Board Game Review: Risk

I have never really been interested in board games. Actually, when I think about it, I’m not really interested in any games, computational or physical. There is one game, however, that I have managed do develop and sustain a long-standing addiction to, and that game is Risk.

 

Put simply, the classic “World Domination RISK” is a game of military strategy. Your objective is to conquer the world. The board is set out like a simplified world map, consisting of six continents, and 42 countries, which players are aiming to overtake. The game’s manufacturer, Hasbro, defines the objective of Risk as being “To conquer the world by occupying every territory on the board, thus eliminating all your opponents”.

 

 

It sounds simple enough, but just like in real life, global conquest does not come easily. The game of world domination is actually very complicated and dynamic. Simple, yet complicated. Easy, yet hard. Frustrating, yet extremely popular. These characteristics have led to Risk gaining cult status within the board gaming community. Since being developed in 1957 by French film director Albert Lamorisse, the game has gone on to become one of the top 10 highest selling board games of all time

 

 

Part of the ecstasy (and agony) of Risk is that the game can be enjoyed with between 2-6 of your closest allies (or worst enemies). However, in my experience, the best battles occur when you are pinned against between 4-5 adversaries.  If too few players are partaking you lose out on some of the beautiful nuances of the game, such as declaring unofficial treaties with your adversaries in order to safeguard yourself from impending attack. The alliance strategy is one of the most interesting components of the game. This is because there are no rules protecting these informal agreements. There is something distinctly human about making an alliance with your fellow man, only to go back on your word once a better opportunity comes along. The potential to form (and break) alliances increase with the number of participants in the game, yet there are also drawbacks to having more players huddled around the map. One such drawback is that when you are playing with five other players the game can get very long. I have personally been involved in battles that have lasted over four hours! The sometimes elongated game time can add another layer of frustration to the volatile, relationship-testing masterpiece that is Risk.

As I was planning this review of Risk I set out to find some worthy foe’s to challenge me over a couple of Friday night beers. Unfortunately, my friends are no longer willing to take the risk, (pun, sorry) so there I was, alone on a Friday night, wondering how I was going to write a review for a game that I haven’t played in over 6 months. It then suddenly dawned on me that I have the “Risk: Global Domination” game app downloaded on my smartphone! Perfect.

 

I sat down, opened the app, and selected the ‘Global Domination’ game mode, which pins me against 3 computer-generated opponents. I could have chosen to play against other real people online, or there is a “pass-and-play” option so you can play with friends, but on this particular Friday, I was pretty comfortable with just beating on robots.

 

The game was essentially over before it started. Anyone who is familiar with Risk knows that once you have taken control of Australia, the game can often be won fairly quickly. I have played Risk many times before, and I knew that this hack would surely lead me to victory against the computer. It turned out to be frustratingly easy. After three turns I had conquered Australia. After six turns I had conquered Africa, and eliminated one of my three opponents. After fifteen turns, and about half an hour of my time, I had defeated all of the computer generated opponents and staked my claim as ruler of the world.

 

It was, however, a hollow victory. One of my favourite parts of the Risk board game is the interaction between players. The comradery and the hostility. The treaties and the antagonism. The way you can see what your opponent is thinking by the way they play their hand. These human elements were distinctly absent as I battled against computer generated opponents, and it made for a lackluster experience.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love Risk. It is my all time favourite game. I have spent countless hours battling against friends and family during Christmas holidays and weekends away. Some of the best arguments I’ve ever been privy to have come about after a few rolls of the Risk dice. What I have learned here though is that it takes two (or more) to tango, and I alone cannot facilitate an enjoyable Risk experience by sitting alone on a Friday night playing against a computer.

