PhotoBlog: Final Reflection and Presentation

Over the last three months,

I’ve become an active member in the affinity space, PhotoBlog, for my Games and Learning graduate course at CU Denver. The purpose of this assignment was to:

  • observe the ways in which knowledge is produced, shared, and contested in interest-driven participatory cultures. Read about my initial PhotoBlog observations here.
  • contribute to a learning community invested in games, play, and learning. Read about my experience participating here.
  • reflect upon the ways in which your participation in an informal learning community shapes your understanding of games and learning, with potential implications for learning in formal settings (i.e. schools, workplace). Read about why I think PhotoBlog is what Gee and Hayes (2012) call a “nurturing affinity space” here.

It was my hope

to gain some insight into how these practices could help deepen my understanding about the importance learning through play. For me, PhotoBlog offered up a way to get back in touch with one of my passions and apply it to course learning goals and objectives.

At it’s core, PhotoBlog is a website open to anyone interested in publishing ideas and perspectives through the lens. It’s an online space that enables users to share, learn, and collaborate with like-minded people.

Novice and professionals alike can easily publish as many photos as they wish. Participants can leverage online resources and each other to improve on things like shooting and post-production techniques, discuss topics about general photography questions, equipment, tools, travel, and themes and contests.

Photobloggers can also request and provide critiquing to others’ images.

I would have loved to have had this as part of my photography and film related coursework in my undergraduate program at UNCG. I could see this being a great extension to courses –like my experience with ds106 in my Digital Storytelling course.

With this in mind,

I’m going to recap some of my observations, commentary with the community, and reflection on my overall experience with the space. Every example correlates with 3 specific features of a “nurturing affinity space”, as told by, Gee and Hayes (2012). They are:

  • Everyone can produce and not just consume.
  • Everyone, regardless of experience share a common space.
  • People get encouragement and feedback and play both roles at different times.

PhotoBlog is fairly simple to join but, just because you create an account doesn’t mean you’re “in.” There is a verification process that takes about 24 hours. Once the initial post is approved, you’ll get a comment from one of the founders like this one here:

First-time photobloggers will also get an email with a congratulatory message and prompts to keep exploring the site like this:

From what I observed,

once you’re “in,” Photobloggers are guided to do two things: contribute to the welcome discussion thread and read over the community guidelines. The guidelines (FAQs) provide photobloggers with some guidance on community behavior and norms. I’ve learned that it’s important for participants to be thoughtful, respectful, and contribute ideas to continuously improve on the overall user experience.

 PhotoBlog also uses

what Sebastian Deterding (2014) refers to as extrinsic motivation through gamification. Bloggers are rewarded with digital badges for contributing and engaging with the community. Users know which badges they have by the green check mark in each box and how many other photobloggers have those badges from the little grey number up in the right hand corner of each box.

Users can also view their badge collection via their community preference settings. Here are all the badges I earned:

PhotoBlog also offers

several ways to engage in content and each other. Using the top navigation menu, bloggers can:

  • BROWSE: to search stories and interact with blogs.
  • LEARN: by reading, commenting, and sharing photography related blog posts on social media.
  • DISCUSS: any photography related topics within the community.
  • POST: to share photography via blogs.

I found the content and commentary to be valuable for me as a developing photographers and, most of the photobloggers have been fun to interact with. However, I noticed that, over time, I was contributing less. I found it a bit tiresome to keep up with all of the moving parts: dialogue, notifications, new content, as well as my own publishing. I’m sure there are many factors that also contribute to this. After my digital disconnect post-graduation hiatus, I’ll jump back into PhotoBlog.

If anything,

my experience with PhotoBlog –as an affinity space– has shown me the power of community. With a little self-direction and dedication, I can see how they create limitless possibilities for learning outside of traditional education. But, I don’t think it’s an either or topic either. There needs to be a balance. If schools embrace affinity spaces as a learning tool… then, that’s where the magic happens.

In closing,

I’ll leave you with some final thoughts about PhotoBlog, my final presentation, and what this experience has taught me about games for learning.

PhotoBlog is a very robust and nurturing affinity space. There are ample opportunities to share and learn about photography. On the flip-side however, PhotoBlog is limited because it does not have a mobile app. Author, Kurt Squire (2013) write that “mobile often functions as an amplification device because it reinforces participants’ access” (p.190). I think an app would make it easier to publish and participate on the go as well as help strengthen the PhotoBlog community overall. I wasn’t always near a computer when I thought about posting.

PhotoBlog isn’t a game per-se but, it most certainly supports learning in the way a well designed game supports learning. I think this can be seen through all of the social practices that take place within the space. Gee and Hayes (2012) write that continious social engagement enhance games and learning. And that’s what keeps PhotoBlog growing– engagement.

