Final Refection Blog

After careful consideration I have to admit that I have not lived up to the grade that I thought I deserved at the beginning of the course. This is not because I have not done the work but I don't think I have the best work of which I am capable. I did the work, the projects, the blogs, and the assigments.

But I have to admit that I did not participate in class communications and that I was not as vocal in my views and perspectives as much as the other students. I did not go as much in depth as the other students with the literature and my blogs were not as detailed and full of examples as the other students.

Additionally, I was also absent and handed in a blog later than it was due. And I did not tweet as much as I could have tweeted over the topics and class discussions. I really believe that I could have done more in the class and offered more to class discussions in person and in the blogs and readings.

Therefore, the grade I believe I deserve in this course is not the A which I thought off at the beginning of the semester. I believe I deserve a B for my final grade this semester. I did do all the blogs, projects, and I participated in the course. This is why I believe that I should get a B in the course, I mean, seeing that the Dr of the course agrees.

Self Assessment

I understand that this was a new class but I was very happy with the way it was taught. I was curious about how this class would make sense for an English major and also how it would be taught. I thought the reading materials were well thought out and helpful in the learning of this course. I feel that I learned a lot from each discussion leader and their presentation. I also appreciated how each student, including myself used their own style in the way they presented.

I was nervous that this course would be difficult to handle this semester due to the volume of writing that I did for my master’s thesis. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the class wasn’t as demanding as I thought and the chapters were very interesting to read. I looked forward to the class discussions each week to help better understand what I read. I enjoyed hearing everyone’s opinion on the readings.

I appreciated the dialogue and opinions that my fellow classmates brought to each class. All of the presentations were insightful and well presented. I think this had a huge impact on my personal learning. Being in an atmosphere where the other students want to learn more and grow from the learning experience only enhanced my experience as a student. Also the topic of new media was an intriguing and informative topic. We all use social media and the world wide web but now we all have a better understanding of its features and how it affects our society.

I am embarrassed to say that the skills I have gained for this course are skills that I should have already acquired. I learned more about twitter and how to create a following and also how to use it to find information and trending topics. I also learned the power of the hashtag. I always just thought that the pound sign and the words that followed were made up. What I learned is that if used correctly the hashtag can be used to spread the word about a movement or event. Hashtags spread advocacy and it allows the user to be an advocate for things that are important to them. I personally think the #feminism hashtag is a great hashtag to look up on twitter every once in awhile. It is a small space on twitter where women tag things they think are amazing for women’s rights. It is very inspirational to check out sometimes.

Since joining this program I have decided that I would love to teach writing at the collegiate level. This Master’s program has taught me so much that with graduation only a week away I feel prepared to graduate. This class has allowed me to speak in front of the class and lead a discussion. I feel that this will help me in the future. By creating questions and asking the class for their opinions I am one step closer to understanding what it is like to teach a class. I have always enjoyed the opportunities I get from being in front of the class and engaging my fellow classmates.

This class taught me new skills, gave me knowledge about new topics, and changed my attitude on certain things. I learned that I should understand that everyone is different and everyone learns and grows in different ways. We all view media and technology differently. I never understood selfies but this class has given me a new appreciation of the cultural phenomenon. I look more closely now at the pictures on instagram and the tweets on twitter. I click on hashtags to try to better understand what they are trying to promote. I also stopped posting so much on facebook. After our discussions on sharing and what is important to the intellectual marketplace that is social media I have decided to only post important events in my life and think twice before I post my opinions.

Before I took this class I was a student who didn’t know much about the issues in new media. Now I understand more about how new media affects society and our everyday lives. As new things emerge everyday we as students and advocate need to learn how to use these tools and how they can help us in this always changing technological world.

Our Final Class Plans….

images-2So we are on the final home stretch, finishing off our semester long discussion of New Media Studies.  It has been a pleasure to have had this extended conversation with you.  I, for one, know I have learned a great deal with you over the course of our time together.

This post outlines the official plan for next Wednesday 5/11, and includes everything you need to accomplish to wrap up the semester in good standing:

1.  Each of you will submit your Final Self Assessment and Portfolio for New Media Studies.  This will be a 1-2 page self assessment narrative about what you learned in the course, along with the links to all your work over the course of the semester.  Please follow the instructions in this link, and please send me the link to your Final Self Assessment and Portfolio via email before class (5/11).