The End of the West

In October 2016, former Spanish Foreign Minister Javier Solana wrote an article for The New York Times, titled “The Decline of the West, and How to Stop It”. In this somewhat optimistically constructed op-ed, Mr. Solana asserts that “The West”, which he describes as The United States, Canada, and Much of Europe, (one could also include Australia) as having set an example for regional cooperation, and served as a mainstay for “the liberal world order” throughout the past seventy years. While Mr. Solana’s decision to assert the term ‘world order’ as a positive arrangement is slightly disturbing, it is perhaps his total ignorance toward both history, and contemporary environmental concerns, that is more troubling.

 

In the 21st century, it has become standard to view ‘The West” as being a set of individual nation-states which are banded together by free-trade agreements in the pursuit of the fantastic prosperity promised by unfitted neoliberal capitalism. In this sense we can view ‘The West’ as a sort of globalised empire, using power and wealth to create a transnational metropolis that exploits and conquers its less fortunate neighbors in the global south. For much of the twentieth century, this centralised model of conquest (and capitalism) has delivered unprecedented wealth to those in power, while at the same time delivering the greatest levels of inequality and concentration of wealth ever experienced by mankind.  (Saez & Zucman, 2016) Solana conveniently ignores the vast expanses of data available regarding the concentration of wealth. Perhaps more troubling though is that Solana ignores the history of empires, which tell us we have seen this all before – and that there is no stopping the decline.

 

When we look at the history of empires we can see striking similarities between previous examples throughout history and the modern transnational empire of ‘The West’. In his essay titled “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival” Sir John Glubb analyzed the lifecycle of empires, from the early pioneers to the pervasive consumers that become a burden unto themselves. (Glubb, 1978) He found remarkable similarities between them all, particularly the six ages of an empire. These six ages of civilisation are defined as the age of pioneers, the age of conquest, the age of commerce, the age of affluence, the age of intellect, and ending in finally the age of decadence. (Four Horsemen, 2013) Glubb also found that the lifecycle of an empire almost always lasts around 250 years (see table 1). We can see the six ages of an empire occurring in the Western Empire, except in this iteration we can see them occurring, in some instances, simultaneously. Most importantly though we can see that western civilization has now rapidly advanced to the age of decadence. There are certain characteristics that define the age of decadence, particularly the age of decadence, that defines he current empire.  An over-extended and undisciplined military, conspicuous displays of wealth, massive (and in this case unprecedented) disparity between rich and poor, a desire to rely upon the state, and an obsession with sex.

 

Exploitation of resources and a continued desire for expansion is the key characteristic that we must address, as it bears strong correlations with the age of decadence. These characteristics were evident in the Roman Empire, among others, and today we are seeing them in the Western Empire. (Fulford, 2010) In the Western Empire expansion is viewed primarily as the expansion of population, and the exploitation of resources. When the population of an empire grows, the economy must continue to expand in order to support it. We have seen the unprecedented population expansion throughout the course of the 20th century and in to the 21st. The global population has expanded from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion at the turn of the century, and to over 7 billion in 2017. (Kremer, 1993, U.S census bureau, 2017) At the same time the population in the Western Empire has expanded to over 900 million as of 2016. (Solana, 2016) This rapid expansion of population correlates with an ever-growing exploitation of resources.

 

Here we will use The United States as a primary example of the over-consumption and exploitation of resources by the west. “The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas”. (World Watch Institute, 2017) These troubling figures are unparalleled elsewhere in the world, although other western states do attempt to emulate the US model. Many rich European countries, including Canada, Australia, Brittan, and other wealthy European states, are responsible for the massive exploitation of resources. All of the above mentioned states are ranked within the top 25 top resource users on earth. (Pappas, 2012) This shows that the west is responsible for a large percentage of the world’s resource consumption. Perhaps this phenomenon is best described by reiterating that 20% of the global population uses 80% of its resources, consuming 30% more than the planet can regenerate. (The End of Poverty, 2008) The majority of the richest 20% percent of the earth’s inhabitants are found in living in Javier Solana’s idea of the Western civilization.

