Over the last two(ish) months, I’ve been observing, contributing, and reflecting on my experience using Photoblog, my Games and Learning affinity space. You can read about my initial observations here and community exploration here.
I’ve posted seven Photoblogs and have learned about a variety of photo techniques, apps, and photographers to follow. Additionally, I’ve contributed to a variety of community discussion threads that range from introductions to travel to site improvements.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been especially interested in learning more about all the badges available and recently earned the following:
By nature, I’m not very competitive. However, I’ve found myself going back to the badges page often. I’ve been trying to figure out which ones are the easiest to obtain and what I need to do for some of the harder to reach ones. Either way, I’m still searching for the point. Is it simply a gamification aspect to the site? Motivation to keep participating? Or, do the badges help your blog gain more visibility? Maybe it’s all of the above!
For the purposes of this post,
I’d like to focus on three affinity space features from the Gee and Hayes article, Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning, and discuss how my experience this far has (or has not) illustrated these features.
Everyone can, if they wish, produce and not just consume.
Although participants can spectate, affinity spaces encourage people to produce and participate. They foster learning through various forms of mentorship no matter the skill level.
This is what I love about Photoblog. There are a lot of ways to participate, mentor, or be the mentee. Or, participants can sit back and browse the site, though contribution is highly encouraged. Participants can leverage the blog aspect of the space (post, comment, like, and share) watch tutorials and read blog posts about photography related topics and tips, or engage in community discussions. And with various actions in the discussion thread, users are rewarded with badges.
Participants are also eager to help, which I find contagious. Just the other day, I had two people offer to help me learn Photoshop and Lightroom. I’ve also observed from reading through threads that asking for feedback on photos is important and so many people are quick to provide thoughtful and thorough feedback on image composition, exposure settings, and editing techniques.
I personally find it difficult to keep up with all the different ways to gain and share knowledge in Photoblog but appreciate the options. If the site was limited to only one way to contribute, I could see folks losing interest fast. Providing different means of communication satisfies the wants and needs of everyone– making it a welcoming place for all.
Newbies, masters, and everyone else share a common space.
Affinity spaces don’t segregate newbies from the masters. Everyone has the opportunity to pursue goals based on personal choices and desires. Affinity spaces can either make entry easy for newcomers or make them “pay their dues.”
Although it was easy to sign up for a Photoblog account, I had to wait about 24 hours for my approval to contribute. This keeps out spammers but I found it a little irritating that I had to wait a whole day. The notification window noted it would take only a few hours. Minor detail but notable nonetheless. I did not have to act a certain way or post xyz to earn my place in the community. Once I was in, I was in.
Photoblog is most certainly a nurturing affinity space. However, there are community guidelines to follow and “trust” levels to earn. Things like how to treat others, why participation matters, and how to flag a problem can be found in the guidelines. Trust levels are determined by various actions and granted via badges. To date, 189 people have earned their basic trust level and only 19 are members (including me!). No one has reached the regular or leader level.
People get encouragement from an audience and feedback from peers though everyone plays both roles at different times.
Support and encouragement is the norm in most affinity spaces. This helps inspire producers to keep producing and provides everyone the opportunity to give feedback.
This is surly the case in Photoblog. It’s the whole premise of the site– to learn from one another to ultimately improve photography skills. I’ve seen this through a variety of ways: weekly photo themes, comments on blogs, discussion topics, and blogs like this one here.
There are a few members of Photoblog that act more like the facilitator or “guide on the side” when it comes to encouragement. They are welcoming to newcomers and are the first to comment on blogs. Often, they start topics and steer conversations in the discussion board but everyone is encouraged to participate and support. Here are a couple of examples of support I received after engaging in a topic about Photoshop:
Over the course of the next month,
I’d like to focus more on the three features discussed above and think deeply about how my thoughts and understanding about games and learning have changed because of my participation in Photoblog.
Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. Games, Learning, and Society, 129-153. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139031127.015