2.  For all students contributing to the Final Class Project:

Wow.  Your posts are truly amazing and I have learned so much by reading each of your accounts!  There is just one part left to complete:  The “About Us” section.  Everyone should complete a brief (few sentence) bio, and then they should be included in alphabetical order on the “About Us” page.  Since you all have admin access to the site, you should be able to insert your bio easily enough.  I will try to draft a descriptive paragraph of the project there as well, but please edit as you see fit.  When we are together in class, we can check on this together and tweak it.

3.  So our last class on Wednesday is a Potluck Dinner Party.  Unknown-1Everyone should bring something so we can all feast together.  Here is the sign up sheet – please post what you will take (and you can also see what others have in mind there in order to round out the menu).  While we are eating and chatting, I hope each of you will take turns sharing out your new New Media Adventure stories (informal style).

See you for our grand finale party.  We can celebrate your fantastic work this semester, and the approach of summertime!! 🙂

xo -Dr. Zamora


Recap of the Semester

What have we learned about media and participatory culture that we didn’t fully understand before this class?

I was taught in my journalism classes as an undergrad that with the technology that we have today that everyone can be a journalist. Statuses and tweets are new ways of spreading news and controversy. Anyone can snap a picture on their smartphone and post it to the internet. Michael Jackson’s death was first found out by a picture taken by a nurse who worked in the ER when he came in to the hospital. Everyone can be a journalist now. But as we move forward with twitter and instagram, media has changed in the sense of participation.

Anyone can be an advocate now. Hashtags and followers allow people to spread a message that means something to them. The ice bucket challenge, #BlackLivesMatter, and anything Trump says spreads throughout cyberspace because of the way these things are shared.

I developed a better understanding of youtube stars as well. Youtube is a great source for clips, music, and all around entertainment. There are people out there who make millions of dollars from sharing their skills, stories, and lives by creating videos online. advocacy and spreading awareness can be done through youtube stars and their followers. Youtube has created a community of users that are constantly connected.

We got on a long conversation about Facebook. It is something we are all a part of but it drives us crazy. Going viral is a trend. We are constantly branding ourselves online. Our pictures, our statuses and the way we present ourselves is important when in the past we only cared about what our close friends and family thought of us. We all have that friend on facebook that starts fights in comment sections or posts idiotic articles or nonsense. We talked about how it drives us crazy.

We all agreed that we learned a lot from learning about participatory culture and new media.


Exploring a New Tool – The Knot

For our exploring a new tool project I focused on the website and application The Knot. The Knot is a bridal website and application that serves to assist throughout the entire wedding planning process. While I found that the website has more information than the application, both serve with countless of ideas to plan weddings. After Dr. Zamora’s suggestion for me to explore the bridal digital world due to my recent engagement, I found that The Knot was an appropriate tool to explore for this project.

As I started to explore The Knot, I remembered how growing up I would actually say to myself that I was never going to get married. I was going to move out on my own when I was old enough and didn’t fantasize about wearing a big puffy princess white dress. Thinking about what I used to think as I got older, I believe that the fact that my dad past away when I was four-years-old and my mom decided to never remarried, lead me to believe that marriage was not on my grown up to-do list. Rather, growing up seeing a hard working widow mother perhaps encouraged me to believe I wasn’t going to get married. That mentality completely changed, of course. I am now engaged and on my way to become a wife. So exploring the bridal digital world made me feel, in some ways, like I was discovering and trying to figure out what is it that I desire my wedding day to be like – since it was never a fantasy of mine as I was growing up.

In the initial stage of signing up to the website I found that it was pretty easy to get your information on there. When I joined The Knot, they did not ask me for any other questions other than:

  • “Your name”
  • “Fiancé’s name”
  • “Address and phone number”
  • “Wedding date and location”
  • “Budget amount”
Once I entered this information on the app, I noticed that when I logged into the website it automatically linked all the information to the website. I found this very convenient and found it nice to have all the information I had entered transfer over so that both places would be updated without needing to update anything myself. I noticed that The Knot asked essential questions to help you start the process and personalize your profile for you. I also noticed that these questions had cultural filters embedded in them. For instance, it asked for the name of the person starting the profile and the fiancé’s name without assuming the bride was the one starting the profile and without assuming there was a bride and a groom. After you enter all your information, both the website (left screenshot) and the app (right screenshot) show you a customized profile of your wedding like shown below:

