Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Job Opportunity Alert - Work-Study Position in Web Content Management for the Kids DIY Media Project

Work-study position: Content Management Assistant

Professor Sara Grimes, Faculty of Information (that's me!!), has one work-study position available for a qualified University of Toronto student. If you are an undergraduate taking at least 1.0 credit (40% of a full course load) continuously from May and August (e.g. one 0.5 F course between May-June and one 0.5 S course between July-August, or 1 Y course from May to August), or a graduate student registered in at least 40% of a full course load from May to August, then you are eligible to apply.

Content Management Assistant

This research assistant (RA) will assist the Kids’ DIY Media and Playing at Making research projects in maintaining their websites and generating data visualizations for reports and project publicity. The ideal candidate possesses strong web and multimedia design skills, excellent written communication skills, and is able to work independently as well as in a team.

General responsibilities may include:
  • Track performance of our current website
  • Continue to enhance website content
  • Generate data visualizations for web and project reports
  • Actively engage and build relationships with the project’s social media community
  • Assist in promoting project events
  • Some literature review
  • Some data analysis
Other or more specific tasks can be prioritized for the applicant’s interest and strengths.
To apply, email a CV and cover letter to Dr. Sara Grimes at sara.grimes@utoronto.ca by [Note: Deadline has been EXTENDED!!!] 4pm, Friday 2 May, 2014.

Interviews will be scheduled sometime during the week of 5-9 May, 2014. Please note that only successful candidates will be contacted for an interview.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Coming up: TIFF Kids Industry Conference (at the TIFF Kids Film Festival)

As part of the Kids DIY Media project's partnership with TIFF Kids, we're participating in several exciting events this month, as part of this year's TIFF Kids Film Festival.

For starters, we're exhibiting a table at this year's digiPlaySpace, within the Mini Maker Space. Very exciting stuff. We had the opportunity to go and visit digiPlaySpace last week, and were uber impressed with this year's collection of interactive, multi-media displays and activities. The paint with water wall, was a particular favourite. Our area is called "Creative Play Online" and features computers running some of the most popular kids' DIY media sites, including Scratch and Minecraft. Here's the official description from the website and program:
Create your own worlds in Minecraft, make your own games with SCRATCH, and learn how easy it can be to remix the web with Mozilla's Hackasaurus. These computer stations are presented in partnership with the University of Toronto and Utah State University's research project Kids Do-It-Yourself Media: working towards best practices around children's increased participation in creative cultural production online.
"Today, children's DIY media creation increasingly takes place online, using digital tools that allow them to not only produce and share their ideas with the world, but also develop many of the skills they'll need to be participants, innovators and leaders in the digital economy" (Kids Do-It-Yourself Media).

The exhibit can be found on the first floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and runs from March 8–April 21, 2014.

The next major event for the Kids DIY Media project will take place at the TIFF Kids Industry Conference, which runs from April 14 to 17, in conjunction with the TIFF Kids Film Festival. During the conference, we'll be participating on a panel titled "Kids' DIY Media Project: Opportunities and Challenges of Supporting Kids' Making and Sharing Media Online," featuring talks by yours truly, Deborah Fields (Utah State University),  Jason Krogh (one of our industry partners, and CEO of Sago Sago), Brian Alspach (E-Line Media), and moderated by David Kleeman (PlayCollective).

We'll also be running a workshop on the 17th, on "Kids' DIY Media: Best Practices for Creating Online Sharing Environments for Children." Should be a jam-packed and fun-filled 4 days!!

Here the blurb from the press release with links for registration, etc.:

[T]his year's TIFF Kids Industry Conference will feature a diverse group of guest speakers from around the world, ranging from filmmakers, writers and animators to researchers, interactive producers and funders. The programme consists of one day of keynote sessions and panel discussions on April 15, and three days of roundtable sessions and workshops. 
This year’s line-up of over 60 guest speakers includes Graham Annable, co-director of the upcoming 3D movie The Boxtrolls by renowned animation studio LAIKA (Coraline, ParaNorman); legendary puppeteer and actor Caroll Spinney, who has been the heart and soul of Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969; leading transmedia producer Caitlin Burns who has worked on multi-platform marketing campaigns for blockbuster franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar and Transformers; Brian Lovell, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency RED Interactive and developer of the Hunger Games Explorer, the massively popular online hub for fans of The Hunger Games; and the groundbreaking Kids' DIY Media Project lead by researchers Sara Grimes of University of Toronto and Deborah Fields of Utah State University. 
The full line-up and schedule of industry programming can be found here. Accreditation pricing starts at $150 for professionals and $50 for students. For more information on accreditation options and how to register, click here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Job Opportunity Alert! Postdoc position with DML Research Hub

This announcement just came through on the dmlhub mailing list, and they've already started accepting applications! Cut and paste directly from the original - direct any questions to them, not me!

