When Gaming Intends to Shape and Distort Our Perceptions of Everything Around Us. Viva La Revolution!

A title that provocative really should be based on at least some speculation. Maybe with me looking bug-eyed and highly excitable. Nope. Everywhere I looked to try to make the K-12 gamification focus we encountered in the last post a fringe ambition–on the periphery–I just ran into more graphic, open declarations. From people with the money and power to make their visions a reality. A 2011 book laying out these aspirations approvingly pointed out that the “Microsoft game-testing lab ‘looks more like a psychological research institute than a game studio.”

That author, Jane McGonigal, of the Institute for the Future, is a keynote speaker of this month’s annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in San Antonio, Texas. She explicitly mentions Robert Torres’ Quest To Learn charter school vision in NYC as a means of reinventing public education as we know it. That Gates and MacArthur and Pearson Foundations vision of Reimagining Education. http://reimaginingeducation.org/ shows it is now the feds vision too.

Before I talk about the book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and its prescriptions for using immersion role-playing games and alternate reality games to encourage students to want to reinvent reality, let’s talk about how we get to this point in K-12. Last week President Obama issued a directive to the FCC “to take the steps necessary to build high-speed digital connections to all of America’s schools and libraries.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/connected_fact_sheet.pdf . The directive on Jumpstarting Learning Technology says our schools “do not prepare our student’s for a collaborative and networked economy” . Which really does sound like the kind of reenvisioned needs economy I have been telling you is integrally linked to these ed reforms. Anyway, here’s a full extended quote:

“We must make our schools an integral part of the broadband and technology transformation–particularly when that same technology can be harnessed to drive empowered, more personalized learning. From digital textbooks that help students visualize and interact with complex concepts to apps and platforms that adapt to the level of individual student knowledge and help teachers know precisely which lessons or activities are working. This technology is real, it is available, and its capacity to improve education is profound.”

That’s the real fundamental shift. All that wonderful personal data plus there’s no longer any need to use print to mentally envision what an author is describing or how things work. The video in the digital textbook or videogame will show the student.  Not influenced in the least by the fact that the creator of the game or textbook publisher openly acknowledged that as “we’re making these games, we dream of the other revolutionary things swarm intelligence might make possible. Low-carbon futures, mass creativity, living happily with less.”

Swarm intelligence by the way is part of what massive online player games can create.  The idea is that “experiencing communitas in an everyday game can spark a taste for the kinds of community action that makes the world a better place. Learning to improvise with strangers toward a shared goal” teaches that “swarm intelligence”–which game designers hope “makes people better able and more likely to band together toward positive ends.” I am really tempted here to bring in a comment about cultivating the little c era of association and community using the the benefits of a profoundly different new technology but I will refrain. Maybe. But even the White House says it is a new age–the Digital Age–and certain notorious political philosophies do believe that new ages grounded in new technology call for a new kind of consciousness. Do you agree?

At the 2008 meeting of the professional group for education professors, the AERA (yes that is the group that elected Bill Ayers to an executive position), Eva Baker of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing–CRESST–presented a paper called “What Do We Know About Assessment in Games?” She pointed out that Games work well when the point is measuring, as in the now federally-required measures of Student Growth. Rather than evaluating, as in traditional testing of the now-defunct knowledge unsuitable for the Digital Age. Her work seems to be the foundation for what GlassLab  is now doing. You “embed the assessment in the transactions of the game and build it into a game’s underlying engine.” The game then becomes the “types of learning to be experienced.”

But that would require coordination with game developers. Good thing then Eva (who you may remember also evaluated SBAC and PARCC for the Hewlett Foundation to ensure these would be measurements of Deep Learning) was a speaker at the 2012 Serious Games Summit. And CRESST is listed as a sponsor of the 2013 Summit. Also conveniently Jane McGonigal started writing her book soon after Eva’s AERA speech. Laying  out a vision on the Rise of the Happiness Engineers. The game designers who use the elements of Positive Psychology so that gaming can set off “the orgasm of positive emotions” such as awe. McGonigal quoted Dacher Kalter as saying that:

“The experience of awe is about finding your place in the larger scheme of things. It is about quieting the press of self-interest. It is about folding into social collectives. It is about feeling reverential toward participating in some expansive process that unites us all and ennobles our life’s endeavors.”