(For the purpose of this project, I entered fictional information for most of the data shown on these particular screenshots) 

As I explored both the app and the website, I noticed that a to-do checklist gets generated based on your wedding date and it can be seen in both the app and the website. The checklist includes things you should be getting done for your wedding and it’s broken down by month all the way up until a few months after you say I do. Each month contains items that should get done that month so that everything runs smoothly throughout the wedding planning. In my experience, I found that the app was easier to use when it came to going through all the to-dos whereas the website was 
easier to use when exploring all kinds of vendors and seeing countless of pictures for everything that has to do with weddings. Within the to-dos checklist in the app, I had the option to sort my to-dos by “Essential”, “Completed To-Dos”, and “Deleted To-Dos”. I found this beneficial because in case I deleted a to-do by mistake, I could always go back and add it again. As I explored the sorting options, I noticed that it was helpful to have to option to delete items in the to-do list rather than only being able to check them off when you complete the item because there are things on the to-do list that not every bride will be doing for their wedding. This made the app seem like it was a flexible and customizable app that did not force the user to only do what it had listed there. Below are screenshots of what the to-do checklist looks like on the app – you can see how everything breaks down by month. 

One of the downfalls I found to the checklist was that I was not able to add my own to-dos to the checklist. So if there are certain traditions that are not listed in the checklist then you are not able to add them to the checklist The Knot provides. I was not able to think of traditions within my own culture that I needed to add on there – although I’m sure my mom will let me know of some or many, I don’t know, as I move along in my own wedding planning – but I thought about other weddings such as Indian weddings and the app didn’t seem to list some of their traditions in the to-dos checklist. For instance, thinking of Indian weddings, things like booking a vendor for their Mehendi, and a vendor to arrange their Dupatta or Sari, is not listed on the checklist. While the checklist seems to be an extensive one with nearly 200 items in it, it seems to leave out traditions for brides of other cultures. Another downfall is that you can’t add to your to-do list the data that pertains to the item you are checking off as complete. For instance, the option for “Estimating Your Guest Count” was listed but you are not able to actually enter the number on there. So while The Knot sells itself as a lifesaver for wedding planning, you still need other tools to record the data that relates to each checklist item. The checklist feature of The Knot works great for you to remember all you need to do, but you still need other tools outside what The Knot provides for ultimate results.

As I spent more time surfing through The Knot’s website, I found that, as I mentioned, this website serves more for looking for vendors and pictures of ideas for your wedding -- so it’s more visual than the app. You can search for venues around your area, you can see pictures of wedding dresses and vendors where to find them, and they even have a tab that says “Real Weddings” where you can see hairstyles from real brides. Now, this section really caught my eye mainly because I’ve been interested in looking to wear my hair down on my wedding day rather than doing the traditional updo. So I thought this section would be helpful for me to look at non-traditional ideas. What I found surprising was that when I searched on their default listings (without filtering in anyway) most of the hair styles shown on their list were from brides with blonde highlights or completely blonde hair. It didn’t matter whether they had their hair up or down, most of the pictures were from blonde brides. As I reflected on what I was seeing, I thought that all those pictures of brides with blonde hair were targeted to a particular demographic rather than providing a more diverse listing of hairstyles. Below are pictures of default hairstyles shown on The Knot’s website. 

I don’t particularly have anything against dying my hair or against brides wanting to rock their natural blonde hair or waiting to go blonde for their wedding day. However, it was stunning for me to see that majority of what The Knot was displaying was not diverse. As a teenager, I dyed my hair light brown and also red. I later had blonde highlights and then finally, when I became exhausted of constantly having to hide my roots, I dyed my hair black and allowed my natural dark brown hair to grow out. Since then, I never dyed my hair again. And I don’t foresee me changing my mind until I start getting gray hair. So seeing that The Knot has a great amount of hairstyle ideas with blonde hair is a bit of a bummer because I can’t really picture my natural dark brown hair in most of those hairstyles. As I reflected on this, I thought that The Knot was a great tool to start you up with your wedding planning but it is in a way limited to a diversity of cultures.

