This is the widget that I learned how this works from.
As an experiment in web design and relating back to my prior post I thought I would put up the graphic below. This is a bit of coding that give the look, through html5 of a chart loading as you scroll down to it. Pretty dramatic and exciting for a boring old graph.
This put me in mind of ways in which games can be built for professional workshops. The drama around seeing current progress might be an effective tidbit towards motivation. Reload the page and pan down if the chart has already shown up.
Today I was searching the web for news around housing inequity and how that relates to (dis)satisfaction in major cities. While this is not an area where I am actually doing any work it is something that I have been curious about. Especially if there were a game design idea that might lead to recognizing or changing inequities.
Saturdays have been notorious for this. I do not feel the work-week pressure to stay on task so I explore things outside my normal bounds: Games for learning and social justice, LGBTQ advocacy and educational contexts, educational technologies, exciting new user interface ideas, art work, and improving my technical skills in videography, visual design, research methods, or other scintillating tasks like staring at spreadsheets (though I do admit an unhealthy fascination for pivot tables).
This morning I logged in with the intent to forgo all the above distractions and read some online comics and the aforementioned housing equity research curiosity. Instead I stumbled onto this video and decided I needed to post something:
What stands out for me is how the commentator talks about first economics and then life expectancy. These seem like strongly western-centric ideals for happiness. I think having a job and predictions of a long life would probably contribute to overall happiness but what are the more visceral factors in achieving happiness?
There are a tons of articles and “Self-help Gurus” out there selling twelve step plans to happiness. We also have a wide variety of religious and philosophical guides on this topic. Still, when it comes down to it I think happiness is an intensely personal pursuit. Especially as I interrogate myself.
Financial equity in society would definitely help me to feel confident in some facets of life but having overwhelmingly more than others around me would be very dissatisfying. Partially because economic status helps guide ways I can related to others. If we can afford a bottle of wine together we may have other things in common. If they buy 100 year old scotch and pass it around I feel out of my depth (but I would love a glass). Often shared activities and exploring something new bring me temporary happiness. Currently I am trying to figure out how to make that my career.
Social interactions + plus exploring new ideas & places x longterm career = happily helping society.
Recently I applied to a position that appears to solve several of these needs: outreach to the LGBTQ education community, a little travel, building new curriculum, working with some of the greatest people in a city housing some of my most cherished memories….I refuse to jinx this much more by actually state the position. Besides I am also looking at positions in addition to this one and they have just as many components of the formula though they lack the…je ne sais quoi…of the position I am currently having nightmares about. (Yes. In my heart this is a dream position. So wonderful that my subconscious is providing night time entertainment such as getting lost at an airport before an interview. Somehow I am also getting horrible directions from someone who has nothing to do with the dream-job).
Back to the topic: National Happiness…or who is the happiest nation?
The United States is ranked 17 out of 34. This is a drop from 14th apparently. Not unexpected really. There is a lot of room for improvement in life expectancy (health care, housing, food etc) and wealth equity. Greece, Hungary, and Poland score at the lowest end. Also not that unexpected given their respective struggles. At the top were Norway, Switzerland, and Canada as well as a few other countries where I am currently exploring immigration requirements.
I can’t remember if Australia was on the list. That would be another place I would go. Mexico was in the top ten. Way to go Mexico! I am not immigrating to Mexico though – my Spanish is terrible and I would feel guilty if Mexico’s ranking dropped because folks were mad an a crazy American butchering local dialects.
Bhutan’s former king was really into the gross domestic happiness idea. Excuse me – I have more research to do.
This blog will certainly become dominated by posts about games, theories of game design, and research insanity in the near future. I should probably change the name. Possibly even the domain. As I delve into designing games for social change some of the education oriented content will undoubtedly slack. Please accept my apologies.
Now – on to the topic! As I delve into games I have also immersed myself in related “pop” media. I quote pop because there are comic books that rival “classic” reading for longevity and time-based distortion that forces the reader to do as much heavy research as reading Tom Sawyer. Don’t believe me? Check out The Katzenjammer Kids. If the picture of the cover on the right isn’t confusing you are probably over 40. That is not a picture of sadism. Apparently public flogging of children was okay in 1897. I think I vaguely recall naughty students who were foolish enough to get caught getting sent to the principals office for a spanking when I was in kindergarten but that may have been child rumor. I would love to teach late 19th, early 20th century history with this comic series as a guide. How fun would that be?
Check out some samples and possibly even order a book or two here.