With that, here it is. My Affinity Space presentation on PhotoBlog:




Deterding, S. (2014) Eudaimonic Design, Or: Six Invitations to Rethink Gamification. In book: Rethinking Gamification, Publisher: meson press, Editors: Mathias Fuchs, Sonja Fizek, Paolo Ruffino, Niklas Schrape, pp.305-331

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. Games, Learning, and Society, 129-153. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139031127.015

Squire, K. (2013). Ch. 13: Mobile Media Learning: Ubiquitous Computing Environments for the Mobile Generation. In book Emerging technologies for the classroom: a learning sciences perspective. New York: Springer.










  27 Replies to “PhotoBlog: Final Reflection and Presentation”

  1. April 25, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Hello Emily,

    I really enjoyed your pretension- the video highlights the concepts you wrote about by connecting with PhotoBlog and showcasing the amazing photography there. I learned that Users become insiders by signing-up and being verified by the site founders, users know they have been approved by a comment on the initial post and a follow-up message from one of the founders. You shared your interaction for your initial post and it was cool to see the discussion thread between you and the founder Ram Ya, he gives you some very positive feedback on the composition of your sunset picture, did you include that picture in your screen-cast? I would love to see the picture that launched you into PhotoBlog. From your comments I see that eliciting and receiving feedback form peers is a strength of this community and that this aspect is supported by community guidelines that keep that feedback constructive. A gamified motivational technique, that you identified, and connected with the work of Deterding, was the use of badges to allow users to celebrate the successes in navigating and contributing to the community, collecting these badges could motivate uses to be active participants in the community.

    Thank you for sharing your experience!


  2. April 25, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Hey Darren- Thanks for adding in your discussion! The sunset photo was included in my screencast but only briefly when scrolling through my blog. Here is the URL:

  3. April 25, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Hi Emily,

    Thanks for sharing your presentation! It was super jazzy and your photos were awesome! I also loved your embedded text…I’m a bit of a visual learner, so this was super helpful. I also really, really appreciated watching your interactions in “real” time. It shows the capability of the site, and we get to watch over your shoulder as you interact in your affinity space.

    A couple of questions I am left with: Did you find out what audience this is for? (Besides, obviously, photographers.) Does this space encourage more professional photographers or is this a space in which everyone, regardless of skin level, can participate in? Thanks for your awesome presentation, and as a personal thank you, thanks so much for being such an awesome commentor/interactor this semester!

    Great Job!

  4. April 25, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for the link – the picture is spectacular!

  5. April 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Hey Jennifer- Thanks for your discussion contribution and the kind remarks! Happy to hear you enjoyed my “out of the box” presentation haha. I’m also a super visual learner so naturally…

    Regarding your questions: Yes, anyone can participate in PhotoBlog (novice to seasoned experts). I didn’t really notice that skill level mattered when contributing. And for the audience… hmmm, I guess for anyone who enjoys photography. It seemed most relevant to photographers but I suppose anyone could search and browse blogs. But, unless you join the community, you wouldn’t be able to see discussion threads or “insider info.”

  6. April 25, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Your presentation is very visually stunning. What did you use to record it? I enjoyed the quick tempo but I had a hard time reading as much as I wanted because it was so fast paced. I think this is because I watched it on a relatively small screen. I appreciate how artistic this project you completed it. Very professional, not littered with “Um’s” like my more informal approach. I would have like some audio just to hear about how you felt your interactions went.

    When first using this site, do you feel like an outsider? From my perspective you were able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. I enjoyed seeing all the different badges. They have a similar structure in Minecraft Education for teachers who use their products in the classroom. I think it is great to have goals because it keeps you on pace with learning things.

    Did you find there were any more limitations besides not being to access this on a mobile device? Do you think this website is perhaps too robust to fit most of it on a tiny phone screen? Everything is moving to mobile so I am sure this is in the works.

    Thanks for sharing, it makes my presentation seems so amateur!

  7. April 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks, Annie! I really dislike presenting and terrible at keeping my umms and ughhhs under control. Since this was my last project in my program, I decided to take creative liberties and do what I do best. I probably should have added in some commentary but it all just kind of happened without it. Glad you pointed it out! I know it’s something I need a lot more practice with!!