Comp Theory and New Media 2016-05-04 19:13:00

Just like the final project, when I heard about this I was more nervous than excited. I was nervous about the technology part and when my group members decided to work by themselves I was already stressing myself out. I knew I did not know Periscope, and I never uploaded a video on YouTube. I felt a little better when my teacher assigned support groups, and my team members were so helpful. The hardest part actually turned out to be what I thought was going to be the easiest and it literally took forever to create Destiny! I thought it was better to try and make my ads and character before I met with my group so we could discuss it. I actually came up with other characters before getting to Destiny, and I tested them out with my mom. When I was home, my mom was my little support group. I told her some of my first ideas, and she basically just told me they were boring. And just like the support group, she offered some ideas that really helped.
Due to my team members who had already put everything on the site, I had a smoother process. I probably would not have engaged in certain actions if it was not for Martha and Debbie. All I basically had to do after the support group session was wait for a response from Mark and Rob, post my ads, and do my videos. I carefully selected the times and days I would do the video and I took all the necessary steps to purchase all the items I needed for them. I was surprised to see I had a viewer on each one. But the part I enjoyed the most, was writing and reading the reviews. I love the fact Destiny and her ads created so much curiosity, and I liked acting like my character even though at times I just could not get my (real) self to say certain things. Lastly, thinking about the comment Laura made in class I learned it is so much easier to “just be yourself” although my life may have been boring to others if we did so.

New Media Final Project Acapella Maker

When we were deciding what we wanted our final project to be, I was not excited at all. I had no idea what I wanted to do and nothing was automatically coming to my mind. I just remember sitting in class one day and an idea coming to me, but I was still uncomfortable because I knew nothing about the tool. I just knew I liked whatever it was. I was stressed and one day I just started talking to my mom about the project. She told me to show her the videoI saw on Facebook, and I immediately took her to Markus’s page. She looked at the video with me and noticed a hashtag. When I looked up the hashtag, I found Acapella Maker
I began testing the app and others, and I decided to stick with Acapella as my first option. The first day, I was so excited I did not take the time to read effectively and it literally took me three tries just to figure out why what I recorded previously kept playing on the other videos. The app clearly said, “Do you want to listen to one audio through all your recordings?” Later it said, “Do you want to play audio while recording?” I was just pressing yes! Clearly I was having problems, and I made the mistake of just singing and playing around instead of actually trying what I had intentions on doing which was sharing my poetry. But for some reason, I just knew my vision would work out after multiple tries.
The second day I decided to revisit the app, I knew what I wanted do with my poetry. I originally thought I was going to pick one of my poems and just break it up into different sections so it would be two videos of me reciting two parts of my poem. Then, I thought about an activity my teacher Susanna Rich had my poetry class do. My classmates and I each took turns reading one line from our poetry back after back which created a new poem. Inspired by that activity, I thought it would be so cool to take lines or a line from more than one of my poems and combine them to make another poem. So, I looked at a couple of my poems, picked out some lines, tweaked some of them, and I loved the poem that was produced. Now all I had to do was figure out how I wanted to split the poem up, and my vision would be complete. At least that is what I thought! After I split the poem up I kept trying to split my poem up with the app and make it legible, but I could not figure it out. And to be completely honest, in the process I got so occupied with the final product I just stopped writing and kept trying. I tried this and this plus a lot more this’s and I still was not satisfied. Eventually, I just gave up and realized my original plan might not work with poetry.
I was forced to keep trying, settle, or just be creative and for the rough draft I decided to settle. I wanted to show something that I was okay with. I knew that the end result might not be better, but I was still fixed on trying. I went to class knowing I would have to dedicate another day to this project.
And on the final day I tried, I just got really creative. Honestly, I believe God gave me ideas because everything was just there. I had all the props I needed without having to buy anything. And to say the end result was not what I originally wanted, I am happy with the aftermath. I showed my mom the final product, and she said it was weird and started laughing. I love it, and I just have a funny feeling that my class will like it as well.
Moreover, presenting my poetry in any type of way always makes me a little uneasy. I am okay if I present it on my own terms. Meaning, I do not have to do it for an assignment, and I am sharing it with people I want to share it with for example my Facebook friends. But, adding the public makes me more nervous and more critical. In the process, I became more focused on making things perfect and getting everything to come out the way I wanted it to. But as each day passes, I am starting to see more and more that what my teacher in high school said to me was right. I agree with the popular saying, “Things are not always going to go as planned.” I am learning to not become completely distraught. I will not say I regret trying to be creative with this app. I just learned trying to be creative with an app meant for singing made my task harder, and the device you use for example a phone or a tablet changes the outcome.

