Better late than never :Vikings Documentry

I have been meaning to make this post for a very long time but better late than never I suppose.  Back in January, as part of my research I came across a very interesting Vikings documentary on one of the BBC channels, it was broadcast in the early hours of the morning and I more or less come across it by chance.  The documentary was the third of a three part series and I was a bit gutted to have missed the first two episodes but since then I have managed to find two of them on YouTube and I thought I would post them below:

Although these documentaries are not perfect for my target audience, I would love to be able to add high quality video like this from the great locations visited but presented in a more child friendly manner.  Unfortunately, I do not have the financial resources to visit these places, nor do I have the finances or technical skill to produce videos of this quality on my own.  I feel that it would definitely not be worth adding sub standard video to the app, so unfortunately my app will not be featuring any video but it would have been a nice addition.

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Viking Burial

Image

As part of the Viking beliefs section of my application, I explain what Vikings believed in regarding death.  I explain how it was a Viking tradition to bury some people in their boats, alongside some of their belongings and their favourite things.  Below is a mood board and the imagery that I created for my application.

viking_burial_mood_board

burial_boat

Creating the Creatures of Vikings Belief

As with the Viking gods I have been able to operate under a rather substantial amount of artistic licence in my representations of the creatures that Vikings believed in.

Vikings believed that there were nine worlds connected by the ash tree yggdrasill.  Each world was home to its own inhabitants and Vikings told many stories featuring these (as far as I know) fictional beings.  See my mood board and representation of the map of yggdrasill and the nine worlds below:

My artwork once again is based upon written descriptions and pre-existing visual representations of the creatures in question.

Below are my mood boards and visual creations, alongside some of the reasoning for my creative decisions.

Giants 

Giants or Jötunn’s as the Vikings called them, were very big and strong.  They ate animals and fish because they lived in the world Jotunheim.  I decided to keep my giants very similar to humans, just bigger but I have given my giant big ears as a fond reflection of a favourite childhood story of mine, Roahl Dahl’s ‘BFG’, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

giants-mood-board

giant

Dark Elves

Dark Elves were ugly, tricky creatures who lived underground and liked to cause problems for humans.  Due to living underground my elves are pale skinned and I have tried to capture their mischievous essence in my drawing but whether or not I have succeeded is open to the interpretation of the viewer.

dark-elves-mood-board

dark_elf

Light Elves

Light Elves were considered to be like “angels” by the Vikings, they were beautiful creatures who inspired music and art.  I have tried to make my light elf similar to my dark elf, in order to see the connection that they are both elves but I have given my light elf  a skin tone that is more reflective of somebody who lives above ground and I have dressed him in a more elegant manor.

light-elves-mood-board

light_elf

Ogres

Ogres were large, monstrous creatures; the Vikings thought they were nasty, strong and dangerous beings who would kill and eat people.  I have created my ogre to look dangerous and grotesque, with a large belly to show that he is capable of consuming a person.

ogre_mood_board

ogre

Dwarfs

Dwarfs were small with oddly shaped bodies, they lived under the ground in the world of Nidavellir. Dwarfs were very good at making things out of metal. I have created a small person with a body shape that is similar to people who have the medical condition dwarfism, as I believe this mythical creature is probably derived from a misunderstanding of people who suffer this condition.  In Viking myths, dwarfs are skilled metal workers which I have tried to display in my drawing, through the characters decorated armour and weapons.

dwarfs-mood-board

dwarf_01

Sea Serpents

Sea serpents were giant monsters that the Vikings believed lived in the sea.  My sea serpent is based on the traditional depiction of a long, snake like dragon creature that lives in the sea.

sea-serpents-mood-board

sea_serpent

Below is a video of this section from within the application.

Creating Asgard and the Æsir

Recently, I have been working on the Viking beliefs section of my application.  As part of this segment I shall be delivering information about the Viking’s religious beliefs; the Vikings had their own pagan religion.

To accompany the written information about the Norse gods I have created some images.  Nobody knows for certain if these beings exist and to the best of my knowledge nobody has met one or even better taken a picture that I can base my artwork on, so a certain amount of artistic licence can be afforded in the production of my designs.  I have been producing imagery based upon my research and previously produced media featuring the individual’s deities in question.  The main sources of information regarding these beings are the old Norse written accounts, featured within writings such as the Saga’s and stories depicted on Rune stones and within other carvings from the Viking period.

I started by researching the home of the Viking gods, followed by the creation of a mood board (see below).

ASGARD_MOOD_BOARD

How do you design the mythical kingdom of an ancient race of gods?  To answer that quest ion I began researching Asgard, in order to identify any identifying features of that realm that would hopefully inform my design.  My research indicated two main areas that I felt would be important in my depiction of Asgard and those were:

Vallhalla

Vallhalla is a great hall where fallen Viking warriors go to feast after their death, until they are called upon by Odin to battle again at Ragnarok .

In front of Vallhalla stands the golden tree Glasir.  The hall’s ceiling is described as being thatched and adorned with golden shields and spears.  Valhalla is the home to some creatures, such as the stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún amongst others.

See my Vallhalla below:

valhalla

Bifrost – The Rainbow bridge

The rainbow bridge is an important identifying feature of Asgard but I have also used the fact that the route to the realm of the gods is a something that is seen in the sky, as the logic to set Asgarde floating above the clouds in the sky but out of view of those below.

The rest of my production was open to a lot of artistic licence but I tried to base my design on things that the Vikings may have encountered in their lives.  As we know the Vikings where intrepid travellers, who will have seen different forms of architecture in many different countries but there is a constant in most societies.  Castles and palaces have been built around the world to house those who are considered or consider themselves to be of importance.

I tried to base my art work upon a castle structure, constructed from materials known to the Vikings like stone and wood, the roofing is based upon precious metals like copper and gold.  I have set my castle structure upon a floating mountainous island, that floats amongst the clouds connected to Midgard via a rainbow bridge. See Asgard Below:

asgarde_02

The Menu

To access information about the individual Viking gods, I have created an interface that features a bottom up menu that auto hides to create more space for the information on the screen.  The menu background is based upon Viking carvings and the buttons are framed headshots of each god with their name displayed on a scroll (see below).

gods_menu_bg

btn_god_balder btn_god_loki btn_god_odin btn_god_sif btn_god_thor

 

 

 

 

 

 

To create the Viking gods, I once again researched each individual god and created visual mood boards of pre-existing imagery.

Below you can see my mood boards and my interpretive creations.

Odin

Odin is described differently depending upon whether he is in Asgard or in Midgard.

One important distinguishing feature of Odin is that he only has one eye, due to him sacrificing the other to drink from the fountain of wisdom.

The descriptions of Odin whilst travelling in Midgard, are believed to have heavily influenced the descriptions of Gandalph the wizard in J.R Toilkin’s, Lord of The Rings and this is evident in mine and other people’s representations of both characters/beings as you can see below:

odin_mood_board

Viking_god_odin_earth

Viking_god_odin

Frigg

Frigg was Odin’s wife and the queen of Asgard, she was the goddess of marriage and motherhood. Frigg is often depicted as wearing blue which is something I carried into my depiction, see below:

frigg-mood-boardfrigg

Thor

Thor is the Norse god of thunder, strength and war.  Whilst creating Thor I felt it was very important to stick to the written descriptive accounts, where he is described as a mighty warrior with great strength, red hair and a beard.  I tried to include his three main weapons:

  • Megingjörð – a magic belt that doubled his strength.
  • Járngreipr – a pair of iron gloves that were needed to handle Mjölnir.
  • Mjölnir – the mighty hammer that could crush mountains and create lighting flashes across the sky.

