Friday, August 31, 2012

What Isn't for sale

I will follow up the previous blog-topic and switch from games to economics and sustainability.

For about 4 months ago I came across an article in The Atlantic called "What Isn't for sale" and in this article Michel J. Sandel (an american political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University) argues that without morals we can't sustain a healthy society (this is a pretty common theme for most  great writers through history - even Freud argues in this direction though he shared a materialistic world view - and then you've got the 10 commandments). So this blog post is maybe more in between the dimensions of economical and social sustainability, but if you read the article (it's quite "long", depending how much you like to read) you get the feeling that it also embraces the ecological viewpoint - and therefor qualifies for this blog?

I'm posting this because it's in stark contrast to the efficiency of measuring GDP as a country's dominating health indicator, it's maybe also a critique to the more technocratic theme Nils Brandt spoke about in "how many rabbits can live in a sustainable society" - if I did understand him correct.  So it should be a good platform to build some kind of discussion on morals, economics and sustainability. Also because some of the key-factors for building a sustainable society according to Mulders (Sustainable development for engineers; 2006)  is to reach equilibria between rich & poor, our generation & future generations, humankind & nature, and how do we solve this without speaking of values and morals?

 Michel J. Sandel has also written a new book called What Money Can't buy: The moral limits of markets, and I'm hoping I will have the time to soon give it a read-through. 

If any one have read it, please let me know what you think about it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fate of the World

I realize we have barely started the course, but I hope this can be regarded as relevant enough to contribute to this blog. Here goes!

I stumbled upon this game recently, and I think it can be classified as something that connects ICT with Sustainability. The computer game is called "Fate of the World" and is available since about a year and a half back. It's apparently an "indie game", so it really doesn't display any amazing graphics or advanced visual interactivity. However, its central theme is saving the world from global collapse, which can come about in several different ways. From what I understand, the player assumes the role of leader of a world-wide humanitarian organization, then chooses scenarios to play through for the duration of gameplay. The scenarios can range from improving living conditions for the population of Africa to preventing catastrophic climate change (source: Wikipedia).

The game is turn-based, and every turn the player distributes actions such as investing in electric car technology, as well as having to manage public opinion of the regions where they are active with policies.

I find this idea for a game quite odd, because I instinctively assume nobody is going to play it, which isn't very fair to the developer. I'm not sure if the graphics and structure will appeal to the average computer game player, although I already know that some fans of strategy games have both downloaded and played it. One thing that is certain is that there is no shortage of apocalyptically themed video and computer games out there, but they usually don't deal with actually solving the world's sustainability issues before it is too late. And they're usually a little more action-oriented. Nonetheless, I can imagine how awareness and, in a way, educating younger generations on problems with i.e. population growth and global warming can be helped through the computer game medium, but I'm not sure if this particular game will reach enough individuals. It wouldn't exactly be the first time an attempt at teaching through gaming would be made, although most previous examples I know of were directed at children in primary school... Regardless, it is an interesting idea, and possibly the cornerstone in a coming trend of game themes (for adults and teens)? It's an exciting thought!

For those of you who want to try it out, it is available on Steam!

Regarding this blog/bonus points

In the course, we only have one seminar per week. That seminar represents your best opportunity to ask questions, to discuss issues and to make your voice heard - but 2 hours is not a lot of time. This blog represents an opportunity to take our "remaining" questions, comments and discussions on-line.

This is thus the place for all the "I wish I would have said ... at the seminar" comments. As well as blog posts about stuff that relates to the course (a newspaper article, an invitation to an event or a lecture somewhere else) and thoughts/opinions/critique about the lecture you just heard.

You have a very good incentive to post at least a couple of blog posts here during the course - you can get 2 bonus points in the course for your contributions to this blog. Do note that these really are bonus points - you are not forced to write if you don't want to and you can get top (maximum) points in the course without contributing to the blog.

So what kind of blog post qualifies for bonus points and which don't? Based on experiences from a previous course (see this blog post), you can typically contribute with:

- A blog post with some information or tips about sustainability & media technology/ICT; for example events happening in Stockholm or elsewhere, relevant newspaper/magazine/blog articles (with links) etc. The blog is our collective eyes and ears keeping track of relevant news and events during the course.
- A blog post with a summary, analysis, critique and/or thoughts that were initiated by a lecture in the course.
- A blog post with a summary, analysis, critique and/or thoughts that were initiated by course literature.
- A good (elaborate) comment on someone else's blog post!

I will not specify how long your contribution should be in terms of number or words etc. The important criteria is that your contribution should add value. "I agree", "me too" or "the lecture was great" does not add value. It is obviously hard for me to beforehand draw a clear line, but your blog post should contribute to an ongoing "class discussion" about issues and questions that are relevant and related to the course. It just isn't good enough to post a link to a random resource (text, comic strip, movie) on the web and say "look what I found on the web". You are welcome to post links to resources, but you have to "frame" them; to explain why this thing you are linking to is interesting, how it relates to the course (to issues that have been raised by lecturers, by the literature or in seminar discussions). If you link to a long text or a movie that is 20 minutes long, you really have to explain why it would be worthwhile for your classmates to invest the time to look at it - and what you yourself think about that text/movie! For example, what questions and what thoughts did that movie raise for you? 

In short: the keywords are "added value" and "quality" (not quantity).

Do comment on this blog post if you have any questions. I will comment on some of your early blog posts here in order to provide you with feedback and direction as to what "adds value" and what constitutes "quality".


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome to this blog - it is all yours!

Throughout the course Sustainability and Media Technology, all of us will together come across many different and interesting examples of issues that can be related to topics that the course covers. This blog is where you post information about what you come across so that we all can learn about and benefit from the information that we all together come across. 50+ pair of eyes are better than 2!

All students who take the course will be invited to become contributors and post blog entries here.

Feel free to post whatever you come across that you think is interesting and that has a relationship to things we have read, or seen, or heard in the course, or that in general is related to issues of sustainability and media technology (and IT)!

Also feel free to check out others' posts and please also comment on them. Hopefully some blog entries will generate lively discussions!

See this blog (same function, different course) for inspiration about how this blog can be used.

Daniel Pargman