A Giant Leap Out of the Comfort Zone

It was a little after two in the morning. Picture this: I’m lying on the couch in complete darkness, phone in hand. The App Store is open, and I have been staring intently at that tiny blue “Get” button for an embarrassingly long amount of time. My heart is jumping around like crazy, and I’m about ten seconds away from starting to literally sweat. I feel guilty… although I’m not exactly sure why. My husband is asleep in our bed, and every few seconds I pop my head up to make sure I’m still the only one awake.

No, I wasn’t contemplating downloading a dating app and starting a clandestine affair. Well… technically it is a dating app, but I’m not interested in the affair. And for a few seconds after I download the app (an eternity, really), I am on a dating site for the first time ever. During that brief eternity, I find my mind going to some interesting (see: irrational, crazy, paranoid…) places:

What if I die right this moment and my husband finds this app on my phone and thinks I have this secret life!? What if my phone freezes before I get the chance to toggle over into BFF mode and then I have to explain why I have this dating app on my phone!? Oh My God, why did I do this!?

tumblr_nw6al5S0wD1qiuiebo1_r1_1280.jpgBut then, just soon enough to save me from myself, the opportunity arises, and I toggle over from Bumble (the dating app) to Bumblebff (the new-ish app created to help girls and guys find new BFFs!) All irrationality aside, who created this genius app?! A dating site for friends!? This is revolutionary! Because, let’s be honest, as soon as you become a grownup, making new friends becomes much more difficult…

After I downloaded the app and switched to (the much safer) bff mode, the first step was to create a profile.  Bumble bff prompts the user to import information from Facebook (there is a disclaimer that Bumble will never post anything to your account), and the app uploads your most recent Facebook pictures into your profile. 


     Next, you get the opportunity to replace and/or rearrange these pictures. I decided to add a picture that shows me out in the world with friends, so that it is clear that I have real-life friends. I don’t want to appear too desperate…

Trying to avoid desperate vibes


               Along with pictures, a user’s profile features age, occupation, college, and a short bio.
                                                                  Here's mine:    

The settings can also be adjusted to find friends within a certain distance from you (mine’s currently 20 miles) and friends of a certain age range (mine is set to find friends who are 24-34 years old). I originally had my distance set a little higher, but I kept getting Manhattan friends, so I adjusted. (Note: Manhattan girls looked a bit too intimidating).

     The morning after I downloaded Bumble, I was alerted that I had my first match! Agh, so intimidating! What to say? Bumble acknowledges that making that first move can be intimidating as hell. They provide gifs:

Best one by far...nDF4stb.gif

                                                                                                  Oh, also, 
there’s a taco:giphy.gif

I will admit, all the taco gifs in the world could not save me from feeling like I was on a job interview. At the start of any new convo, there was a lot of reaching for things to talk about-- too many “so what do you do?”’s, and “what did you go to school for”’s.

Some chose to acknowledge the awkwardness right away:attached_photo

trotter pup on instagram
But, ultimately, I saw the potential in the experience. After the awkward “getting to know you”, it was actually a little fun. Over the course of four weeks I talked coffee shops, school/work, vacations, kids, doughnuts, books, being friends with dogs on Instagram, and planning Pinterest-worthy parties with about 16 ladies.
Disclosure: Yes, I follow dogs on Instagram. I also follow doughnuts. Don’t judge.


As this media adventure comes to a close, I guess the big questions are: Was it worth it? And, did it work?
I set out on this adventure because of a few reasons. For one thing, I missed the whole dating app craze...but my best friend didn’t. She is a serial online dater and constantly talks about the connections that she makes online . I was never able to truly understand what the fuss was all about. Secondly, my online participation rarely goes beyond “liking” pictures and posts on Instagram and Facebook. And to be honest, most of that participation involves connecting with people that I already know--family and friends. I’ve never taken the opportunity to branch out and try to form new connections. This experiment was successful in provoing that exposure: it did give me insight into the online-connection experience, and I discovered what it feels like to really put yourself out there.
IMG_7609.pngIt was actually pretty exciting to get a notification that I had a new match or that I had a new message from someone that I was talking to. FullSizeRender.jpg

                                  It was also validating to discover that someone that I might be interested in getting to know wanted to get to know me all well. IMG_8852.png

     So, I would say that in this way, Bumblebff worked for me.. But did it lead to any new real friendships? Not yet. Do I expect it will? Honestly, not really.