Many people may not know of the written description of this deity, due to the Marvel comics character Thor created by Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby.  Marvel’s Thor is based upon the Norse legend but the character’s visual appearance is different to the recorded accounts, as he has long blonde hair and the only weapon he carries is Mjolnir the mighty hammer. It is hard competing against such popular incarnations but as I mentioned earlier nobody has seen the supposed entity in question, so any visual creation is open to interpretations, that ultimately cannot be wrong or right with no accurate visual record existing.

Below you can see my mood boards and my interpretive creations.

Thor_mood_board

viking_god_Thor

Sif

Sif is Thors wife and most depictions feature her adorned in blue clothing, which I have also done.  The main description that stands out in my research of Sif is her long golden hair, which I have tried to incorporate into my imagery see below:

sif_mood_board

Viking_goddess_sif

Loki

Loki is considered to be a Norse god although his parents were actually giants.

Loki is known as the Norse god of mischief.  He is a trickster with magical powers who is often naughty, causing problems for the other gods which is why I have based my design upon a jester, which also is a theme in older imagery of Loki.

Loki is often described as being handsome but he is a shape shifter, so he can change the way he looks.  He appears in the form of men, women and animals and to show this I have created a simple shape shifting animation, that you can see below:

loki_mood_board

viking_god_loki

Balder

Balder is often described as being very popular amongst the other gods, due to his invulnerability and his good looks.  This is something that I have tried to capture in my imagery, see below:

balder_mood_board

viking_god_balder

Below you can see a short video of my completed ‘Viking Gods’ information section:

In order to make best use of my time, for university grading times and constraints, I have not as yet included or produced imagery and information based on every god but I feel I have produced enough to provide a strong indication of how this part of the application will look and operate.  If time permits I will add more to this section before the end of the project.

Communicating visually

My master’s enquiry revolves around the best way of communicating information via my medium of choice, which is a digital application for the iPad.  Illustration is an ancient method of communication.  It is just as relevant today in a world dominated by new media, as it was when the first illustrations were produced.

What is illustration?

On his website Wigan’s World, Mark Wigan is described as an “International artist, illustrator and writer” Wigan’s World, no publication date, http://www.wigansworld.moonfruit.com/

Wigan has exhibited all over the world and he has authored a number of books on illustration and creative thinking.  In Wigan’s book The Visual Dictionary of Illustration, Wigan (2009: p9) offers a description of the function of illustrations:

Illustrations visually communicate content for reproduction in imaginative, distinctive, and highly personal ways while solving problems, decorating, entertaining, adorning, commenting, informing, inspiring, explaining, educating, provoking, beguiling, enchanting and storytelling.”

He goes on to further describe the importance of illustrations, “it is also a vital dynamic and contemporary means of expression, interpretation and communication which conveys ideas and messages with compelling imagery created in any media” (Wigan, 2009: p9)

As Wigan describes, illustration has a number of purposes and within my application I have used illustration in a number of ways.

The image below shows how I have used illustration to decorate, adorn, inform and communicate.

illustration_examples

Illustration example

  1. Illuminated Letter

My illuminated letters are an example of illustration. To find out more about my use of illumined letters (see here)

  1. Border

The patterned border is used to frame the content part of the application, drawing the attention inwards. The pattern is based upon Viking symbols.

  1. Content Border

This border is used to separate the map from the text.

  1. Map

Maps are a form of illustration drawn to represent geographical locations.

  1. Button Rim

The rim of the button has been illustrated to resemble the metal rim of a Viking shield, to tie the navigation into the thematic design.

  1. Current Button Marker

This is an illustration used to show the user which is the current part of the application.

  1. Illustrated Background Featuring Symbols

This thematic background features illustrations relevant to the Vikings and their beliefs; its purpose is to decorate whilst also informing the user of the nature of the applications theme.

Illustration has been around for a very long time; early examples of illustration are cave paintings and hieroglyphics.

Wigan (2006: p30) discusses both of these early forms of communicative illustration, starting with cave paintings he says:

The earliest surviving examples of this art form can be found in Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain. These cave drawings date from c. 12,000 BC. Pre-dating written language, the exact function of these sophisticated drawings remains a mystery. Although their purpose could be religious or ritualistic, these hunting scenes demonstrate the primal need to communicate and to draw from life. Stylised conversions have always been employed in drawing.”

It is interesting to think that so early in human evolution, man developed not only the skill and materials needed to create illustrations but they had the creative ability to unknowingly develop an effective communication medium that is still widely used today.  We do not know exactly what they were trying to communicate, or why they did it and we definitely do not know if it was effective for the purpose they desired but we do know that this innovation has become an effective communication tool, which has developed throughout the ages.  Egyptian hieroglyphics are another example of illustrative communication employed by Ancient civilisations, Wigan (2006: P30) discusses Egyptian hieroglyphics, saying:

The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics integrated phonetic and pictographic signs with both abstract and observational drawing. Colour was used symbolically, heads were depicted in profile, torsos were viewed from the front and legs in three-quarter view (examples include illustrated scrolls such as the Book of the Dead and the Ramessseum Papyrus). Symbolic conventions are evident in the diagrammatic drawing of Mesopotamia and in the use of space, colour and visual hierarchy in Islamic art

Wigan describes “Symbolic conventions” that are evident in Egyptian hieroglyphics, “Symbolic conventions” and designed symbols have become an important part of communicating through illustration.

Symbology” is the study of symbols.  The function of a symbol is to communicate a relevant meaning.  A symbol can be an artefact or illustration that represents, suggests and communicates an idea, a process or a physical entity.

Illustrative symbols come in many forms, one of the most common is written language.  There are many types of written language but essentially they are all systems of communicating visually, through illustrative symbols that have been assigned some sort of applicable meaning and when combined they are given further meanings.  The free dictionary provides the definition of written language:

written language – communication by means of written symbols (either printed or handwritten)”   The Free Dictionary, (2013) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/written+language

Oregon State University offers a similar explanation of written language that describes the historical and technological importance of this communication medium:

Writing is the visual representation of language through the use of an established selection of markings. As a means of communicating ideas and storing information, written language is the single most important and far-reaching technology available to humans and has served as the foundation for virtually all other information technologies from early etchings in clay to the world of digital access that we enjoy today.”  Oregon State University Library, no publication date, http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/specialcollections/omeka/exhibits/show/mcdonald/writing/significance

Another great example of illustrative communication through symbols would be the Arrow.  The arrow as a symbol can indicate direction or point to a specific place or item.  Colours can also be symbolic, to many people green may be a colour that indicates a start or movement i.e. a green traffic light indicates that it is time for a driver to go but green can also be used as a symbol of freshness amongst others. Red is a colour that is often used to symbolise the notion of stopping, as used in traffic lights but red also indicates anger, or in china it is a colour that symbolises good fortune.  This is the problem with all symbolic communication; all communication requires an understanding between the communicator and the audience, if either party does not understand the intended meaning of the communication being delivered, there will be a communication breakdown.

