minute interviews with key people in the field of digital literacies. Meet Professor Jackie Marsh. If you haven't read Jackie's work, you need to.

Jackie is Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she is involved in research exploring the relationship between young children's use of popular culture, media and new technologies and their literacy practices both in- and out-of-school. Her blog is:

What digital technologies do you have in your handbag/satchel?
USB pen drive
Digital voice recorder
Creative Vado Pocket Camcorder

Which one/s can't you live without and why?
iPhone - music, email, web access, maps with GPS, alarm clock, phone, voicemail and txt messages all in one piece of Apple-produced hardware - need I say more? I only wish it made tea...

What's your current favourite blog/website/virtual world?
Second Life - I find it a creative environment for teaching, research and, increasingly, art.

What are you finding fascinating in relation to technology/literacy/text at the moment?
I am currently researching young children's use of virtual worlds (Club Penguin and Barbie Girls) and I am fascinated by the integration of literacy, identity and play in the children's use of the worlds. This combination is of course important in 'RL' also, but the affordances of virtual worlds do enable the creation of potentially interesting texts e.g. machinima, which not only combine modes in skilful ways but serve as a key identity work and are used ritualistically to promote social cohesion in-world.

What do you predict will be key issues in digital technologies/literacies over the next five years?
This is an interesting question for me at the moment as I have been involved in writing a paper on this with Victoria Carrington for the Futurelab/DCSF 'Beyond Current Horizons' project. In the paper, we have predicted the following as being key issues: ubiquity (which can mean access to texts at point of need); convergence (leading to new kinds of texts); personalisation (intensifyng the focus on identity and self-representation in textual practices); mobility (enabling meaningful textual engagement across formal/informal learning spaces). In my own area of interest, early childhood literacy, I think a key issue will be the acceleration of the blurring of boundaries across online and offline, 'real' and 'virtual' spaces - this is already occurring with, for example, the use of 'clickable' technologies linked to virtual worlds such as 'Pixie Hollow'. There are many implications for early literacy in the development and I look forward to exploring them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Game review: Ninja Gaiden II

Game Reviewed by Tom

− Title: Ninja Gaiden II
− Platform: Xbox 360
− Creator: Team Ninja
− Company: Tempco
− Genre: Action/Adventure
− Players: 1
− Rating: 4/5

“In this action packed sequel to Ninja Gaiden you are Ryu Hayabusa, the ultimate ninja action hero. Destroy everything in your path as you embark on a quest to avenge your clan and prevent the destruction of the human race from a brutal and relentless enemy.” Doesn't that just say it all...

When you first turn on you 360 and pick up your controller you find yourself entering the life of Ryu Hyabusa, quite literally a modern day super ninja, while playing you are directed through a miriad of visually appealing levels, each with their own intrigue and dangers... Venice and Rome have become home to lycanthropes whilst Tokyo has become infested with black spiders and New York with fiends, so I guess you could say that it's your responsibility as a ninja to remove these threats to humanity. The combat control system in NGII (Ninja Gaiden II) is quite simple and thus allows the player to perform spectacular combos that blur your blade, send showers of blood and sparks through the air and leave you foes twitching and almost always limbless. And as if the intense fighting isn't enough to create suspense and drama throughout the plot, music is integrated so very well, offering much and aiding in the creation of a quickened pace and pulse. The visual quality of the movie sequence's is quite impressive with each one bringing I guess a break to the fighting, a moment to reflect on the story and some time rest your thumbs and be amazed at the detail of NGII's character design. Where would a ninja be without the teachings of ancient scrolls? In short... lost, you are constantly presented with the opportunity to read further into the plot and characters whilst progressing though the story. This information takes the form of scrolls and is quite interesting and helpful. Patience is a virtue as throughout the game levels become longer, enemies become harder, bosses become craftier and stronger and just plain cool. More often than not you will find yourself overwhelmed by copious quantities of foes, sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will be devestated by them, however patience and reasoning will aid you well in your quest.