 

This information is not ground-breaking. In fact, it has been known to the west for many years, and to indigenous peoples for even longer. We are exploiting the earth’s natural resources as a exponential, and absolutely unsustainable rate. What is perhaps most troubling about these figures is our collective reluctance to change our behaviour. Many politicians and various people in power like to be seen to be implementing change, yet much of this is speak is little more than political hyperbole. For instance, President Obama’s decision to address the topic of “sustainable development” in 2015. (Obama, 2015) In deciding to counteract global inequality and poverty with ‘sustainable development’, Obama was essentially declaring his unwillingness to accept our fate and in turn propose necessary fundamental changes to our way of living. The term ‘sustainable development’ is central to this idea, because the term itself is an oxymoron. Development by it’s very nature is not conducive with sustainability practices. (Latouche, 2003) This idea that sustainable development is attainable is reminiscent of Javier Solana’s fantastic statement in his above-mentioned New York Times article that “For globalization to be politically sustainable, it must be more economically equitable. Measures like these would begin to persuade a critical mass of people at global, regional and national levels that they, too, can share in a new wave of prosperity”. Both Obama and Solana ignore (or are uneducated on) the impossibility of endless expansion and development from within an empire.  Rather than ignoring the inevitable negative environmental consequences of expansion and development, leaders in the west (currently US president Donald Trump) should be looking at implementing radical alternative ways of living, especially now that we have arguably reached the point in which the western empire has advanced to the age of decadence, and impending collapse.

 

The tributary empire has always been a flawed concept. It has proven itself time and time again to be unsustainable and self-defeating, yet today we seem stuck in a paradigm where the West has developed a sort-of transnational tributary system that has reincarnated the concept of an empire, but on a global scale. This is fundamentally important as the global reach of the western empire is unprecedented, and the impacts of the eventual demise will no doubt be profound. Unlike previous empires which have collapsed soon after arriving at the age of decadence, we now find ourselves in a paradigm in which we have firmly cemented ourselves in the age of decadence, but the impending tipping point may also prove to be the point of no return. Sustainable alternatives to the empire are being proposed and even implemented in some localized environments, however, it is yet to be seen whether even true sustainability can withstand the effects of a failing West in the modern world.

Mapping My Journey to Find E-waste in China

Over the past twelve weeks, I have been investigating the realities surrounding e-waste processing in China. I wrote a project statement several weeks ago which outlined my goals for the project and proposed my method for presenting any findings. In the previous post, I suggested that I would be creating a YouTube video. Since then I have been playing around with Google Maps API, a lot. Two weeks ago I began curating all of my findings for this project and I made the spontaneous decision to try and present my work as an interactive Google Map, rather than with the YouTube format that I had originally planned.

As this was my first real experience with JavaScript, or working with an API, I found the process extremely challenging, yet overwhelmingly enjoyable. This project ended up being a hybrid between a digital artifact and a coding exercise, yet I am somewhat pleased with the result. The map was created using a site called jsbin.com. I learned rather slowly that WordPress does not allow embedding from JSbin, so I was unable to embed the map on directly here on the site. Instead, please click the link below and check out my major digital artifact project for 2016.

The story begins at the icon labeled ‘A’ which is located in Wollongong.

Click Here.

A Reflection On Autoethnographic E-waste Musings

 

A couple of weeks ago I shared an autoethnographic post that detailed my initial thoughts and assumptions on the matter of e-waste. Since then I have given considerable thought to the topic and conducted some introductory research to help me better understand issues relating to e-waste. This follow-up post serves as a sort of reflection about my initial encounter. As was the case with the previous post, here I will employ autoethnographic methodology in order place myself squarely within the area of study.