Gaur (1992: p14) says:

In the case of writing, the information is stored mechanically, on an independent object, and can be retrieved and used at anytime, in any place (in the case of moveable objects such as books etc.) by all those who are able to consult and decode it.”

It is vitally important when communicating any information illustrative or otherwise, that the deliverer understands the audience that he/she is attempting to communicate with, so the information can be delivered in a way that can be decoded by the audience it is intended for.  Knowing your audience is vital to ensuring communicative success.

Although written text may actually be an example of an illustrative communication form, it has become a medium within its own right.  The written form offers its own problems though, one of which is described above; it must be decoded by the reader and unlike some other written languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics (which used more visual symbols that related to specific artefacts, places or ideas e.g. an illustration of the sun actually represents the sun), the English written language featured in my application, is based upon phonic sounds found in the spoken English language and this requires a more substantial understanding of the code required in order to decipher the information.

Due to this problem with the written form of communication, illustrations separate from the text can be used to try and communicate information, in a way that the audience can understand through a different deciphering process.  An illustration of a man walking across a road may be easier for some people to understand, rather than just a piece of text that say’s “A man is crossing the road”.

Illustration has been central in the provision of visual communication for a long time, Wigan (2006: p88) explains the important role that image has played over the years:

Pictures have always been used to tell stories. An early precursor of sequential and narrative illustration is the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, which contains a linear narrative depicting the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Another great example is Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

He also believes that image has improved the experience provided by mediums such as print, that previously may have relied upon text as their only form of communication:

Many great works of literature have been interpreted and enhanced by pictures; there have been wonderful combinations in history including Delacroix’s drawings for Goethe’s Faust, Tenniel’s interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s books and George Cruikshank’s illustrations for Dickens.”  (Wigan, 2006: p.88)

I agree totally with Wigan’s appraisal of the role that illustration has played in the development of print media.  Illustration has provided not only an alternative form of communication but text and illustration combined provide a strengthening of the communicative process that underpins information delivery, or as Wigan (2006: p88) puts it “Illustrators have shed light on and elucidated literature”.

Children’s literature is a genre that specifically is enhanced by illustration.  Illustration not only provides the possibility for colour and decoration but children are almost certainly the target audience that needs alternative forms of communicative media. Children are in the process of learning about the world far more so than adults, as they have less experience to have formed preconceived knowledgeable experience from and in many cases, children will not have developed a level of understanding of the written language needed to express all of the desired concepts or ideas.

The illustration of children’s literature is the closest genre in my estimation to that of my application.  Wigan (2006: p88) describes the practice “The illustration of children’s literature covers a number of areas from pop up, novelty, information and educational books to illustrated fiction and picture books. Often childrens books are both illustrated and written by the same person.

Wigan (2006: p88) also describes the need for understanding your target audience in relation to the information you wish to convey “Visual narratives need to contain a fluid union of words and images paced throughout the story and it is also important to bear in mind the target age group and the particular function of your book, e.g. entertainment or educational.

Wigan also describes the need for not only knowing your audience and their possible needs but the need to have an understanding of the function of your book, or in my case application.  The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children featured an article entitled ‘Playgrounds for the Mind‘, the author Wendy Lukehart (2010: p33) discusses the functionality of children’s picture books saying:

How do picturebooks work—particularly those of the last decade? There is a fundamental issue at the very heart of this matter, raised by David Lewis in Reading Contemporary Picturebooks. He asked, “If words and pictures are different, what difference does the difference make?”

By examining how picture books work Lukehart seems to be addressing the issue I was discussing earlier, text and illustrations communicate information in different ways.  Lukehart (2010: p33) delves further into this question “This leads one to consider all manner of related ideas. What do words do that pictures cannot, and vice versa? What effect do words and pictures have on each other?”

Wigan (2007: p6) discusses both forms of communication and how they can relate to each other :

Text and image are two forms of representation; two visual signs that can integrate and reinforce one another to communicate messages, emotions, ideas or visual commentary. Words and pictures can be employed to challenge one another, separating and countering meaning; text subverting the image and vice versa.”

Essentially as I described earlier when discussing Symbology, text and image are very similar methods of communication, a very similar field to Symbology is Semiotics, the free online dictionary provides this definition of Semiotics “The theory and study of signs and symbols, especially as elements of language or other systems of communication, and comprising semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics.”

The Free Dictionary, (2013) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/semiotics

In his paper ‘Revisiting the Relationships Between Text and Pictures’ Lawrence Sipe (2012: p5) describes both forms of communication from a semiotic point of view:

From a semiotic point of view, we can conceptualize these two languages as systems of ‘‘signs.’’ For semioticians, everything and anything can function as sign; in picturebooks, the two most obvious sign systems are the words and the pictures, though within each of these broad sign systems, there are clearly sub-sign systems. For example, within the sign system of visual images, there is the sign system of colors, where different colors may be associated with different emotions or feelings.”

Sipe believes that the easiest and most natural way to examine the relationship between word and text is to draw on metaphors.  The free dictionary defines a metaphor as “A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world’s a stage” (Shakespeare).” The Free Dictionary, (2013) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/metaphor

Sipe (2012: p5-6) explains how metaphors are implicit to the relationship between text and imagery:

We can hardly avoid metaphors when writing about word–picture relationships (or anything else, for that matter). Simply to say, for example, that pictures and words ‘‘work’’ together in various ways is already to be drawn into metaphorical thinking: if there is work involved, it is clearly not between words and pictures, but in the reader/viewer’s mind, and it is the mental processes involved that constitute the work

Sipe discusses a number of artistic and scientific metaphors used to describe the relationship between text and image.  There were two metaphors that I particularly correlated with the first is below:

Another of the arts that writers draw upon in discussing the relation of words and pictures is drama. Wyile (2006) provides an extended metaphor using the idea of a picturebook as a play The words in a picture book are like the script of a play. In both cases the facts and clues of characters’ feelings are not usually explained because the pictures or the actors can express them much better…The words in a picturebook come alive in relation to the pictures, as they do in relation to the action in a play. The effectiveness of words is related to their placement on the page in conjunction with the placement of the pictures, which is a form of artistic direction like the elements of direction and blocking in a play. The narrative tension is further created and/or enhanced by the pace of the production that is set by the timing of action, lighting, and sound effects in a play and by the combination of page layout and page turn in a picture book—typically the words pull us forward because we can read them faster and the pictures hold us back as our eyes scan for details (see Nodelman, ‘How Picture Books Work’) (p. 177).” (Sipe, 2012: p6-7)

I can see how the placement of each is important but the thing that I realise most is that in my application I have tended to keep text and imagery as two separate items, my main body of text is almost a narration to events depicted in my imagery, the only times I have combined text and image directly is as speech, as part of a narrative or as instruction.

