Tuesday, April 17, 2018

bots the matter with you?

breaking! this past week, it has been reported that yes, bots were on the rise again on twitter... except they weren't russian bots - this was the work of kean students!

and i'll be the first to admit that i think everyone did a great job with living double lives in their own twitter as both a tired, politically distraught student and a persistent, politically distraught bot! the purpose of the bots were to create conversation, but to ask the questions in a believably human-sounding way. the class did a great job of framing their questions and getting a few outsiders to comment! before we set the bots up, though, we did a test on Botometer to see if our twitter accounts were perceived to be people or bots... i wonder if our scores went up?

also, can you believe that he's not a bot? it's weird.

we also played the bot or not game on www.botpoet.com to get a feel for the potential for generative language for bots and how certain "real life" poetry can come across as robotic, repetitive, or seemingly randomly generated. i also wanted to point out that the bot poetry was a lot more poetic than some of the poems by real poets. in particular, the one bot poem "some men" was the best poem i saw come up by far:

"some men just want to watch the world burn
some men just want to watch the world learn
some men just want breakfast"

- generated by Every Google User using Google Predictive Search 

speaking of generative language & poetry, that leads us to our next and final adventure in #netnarr - electronic literature. i love e-lit, as its very engaging and new way for storytelling to come to life and to evoke new relationships between reader and text. the multimodality of electronic literature creates a new dynamic, and adds depth and color to stories by including audio, visual, video, navigational, interactive, and animated elements to the story that would otherwise be lost in traditional textual stories. additionally, e-lit is not just one thing - it can be many. for example, there's hypertext fiction, generative poetry, interactive fiction, netprovs, fanfiction, online roleplaying, ect. e-lit is only limited by the creator's imagination.

one of my favorites examples of e-lit (specifically generative poetry) is poem.exe, which creates haikues / short poems through randomized images, lines, and juxtapositions that are often beautiful and thought-provoking. the generated juxtaposition especially works with haikus because of the suddenness of subject change, which is important in creating a complex message and image that often stays with the reader long after they have read the poem.

can't wait to see what else is in store for us and teaching more people about the wonders of e-lit! super excited.

Monday, April 9, 2018

redlining & remixing

this past week, during our exploration of games, we've focused a lot on the concept of remixing, which is an important element to recognize in such a unique class as this. a few weeks ago, we put questions into the padlet we shared with Maha's students in Egypt; unfortunately, we didn't receive responses, but that didn't stop us! instead, we created the supposed answers to those questions, and put them together to form a mock / imaginary interview, speculating on how the game creators might have answered them. we used audacity while doing so, which involved a lot of recording, splicing, and editing, in order to make it coherent and consequential.

background ambiance courtesy of freesound

i guess for me, it was hard to be 100% direct in answering these questions, namely because they're not mine to answer. i feel like this game prototype specifically was meant for the story to be told by someone from Egypt who experiences gender stereotypes in that culture. while there are similarities between how female and male individuals are expected to behave and perform their gender identity throughout both cultures, it is not even close to being the same story, and that story is not mine to tell or fictionally tell. instead, i tried to speculate as what and how they would answer, but i think i just ended up with more questions! haha.

still, i had fun with it, and i wish we could have heard from Maha's students. until then, i hope they continue with their prototypes - each one has a great story to tell and lesson to teach and would make for great developed empathy games.

our other project we completed last week was also a remix of sorts - we discussed the concept of redlining, and what that means in a geographical space, and how that can translate into a digital space and create analytical, qualitative questions. we took two different images, played with layering, cropping, and finally juxtaposed them together. first, we were told to pick another map of Newark to explore against the redlining zone, and i chose to try and find one of the McDonald's location to take a screenshot of. i couldn't get it to just be all fast food places - google maps was not a fan. however, i feel like the McDonald's locations did raise an interesting speculation and analysis.

in the heart of newark, there are considerably a lot of McDonald's next to each other - reminder, just McDonald's, excluding all the possibilities of fast food locations probably also in close proximity. the heart of newark is not especially rich, and McDonald's provides a cheaper option for people who do not have the income, time, and convenience to spend on healthier choices. it's a quick, inexpensive warm meal, which creates a correlation between poor individuals and poor dietary habits. additionally, it can lead to health complications, which is another problem and financial strain if the person has already found themselves in not the best monetary situation.

again, it's only a speculation, but it's not an uncommon hypothesis we've heard before. below is the map i've created through the image juxtaposition tool in H5P:

with that being said, i'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of remixing in the world of electronic literature in the coming week! i'm exciting to explore different types of e-lit, as well as different pieces, and create/remix some of our own.

