EMAC Professor Earns System Teaching Award

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight

Dr. Kim Knight, an assistant professor of emerging media and communication, has received the 2016 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awardfor her work and innovation in the classroom.

Knight has been a professor at UT Dallas since 2010, but her first foray into teaching was more than 14 years ago at California State University, Northridge as a teaching assistant under the tutelage of English professor Dr. Irene Clark.

It was there that Knight learned many of the strategies she still uses today.

“From the very beginning, Dr. Clark helped me frame the classroom as a space that should place students and their thinking at the center,” Knight said. “The classroom is a space where students arrive with a variety of experiences and learning styles; where their work is process-based and broken down into small steps with opportunities to revise and improve; and as a space with political and social dimensions that cannot be ignored.”

Knight received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from Cal State Northridge, and she said her interest in new media and digital technology stems, in part, from her love of science fiction and fantasy literature.

“It wasn’t much of a stretch to go from literature about technology to writing that used digital technology,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, I was excited by the empowering aspects of networked technologies and their potential for opening up access, promoting amateur production, flattening hierarchies, and creating a more just and equitable world. My interest is in studying new media in all of its facets so that we can fulfill those promises.”

Knight’s work at UT Dallas focuses on how these objectives intersect with issues in new media such as privacy, ownership and diversity.

As an inherently dynamic subject, new media and technology can have its challenges for teachers, but Knight said what’s most exciting about the field is that working scholars and students are helping to define it.

“And yet, it resists ever being fully defined,” she said. “It also means that you can never keep up with everything that is developing on a daily basis. This affords the rich opportunity to invite students to bring their own knowledge of those developments into the classroom.”

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight leads a Fashioning Circuits workshop at a STEAM-focused summer camp at Eastfield College. (Photo by Lauren Shafer)

Some of her most popular courses touch on viral media, writing in digital spaces and understanding how text, image and sound are used in digital spaces.

She said her favorite course to teach is Fashioning Circuits, which also serves as a research blog and digital humanities project.

“The grounding in social and cultural theory helps students understand the scholarly implications of something that some assume is a frivolous topic: fashion,” she said. “Fashion is about bodies and about culture. When you connect it to technology, it helps to make explicit that technology is also about bodies and culture.”

The course, which usually has a few students who don’t consider themselves creative or coders at the beginning, is an opportunity to explore the expressive possibilities of sewing, coding and electronics as media, she said.

The project also works with community partners to develop programming to introduce nonprogrammers to coding in a humanities aspect.

Knight, who received her PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said her goal is to help her students develop into well-rounded and educated citizens who are ready to be critical participants in a democratic society.

“If I focus on helping students understand one technological platform, it does not serve them well,” she said. “Instead, it is important to help them develop an understanding of how technology, community, power and communication intersect so that they can ethically engage with the technology of tomorrow, regardless of what form that takes.”

 

Knight Examines Digital Viruses, Public Anxiety

The perceived threat of a computer virus attack can keep us in a constant state of anxiety, according to Dr. Kim Knight.

In her latest article, the EMAC professor contends that a preoccupation with living in a virus-free digital world affects how consumers behave online and offline.

Knight said that when people want to avoid a disaster — like a flu outbreak — from reoccurring, they try to identify and address all future scenarios to eliminate that possibility.

It’s a concept known as “premediation,” originally theorized by Dr. Richard Grusin, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as a collective experience with individual effects prompted, in part, by media and the way it handles outbreaks.

Knight studied the concept in the context of various apps, such as Google’s Flu Trends, FluNearYou and Sickweather, which track the spread of illness on a regional level using crowdsourced data from users or mentions of illness on social media.

While these digital tools exist to help mitigate anxieties over viruses, Knight said they can still be a source of “premediative” behavior. By constantly requiring new information and requesting updates from users, the software acts as a feedback loop, always reminding users of the possibility of infection.

Internet users and people who use illness-tracking apps are willing to share computing information and personal data with anti-viral technologies to assuage their anxiety, which could have unintended consequences.

Because the user surrenders ownership, the data can and will be exploited, she said. For Knight, the minimal public health benefits do not outweigh the privacy concerns.

Read her entire article atelectronic book review, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the arts, sciences and humanities through the lens of emerging digital media.

Study Explores How Trustful Online Gamers Are with Their Information

Dr. Rosanna Guadagno

New research from UT Dallas shows that players of massively multiplayer online games, or MMOGs, who are motivated by social elements of online play display more trust in fellow players and a greater willingness to disclose personal information, particularly when the players were members of participants’ guild.

In a recent pilot study, Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, associate professor of psychology and emerging media and communication, expanded upon a growing body of work that explores the idea of trust in player psychology.

“Since the early days of the internet, people have used the technology to meet and befriend strangers,” Guadagno said. “People have found spouses, long-lost relatives and have had many positive and negative experiences while disclosing personal information to the people we encounter online. MMOGs are one such unique online context in which people need the cooperation of others to achieve their game-related goals, regardless of whether they are achievement, social/relational or something else. Understanding the how and why people disclose personal feelings and experiences to other video game players is crucial to understanding the ways in which cooperation and trust form as players interact with each other and work toward both individual and group goals.”