The Second metaphor I was drawn to was:

Curley (2007) compares the word–picture relationship to the Victorian invention called the stereopticon: ‘‘when focused, an image leaps from flatness into startling depth. It takes two camera lenses, set at slightly different angles, to create this magic. Now imagine an artist and a writer. Like the lenses of the stereopticon, they focus, from individual vantage points, on a narrative’’ (p. 7). In this metaphor, Curley emphasizes the different ‘‘vantage points’’ that words and pictures may take on a narrative, as well as the ability of the combination of words and pictures to create a more profound representation of literary reality as three-dimensional: more interesting, more complex, more nuanced.” (Curley, cited in Sipe, 2012: p8)

This description is one that I can also describe through my own metaphor, In the numerous children’s science fiction literature there are examples of individuals combining their powers for the greater good, to create a more powerful entity or force, and this is what I am seeing in my mind’s eye as read the above statement, the powers of text and image are combining to create a more powerful form of communication through a balanced relationship that does not depreciate the value of the meaning contained within the individual items but instead helps support and solidify the intended messages.

For me and my application, I have further considerations to those of text and illustration when it comes to communicating visually.  I consider my application to be similar to a children’s book but the medium in which I am working has different possibilities and considerations.

Lukehart (2010: p33) poses this question “Then there is the digital realm. At what point will visual electronic storytelling make us ask, “Is it really even a book?”

My answer to this question in relation to my application would be “no it is not a book” but it is an evolution of the children’s educational book genre, delivered using the benefits of digital technology.  The main differences between my application in comparison to a book are the technological possibilities afforded by the format, these include the ability to add animation, interaction, audio and video, my application is an example of digital multimedia.

Multimedia devices allow for the creation of software like my application that takes advantage of the technological capabilities and possibilities, in order to evolve and improve the communication of information.  The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (p32) describes what multimedia is and how it can benefit the communication of educational information:

The most common buzzword used in education is Multimedia, which is the integration of text, audio, video, graphics and animation into a single medium. Instructional multimedia is the integration of various forms of media in the instructional process. It is the technology that combines print, radio, television, animation, photographs, and other forms of illustration. Integration of different media multiplies the impact of a message.”

In the past, multimedia capable devices have not always been used to their full potential.  Media designers and producers are often creating media that does not take advantage of the technological capabilities, Lukehart (2010: p34) explains “For the latter, even with the introduction of iPhone apps, the titles were mostly what Scott McCloud calls “repurposed print”—scanned books, their electronic pages turning, often with sound and a little movement.”

Multimedia has the potential to do so much more than simply reproducing traditional media in a digital form, it is a field that can make real changes to educational information delivery but it is not a case of just using the technological possibilities because they are available; careful consideration is needed as to what technologies will enhance learning in a specific situation, the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (p37) believes:

It is important to match the learning objectives and decide the media to synchronize the design and learning from it. Each media can offer either the whole or part of the content with or without referring to one another. For example, dissection of a frog can be shown through animation and also through a video programme. But as multimedia offers interactivity, learners can actually feel the dissection if it is animated and the multimedia programme runs like an actual dissection.”

Making decisions about the best way to deliver educational information using multimedia requires knowledge of educational theory and technological possibilities combined with skills to produce the desired content.

Combining the different mediums also needs to be done in a way that makes sense to the user, otherwise the user may be left not knowing what the product is, Lukehart provides an example:

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Nick Wingfield critiqued an electronic picturebook, saying, “This app can’t decide whether it’s a book, a movie, or a game.”” (Wingfield cited in Lukehart, 2010: p34)

I would suggest the “electronic picturebook” that Wingfield is critiquing possibly has tried to just add multimedia to a traditional media design, without the careful consideration for each element and its purpose.  We are dealing with new media here and as yet people are still experimenting with the new possibilities, trying to find the most effective way to deliver their information or story.  This is why I have been investigating pedagogical theory, Gamification and other areas in search of the knowledge required to make informed decisions, not trying to emulate traditional media but trying to create something new.  Wingfield believes that approaches like mine are the path to better products that make the best use of digital technology, Lukehart (2010: p34) discusses Wingfield saying “He wagers that the best book apps will be built from the ground up, taking full advantage of the digital environment.”

My research into visual language is part of my process of investigation into the most appropriate methods of educational delivery using digital technology.  I focussed earlier on the practice of illustration, which is a field that has been a major part of traditional media production for a very long time and there are those who believe that illustration may be a practice which will be lost during the evolution towards digital technology.  During the ICON 6 illustration conference, questions were raised regarding the future of illustration, Michael Dooley describes some of the debate saying:

“A variety of controversial notions were proposed, such replacing the term “illustrator” with something more, um, appropriate to the times and blaming art directors for the job decline. But the tension in the room was palpable as a one-word description of illustration’s future was raised and repeated: “animation.”” Dooley, (2010) http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

Illustration’s closest relative genre in my opinion is animation; the Free Dictionary defines animation as “The act, process, or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity.” The Free Dictionary, (2013) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/animation

Wigan (2009: p28) gives this definition of animation “The optical illusion of movement employed by persistence of vision

Animator Norman McLaren describes animation, “animation is not the art of drawings that move, but the art of movements that are drawn.” (McLaren, cited in Wigan, 2007: p101)

Dooley 2010 poses the question “Is Animation the Future of Illustration?” the reason for this question’s proposition is due to the change towards digital technology.  Traditional mediums such as books could not facilitate animation, so illustrations and photography where the widely used mediums when it came to providing visual content, digital platforms can feature animation or photographical equivalent video and some believe that these are more appropriate visual mediums for digital platforms.  Dooley asks many of the conference attendees for their views on whether animation is the future of illustration.  Scott Gandell is a print maker and illustrator, whilst also holding the post of President of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.  Gandell notes that this was also a hot topic of conversation between people informally at the conference and in his opinion the “the transformation from 2D editorial illustration to an animated hybrid online is the future”.  He believes “illustrators need to be capable-ready to produce an eye catching, click stopping, reader grabbing piece of genius … that moves.”  Gandell, cited in Dooley, (2010), http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

Illustrator Steve Simpson said:

The ICON audience seemed split on the issue. Some thought this a great opportunity to get into animation, others were horrified at the prospect of learning new packages and skills – would the extra work mean more money? There was also the suggestion we should dump our outdated title, “illustrator,” and call ourselves visual communicators or creative visualists.”  Simpson, cited in Dooley, (2010), http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

Illustration historian and artist, Jaleen Grove notes the discussion worried some illustrators saying “The discussion provoked controversy because it suggested that if illustrators didn’t embrace change and make their work move and groove, then they might as well retire now.”   Grove goes on to explain that this may not be the impending apocalypse of illustration “illustrators have been told to reinvent illustration with every new advance in technology. And each time, that’s what they have done.” Grove, cited in Dooley, (2010), http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

Illustrator and designer, Carolyn Endacott agrees that the publishing industries movement into the digital realm is going to allow it to reach larger audiences and it has the potential to do so in new innovative ways but she also sees a position in the market place for the “printed magazine” and the static – non-animated – image. Saying “In a world of constantly moving images and “in-your-face graphics,” the beauty and strength of illustration lies in the idea-concept and the ability for a moment, however brief, to have the viewer pause and think.”  She goes on to say “There is a place for both the digital and static image and quite possibly, a relationship may develop where the two strengthen each other.”   Endacott, cited in Dooley, (2010), http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

As an illustrator and educator at CSU Fullerton, Cliff Cramp has a more optimistic view on the topic, explaining how new technologies have always influenced arts like illustration but not necessarily in a negative way:

