December 2, 2013
In Experience and Experiment in Art, Alva Noё (2000) argues that experience is more complex than it seems. Reflection on art can aid in our understanding of perceptual consciousness, and be a “tool of phenomenological investigation” (p. 123). Reflection on specific kinds of art may help us solve the puzzle of the transparency of perception. The puzzle of transparency is this: in art (and experience in general) we have a tendency to see through our own perceptions (to not reflect on our perceptions themselves) to the objects of our experience in the outside world. When we attempt to reflect on our window to the world (perceptions), we look through it and end up reflecting on the world itself. When we try to reflect on our seeing, we end up describing what we are seeing, rather than the experience of seeing. Experience is transparent to our descriptions and reflections (we instead reflect on and describe the experienced).
So, to solve the problem, we need to think of perceptual experience as a temporally extended process, and we need to look at the activities of this process (what we do as we experience our environment). Instead of describing the window, we describe the window’s actions. Noё sees the sculpture of Richard Serra (particularly his Running Arcs) as exemplifying this idea: the sculpture allows for active meta-perception (perception of the act of perceiving). The work causes us to reflect on our experiences with them and on our own perceptions by making us feel off-balanced, intimidated, like the piece is a whole with its environment–things that highlight the nature of our perceptions rather than just the objects themselves. It allows us to perceive our situated activity of perceiving, the act of exploring our world. Serra’s work, as what Noё terms “experiential art”, brings us into contact with our own act of perceiving: the window’s transparency and the act of mediating that which lies beyond.
Noё, Alva. (2000). Experience and experiment in art. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7(8-9), 123-135.
November 14, 2013
In Analytic of the Beautiful (Book 1 in Critique of Judgment), Kant discusses the judgment of taste, and presents arguments concerning the nature of beauty in comparison with that which is pleasant or good. Kant argues that judgments of taste (specifically of beauty) have subjective universal validity.
Judgments of taste are not logical or evaluations of reason. Instead, their determining ground is subjective. Judgments of taste are tied to internal feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, and so are aesthetical and subjective. Satisfaction in judgments of taste are disinterested and indifferent to the existence of objects. In contrast, both satisfaction with the pleasant and satisfaction with the good are interested in the state of the existence of objects. In pleasure we seek gratification, while in good we desire either utility (the mediate good—good for something) or good in itself (the immediate and absolute good). What gratifies is pleasant, what is esteemed is good, but what merely pleases is said to be beautiful (and note that what pleases is subjective).
The universality of the judgment of taste is related to its subjectivity: because it is both subjective and disinterested, this feeling of pleasure is valid for all humans (i.e. beauty is imputed to all as universally satisfying). Each individual feels pleasure in the beautiful, without reference to themselves and without interest in the object, and infers that this same satisfaction is universal (it is not bound to the subject’s interests or to the object’s existence). While the pleasant is individually satisfying, and the good is conceptual in nature, the beautiful is universally satisfying and non-conceptual. Judgments of beauty are not postulated as universal: all who make a claim of “beauty” impute universal agreement.
Kant may be seen as conflating satisfaction with the beautiful with taste: for Kant each person cannot possibly have their own tastes because tastes have subjective universal validity. However, his arguments seem to only suggest that satisfaction with the beautiful has subjective universal validity, not that all judgments of taste have subjective universal validity. If satisfaction with beauty is a subset of tastes, as some understand Kant to be saying, then there are others in the subset that may or may not share all of the same characteristics as beauty, and thus what is always true of beauty is not always true of all tastes (and vice versa). On the other hand, if satisfaction with beauty is synonymous with taste in Kant’s writings (and not a mere subset), we are left with the problem of why tastes differ, yet satisfaction with beauty does not. All humans find satisfaction with beauty (they impute absolute universal experience of beauty in beautiful objects); though they find beauty in different objects and differ amongst themselves about what objects are beautiful. In contrast, all humans find satisfaction with their own judgments of taste, but they do not impute absolute universal experience of taste with pleasant objects). In short, there seems to be an imputation of general objectivity (or at least intersubjectivity) in judgments of the beautiful, even though the experiences are subjective, while there seems to be no imputation of general objectivity in judgments of taste (in general): judgments of taste have subjective and indexical validity, but not always imputed general universality.
November 14, 2013
This past week I have been studying up on new media, media literacy, and new media literacy. It is interesting to me how much of this literature surrounds use of video games in education. New media is defined in different ways by researchers in different disciplines, but my gloss definition is something like “digital interactive communication formats”. Why is this kind of literacy important? Why should people be able to intelligently and critically consume, analyze and create digital interactive media? Education is not only about concepts: it is also about artifacts. As the artifacts (the tools and things we humans create and use) in our world change, so must our education. What it means to live in a high functioning way in our world changes as the artifacts change (and because artifacts are a part of culture, as the culture changes). Similarly, as the formats and functions of the artifacts change (for instance, from paper to digital, from read-only to to read-write), so must our education change. If K-12 education is to bring our children up to speed with the world they inhabit, and empower them to become meaning-making citizens, we must attend to the enculturation process and the products of our culture (and to reflect on those processes and products).
Where video games fit into this artifactual nature of our current digital world is an interesting question (interesting at least to me). How can we operationalize new media literacy education, what are the ultimate goals of education in general (and do these also change with cultural/artifactual changes), and how can video games help us (or hinder us) in achieving those goals? Does new media even represent a change, or is it just hype? To be sure, new media literacy education is merely new media education if we fail to focus on reflection, critique and synthesis. Video games are fun and learning experiences themselves, but can they be also used as contexts for reflection, tools for creation, and worlds of transferable learning scenarios and skills? If so, what affordances are necessary for this to occur?