                                                 Here is what didn’t work for me:

  1. You have to make split-second decisions about people based only on a few pictures and a short bio (bio’s aren't necessary, so some people didn’t even have one).  
  2. FullSizeRender.jpgUnless you choose to share your phone number with the people you are talking to, all communication happens through the app. This is problematic because, even with notifications, it was too easy to forget to check in on these conversations. Sometimes days went by before I picked up the thread again.
  3. Due to this lack of fluidity, the conversations and connections sometimes felt forced or unnatural. They never moved past the “small-talk” phase. It sometimes took days to get through the type of introductory conversation that would only take a few minutes if it occurred in-person.
  4. It was sometimes difficult to get a good read on people. I couldn’t really tell what kind of person someone was based only on the type of small-talk that we engaged in. I think that meeting people in-person allows for a better read on sense of humor, pet-peeves, and if someone is fun (or annoying) to be around.

With that said, I will likely keep the app on my phone and use it from time-to-time with the understanding that even though I don’t expect to find any new real-life best friends, it’s sometimes fun to talk to new people.



       I have had the same two best friends since the sixth (Jess) and eighth (Andrea) grade. I don’t think that the kind of relationship that we have can be replicated or grown from an online connection.

                                               Here’s some unnecessary proof:
                                                 Real best friend conversation:          


                                                 Bumblebff convos:


       To conclude: Bumble BFFs are people that you can make small-talk with when you’re bored; Real-life BFFs don’t do small-talk; there’s no need. Why talk about the weather when you can talk about how your bestie just matched with Black Phillip on Tinder.


Mimi’s Minecraft Mania by Debbie Bagnato

So perhaps I should name this “Granny goes gaga over games!” In truth, only the Minecraft game and it did not begin very well at all. It all started on 3/2/16 as I ventured online in pursuit of Minecraft and found instead a whole new level of discomfort. Feelings of incompetence with online navigation is not new to me, but this is a game children play, including my two eight year-old grandchildren.
I figured they could help me, but neglected to factor in that I do not see them every day as we do not live near each other. And when we get together, they expect me to do other things.
My grandson did try to show me how to navigate the screen when we went to the mall. But kids like to show their skills, not showing their dear old granny (or Mimi as he calls me) the baby steps I desperately needed. So, I went back to my reading and mini-demos in the hope they would show me how to begin. They did not. But I did learn lots of interesting Minecraft dirt (hee hee) which I’d love to share with you. First, let me get back to my endless stream of gaming discomfort…
From the initial steps on my laptop, there was trouble; Amazon would not send the game to my computer but promised it would appear instantly on my Amazon Fire. That happened to be buried in my closet as nobody was using it including me. It was a lovely gift from work, all set up and ready to go but completely dead. I resurrected the poor tablet and put it on the charger, confused as to why they couldn’t simply send it to my laptop. It all made sense later when I realized I was buying the “pocket” edition, made for phone or tablet (duh). Once up and running, I tried a practice game offered by Amazon, “Sidewalk Surfer” (my very first online game). I was horrible, but someone had a lower score so I felt redeemed. Until I realized they might be very small children. Discomfort returned; next I could not get off the page, but finally did. Good grief!

A few days later, I began to explore Minecraft online; I wanted to understand what it was about before I tried it on the tablet. This helped me feel a little more in control and I enjoyed learning about this amazing phenomenon. A sandbox game is fine by me—I am a beach lover.
Placing and breaking blocks is also fine—until I actually tried it myself. One needs to be very careful where they place the blocks they choose to use. I gained lots of basic information from their site and hoped to find the actual demo; it never downloaded so I watched all the shorter clips and took notes (yup, I am a nerd) so I could have a clue when I began the game. But do let me share the game history! 