The key word for me that night was “possibilities.” New technologies provide varied possibilities for the delivery of our content. The fax machine allowed illustrators to fax comps to a client rather than drive them over. Product Illustrators produced line art of merchandise for wholesale companies so that catalogs could be faxed to retailers. The Internet has allowed the illustrator to have a global audience, shrinking their world while broadening their possibilities. Email and social media have allowed the illustrator to have more opportunities to connect with their peers. For some, new technologies will mean new ways to produce art. For others, new technologies will mean new uses for their art.” Cramp, cited in Dooley, (2010), http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

Illustrator Teri Farrell-Gittins also sees the potential offered by new emerging technologies, with the point of view that these technologies will always need creative people capable of producing visual communication, so providing more jobs and more opportunities. ZFarrell-Gittins, cited in Dooley, (2010), http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/

I do not believe that digital platforms mean the end of illustration, and those that believe this I fear may be being blinded by the technological possibilities.  With multimedia you do not have to use all the mediums because they are available but you do have the ability to use them when they are appropriate, one medium may be more effective than another in certain situations.  Illustration is a medium that has a place in multimedia applications, animation also has a place and in my opinion animation should only be used when it can communicate more information than an illustration, or communicate the information more effectively to the viewing audience. These decisions on medium appropriateness require knowledge of the communicative possibilities within each specific medium, so that informed decisions can be made when designing the communication process.

The design of the communication process is an important part of visual communication but there is another part of the process that is vitally important and that is the technical production of desired media.  A certain level of proficiency in the medium you are producing is needed to create effective results; when it comes to illustrating and animating it’s not simply a case of drawing pretty pictures, a design process is used by practitioners of these fields to methodically produce designs appropriate for their purpose, research is a key area of any design process.

Wigans (2006: p93-97) features a discussion with illustrator Marc Baines who describes the research process he used for a comic book series entitled ‘The Romans in Britain’. Baines describes how he read a book the 1945 Pelican classic ‘Britain’s Under the Romans and Rome 753BC-AD180’,  he also watched films such as the 1945 ‘Ceasar and Cleopatra’ starring Claude Rains.  Baines also visited museums and used Google image search. This process is very similar to the process I have undertaken throughout this project.  I also started off looking at pre-existing children’s literature relating to my Viking theme (see here), I also looked at the portrayal of Vikings in film and popular culture (see here), I visited museums and galleries and I also have made good use of Google image search as you can see in the mood boards I have created below: Wigan 2006

Viking_houses_mood-board_01 The ability to create consistent, effective and eye-catching imagery is also important when it comes to communicating visually, especially when the audience are children. Wigan (2006: p88) agrees, he says “Characters in children’s illustration need to be appealing and represented consistently throughout.

In the past, the production of visual communicative media has relied upon drawing. The Free Dictionary defines drawing as “The art of representing objects or forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines.” The Free Dictionary, (2013) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/drawing

Wigan (2009: p86) defines Drawing as “The act of applying direct marks or lines across a surface by using tools such as a pencil, pen and ink, charcoal or crayons

Drawing is fundamental to the fabric of illustration. Once you have changed many of the perceived notions of ‘what drawing is’… you can get on with the task of exploring a visual language. Our answers are found in manipulating a medium: they can often start with a pencil and a piece of paper. Drawing the world around us lets us see the world.” (O’Shaughnessy, cited in Wigan, 2006: p33)

Wigan (2009: p86) says “Drawing is the foundation of all forms of visual art and pictorial representation

Often in the past I have been criticised for my lack of traditional pencil/pen and paper work. Yes, they are tools I often avoid as I struggle to transfer my thoughts using that medium.  I don’t like writing on paper nor do I particularly enjoy drawing with a pen or pencil but that does not mean that I don’t like to put down my thoughts in words nor does it mean that I don’t like to be creative visually.

At school before the time of easy access to computers I struggled with written work, my hand writing was poor and I didn’t like doing it.  In my art lessons I was never a great at drawing but I did enjoy and seemed to very creative and proficient when it came to printing, modelling and other creative art processes.  I am not ready to describe myself as an illustrator but I have been looking at illustration theory, techniques and I am creating my own digital illustrations.  The digital nature of my work suits the medium on which the illustrations will be displayed but Wigan explains that illustrations “can be created in any medium.” He then goes on to explain that my choice of medium is important but not to others, to me.  He says “It is important to experiment with a broad range and choose the type of medium that is most appropriate to you.” Wigan (2006: p120)

Although Wigan’s statement is contradicted by the views of other illustrators featured in his book, Mick Brownfield, Cited in Wigan (2006: p126) believes students need to “learn how to draw properly and not rely on technical aids (the computer)”, Laura Smith, cited in Wigan, (2006: p126) has a similar point of view “I would advise students to understand that computers are just another tool and not rely on them at the exclusion of all else.

My approach may seem to be one that excludes non digital tools but this is not actually the case, I have attended life drawing classes and I have copious amounts of learn to draw books that I use to try and improve my drawing skills but it is a medium that I do not use as often as others.

I remember a former tutor of mine explaining that it is the quickest method to work on ideas but this is something I would dispute.  It is the quickest method if you have the required amount of skill to reproduce what you are seeing in the eye of your mind using those tools, if not it can be a frustrating and embarrassing method of communication. I would never say one method is better than another but it is fair to say that some mediums are more appropriate for certain situations and it is also fair to say that some illustrators/designers are more suited to specifics tools and mediums.  This in no way should devalue the quality of anybody’s work but instead we should remember Wigan’s statement “It is important to experiment with a broad range and choose the type of medium that is most appropriate to you.” (Wigan, 2006: p120).

The main focus of my exploration into illustration is to understand how to communicate visually.  This is a very important part of my master’s study, as I am looking to communicate information in the best possible ways through my application and communicating visually through illustration and animation will play an important role in my application.  When Wigan asked illustrators from all over the world what they felt illustration students needed to learn visual communication was a common theme in there replies, Peter Grundy (2006: p128) says “An ability to entertain and communicate.” Gina Triplett believes “Students of illustration need to know how to communicate visual ideas in a manner that sets their work apart from their peers.” Anthony Burrill says “How to communicate with other people visually and verbally.” (2006: p131)

I am attempting to learn to communicate more effectively through visual and interactive media, this is essential not only to my master’s project but to my overall practice as an interactive multimedia designer.  Wigan (2006: p12) says “Learning to think visually is a skill that must be practiced daily.”  I believe he is right but I do not believe this is simply drawing or producing every day, researching past, current or potential methods of visual communication is also, in my opinion a great way of “Learning to think visually” but this does not just mean sitting in a library, reading a book, magazine or newspaper or trawling the internet; it can be as simple as walking down the street and watching how the world connects, looking at the advert on the side of a bus as it passes or watching how people interact with each other or artefacts of both digital and non digital nature.

Wigan (2006: p12) says “In order to communicate, elucidate, give insight to and illuminate, the illustrator must be interested in humanity and in literature. Intellectual curiosity, hard work, ambition and passion are all essential”.

To be a successful visual communicator it is important that you are interested in communicating, to have the passion to look beyond the simple dynamics of life and delve deeper into the nature of communicative experiences.  The desire to learn more and the ability to motivate yourself to actively pursue this quest for knowledge is needed, in order to keep coming up with effective communication processes relevant for differing audiences, through differing platforms, regardless of technological innovation.