Postdoc opportunity at DML Hub's Connected Learning Research Network 
Here's the recruitment page: https://recruit.ap.uci.edu/apply/JPF02242
Please distribute the opening to your networks! If you are interested or know anyone who might be, please do send them our way.

More information:
Open Mar 11, 2014 through Apr 11, 2014
One postdoctoral position is available in the Digital Media & Learning Research Hub, at the UC Humanities Research Institute, based on the Irvine campus. The postdoctoral scholar will collaborate in a MacArthur Foundation-funded research network on Connected Learning, investigating how new digital and networked media can support interest-driven and socially connected forms of learning. The postdoctoral scholar will be responsible for conducting ethnographic research on interest-driven learning with digital media, with a focus on parental involvement, analyzing research findings and working collaboratively with principle investigators and others involved in the research network. 
Requirements – Candidates should have a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline and research experience with contemporary developments concerning youth, digital media and learning. Preference will be given to candidates with experience in ethnographic and online research with families and youth and expertise in learning theory, Internet research, game studies, and design research. Evidence of collaborative and mixed methods research will also be valued. Travel may be required in this position to perform research and meet with collaborators. 
Position is dependent on extramural funding. Initial appointment is for one year and renewal is based on performance and is contingent on receipt of project funding. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue through application deadline of April 11, 2014.
The appointment may begin as early as August 1, 2014 and would continue until July 31, 2015, renewable pending review and available funding.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kids DIY Media Project Workshop on Sharing FTW

I haven't had much time to blog lately, due in no small part to all the exciting things that have been happening with the Kids DIY Media and Playing at Making projects. Last month, we held our first workshop, which in my humble opinion was a smashing success - a fantastic group of people participated, and shared with us their invaluable insight and thoughts on our preliminary findings, next steps and a number of the broader ethical/social issues involved when kids make and share content online. We've just released a Communique about the workshop, which I've reproduced below. Stay tuned for additional updates, as well as exciting news about an upcoming Playing at Making event soon!!!


10 March, 2014: The Kids DIY Media Partnership, a SSHRC-funded initiative housed at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, is pleased to note that on February 4th, 2014, they hosted the first in a series of cross-sector workshops aimed at exploring emerging issues, opportunities and challenges associated with children’s increased participation in creating online content. We greatly appreciate the participation and feedback of all of our project partners and invited attendees for making this a deeply insightful and extremely valuable event.

The recent influx of online, do-it-yourself (DIY) media tools aimed at kids have allowed them to produce and share their ideas with the world and also develop many of the skills needed to be participants, innovators and leaders in the digital economy. Despite children’s growing participation as producers of online media, however, these activities have not yet been extensively researched or well understood.  The Kids’ DIY Media Project, a cross-sector, cross-national research venture funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Development Grant program, addresses this gap through a multi-sited project led by Dr. Sara M. Grimes (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto) and Dr. Deborah A. Fields (Utah State University). Project partners include media producers, not-for-profit organizations and child advocacy groups from both Canada and the United States:  Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Common Sense Media, Toronto International Film Festival Inc., MediaSmarts, Gamercamp Jr., Storybird Inc., foundry10, Untold Entertainment Inc., and Zinc Roe Inc., as well as academic researchers from Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto,  Utah State University and the kidsmediacenter at Centennial College.

Last month’s workshop featured a preview of the findings from Stage 1 of the Kids’ DIY Media project research, which includes an in-depth content analysis of online tools used by children to make and share drawings, stories, games and other creations online.  Workshop participants discussed the issues and questions these activities raise, including the ethical, legal and policy implications of children’s online production, as well as opportunities for literacy development and children’s cultural rights. Stakeholders discussed potential solutions and best practices to ensure inclusivity, and support children’s creativity, freedom of speech, and privacy online. The day-long workshop, which included presentations by the research team and break-out discussions, was designed to solicit feedback from project partners and other participants to guide and support the ongoing collection and analysis of data as the project unfolds over the next two years. Through research and additional workshops, the project aims to produce a set of best practices for developing kids’ DIY media tools and supporting kids’ DIY media practices.

