GAP Playthrough: Gone Home

GAP Playthrough: Gone Home

On Friday, February 9th, GAP (the Gaming Archives Project) had its first playthrough event of the semester. We played Gone Home, a single player walking simulator game, all the way through from start to finish. Gone Home is told through the perspective of Katie, who just got back from being abroad and comes home to a deserted house, her family nowhere to be found. Set in the 90’s, before cellphones, Katie must search around the house for clues and read letters from her sister to find out where they are and what happened while she was gone.

Only one controller was in use during our playthrough as it is a single player game, but our player often read the notes and messages aloud for the entire room as Katie picked them up, and took input from others on where in the house we wanted to explore. Though only one person had the controls, it felt like a collective interactive experience, a bit like watching a film unfold in front of you, but having agency in what and how things happen.

After finishing the game, there was a brief discussion about our thoughts on the design and the narrative. We talked about how the setting leads us to believe it is a horror game since it is set in an enormous mansion during a thunderstorm, and we have to turn on the lights as we enter each new dark and spooky room. For this reason, it was fun to play in a group rather than alone. We also compared it to What Remains of Edith Finch, a similar game that has more interactive minigames as the player advances through the narrative. Some people liked this better than Gone Home, which is strictly narrative without any flashback to the past or cut to the the events Katie’s sister describes in her letters.

There will be a playthrough every other Friday in the KnowledgeLab and everyone is welcome to join us in playing or watching. If you have a suggestion of a game for the next playthrough or to play on your own, email Joce at jkofke@smith.edu. The gaming laptop is free to use whenever the KnowledgeLab is open, and new VR games can be played during Joce’s hours there: Tuesdays and Thursdays after 12:00pm and Fridays after 1:00pm.

WIG Playthrough: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

WIG Playthrough: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Last Friday, WIG hosted a Playthrough event in the CMP featuring the game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. 

This game was played on the Vive, a virtual reality system which allowed one player to become immersed in a room with a bomb where they must describe what they see in order to diffuse it before time runs out. Everyone else has the bomb’s instructions and must teach the player how to diffuse it without being able to see what is happening.

Every student who attended this event got a turn with the Vive to try to defuse the bomb. Overall, students effectively communicated and were able to stop the bomb from blowing up, but on a few more difficult levels, they were unsuccessful. It was especially hard when memory was required on both parts – sometimes the bomb diffuser would have to remember a sequence of colors or numbers, and the instructors would have to remember both the diffuser’s sequence in addition to another sequence that corresponded with it. These portions, in particular, caused several bombs to explode.

Students also had the chance to share their input on virtual reality games like this one and how they might be applied to life outside of the video game setting.

In response to the first question, “Can simulated cooperative puzzle solving help teach effective communication?” one student wrote: “Yes, especially when we take turns being the bomb diffuser because some people are more likely to take charge with instructions and others are good at physically doing the puzzles so everyone gets a chance to communicate and participate.”

To the second question, “Does the simulated urgency effectively teach communication under pressure? Can this be applied to other real-world situations (e.g. the ER?)” students were a little more on the fence. One student wrote: “I think the fact that it’s a team effort and the goal is to have fun actually lessens the experience of doing a task under pressure because I was trying to not contribute too much because I wanted everyone to participate and have fun. [In real life] in an emergency, you care about getting it done, not everyone getting to participate.”

This event had high attendance and was a great use of the CMP space and equipment. To book this space, simply contact Dan Bennett, CMP Media Producer, at dbennett@smith.edu. You can also join Joce and Tori in the KnowledgeLab on Tuesdays 12-2 and Thursdays 2-5 for their gaming open hours. This is just the first of several playthrough events WIG plans to host this year with a variety of games. Ellie Danford, club president of the Smith Gaming Club, voiced interest in collaborating with WIG next semester, as well.

WIG Playthrough Event

WIG Playthrough Event

Join Women in Gaming, Smith’s Experiential Learning Through Gameplay Student-led Research Interest Group, on December 1st from 1:00-3:00pm at the CMP for our first Playthrough Event! The CMP is located in Henshaw D, behind Helen Hills Hills Chapel. At this event, WIG will be playing our new VR game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, which is a multiplayer game in which one person can see the bomb and not the manual, and another person can see the manual and not the bomb, and must instruct the other person how to deactivate it.