The knowledge of how to juxtapose differing visual mediums, in order to communicate on a level beyond that of any single medium is going to be essential in a future containing digital multimedia.  So it will be essential to have a knowledge of more than one medium but the ability to not get consumed by the lure of the “doing thing because you can” scenario is also essential, creative’s should practice restraint when it comes to new technology and make decisions based upon effectiveness. Communicating visually will always be a vitally important process whether it is pencil and paper, chalk and board, 2D or 3D, static or animated, digital or non-digital.

Bibliography

Gaur, A. (1992) A History of Writing, United States: Cross River Press

Wigan, M. (2006) Basics Illustration 01: Thinking Visually, UK: AVA Publishing SA

Wigan, M. (2007) Basics Illustration 02: Sequential Images, UK: AVA Publishing SA

Wigan, M. (2007) Basics Illustration 03: Text and Image, UK: AVA Publishing SA

Wigan, M. (2009) The Visual Dictionary of Illustration, UK: AVA Publishing SA

The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, no publication date, Instructional Design for Multimedia [online] Available at: http://cemca.org.in/ckfinder/userfiles/files/Section5.pdf, [accessed 8th April 2013]

Dooley, M. (2010) ICON Reax, Part 1: Is Animation the Future of Illustration? [online] Available at:

http://www.printmag.com/interviews/icon-reax-is-animation-the-future-of-illustration/, [accessed 7th April 2013]

Lukehart, W 2010, ‘Playgrounds for the Mind’, Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 8, 3, pp. 32-35, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 21 March 2013.

Sipe, L 2012, ‘Revisiting the Relationships Between Text and Pictures’, Children’s Literature In Education, 43, 1, pp. 4-21, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 April 2013.

The Free Dictionary, (2013) [online] Available at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/, [accessed 8th April 2013]

Oregon State University Library, no publication date, Treasures of the McDonald Collection – A Brief History of Writing [online] Available at: http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/specialcollections/omeka/exhibits/show/mcdonald/writing/significance, [accessed 7th April 2013]

Wigan’s World, no publication date [online] Available at: http://www.wigansworld.moonfruit.com/, [accessed 5th April 2013]

Gamification

Gamification, what is it?  The definition of the term Gamification provided by the website Gamification Wiki is “Gamification is the concept of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.” Gamification Wiki, (2010), http://gamification.org/

The assistant director of Bloomsburg University’s acclaimed Institute for Interactive Technologies, Professor Karl M. Kapp (2012: p66) also provides a similar definition, he says “Gamification is using game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.”

Basically Gamification is the gamefying or application of game design theories in differing fields.  To understand Gamification we need to understand what games are.

Roger Caillois a French theorist saw many of the structures in society as elaborate forms of games and much behaviour as forms of play.

Caillois proposed a useful system of classifying different types of experiences that are present in games in his book “Man, Play and Games”. A game can include just one or all of these different types of experiences.

Agon

This could be a contest or competition, the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Alea

This describes games of chance such as roulette or a lottery. Games of chance throughout time have often been the subject of gambling.

Mimicry

This can be described as copying, simulation or make believe.

Illinix

This describes games in which there may be a momentary disorientation in a physical sense, for example vertigo or dizziness.

Caillois’s taxonomy of game play experiences helps us understand about types of games but why do we play games in the first place?

In 2010 I wrote a piece during my B.A Interactive Multimedia at Hull School of Art and Design, in which I describe my theory on why people play games based upon Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs:

“Why do we want to play games?  Why do people get addicted to games and what makes a game addictive?  It is possible to get completely immersed in a game, to the point where we are entirely focused on playing and all other things become irrelevant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big part of why we feel the need to participate in games can be understood by examining a psychological theory by an American psychologist named “Abraham Harold Maslow”, considered the founder of humanistic psychology he conceptualised the theory a “hierarchy of human needs”, this is often condensed and displayed for visual representation as “Maslow’s Pyramid Of Needs”.

maslow pyramid of needs

Deficiency Needs

Maslow called the lower four layers of the Pyramid “deficiency needs”.  Within the deficiency needs each lower need must be met before moving on to the higher needs.  If at a later time a lower need is detected, the person will take steps to fulfil that need before resuming focus on their higher needs.

Physiological Needs

These are the literal requirements for human survival; breathing, drinking, eating, sleeping, sexual activity etc.  Without air or food one would die, without sexual activity as a species it would mean the extinction of humanity, this explains the strength of these instincts within individuals.  This does not seem relevant to game play at first, until you consider that the whole purpose of a lot of computer games is survival, for example any game were you have a health bar that depletes is a game of survival.  There are some games like ‘Resident Evil’ that directly deal with the survival of the human race as part of its storyline.

Safety Needs

Wanting that feeling of safety and security is part of a need for control; people yearn for a predictable, orderly world without injustice and inconsistency.  This can be found in any game were you control a hero or fight against a villain.

In the modern world our options in most situations are so abundant that boundaries between right and wrong are not always obvious and it is increasingly hard to judge your own actions and results in comparison to those of others.  This inconsistency means that it can be complicated when deciding what we should be doing and this confusion makes it hard to gain the pleasure of knowing that we have done something well.

Games can help with these fulfilment needs, as games can be played against other people, against yourself, against a computer or perhaps even against magical forces unbeknownst to man.  All games have one thing in common in that they have goals and rules to follow in order to play, so providing us with the consistency that we crave in the real world.

Social Needs

Social needs are the emotional needs that are fulfilled by relationships between people.  Families, friendships and communities often feature within games. In some games you have a companion i.e. “Super Mario Brothers”, Mario and Luigi are both family and companions.  In other games you have the ability to act as part of a team  i.e. in “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” you work as part of a four man team to defend the planet.  Some games require you to have social interactions within everyday family life i.e. “The Sims”.

Computer games in particular have addressed social needs in an altogether different way by creating a community in which people have found common ground with each other through a common interest.

Esteem Needs

The need for self-esteem and self-respect is also known as the belonging need, it is the human desire to be accepted and valued by others.

People need to engage themselves to get recognition as a sense of contribution; this gives the person a sense of personal value.  Without this people can suffer from low self-esteem, people with low self-esteem want or need respect from others.

Game play can provide an outlet for these needs by giving people a platform that they can show off their talents through, i.e. escapism.

By playing games people can become the focus of the virtual environment, it gives them a platform on which they can get attention, status, and power.

Success in the virtual world of computer games can aid people to be competent and to achieve recognition.   

Self Actualization

The motivation to discover one’s own maximum potential and possibilities is considered to be the master motive or the only real motive in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  The need for self-actualization is the final need that manifests when the lower level needs have been satisfied, this is why it sits above all other needs at the top of the pyramid.

This is possibly the easiest human need to explain why games are so popular, the need to better oneself by rising to the challenge that games present.  To conquer a game or raise ones performance through practice, constantly looking to go further, faster raising confidence and fulfilling the needs of self actualization.

In a way, everything we do in our daily lives is in either a direct or an indirect way related to these needs.

The human body recognises needs and rewards, its fulfilment is often associated with feelings of pleasure to encourage repeat behaviour, i.e. when we are thirsty we drink and after doing so we feel better.

