jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
This article by the New York Times' Matt Richtel examines how computers are used for entertainment by kids of different social classes, and how much. But to me, its message is
Parents disapprove of what their children use computers for.
And the article goes on to talk about local and state programs in the United States that teach "how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography," the former being considered an okay use of computers and the latter being considered a not-okay one.

I am personally not just skeptical, but fearful of attempts to control what children use their computers for. Because I was raised in a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive household, and having unrestricted computer and Internet access -- and a door I could close and lock when I needed to -- literally saved my life. Until then I was trapped in an information bubble by my parents and their church, and thought I was a terrible, broken person because I didn't measure up to their standards.

Material online about free software advocacy, inclusion of disabled and marginalized people, and yes, even some erotic content, helped show me that the world outside wasn't the terrible place they made it out to be. That being different was not bad, and that I was not a bad person.


Disney's Tangled is a disturbingly true-to-life portrayal of an emotionally abusive, controlling relationship. Click here if you cannot see the embedded video.


The parent-child bond is believed to be inviolable in the country where I live, to the point where it (along with Somalia and South Sudan) is one of the only nations that has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Any intervention parents make on behalf of their children, here, is assumed to be made out of love and a greater understanding than the child herself has. Parents are seen as heroes just for the act of parenting, and abusers are seen as grotesque villains who don't love their kids, not as parents who mis-love their kids. Or who love them but use them to gratify themselves in some way that hurts them. Or who try to love them into becoming someone they're not, and drive them to despair and suicide when they realize they'll never become that.

Whether it's meant to or not, the belief that parents can do no wrong (and that abusive parents are easily recognized) locks children into abusive situations, and shuts down legitimate pleas for redress. It empowers people like my abusers, marginalizes their victims, and gives them little or no recourse or even sympathy. They may even doubt themselves, like I did, instead of recognizing what is done to them for the tragedy that it is.

If we're going to empower children through technology -- and I consider excited kids like the one I used to be the target audience, for the GNOME JavaScript tutorials I'm writing as part of the Outreach Program -- we need to look at ways to empower them as people. We need to let them find what they want to do and are most passionate about, not assume that we know better than them right down to their choice of OS or web browser. And instead of taking their toys away, we should give them the tools to make new ones, and show them how to use those tools in a way that they understand.

With that in mind, I'd like to point out this quote from the article:
“Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study.
I take exception with the word "meaningful," there, and the implication that "pure entertainment" can't be educational. But she's right that it's much easier to use computers to play games or enjoy existing content than to create new things with them, because of how complex the content-creation tools are and how hard it is to get started with them and in their communities.

To take just one example, computer games have evolved far past the point they were at when I started playing them, where you had to read the whole manual before playing and understand advanced math to win. Today's games like World of Warcraft are enormously complex, and have entire books written about their inner workings, but are so accessible that many can just pick up and play them and start having fun right away.

What's the learning curve for the GIMP like? Inkscape? LibreOffice? GNOME development? These are all amazing tools, but the time and effort it takes to learn even basic proficiency with them remains a barrier to reaching new users and potential contributors. The biggest thing motivating me to surmount that last one right now is the thought that the work I do will help flatten the curve for others, and let them start kicking tail fast enough that they learn whether or not they have a passion for it before they burn out.

A two-dimensional graph labeled 'How fast and how far can you take your users?' The X axis is labeled 'time,' and the Y axis is labeled 'ability.' There's a horizontal 'suck threshold' labeled 'How soon do they stop hating it?' and a 'passion threshold' labeled 'How soon can they start kicking ass?' The 'good' curve quickly passes between the two thresholds, while the 'bad' curve takes much longer.
Graph by Kathy Sierra, licensed CC-NC-SA.


I'm extremely grateful to my mentor in the OPW program for helping me get started with the GNOME developer documentation project, and keep from burning out on it. And I'm extremely excited about initiatives like this and Mozilla's Webmaker, which are teaching people basic code literacy and helping increase the number of potential users of and contributors to the shared commons of free software.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
So over the weekend, I kind of had a nervous breakdown brought on by thinking about family and worrying about my "job" with the Major News Site. It was extremely painful, and didn't help my stress-induced psychosomatic illnesses any. Fortunately, I was able to spend awhile playing WoW (and playing with my significant others) and have mostly recovered, or at least well enough to try to get back on top of everything.