This game will be played on the Vive, which is totally immersive virtual reality gaming system where the game replaces your surroundings, and controllers act as your hands. The game play will be followed by a discussion on the game and other topics of interest for members of WIG and anyone else with questions or ideas. Everyone is welcome!

Here’s my Library Day in the KnowledgeLab

Here’s my Library Day in the KnowledgeLab

Thursday, October 12th was Here’s my Library Day at all the Smith Libraries across campus. The KnowledgeLab was one of the hosting locations of this event and provided refreshments and activities as well as all the resources already offered.

Libraries student assistant Adriana Valerio ‘AC helps students make a sticker using the vinyl cutter. Photo credit: Brendan O’Connell

Students learned how to make stickers with our vinyl cutter by first choosing an icon, printing it with the vinyl cutter, and then prepping it before sticking it to a surface. We had a lot of fun with this, and made a variety of stickers from dogs to shrimp, which we used to decorate students’ water bottles as well as the walls. The vinyl cutter is available to use whenever a staff member is there, which is currently on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons. If you would like to schedule an appointment to be trained on or use the vinyl cutter, feel free to contact Tori Clayton at vclayton@smith.edu.

Students set up the KnowledgeLab gaming laptop for open gaming. Photo credit: Brendan O’Connell

Another big hit was our gaming laptop connected to the Apple TV. This allowed us to play games that the Women in Gaming group had purchased for the laptop. We played several multiplayer games and one that was single player, but were still able to collaborate by connecting to the large Apple TV screen. The laptop is always available to use during the KnowledgeLab’s open hours, and controllers and headphones are available to check out at the service desk in the hall.

We hope this event demonstrated more possibilities for the KnowledgeLab, and encourage students to continue to use the space to study, create, and play games!

What’s in a meme? A meme-making party at the KnowledgeLab

What’s in a meme? A meme-making party at the KnowledgeLab

One significant cultural change that has come about due to the rise of social media in the past half-decade is the proliferation of “memes.”  Although they are totally ubiquitous, they are difficult to pin down with a solid definition; the nature of memes is that they are constantly evolving at speeds only made possible by the internet.  Generally, memes are a form of internet humor that involves text juxtaposed with an image, in a way that plays on the emotional resonance of the image and uses it to create new meaning.  The governing principle of memes seems to be that they are “relatable”; they are humorous in that they point out a common experience in a poignant and unexpected way.   

This April, Kayla Foney ’17 organized an event in the KnowledgeLab to explore this peculiar form of cultural production, using a KnowledgeLab $500 mini-grant.  The event sought to investigate what memes really are, how they are situated in a social context, and how they relate gender, race, and nationality.  Foney gathered historical photographs that seemed emotionally evocative even without context. Participants generated captions for the images, thus making them into memes.  Possible captions were posted under the photos, and participants voted on their favorites.  

Using the content created at the event, Foney sought to zero in on key themes that ran throughout the memes.  She found five of these, which she calls as Emotional/Situational Referential, Vocal, Critical, and Contextual.  She describes these themes as the following:

  • Emotional/Situational: Interpreting facial expressions as frustration, shock, joy, etc. Using that to framing the image into a specific situation, such as taking an Easter photo or seeing an ex. Or, describing facial expressions to identify a meme – blinking, pointing, wide mouth.
  • Referential: Plays on past, concurrent, or future memes: “Name a more dynamic trio,” originates from a Twitter celebrity post and has been a popular phrase online for the past few months. “Supa Hot Fire” references a series of rap cypher parody videos from 2013. “It’s Gonna Be May” as a NSync pun/meme that has popped back up yearly at the end of April/in anticipation of May.
  • Vocal: Making the subject speak on something in the photograph or an invented situation of the creator, like having someone tell you something you already know.
  • Critical: Addressing oppression and power dynamics. Gendered experiences of the 2016 election, respectability politics. Racial microaggressions, disappointment with institutions and how they deal with social issues. Deconstructing systemic power.
  • Contextual: Connections to recent social media and pop culture trends like the Get Out Challenge and the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, references to lyrics and musicians like Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Prominent use of AAVE/slang, like “Whomst”, and references to cultural habits like clapping out the beat when the music stops at a party.

