Weekly Reflection 5: Working Together

Recent events have made me contemplate the complexities of collaboration. In my mind, collaboration only makes the resulting product better. If life were a network, and each activity were represented by a line, I imagine that the most interesting moments lie at the intersections. However, some people are not as receptive to working with others, and I still do not fully understand why. Should similar efforts not band together? Apparently it is not that simple because working together would also mean sharing successes. It is not appealing for an organization to say they had a successful event with another organization; the credit must be singular to be recognized. Even as I type this, I wholeheartedly disagree. It reminds me of the controversy between the gay rights movement and the feminist movement. In class, I learned that despite their similar objectives, prominent feminists did not want to advocate for LGBTQ rights. As if advocating for another group of people for the same rights would deter your own progress? This is what perplexes me about human nature. I recognize similar friction in between educational departments as well. Seemingly appropriate pairings of disciplines are not apparent to all faculty, and I wonder what prejudices cause this. Mind you, this is not a generalization for everyone within each group, and does not represent everyone’s opinions. But at the very least, it is representative of a very vocal, and influential minority. Be it student organizations, institutions, or entire movements, nothing is immune to this phenomenon. What is so wrong with working together?

 

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Weekly Reflection 4: Faces and Privacy

Whenever I go to the city, or any place where I feel I need to be on the defense, I put my Face on. This isn’t a metaphor for makeup. I don’t where a mask, although it feels like one. Rather it’s the expression I put on to assure others that I’m not to be taken advantage of. Whatever notions you have about me, based on my appearance alone, should be put to rest by my Face. I find I do this a lot when I’m waiting for the bus in Trenton, or walking through New York. I would rather be perceived as perpetually angry or moody than look helpless or not be taken seriously. And when I caught myself smiling at a convenience store in Brooklyn, a stranger smiled back at me, and I regretted it. I immediately worried that this was misinterpreted as flirting, and somehow it was my fault. Needless to say, I felt a little neurotic. But I genuinely don’t think I’m the only one that acts this way. Growing up in a household where the news was always correct, and in a generation where we would rather trust our screens than each other, I think there is a trend of distrust among people. And this distrust plays into the complexities of gender norms and prejudice. This extreme caution is more than inconvenient, it’s unreasonable. Furthermore, I found this observation to be ironic because so many of my ideas involve increasing human interaction, yet putting on my Face discourages it. My ideals and practices are not currently in sync, but maybe that is why I am drawn to technology that helps me marry the two.

Also, while compiling research for my time capsule idea, I became concerned with privacy issues. This review of the narrative clip acutely depicts the type of response I expected to receive if I built the time capsule wearable. It isn’t merely whether I would be uncomfortable wearing it or how people would treat me that is my greatest concern. Rather, it is representative of how outdated laws are concerning technology. Privacy is incredibly valued in our society, as demonstrated by the outrage following Edward Snowden’s epic disclosure of the NSA’s practices.  Is our privacy worth sacrificing for automation? Current trends point to yes, as people seem to be comfortable with Alexa constantly listening for its name. If we are okay with a piece of technology always listening, how far of a jump is it for my always-seeing camera to be socially acceptable?

Reflection 3: Commodifying our work

I will admit it, I am privileged. Although I have always been conscientious of money, it has never been my greatest concern. I have my parents to thank for shielding me from this passage to adulthood, for allowing my time and worry to be dedicated to me and my pursuits. Maybe it is for this reason that money has never motivated me. I never based my career choices on how much my salary would be. In fact, I cringe at the thought of commercializing the things I make. Share it, not sell it. But this will be a problem for me. This outlook will be an issue when I am no longer a student and must be a fully-functioning contributor to society. I recognize how foolish I sound. I regret how selfish this makes me for defying the investment my parents have made in me. But I never want it to come to the point where the mall becomes a destination point for me. I do not want to aspire to be able to shop at malls, where their greatest concerns are about how to dress the window display. Do people actually enjoy this kind of luxury? And why do bathroom stalls (the size of small bedrooms with three inch doors) exist when “flying toilets” are a common practice in other areas because it’s safer than walking to the communal toilets? It’s irrational. It’s inhumane. It makes me think back to when I was a child and played MASH (mansion, apartment, shack, house) to determine my future – everything from where I would live, what kind of car I would have, who I would marry and how big of a ring they would give me. Because these are the kinds of categories we are taught will define how successful we will be. And if somehow I landed on the perfect combination of living in a mansion, driving a Lamborghini, and married to Justin Timberlake, who gave me a 10 karat diamond, I must be winning life. I wish that game was not so popular. I wish I had played Pokemon instead. I wish that game was not an indicator of real life. I’d rather build a game that proves them wrong: that you could get “shack” and it’s not shameful; that the amount of money you have does not dictate how wonderful your life will be. Maybe if we all truly believed that, obtaining more money to buy more things would not be our greatest prerogative.

