Thursday, May 13, 2010

Electronic Literacy and Print Literacy: What Will Stay the Same?

1. Widespread availability of the printed word to the general consumer brought about dynamic changes in the nature of language. It literally added another dimension to the relationship between words and their meanings for both the person giving the information and for the receiver. Ong discusses how the inception of written word changed the way we think about the words themselves: “Print situates words in space more relentlessly than writing ever did. Writing moves words from the sound world to a world of visual space, but print locks words into position in this space” (Ong 119). Oral literacy had no need for words to need to fit into a specific area, so the requirements of space were not needed or even considered; now, with common use of personal electronics and the generally small viewing area of many new media devices, only encourages this need to words to occupy a particular amount of space. This relationship between the written word and the original idea of meaning in the oral tradition has changed the way that we interpret words and the way that we view meaning. The movement to electronic media has changed the way that we receive information and the way that we interpret the information that we are receiving. However, while electronic literacy has changed many elements of our understanding of language, there are many factors that remain very similar. The primary element that has been retained from traditional written media is that it takes words, which have come from the oral tradition, and has put them into the visual realm, forcing spatial requirements on the otherwise formless words, it is near impossible for someone to not think about the written equivalent of a word when hearing it. This move from auditory to visual requires words to have a distinct pattern of understanding that exists both outside and along with the traditional definition meaning of the word. This pattern is the way that we understand the way that words go together in a specific way as defined by the rules of the spoken language. This is something that has translated into electronic mediums intact from the traditional printed text. I thought that for the end of this post (and of the classwork for this book) I would like to share a link to a site that I found on Ong and some additional commentary he made for the book, that I thought would be interesting to anyone who wanted any further information on comment on the ideas of electronic literacy and secondary orality.

Secondary Orality and how it is driving me crazy in the classroom.

The literacy of new media has changed, as electronic communication becomes more and more a part of daily life. From what I understand this idea is the language of alterative media. This is the language driven by alternative forms of communications that has come out of the electronic age, “The electronic age is also an age of ‘secondary orality’, the orality of telephones, radio, and television, which depends on writing and print for existence” (Ong 3). I am having trouble hammering down exactly what is meant by a ‘secondary orality’, it seems to me that it is both the actual written language of electronic communications (like e-mails and texting) and the style in which these types of communications are done in. In attempting to answer this question I looked at secondary sources for assistance in trying to wrap my mind around the actual definition. The best definition seems to lean towards “secondary orality” as the specific language of new media. An example of this could be the “text talk” phenomenon. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, and sadly it is one that has overwhelmed the composition skills of the freshman, college age generation. In my classroom, I am fighting a constant battle against students who use the abbreviated wording of text messaging in their papers. They cannot seem to grasp that using this type of speech in academic work is not what they should be doing and even after I always give a speech about how text talk is one of the things that drives me crazy, they seem flabbergasted at the audacity of my practice of just circling the offending text-talk and adding a notation of “Really?” This idea of a second orality (and literacy) also reminds me of the earlier days of wide spread public computer ownership and the changes in language that came anlong with it. I remember when the movie Hackers came out and the idea of 733t (leet) speak became more widely known and was a topic of speculation and interest in the early days of the internet (this was during the time when hacking was still a relatively new concept; now it is not at all unusual to hear someone, even someone with out extensive gaming experience, to use terms like “w00t” or “pwnd” in everyday parlance).

I hope that I have grasped at least the basis of what Ong means by “secondary orality”, it seems to be the kind of concept that you come in contact with so often in daily life that it is hard to put into words. However, like the other elements of orality that have come along with the electronic revolution, mastering an understanding of the constantly changing languages of technological progress is necessary to thrive in a world that has become so integrated with these forward changes.

Orality and Literacy: Electronic Literacy

1. The “electronic literacy” of new media has changed the way that we, as a culture, look at literacy. It has made changes in the tone and language of written communication and has changed the spatial relationship of oral to visual literacy. Electronic literacy is less formal than other forms of written literature by its very nature, “The new medium here reinforces the old, but of course transforms it because it fosters a new, self-consciously informal style” (Ong 133). This informality, as seen in most electronic, written correspondences, is best described as a step away from traditional rules of composition and a breakdown of cultural norms. Electronic media seems more changeable than traditional print publications; the ability to cut and paste or to easily delete and reproduce information at will makes the written word of electronic media seem less set. If something is so effortlessly changed, it seems much less official and because of this, less formal. It would seem far less offensive to send a casually written e-mail about an upcoming project to a superior (a still ill advised move) than if one were sending a formal written proposal on the same subject; the instant and abstract nature of the e-mail seems to breed a more casual tone and this is a phenomenon that seems to radiate through the electronic world.