In a reflection on the event, Foney noticed how the event exceeded some of her expectations, and subverted others.  She said,

“What can this collected material tell us about how to define a meme… and its memory? From the diversity within these five themes alone, it’s clear that the multiplicity of viewpoints and interpretations that go into creating, understanding, and remaking a meme have a huge influence on the final result. Anyone can enter into this creative process and produce something that can convey emotion, humor, and memories to others, regardless of their knowledge of digital culture or confidence in their own abilities. […] I think that the meme-making event was both a huge success and a failure in exploring and understanding what a meme really is, because it seems that the main thing that a meme can be characterized by by is the ability to produce similar and distinct interpretations, from both a presence of and a lack of context. Ultimately, it remains elusive, uncapturable and indefinable – which is, of course, what makes it fun.”

A visit from the local Big Brothers Big Sister’s chapter for a collaborative zine-making workshop

A visit from the local Big Brothers Big Sister’s chapter for a collaborative zine-making workshop

Zines are a classic medium of self expression.  They were perfectly fit for the event we hosted here at the KnowledgeLab last week: the Hampshire County Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter gathered for a creative, collaborative zine-making project.  The little siblings, with the help of their Bigs, got the chance to create zine pages using the KnowledgeLab craft resources about a topic meaningful to them.  The pages were combined into a large collective zine.

 

Mandy Ferrara, one of the hosts, said about the event, “It was such a pleasure to have such a diverse group working together to create art. The students, both big and little, immediately caught on to the project and made a beautiful zine celebrating friendship, activity, and their affinity for the organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

                  

The event was inspired by the zine event Strength for the Struggle, hosted by the library last summer.  Amanda Ferrara of the library and Jennifer Ablard of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization conceived of an adaptation of the workshop for 8-13 year olds.

The zine will be uploaded to Scholarworks, Smith’s archive of digital scholarship. 

Written by Phoebe Weissblum, KnowledgeLab staff

Filmmaking for Social Engagement: A Two Day Residency with Activist and Filmmaker Adams Wood

Filmmaking for Social Engagement: A Two Day Residency with Activist and Filmmaker Adams Wood

Our next grant-funded student project!

Next week, the KnowledgeLab is sponsoring a two day residency with activist and filmmaker Adams Wood, focused on using film as a means for social engagement.

First, join us on Thursday March 30 at 7pm in Seelye 106 for a screening of On Coal River, a film that takes viewers on a gripping emotional journey into the Coal River Valley of West Virginia — a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. The film follows a former coal miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it. The screening will be followed by a Q & A with the filmmaker.

On Friday March 31, the KnowledgeLab will host two interactive workshops, Hands-On Filmmaking for Social Engagement: Theory and Basic Camera Skills, 10:30a-12p and 4:00-5:30p. These interactive workshops will offer participants basic skills and theory about the many ways video and filmmaking can be used to share knowledge and inspire engagement in a social movement context.

We will discuss different forms and formats including social issue documentary, campaign and call to action videos, as well as emerging media platforms. We will screen and discuss excerpts pulled from Wood’s own work and beyond. In small group work, participants will have the opportunity to create a strategy for a hypothetical engagement goal. We will end the workshop with a brief hands-on camera training, where we will cover filming and interviewing techniques, using participant’s own cell phone cameras. Registration is required for these free workshopsRegister here.

This project is funded through a KnowledgeLab mini-grant to Maria Wood ‘AC. Mini-grants are available to all Smith students, faculty, classes, and student orgs for projects relating to the themes of knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, and the future of libraries and campus learning spaces, including pop-up installations, events, and more. To learn more, visit http://sophia.smith.edu/knowledgelab.