I opened my previous account by noting that over the years I have routinely seen numerous electronic devices replaced by superior technology. My observation included a supposition that rapid advancements in technology is resulting in digital electronic devices becoming obsolete at an accelerated rate. After conducting some research, I have concluded that this assumption appears reasonable. The rates in which technology is being superseded can be explained by Gordon Moore, whose 1976 “Moore’s Law”correctly anticipated a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit in digital electronic devices. Advancements in digital electronics are strongly linked to Moore’s law: quality-adjusted microprocessor prices, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. Moore’s law indicates to me that devices are rapidly becoming obsolete because every two years’ as new devices are becoming available that are twice as powerful. As a side note, it as interesting to find that obsolescence isn’t limited to hardware. Evidence of software obsolescence is also widespread. For example, an obsolescence analysis of a GPS radio for a U.S Army helicopter found that a hardware change that required revising even a single line of code would result in a $2.5 million expense before the helicopter could be deemed safe for flight.

Moore’s law does help me to confirm that devices are becoming obsolete and to conceptualise the frequently at which it occurs, however, it has not provided me with a clear understanding of what happens to technological devices once they are replaced. My own experiences with disposing of obsolete electronic devices are varied. As stated in my previous post, I purchase a new mobile phone approximately every two years — once the previous model becomes obsolete. My old phones are currently laying idol in a draw attached to my bedside table. Until I began researching this topic I had made no plans whatsoever to dispose of these devices, nor have I considered replacing or repurposing them. I also upgrade my computer every 2-3 years. Unlike my old phones, I have previously thrown my old laptops away in the garbage bin. Never have I considered where the computer ends up after I throw it in the bin. If I had to guess I would imagine they all ended up in landfills. This, of course, is just my personal experience with discarding electronics. The issue of where technology goes to die in a broader sense is a rather complicated and interesting reality. I have sourced research that confirms my assumption that a lot of it ends up in China. In fact, China is both the world’s largest exporter of electronic goods and importer of waste electronic equipment. It is estimated that approximately 70% of the world’s e-waste is sent to China. According to official statistics, more than 40 million tons of e-waste was imported to China in 2010, with an industrial output value of around 36.3 billion AUD. The largest of all e-waste sites is located in southeast of the country, in the village of Guiyu, in Guangdong Province.

E-waste deposit in Guiyu, China.

China, and more specifically the Guangdong province, can aptly be named the home of e-waste. Confirming this assumption has raised more questions within me. Why is all this waste being sent to China? Is this practice legal? What happens once devices result in China?  I looked up Guangdong province on Google Maps and immediately realised something surprising: I have been there before! When I was fifteen I visited Shenzhen, Guangdong, with a friend and his father who resides in Hong Kong. I remember walking the streets of Shenzhen with my friend and his Father Craig, who, after living in Hong Kong for over a decade, had a good understanding Chinese culture. This was ten years ago but my memory of that experience is vivid. I recall being shocked by the insane level of poverty that I witnessed as we wondered the streets on our first night in the city. Beggars lined the sidewalks throughout Shenzhen and I remember my heart sinking as we passed a beggar woman laying in the street with a newborn baby. I had never experienced this level of poverty in Australia and I found it very confronting. I wanted to give the beggar woman and her child some money, but Craig warned me against such a gesture. I couldn’t see the harm in trying to help this poor woman so ignored his advice and tossed some coins in a hat that was placed next to the woman and her child. We continued walking down the street and after a minute I turned around and saw something that I will never forget: A large group of around fifty people, closing in on me, begging for money. The feeling was tense and we were forced to rush away to escape the hoards of people. It was a frightening experience but nonetheless an interesting initiation to the reality of poverty in China.

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Guangdong province, China. Highlighted are the areas of Shenzhen and Guiyu. Image credit: Google Maps

My experience with visiting Shenzhen, coupled with what I have read about e-waste, leads me to assume that poverty is a reason that many of the world’s discarded electronic devices end up in China. This will require further investigation but I am now very interested in gearing this project specifically towards understanding more about the correlations between poverty the culture of e-waste in Guangdong province. I still intend to look into the processes of planned obsolescence, as I discussed in my previous post, but for now, I will be focusing primarily on e-waste in Guangdong.