Using player characterizations established by Nick Yee, co-founder of the game analytics consulting practice Quantic Foundry, Guadagno examined patterns in trust and self-disclosure among players of MMOGs. Yee characterizes “social” players as motivated by relationships and teamwork, while “achievement” players are considered their antithesis, valuing progress, optimization and domination.

Guadagno found that “achievement” players were less likely to trust and cooperate with other players, while “social” players exhibited higher levels of self-disclosure. Her study further demonstrated that players are more trusting of other players who are part of their guild — a group of players who share a common chat channel, group identifier and play together regularly, relative to players who belong to other guilds or are not in a guild.

Understanding the how and why people disclose personal feelings and experiences to other video game players is crucial to understanding the ways in which cooperation and trust form as players interact with each other and work toward both individual and group goals.

Dr. Rosanna Guadagno,
associate professor of psychology and emerging media and communication

The pilot study drew from a pool of 37 participants who were first asked to complete the Online Gaming Motivations Scale — developed by Yee and a team of researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center — to determine their motivation type. Participants also were assessed based on their willingness to share information, items and personal details with other players as a function of their group membership.

Guadagno said future research will consider factors such as inclination to attack others in understanding how and why people trust and disclose information to people they only know through the computer screen.

“Social science research has long demonstrated that there is often a disconnect between the way people report their past behavior and what an outside observer might report,” she said. “This is in part because people do not always understand why they behave a certain way and in part because of biases in the way we interpret and report on our past behavior. Essentially, people want to look good in the eyes of others. Together, this makes it difficult to be 100 percent certain that self-reported behavior is accurate. So assessing real gameplay in the future will allow my research team to record events as they take place and this will result in more confidence in our findings.”

The research was presented at the 16th annual meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers in Phoenix.

UT Dallas Magazine: Alumna Brings Games of the Past Back to Life

Editor’s Note: The following is an Alumni Perspective feature written by April Pruitt BA’14. This article first appeared in UT Dallas Magazine.

April Pruitt and family
April Pruitt BA’14 shares a passion for video games with her son Jake and husband Jeremy. The family is shown in the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Texas.

VIDEO GAMES: Before they were in our pockets, they were on our televisions and before that, they were in a dark arcade room filled with sights and sounds that are still part of our culture. They are the media that combine art with technology.

In 2014, I completed a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on art and technology and business management. I was an older student, getting my education and raising a family at the same time.

I felt a little out of sync with some of my younger classmates. For instance, the games of my youth were “Galaga” and “Pac-Man” — often played in arcades where I tried to progress through the various levels while getting the most play from a 25-cent investment on a console without a pause button. Many who grew up with modern games like “Portal” and “Halo” just didn’t understand the attraction to the arcade games. Fortunately there were enough fellow classic game enthusiasts at UTD to found a club for those with similar interests.

My goal after graduation was to work in the animation and video game industry. Little did I expect that I would be re-creating an arcade from the 1980s, an adventure that began when I read that the National Videogame Museum would be established in Frisco, Texas.

When I reached out to museum founders Joe Santulli, John Hardie and Sean Kelly to offer my help, it turned out that they were just as excited to hear from me since they needed help getting more than 40 different games ready for regular play.

Joe, John and Sean provided a storage locker full of classic arcade games (some of which are more than 50 years old) including “Computer Space,” the original dedicated “Pong,” “Galaga,” “Centipede” and “Q-bert.” Most were in rough shape and would need work both inside and out.

Because the average game weighs over 300 pounds, I enlisted the help of my husband, Jeremy, who has some amazing woodworking skills. We began working in the storage locker because the museum’s building wouldn’t be ready for several months. In the hot Texas sun, we pulled games apart, taking out heavy CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors that hold a 10,000-volt charge, whether plugged in or not. It was overwhelming, but I love a great adventure, especially if it involves technology.

The Frisco Discovery Center was eventually ready for the museum to start moving in. The move allowed us to continue making repairs, but in a climate-controlled, powered and safe environment.

After moving the games into the museum, Joe, Jeremy and I visited a local arcade auction and were fortunate to find a number of other games, including the power couple themselves — “Pac-Man” and “Ms. Pac-Man.”

Repairing classic video games is a complicated task. Each game manufacturer has its own way of building arcade games, from the main printed circuit board to the cabinet holding it.

Several main components are included in all the games: the monitor, main game board, power board and power brick. But these items may be presented in completely different ways in each game. For example, “Missile Command” has only one board for the main computer with audio built onto the power board, but “Spy Hunter” has a four-board stack for the main computer and smaller boards mounted all over the cabinet, for a total of 12 different circuit boards.

The technology for game display also varies. Some machines, such as “Asteroids,” are vector-based, meaning that the scene is drawn on the fly rather than having a picture move across the screen. These complex games require a special vector monitor and specific testing equipment for the boards.

The bulk of my job, though, was not patching wires but conducting research — a lot of it. For board repairs, I needed to locate technicians for each manufacturer.  Many of the technicians are engineers whose hobbies include classic video games. Someone who regularly repaired Atari games, such as “Space Duel,” probably wouldn’t have the expertise to repair Taito’s  “Zoo Keeper.”  I was fortunate to have my husband’s help with the sometimes months-long quest for technicians, as well as handling shipping the boards for repairs.

