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19 JANUARY 2016

Skins: Designing Games with First Nations Youth

"Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC), based out of Obx Labs at Concordia University in Montreal and directed by Lewis and Skawennati Fragnito, is a network of academics, artists, and technologists that encourages Indigenous participation in online culture and exploration of new media technology. The main objective of the AbTeC research network is to discover, define, and implement methods by which Indigenous people can use networked communication technology to strengthen our cultures. In an effort to overcome the economic, social, and cultural factors that influence the low rate of Indigenous participation in the making of new media and encourage Indigenous representation in digital games and virtual worlds specifically, AbTeC proposed to conduct Skins, a game/virtual world development workshop for Aboriginal youth that teaches them design programming, art, animation, and audio. ...

In conducting Skins, our goal is to encourage First Nations youth to be more than consumers of digital media; rather, we wish to show them how they themselves can be creators who can approach games with a critical perspective and from within their own cultural context. We are motivated by the possibilities of digital games and virtual environments for Indigenous peoples as well as correcting or adding to representations of Indigenous peoples in commercial games. Indigenous peoples' survival, recovery, development, and self-determination hinges on the preservation and revitalization of languages, social and spiritual practices, social relations, and arts [1]. Digital games and virtual environments, with their unique combination of story, design, code, architecture, art, animation, and sound [2], provide a rich medium though which to explore different strategies for pursuing such preservation and revitalization. For example, Thornton Media's RezWorld is a virtual environment for learning the Cherokee language. It has even been argued that the fluid, open, and networked characteristics of modern digital media make it particularly useful as a tool for Aboriginal storytelling, with Loretta Todd, Cree/MĂ©tis filmmaker and Director of the Aboriginal Media Arts Lab, suggesting 'the experience of cyberspace offers the reversal of narrative as derived from storytelling, a return to oral tradition' [3]. Furthermore, due to the radical decrease in the costs of the means of production and distribution, digital games and virtual worlds present Indigenous people with a powerful opportunity to widely (or narrowly) communicate stories in which we shape our own representation."

(Beth Aileen Lameman and Jason Edward Lewis, 2011)

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TAGS

2011Aboriginal culture • Aboriginal Media Arts Lab • Aboriginal storytelling • Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) • Aboriginal youth • Bart Simon • Beth Aileen Lameman • CanadaCelia Pearce • Cherokee language • Christian Beauclair • community participatory project • Concordia University • Cree • cultural representations • development workshop • digital games • digital media and learning • Dogrib • First NationsFirst Nations youth • Haudenosaunee • Indigenous cultural production • Indigenous participation • Indigenous peopleindigenous peoples • Indigenous representation in digital games • Indigenous representation in virtual worlds • Iroquois • Jason Edward Lewis • Journal of Game Design and Development Education • Katherine Isbister • Ken Finney • language preservation • Loretta Todd • Louise Profeit • making new media • Metis • Mohawk • Montreal • more than consumers • Myron Lameman • Nacho Nyak Dun • Nehiraw • new media artist • new media technologiesNorth American • Obx Labs at Concordia University • oral traditionresearch network • revitalisation of languages • RezWorld • Richard Van Camp • self-determination • Skawennati Fragnito • spiritual practices • Steve Loft • Steve Sanderson • Thornton Media • traditional culturevideo game designvideo games and Indigenous peoplevirtual environmentsvirtual worlds

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
31 MAY 2010

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century

"Most public policy discussion of new media have centred on technologies–tools and their affordances. The computer is discussed as a magic black box with the potential to create a learning revolution (in the positive version) or a black hole that consumes resources that might better be devoted to traditional classroom activities (in the more critical version).Yet, as the quote above suggests, media operate in specific cultural and institutional contexts that determine how and why they are used. We may never know whether a tree makes a sound when it falls in a forest with no one around. But clearly, a computer does nothing in the absence of a user. The computer does not operate in a vacuum. Injecting digital technologies into the classroom necessarily affects our relationship with every other communications technology, changing how we feel about what can or should be done with pencils and paper, chalk and blackboard, books, films, and recordings.

Rather than dealing with each technology in isolation, we would do better to take an ecological approach, thinking about the interrelationship among all of these different communication technologies, the cultural communities that grow up around them, and the activities they support. Media systems consist of communication technologies and the social, cultural, legal, political, and economic institutions, practices, and protocols that shape and surround them (Gitelman, 1999).The same task can be performed with a range of different technologies, and the same technology can be deployed toward a variety of different ends. Some tasks may be easier with some technologies than with others, and thus the introduction of a new technology may inspire certain uses. Yet, these activities become widespread only if the culture also supports them, if they fill recurring needs at a particular historical juncture. It matters what tools are available to a culture, but it matters more what that culture chooses to do with those tools."

(Henry Jenkins, Katie Clinton, Ravi Purushotma, Alice J. Robison, Margaret Weigel, MacArthur Foundation)

[2] Jenkins, H., K. Clinton, et al. 'Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century', MacArthur Foundation.

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TAGS

affordancesblack box systemblackboardchalkclassroomcommunityconvergence • cultural communities • cultural contextcultural formsdigital media and learningdigital technologieseducationengagementFacebookFriendster • game clans • Henry Jenkins • institutional context • learning revolution • MacArthur Foundation • message boards • metagaming • MITMySpace • new media literacies • participationparticipatory cultureparticipatory learningpedagogypencilpracticessharingsocial constructionismtechnologytransformationuser

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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