Autoethnographic Godzilla Experience

Digital Asia

Autoethnography: A term that I have not encountered before today. As I sit in front of the computer and try to decode this intimidating and foreign new word, whilst simultaneously resisting the urge to Google it, I notice the familiar term ‘ethnography’ jumps out at me. Ethnography: the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures. It’s starting to make a bit of sense, but what does the prefix ‘auto’ mean? Auto: self. Does Autoethnography mean the scientific description of myself and my culture? I’m not convinced, better look it up.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act. A researcher uses tenets of autobiography and ethnography to do and write autoethnography…

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Could This Country Really Be Immune to Climate Change?

 Original Article 

This paper focuses on the portrayal of climate science featured in a 2015 article by Australian journalist Emma Reynolds, titled ‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’. Reynolds article, published by prominent Australian news website News.com.au provides a speculative narrative by making suggestions about the potentially safest countries people could to relocate to once the “devastating effects” of climate change begin to destroy the potential for continued human civilisation in their current places of residence.

News.com.au is a strictly online publication that is operated by Australian media conglomerate, News Corp (News Corp Australia, 2016). The publication states that its content is either created or curated by the News.com.au team with additional material supplied by the broader News Corp Australia Network. (News, Corp Australia, 2016) The website is currently Australia’s most read online news publication, claiming a unique audience of 3.68 million people in November 2015 (Nielsen 2015). Material published on the site is primarily focused around “reporting of critical news events & the issues that get people talking” to a large Australian audience including “all people aged 25-54” as well as “baby boomers” (News Corp Australia, 2015). Science and Technology articles published by News.com.au, (which includes ‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’) are primarily aimed at an audience consisting of young, tech-literate Australians who are interested in reading about about “design, innovation and science in a cheeky and irreverent way.” (News Corp Australia, 2016)

‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’ is framed around the issue of climate change. The existence of climate change has continued to be perceived as controversial area of science in the mediasphere despite the consensus of its existence within the scientific community (Oreskes, 2004). The article immediately acknowledges scientific consensus by suggesting in the opening line “The devastating effects of climate change loom ever larger” (Reynolds, 2016). The article does accept climate change as standard science, however the commentary is framed more specifically around the controversial assertion that there will be a “safe place” to retreat to once the consequences of climate change are realised in reader’s current, unspecified location. The title itself makes the controversial assertion that “this country could be immune to climate change”. ‘Immunity’ suggests certain places will remain unaffected by climate change. This title is contradictory, considering the article itself cites declarations by director climate science at Columbia University James Hansen that state climate change will almost certainly result in melting ice caps, super storms and rising sea levels throughout the world. The same cited (via hyperlink) publication by James Hansen also suggests that along with rising sea levels, “numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems” will arise as a result of climate change (Hansen et. al, 2015). Nelkin (1995) illustrates that the quality of reporting on scientific risk varies, depending on the journalist’s ability to asses and interpret available technical information. The framing Reynolds article fails to compressively asses the technical information provided Dr. James Hansen surrounding global risks of climate change. The whole premise of Reynolds article is founded upon the controversial and seemingly unscientific assertion that certain areas earth can remain immune from the impending effects of climate change. This assertion undermines the complexity Dr. Hansen’s 2015 findings on risks associated with the impacts of climate change.

The journalist reports information in this article by employing the deficit model of science communication.  Nisbet (2009) suggests the deficit model is mass medias role of educating the lay public about issues of scientific controversy. The deficit model transmits information from the scientific community to the public with the goal of filling assumed deficits in knowledge. The deficit model assumes bringing readers up to speed on scientific issues will enable them to judge scientific issues the same way scientists do. (Nisbet, 2009) ‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’ aims to fill reader’s deficiencies in knowledge on climate science by transmitting scientific assertions about locations that may be less effected or, ‘immune’ from the impacts of a climate change. The goal is to inform readers about safe places to retreat as “The devastating effects of climate change loom ever larger”. The issue with employing the deficit model is that it assumes that facts speak for themselves and will be decoded by all consumers in the same way (Nisbet, 2009). This assumption unjustifiably assumes that all readers will gain an understanding of climate change science from reading Reynolds article. After 25+ years of research on public understanding of science based on the deficit model, the percentage of the public able to correctly answer scientific questions has not changed. The use of the deficit model by news.com.au to educate people on “Pre- disaster relocation plans” contradicts Ren & Zhai (2014) suggestion that the deficit model has historically failed to improve the science literacy level of lay citizens.

