Dive in and see with sound! Experience Echo Earth at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Echo Earth at the Smithsonian’s 2017 ACCelerate Festival

Echo Earth was selected for exhibition at the 2017 ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., from October 13-15, 2017.

The festival is a celebration of creative exploration and research happening across the ACC at the nexus of science, engineering, arts and design (SEAD). It is an opportunity for all ACC schools to showcase their work to each other, potential ACC students and their parents, alumni, companies, legislators, and invited guests from the nation’s capital.

 

About Echo Earth

Echo Earth Experience (EEE) is a virtual reality (VR) experience, which simulates how marine mammals use echolocation to navigate underwater. Players transform into a beluga whale that uses echolocation as their main mechanism to navigate and search for food. This is a whimsical, experiential, simulation-based game where players must listen carefully and use echolocation to determine the direction of their food source.

EEE was originally conceived and created during the 2017 Global Game Jam at the University of Miami jam site by a team of University of Miami faculty and students and a Miami local. It was also was made with Unity and originally for Samsung Gear VR. Witness some of our 48-hour game jam journey here.

For more about Echo Earth, please visit echoearthexperience.com


Advocacy and games evaluation in South Africa

In March 2016, Professor Lien Tran and PhD student Soroya McFarlane traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to conduct a qualitative research study on the use of creative methods of advocacy. Tran and McFarlane facilitated 9 focus groups with over 50 South African advocacy leaders, representing more than 15 human rights and health organizations.

Participants of the study either played Cops and Rubbers (a tabletop game designed by Professor Tran for Open Society Foundations [OSF]) or read OSF’s Criminalizing Condoms report. Both the report and game address the adverse effect the practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution has on sex workers’ health and human rights. Participants discussed the benefits and barriers of the game and the report within the context of standard methods of advocacy.

In addition to participating in the focus groups, the local advocacy and outreach leaders were invited to attend a training session, led by Tran, on using Cops and Rubbers as an awareness and advocacy tool to support the decriminalization of condoms. More than 20 of the representatives opted to be trained as Cops and Rubbers game facilitators for use in their community outreach around Cape Town. The Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT), South Africa’s leading sex worker human rights organization and an OSF partner, will also use the game within their human rights zone at the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, in July 2016.

The research study and game facilitation training were funded by OSF and made possible in collaboration with SWEAT. Special thanks to Dr. Susan Morgan for her contributions as evaluation consultant.

An Evaluation of games for advocacy: A quantitative research study conducted in Cape Town, South Africa report was released in early 2017 and is available for download here.

Findings from the study will also be submitted for publication in scholarly communication journals.

New University of Miami Department of Community Service (DOCS) model website now live!

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The Department of Community Service (DOCS) is a student run, non-profit organization endorsed by the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine’s (UMMSM) administration. Through DOCS, UMMSM students and physicians provide quality healthcare to the underserved populations in South Florida. In 2014, DOCS partnered with UM’s School of Communication, and with generous support from the Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. Foundation, to develop an online decision support tool to connect like-minded students, faculty and deans at medical schools nationwide with the program. The website’s goal is to engage interested schools in coordinating, improving, and expanding existing community service projects or establishing new health fairs or student-directed clinics.

I served as the creative director and project manager for this web project, coordinating with a diverse set of stakeholders and contributors including faculty, staff, and students at both the Miller School of Medicine and the School of Communication.

The site is currently available at: docs.com.miami.edu

Thank you to all those who helped make it possible!

Always be “Ready to Play” – notes from APA Florida Chapter 2015 workshop

Thank you to all participants who joined me today at the APA’s Florida Chapter conference. Today planners from around the state of Florida got together to experience the power of games to incite critical thinking and dialogue about real-world issues. These included new strategies for decision-making and planning in the face of potential environmental and systemic risks. The session included collaborative activities, with just a touch of competition, during which participants weighed available information/choices and possible outcomes as a means to generate dynamic discourse on challenges and solutions for real-world scenarios. We started the session playing Magnitude (all game files can be found at this link), followed by Building Up (modified from Fields of View‘s City Game) and ending with suggested tools and resources for running interactive sessions with peers and/or community members. I hope you are inspired to take what you saw today and modify/adapt them to your needs. If you need help or suggestions, please let me know. Below are the slides for your reference. I’ll also create time-lapse video(s) of the towns and will post them here soon!

