Back in my day…

… I did not have to travel barefoot through 10 miles of snow, to a small schoolhouse with air heating. I began elementary school in the 1980s and we had a working automobile at that point and or school buses to get us to and from the school, where at that point in history was made up of many different classrooms in either one large building, or multiple buildings on plot of land (mine was the latter). I also grew up in Sacramento, where the last time it snowed significantly was in January 1888. That was 88 years before I was born. However, I did have to get my references for book reports through these things called encyclopedias, which were giant books that you had to physically lift and turn the pages of. I also had to find books at my library by looking through a card catalog. It was a simpler time I suppose. Archaic reading materials and deleterious weather aside the face of formalized education has changed over the years.

Technology has been the largest contributor for this change. The rapid advances made in computer technologies have made resources more accessible, and they have made education more accessible too. Online catalogs have provided access to entire library collections at the click of a button, and computers have made getting and education as easier as connected to the Internet. No more walking barefoot in the snow to get to school. School comes to you so all you need to do is walk barefoot to your computer. Of course not everyone as access to these resources, and yes there are still rural towns that have a single small schoolhouse that student do have to walk to. However, the advances being made in technology are continuing to advance and the digital divide is closing.

These advances have created a learning environment that that is markedly different from those of my former school days. There is not really a way to say this and not sound old, but kids these days have it so much easier. That actually might not be true though. While technology has advanced the curriculum has advanced as well to keep up with the ease of information access. The implementation of curriculum program like Common Core have created a new way of teaching todays students, showing them a new way to approach problem and obtain solutions in the ever-changing face paced digital environment.

The spaces created by fan fiction…

I was listening to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast where Petra Mayer was discussing fan fiction and I began to wonder about the idea of fan fiction really for the first time. I never really considered it before. Not that I don’t consider it a legitimate art form or think of it as less intellectual. If anything it thing it is even more challenging to create new fiction about characters or worlds that the targeted audience is already familiar with. The new Star Wars movie comes to mind. Isn’t that really fan fiction on a very large scale? The re-boot of the Star Trek movies series is reaching out to fans both old and new. I suppose J.J. Abrams can be considered the most famous fan fictionist out there. But maybe movies are bad examples, especially big budget ones that have the support of the people responsible for their creation. On the other hand, 50 Shades of grey began its life as fan fiction for the Twilight series, so that telling of how popular (and profitable) fan fiction is becoming.

The truth is, fan fiction was just never on my radar. I was/am a fan of fiction but didn’t really think about other fans interpretations as something I was interested in. I think I wanted to keep my image of the things I like, and didn’t feel that I needed more. The podcast, while very short, was insightful. It perked an interest in fan fiction as not just a way for fans to output their theories and idea, or continue the stories for their favorite characters but also a space in which the author can create and learn and share. A friend of mine, who I think is an extremely talented artist, draws inspiration from Manga and creates her own little stories about the characters she is recreating. She is Autistic and in high school so I feel like her fan fiction is not only an escape for her but also developmental. I have seen here able to focus more clearly since learning how to create, or recreate even, the characters and set them in new situations, like those found on the popular fan art site deviantArt.

It was also fascinating to learn about the fandom of virtual worlds through the very real end of one. I have not really played a Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing (MMORP) game before but I have had friends who have been sucked into that world. I think it is incredible how much connection they feel to that virtual environment. There is also something to be said about the power of social spaces regardless of the environment they are held in. For the introverted individual, such as myself I can see why these spaces attract people. It is a way to get that social interaction without feeling like you have been drained of all your energy through the physicality of face-to-face meetings.

This kind of went off into a weird place but to bring it back a little bit, the spaces that fan fiction, or art, virtual worlds can become a place that can both nature and nurture. While I never thought about fan fiction before, I am beginning to feel an appreciation for it.

Game Over, 99% Invisible Episode 153 http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/game-over/

(Links to an external site.)

NPR. (2014). “Pop culture happy hour, small batch: The rise of fan fiction” podcast. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2014/11/04/359614481/pop-culture-happy-hour-small-batch-the-rise-of-fan-fiction

Having a conversation with culture…

Adam Savage’s presentation of “Why We Make” was very interesting. I was really intrigued by the discussion he had with his friend about pop-culture. I started to think about the idea of creating art or building things. Savage mentions that it doesn’t matter what you make, as long as you’re making something. I agree with this thought. The sentiment of people creating Iron Man armor from scratch is seemingly less creative than building their own set of armor from their head. Yet, where would that idea from armor come from if not from pop-culture?

Savage also discussed the choice of making something. This, in a way is also influenced by pop-culture I think. We are influenced by what we like, what we connect with so we want to create, or re-create what we like. I enjoy Edward Gorey’s illustrations so I tend to draw and get ideas from his works. For others, it’s the kid wearing thrift store clothes that might set the fashion that is hot the next year, because a designer picked up on that style. It’s taking something you admire and making it your own.

Savage’s idea of “talking to culture” is an extension of this thought in that our culture tells us stories, and gives us idea that we can mold and create into our own. When we have these conversations we become more inclined to create our own versions of those stories and bring new ideas to our culture.

Savage, A. (2012). “Why we make.” Maker Faire. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_otrgJ8Lm

Online vs. physical spaces: Where should we hang out?

For me, the online learning environment has been a challenge. I can recall my past experiences with online classes and they were not great. Silk et al. (2015) discuss the effectiveness of online learning versus in-person library instruction. Online learning has expended throughout higher education and is quickly becoming a long-term strategy for many institutions. While there have been hundreds of years of face-to-face education observation, and less than 20 years of public internet use, there is still a lot to be studied in terms of comparing the two (Silk, Perrault, Ladenson, & Nazione, 2015, p. 149).

There is just something about being in the classroom that solidifies the experience. I think the same can be said about online culture and physical space when examining social interactions. As Horst et al. (2010) discuss even with the limits places on teenagers by school, parents, teachers, and neighborhoods they put forth and great deal of effort in coordinating ways to “hang out.” The hang out sessions are typically born online where they are most likely to be in contact (Horst, Herr-Stephenson, & Robinson, 2010, pp. 38-39). This behavior described by Horst et al. provides evidence that while the online environment allows easier connections with others, there is still and overwhelming need for physical contact as well.

Boyd (2010) discusses further the need for physical space as a place to practice teenage friendship. A history of teen hangouts is explored from the mall being the only accessible public space for teens to interact outside of school. Constant monitoring had pressured teen out of area such as mall, and libraries over the years and onto the less culturally limited online environment. More contemporary youth after school programs, youth oriented commercial culture and status at school still dominate the perceptions of how they view their friendships and relations (Boyd, 2010, pp. 80-82).

Works Cited

Boyd, D. (2010). Friendship. In I. e. al., Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. (pp. 79-115). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Horst, H. A., Herr-Stephenson, B., & Robinson, L. (2010). Mdeia ecologies. In I. e. al., Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out (pp. 29-78). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Silk, K. J., Perrault, E. K., Ladenson, S., & Nazione, S. A. (2015).The effectiveness of online versus in-person library instruction on finding empirical communication research. Journal of Academic Librarianship , 41, 149-154.