I am not trying to spook you. But if these are the intentions of the designers of the games that are now to constitute what is learning in the 21st century, it matters. The Institute of the Future does a great deal of consulting to famous companies and foundations. Apart from Jane’s high venue speeches.  Jane believes that games “have an important role to play in how we achieve our democratic, scientific, and humanitarian goals over the next decade and beyond.” Now her goals (or Eva’s or these foundations) may not be yours but they are the goals being designed into the objectives of these games.

And whether the student exhibits the desired beliefs, values, and attitudes (suitable for Transformation) is what is being assessed and measured as Student Growth. Jane by the way described her vision of a Sustainable Engagement Economy in the book. It reminded me of Shoshana Zuboff’s Needs Support Economy with its distributed capitalism. She also envisioned reinventing the workplace except she sees the new attitudes coming out of the gaming experiences as driving the desire for change. Making reality more like games is how she put it.

Reading Reality is Broken really is alarming since there really is no intermediary between the vision of the future designed into these games, the psychological and emotional methods incorporated into the games, and the student. And it’s not like I am inferring the vision here. There are many more troubling, to me, examples in the book. But the book reminded me of another troubling book I had read from 1988 called Global Mind Change: The New Age Revolution In the Way We Think. So I went back and reread the marked passages. It was a reminder that if you want social transformation, which that author Willis Harman certainly did as well, you need to target the unconscious belief system. Harman even mentioned our old friend Milton Rokeach (see tags if not familiar). Here’s the vision:

“This concept of unconscious beliefs and the extent to which they are capable of shaping and distorting our perceptions of everything around us–and within us–is so central to understanding the global mind change that we shall make a temporary digression to look into it more deeply.

Each of us holds some set of beliefs with which we conceptualize our experience–beliefs about history, beliefs about things, beliefs about the future, about what is to be valued, or about what one ought to do.”

That’s precisely the real Common Core implementation targets. That’s what Digital Learning is designed to assess and reshape if needed. The assessments have to be performances and activities because as Harman said in 1988: “persons may not realize they have these unconscious beliefs, but the beliefs can be inferred from behavior–from slips of the tongue, compulsive acts, ‘body language’, and so on.”

Now think about this next quote and whether the phrase common core may be a metaphor and not just a factual statement about skills and knowledge and consistency among students.

“In the innermost core of the belief system are basic unconscious assumptions about the nature of the self and its relationship to others, and about the nature of the universe.”

The Game Designers say that is what is being targeted. Ed professors and ed labs and implementation theories openly call these reforms “second-order thinking” and “Irreversible Change” because it is the unconscious being targeted.

We are priming the emotions and using virtual reality to practice how to change reality. While simultaneously leaving the mind empty of knowledge of likely consequences.

Which might foresee a Revolution more likely to deteriorate as the French one did than build something wondrous. As the American one did.




32 thoughts on “When Gaming Intends to Shape and Distort Our Perceptions of Everything Around Us. Viva La Revolution!

    • Thanks. You would be stunned at what got pulled up as I honestly was trying to discount this from the central role the Torres interview and the McGonigal book are creating. But I was pulling up the tech companies pushing this as the new definition of literacy instead of print within same year that UNESCO announced precisely the same. I still haven’t gotten to explaining that. And UNESCO sets it up that what constitutes literacy has always been connected to the prevailing mode of communication. That’s one reason I had to use the mode of production explanation in the last post.

      Of course the new kind of literacy just happens to result in the kind of newmindedness that Ehrlich laid out as necessary for deep ecology. Also fits with the Non-Axemaker Mind.

      Suggest you download every one of the slides from reimagining education and study them. Especially the one that mentions homo faber. That has always been the shorthand used by UNESCO when they are referreng to the Marxian Man as Producer of Artefacts. IB used to use it a lot until people caught on to the tying vision involved. It was back in that slideshow. The one the federal DoEd cosponsored.

      • Thanks for your suggestion, Robin. I will get that done. This conversation is definitely like something Carlos Castaneda would come up with (A Separate Reality about peyote dreams)

  1. If you weren’t talking about these things, Robin, who would? You must have a hell of a time finding people to bounce ideas off of…most people can’t understand why I won’t send my son to school or know what Common Core even is, let alone understand the deeper connections and potential outcomes.

    Thank you for connecting these dots for us. And keep including those links–they are invaluable!

    • Susan,

      Sometimes I do not include links but give enough specificity to allow a search to pull up source. That is my preferred method when the link would make it too easy to delete something that is controversial. That’s what I did with Eva’s paper in this post.

