Archive for the ‘youth’ Category

Serious games

June 23, 2008

I saw a Washington Post article about an emerging trend of serious games.  It mentions a very interesting initiative called “Games for change“, which describes itself in the following way:

Games for Change (G4C) provides support, visibility and shared resources to individuals and organizations using digital games for social change. We provide special assistance to foundations and non-profits entering the field. Today, G4C acts as a national hub to help organizations network and develop videogame projects beyond their traditional expertise. Our members represent hundreds of organizations and include partners in the games industry, academia, nonprofits, local and state governments, foundations, the UN and artists.

They have a rather interesting website with many examples of serious games and it also seems that there is quite a vibrant community surrounding these issues.  They have a section of youth produced games, which currently has only one game and i could not really see how it was youth produced (but maybe i am missing something).  Nevertheless, the concept is interesting.

It also reminded that it’s been a while since wanted to post a note about (already not so) new project by Impact Games (creators of Peace Maker).  It’s called “Play the news” and it is kind of a dream league, but for news.  I’ve been following this project since its beta and i find it as an interesting approach to keep people interested in the world’s matters.  My only “worry” is that it seems (based on the discussions on the site) that at least the current pool of participants consists primarily of people who are already curious and knowledgeable about the world affairs.  It would be interesting to see how this idea flies among the youths, who are being blamed to become more disengaged, apathetic, and more.

Going mobile…

March 9, 2008

The “Pew Internet and American Life” project just published an interesting report about the use of mobile access to data and information. According to this report over 40% of the adult Americans have used mobile Internet access and almost 60% used non-voice services on their mobiles.

They show some interesting trends in people’s readiness to give up information technologies. If in 2002 only 38% said it would be very hard to give their mobile phone, in 2007 this number jumped to 58%. At the same time the percentage of people who find it very hard to give up television went from 47% in 2002 down to 43% in 2007. Even more interesting is the percentage of people who think that it would very hard to give up a land-line. That went down from 63% in 2002 to 40% in 2007, which actually is consistent with notions that more and more people are giving up land-lines. Also interesting is the willingness to give up email. The percentage of those finding it very hard to give up their email went from from 35% in 2002, to 34% in 2006, to 37% in 2007. Although there is no clear trend here, it seems like email is keeping a rather stable position in the communication lives of adult Americans using email. I wonder thought, if the situation with young Americans is any different though. The Pew report does not survey people younger that the age 18, yet, there are some trends noticeable even in the available data. The summaries presented in the report clearly show that the younger people are more willing to experiment with technology. For example the difficulty to give up internet and mobile phones grows as the age goes down, while the difficulty to give up land-line and television is growing with the age. I find this fascinating!

The interesting aspect of this increasing mobility however, is the actual type of activity. According to the report text messaging is leading the way with 31% of the users performing this activity on a typical day. The next most popular activity is picture taking with 15% of the users reporting doing so. To me, the latter point is particularly interesting in light of my recent post on digital photography. Pew data shows that 58% of the users tried taking a picture with their mobile device (same percentage as that of people who tried sending a text message), but only 15 view that as part of their typical day (as opposed to 31% mentioned above). It seems to me that my intuition about mobile photography was right.

When it comes to the types of activity, the younger people are really standing out. As i mentioned earlier, they are more willing to experiment with technology. Yet, they are also using more technology in general. Here again, text messaging is the leading activity (60% of 18-29 years old reported it to be part of their typical day) with taking pictures (31%), playing music, playing games (both 16%), and consuming news (14%). I find the last point particularly interesting from the societal point of view and also because this activity seems to be really distinct for this age group (only 7% of 30-49 years old, 3% of 50-64 years old, and 1% of 65+ years old reported that kind of activity as part of their typical day).

There is more demographic and especially racial specifics discussed in the report. Very interested and rather concise read.

Laptop for the children, by the children

December 15, 2007

Here is an interesting interview and examples from a project called “mini laptop club” where 8 and 9 years olds were asked to draw their ultimate laptop. If anybody is listening, next generation of laptops, especially laptops for kids, will have “games” button.