November 11, 2013
Thinking about the several research studies that have been done in the last decade on the impact of violent video games on levels of aggression and violence in players, I think a major stumbling block has been in the area of research design–the validity of studies has been questioned. If we really want to scientifically evaluate the hypothesis that violent video game exposure has a correlational effect on aggression/violence, it seems to me that we need a more rigorous research design. I do not think that in general violent video games cause or are correlative with violence/aggression, but it would be interesting to look at this from a research perspective and test these ideas quantitatively. Note that I am not a quantitative researcher by background, and am not fully convinced in the total efficacy of “scientific research” of whatever variety. I am convinced that it is a good idea to look into our world, and to develop hypotheses and theories that we can test, I am just not convinced that the results of those analyses are dependable as truth/facts (I don’t go for “it turns out that” research results–I do go for “it seems to us that”) , though I do believe we should act on what we believe based on justifications.
That said, I think it would be good to have groups of around 100 children of about the same age/demographic background who are given a “pre-test” on current aggression/violence measures (and have several of these groups). The first group plays no video games for one month, and is given a post-test, then plays violent video games for two months and is given a post-test again. The second plays no video games for two months, and is given a post-test, then is given several specific violent video games to play regularly for one month and is given another post-test. The third plays no video games for three months and is given a post-test. The fourth plays several specific violent video games regularly for three months and is given a post-test. This same thing is done with non-violent games. The pre- and post-test would ask parents about violence/aggression of child, the same of peers, and the same of the children themselves. The pre-test would also gather data about previous violent video game exposure (and try to place children in groups evenly distributed based on this). They would also be given pre- and post-test physical skills tests related to violent video games (skill level in violent endeavors like wrestling, paint-ball gun competition, shooting etc.). Then we could see better if children actually learn skills in violent video games, and if aggression levels and violence is significantly different between different groups, and between the start of the study and the end, and between no video games, video games, and violent video games.
November 7, 2013
Are reflections depictive? Does my reflection in the mirror depict me? At first blush I would say no, reflections do not depict. The mirror reflection of Bob Wadholm is not a depiction of Bob Wadholm. However, if this is true, it seems that all photography is likewise not depictive, because photography collects the light, and then using mediating technologies allows new light to display a reflected image of a sort back to the perceiver. But I refuse to believe that the photograph in my wallet is not a picture, so something must be wrong with this assessment. Does a depiction require a capture of that light for storage and later display: and is this why I feel that the mirror does not depict me, but that photographs do? But I may set up a web cam to record my face and display it back to me in real-time, functioning as a mirror. And if I do not record this video, is it depictive (i.e., does a video reflection of me depict me)?
November 4, 2013
So sorry to any regular readers of my posts on video games: I wrote a post this past week along with a podcast about violent video games that I could not share with a wider audience. Why? Because the article I was discussing is not open access. What does that mean? That means, in this case, that if you don’t own the rights to read the article (like by paying an exorbitant price for a subscription to a particular research journal) you can’t access me discussing in a thorough way the study and findings. This is knowledge you can’t get (maybe you are not sad about this, but I am). And you wouldn’t find the article unless I told you first what it was. I could tell you the name of the article, but I don’t want to call out this particular journal or authors (I feel like it is a systemic problem, not a particular problem with a specific journal or group of authors).
What I do want to do is this: provide you, the general reader, with articles that I find useful and interesting. I want you to have the knowledge I have access to. I think it is wrong for me to get to read these articles and benefit from them, and for you to not be able to even really know what they are saying. Knowledge is being locked up behind a pay door. And I think that is not good–especially because I think it is important knowledge. So if you are writing or thinking about video game use in education, please continue to do so. But please make your work available to the masses who actually play video games, and not just to the very few of us who happen to work at a huge university that can afford a journal subscription to read your article. Release your work under a Creative Commons license of some sort. I don’t think you want to keep your knowledge bound up where no one can read it. And we want to read it. So make it accessible, make it readable by everyone, make it available for us to use and talk about freely and openly. The world is only made worse when useful video game research (along with much other useful research) is not available to be read legally by those whom it would benefit the most. End of diatribe.
October 24, 2013
Do learning analytics have a place in serious games? Learning analytics is “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs” (https://tekri.athabascau.ca/analytics/). Don’t games already have built-in game mechanics that do this? Yes and no. Performance is tested in-game. Game designers think through how a task will be learned and accomplished, and try to optimize this through testing. So if a learner in a serious game gets through the game, they should have learned what it takes to get through the game, meaning that they learned what the game intended them to learn (as long as the game designers were teaching and testing what they intended to teach and test).
However, this data (about learners) is not always measured. What about a task that most learners have trouble with? Game designers (counterintuitively) do not always know the most optimal way to get through their own games (or to learn their own games), even after sitting and observing representative testers. Expert players may, in the end, come up with more optimal solutions than what the original designers thought of in the first place. Without measuring this, collecting data about it, analyzing, and reporting this data about learners and contexts, it is difficult to know or share knowledge about such learner optimizations (or oppositely, sub-optimizations). This does not just happen in-game. Designers can be assisted in creating better games if they are better informed about optimal and sub-optimal performances in games. And game data can help bring this knowledge to designers. Learning analytics seem to have the potential to play an important role in serious game development, getting the designer to the understandings they need to frame the world that the learner needs.