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


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

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)

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.

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.

 

Without Mosquitoes, there is no Dengue: UM students use HvM to teach Panama youth about vector-borne diseases

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During Summer 2014 in the semi-autonomous Panamanian community known as Kuna Yala, a team of University of Miami Public Health and Latin American Studies students participated in an educational intervention to raise awareness about mosquito avoidance and disease prevention among Kuna Yala’s 10-12 year old schoolchildren. They were successful in engaging the children in pertinent discussions about this topic through the use of a simple card game developed by Clay Ewing and myself called “Humans vs. Mosquitoes.” The student team adapted it to fit the cultural context of the remote village in Panama and introduced the game in a formal classroom setting, supplementing it with an educational talk and community-wide garbage cleanup.

The game has one goal for each team: the humans try to eliminate all the mosquitoes’ eggs from the breeding grounds while the mosquitoes try to deplete the humans’ blood supply. Children were quick to learn the game, and very eager to continue playing and switch teams after each round. Implementing a formal pre and post evaluation proved difficult, but the team left after seven days with very valuable knowledge about this topic. First, the game was popular among the children, which signifies its potential to be adapted to almost any environment. Second, by opening this channel of communication through gameplay, the team discovered that many of the children had difficulty defining dengue and distinguishing it from the mosquito itself or from other vector-borne diseases. Community health workers and health professionals must keep this in mind when developing awareness raising or educational campaigns. The Panama youth experienced situated learning by playing the game, and it facilitated trust and openness between all participants, which encouraged an ongoing discussion about an important health education topic identified by the community.  The game can be used alongside other educational tools like talks and community engagement activities to reconcile the misconceptions about the life cycle of a mosquito and the diseases it may carry.

 

Thanks to Dr. Sherri Porcelain and Professor Ali Habashi for mentoring and creating such a unique student experience

 Video credit: Hannah Artman, Charles Chen, Stephanie Echeverria, Orchadia McLean, and Amanda Randall – University of Miami

Blog content credit: Hannah Artman

 

 

Training Shelter Staff at His House

In August 2014, the University of Miami published an article on my Toma el Paso game, including some coverage on a recently training I did with shelter staff at His House in Miami Gardens.

Lien Tran shows counselors how to play the board game she created for the young, unaccompanied, and undocumented immigrants who are streaming into the United States. Photo: Han Chang

The full article can be found here:
http://everitas.univmiami.net/2014/08/21/make-a-move-professors-board-game-helps-young-immigrants-plot-their-futures/

Unaccompanied immigrant minors in Miami making moves with Toma El Paso game

Back in Spring 2012, I started working on Make a Move, a game for unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIMs), youth who find themselves in the U.S. without proper documentation of legal status. I was working with a former teacher turned immigration lawyer to bridge the information gap faced by these youth due to their undocumented status. One of the first topics we identified as important for UIMs to understand was the release from detention/shelter process. At about the same time The New School started its social innovation fund called the New Challenge, which was the perfect opportunity to seek seed funding to produce and distribute Make a Move.

In the final few weeks of that spring semester a few notable things happened: I finished designing the game, which was also my culminating thesis project for my Parsons MFAD+T degree. My immigration games project (then named AmigoLegal Games) became the inaugural New Challenge grand grant winner. I was offered a full-time teaching position at the University of Miami in Florida. I (finally) graduated from The New School. In that order. When I first started this project and applied to the New Challenge, I had planned to continue working on it post-graduation from New York. Then my life took a turn and I was headed to Miami, which happens to be another haven for UIMs with its own immigration law concerns.

In my last two months in New York, a place I’d called home for 5 years, I had a lot of transitioning to do. I moved out of my awesome Brooklyn apartment, the one I thought I would live in for many more years. I went from being a graduate student to a professor. I got engaged. I was about to start a whole new life in Miami. Before I left, I committed to continuing working remotely on the immigration games project with my lawyer partner and the juvenile facilities in New York. Well, things didn’t quite work out as planned with my project partner, and I was left to re-establish the project in Miami.

It wasn’t easy, but after about a year of making connections and meeting with different groups, I finally found a solid partnership within the University of Miami family. Etiony Aldarondo from UM’s School of Education has been working with UIMs for years. He’s the faculty advisor for an amazing initiative called ICAN (Immigrant Children’s Affirmative Network), which is part of a larger entity called ICLASP (Immigrant Children’s Legal And Service Partnership). ICAN is a group of dedicated volunteers who work with the UIMs at a shelter in Miami Gardens called His House. I was fortunate to meet Etiony in August 2013, just as ICAN was reworking their UIM curriculum to switch from shorter weekly sessions to an extended 2-days-per month schedule.

Again it wasn’t easy, but I’m so appreciative to have made inroads here in Miami where I can be more involved and have more stakeholders interested in spreading the use of games to address the immigration information gap. Since that first meeting with Etiony in August, we finalized the Spanish translation for the game including its name and had immigration experts from Americans from Immigrant Justice (AIJ) play and confirm its content. Toma El Paso (Make a Move in Spanish) has been part of ICAN’s monthly curriculum since April 2014. In June, we met with the His House staff in charge of the UIMs at their shelter location, and they are very excited about using the game beyond just ICAN. We’ve now planned a game training in August 2014 with the shelter staff so that UIMs can learn and play the game throughout their stay at His House. It seems like it’s been a slow two years, but I’m super excited about the progress we’ve made in the last few months and the steps we are taking to grow. One big change to note is that I’ve renamed this game-based initiative to Amiguía Americana to convey our efforts to provide resources designed for UIMs that serve as friendly guides to acclimating to life in the U.S. We are also trying to expand the reach and use of our resources to include immigrant youth who may have legal status to live in the U.S. Stay tuned!

