Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One has been on my want-to-read list for some time, given its theme (video game as narrative device) and plenty of solid reviews and recommendations of various friends. In fact, I almost bought it at the store three or four times in the past year or so, and then didn’t. I finally got it out of the library.
I won’t say I was disappointed by the story. It was fine. But I could not help but shake the feeling that Cline was writing this novel in hopes of it turning into a Matrix-like movie. (And of course, it is now becoming a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg).
I am having trouble pinning down what has kept me feeling as if there could have been more to the story. For, in many ways, Cline did an admirable job as a first-time novelist in creating a future and character that are believable enough, within the fictional universe of Ready Player One, and the narrative device of finding Easter Eggs in a huge, immersive game world kept the plot moving along, as did many of the action scenes. And Cline humanized the story, with his protagonist — Wade Watts — making connections with other players offline and online, and the book even ends on a very positive, human note.
So why didn’t I love this book? I should have loved this book. Maybe it was the hype or level of expectation on my own end. Maybe it was the one-too-many references to the 1980s (although some I did enjoy and many of the cultural references resonated with my own childhood). Maybe it was the cinematic feel that didn’t translate well to the page for me. I can see the story on the screen in my mind. Maybe I don’t like that.
Maybe it’s just me. Give it a read and see what you think. Do it before the movie comes out and reshapes the story.
Whenever I went to see if I might glimpse at what was going on in the Facebook group for the Rhizomatic Learning adventure, this is what I would see:
The wall. The gate. The closed door.
It’s been intriguing being a complete outsider to the Facebook experience for both Rhizo14 and Rhizo15. I have a personal aversion to Facebook that I won’t get into here, other than my belief that Zuckerberg and company are privacy pirates not fit to own my media, and so, I knew both times (Rhizo14 and Rhizo15) that many conversations were unfolding in a space I was not in, and sometimes wondered:
What are they talking about over there?
When we consider open learning experiences, we are told (as participants) and we tell others (as facilitators) to “use the space you are in” and branch out from there. But I wonder if, even with a blog hub like Dave’s posts for each learning cycle and all the efforts to pull the disparate parts together to re-align the thinking, we aren’t being exclusive at the same time of being inclusive. Can we be both? I don’t know. I think so.
I am intrigued by the notion of being an active insider in at least two spaces (Twitter and GPlus) but a complete outsider in a third space (Facebook). Reading the comments of some folks who have bveen writing in a collaborative document about how positive Facebook has been to their Rhizomatic Learning experiences, I realize only now, later, how rich those conversations must have been. And what people did I miss entirely? Are there whole swarms of folks who engaged in Facebook but nowhere else whose ideas could have informed my understanding? I suspect, the answer is yes.
I find myself reading echoes of the past, trying to connect the dots from these reflections to my own experiences, and noticing the gaps, too late. Or not. My own experiences were rich with content and connections, too.
While the Rhizomatic Learning Facebook group was open, it was only open if you were in Facebook, and unless I became a member (and thus, had to join Facebook … not happening … see above), I could not view the conversations unfolding there in FB from the outside.
The “Log into Facebook” screen that greeted me when I followed a link was like a locked door, and I did not have the key, and was unwilling to pay the price to be let in. I find it an interesting and intriguing dilemma of open learning: the social media place where the most people are in is the very social media place that keeps the most people out.
Peace (tossing balls against the wall of Facebook),
I made a ton of comics for the most recent round of Rhizomatic Learning with Dave Cormier, as well as other assorted media, such as memes and graphs and artwork. I realized, as Rhizo15 now officially winds down (but really, it never ends, if we can help it … thus, the Let’s Connect image above), that I have 56 items in my Flickr Album for Rhizo15.
How’d that happen? (Wait — now 57, as I added a screenshot of the group into the album itself)
Check out the full album (if you want) In all seriousness, this array of ideas does represent a lot of my thinking and connecting, and how to value with humor the important things being done inside the Rhizo15 collective (community? network? assortment of oddities?)
I’ve been trying to think about how best to reflect in writing about what I have learned with Rhizo15 and in typical rhizomatic fashion, I find it difficult to pinpoint specific things in a way that will make sense to a larger audience (that’d be you, my reader friend).
I did make this comic the other day, as part of Dave Cormier’s call for artifacts to explain Rhizomatic Learning.
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I was just a participant in this MOOC, but as a facilitator of the CLMOOC the past two summers and as a Make Cycle leader this coming CLMOOC, I am excited to be part of the reverberations of that project in this project. When you run a collaboration like CLMOOC, you hope others will build off the experience, and they did, and it was fun and wonderful.
The Writing Thief refers to the common book we all read by Ruth Culham about mentor texts.
I made a version of this overview of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration in the first year of the CLMOOC and I keep updating it each year, in hopes it will give folks an idea of the fun in store for the CLMOOC participants. It’s free. It’s a blast. And it’s facilitated by the National Writing Project and the Innovator Educator Network.
My latest post over at Middleweb is about a poetry project in which my students not only write digital poems, but learned about the use of image and citation, and the underlying structure of the Internet itself: the hyperlink.
Speaking of technology and writing, spend a few minutes watching this video. Brad Wilson gave a short Ignite talk at MRA (Michigan Reading Association) on how to shift away from talking about technology itself and instead, to talk about writing. He lays the blame for students not fully engaging in writing in a digital age to teachers, and then shows a potential path forward.
A few folks have been sharing some pretty interesting data collections of the Rhizomatic Learning community over the past six weeks, showing how people are connecting and forming social media clusters over time and over topics.