Researchfest at Undesign the Redline

Researchfest at Undesign the Redline

Inspired by the Undesign the Redline exhibit, the Researchfest is a day-long series of presentations on Friday, March 3 by researchers who imagine a future beyond inequality.

Open to the public. 

Researchfest Poster

10:00am – Welcome refreshments; 10:30am – Rigged Cities! Healing from demolition, displacement, disinvestment, with community organizers Terri Baltimore (Hill House,Association, Pittsburgh) and Denys Candy (Jandon Center for Community Engagement) tell the story of Find the Rivers!, a decade – long initiative to transform how residents saw their roles in re-making their neighborhood and Pittsburgh’s future.

2 pm Food Access and Us – SWG 230 students present on the efforts to undesign food deserts in Springfield and Holyoke  (See: Student Research

3:15 pm Sanitized Citizenship, Black Vitality, and the Politics of Futurity in Philadelphia, salon with Professor J.T.Roane, McPherson/Eveillard Postdoctoral Fellow.  Read the blog post on “Locating Black Queer Pasts” for a preview.

4:30 pm Work it Out – Hands-on community mapping workshop @ the Spatial Analysis Lab. For the full schedule visit: sophia.smith.edu/undesign

 

Spreading words of love

Spreading words of love

First and second year Arabic language students gathered in the KnowledgeLab Monday night to make over 30 postcards in Arabic and 24 bags of chocolate. These Valentine’s day gifts were delivered to Michael’s House, a senior residence in Northampton.

Arabic valentines

Arabic Professor May George writes, “I think it is important as a teacher to help students to be successful in life and this cannot happen without caring for others. Teacher’s job is not teaching only, but supporting the students to find the best in this life, and this can be achieved by sharing love and respect for everyone.”

students make Arabic valentines
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The KnowledgeLab “was an amazing place to work. It created a warm atmosphere and a happy environment for the students,” added Professor George.

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UNDESIGN THE REDLINE

An interactive exhibit and series on the history of structural inequality in the US

February 3 to March 9, 2017
KnowledgeLab, Second Floor of Neilson Library, Smith College

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We invite you to visit and participate in an interactive exhibition and pop-up library called Undesign the Redline – created by the NYC-based social impact design collective, Designing the WE, and hosted by the KnowledgeLab on the second floor of Neilson Library at Smith College.  Sign up for one of the tours with the Designing the WE team via EventBrite.  Tours will be held on Feb 3, 16, 17 and March 8.

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On display from February 3 to March 9, the exhibit invites participants to “explore how redlining and other policies, practices, and investments create systemic disparities and inequalities that not only perpetuate our most pressing social challenges, but impede the full potential of democracy.” The exhibit has been customized for our community, with references to Pioneer Valley history and historic maps of Boston, Hartford, Holyoke/Chicopee, and Springfield. Interactive mapping projects from the Spatial Analysis Lab will be on display from Lisa Armstrong’s SWG 230 (Gender, Land and Food Movements), highlighting food access, gentrification, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

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Join us on February 8th for a related guest lecture by historian Nathan DB Connolly, author of the award-winning book, A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow in South Florida (Chicago, 2014). On February 16th, we’ll host a dynamic panel discussion about how the design of both physical and virtual environments overlap with structures of inequality, with the Designing the WE team in conversation with the following scholars: Joseph Krupczynski, Director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning and Associate Professor of Architecture at UMass-Amherst, and founding director of The Center for Design Engagement (C*DE), a non-profit design resource center in Holyoke; Serin Houston, Assistant Professor of Geography and International Relations at Mount Holyoke College and author of forthcoming Seattle: Real Change?; and Chris Gilliard, Professor of writing, literature and digital studies at Macomb Community College and author of “Digital Redlining, Access, and Privacy” (2016).

The series will end with a March 9th screening of MAJOR! — a documentary profile of 75 year old Black transgender elder and activist Major Griffin-Gracy, hosted by Jennifer DeClue, Assistant Professor in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith.

Undesign Sign

You can view the exhibit on your own at anytime the library is open.

To learn more,  please check the series website:

sophia.smith.edu/undesign