Building Up activity

IMFA campaign for World Wildlife Fund explains why buying FSC is important for forests and wildlife

Curious why buying FSC-certified products matters for tigers and forests? If so, check out “Switch to FSC-certified products and save tigers,” a campaign my students conceptualized, designed, and developed for World Wildlife Fund. Visit the page, share the tweets, and spread the message about #FSC sustainable wood products!

The “Switch to FSC-certified products and save tigers” campaign launched on March 20, 2015, in advance of World Forestry Day, and was also highlighted in the April 17, 2015, edition of  WWF’s E-News, which has over 3 million subscribers.

 

During Fall 2014 I had the unique opportunity to teach the inaugural UM CoLab course, a core course in our MFA in Interactive Media program in which students spend part of the semester researching, brainstorming, and iterating on a project concept and then spend the remaining part of the semester designing and developing it for a partner client. We were extremely fortunate to partner with the U.S. chapter of World Wildlife Fund, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and make a true impact advocating for an important environmental concern and simple call to action. Click here to read about early happenings from this course.

 

April 2 – Prevention, Intervention, and Action: The Colombian National Police and the Security of Children

General Salamanca Colombian youth

General Salamanca with Colombian youth

I am fortunate to be part of an interdisciplinary research team that is partnering with the Colombian National Police (CNP) on a game-based intervention, Por Nuestras Calles, addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Colombia. More on that soon!

Related to our research efforts working with CNP, Brigadier General William Salamanca, Director of Protection and Special Services (DIPRO) for the Colombian National Police (CNP), will visit the University of Miami School of Communication’s Shoma Hall on April 2 at 1 p.m. to present on the issue of CSEC.

We hope to see you there!

Event Details
Prevention, Intervention, and Action: The Colombian National Police and the Security of Children
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 1:00pm (with reception to follow)
Location: University of Miami, School of Communication, Shoma Hall (CIB 3053)

 


The following event announcement appears on UM’s School of Communication website here.

Brigadier General William Salamanca, Director of Protection and Special Services (DIPRO) for the Colombian National Police (CNP), will visit the University of Miami School of Communication’s Shoma Hall on April 2 at 1 p.m. to present on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). His presentation, titledPrevention, Intervention, and Action: The Colombian National Police and the Security of Children will highlight CNP’s existing effort and the organization’s introduction of creative methods to tackle critical societal issues that affect the country’s most vulnerable – its children.  The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. This event is sponsored by UM’s Center for Communication, Culture, and Change, UM’s School of Nursing and Health Studies, El Centro, Miami Consortium for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and UM’s Miller School of Medicine.

This presentation will also highlight a project employing creative methodologies for the prevention of CSEC. Por Nuestras Calles, funded by the Miami Consortium for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, brings together a multidisciplinary team comprised of: Lien Tran, assistant professor of interactive media, and Jessica Wendorf, doctoral student, both from UM’s School of Communication, Maria Elena Villar, associate professor at FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Colombian National Police. Together, the team has developed an experiential intervention that targets the reduction of the stigmatization of victims and the tolerance of CSEC by community members.

“It’s been a wonderful experience to work with Brigadier General Salamanca and the Colombian National Police on this project. Not only because of the incredible infrastructure they provide being a national organization, but also, and perhaps most importantly, because of their great disposition and willingness to engage in a meaningful way,” says Wendorf.

General Salamanca has more than 30 years of service and has received in excess of 65 medals for his efforts in security and protection. In his current role, he is responsible for directing the work of 13,000 men and women throughout Colombia in leading the implementation of strategy to prevent and combat CSEC. Under his leadership, significant efforts have been made, resulting in the capture of individuals who violate the rights of children, neutralizing organizations dedicated to CSEC and ensuring the restoration of rights and protection of children.