Internet and US election

November 29, 2007

As we are nearing to launching beta testing of the WikiCandidate project, i start paying more attention to the coverage of the role of internet in the upcoming US presidential election. Interestingly, technology and politics are frequently associated with youth. Here is an example. This post is telling a story of Facebook overtaking MySpace in web traffic and immediately following it is a story about partnership between Facebook and MySpace aimed at targeting the US young voters (both appearing on the same blog).


Living with Wikipedia

November 27, 2007

Thanks to Eszter for posting a link to this article.

The article is about schools officials’ antagonism towards Wikipedia. According to it, the teachers are so dissatisfied with students using Wikipedia, that they simply forbid it, or more so, block it on school computers. They argue against inaccuracies in the online encyclopedia and against students’ blind reliance on this source.

This is not a new claim, however it hits the nerve again and again. Of course Wikipedia is not perfect and there are probably cases of inaccuracy even in the major articles. But it is there, it is not that bad, and it is easily accessible. So, the question is what would be the best way to deal with it? Is shutting off Wikipedia the best solution?

Living the accuracy argument for a different post, I would like to focus on the use. One of the arguments cited in the article is that students use Wikipedia because it is easy to do so. This claim is portrayed in a negative light, drawing a short direct line between “easy” and “low quality”, or just “not good enough”. However, it seems to me that shutting Wikipedia off the schools follows the same trajectory – it is easy and it is not good enough. At the end of the day it’s not Wikipedia’s fault that students unquestionably rely on it and demonstrate zero criticism to materials they retrieve online. It is actually the responsibility of the educators to equip those students with tools for critical thinking and to teach them appropriate use of Wikipedia or any other online (and actually also offline) resource.

Banning Wikipedia or blaming it for students’ inadequate performance is like blaming the car for car accidents. It’s only means, only technological tool, and we are those putting meaning into it through the ways we use it. People are getting injured and even killed in car accidents, but nobody offers to ban cars from the society. Instead, we invest a lot of money in educating people for the correct use of the car and the correct behavior on street. Why is the attitude towards new media in education so radically different?

It seems to me that media literacy skills are very important factor here. On the one hand we see educators revolting against technology, as this article illustrates. On the other hand we see some “interesting” requests from fresh college students, who seem to move to another extreme of denying anything the traditional education system has to offer. Isn’t it possible that the “golden pass lays somewhere in between? Isn’t it possible that with adequate media literacy training (first of the teachers and then the students) we would be able (1) incorporate the strength of traditional education in new media environment and (2) foster more critical (and as a result more personally and socially beneficial) use of new media by the younger generation?

In any case, it seems that the responsibility to take the lead is on the educator and I wonder if that is a generation gap and if the younger teachers will be more media-responsible and technology-open?

What do you think?


November 26, 2007

A few days ago I mentioned Middle East Youth (MEY) network website. Now there is also an online video channel. It seems to be still in kind of a beta phase, but it will be interesting to see how it evolves. Great work guys!

Positive News

November 19, 2007

Kind of inspired by the positive news project (whose US branch is actually located in Ithaca :) i decided to try and post some positive news here from time to time. So, here we go (some of it is not really new though).

Following my recent, not so pleasant, encounter in the blogosphere, i came across this website titled Middle East Youth (which i actually have seen before). It appears interesting at least in a sense that it has contributors from all over the region and it has some interesting and positive stories, that seem to escape mainstream media radar. For example here is a story of Israeli and Palestinian formula one enthusiasts who are going to compete together. And here is another story that people recommended in the comments about quite an old initiative where Israeli and Palestinian kids are brought together to play soccer. Actually i heard about the last one before and even met some people who have been involved. It was an interesting initiative and wonder if it’s still going on.

Although it appears small and insignificant, i think it is important that we remain aware of such grassroots (but not only) initiatives. The more of those we have, the more there would be hope for change (i even put a positive picture :).


And on a slightly different, but still positive, note I wanted to draw your attention to the approaching deadline for Stockholm Challenge submissions. It is a competition for an award in the field of ICT and development hosted by the municipality of (surprise, surprise) Stockholm. The deadline is Dec. 31. Good luck if you are applying!


November 7, 2007

Riding on the hype of social networks, the Israeli Ynet is offering one of its own.

After i experienced a wave of Facebook (FB) adoption by my friends in Israel (probably a few dozens connections in a few weeks + a growing number of articles in the Israeli press), now it seems like there is an attempt to offer something of their own. Today there was another product placement on Ynet, but this time for its newly launched social network for youth – Bona.