Other things that helped: The Major News Site got back to me, and apparently they don't have it in for me like I thought they did and don't consider me to be a failure. My pageviews are just down, apparently due to luck and to whatever editing process they use. The weekends they didn't accept new articles were because of a personnel shortage on their part, which probably wasn't helped by the recent layoffs. So basically, I can continue to count on them as a revenue stream for awhile, just not for as much as I used to ... and perhaps not indefinitely.

Besides that, I wrote a couple of letters to my parents, the kind that aren't meant to actually be read by them. Somehow, just putting my feelings in words helped me grasp what I actually felt. Between that and the earlier essay I wrote, I now feel less like I'm leaving things unresolved with them.

Looking towards the future, I have some important chores to take care of before I begin the internship next week. (Including getting my journal syndicated to Planet GNOME, so don't be surprised if you see some new commenters here.) I don't know how much effort I'll be able to put towards the role-playing game I was trying to start. But I still want to create the site, just because it ought to exist and because I want to have it there for anyone who needs it. Whether to start an RPG online, or to write things about the shared world. I really enjoy seeing what people come up with, and I still want to help.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
[personal profile] rev_yurodivy and I haven't been able to get to see a doctor or get me a prescription, yet. But they found an herb [personal profile] spectrum_x recommended earlier, St. John's wort, and I began taking capsules of it last night after a depressing outing yesterday afternoon.

I don't know if it's the placebo effect or not, but so far the biggest change that I've noticed is that my inner critic is not as annoying or unbearable. I'll start to think depressing thoughts, then think "No, I don't have to feel that way. Things aren't that bad, and there's no sense in worrying about them."

I've only written one article in the past two days, which have been especially bad and exhausting. I'm feeling a bit better now though, even if a little sugar-high since I made vegan cheesecake. Going to try to get some writing done today, as well as reply to comments maybe and start working on GNOME again. Their JavaScript tutorials need re-written to use modern technology, and that means I need to backup my system and upgrade to the latest versions of GNOME and Fedora to test them out.

Incidentally, I started creating my own Pathfinder character to play in a Pathfinder Society game, which is Paizo's organized play. I'm a little iffy about it, since their culture seems very ... stereotypical elitist human-centric, male-centric, grognard-centric tabletop gaming-ish. [personal profile] rev_yurodivy and I weren't impressed with the last one we tried, which was basically just a dungeon crawl that was really generic and didn't make any sense, plus it takes a lot of energy to get out of the house.

I think I'd rather be running my own games, honestly. Kind of want to have a character of my own to play sometimes, though. I guess that's why I reinstalled World of Warcraft.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
The Draenei in World of Warcraft are starting to creep me out, because they remind me of my old church. Here's the condensed version of a sermon I just heard from one of them:
  1. The Light is a feeling that people have that makes everything they do okay.

  2. Some people don't have the Light. They are Bad People.

  3. Life is something that's meant to be endured, but if you're a Good Person the Light will help you get through it.

  4. In the Naaru's name, amen.
Even before I heard that, their random quotes ("Be kind to those less fortunate!" "Each day is a blessing!" "The Legion's end draws near!") were starting to grate on me, and I think I figured out why. There's a part of the Tao Te Ching that basically says "When people start going on about honor and compassion it's because they've forgotten what either are like," and especially after that sermon that's sort of the feeling I'm getting from Draenei.

If that seems a little abstract and counter-intuitive to you, try this: Imagine that as part of normal conversation, I gave you the sincere advice of "Don't kill anyone today! :D " Wouldn't that immediately set off your weirdness detector? Especially if you realized I meant it and wasn't just being silly. It's like, the fact that anyone feels like they have to say that proves that something is really messed up. Sorta like how all the Blood Elf quotes are about how they'll kick everyone's tails; it's because they got their heads handed to them by the Scourge and now they're really insecure and stuff.

(Fun fact: Like half of all Blood Elf quotes are either "Yay for us" or "Boo for our enemies". So it's endlessly amusing to imagine them delivering the same lines in the same stern voice, but swapping the subjects. "Glory to our enemies!" "Death to the Sin'dorei!" "The Sunwell will fall!")

I suppose the case could be made that if I were to give a sermon, it'd sound a lot like the Draenei's. "If you're one with the Tao, you'll want to be yourself and be nice to others. People who go against their natures turn into bad people, one way or another. Good times give way to bad, but bad times give way to good also." I think there are subtle differences though, and I feel like the point of anything I said would be to get people to accept who they and others are, as opposed to trying to encourage them to do or believe or behave in a way that's hard and unnatural for them.

Which, in hindsight, that's the first impression I got of the Draenei starting area way back when: Unnatural.

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We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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