The Future of Writing

My Prezi can be found here.

How do we handle the massive amounts of information we have access to?

There are many ways to handle mass quantities of information. We can use Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeders such as Feedly, Prismatic, and Zite, so that the information is all in one convenient place even though the information is from different sources. (more…)


#tfebt: 5 Types of Friends We Should All Have

According to Shelley Emling’s article on the Huffington Post, there are 5 specific types of friends we should all have:

  • Friends who make an effort.
  • Friends who are genuinely happy when good things happen.
  • Friends who are upbeat.
  • Friends who are up for anything.
  • Friends who are authentic.

I’d like to offer up a revised list.

Friends who make equal or greater efforts to you.

While I agree, friends should make an effort–I feel the need to point out that effort is a two way street. If you are sitting alone at home, alone, wondering why no one is contacting you–you don’t get to say “My friends don’t make an effort” when you are not making an effort.

Friends who are honest with you about their feelings.

Friends shouldn’t have to be happy for you when something good happens. That is a situational issue. What if you and your friend apply for the same job which you both need desperately–are you supposed to be happy for your friend when you are still unemployed? What about if you both like the same boy/girl and s/he asks you out on a date? Is your friend obligated to feel genuinely happy and heart broken?

Friends who accept that you are upset and don’t call you a Debbie Downer.

This was my least favorite part of this article. Everyone is going through something. If you have a friend who is constantly negative, chances are s/he is going through something. Instead of being upset with them for feeling the way they are, you should be a better friend and help them through it.

Friends should be willing to try anything and also accepting of those who are not.

The example the article used was going to the spa where she, her friends, and everyone else would be naked. What if one friend is not comfortable with this? Does that me s/he is not a good friend?

Friends who are authentic.

Yes, absolutely, but part of being authentic is being honest. If your friend is happy for you when you get his/her job, s/he is probably not being honest with you. The same with a friend who is always happy. If they aren’t confiding both the positive and negative aspects of their life with you, how are you friends?

The Silent 17%

It’s 1947. Hollywood, California is thriving–WITH CRIME! Lots and lots of crime. You are Cole Phelps, recently returned home from WWII and new member of the LAPD. You and your fellow male officers solve traffic, homicide, vice, and arson cases. There are no women on the force because it is 1947 and they all went peacefully back to the kitchen after working in the factories while you were away fighting for your country.

Wait a moment.

According to Cara Ellison in her article on Past Magazine, the first woman police officer in the US, Alice Stebbins, was appointed in 1910 in the LAPD. According to Ellison, women take up only 17% of the roles we see on stage and screen. She cited a report from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California that said only 28% of last year’s speaking roles in movies we female. Ellison references an NPR interview with Geena Davis explaining that media vastly under represents females.  Davis quoted a study that found “if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men percieve that as there being more more in the room than men.”

I’ve played LA Noire, the main game which Ellison’s article analyzes. LA Noire was not devoid of female parts. Well–actually–looking back–there weren’t a lot of speaking female roles. There were some witnesses–who I was usually done talking to within a minute or two. I have racked my brain trying to think of all the main female characters. There was Elsa Lichtman–but she’s a morphine addict, sex symbol, mistress, and doesn’t have many lines outside of shaking her hips. I recalled other names like Jessica Hamilton, a 15 year old rape victim, who, in terms of the total dialogue for the case–doesn’t say much; Deirdre Moller, who is dead when you meet her so not much talking there either; Julia Randall, dead; Evelyn Summers, dead; Candy Edwards, eventually dead.

Emma Boyes, in her article on IGN, says that as a woman, playing LA Noire is like “walking into a bar and realizing you’re the sole female in the establishment” and now that I think back on the game I have to agree. Boyes also points out that the main female role is that of the often mutilated corpse and that “breathing women aren’t absent from the game completely, but they’re under represented to say the least.” She also notes that not a single female character has any power, nor are they truly essential to the story.

It’s odd. The game is centered in a time period which was essential for the end of gender inequality, as Boyes points out. Boyes points out that “it’s interesting that films and games now choosing to re-create that era also choose to marginalize women more than those made at that time.” (The emphasis is mine and not the authors)

In the same article, Boyes explains that “LA Noire’s touchstone LA Confidential… set in the 50s, the women are… relegated to the roles of prostitutes, victims of domestic violence and corpses” and cites the fact that the staff who work on such games are predominantly male as the reason that these games sexualize women.

Sexualized Female Video Game Characters: Stereotyping and the Female Self-Concept

According to this study, done by Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz and Dana Mastro in 2009, female characters in video games are grossly underrepresented, hypersexualized, and are often victims or prizes for the player. Female characters in game are often portrayed with stereotypical gender roles such as “brazenly sexualized beings and objects of sexual desire.

