Adobe Plug-ins in 2017: A Tale of Five Browsers (on two operating systems)


Ian here—

Some of this material used to be over in the “Practical Pedagogical Notes on Games” section of the site. I’ve decided to migrate it to a blog post, however, for logistical reasons.

It’s an HTML5 world out there. The plug-ins that used to define the landscape of the internet—Flash, in particular—are a dying breed.

If those previous two sentences don’t mean anything to do: Congratulations! You are like most people. This guide is for you. It is a practical, logistical resource to take a peek at when a browser-based game doesn’t work.

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Lesson Plan: Borders, Boundary Crossings, and Subaltern Images


Ian here—

Well, you can’t win ’em all. Over-ambition gets to the best of us, and sometimes a somewhat incoherent lesson is the result. Consider this post to be less of a how-to guide, and more of a postmortem on what is clearly still a work-in-progress.

Migration is a topic that, from the beginning, I knew I wanted to tackle in my Avant-Garde Film and Video Art course this term. US immigration reared its head quite explicitly in my week spent on Bill Brown’s The Other Side, but I also wanted to try out some more conceptually far-flung approaches to the topic. Key here were two texts: Hito Steyerl’s article “In Defense of the Poor Image,” which re-casts image quality as an image of global politics, turning a close eye on how media objects circulate around the world in the current neoliberal order, and Jacqueline Goss’ video Stranger Comes to Town (2007), which tells tales of entry into the US that have been metaphorized into World of Warcraft machinima.

I thought I could draw out some sort of grand theme from this material, about how the circulation of images maps on to the migration of people in our contemporary political regime. It turns out I wasn’t really up to this task. And it’s a shame, too, because I dearly love the videos I assembled for this week, and wish I could have done better by them.

[Update: I asked for feedback in the last day of class, and it turns out that several students actually really liked this class session. They thought its sketched-out argument left them room to think, and really appreciated having to fill in the blanks themselves. Apparently, for some students, it was perfect seminar material. Their only real complaint was that I could have expanded this material, and stretched it out over several weeks! So take the self-criticism in this post with a grain of salt, I guess.]

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Playbor in the Loop: eSports and Athletic Scholarships in Chicago Education


Ian here—

What follows is my talk from SCMS 2017 in Chicago, IL. It was part of the panel I organized, “Gaming’s Midway Point: Games and Game Culture in Chicago“—and I’d like to thank Julianne GrassoDaniel Johnson, and Chris Carloy for contributing papers and making that panel the success that it was.  You can follow along with my visual presentation here.

This is the website of Collegiate Starleague, a league for competitive, professional-level videogaming, or eSports, on college campuses. Collegiate Starleague holds tournaments for college players of games such as League of Legends (Riot Games, 2009) and Dota 2 (Valve, 2013), two enormously popular games in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, which has dominated eSports in recent years, as well as the first-person shooters Overwatch (Blizzard, 2016) and Couter-Strike: Global Offensive (Valve, 2012), and the digital collectable card game Hearthstone (Blizzard, 2014).

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Lesson Plan: Net Neutrality


Ian here—

Well, unlike other lessons I could name, this particular lesson plan wasn’t disrupted in real-time by the incoming Trump administration. But it will certainly be different if I ever teach it for an Intro to Mass Communication course again.

Let’s be clear: net neutrality is dead, dead, dead. There were already reasons to be worried given AT&T’s zero-rating shenanigans in the run-up to its attempted merger with Time Warner. Since then, presumptive future head of the FCC Ajit Pai has quite clearly stated the Trump administration’s plans to destroy the current FCC’s valiant attempts to enforce net neutrality. It is an idea whose time has passed.

Why even post this, then? Will anyone teach a lesson on net neutrality in the future? I don’t see why not. Presumably people still lessons on labor unions, despite the fact that those barely exist anymore. And perhaps, in a perverse way, net neutrality’s death will mean that more people actually will understand what it once was. Once it’s gone, the ISPs’ noise machine will presumably move on to other targets, meaning that perhaps there won’t be quite as thick a slurry of blatant misinformation to fight in the future. (Although I disagree with the political right in this country on most issues, I have to say that I’ve never seen such basic confusion on the other side about what the conversation is actually about than I have around the issue of net neutrality. The points made against it are incoherent, because they often simply pretend it is something it is not. Seriously, outright falsehoods and mirror-universe projections in this area have been endemic.) In any case, it’s still worth fighting the good fight, and keeping students informed of what might have been.

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Lesson Plan: Music Formats, Music Listening Practices


Ian here—

The following is a lesson plan I used for one day on popular music in my “Introduction to Mass Communication” course at DePaul University. I first incorporated it into my syllabus for the winter 2016 quarter, and refined it some for my spring 2016 section of the class.

The overarching theme I try to give the course when I teach it is the relationship between technologies and our use of those technologies. It’s a two-step dance where the two partners frequently get out of synch, and try to adapt to one another in unexpected ways. This week, we examine how specific music format technologies created certain behaviors of listening … which then went on to shape future technologies, and so on and so forth.

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