To learn more about the original Gaming the (Immigration) System project, please visit: http://lienbtran.com/games/toma-el-paso

 

Special thanks to The New School’s New Challenge for seed funding to make this project a reality, my Parsons MFA+DT game design ‘family’ including faculty and students at Institute of Play who helped test the game in its very early stages, Jessica Wendorf (for her instrumental translation help), Lauren Gutman (ICAN program coordinator and Amiguía Americana research assistant), ICAN volunteers, Etiony Aldarondo (Director of Dunspaugh-Dalton Community and Educational Well-Being Research Center at University of Miami), Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), and the staff His House in Miami Gardens, Florida.

 

SIGGRAPH DAC Aesthetics of Gameplay exhibit of indie games available online

In early 2014, the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community (DAC) launched the Aesthetics of Gameplay online exhibition. Ian Bogost captures what this exhibition aims to showcase in his article entitled “Persuasive Games: From Aberrance to Aesthetics”: “But when one finds a game that does manage to deliver a detectable aesthetic — a set of creative principles and effects that make it the sort of game it is — that alone is a triumph.”

I was invited by Greg Garvey from Quinnipiac University (and curator of this exhibit) to be one of the 15 game nominators to identify indie games that fit Bogost’s description. Each nominator was asked to list up to 15 game titles for inclusion in this collection of recent digital games from independent developers that are uniquely creative in putting together striking and distinctive aesthetics with engaging gameplay.

Please visit the exhibit online and experience the breadth of game aesthetics demonstrated with this impressive list of indie games. In the words of curator Greg Garvey, we hope this exhibition “poses questions about the nature of art, games, and play. So download, get in some serious play, and enjoy total engagement!” To view the SIGGRAPH DAC Aesthetics as Gameplay exhibit, please visit: http://gameartshow.siggraph.org/gas/acknowledgements/

Exhibit game nominators included: Elena Bertozzi, Clayton Ewing, Lindsay Grace, Jacquelyn Ford Morie, Eric Nersesian, Casey O’Donnell, Andrew Phelps, Charles Pratt, Samuel Roberts, Kathleen Ruiz, Dave Tomczyk, Lien Tran, Michael Wagner, Jose Zagal, and Eric Zimmerman

 

 

Cops & Rubbers video is now live!

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 Have you played Cops & Rubbers?

Watch this video to learn more about my Cops & Rubbers game project with Open Society Foundations’ Public Health and Rights Project, which is based on OSF’s Criminalizing Condoms report.

For more on Cops & Rubbers:

 

Thanks to Ed Talavera, professor from University of Miami’s Cinema program, for putting together this fabulous Cops & Rubbers video.

Invoking the Pause selects “Games for the Caribbean Climate” as 2014 Grant Partner

I’m pleased to announce that my proposal for “Games for a Caribbean Climate” – joint with Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center (CADRIM) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre – is a 2014 Invoking the Pause (ITP) Grant Partner!

Thanks to Invoking the Pause, we will be conducting a 2-day workshop in Barbados in June 2014 to explore communication of climate risk using game systems. We will use some of our existing climate risk games as an introduction to using interactive tools to discuss climate risk. Some of these games will then be adapted to be specifically relevant to the Caribbean region. The games will also serve as a catalyst for dialogue regarding climate change adaptation needs and concerns in the Caribbean and will inform new ideas for collaboration and innovation to strengthen community resilience. Feedback captured via discussions and evaluations from the workshop will further determine the scope of methodology designed for the adapted game(s).

The workshop will be attended by personnel from partner organizations such as the National Disaster Office, Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) , United Nations, University of the West Indies and the Barbados Red Cross.

I’m looking forward to organizing the workshop with Reynette Royer of CADRIM and taking a pause in beautiful Barbados!

 

From the Invoking the Pause blog:

[quote]Invoking the Pause is thrilled to announce our Grant Partners for the 2014 grant cycle. We received a record number of applications this year, and definitely had our work cut out for us deciding how to allocate funds among a highly qualified pool of applicants. After a lively discussion and some tough decisions, our Advisory Committee selected five partners to receive Invoking the Pause grants:

•    A New Story to Heal the Earth: Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment
•    Breaking Up with Fossil Fuels: As You Sow
•    Raising Our Voices: Convening for Key Environmental Messengers: Environmental Entrepreneurs
•    An Investigation of Fracking in Calfornia: Mark Hertsgaard and Holly Kernan
•    Game for the Caribbean Climate: University of Miami

[/quote]

 

This grant kicks off the beginning of a new and hopefully extensive partnership between the University of Miami and the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center! Thank you to Invoking the Pause and the MK Gratitude Fund of RSF Social Finance for selecting and funding this workshop.