Along with employing the deficit model, the journalist utilises metaphor to persuade readers and create images about climate science. The purpose of metaphor is to familiarise readers with unfamiliar ideas, enabling it to be imagined as common-sense knowledge. (Moscovici, 1984) Use of metaphor is scripted when the author suggests that Switzerland’s elevated and landlocked geographical positioning will provide protection from rising sea levels and floods. Reynolds attempts to illustrate this point by likening Switzerland’s geographical location to “some modern-day version of Noah’s ark”. By providing a metaphor the author is attempting to help readers visualise the geographical positioning of Switzerland by associating it with the more common biblical image of Noah’s Ark. Metaphor plays an important role in the social construction of reality (St Clair, 2002). This suggests the writers use of metaphor may assist the reader to realise a concept. The concept of understanding through metaphor is contested by Brown (1997) who suggests that all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, is perspectival and therefore metaphorical. The metaphor is an epistemological tool for helping us understand reality. According to Brown (1977) “the key to understanding science involves an understanding of its metaphorical worlds”. By employing the non-scientific Noak’s Ark metaphor the journalist is limiting the reader’s ability to fully imagine the scientific metaphorical world.

Employing a Noak’s Ark metaphor is not the sole example of deficient scientific reporting displayed in this article. The journalist also states that “Switzerland could face debilitating floods and landslides” (Reynolds, 2016) as a result of climate change. This is a direct contradiction to the articles assertion that Switzerland’s “elevated position could keep us away from the floods”. Furthermore, Reynolds includes a quote from geologist Camilo Mora from the University of Hawaii which reads “The best place really is Alaska … Alaska is going to be the next Florida by the end of the century.” (Reynolds, 2016) This quote suggests that Alaska will be the ideal destination for people displaced from their homes by the effects of climate change. There are two deficiencies present in this quote. The first being that the quoted scientist is a geologist and is commenting on climate chance which is not a geologist’s field of scientific expertise. By quoting a geologist on climate the journalist is perpetuating the image of mass media misrepresenting science. Misrepresenting science ignores both the contingence of scientific knowledge and its social and political context. (Gregory et. al., 1998) The second deficiency is the suggestion that “Alaska is going be the next Florida by the end of the century” (Reynolds, 2016). This quote meets the journalist’s criteria for newsworthiness by employing sensationalism, unequivocal clearness and by being ‘up-to-date’ (Weingart, et. al. 2000). However, this also constitutes an example of the media translating scientific hypothesis into absolute certainty because the journalist reports that Alaska will, rather than stating, for example Alaska may. Weingart et al. (2000) suggests this use of language translates climate change into a concrete and relevant everyday experience and in turn, makes it more accessible to the public. Claiming that “Alaska will be the next Florida” is a sensationalist and simplistic narrative that undermines the uncertainty of climate science and by publishing the quote the journalist gives is giving inaccurate news a high news value (Weingart, et al. 2000).