    I used Screencast-o-matic, SnagIt, and iMovie to create my presentation. I realize it was fast paced, which is why I tried to include the important parts around my observations, contributions, and reflection in my blog posting(s). It’s all there– just have to dig a little I suppose. Again, appreciate you pointing it out. Good to know for the future 🙂

    I didn’t really feel like an outsider at all. I found the community to be extremely welcoming and engaging plus I’m not shy with photography. Regarding limitations, hmmm… I think I could say all the notifications (even though users can set preferences). I got annoyed with all the emails, which sometimes deterred me from wanting to engage all together. Also, I think one could get overwhelmed by the amount of content within the space. I did at times. Too many options…

    Thanks for taking the time to watch. And, I thought your presentation was great!!

  8. April 25, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Emily,

    Cool choice to split the text / explanation of the presentation apart from the video portion of the presentation. It makes this really dynamic!

    It’s good to see that part of the norms in this community are to be thoughtful and respectful. It seems particularly important (and unique) that one of the guiding norms is that participants should help contribute to make the space even better for everyone else. It’s continual improvement!

    I think it’s really important that you mentioned that the space has been valuable to you overall, but that over time you have still been contributing less due to the difficulty of keeping up with all of the updates and other elements. If an affinity space requires a participant do too much just at a minimum, or contains that many crucial components to keep up with, it certainly sounds like it could become tiresome to someone who doesn’t necessarily have that much time to keep up with it all.

    From its emphasis here in your post, it seems that the gamification element of this space is a big strength. Since there are rewards in the forms of these digital badges in the space for contributing to the community, there’s that much additional motivation to be a strong and active member of the affinity space. You note, however, that the lack of a mobile app is a limiting factor here, which makes definite sense (who doesn’t have a mobile app anymore?).

    The three affinity space features you mention are that everyone has the opportunity produce in the space, people of all experience levels share the same space, and people take turns giving one another encouragement and feedback. It seems like an element of fun in participating with everyone underpinned all of that.

    Great work!

  9. April 26, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Thank you Logan! Appreciate the commentary!

  10. Melanie Sokol
    April 26, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Awesome job, Emily! Firstly, the presentation design is great and enjoyable to look at in the website and then watch the video.
    I liked how you started off by stating what the cultural norms of the affinity space were – and I thought how it was interesting that one of the norms was to be thoughtful and respectful. In my mind, this goes without saying, yet I’m curious what your thoughts of this were? Did you think that it was weird that it needed to be stated or were you also assuming that one member of the community would need to be respectful to the other members of the community?
    I agree with your comment about how although you felt the space was very valuable to you, you feel as though you have been contributing less and less as time goes on. I feel the same way with my space because I just don’t have the time, and it sounds like you don’t either, to keep up with everything that is being posted. It is incredibly overwhelming when you either post something or comment on something to keep up with all the responses that happen. I am finding that with us commenting on each other’s post because there are so many of us sending over feedback!
    It seemed to me that you thought the main strength of the affinity space was that it did have a big gamification element. You mentioned how there were rewards in the forums that were earned when one contributed to the community. Having some motivation never hurt anyone 🙂 I try to use this stuff all the time to get my students to contribute to class!
    Your connection to Gee and Hayes was great. You mentioned three features of the affinity space that were strong – everyone had the opportunity to produce, people of all experience levels share the same space, and people take turns giving one another encouragement and feedback. To me, and I hope to you as well, these are three very important characteristics that must be present in order to feel the affinity space is effective.

  11. April 26, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    Emily, it sounds like a very supportive site, and it is great to get a personalized response from one of the founders when you first join. The culture appears to be constructive and encouraging based off your shared posts. I thought it was interesting as well that they were so explicit in the norms and expectations for the site. One of the strengths of the site is the various opportunity to engage in content, whether it be browsing, learning, discussing, etc. The elements of Gee and Hayes that were referenced include the ability to consume and produce, a common space and the role reversal between mentor and learner. The use of gamification for status was also mentioned as an element relating back to games and learning.

    Great choice of sites. Once done checking out everyone’s presentations, I’m definitely going to take a deeper look at joining!

  12. April 27, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Nice job Emily! I hate presenting as well, creative approach! What do you think was the most beneficial part of this affinity space? Was it the community? When looking around during one of your AS updates, the Learn section seemed like it had a lot of good stuff. Did you have any negative interactions or notice any limitations. I also remember you saying you hated games at the beginning of this semester. Did you like the gamification features? If so, what made you buy into them?