Besides pulling monitors and other support boards that often needed 30-year-old capacitors and other components replaced, I repaired unfortunate wiring configurations made possible by an abundant use of electrical tape or even duct tape. I never knew what I would find in a machine, since many had been on location in bars or stuck in a barn for years.

The new home for these classic games, the National Videogame Museum, is the first of its type in the U.S., dedicated to preserving the history of the video game. The 10,000-square-foot facility includes interactive exhibits for electronic games of all kinds, including handhelds, consoles, and the area where I devote the most time — a replica arcade from the ’80s.

Every time I am at the museum, I experience a feast for the eyes.

A black light responsive theme created by a local artist includes a sculpted foam centipede that appears to come out of the wall, providing an authentic arcade feel. Local artists also created murals throughout the museum depicting video game characters ranging from Mario to Lara Croft. Interactive exhibits about the history of video games include the world’s largest “Pong” and Super Nintendo controllers with buttons that are the size of an adult hand. Little-known gaming systems are displayed throughout. Collectible promotional items— stuffed dolls, hats, keychains, patches and even cereal boxes — fill display cabinets. And thanks to donated furniture from well-known game designer and producer Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Software, visitors can see a replica of his office.

Working in the museum is an amazing experience, one that I will remember for a lifetime. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring these classic games back to life.

UT Dallas Magazine
Spring 2016

UT Dallas Magazine cover Spring 2016

Read the UT Dallas Magazineonline or with the magazine’s iTunes app.

Unconventional Olympians: EMAC prof to present talk on media project

 

 

mecholympicsEMAC associate professor xtine burrough will present a talk for the Dallas Museum of Art’s Late Nights series on her Mechanical Olympics media project Aug. 19.

Launched in 2008, the Mechanical Olympics are a crowdsourced competition of athletic performances that reinterpret the Olympic Games as a series of amateur, hobbyist videos in competition for “likes” on YouTube.

“My initial intent for this project was to intervene on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website where anyone can perform the role of ‘Job Requestor’,” burrough said. “When I pose there as a requestor, I disrupt a virtual platform known for exploitative labor practices, and temporarily transform it into a mechanism for participatory art making.”

The videos have been purchased and collected from workers on Mechanical Turk, an online job board, and their efforts are submitted to burrough for inclusion into the series.

Burrough will also conduct a workshop and present a series of videos during her talk. Join her from 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. in the C3 Theater at the DMA.

xtine_preferredxtine is an associate professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at The University of Texas at Dallas.

 

Monitoring Digital Viruses Can Lead to Public Anxiety

 

kk-profile-picture-2013The perceived threat of a virus attacking a computer can keep users in a constant state of anxiety, according to Dr. Kim Knight, assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communication.

In her latest article, Knight contends that a preoccupation with living in a virus-free digital world affects how users behave online and offline.

Knight said that when people want to avoid a disaster — like a flu outbreak — from reoccurring, they try to identify and address all future scenarios to quash that possibility.

It’s a concept known as “premediation,” which was originated by new media scholar Richard Grusin as a way to explain social attitudes following the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent rise in security measures.

“I think Grusin would argue that premediation is a collective experience that has individual effects because it is so often prompted by media and the way it handles things,” Knight said. “The thing that’s most pernicious about premediation is not whether or not these predictions come true, it’s how it affects people’s behavior in the present.”

Knight studied the concept in the context of various epidemiological apps such as Google’s Flu Trends, FluNearYou and Sickweather, which track the spread of illness on a regional level using crowdsourced data from users or mentions of illness on social media.

While these digital tools exist to help mitigate anxieties over viruses, Knight said they can still be a source of “premediative” behavior. By constantly requiring new information and requesting updates from users, the software acts as a feedback loop, always reminding users of the possibility of infection.

“In the rhetoric used on their websites, these apps suggest that to be a good citizen is to report,” she said. “So, they position it as something very attractive; you’re joining a movement to take control of your own health. These sorts of arguments are very persuasive in making you feel like you’re doing something for the public good.”

Antivirus software works in a similar fashion; while the technology exists to stop the reproduction of computer viruses, users are still reminded of its presence through required updates and reminders.

For users who opt out of antivirus software, there is still a culture of required safe computer usage, she said.

“That anxiety becomes a persuasive mechanism to help people overcome what might be privacy concerns and other conflicts,” Knight said. “The idea that these apps prevent you from getting sick encourages you to share your location and to make these self-reports about your health, which can actually be inaccurate.”

Internet users and people who use illness tracking apps are threatened by the possibility of a virus, and they’re willing to share computing information with antiviral technologies to assuage their anxiety. Knight said this allows valuable data to be farmed by these technologies.

Because the user surrenders ownership, the data can and will be exploited, she said. For Knight personally, the minimal public health benefits do not outweigh the privacy concerns.

Read the entire article at electronic book review, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the arts, sciences and humanities through the lens of emerging digital media.