Markus "Notch" Persson

It was created in 2009 by a Swedish programmer and gamer named Markus “Notch” Persson, with co-founders Jakob Porser and Carl Manneh. Working with the company Mojang, in late 2010, they developed the game further and in 2014, Mojang was picked up by Microsoft. Markus and his pals are doing alright. The game itself is “procedurally generated” and as a player you can focus on gathering resources, building your lego-type fortress, crafting, decorating, or adding people and animals too.
It all starts with “punching trees” which is actually fun to do, and necessary to clear areas and get supplies. If you prefer risks, you might try combat instead of creative mode. And it is all set on a sandy beach with the ocean nearby. The world you create can be endless once you get to where you have cleared the way and can start to play. So, throughout March, my Minecraft 101 training began and I bothered my grandkids to show me stuff—anything! But as I begged for help, I realized that this was just a game they played and “made it up” as they went along—just like when my son and grandson are in Legoland, playing with the blocks.
When they are done, the next dad and son knock their creation down and use the blocks to start their own. I needed to just do it (like a Nike ad). So, I reread all my highlighted notes, and printouts to prepare to play. How ridiculous am I? But, I thought it would help, and (sort of) did--once I got things started. The Parents Guide to Minecraftdid offer some level of comfort to my awkward beginning.
Realizing that I could stay in creative mode was a big step for me; the problem was getting the knack for punching trees, and then using tools to break walls. Little steps, and my notes, got me there. The procedural concept turned out to be fascinating as each new “map” or world is unique. I have three different worlds that are my crazy creations. One of them, my favorite, got lost for a while when visiting my brother in Italy. But do let me explain… After I got through the basics for starting up (punching trees, getting supplies, using picks and other tools) I learned the importance of torches. My first, and still favorite world was going to be a beachfront castle.
By other people’s standards, it is still very simple but to me it was a masterpiece. Except the one wall was too big and cumbersome—it was ugly. So, I tried to break it but it would not budge. Then I had an idea—I’d use the dynamite to bust through it! But, the dynamite would not blow. Instead, it seemed to grow, and grow, and grow. It was taking up the whole screen and none of the tools would work! Well, I needed a kid, and I knew it. 

4/21/16 My brothers first birthday party, up in Casalino, had--you guessed it--many kids so I found one who really knew Minecraft. It was Gabrie, who I’ve known since he was a baby, and one of the best-natured kids you could find. With his older brother Elia to help with translations, he suggested I use the torch to light the dynamite. WOW! Why didn’t I think of that?
The child is obviously brilliant, so I thanked him and once back in Firenze, I pulled out the game, lit the dynamite with the torch and it blew sky-high so fast, I couldn’t get a picture.
Happily I noted that the property was not damaged, or the sheep, cow, and occasional dog (he comes and goes). At first, I had no idea where the animals came from but I evidently clicked them in when I first went into settings; I’m quite pleased as they are noisy but fun company. The days and nights come and go quickly but when you lose your way at night it can be spooky so I did add some torches to key areas for light.
Because I still had questions for Gabrie, and wanted to thank him for his suggestion, I couldn’t wait till we went to the Rossi’s for dinner (and another birthday party for Timmy!). While we waited, I added animation to the water in settings, but needed to figure out how to get the Lego man on the screen. Luckily, I started to get better at navigating and revisited the first “world” I created. Now I could add and remove things with ease, which made me feel much better. I decided to return after I got more tips from Gabrie, the Minecraft wizard. 

4/26/16Finally, Tuesday night arrived and with my tablet handy, off we went to dinner at the Rossi’s. As we were sitting on the couch chatting with Fillipo and Serena waiting for the kids to finish their homework, little Giuseppe wanted to see my Minecraft game. Of course, I let him—I was the guest, and he is an adorable five year-old. My sister and I watched as he quickly navigated the screen to places I’d never seen. He seemed quite gifted. Just then, Gabrie arrived and looking dismayed,  grabbed my tablet from his brother. It seems little Giuseppe does not know how to play and navigated so far away from my castle that we could not find it! Very sadly, I put the tablet away. But Gabrie gave me a lesson on the one upstairs; actually we all watched. And then I understood how much one could do with this game. The videos on YouTube demonstrated the games potential, but this was a ten year-old kid creating amazing things in front of our eyes! I cannot make the roller coaster he made at the end of his lesson—I don’t even know if I could on the tablet, with guidance—but I did pick up more basics that have helped me with building and breaking through walls; simple but necessary skills.