  13. April 27, 2017 at 10:16 pm


    Your statement at the beginning from Gee and Hayes really captured the essence of the space. “Affinity spaces are locations where groups of people are drawn together because of a shared interest or engagement in a common activity.” To me your affinity space is a place for anyone with a camera and a willingness to learn more about photography technique to come and congregate. Asking questions, providing and receiving feedback, sharing ideas, and using the resources to increase creativity and skill level are all a part of your affinity space experience. I had never heard of photoblogging before and found it to be a more interesting experience than a place like imgur or flickr due to the gamification aspects of the blog. When I first started viewing your presentation, I wondered how gaming came into play during your time in the affinity space. Once you mentioned the badging it became very clear to me. How do you think this feature affected your participation in the space?

    It was interesting to visually see how your contributions changed over time. From leaving comments, asking questions, to posting your own photos and giving and receiving advice, it was clear to see your confidence and presence in the space become stronger over time. It was also neat to see the cross-over between the affinity space and your Twitter use to share meaningful posts and feedback from your affinity space blog.

    Thought you didn’t explicitly refer to this as a limitation, but it seemed very much like a drawback – having to scroll down to the bottom of a feed for the latest replies. This seems like an insufficient use of the space as it would be time consuming to scroll to the bottom of every thread for the most recent news and feedback. Maybe not an entire drawback for posts that you’ve committed to replying within or following, but certainly one for posts you just intend to peruse casually. Did you find this to be small annoyance? If so, what would you recommend to the space to make it more efficient?

    Overall, I really enjoyed the background music paired with the visuals. I felt that I could really engage with the space as you showed it off as opposed to being distracted by long spoken narratives. Thanks for sharing!

  14. April 30, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Great presentation, Emily. PhotoBlog looks like a great site for sharing and learning. I am not a photographer, but I do work with digital 3D art and that involves similar ideas to photography such as composition, lighting, and post processing. I tend to like learning from the photography world more so than how to achieve good results in whatever graphics software I am using. Those are just technical issues which can be easily resolved.

    The space has clear community rules listed out which help promote the foundation of the nature of interactions expected of its members. And I thought that the badge system is a good addition and can provide ideas for interaction that might not be readily apparent to members. The site’s ease of use was apparent in your demonstration. Easy to post, like and share—user friendly, which can make it appeal to new users. I am less apt to engage much with any space that makes it a chore to post, or share. Looks like PhotoBlog is designed with the member experience in mind. Thanks for sharing. It is a space that I will definitely be checking out.

  15. April 30, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Emily,

    I really enjoyed your presentation. I understand the struggle of finding time for photography during the semester. I haven’t shot stills in a few months. I didn’t realize your BA was in media studies. I majored in convergent journalism. Media related BAs seem to lend themselves well to ILT courses and instructional design in general. It was really fun seeing some of your work.

    The space you chose looks awesome! It reminds me of physical meet-ups for photography that I used to attend from time to time. Based on experience, what were the demographics like? I know you said novices and pros were welcome, but was the talent pretty wide-ranging overall? Do people have a way of showing/proving that they are professionals in their tag/profile?

    It’s interesting there’s not a mobile app. I wonder if it was an intentional move to keep the site focused on print and dslr work that people are serious about. With an app, you run the risk of it becoming a somewhat focused Instagram where people would be more likely to upload shots from their cellphones. It might be an intentional move to keep it focused on skillful, intentional photography by having limited access across platforms.

    I really enjoyed your approach in creating your presentation. Not only is it ADA-friendly, it’s fun to have the written portion with links to more content. Thanks for sharing!

    – Paul

  16. April 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Hi Emily,
    Yours was a very different interpretation and I really liked how you presented your experience visually. Your initial analysis in the blog before the video was thorough and well developed. You draw thoughtful parallels to our readings as well as to some outside influences. As a thought, though, the fast paced music and transitions can make it hard to take the time to follow your interactions in the video, maybe slow it down or pause on the things you want the viewer to really look at. However, you covered most of these things, I think, in your pre-analysis?

    You covered the norms and the expectations of the community very well. Did you encounter any issues with this in your participation of the space? What was the most useful thing you got out of participation? Was the feedback more constructive feedback or just oohhs and ahhs i.e. contributing to that producing vibe? (I encounter this frequently in artwork postings, so I was just wondering)

    Do you think the members spent a lot of time cleaning up their photos before posting (cropping, getting the composition just right, etc.) or were there some that posted the raw photos for feedback? Also, what was the most helpful feedback you received on your own work? Do you think there were more novices or more experts (or equal parts?) participating in the site and how did this mixture influence commentary/feedback? Who would you recommend this site to to join?

    Well done presentation!

  17. May 1, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Thanks, Ben and that’s awesome you want to join! I think you will enjoy it 🙂

  18. May 1, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for the commentary, Melanie! Although being nice seems like it should go without saying, I do believe it’s important to articulate it within an affinity space. IMO, it’s better to be overly clear and upfront with rules and regulations than try and clean it up after the fact ya know.