“Our team is thankful for this unique opportunity to work with the Colombian National Police and to address an issue as important as CSEC. It’s always a challenge to translate all the rich data and research we’ve collected, including personal conversations with organizations and individuals affected by CSEC, into an engaging and genuine experience. It’s a testament to our research team and partners that we’ve been able to strike the right balance between what could be a harsh reality and the positive message we want to spread about the importance of protecting the children of Colombia and taking a stance against this unjust exploitation,” says Tran.

The team of Miami researchers traveled to Colombia and worked alongside the police to identify potential vulnerabilities, key barriers, and possible entry points for CSEC, leading to the creation of PNC, a role-playing game in which participants are invited to take on the character of a child vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. By situating game players as susceptible children, participants are able to experience some of the systematic barriers of inequality, risk and possible exposure to commercial sexual exploitation. Those who play the game have an augmented awareness of CSEC, thus increasing the likelihood CSEC will be reported to authorities.

“This project represents a genuine academic-community collaboration at the international level,” says Villar.

General Salamanca at the University of Miami event poster (April 2, 2015)

CGIU 2015 // Grow 2.0: Advancing the Small-Scale Farmer

Thank you to the organizers of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU 2015) for inviting me to join such amazing company at this year’s meeting. Held at the University of Miami’s new Student Activities Center, CGIU 2015 kicked off with a two-day Codeathon on March 5-6 that included UM MFA in Interactive Media students Kelsey Kjeldsen and Sevika Singh’s climate games for South Florida preparedness CGI Commitment.

The main event then kicked off with an open plenary session on March 6, 2015, with Dr. Chelsea Clinton and President Bill Clinton and UM’s own Donna Shalala, who will be ending her tenure at UM and will be heading up the Clinton Foundation as its new president at the end of this academic year.

As moderator of “Grow 2.0: Advancing the Small-Scale Farmer” on March 7, I had the pleasure of first honoring two previous CGI Commitments from students at University of Colorado at Boulder and TEI Crete. I then used my international field experience as a lens to guide both questions and advice from a diverse set of panelists on considerations for how committed students could do their part to help advance small-scale farmers. And not just (or necessarily) with technology – basic resources and information go a long way. Also working closely with the community and having their support is critical to success, lessons I have taken to heart with all my own community-based, humanitarian design efforts. Thank you to Timote, Ryan, and Loretta for engaging these highly motivated and devoted students and advising them to push forward their incredible commitments to alleviate poverty globally.

Grow 2.0 Panelists:

 

Photo Credit: Paul Morse / Clinton Global Initiative

Join the Field Innovation Team at University of Miami for the first Miami DO Tank, February 5, 2015

I’ve teamed up with the Field Innovation Team (FIT) to run the first ever Miami DO Tank on February 5, 2015, at the University of Miami’s Student Activities Center. Living in South Florida, the detrimental effects of climate change may be inevitable in our lifetime. Co-sponsored by University of Miami’s Center for Communication, Culture, and Change (4C) and FIT, Miami Do Tank will demonstrate how gaming can move communities to prepare and become more resilient to the impact of rising sea levels.

Please join us to learn how gaming can move communities to prepare and become more resilient to climate change impacts. We will play two exciting scientifically constructed games, including Magnitude, to demonstrate this concept. Tying in these games, we will explain the 6-step design-thinking process. We will train participants on how to use this methodology to create rapid, innovative solutions for addressing the challenges of rising sea levels.

Come the University of Miami to meet with other concerned leaders, experts, and researchers on climate change. Play the scientifically created games and find out where they are available as an open source resource.

Miami DO Tank
Thursday, February 5, 2015 (9am – 4pm)
University of Miami, Student Activities Center (North & South rooms)
Coral Gables, FL

For event information and RSVP, please visit: http://goo.gl/TQ1mJj

Good news, students can attend for free by sending an email to Miami DO Tank at info@fieldinnovationteam.org.