The reward process for our psychological needs is slightly different, as different people have different requirements.  The person in question sets personal targets that they want to accomplish, it does not really matter what we do, how we do it, or why?  As long as we feel that we are doing the right thing, for the right reasons and getting the results that we want, we will get that feeling of fulfilment.

This explains the feeling of pleasure felt by people during game play, some people may say “It’s only a game” but that depends on your psychological needs.

The ultimate goal for all our activities is the fulfilment of needs.” (Shakesby, 2010)

When you understand why people want to play games, you can identify with the level of engagement shown by people during game play, this engagement often causes people to lose their temporal concerns; they don’t eat, drink, sleep or even go to the toilet because they are truly immersed in the task at hand.

Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed the hypothesis of Flow (psychology).

Csikszentmihalyi’s theory was that people get a great sense of deep happiness, satisfaction, or fulfilment when they are in a state of great concentration or complete absorption with the activity that they are immersed in and it is this feeling that he calls “flow”, popular culture often describes the psychological state as “being in the zone”.  The flow state causes game players to be utterly engrossed in the undertaking or challenge at hand, this happens when there is a balance between the challenge of the task and the skill of the player, if the task is too easy or difficult the flow state cannot occur.

It is this deep sense of interest or engagement with undertakings that people hope to re-appropriate for their own interests, in other words people interested in Gamification want to create that same level of engagement and interest exhibited in tasks found in game play, into other areas through the use of game theory.

Education is one area that has exhibited an interest in Gamification, Cohen (2011: p15) explains that there is a growing movement of education professionals that would like to see the Gamification of education “The world has entered a bright new technology-driven era, yet the education system remains rooted in a gray industrial past. At least, this is the argument that a growing number of education professionals are making.

Cohen discusses a potential idea for the restructuring of the educational system, that would see online gaming and learning replacing the traditional class room text books and he believes that this idea is gaining in popularity.  I personally from my research would never advocate such a radical step but I would argue for a greater increase in interactive digital media within learning environments.

Cohen (2011: p15) explains that “While traditional education proponents may be quick to dismiss computer games as inconsequential, others argue that a strong precedent for independently motivated online game-based learning has already been established”.

One thing that we do know is that everybody is different, we all look different, sound different and learn differently, we have different needs and these needs change depending on a number of varying factors including age, experience, mood, fatigue, etc.  Gamification may very well be an effective way of providing learning to some people at some times but to base an entire educational system around one theory or medium would surely be a mistake?

The paper based education system that I grew up with did not meet all my educational needs but it works for a great number of people, our education system should be able to offer learning through various mediums based upon a multitude of theories, as a broader approach that does not expect the learner to conform to its methods but actually offers the learner choices, choices that make learning easier for the individual.

It is import to point out that Gamification is not a purely digital idea; you can add game dynamics to a wide range of situations, for example if students were asked to find objects in a classroom and each object found is given a point value, the game would be a game based upon Caillois’s description of Agon, a competition.  This is of course not the only way you can augment situations with game theory, Kapp (2012: p 66) says:

A well-designed game is a system in which players engage in an abstract challenge, defined by rules, interactivity, and feedback that result in a quantifiable outcome often eliciting an emotional reaction. Games can be designed and delivered in an online environment with multimedia graphics, interactive characters, and automated scorekeeping, or they can be face-to-face and conducted in a classroom with simple interactions and engagement.”

Below is an interesting info-graphic about the Gamification of education:

This info-graphic shows a large amount of information about the positive effects of Gamification but one thing that I find particularly worrying is the Agon element of competition, the will to succeed and win is a powerful motivational factor but should education be a competition?

The motivation of winning makes certain individuals become Olympic gold medallists or sees others accomplish things faster than anybody else has done before but it is also the thing that makes other cry in despair when they fail.  A gamifyed system could unintentionally create de-motivated players through fear of failure, rather than motivated players striving for success and I believe it will probably create a number of players in each camp.  Surely education should be available to all, not just winners!

Kapp discusses an area of Gamification that he calls “Freedom to fail” he explains

In most instructional environments, failure is not a valid option. Learners are objectively scored, and they either get it right the first time or fail and do not pass. Few people enjoy failing in traditional learning environments, and most will do everything they can to avoid failing. This means that most learning environments do not encourage exploration or trial-and-error learning.” (Kapp, 2012, p66)

Kapp goes on to describe how games can turn the negative effects of failure in a positive outcome:

Games, however, encourage failure. Players will purposely fail to see what happens or to get a sense of the gamespace in which they are playing. Failing is allowed, it’s acceptable, and it’s part of the game. Games accommodate failure with multiple lives, second chances, and alternative methods of success. Games overcome the “sting of failure” by allowing, as part of their design, multiple opportunities to perform a task until mastery.” (Kapp, 2012, p66)

Kapp (2012: p66) also says that Gamification “involves encouraging learners to explore the content, take chances with their decision making, and be exposed to realistic consequences for making a wrong or poor decision”.

I am not sure that I am entirely in agreement with Kapp at this point, games can be designed to encourage failure, and multiple chances at task completion can help player’s master tasks, helping increase self esteem and putting the player on a path towards self actualisation but if the level of that task required is placed well beyond the capabilities of the play, frustration can occur leading to a lowering of self esteem and usually disinterest in the completion of the task at hand.

If the player is exposed to realistic consequences for making wrong or poor decisions it is not always a positive thing. This is why we often see kids crying when they cannot complete parts of video games, it could be argued that this is character building or is it just delivering life’s harsh message that you cannot be good at everything?  This frustration can lead to emotional breakdown and user/player frustration can lead to disengagement with tasks or some players may simply choose to quit rather than repeat a task until completion.

Eliminating the risk of failure would solve this problem but there is another way, designers of games and Gamification need to be realistic when assessing task difficulty and potential player proficiency.  Games need to be designed to be easy enough to accomplish tasks, whilst also being challenging enough to prevent potential boredom but the possibility of failure when used correctly can be a great tool in player engagement, Kapp (2012: p66) says:

The risk of failure without punishment is engaging. Learners will explore and examine causes and effects if they know it’s OK to fail. In many cases, they will learn as much from seeing the consequences of their failure as they will from a correct answer.”

Gamifying a learning application would be a great way to engage the user, hopefully making it easier to effectively communicate information whilst they are engaged, it also would make the application more appealing to users, Kapp (2012, p66) explains:

Games are incredibly appealing. They engage players because they provide an environment and a context in which actions provide direct feedback and lead to direct consequences. They can provide a realistic context in which actions and tasks can be practiced. Games create a surrogate for actual experiences that provide rich learning opportunities.”

But a gamifyed application does not need to be a game; it just needs to re-appropriate the elements from game design theory to engage the user in an interesting, informative and entertaining way.

Kapp (2012, p67) says that Gamification:

provides the learner with an engaging, relevant learning experience without the heavy time commitment necessary to play most games. Through the careful application of game elements—such as the freedom to fail, interest curve, storytelling, and feedback—in learning programs, ordinary content can be made more engaging without the development of a full-fledged learning game

Within my application I have a number of interactive elements that I have been describing thus far as relevant interactions, these include:

Barter (Trade) a Viking Comb

In this section the user chooses the amount of coins needed to trade for a Viking comb, the user has the freedom to fail by choosing the wrong amount of coins but they are able to make another choice until the correct choice is made.  Using Caillois classifications it is fair to say this is a game that shows Mimicry, it is a virtual representation of a historic process, a simulation from which the user will hopefully learn the process and the tools involved in a Viking trade transaction.