  19. May 1, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Hey Robert- Great questions. I think the community aspect of this AS was most beneficial. Without it, it is really no different than posting photos on one’s personal website. I thought the Learn section was more individualized and more like a content repository. No real negative interactions and I’d say the biggest limitation is the lack of mobile app. I would likely contribute more if I could do it directly from my phone. You know, re: gamification… I did actually get into it haha Not sure why but I spent some time getting badges. PS: I’m still not a fan of games but I certainly gained new perspectives and understanding of their purpose for learning 🙂

  20. May 1, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Hey Stephanie- Thanks for your commentary. I’m glad you pointed out the scrolling feature being a limitation because I remember it being difficult to find new posts but did not mention it in my post or presentation. I’d recommend flipping it so the newest posts are always on top. I find this to be a drawback in our Canvas LMS discussions as well.

  21. May 1, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Hey Brian- Thanks for your feedback! I agree that making it easy to contribute helps members want to keep contributing. Anything that requires extra steps can be deterring. Appreciate the commentary and glad you think it could help you out with your 3D art!

  22. May 1, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Thanks, Paul! Yes, I have a BA in film and video production. It’s been fun using it again in the ILT program since I’ve found myself in various project management / marketing roles over the years. I guess there is some relevancy 🙂

    I’m not sure why there isn’t a mobile app. My guess is lack of budget and resources but like the idea of it staying focused on print and dslr. From what I saw, there was a wide variety of talent on the space and I think it’s more about learning / networking with community members than showing off your work though that’s certainly part of it. I liked how open everyone was– it’s not like submitting your photo to nat geo ya know.

  23. May 1, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Hi Kait- Really appreciate the feedback re: the fast paced presentation. It’s good to know. I just knew I had a lot to cover in a short amount of time, which is why I tried to include more in the text portion of my post. The most useful thing I got out of my participation was probably the help with photoshop. I often struggle with FAQ forums (because I’m such a visual person) so it’s good to know I now have experts I could reach out directly for help. Re: your other question about feedback, I saw a variety. Some people were very constructive and others (like my example in my video) were more ooohs and ahhs. I also think the photo editing before posting varies as well. I saw some that were obviously edited and others not so much. I think it’s great to have this type of variety to see all the different flavors of photography!

  24. May 2, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Hello Emily, Thank you for sharing your awesome affinity space! Wow it seems like a really supportive and fun space to learn and share as an artist. In your presentation, I enjoyed the overall flow and how much you were able to squeeze into 8 minutes! The photo blog space seems like a website that could easily eat up hours of your day. I like how there are so many avenues for photographers to share work, discuss and learn from each other. It was also really good to see the “norms” page that was posted about proper behavior. It seems as though many people within the space respect that and have the best intentions at heart. I can see that all the information is pooled together, not segregated by age, and ultimately all the participants share a common passion just like what we read about in Gee& Hayes. I would love to see this type of space become more prevalent in other art making mediums as well. It would be great! Thank you again

  25. May 3, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Thanks, Kyle! It would be interesting to see how this type of affinity space could be integrated into an arts class– would make for a nice portfolio at the end of the year / semester!

  26. shynagill
    May 7, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Hey Emily,
    I thought your presentation was beautiful! I feel like PhotoBlog could use it as an advertisement because of how well produced it was and the quality information you included in it. I’ll admit it was a little hard for me to follow along as it didn’t have any narration, but honestly it is a unique approach to an affinity space project and the information visually sold itself. I was not familiar at all with PhotoBlog before viewing your presentation, but it looks like it could be a very valuable tool for teachers when I think of it being used in an educational setting.
    I thought your blog post introducing your affinity space project was so good. It sets the viewer up with background information on the site and what to expect when watching the presentation.
    Great job!

  27. Nik Unterkircher
    May 8, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Hey Emily, thanks for sharing amazing presentation. I liked your presentation techniques, pacing and styling. At first glimpse, I got the impression that it was very similar to that of Instagram. People sharing beautiful photos, with a great attention to detail. Especially with the concept of liking, sharing, commenting on the photos. It didn’t seem much different until you dived in a bit further.

    The explanation of the community space was really thorough. The caption “fear of feedback” resonated with me, because I have had that same fear when posting photos to Instagram. I, of course, always want the photos to be real received. The space demonstrated great resources for both the novice or veteran and everyone in between. The filtering seemed really helpful and the sharing via social media was really easy to execute. The space seemed relatively easy and intuitive to navigate.

    What was your biggest takeaway from the space? If you could change one thing, what would it be?

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