Monday, June 27, 2011

Slides from TEDxLibrarians TO

As promised, here are the slides from my talk this past weekend at TEDxLibrariansTO. I'll post the video link if/when it becomes available. And if for some reason there's no video, I can post a transcript of the talk itself...especially since the slides alone aren't all that informative about the actual contents of the talk, just the subject matter and examples used.

The talk touched upon two key themes:

  • games as stories and forums for storytelling (don't worry...not all games, just the ones with narrative dimensions), and 
  • how librarians are in a perfect position to become thought leaders (or crusaders, or provokers) in the collection, protection, support and management of digital games (in kids' culture, in public spaces, in non-commercially controlled spaces, in anti-censorship discussions, etc. etc.).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

TEDxLibrariansTO - This Saturday, June 25

A few weeks ago, I was floored and honored to receive an invitation to speak at TEDx LibrariansTO, an independently organized TED event put together by two Toronto-based public librarians (Shelley Archibald and Fiacre O’Duinn) under the theme "Librarians as Thought Leaders." I accepted, of course, and am very happy to be listed among the amazing line-up of speakers the event will showcase - including my brilliant and lovely colleagues Siobhan Stevenson (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto) and Melanie McBride (Ryerson University, EDGE Lab), as well as John Miedema (author of Slow Reading, & Open Reading blog), Amy Buckland (McGill University Library,, Eric Boyd (Sense and Mita Williams (University of Windsor Library, New Jack Librarian). Here's the description from the event site:
Who inspires you?
We live in a time that is in need of inspiration. The aspirations of both individuals and society have always had a home within libraries and have traditionally found a voice through librarians.
The theme for TEDx LibrariansTO is Librarians as Thought Leaders. Come to the event and experience this incredible opportunity to hear librarians speak to the differences we make in the world and how we have, can and do lead and transform society.
The organizers of the event also launched a video challenge (which runs until Saturday), inviting anyone who wants to participate to submit a video that examines/explores/challenges the theme "Librarians as Thought Leaders." The submissions are collected/displayed on the TEDxLibrarians Youtube Channel - and they are absolutely worth checking out... the ones I've seen so far have been fascinating, thoughtful and inspirational.

My own presentation will highlight the narrative and storytelling dimensions of digital games, and consider how games present new challenges and opportunities (but especially opportunities) for librarians as curators, cultivators and advocates of children's culture and cultural autonomy. But really I want to provide an entry point for more librarians to start seeing games as potential forums for stories and storytelling, and to take on a more prominent role in digital game curation, the protection of intellectual freedoms (especially when children and youth are involved), and other areas that librarians are particularly excellent at.

One of the challenges of preparing a presentation that will be filmed and broadcast for this type of event is negotiating a new set of copyright requirements. I usually benefit enormously from the fact that my work is academic--educational and critical--and my presentations normally fall under fair dealing/fair use exceptions. But even though this event is also educational, critical and non-profit, the TEDx guidelines require that any images (or clips, music, etc.) used are used with permission or appropriate license. Which meant spending some time hunting down images licensed under creative commons attribution license. But I also took this as an opportunity to reach out to some of the creators of my favorite "examples" - the games and blogs that I most love referencing in my teaching and research. Which also happen to be largely independently owned and, as it turns out, amazingly supportive and enthusiastic people who not only gave me the permissions required, but also words of encouragement, advice and access to all sorts of high-def materials. So a very special thank-you-in-advance to Superbrothers, Tale of Tales, and Rule of Rose Mysteries.

TEDxLibrarians is a day-long event that will take place this coming Saturday, June 25th, from 8am to 4:30pm, here at the University of Toronto (St. George campus). Tickets are available here, and of course the talks will be filmed and posted online at some point in the future (eep).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kudos to Moshi Monsters' Rebecca Newton for her Fantastically Ethical Stance on 3rd Party Data-Mining - Yay!

©2008-2011 MindCandy - Moshi Monsters characters

Via Irina Slutsky in this morning's AdAge online, a new article examining some of the rationale behind going "ad-free" in popular kids' social networks Moshi Monsters and Togetherville, as well as "ad-light" in Everloop. The article has some good points about how hard it is to control who registers, and provides some troubling insight into Everloop's approach to consumer socialization (highlighting how much I really do need to find out a lot more about that particular site).

