Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I don't know what the hell is going on but it seems pretty cool to me

I was bumping around TED because a friend recommended an Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk. I enjoyed the talk, but in my time on TED, I saw a picture of Jane McGonigal who will be speaking at an upcoming conference. Maybe because she's pretty and I wondered who she was, I investigated further - I don't know exactly but somehow I found my way to this statement on the website about her, Reality is broken, says Jane McGonigal, and we need to make it work more like a game. Her work shows us how.

Fascinating to me. I'm not a gamer but I like games and I've been intrigued by role-playing games and even spent some time researching them on-line. Too much work to learn to play one, I decided. Fascinating, but I don't have the inclination to invest the time, I thought.

So now I'm internet stalking Jane McGonigal, trying to figure out who she is and what she's up to. She has an interesting blog and that has information about some of her past games and the upcoming on-line game, Evoke. The idea of using gaming as a social tool to solve real or potential problems seems absolutely wonderful to me. So wonderful, my expression of wonder is limited to that.

Google provided me with more sites, and I ended up watching the video on this site about another fascinating game she did a few years ago, World Without Oil. Chasing the rabbit further down to hole, she mentions Clay Shirky and a recent (this was in 2008) essay he wrote about cognitive surplus - that extra time we have since we don't have to spend our entire lives fulfilling our basic needs. This led me to this post, which I partly skimmed, but from which I picked up the idea that those who mock and wonder how we have the time to do what we do (a topic I recently chatted about on Facebook) are missing something. At least we are doing something rather than passively accepting/viewing/absorbing something.

....It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, "If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too." And that's message--I can do that, too--is a big change.

This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.
This may be where I go over the edge, but in my mind, this sort of connects up with the ideas I expressed last year about the potential of technology (okay, just Facebook) to create community/intimacy/make connections/find God. Perhaps not one in the same, but I really like people who can see the positives where others see negatives (and a waste of time). Even better, people who can not only see it, but create something that utilizes the positives. This is exciting to me. See what's there, consider the potential and give it a try. I don't know if I'll ever be a gamer, I'm barely technologically literate, but maybe I can live my life this way. Maybe that's part of what I'm doing by homeschooling.

Who knows, but I'm sort of excited about Evoke.

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