Over the last three months,
- 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.