General Agenda

  • 9:00 am – Welcome
  • 9:15 am – “What are Miami and South Florida’s most pressing challenges?” discussion
  • 9:45 am –  Intro to FIT’s design-thinking process and goals for the day
  • 10:05 am – Break
  • 10:15 am – Steps 1 + 2 of design-thinking process: “Understand & Observe”
  • 10:45 am – Rapid sharing on “Understand & Observe”
  • 11:00 am – Play REStrukt game
  • 12:00 pm – Lunch
  • 1:00 pm – Score REStrukt
  • 1:30 pm – Break
  • 1:40 pm – Play Magnitude game
  • 2:40 pm – Break
  • 2:50 pm – Magnitude debrief; Steps 3 + 4 of design-thinking process: “Define & Ideate”
  • 3:45 pm – Wrap up

The Field Innovation Team is a 501(c)3 that responds to crises while simultaneously working on disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction at local, state, national, and international levels. FIT’s mission is “Innovating real-time in disasters.” The Miami DO Tank is a short program that helps communities by mobilizing actors and organizations within South Florida to support theexpected outcome of the United Nations Hyogo Framework for Action 2005 – 2015, a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards.

The Center for Communication, Culture and Change focuses on using communication for social and behavioral change through engaged scholarship and immersive experience. Seeking to address urgent societal issues while making a positive difference in people’s lives, the Center is particularly focused on Latin America and its Miami diaspora.

 

This information also appears on UM’s School of Communication website.

Interactive Media featured in Fall 2014 Miami Magazine // Toma el Paso graces the cover

Tim Collie wrote a comprehensive article about our Interactive Media program and games at UM, including both faculty and student projects, for the Fall 2014 issue of UM’s Miami magazineToma el Paso (Make a Move) is featured on the cover and as a sidebar, and Cops and Rubbers also gets a nice mention.

Toma el Paso has been played by hundreds of unaccompanied immigrant minors in Miami since April 2014, and it will spread to Texas starting in April 2015. Stay tuned for more on my immigration games and serious games projects.

 

For the full article, visit: http://miami.univmiami.net/gaming-system/

Miami Magazine featuring UM's Interactive Media program and game projects

Miami Magazine featuring UM’s Interactive Media program + game projects; Toma el Paso graces the cover

Cops & Rubbers wins Best Overall Non-Digital Game at Meaningful Play 2014

Thank you to the Meaningful Play 2014 committee and Michigan State for a really meaningful, radical, and fun conference! I especially enjoyed meeting other academics from a variety of disciplines coming together and exploring the meaning that can be embedded in game systems. Thanks to everyone who checked out and played Cops and Rubbers, Humans vs. Mosquitoes, and Vanity at the game exhibition. A highlight was meeting my co-panelist Dan Jackson, a lawyer by trade and director of Northeastern University’s NuLawLab, and sharing our experiences on the Games for Legal Services panel. I look forward to connect with Dan and Steph Kimbro (an original panelist who couldn’t make it to Meaningful Play) in the future about our progress with legal games.

Another highlight was receiving the Best Overall Non-Digital Game Award for Cops and Rubbers. Check out photos of Cops and Rubbers at Meaningful Play!

Invoking the Pause: Creating Games for the Caribbean Climate

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Thanks to funding from Invoking the Pause, I was able to travel to Barbados to organize a workshop exploring communication of climate risk using game systems. As a result of this unique funding opportunity, the University of Miami’s School of Communication (UM), the IFRC Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center (CADRIM), and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), were able to partner together for the first time and to introduce an innovative approach to reaching climate risk stakeholders in the Caribbean in June.

The following article was originally posted on UM’s School of Communication website in October 2014. For more information on the Let’s Adapt workshop, please visit the University of Miami’s Invoking the Pause grant website and the Let’s Adapt event page.