The media are key elements in the mediation of the “relations of definition” (Beck, 1992) between science, the public and the political spheres. Despite this, the article does not explicitly or implicitly support any political agenda. In fact, the article does not acknowledge the political implications of climate change whatsoever. In contrast, The Guardian and most authors in The Independent conveyed an image of scientific knowledge that emphasized the risks associated to climate change (Carvalho, 2007). Both of these publications acknowledge the problem when reporting on climate change and demand stronger political intervention and by doing so provide stronger examples of scientific reporting.  Carvalho (2007) suggests that “By re-configuring the state of scientific knowledge in ways that justify and promote preferred courses of social, economic and political action, newspapers discursively construct fields of action and fields of inaction (Carvalho,2007) By failing to acknowledge the political sphere the journalist is failing to help construct a realistic course of action on climate change.

In conclusion, ‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’ constitutes an overwhelmingly deficient, speculative example of science communication. The premise of the article is founded upon the unwarranted assertion that certain areas may remain immune from the impacts of climate change. The article ignores and oversimplifies realities surrounding the effects of climate change and the effectiveness of the article is also undermined by deficit model science framing. The proposition of the article is founded upon the controversial and seemingly baseless assertion that certain areas earth can remain immune from the impending effects of climate change. This assertion undermines the complexity of scientific findings that state the risks associated with climate change. The journalist also relies on inappropriate use of metaphor to create meaning in the article which hinders readers’ abilities to accurately imagine the scientific theory behind climate change. Furthermore, the journalist attempts to translate scientific hypothesis into concrete evidence in order to create newsworthiness, thus undermining the credibility of the story. The ignorance towards the political implications of climate change which hinders the publications ability to discursively assist in the construct fields of realistic action on climate change and leads to an unbalanced representation of science. Due to the various factors listed above, Reynolds attempt at science communication in ‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’ can be considered a poor quality, sensationalist and a misleading example of science communication.

References

Beck, U 1992. Risk society: Towards a new modernity Vol. 17, Sage, London, p. 12

Brown, RH 1977, ‘A Poetics for Sociology: Towards Logic of Discovery for the Human Sciences. Cambridge University Press, ’Cambridge, p.10

Carvalho, A 2007, ‘Ideological Culture and Media Discourses on Scientific Knowledge: Re-reading News on Climate Change’, Public Understanding of Science, vol. 16, no. 2, pp.223-243.

Gregory, J & Miller, S 1998, ‘Media issues in the public understanding of science’, Science in public: communication, culture, and credibility, Plenum Trade, New York, pp. 104-131.

Hansen, J, Sato, M, Hearty, P, Ruedy, R, Kelley, M, Masson-Delmotte, V, Russell, G, Tselioudis, G, Cao, J, Rignot, E and Velicogna, I 2015. ‘Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2◦ C global warming is highly dangerous.’, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, vol.15, no.14, pp.20059-20179.

Moscovici, S 1984, ‘The Phenomenon of Social Representations.’ In RM Farr & S Moscovici (eds) Social Representations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 3–69

Nelkin, D 1995, ‘Constraints of the Journalistic Trade’, in Selling Science: How the Press Covers Science and Technology, W.H Freeman, New York, pp. 101-123.

News Corp Australia 2016, ‘News.com.au Verticals’, accessed 09/04/16, < http://www.newscorpaustralia.com/brand/newscomau&gt;

Nielson 2015, ‘News and Economy Top of Mind for Digital Australians’ accessed 09/05/16, < http://www.nielsen.com/au/en/press-room/2015/nielsen-online-news-rankings-june2015.html&gt;

Nisbet, MC 2009, ‘Framing Science: A New Paradigm in Public Engagement’, in Kahlor, L & Stout, P (eds.) Communicating Science: New Agendas in Communication, Taylor & Francis, Abingdon, pp.40-41.

Oreskes, N 2004, ‘The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change’, Science, vol.306, no.5702, p1686.

Ren, F & Zhai, J 2014, Communication and popularization of science and technology in China, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, p142.

Reynolds, E 2016, ‘Pack Your Bags: This Country Could Be Immune to Climate Change’, News.com.au, 5 August, accessed 06/04/16, <http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/pack-your-bags-this-country-could-be-immune-to-climate-change/news-story/8247bfa4bcad6ff51123a06fa48b934c&gt;

St. Clair, RN 2002,’ The Major Metaphors of European Thought: Growth, Game, Language, Drama, Machine.’ in Time and Space. The Edwin Mellen Press, New York. Pp. 1-7.