There are other long running comic series like Dennis the Menace, B.C.(one of my favorites), Beetle Bailey, Blondie, and others. In terms of oldest comic books there were “Pulps” which also had radio shows. Yes, actual radio. Back when that was entertainment and news. Very little content creation and large audiences due to limited distribution. Newspapers were also big back then. From my limited study the first American costumed super hero was the Phantom. 1936 I think. Someone fact check me on that. At any rate, the social commentary and reflections of social beliefs embodied in these comics are really interesting and sometimes much more critical, if a bit absurd in the portrayal, than literary texts. (Totally my opinion – biased). I like to think that the comic writers today continue to reflect attitudes and social change through their work. X-men is often referenced as a parallel to various civil rights movements and definitely has some interesting things to say if paired with current LGBTQ struggles with child abandonment (kicking a gay kid out of your house is still abandonment), the struggle to hide what you are (in the closet), and the empowered sense of self that I, at least, gained when I came out professionally and to my parents.
For this reason I wanted to share some of the queer comics that have been hitting the net. I am not even going to try critiquing or discussing these. They are all amazing for various reasons and there are plenty of people already providing critical analysis at a level I do not need to compete with.
Oregon confuses me. LGBTQIAAP (I think there are more letters and the P may stand for poly or pan – maybe there are two “P’s”) people in this state lead an interesting life.
Within Portland sexual and gender minorities enjoy relative high acceptance compared to the rest of the state. There are examples of discrimination and I think trans folks, while they have gained some traction, still have a long way to go. Still, for the most part there is an acceptance here that allows me to wear a rainbow wristband without fear. My own discomfort examining my gender identity is, I think, the reason I feel the trans community has not quite achieved the same level of safety. Totally subjective.
With some trepidation I admit to confusion around trans issues particularly. I tend towards more gender-fluid or non-gendered perceptions of myself but realize that most folks will outwardly identify me as male. Before living with a roommate who was gender non-conforming and my current roommate who had a trans girlfriend, I just thought I was more feminine than other men. Now I have reinterpreted this gender-confusion that I had conflated with my sexuality as something like non-gendered self perception. People still outwardly identify me as male and I accept male pronouns but I find non-gendered language to be more comfortable. Once I finish this doctorate I can truly have non-gendered titles. (Not a good reason to pursue a doctoral degree but a nice side benefit).
Portland is a fairly welcoming community at least outwardly. The number of Human Rights Campaign stickers I see while biking to work everyday certainly exceeds the queer population. Community organizations abound. Many shops proclaim their support for sexual, if not gender, minorities. Many of the largest companies in the area have explicit language around discrimination. Even a couple of the private, religious universities have language around non-discrimination. At least three religious buildings have the rainbow flag on their signage. All in all there is at least a veneer and a bit of depth to inclusivity in the area.
This changes as you move further from the small city of Portland. There are pockets of inclusivity around the state and I hope these are growing. There are also swaths of Oregon where I wish I owned cargo pants and a plaid shirt. My family lives in one such town. When asked why I do not visit I usually hold my silence but if my parents ever read this blog: last time I visited home a store clerk in our home town glared at me and said, “We don’t serve your type.” I am pretty sure I was wearing khaki pants, loafers, and a button up shirt as my disguise but this clerk’s gaydar was better than mine. The fact that I feel I need to try passing when outside Portland or one of the other small nests of inclusivity seems evidence enough for me.
Wait a second….! Isn’t this all fairly subjective? In keeping with my current need to provide better evidence for this suspicion I have been keeping track of news articles that show discrimination of various types over the last several months. I have to say these scare me:
Oregon mother ‘fatally beat her four-year-old son until his intestines tore because she thought he was gay’ – Link
Oregon Lesbian Couple Claims Cab Driver Kicked Them Out Because They Are Gay – Link
Four teens facing charges after allegedly torturing boy – Link
Oregon: Christian Businesses Must Follow Demands of Gay Customers – Link
Religious Oregon teens wear ‘Gay Is Not OK’ shirts to school to protest lack of ‘straight day’ – Link
These articles do not all explicitly deal with discrimination against sexual and gender minorities. Instead they represent ideas and attitudes that marginalize folks of non-sexual and gender dominant groups.
A careful reader will note that many of these occur in the Portland region. Why am I more uncomfortable in the rural areas of Portland? Because events that precipitate news articles like those above rarely makes it to the paper. Friends that live in rural areas have reported that they would never feel safe enough to complain about a business refusing them service due to their sexual or gender orientation. I have also heard from past students that homophobic language in clothing and speech is often overlooked in schools around the state. This seems to be an atrocity yet I grew up in one of those towns and change comes slowly to these places. In some ways this makes small towns charming and quaint. In others was this makes little hamlets feel hostile to outsiders and those who are unable to conform to the local norms.