Anyway NGII with its flashy effects, intense fighting, impressive movie sequence's and enticing story gets a 4/5 from me... Great game.

5 minute interview with Dr Julia Davies

Sam and I are conducting 5 minute interviews with interesting and famous people working in the world of digital literacies. Our first interview is with the wonderful Dr Julia Davies from the University of Sheffield.

For more, visit her blog:

What digital technologies do you have in your handbag/satchel/pocket?

1. Flip video camera
2. Sony cybershot
3. Mobile phone – has camera and mp3 palyer built in
4. Ipod touch– wireless connection; music player. Dvd player; stores images
5. Palm pilot – has diary, addresses, camera, note book & memo pad
6. 2 USB memory sticks

This is just in my handbag – I also always take my laptop to and from work.

Which one/s can't you live without and why?
This is VERY difficult as different ones are more important at different times. But on balance, it is the least technologically advanced item, and also the oldest. It is my palm pilot – because this is my diary and tells me what to do, where to be all the time. I can take a picture with it if I have not got my camera – but would rarely use it for this. I would rather use the ipod touch for my diary– but I cannot synchronise that diary software with the one work uses and so I stick with the Palm pilot. (My University likes to keep track of our whereabouts at all times and they do this through an electronic calendar – I suppose that actually tagging us might seem a wee bit too invasive of privacy). So the diary is not just a personal technology it is also about networking – people being able to book my time.

What's your current favourite blog/website/virtual world?
I am glad you specify ‘current’ as it changes a lot … but at the moment I love YouTube as I like to see the wide variety of people using this space for so many different reasons. To me it seems to house the most diverse set of users – and that is without even seeing the probably even greater diversity of those who merely view rather than upload or comment.

What are you finding fascinating in relation to technology/literacy/ text at the moment?
Hmmm difficult to pick out the MOST fascinating – but I am thinking a lot about what motivates people to participate online and am interested in how more and more groups of people as seeing it as including them – there is much less of a notion that there are those who do and those who don’t go online. People are beginning to incorporate the web into their lives and seeing it as part of what they do normally – whether it is ebay, instant messaging, facebook stuff or Youtube. People are seeing it as a social resource and as a channel of communication. In relation to this I am staggered at how often speak out against the dangers of our use of the Internet – so that whole more and more people are realising the usefulness of the Internet as a way of facilitating normal activities, this is triggering fears around social change. I think it is odd as in fact people seem to be using the Internet really to make what they normally do more efficient. I see all these issues as revolving around ideas about literacy as a social practice and about identity.

What do you predict will be a key issues in (digital technologies/literacy/) over the next 5 years?
I think issues are likely to include:
  • The need to educate people for critical literacy – managing vast amounts of data and being able to wade through it and read it carefully;
  • Convincing schools that the above is the case;
  • I think that more and more publishing companies will supply schools with software that can be run separately from the Internet and provide a ‘safe arena’ – equivalent to reading schemes of the past – these may not be all bad, but are not the best way forward in my view;
  • The Internet is getting increasingly ‘busy’ - different spaces will increasingly acquire social meanings that will attract different types of people to them – and which will have ways of gatekeeping to ensure that the ‘right people’ get in – I think we will see this increase and a different kind of digital divide happening online – to do with social and cultural capital; We will need to educate for this. What do I mean? I see that for example, Bebo and Facebook attracts different demographies – these are usually based on local ‘real world’ social groupings – such as who at my school uses facebook – who do I want to be with? This influences choice of software and then locks you into groups – unless you decide to keep up a range of gateways into your wider social frame. As these networks grow (and as the young Bebo users grow up) these I think will translate and transfer into career groupings and so on. Probably class based? At the moment you can already choose to pay to use software that is also available free through other providers – e.g. you can have a free blog, or pay for one. Obviously paying is a simple form of gatekeeping. I think this will be one way of gatekeeping, but then there will also be password protected spaces that will be powerful to belong to. This is different to the utopia some have described, seeing the internet as a great leveller and as a way of hiding identities and so on.