Reflection 2: Another Twist

It’s interesting how my senior thesis work extends into all aspects of my life. I think that’s partly why I find it so hard to complete it – how do you distinguish your homework from your life? I can’t write that down in my planner. School has never been this personal. In every other Interactive Multimedia course (technically six courses, this semester), I find myself having to take out my Thesis notebook to jot down a new idea or perspective. It leads me to wonder what the work-life balance is like in the “real world.”

Also, I used to find comfort in knowing that I wanted to go into a profession involving education and gaming technology. For someone that has been anxious about her major since day 1, the realization that I wanted to build educational games was a like a deep breath – as comforting as it is temporary. Reading Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal was inspiring but the execution was less dream-worthy. It seems that ever since that realization, I have experienced mostly discouragement. These have come in the form of gender dynamics, personal feelings of inferiority, and disappointment in a couple of classes. At the moment, my concern is now discerning whether this is my defining moment. Is this yet another profession I let go, or the first of many iterations I must take to be something better?

Why did I want to make educational games to begin with? I think it seemed like the perfect marriage between my major, IMM, and minor, Technology Studies (the equivalent major being Technology Education). I’m not a traditional gamer by any means, but I like to play them when I have time. And that’s exactly what I want to change – games should not be something you do to waste time. Games have more value than we were taught; I genuinely want to believe in McGonigal’s words. But it seems that I may have to start all over again.

 

Reflection 1: Creation

 

Working on my portfolio map encouraged me to think about creation. A while ago, I came to the conclusion that I am at my happiest when I am making something. And after recent observations, I don’t believe I am the only one. Since when did creation become so devalued? Handcrafted, unique pieces can have pricey markups but they are only for a niche crowd. The most common form of making is “crafting,” which is stigmatized and reserved for children or housewives. Making is hard work and the successful execution of it can be extremely self-rewarding. So then why is it that I fear judgement for creating? Because if you have time to make something – well that’s just it isn’t it? Creating is referred to in the same way as going to the gym, watching a movie, or playing games; it’s a leisurely activity that you must make time for, not something to be taken seriously, especially as a profession. I overheard someone in the sculpture studio saying “if they could build things all day, they would” and again, people are literally begging to make. This is manifested in the prevalence of technology, like 3D printers, which make it more accessible for people to explore their creativity in a technologically-relevant way. If so many people wish to create, why do we not capture that motivation instead of suppressing it and looking down on the people that act on this passion?

One theory I have is that value is placed in being able to do something others cannot. Not everyone can draw a vectorized logo or write a song, but they can certainly copy it. For example, online tutorials and sharing sites, like Pinterest, have popularized DIY. As a result, a distinction has occurred between “true makers” or “artists” and general “hobbyists;” because if you are creating something with a set of instructions that has already been done before, no matter how intricate, you are not worthy. Even at school I have witnessed this attitude in the relationship between ASA and Fine Arts majors, two organizations that most would think to have a symbiotic relationship. In this way, even technology, which was originally created to encourage people to make, also promotes a divide within the maker community. Yet again, we need someone to look down upon, and so the “hobbyists” become the new punching bags. It’s not right. Ironically, I foresee this division occurring as a result of the 3D printer becoming more accessible. At the moment, manufacturing is a credible industry that is integral to our lifestyle in many ways. So long as it is still universally intimidating and expensive, even jobs in 3D printing are respected. But once 3D printers are accessible, and more models are open-sourced, what will happen to the maker then? I would like to say that everyone can be accepted as a maker, but my pragmatic side believes that more divisions will be revealed instead. When does the cycle end?