Ever since the first year of the CLMOOC, I’ve been intrigued by those who remain on the outskirts, watching. In CLMOOC, we have made welcoming those folks a high priority at every turn because what our follow-up work found was that those so-called “lurkers” (such a strange word) later become active members. It just takes some time to get their footing.
So, when Aras released another data map of Rhizo15, and Simon pulled it into Thinglink to add some funny annotations, I could not resist the urge to make it into a comic, with dialogue from those on the edge of the social network spaces. They are in but not quite in, and I wondered what they were talking about, these sort-of “outliers.”
Terry, with Nick’s permission, took Page 45 from the book and popped it into ThingLink for a crowdsourced annotation. I found it fascinating to add layers to the work, mulling over how the messages of the page might get represented by other work, pulling the reader from the page itself. In effect, we are doing a dance with Nick, the writer, saying to yet a third reader: “Here is what I see in this. What do you see?”
Meanwhile, I took an image of Page 45, too, and began to mess around with it in various photo editors. One of them allows me to really remix an image, through various cut-up lens. This one gives the impression of a collage remix, with the box emphasizing a message all of its own.
Then, I thought: What if I cut out the frames of the page and re-arranged them into something new? Would that even work? Would it make sense? It was worth a try. Here’s what I came up with when I was done.
This not a review, per se, but a sharing of my various interpretations of the theme (as I understand it) behind Nick Sousanis’ interesting graphic novel/dissertation Unflattening. (This book was suggested by my friend Ron in the Rhizomatic Learning space, and then Susan mentioned she had read it and so did Wendy, and then Terry got the book and began doing his own interpretations and then Greg just got the book but knew of the work and … meanwhile, Sousanis himself has been engaged in the conversations on Twitter about our observations of his work … all pretty fascinating in and of itself)
Honestly, I will need to read Unflattening again, and maybe a few more times, to gather up all of the nuances of thinking, but Sousanis puts forth ideas about how to break free of a narrow vision of the world and art and meaning by reminding us that we need to better see how image and art and other perceptions come into play when navigating the world. His use of the comic/graphic story format is incredibly engaging and interesting, and perfectly suited for this kind of philosophical journey.
While reading, I kept wondering how to represent my own thinking as the reader (following Terry’s lead) in non-traditional ways. How could I “unflatten” my own experiences with the book?
Unflattening is a simultaneous engagement of multiple vantage points from which to engender new ways of seeing.” — Sousanis, page 32
I began, as I usually do but which seemed very appropriate here, with a comic and a remix. I took a page from Unflattening and added my own layer of comic characters, making commentary on the content of the page. My idea was not to lessen Sousanis’ message, but to strengthen it by showing how a reader can interact with text.
Still, the remix comic exists in flat space.
I started thinking, Sousanis should have an Augmented Reality layer to the book, which would create an invisible layer of information and maybe more insights on top of the book as it exists. If we all had Google Glasses when we might read books in a different way …
This led me back to the Aurasmas app, which I have toyed around with before, to see if I could add a layer of commentary via video on top of the book itself. I was quickly reminded how complicated it is to share “auras” (as the app calls them) but I finally figured it out (the app is native to your device; if you want to share auras you create, you need to set up a folder at the website, load your project there, and then share out the link. Those who have the app can use the link, which opens up the app on their device and sets off the “aura” when they point their camera at the object, which in this case is Unflattening.)
Here, then (I hope) is the link you can use to get to my “aura” of Unflattening. Don’t have the book? No problem. Use the image of the book’s cover here as your object for launching the aura. On your mobile device, click on the link below, which should launch the app, and then point your camera on the image in this post (OK, so that might require some device juggling. Be safe out there, people.) Ideally, a video of me should emerge in the augmented layer of the book’s cover. I hope it works for you. It did for me, when I tested it. If not, the above screenshot is pretty nifty, with the illustration web of footprints running through my face (and what’s up with my eyes? I must be in the midst of some keen perceptions there).
It also occurred to me that I could use a nifty tool in the Firefox browser that lets you get a 3D look at websites, and that I could use that tool to look at Sousanis’ own website where he writes about the writing of Unflattening. I love how he uses the last part of his book to talk about what influenced individual pages. I am a sucker for “behind the scenes” of writers. In using the 3D view tool in Firefox, I would be making the leap from the book to the author writing about the book that I was reading, and I would be using yet another lens to see what he was writing about. Maybe. I’m not sure it succeeded on that level, but it is still an intriguing look at how to use “multiple engagement points” to look at the web. I took a tour.
Meanwhile, Terry and Greg and I and a few others are working on a media annotation of a page in Unflattening, with Sousanis’ permission (although, to be frank, we would have done it anyway, as that is the reader’s prerogative, but we let Sousanis pick the page from his book he would like us to annotate because the relationship between reader and writer is always an interesting one to explore. I wonder how Nick feels about all this.)
In the final (maybe) week (spin cycle) of Rhizomatic Learning (roots take hold), Dave (the instigator) asks us to consider (please) adding elements to a crowd-sourced Practical Guide to Rhizomatic Learning that will become sort of a legacy project for the community/network/crowd/swarm.
I’m into that.
So I dove into Bitstrips for Schools (which my students use to make media) to create a comic book version of some advice, using characters of some friends who happen be in the Rhizo15 community already, including a Dave character from some past project that focused on Dave and his Daveness. I don’t quite remember now why I had made a Dave. (Anyone? It might have been a DS106 assignment)
I used a site called FlipHTML5 to create a flipbook version of the comic, which makes it easier to read. You can also see the full comic as a single page (it’s long) over at Flickr, too.