Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Adventure Rock

David Gauntlett and Lizzie Jackson have undertaken an evaluation of children's responses to the BBC's virtual world Adventure Rock, which they reported on at the conference I attended last week. You can find their presentation here. They identified eight different 'types' of virtual world users:

  • Explorer-investigators
  • Self-stampers
  • Social climbers
  • Fighters
  • Collector-consumers
  • Power-users
  • Life-system builders
  • Nurturers
These are helpful categories, I think, but it seems to me that children move across these categories at different times. It would be interesting to trace these categories in relation to gender at some point. In the meantime, you can read a news bulletin about the Adventure Rock study here.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Children and virtual worlds

I went to an interesting conference on children and virtual worlds today where I was able to pass on to a Club Penguin representative the finding from one of my studies that young girls are really getting frustrated that their penguin avatars can't wear a wig and a tiara at the same time. Important stuff. Lots of good things were said about user-generated content all day and so hopefully soon kids will be able to make their own wigs and tiaras in CP. I was a little worried at the end, however, when someone from the BBC suggested that 3D television would soon be here. I already get motion sickness from using Nintendo Wii and flying in Second Life and so the thought that I will now also have to face travel sickness when watching TV is just too much!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Children and media literacy

Ofcom published a report on children's media literacy in the UK on Friday. As I have been busy teaching at our EdD weekend I have not had an opportunity to read it fully as yet, but a quick skim suggests that the study identified some interesting patterns, such as the finding that many older children expressed agreement with statements suggesting a link between violence and gaming - they are not immune to media discourses surrounding this, of course. There were a few surprises - only 42% of 5-year-olds were reported using a PC/ laptop with internet access. In the Digital Beginnings study, 53% of 0-6 year olds were reported using computers. Maybe the difference can be explained in relation to the Internet access aspect of the Ofcom figure? There are other intriguing figures - since 2005, there has been a 12% increase in children learning about the Internet in school, from 67% to 79%. Hmmm...4% a year. And what about the 21% who don't learn about the Internet in school?

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Semantic web

Like many others, I have been intrigued by the notion of a semantic web and looked forward to its arrival. Well, it may be a small start, as it is currently primarily limited to Wikipedia, but I liked Powerset - a semantic search engine - when I tried it using a search on 'digital literacy'. If you are not clear what a semantic search engine is, then this overview is helpful. I can see that if this develops beyond Wikipedia, it will become increasingly useful. Now all we need is the ability to move the same avatars across different web spaces and maybe we will be seeing Web 3.0 after all?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Like taking candy from a baby...

Not before time, many more organisations are now focusing on the media activities of young children. For example, Consumer Reports Webwatch have published a study on the commercialisation of the Internet for children under eight. The report can be downloaded here. It makes for fascinating reading and whilst I do not share the overly-Piagetian analysis of the children's online activities, I do agree with some of the points made. However, I am not sure how some of the recommendations can be achieved in the business models often used by online sites for children. For example, one of the recommendations of the report is that virtual worlds such as Club Penguin should not use free trials to entice children into buying subscriptions. Whilst I very much sympathise with this viewpoint (and indeed have observed the impact of differential social and economic capital in these online worlds), this is the nature of free Internet trials. Most of us, at some point, will have signed up for a free trial and then lived to regret it as we are then pestered with emails to fully sign up, or feel frustrated as we can only access limited areas of the site's provision. So should we be working with young children to enable them to understand this aspect of online commercial sites in relation to free trials and helping them to come to terms with the emotional fall-out from that? On the other hand, I do feel commercial sites aimed at children have a responsibility in terms of their marketing strategies and making children aware at every turn of what they cannot access is unnecessary. In-world advertising, such as that operated by Barbie Girls, for example, is often pernicious in nature. There is much work to do here in terms of identifying the dynamic between the users and producers of these sites and so research such as that conducted by Sara Grimes will be important in helping us to understand the complexities embedded within this relationship. In the meantime, I am involved in a study exploring the literacy practices related to the use of some of these virtual worlds and I will post a paper on this here soon!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Hector's world

Meet Hector the Dolphin, who surfs the internet ocean. He features in a series of cartoons, developed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which are intended to teach 5-7-year-old children about internet safety. I would have liked to have offered a review of the cartoons here but it isn't possible as my Apple laptop can't seem to access them. I like some of the guidance given on the website and the site design is clear and accessible to young children. I find when talking to many parents and teachers that they do not know how to begin to work with young children on internet safety practices, so this material should offer a starting point and will no doubt be adapted by teachers to suit their needs. Now what is needed is a similar site which offers young children guidance on offline safety e.g. what to do about sexual, emotional or physical abuse from family members. It would be unhelpful to give children the impression that is is only in online practices that self-protection strategies are necessary.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Inaugural lecture

As promised, I am posting here a transcript of my inaugural lecture, which I presented on Tuesday. Many thanks to everyone there for your wonderful support - I had such a lovely evening. The questions were so interesting and the subsequent discussions I had with people prompted further reflection... so, rather selfishly, I had a great time - thank you!