The sexuality of the female characters is often showcased by their clothing, or lack there of. Behm-Morawitz ad Dana Mastro cite facts from Beasley and Standley, who found that “70% of female character in [M-rated games] and 46%… in [T-rated games] were depicted with abundant cleavage.” Behm-Morawitz and Mastro go on to list other percentages about female characters’ appearances:

  • 86% wearing clothing with low/revealing necklines
  • 48% dressed in outfits with no sleeves (contrasted by 22% of male characters represented with no sleeves)
  • only 14% of males characters wearing low/revealing necklines.
  • Female characters are twice as likely to be shown in revealing clothing

Behm-Morawitz and Mastro found that the majority of female characters represented are NPCs (or Non-Playable Characters). Although the playable female characters are often important, powerful, and heroic their sexuality is their defining feature.  Behm-Morawitz and Mastro hypothesized that played a sexualized female character would result in lower self-esteem and lower self-efficacy (the belief in oneself to perform and complete tasks). There was no support for the hypothesis about self esteem, but they did find that playing a sexualized video game character negatively effected self-efficacy in women (in comparison to not playing games at all).

Personally, I think the sexualization of female characters is empowering. Often the female character is looked upon as weak or too feminine. I enjoy playing female characters and often feel an increase in my self-esteem having accomplished what I do in game as a female player and female character. Most female character have weaker physical attributes but are often very intelligent. That’s not a bad thing at all regardless of how the character appears.

And what about the non-sexualized female characters? What about the female characters who are leaders? Warriors? Berserkers? Assassins?  I can guarantee you that I have put some very bulky, non-figure-flattering armor on my characters. And let us not forget the customized characters. How does that fit into the gender roles argument? I often make my characters in my image-which means short and stocky. I won’t be naive and say that the number of sexualized female characters is down-but I will go so far as to say that the number of female characters who are not-sexualized and are challenging the tradition of being a sexualized prize are increasing. Most games, role playing games (RPGs) in particular, have to option to play as a male or female lead character and the games I have played which feature a female lead have been survival horror games (excluding Super Princess Peach and Harvest Moon Cute), in which there is very little to find sexually appealing I assure you.

Women in Video Games p2: Alexandra Roivas

Last week, we talked about Princess Peach: the regularly kidnapped female PC. This week we’ll be talking about strong female PC: Alex Roivas, from Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Alex’s story takes place in the year 2000. Alex is studying abstract mathematics and number theory at a nameless university in Washington. Her back story alone makes her a change from the overly pink princess with the high voice and well styled hair. Where Peach is soft, Alex is hard. Where Peach is a stereotype of femininity, Alex is a challenge to that.

Peach’s worst experience to date has been getting kidnapped… constantly… but Alex begins her journey by finding her grandfather’s body sprawled out on the library floor. It is typically a man who deals with issues of conflict. Despite this, Alex looks into her grandfather’s mysterious murder. During her exploration of his mansion, Alex finds the Tome of Eternal Darkness and relives the lives of several different characters. Despite these blackouts and nightmares, Alex bravely continues to delve into the overlying mystery in the mansion.

The usual portrayal of women, and the general feminine personality, is weakness and timidity. Then along comes Alex, in Nintendo’s first M rated game ever, to effectively do away with these stereotypes. This is not a woman who will be kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (an outrageous extreme, but you get my point).

Alex goes through a lot during the game. This is not only because of the main story line in which she finds her dead grandfather, constantly passes out upon finding chapters of a skin and bone covered book, and discovers that she has to save the world but also because of the sanity meter, which, if low enough, can cause Alex to have additional hallucinations, like seeing her dead body in a tub of blood (and if you open the inventory you will find that you can’t interact with any of your items… seeing as the character you are playing is dead).

The stereotypical female character would have different reactions to these scenes. Although Alex does occasionally faint and/or vomit, she still carries on in pursuit of the truth.

Alex is among the first female playable characters in video games to demonstrate a strong woman and not a kidnappee. Alex, like Lara Croft and Samus Aran, contest what it means to be a female character in video games. Alex is among the first female characters to not be the the goal.

Women in Video Games pt1: Princess Peach

When I was younger (the very early 1990’s), I spent many hours rescuing princesses from different castles. I often found that they were no longer in that castle or were never in that castle to begin with, and very often became angry at them for not being able to take care of themselves (I was young, very lazy, and playing through 100 levels without knowing any of the shortcuts was daunting). Perhaps this is because they were off becoming independent princesses who didn’t need the help of a male protagonist. As I grew older, more female protagonists were introduced. I am happy to note that the portrayal of female characters has changed. Not only are there playable female characters, but non playable female characters are significantly less passive and kidnap-able.

Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser.

Let’s start at the beginning with the first female character I can remember: Princess Peach. In my opinion, the most notoriously kidnapped princess in the history of… well… ever. Peach is an iconic part of Nintendo’s Super Mario series and is kidnapped in almost every single game in which she appears. Why does Bowser constantly kidnap Peach? (more…)

Writing Techne

In Bolter’s article “Writing as Technology” he cites the differences in cultural literacy. Our backgrounds with reading and writing contributes to our understanding “… that language can have a visual as well as an aural dimension, that words can be recorded and shown to others who are not present…” People who read often or who come from highly literate cultures reveal their literacy level when they are reading or writing. Illiterate people “are denied access to language” as educated people speak in combination of colloquial and literary terms.

Bolter’s also comments on the technologies related to writing, such as the pen, paper, parchment, quill, printing press, and computer and our relationship as writers to technology. If we were to distance ourselves from the computer we would still be connected to technology through the manufacturing process of the pen. He states that technologies do not invade the mind, technologies “are natural in the sense that they are constituted by the interaction of physical materials and human practices.” No computer can function as a writing space without a writer; computers are not generative beings, they required outside input.