Archaeologist Game

This interactive features an archaeologist who invites the user to help him find a Viking ship, the user has to choose from one of four archaeological dig sites, they then rub away an onscreen layer of virtual soil, to unearth an artefact in the hope that it is the Viking ship they have been tasked with finding.  If the user does not find the ship they can go back and choose another dig site until they complete their task.

It is possible to argue that this is a game that exhibits elements of Alea, as the choice is a bit like a lottery, it is a game of chance but it is also once again Mimicry as it is a very basic simulation of an archaeological process.

Decorate a Viking Shield

This part of my application allows the user to paint a Viking Shield, as a digital recreation of a process that many Vikings undertook.  Again Caillois classifications would place this interactive in the category of Mimicry.

Control a Viking boat

This interactive element is an Easter egg within the game. a hidden piece of fun that can be played when inquisitive users find it.

The task for the user within this part of my application is to control a Viking ship, manoeuvring it from one point to another whilst avoiding the sea serpents. Caillois classifications make this game an example of Agon, as the user is the protagonist trying to successfully navigate a course without interaction with the sea serpent antagonists.

Some may argue that there is a lack of reward system within these interactive elements, for them to be considered as games or examples of Gamification whether it is a points system, levelling up or some other prize.  In fact it has been said directly to me by my external examiner that my application is not an example of Gamification and I agree that my application is not a game, it is in my opinion an interactive learning application that features elements of game theory amongst others.  My application does however definitely fit into a broader category that encompasses Gamification, as described below:

Firstly, “Gamification” relates to games, not play (or playfulness), where “play” can be conceived of as the broader, looser category, containing but different from “games”” Deterding,et al (2011: p3)

Play is essential in child development, family counsellor and parent educator Helen R Williams explains:

Children boost self esteem through play.  While they play, children are developing an understanding of themselves and others, increasing their mastery and knowledge of their physical world and learning to communicate with others. Play is essential to children’s development by contributing to their physical, social, cognitive and emotional well being.” Williams, H. R. no publication date, http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Boost-Self-Esteem-Through-Play&id=1028608

Caillois described the difference between games – ludus (or “gaming”) and play – paidia (or “playing”) Deterding,et al (2011: p3) says:

“In game studies, this distinction between games and play is usually tied back to Caillois’ concept of paidia and ludus as two poles of play activities [12]. Whereas paidia (or “playing”) denotes a more freeform, expressive, improvisational, even “tumultuous” recombination of behaviors and meanings, ludus (or “gaming”) captures playing structured by rules and competitive strife toward goals.”

According to this definition the majority of my interactive elements do not qualify as games, although I could argue that the Archaeologist game and the Control a Viking boat could be classified as games.

The distinction between games and play is there but it is ambiguous to the uninitiated.  Korhonen, Montola and Arrasvuori tried to define playfulness by creating the PLEX framework, Deterding,et al (2011: p2) describes:

“Korhonen, Montola and Arrasvuori have made the most systematic attempt in this regard [43,44]. Combining the “pleasurable experience” framework of Costello and Edmonds [20] with further theoretical work and user studies on video game play, they developed a Playful Experience Framework (PLEX) that categorizes 22 (originally 20) playful experiences.”

Deterding,et al also tells that recently others have investigated and found evidence to support the clear differences between “playing” and “gaming” :

Recent theoretical and empirical studies have provided further support for the distinctness of “playing” and “gaming” as two modes, foci, or “values” of behavior and mindset2 encountered during video game play [4,41]. This distinction also appears in HCI research on playfulness. The aforementioned PLEX framework acknowledges Caillois’ distinction of paidia and ludus in that it explicitly sets out to capture all experiences between these two poles [43].” Deterding,et al (2011: p3)

My application definitely features elements of playfulness, the Barter (Trade) a Viking Comb and Decorate a Viking Shield interactives are playful elements.  I do not consider my application to be an example of Gamification but it does exhibit some of the qualities of Gamification, it also exhibits elements of playful design, Deterding,et al (2011: p3) describe why my application cannot be considered as an example of Gamification:

In terms of defining “gamification”, this means that it too has to be analytically distinguished from playfulness or playful design – indeed, this marks the novelty of “gamified” applications. In practice, it can be assumed that they often can and will give rise to playful behaviors and mindsets as well, just as video game players often switch between playful and gameful behaviors and mindsets during play [4].”

The quote above explains that users can switch between the behaviours and mind sets that define games and play during these activities, which is good for my application, as I believe it exhibits elements of both Gamification and playfulness and hopefully these elements that feature within my application will help engage the users of my application.  The evidence above suggests that Gamification and playfulness are different but both essential to child engagement and development, and by adopting elements of these theories alongside other theories of information communication, I hope to be able to develop an application that is engaging, entertaining and informative.

Bibliography

Caillois, R. (2001) Man, Play and Games, USA: University of Illinois Press

Cohen, AM 2011, The Gamification of Education, Futurist, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp. 16-17, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 March 2013.

Kapp, K M. (2012), GAMES, GAMIFICATION, AND THE QUEST FOR LEARNER ENGAGEMENT, T+D, Vol 66, Issue 6, pp. 64-68, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 March 2013.

About.com Psychology, no publication date, Abraham Maslow, [online] Available at: http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/ig/Pictures-of-Psychologists/Abraham-Maslow-Picture.htm [accessed 09th March 2013]

Deterding, S. Dixon,D. Khaled, R. & Nacke, L. (2011) From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification” [online] Available at: http://85.214.46.140/niklas/bach/MindTrek_Gamification_PrinterReady_110806_SDE_accepted_LEN_changes_1.pdf, [accessed 10th March 2013]

Edudemic, (2012), The 100 Second Guide to Gamification In Education, [online] Available at: http://edudemic.com/2012/09/the-100-second-guide-to-gamification-in-education/, [accessed 09th March 2013]

Gamification Corp. (2012) [online] Available at: http://www.gamification.co/. [accessed 10th March 2013]

Gamification Wiki, (2010), [online] Available at:  http://gamification.org/, [accessed 10th March 2013]

Williams, H. R. no publication date, How to Boost Self Esteem Through Play, [online] Available at: http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Boost-Self-Esteem-Through-Play&id=1028608, [accessed 11th March 2013]

Viking House Interior Interactive

I have recently been creating an interactivity to show my users what the interior of a typical Viking house may have looked like.  Earlier in my MA I mocked a very basic interpretation of a Viking house interior (see here), I have used my earlier work as a guide but due to further research and discussion regarding my original with better artists than myself, I have re-dawn the majority of the content and added further content to my image.  Within my application different elements will be interactive, i.e.  a user will be able to select individual items within the interior of the building, to access further information relevant to the selected item (see the video below)

I am once again trying to make the best use of the interactive nature of the platform, in order to break up text and deliver in relevant sections where the user can see the relationship between visual content and textual information, in this case a direct correlation is possible due to the relationship between the interaction of choosing a visual object and the information been displayed as a result.  I have also reinforced this relationship further with an arrow that directly links the textual information and the visual representation.