As I read through this section of the text I thought about the actual textual-style of electronic literature and the ways in which it has changed the way that we think about literacy. It is no longer enough to have the ability to read at a higher level as the only necessity for understanding all of the written work within the sphere of the genre; instead, it is now necessary to understand several types of written and visual literacy simultaneously within a “secondary literacy” within the realm of the medium, such as the written language of electronic media, (an idea to be discussed in detail later). This is a big separation from what is expected from the conventions of traditional written mediums. I am from a generation that has grown up during personal electronic era; I had a computer in high school, but no cell phone until after. The casual nature and tone of electronic media is something I am comfortable with but I still hold on to the idea that correspondences and written work produced for public consumption should be formal and polite. I can only hope that the trend for electronic media’s informal nature will not break down the tradition of formal written mediums the way that e-mail has changed how we contact and connect with one another on a personal level, I miss snail mail and I would, in my own snooty way, miss the more formal tone of traditional literacies (is that a word? ha!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cracking the Sims

I have to admit that this question threw me. I have been struggling my way through Gamer Theory since the book assignments began. I was hoping to find a theory dense book that would appeal to my inner nerd girl and interest me more than some of the other theory book I have read have been able to. However, after carefully reading the section on the Sims and the allegory/algorithm section I feel I can take a pretty fair shot at the question. The idea of the algorithm in gaming seems to be something far more complex than what I believe the author is going for; Wark states that, “an algorithm-- for present purposes—is a finite set of instructions for accomplishing some task, which transforms an initial starting condition into a recognizable end condition” (Gamer Theory 31). It is this definition that fits the statement “to interpret its algorithm” well when referring to the Sims; when you play your Sim, like Benjamin in the book, you are figuring out the pattern of the game when making his life choices. This is something that is not unusual in the gaming world; this statement could apply to most RPG type games but withthe Sims it seems to be especially relevant. You are making conscious decisions (according to the algorithm) that move the game along and affect the life of the Sim. Once you have figured out what you have to do to achieve your goal (when you interpret the algorithm), you have figured out the winning formula and can then best the game.

Civilization's Appeal or How I am a lot like Conan the Barbarian

I love the Civilization games, Sid Meyer and I must think somewhat alike, because the system for victory in the games suits my taste well! That being said I have a confession to make, I got the wrong game for the sake of the class, I ended up with Civilization Evolution and not Civ III. However, I was able to find a goodly length demo for Civ III online (Thanks and played it and found that in the elements of the game that apply to the question are very similar in both versions of the game, so I think I can still accurately answer the question well.

This game appeals to the gamer with more than simply the story line (which is pretty weak compared to some of the huge scale RPG games there are out there), instead the gamer’s attention is kept by the the way the game is moved along by making decisions based on the parameters and special skills that each Civ has and what kind of victory you are aiming for. For example, I have usually, in the past and for the sake of this project, chosen Montezuma and the Aztecs. Why? Because when I play games like this and Risk, I like to rule with an iron fist(!) and the skills the Aztecs start with lend well to my dominating nature and make the end victory easier. Honestly, I have never played any of the other Civ games and made it to the space age, I always seem to get impatient and win by domination; I just amass most of the land in war and win that way around the late Middle Ages. I have tried to build my libraries and temples and made my wonders, but in the end I just kill everybody and win that way (I feel like a "Mwahaha" should go after a statement like that!)However, for this project I tried playing with a Civ that has starting abilities that do not work as well with a war victory, like the Egyptians who have religion and masonry, to try and make up for my lack of patience and build up my Civ for a cultural victory. I didn't get to finish this way, but it is a way to make the game involve more strategy and adds another level to gamer interactivity in the way that you make the decisions that determine what kind of win you hope to have. It is this very thing that endears so many fans to this game; there is a way to beat the game that will appeal to everybody’s taste; whether you are like me and want to rule them all, or if you want to win through scientific or cultural advancement, there is a game strategy for you. This is accomplished through the individual “skills” that each Civ has at the beginning. For example, my favorites the Egyptians, are considered to be religious and industrious, so they start with skills like clay working and get bonuses for religious endeavors. Other civilizations are considered scientific and start with skills like written language and others considered expansionistic, so they have bonuses for exploration attempts.

With the various styles of Civs and the multiple ways to win, this game offers the player a chance to build and fine tune their civilizations in a way that appeals to them. Sometimes your efforts are successful and your nations will flourish, other times you will be destroyed by your own hubris (I have bitten off more than I can chew several times and paid the price for attacking a nation that had superior troops or just more of them!) Sid Meyer has found away to appeal to several kinds of gamers with more than what games like Risk can offer. There are ways to win that will appeal to those that want to win through careful strategy and hours of small, deliberate moves (like the space race victory), and you can just take over everything to win for those like me who have no patience and want to win with a crushing blow to my enemies so I can see them driven before me and hear the lamentations of their women!