(and yes, i heard that bots were coming back... this should be fun!!!)

Monday, April 2, 2018

to quote a wise man: "@!#?@!"

Last week, we all went way back and explored some pretty ~retro~ games, ranging from the Oregon Trail to Sim City. Among these games, I chose to explore two of them - my first encounter was with Charlie the Duck, which I quickly learned was just a complete rip off of Mario. Not even just the concept - the whole level's layout was ripped from level 1 of the classic Mario game, but just replaced with different images & themes. Instead of tunnels, plumbers, and shells, think ponds, frogs, and giant wasps! Of course, and a duck.

Next, I chose to look at the beloved game Qbert. I've heard of the game, but I've never played it - heck, I don't think I've ever seen it in an arcade before, either, which I find surprising. When I started playing, I'll admit, it was a bit frustrating - nothing was really explained, so it took me a second to figure out the controls and what the heck I was even supposed to be doing. But, as it turned out, the goal was extremely simple - jump on all of the squares so they match the target square, and avoid any snakes or other whimsical shapes trying to kill our poor Qbert.

Using the terminology we learned last week, the best way to describe both games is labeling them as Practice games. The levels don't change, and you have extra lives to try to beat them until you master the elements and challenges presented to you over and over again. The Plan, Practice, and Improvise video by Extra Credits even says that playing Practice games typically breed frustration, as sometimes you'll get stuck on a level and it'll take forever to get past it - I definitely felt like that's what was happening to me after a certain point in Qbert. My highest score was ~3,500! I was happy that I got that far, as it took me what felt like twenty times to even just get past the first level. Similarly, Charlie the Duck seemed easier because I've played the classic Mario games before - you generally know what each element does, and the first level is pretty standard. There was Practice from a different game that was transferred to that one, which is actually kind of cool.

Short story time? Short story time.

Qbert was only sure of two things. One, that he loved his work - jumping on stairs for a living may seem like a chore to some, but it was a passion for him. And two, that he did not. Like. Snakes.

When he first started his job, it seemed pretty easy. Only one side of the stairs needed to be changed, no problem. He'd hop a little here, hop a little there, and bam. Fixed. Good as how the boss wanted it to be. But no one told him about the other... difficulties.

At first it started as small bouncing circles that would follow him. It was annoying, but he worked through it, always keeping a watchful eye over his shoulder. Sometimes it would just be on circle, or two, or three... but, no matter how many, he kept at it.

Then, the job got a bit more difficult. Suddenly, two sides of the stairs needed to be fixed - then three, back to one, and so on and so forth. But, then the real game changer came - him.

It was just a normal day for Qbert. Avoiding a circle here or there, hopping along his merry way, thinking of what would be next. But then, as he was on the very last square of the day, a shadow came from behind and menacingly loomed over him.

Qbert stopped, and looked over his shoulder. "...!@?#@?"

He was face to face with none other than, you guessed it, the Snake. He was about twice Qbert's size, and could jump five times as high, too, it seemed. Qbert took a deep breath, and was going to introduce himself. After all, the Snake didn't look too intimidating - he was just huge, that's all, and had pointed teeth, and... Anyways, he wasn't going to assume anything.

Before Qbert could say anything, the Snake, who had been slightly coiled over, extended his whole body upwards. He was stretched out about his whole length, with his neck craned slightly so that he was looking down at Qbert. Uh oh. Now he looked intimidating.

And, just like that. the Snake jumped up in the air and came crashing down toward Qbert with immense power. Quickly, Qbert bounced out of the way, but the Snake kept following him. Panicked, Qbert looked around at the easiest escape - but there was none. The Snake had him cornered! The Snake prepared himself for another jump, but Qbert, terrified, decided to jump off the stairs completely.

He waited in the darkness until for awhile. When he felt like he wasn't in danger anymore, Qbert hesitantly jumped his way to the top of the stairs again - only to find that all of his hard work had been undone!!!

With a quick glance over his shoulder to check for distractions, Qbert began his work again. He shook his head. Why did the Snake want to do this?

When he was on his last tile, again, the same, coiled shadow loomed over him.

Qbert turned around. "!@#?##" He sighed.

It was going to be a long workday.