“From the outset, our major goal for this project was to produce cutting edge research in a context that fostered dialogue and input from the various sectors and groups most directly involved in supporting the kids’ DIY media movement,” said Dr. Sara Grimes, professor at the Faculty of Information and Principal Investigator of the Kids DIY Media Project. “This first workshop got us off to a fantastic start. The discussions and feedback from the different participants provided invaluable insight into the present and future of kids’ media-making, and the special challenges that kids face in finding accessible tools and supportive venues for sharing their creations online.”

Over 30 stakeholders participated in the event, including project partners and other experts in children’s media production, broadcasting, advocacy and research.  In addition to the project partners, other invited participants included: MakerKids, Mozilla Foundation, PlayCollective, GamingEdus, TVO Kids, PBS Kids Interactive, and researchers from York University, University of Pennsylvania, University of New Hampshire, Rutgers University, and University of Toronto.

Materials from the workshop, including presentations and summaries of discussions, will be available in the coming weeks on the project website at http://semaphore.utoronto.ca/diymedia/ . The findings from Stage 1 of the Kids DIY Media project research will be published later this year.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cool Opportunity Alert: ALA approves new "Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity"

Via ALAnews, an announcement that needs to be shared far and wide - a new award aimed at recognizing the hard work and dedication of children's/youth [correction: i don't see this qualifier in the press release, so i was likely mistaken about that part] librarians committed to defending intellectual freedom: The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity." The award is sponsored (funded?) by children's author Daniel Handler who writes and does most things under the nom de plum/twisted persona of Lemony Snicket. Here's an excerpt from the ALA press release:
The award, which ALA intends to present at its Annual Conference in Las Vegas, recognizes a librarian who “has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.” It will be given annually to a deserving librarian. If a suitable candidate is not found, the award will not be presented that year.
The $3,000 prize will be given from Snicket’s “disreputable gains, along with an odd, symbolic object from his private stash, as well as a certificate, which may or may not be suitable for framing.”
I've read some of the text (that appears to come) from the award proposal, which is itself delightful and hilarious, written in the usual Lemony Snicket style. Handler often gives interviews in character, and the quotes included in the ALA announcement are no different:
According to Snicket, it is his hope that, “The Snicket Prize will remind readers everywhere of the joyous importance of librarians and the trouble that is all too frequently unleashed upon them.” About his sponsorship of the award, Snicket said, "This seems like a better way to channel money to librarians than my previous strategy, which was incurring exorbitant late fees."
Here are the nitty-gritty details about applying for the award itself:
The award jury will consist of five people: a chair and four jury members. The members of the jury will consist of ALA members with at least one member from any of the youth divisions (ALSC, AASL, YALSA) and at least one member from the Intellectual Freedom Committee or the Intellectual Freedom Round Table. 
The nominee must be a librarian. The deadline for candidates to be nominated for the first year is May 1. In subsequent years, the deadline will be Dec. 1
The following information must be addressed in the application: 

  • A narrative describing the adverse incident the librarian faced and a description of their response, result and resources utilized; 

  • Name and contact information; 

  • If applicable, name and contact information of the nominator Other supporting documentation, if applicable. 
To find out more information about the award, including how to nominate candidates, visit www.ala.org/awardsgrants/lemony-snicket.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Kano Lets Kids Make Their Own Computers, Design Their Own Games

©2013 Kano

Raspberry Pi is back in the news this week, with the announcement of an incredibly cool new Kickstarter campaign aimed at financing the production of a spiffy, child-friendly "kit" for building a desktop computer fuelled by the tiny, single-board Pi. Kano - "the computer everyone can make" aims to make the activity of building your own computer as much like playing with Lego as possible, and in so doing, teach kids about the inner workings of computer systems more generally. The designers claim that the kits are intuitive enough that a child can put them together without needing instructions. Once the computer is built, it comes with a Linux operating system and is pre-loaded with a number of programs and games, including a version of Minecraft. Oh yes, and the entire thing is open source.

