Reading Response 7

I really enjoyed Chapter 7. There's something about strangers coming together and creating art that's just so delightful and... endearing? I physically smile thinking about each of the 10,000 people who said "why not" and decided to draw a sheep for The Sheep Market (pg 374). We Feel Fine (pg 368) also reminded me of one of my favorite public art installations, called Before I Die, and got me thinking about what "the public" means in an online setting.

Who are the people who decide to play things like Leaf Trombone? How do they find out about it? Throughout Artful Design and in Kunwoo's talk, I've been learning about so many apps and online games that I'd never heard of before. It makes me notice how most of the online content I engage with is so shaped by what I'm already interested in and by my immediate social circle. I just follow links and search results - nothing appears in front of me. And so I end up seeing whatever is immediately useful, or what is "most relevant" based on algorithms that favor big corporations. So, in a similar way to how social media creates political echo chambers, maybe our increasingly online world will also mean that there are fewer opportunities to accidentally stumble upon art. (Unlike walking around in a city and stumbling upon a street performance.) I wonder what it could be like to use a search engine interspersed with surprise artsy links.

On the other hand, I've also being thinking about effective social design for "serious activities". Right now, I'm a CA for Design for Learning, a class that is working on projects for Code in Place - a global, online offering of Stanford's Intro to CS class. It's interesting to think about how courses can be designed like a social game. In a game like Leaf Trombone, there are many different ranks and levels of participation. In school, it's usually a bad thing to be a "low rank" in a class (i.e. to not do all the activities and assignments). But if you are taking a course for your personal learning and interest, why can't there be many different forms and levels of participation - all of which are positive? How can we normalize "doing poorly" while still providing supportive pathways for students to catch-up? And how can you create a sense of community in an online course of 10,000 students? Maybe one subtle approach to this could involve placing the students into groups of familiar strangers: if you have an open forum where students can work together on psets (Discord, for example) maybe you can display who is online in a particular order so that students see the same names pop up again and again.