5/2/16 Finally, after starting another new world, and fixing up a little on my very first one, I found my island with my sheep and dog! At first I could not get it to the forefront but there were animals with illuminated eyes and my lego man—the one I couldn’t get on the screen—bobbing around in the water.
The other Lego man was digging a hole with a huge piling, so I must have clicked on them enough times to make two. He must be camera-shy as he moved each time I tried to take a photo. Next I figured out how to manipulate the screen to my favor and brought my island retreat to the center.
After watching Gabrie, I’ve been placing torches along walls, perimeters, and caverns for light and safety. I still cannot get the food to appear on the tables so I have food walls and doors. I see that to really master this game would take much longer, but I am content with the steps I’ve learned. Game-playing is a pleasant diversion, and kids actually have that kind of time to invest.

5/3/16 My sheep has grown and it is huge! I finally got my house back to normal and moved the bed (enormous) as well as two crafting tables. One table is on the deck and the other on the first floor patio; I added a picture to the wall and some more torches, but still cannot get food on the tables. The animals seem to nibble the food walls so it’s okay. They all make happy sounds and the sea creatures’ splash and play; perhaps I should move there and join the fun.

The other two worlds are nowhere near as done but the one is a cavern and quite crazy; there are many active lego men of different colors and design; their activity is very intriguing.
The remaining world was always raining and although I tried to do some building it was hard to work in the rain (no kidding). I just got to revisit that one, as the rain finally stopped but didn't build much. Instead, I cleared areas and planted some lovely tulips.
After all this worrying, and major feelings of discomfort, failure and desperation just trying to master what my grandkids “pick up” from experimenting, I am quite pleased that I got this far with my limited skills. And I’d recommend it as a fun alternative to watching TV or other sedentary pastimes—when you are able to build anything you feel like you accomplished something great! And if you have kids who play they might even show you a few things…

Reflecting on Air-B-N-Me & the Class

After participating in Air-B-N-Me, it allowed me an opportunity to reflect on how it was a microcosm of my experience with digital media as a whole. It was daunting at first, fun and creative once I got into it and yet included some technical obstacles that frustrated me and left me wondering if it was all worth the effort. Going back to the beginning of the class, we focused on our responsibility to participate in the world of digital media and how the line has become blurred between our “real” lives and our digital lives. This is a tough lesson for a guy like me to learn because I feel strongly that there are simply parts of our lives that should remain unplugged. However, even during the time I’ve been in this class, I’ve found myself dragged (sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly) into the online world more and more (spending more time on my phone, more time tweeting, on Facebook, etc.).  Is this good or bad?  I still tend to see my kids spending time online and my reflexive response is that they should shut it off and go find a friend to play with outside. However, this class has helped me realize that their online lives are in some ways equally substantial and consequential as their lives in the real world. I am trying not to disparage the lessons they can learn by participating in online communities, while simultaneously trying to take more steps to immerse myself in that world. At the beginning of this class, I wrote in my second blog (This is Collaboration?) that I was appalled at the idea that someone could take the skills they learned in World of Warcraft and parlay that into a job at MIT. The problem I had was seeing how the skills earned by manipulating online communities were so different or more important than the skills used to navigate disputes and problems in the real world. Several months later, I feel like I can look back and have a better understanding of the particular difficulties inherent in building your online profile and communicating therein. Understanding how to communicate without being misunderstood, how to communicate to a large group of people in remote locations and how to keep abreast of the sheer volume of communications in an online space are daunting and unique challenges.

The presentation that I created helped me see more clearly the connection between what I do as a journalist and the participation of people all over the world. Up until now, I still saw UGC (user generated content) as something of a unique aspect of my business – something that overlaps with my job only every once in a while. But I see now that journalism is being transformed as we speak by people providing content and analysis and participating in the way news is not only created but communicated and understood across online spaces. We in the news are no longer even the match that lights the spark, but one match of many. And while we play a role in how news is communicated and understood by the masses we may no longer be the primary conduit of that message or the key to how it is framed. Finally, I’ll mention the technical problems that I encountered along the way. Creating my presentation, joining Instagram and participating in the Air-B-N-Me brought me face-to-face with a number of challenges in actually getting programs to work the way they were supposed to. In many ways I felt like my son as he tried to figure out what file to take pictures from or how to rename them – something totally unrelated to the task he was trying to accomplish (although he didn’t know it). I feel like some of this stuff should be intuitive and it’s not, some is needlessly complicated for the sake of aesthetics and some simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s my old brain trying to comprehend something new, but I don’t think so. I think there are times when people who are in charge of bridging the gap between new media and the new generation sometimes forget about us in the generation that came before. Give us a break – we are trying to get on board as well.:)