In less than 18 hours, the project reached its funding goal of $100,000. When I viewed the site earlier today, pledges were nearing the $1million mark. Incredible! The following excerpt is from Liz Stinson's review of the product (or, product idea?) for Wired online
Today, children grow up surrounded by shiny objects that look and act like magic. There are screens that respond to touch and computers that can do just about anything a five-year-old can dream up. But even though kids have been immersed in technology since birth, it’s rare for them to actually know how it works. 
A new kit called Kano is hoping to change that. Released last week on Kickstarter, the Raspberry Pi kit merges basic computer science concepts with gorgeous, functional design, turning just about anyone into a computer maker. Each kit, created by London startup Kano, is comprised of bits and pieces that are constructed to build a functioning computer that can be hooked up to a monitor. On the Kano OS, kids can reprogram Pong and Minecraft, compose music, learn to code and even just word-process—all through a computer they built themselves.
Although the campaign has reached its goal, you can still pledge and thereby pre-order your own Kano kit on the Kickstarter site. They also have a Kano Lab package in place for classrooms and backspaces that includes 10 kits, a daylong workshop and a digital curriculum pack.

While no mention is made about it in the campaign video or accompanying description, I couldn't help but notice some signs of gender inclusiveness in both the product design and its marketing. The aesthetic design of the kit is cute and playful, and appears to be purposefully gender-inclusive. For instance, the logo/user icon is androgynous, they stayed away from typically gendered colours (i.e. pastels for girls, red/black/grey/blue for boys). The tagline and descriptions emphasize that the computer is for everyone. Although the video itself is initially dominated by men and boys (likely a byproduct of the fact that the creators and the source of inspiration for the project were men and a boy respectively), there are plenty of girls featured throughout as active users of the kit.

What I especially love is that they've included (or at least attempted to include - I haven't seen the actual kit yet, so can't say for sure!) multiple points of entry in the kit design -- including storytelling -- without labelling these in essentialist terms. This is noteworthy because the dominant discourse in computer and game design is that 'girls are drawn to stories' and 'boys are drawn to challenges'...which of course is just gender essentialism and ignores the many boys who love telling stories and the many girls who thrive on being challenged. A truly gender inclusive design will attempt to include different preferences and play modes, without labelling these as "for girls" or "for boys"....an approach which Kano has apparently espoused, and which is a really refreshing position to take. The contrast with Goldie Blox is palpable, and has me thinking that there might be a compelling study in comparing the marketing and discourses surrounding the two projects.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

New Publication Alert: My UBC Law Review Article is now Available!!

I found out over the weekend that the special issue on Media & Video Game Law, edited by Jon Festinger, for the UBC Law Review journal is now in print!!! 

The issue includes a great assortment of articles, moral rights and mods (Michela Fiorido), privacy rights and computer searches (Lisa Jorgensen), legal implications of virtual item theft (Tina van der Linden), an overview of judicial ethics in a digital age (Lorne Sossin & Meredith Bacal), and an exploration of FTC's Google settlement (Michael A. Carrier). Topped off by an intro by Festinger, who is the leading Canadian thinker and legal expert when it comes to video game and various other digital media law. 

I'm honoured to have an article included in this issue myself. In this piece, I finally delve into some of the lingering issues/problems with EULAs in kids' games that I've raised, but never fully explored, in some of my previous works on policy/ethical dimensions of commercial children's games. I learnt a TON in the process, thanks in no small part to the peer reviewers, all of whom were generous enough to give me thorough and thoughtful feedback, as well as a bit of a crash course in minors' restrictions and the infancy doctrine.

Here's the title and abstract: 
“Persistent and Emerging Questions About the Use of End-User Licence Agreements in Children’s Online Games and Virtual Worlds” - Sara M. Grimes
Abstract: The appearance of standard form end-user license agreements (EULAs) in online games and virtual worlds designed and targeted to children raises a number of important cultural and ethical questions—about children’s autonomy, liability, responsibility and authorship—that warrant closer attention. For the most part, EULAs contain highly complex language, terminology, and highly abstract economic and legal concepts, while mechanisms for obtaining user and parental consent are largely inadequate. In addition, many of these documents work to preemptively resolve regulatory grey areas that have not yet been subject to public discussion, as well as expand corporately advantageous power relations into new spaces of childhood. An exploration of current trends, future implications and possible solutions is provided in five sections. The first part examines common terms and arguments made about EULAs, and questions whether and how they might apply to players who are minors. The second section reviews theories used to justify children’s special legal status, specifically in regards to younger children and contracts. The third part explores the notion of parental liability and reviews recent legal developments relating to the enforceability of infants’ waivers. The fourth part examines the converse trend of officially ‘banning’ minors from participation, and considers the legal ramifications for children who misrepresent their age in order to play. The final part explores how the criticisms and problems raised in previous sections of the paper can be used to devise an alternative framework, and provides a series of recommendations for drafting a more reciprocal, balanced and child-centric EULA.
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Gamine Expedition by Sara Grimes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.