To be fair, this is not the first attempt. There was a rather pioneering venture named Hevre (meaning something like friends or buddies) that was launched about two years prior to FB. Although it had a similar idea behind it, the enterprise failed miserably (HE), but was recently acquired (HE article) for about NIS 20 million. Also, there are social networks for kids in Hebrew. My niece, for example, has a page on Tipo, which is kind of a version of MySpace for kids.

Bona is clearly targeted towards the high school teenagers. When you register you are supposed to choose your school with the options ranging between the 10th grade to 2007 alumni.  If you log in you can of course create a profile, communicate with your cohort, and do all the stuff you can do on any typical social networking website these days.  It looks busy and is full of slang that is supposed to make it “cooler” I guess.  And of course it is stuffed with advertising (I saw dating website, gossip pages of Ynet, and random Google advertisement).

So, the bottom line is that there is no revolution, and looking at my school’s group on FB with almost 300 members (most of whom joined in the last few weeks), i wonder what is that Bona offers that others do not?  One thing is clear, that is language (even though there are plenty of groups in Hebrew on FB as well).  But is there anything else?  FB seems to crack the interface and HCI aspects of social networking website for youth.  It is apparently so good that in Russia they copied it practically one-to-one claiming there is no link between the two initiatives.  Bona’s interface, on the other hand, resembles the not-so-successful messy design of Hevre or even the childish design of Tipo.  What it has compared to others, is a marketing machine of Ynet to push it forward.  I wonder, however, if it can actually take off, or FB has that critical mass that will not allow other ventures thrive  regardless of the language barrier.

A few things are interesting about Bona’s timing. First is the timing of its launch. It comes during a prolonged teachers’ strike and is advertised as a panacea from the boredom of strike (interesting set of values right there). It also comes soon after FB caught the titles of media worldwide with Microsoft buying a minority stock in it, and after the website finally arrived to the “Holy Land” (there are real debates going on in the Israeli media about whether it is a positive or negative trend).

But other than timing, i find it hard to see why and how another social network website can take off in Israel, and i wonder if it’s not yet another sign of coming bubble 2.0.  Also i wonder if there are localized social networks elsewhere.  I know there are in Russia, but are there any in other places?

What do you think?

October 26, 2007

Got this link from John Lester’s post on Facebook.  Before writing any comments I really wanted to ask what you (the few people who read this blog :) think about the following video:

One laptop per child is changing its strategy?

September 24, 2007

“I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a check written,” said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of the nonprofit project. “And yes, it has been a disappointment.”

This is quote from a NY Times article i bumped in following Samantha’s post on facebook. This is a bit sad and interesting at the same time. I don’t know if it was naive of Negraponte to believe that distribution through governments will work in the first place, but i don’t want to think that. I think we have to give credit to man and his vision. Maybe one has to go through the bureaucracy of working with governments before they can examine alternatives. Maybe this is a part of social structures governing our world? Or maybe i am reading too much Durkheim recently :)

So, OLPC are launching a Christmas sale where people in North America could by that laptop for four times the price ($400 instead of $100, but that is still rather cheap) and by doing that donate another one to a kid in developing country. Sounds interesting, but there was one thing that really annoyed me:

“Staff members of the laptop project were concerned that American children might try the pared-down machines and find them lacking compared to their Apple, Hewlett-Packard or Dell laptops.”

I think this indicates a bit of a hypocritical approach. On the one hand you promote development, but on the other you are doing this by offering people a second class tools? Is this how development should work? Something that is not good enough by my standards i will give to the other who in the first place has less? I don’t see why, particularly with such an innovative approach to technology and its potential role into development, this set of mind was characterizing OLCP’s team approach. I would expect them to think out of the box and actually provide that neat, cheap tool that not only wouldn’t be inferior, but would be an equal competitor to the existing, more expensive models. After all they put many years, brains, and money into developing it.

Gladly though, the studies they run among youth this summer showed that the laptops are actually perceived as cool, and i think this is the way it should have been in the first place. Originally the laptop should have been designed to be cool and good, to be a working machine.  Maybe it’s time we rethink the way we think about development in the first place.