Weingart, P, Engels, A & Pansegrau, P 2000, ‘Risks of communication: discourses on climate change in science, politics, and the mass media’. Public understanding of science, vol. 9 no.3, pp.261-283.

BCM210 Research Proposal: Connected Learning

A 2013 opinion piece in The Australian newspaper titled “students hate group assignments” makes the blanket claim of discontent amongst students when it comes to engaging in group work exercises in university settings.

As a university student I have mixed experiences with group work.  I have encountered positive group work situations where having multiple perspectives and skill sets engaging in a subject enable me to gain a deep understanding of topics and produce high quality projects. Issues have arisen in other group work situations due to the varied objectives and conflicting schedules of group members becoming challenging obstacles. Frustrations arising due to lack group cohesion is another common issue. The most productive group projects I have been involved in are those in which the group manages to overcome such obstacles and communicate fluently. Upon reflection I have noticed that Employing digital media technologies such as Google Docs and Facebook to share ideas and collaborate has been a major contributor to my positive group work experiences. Digital media technologies have previously enabled my groups to communicate cohesively which has enabled issues such as time restraints to be resolved and led to more efficient collaboration and productive group learning environments.

I am curious about the claims made in The Australian article mentioned above and I will conduct research to determine the experiences of students in group learning practices.  The purpose of this research is to develop an understanding of how Communications and Media students view the group work experience at UOW. In addition, I aim to uncover student’s experiences and positions towards the use of digital media technologies in group work projects.  The data collected will aim to refine our current understanding of students experiences with group learning and the use of digital media technologies in collaborative learning projects.

My initial research into the topic of group work found there is a wealth empirical and theoretical research that overwhelmingly supports the worth of group work for “increased learning and development of higher-order cognitive skills”. This implies that group work is an important part of the university education experience as it strengthens students critical thinking and problem solving abilities (Hillyard, Gillespie, and Littig, 2010).

Further investigation also uncovered a study conducted on the use of digital communication technologies (namely Facebook) and how online social networking can affect university students’ learning outcomes. Qualitative data collected from focus group discussion among university students in the United States found that online communication applications can potentially be utilised for education, especially when the higher education institutions emphasise student-centered learning (Tian, Yu, Vogel and Kwok, 2011).

The impact of digital communications technologies in group learning is a concept that is being studied by Laura Gogia from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in The United States. A dissertation written by Dr. Gogia found that connected learning with the use of digital communication technologies can make academic relevance explicit, and increase opportunities for interest-driven learning and expose students to different perspectives. Dr Gogia also suggests that, connected learning also offers opportunities for collective knowledge building.

This research indicates that group work is an important part of the university learning experience and that communications technologies can play a role in student outcomes. The work of Dr Gogia and VCU suggests that connected learning has benefits and can help students to “embrace the existence of multiple perspectives and generate creative solutions.” These narratives suggest that it is important to gain an understanding of students experiences with group work and digital media technology at The University of Wollongong so we can identify  the ways in which these technologies are being/ can be implemented in learning practices.

Research methods for this project will consist of collecting quantative data in the form of surveys devised to collect information from the students in my cohort and their experience with group work and the use of digital media technologies in group work setting. I will summate the results of the data I collect to assess trends in the experiences and knowledge of students to form a hypothesis and epistemological proposition about the nature of applying digital media technologies to collaborative work projects.

Reference:

Tian, S.W., Yu, A.Y., Vogel, D. and Kwok, R.C.W., 2011. The impact of online social networking on learning: a social integration perspective. International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp.264-280.

Hillyard, C., Gillespie, D. and Littig, P., 2010. University students’ attitudes about learning in small groups after frequent participation. Active Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 11, no., pp.9-20.