Agency in Digital Worlds

In the paper by Barab et. al, explore that children today have a constrained sense of agency. This is characterized as having fewer opportunities for free play time where children can have an not imposing space where they can be creative and in creating the structure collaborating with their peers. With this quote in mind, I am a bit hesitant to completely endorse it. On the one hand, I do have a nosigitlic take on it meaning that I do believe children today are more confined to the electronics than outdoor or free-open play. Although I am biased in completely believing in this because grew up in the suburbs where we had open yards to play in and mostly out of the supervision of parents.


Going back to the quote, there is much more to children expressing a constrained sense of agency than just electronics. The overemphasis of standardized testing, the extra curricular activities children do to make themselves a competitive candidate for private schools well contribute to the lack of feeling of agency. This Barab et. al snipet also brings up the question of civic engagement for me. In other countries where children are viewed as active citizens, is their sense of agency different, and if so how, in what ways, than the children Barab et. al had in mind?


One of my interests are emotions and learning. I was happy to see that Gee spoke on the role emotions play in thinking (cognition) and learning. I believe Gee started off very strong. Emotions for a long time have been considered as secondary and even stigmatized in relation to thinking and learning whereas the rational side will take center stage. He then cites Damasio’s famous book (Descartes’ error) and argues that learning is not just the cortex but involves the whole brain yet does not mention about the socio cultural conditions how learning takes place and what is it. Gee then lists three ways hoe emotion plays important roles in thinking and learning. Although these are somewhat interesting points, it leds me to the assume that he considers emotion for purely instrumental purposes that support the rational. In other words, in Gee’s understanding although emotions are still considered bad and in need of control, emotions simply support the rational. I found it interesting that he did not conceptualize what emotions are. I believe this would have cleared what my assumptions.

Gee then goes into how game designers give emotional charge to thinking. This was interesting because I used to play videos games and it can be at times a very emotional experience. Thinking about games that allow for cooperative play with a friend or two, together in the same room changed the dynamic of the game. Each problem solved or not solved was so much more suspenseful when done cooperatively. In referring to Gee’s situated learning matrix table on page 26, I would argue that the experience of gaming can change drastically either when it is single or cooperative players. Thus, I ask, where would cooperation in fit in this model?

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