Professor Tran specializes in games designed to make a positive social impact by either making players advocate for policy reform, like the condoms as evidence of prostitution policy, or educating undocumented youth on their rights. Games are becoming increasingly more popular for organizations that have trouble explaining tough concepts (like climate change) that can have long-term consequences. While the RCCC has been using climate games and system simulation games steadily across Africa and Asia, it has identified but not yet had the capacity to introduce these game-based communication tools in the Caribbean. Professor Tran along with Reynette Royer (CADRIM), Mini Saraswati (RCCC), and UM’s Professor Clay Ewing facilitated a two-day games workshop entitled “Let’s Adapt: Games for Climate Change Resiliency” to help introduce these concepts in the Caribbean.

Workshop participants represented the Barbados Red Cross, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology (CIMH), Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRT), and the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES). By connecting relevant parties from Barbados and around the region on new participatory approaches to adaptation, this workshop explored how interactive resources and game-based activities can assist in the task of communicating climate change information and invoking grassroots participation within Caribbean communities.

The beginning of the workshop served as an introduction to what makes a game a game, and reasons why games provide a better alternative to learn about these tough issues as opposed to the standard PowerPoint lecture. Games can provide a flexible way for different types of audiences to learn in small doses, while providing an active learning environment where you can interact with peers. After this short game introduction, workshop participants played Paying for Predictions and Match It and also played and began adapting Humans vs. Mosquitoes and Let’s Get Ready (based on an existing RCCC game called Ready). Many of the games can be played with simple materials that you can find at a grocery or convenience store, which helped reinforce the concept that you don’t need much to make a game that teaches important real-world lessons.

Participants also found the game Humans vs. Mosquitoes particularly topical as it addressed a major concern in the region: vector-borne diseases, including dengue fever and chikungunya. The general consensus was that both awareness and mitigation of these diseases is essential, especially as the prevalence has increased in the Caribbean with shifts in climate. Another benefit of playing Humans vs. Mosquitoes was to show how the same message could be translated in two formats: a gesture-based game requiring no special materials and a professionally designed and printed card game.

There were also some unexpected results in the areas of capacity development and partnerships from the workshop. The cooperation and engagement between the workshop organizers has formed an informal non-traditional partnership between UM’s School of Communication and the Red Cross’s CADRIM center, including consideration for other opportunities whereby a reciprocal internship program or similar type of activity could foster creative skills development for students based in both the United States and the Caribbean. Additionally, the extensive research and experience of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre presents exciting proposals for bi-lateral partnerships in the Caribbean related to tools development and research with institutions in the region. While the hope for the workshop was to spark interest beyond the 2-day agenda, the extent to which it has already is far beyond expectations. Professor Tran and her workshop collaborators see this workshop as the first in a series of collaborative initiatives aimed at further innovating actions to increase awareness and resilience in the Caribbean.

 

UM’s inaugural CoLab course is all about WWF and FSC

This Fall 2014 semester I’m running the inaugural MFA in Interactive Media CoLab class, which is a class where students create interactive solutions for a professional client. The students and I are very excited to be working with the U.S. chapter of World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US) located in Washington D.C.

The semester started out with students researching WWF-US and brainstorming ideas for how the organization can connect with the Millennial generation and encourage environmental advocacy. In mid-September, Sara Thomas (University of Miami alumna) and Kerry Green Zobor from WWF-US joined us in Coral Gables, FL, for a 2-day intensive ideation and design workshop. By the end of the workshop, two teams identified two different campaigns that engage the Millennial generation on the benefits of purchasing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sustainable wood products.

On October 6, 2014, 6 of the CoLab students and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to present the 2 campaign concepts to WWF staff. We received excellent response and feedback to the initial concepts, and we even got an exclusive tour of WWF’s green roof (the third largest in Washington, D.C.). Students will continue working on these two WWF-FSC campaigns for the duration of the semester and will present the final projects in December 2014. Stay tuned for the final implementation projects!