But what really caught my attention were the comments from Moshi Monster's Rebecca Newton, who openly and earnestly discusses the links between third-party advertisers and data-mining, and condemns covert corporate surveillance in a way rarely seen outside of the academy and advocacy sectors. Here's an excerpt from the AdAge article:
Online playgrounds with colorful names such as Everloop and Togetherville aren't only popular with small fry, but also investors. Everloop just raised $3.1 million and Togetherville was acquired by Walt Disney Co. earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. Moshi Monsters, a 3-year-old kids' social-gaming network, has already raked in $100 million this year, but not one dime of it was from advertisers.
"Believe me, we get asked to incorporate branding and advertising all the time," said Rebecca Newton, chief community and safety officer at Moshi Monsters, which expects to have 70 to 80 million members in 200 countries by the end of this year. "But it's complicated. When kids tell their friends they just had a mocha latte at Starbucks, they don't understand that now Starbucks has their name and knows that they went to a Starbucks in Des Moines on Third Street on Thursday and had a mocha latte and they start getting coupons for 20 mocha lattes.
Later in the article, Slutsky describes Newton as "very passionate on the topic," describing how Newton sees sophisticated ad/data-mining techniques as unfair and "...exploitative on a high level -- getting information from a kid who doesn't know what they're doing."

Now - this is not to say that Moshi Monsters doesn't contain other forms of promotional content. It is cross-promoted in a variety of Moshi Monster toys and products, and includes a pay-to-play membership level promoted through the same type of velvet rope marketing found in other virtual worlds such as Club Penguin and BarbieGirls. BUT - all that said - it's extremely important and wonderful that they've taken such a hard stance against covert data-mining/corporate surveillance and the various manipulations this practice enables. I don't know for sure that this means they don't do it themselves, of course, but I would be very surprised (and dismayed) if they did, after being so openly against the practice. Which, by the way, is very often omitted from industry discourses altogether, particularly in discussions of kids and rights and risks.

So huzzah and yay to Moshi Monsters and to Rebecca Newton for not only acknowledging (& articulating) the unethical implications of corporate surveillance, but for setting a high standard that I hope others in this business will emulate. (Note: and if the first comment left in the comments section is any indication, Moshi Monsters aren't the only ones adopting a more ethical stance to kids' information - check it out).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Coming up next week: NxNE in Toronto

©2011 nxne festival

For those of you in the Toronto area, be sure to mark your calendars and check out the line-up for next week's North by Northeast (nxne) Music Festival and Conference. The event (now in its 17th year) runs from June 13 to June 19th, and boasts a fantastic program of concerts, (music-themed) film screenings and a number of industry + academic panels on a variety of media-related topics. It's also the place to find out about new and up-and-coming bands, as unsigned artists/bands are featured alongside indie favourites (incl. Swervedriver, yay!) and major-label headliners. In addition to getting my own live music/film watching fill, I'll be participating in the Interactive (a.k.a. Conference) component of the's the description from the official website:
NXNE Interactive (NXNEi) is a digital interactive media conference like no other. It brings together content-creating artists, tech entrepreneurs, digital marketing gurus, web business experts, and social media aficionados for four days of workshops, presentations, and panels that explore the newest ideas in bridging the gap between creativity and the interactive world.
I'll be participating on a panel on June 18th (noon) called "Is it still (app)licable? Kids' entertainment across multiple screens", with Zinc Roe president/founder Jason Krogh, Family Channel/Disney content manager Nicole Mickelow, and Brunico Communications senior online writer Wendy Goldman Getzler. It's going to be pretty darn interesting and multifaceted (each of the panelists comes from such different backgrounds/perspectives). There's a great line-up of industry leaders, indie media makers, advocates and academics...including fellow SFU alum Steve Anderson and Kate Milberry, UofT's Siobhan O'Flynn, as well as Kate Raynes-Goldie and Steven James May from York/Ryerson, Colin McKay from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, and many many more (a snapshot of which is featured in this short promo piece created by BizMedia):

You can find out all the necessary details on the nxne website, including info about the event, the schedule, and presenter bios. See you there!