      I actually mostly talk to myself and usually outline and then write but I usually do not stick to the outline. Sometimes as is the case with the last 3 and probably 2 more posts I knew the end game I needed to describe and how I wanted to get there. But I am also trying to explain the why of all this. My family’s attitude is they do not like to be reminded of just how different I am from the typical mom. My middle child teases me that she can tell when I have been in my head all day because I am really distracted while I cook dinner.

      I am really on the same page as people opposing the Common Core but there is so much else going on. Plus from the book I know what built up to where we are now. That helps me frame it. Plus as of yesterday I have Michael Barber from Pearson and his associates putting all these changes globally in the context of America and the UK in decline and China and other Asian countries on the rise. Of course what Pearson is foisting on us will simply hasten that decline. But that was not a paper any of us were supposed to see. Less than a year old there was a reference to it in another paper. Now that one is too sensitive for me to give out the link. But it sure did put a whole new perspective on what Pearson means by “internationally benchmarked.”

      • These Pearson documents are ones I would like to read especially since, as a teacher, I am being trained in all things Pearson, CCSS, and “benchmarked.” Robin, what have you seen about the term “bootstrapping”? It is in vogue in my state, and I would love to see its link to gaming and other technology. By the way, President Obama’s call for more tech and Internet in schools is laughable. Does he realize most schools do not have enough computers, and if we do have them, they are running Windows XP? Of course many will be switching to chromebooks next year as Microsoft will no longer issue patches for XP problems. I smell an opportunity for the deformers.

  2. Obama has recently announced a Brain Activity Mapping ..BAM project. 10 year multi Billion $ project. Modern Tower of Babel ? Recall last attempt was thwarted a very long time ago. History has been known to repeat itself.

    • Hi polly. Welcome to the blog.

      I talked about that brainmapping project with a link to the NSF description in this post from March. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/specifying-new-education-economic-and-social-models-as-the-final-act-of-the-civil-rights-movement/

      I actually went back through Harman’s book and wrote down the rest of the points I wanted to make. He wants to have the rational/analytical mind cease being the gatekeeper and use the creative/intuitive mind. Bet that lights up differently on a functional MRI. As I said at the time a brain that looks like North Korea from the air at night means job well done.

      Plus the supplied conceptual understandings and the illustrative facts are supposed to form a cogent whole so that is what gets used with not yet taught or unscripted materials. In the Pearson paper I just mentioned to Susan there is room in the equation provided under the definition of Leadership or the desired ethical point of view to hammer people without the desired values or dispositions. In fact that is quite clear as beliefs about climate change is used as an example of what MUST be there.

      It’s all quite fascinating and horrifying for an old history major like me to be reading.

  3. I was reading JM’s chapters on alternate reality and was having a hard time following her. It’s like the cat’s chasing its tail, and she’s saying—“good kitty.” So the cat likes to chase its tail? She wants to reinforce it, i.e. to have the cat spend more time chasing its tail—help us.

    • Well the idea of a PhD in Performance Studies is a bit frightening. She believes in a different social vision for the future. But as you know from the book she is just fine or has not thought through the implications of simply imposing this on everyone.

      Trying to eliminate the rational mind as the gatekeeper is terrifying. We I drop in the rest of the Harman quotes into the broader vision you may want to have an adult beverage handy. If I post in the AM, think mimosas.

  4. “It is about folding into social collectives. It is about feeling reverential toward participating in some expansive process that unites us all and ennobles our life’s endeavors.”

    “I am not trying to spook you.”

    I still feel, after reading this, that Halloween just came a little bit early this year.

    • As Desuetude knows I am just touching the top here. And Institute for the Future was started by Rand employees including the one who created the Delphi Technique to stealthily coerce consensus. The Rockefeller Foundation funded their Catalysts for Change.

      I was at a presentation last week on Digital Learning and one of the people who was asked to stand up and take a bow for helping sponsor the breakfast turns out to be connected to IFTF’s education work. Which would certainly be a surprise to people in the audience trusting what the speaker was saying.

      Remember my motto Loran. If Halloween has to come early, it is best not to have it show up unawares. This way you can get an appropriate costume in time.

  5. While I haven’t been able to find a job here in SC for over a year now, I filled in a few of the economic gaps by substitute teaching, mostly at one local high school. Interestingly, while SC is one of a body of states that have made headlines by fighting to opt out of the Common Core, a substantial number of the textbooks being used there are “Common Core Compliant” (I think this is the proper terms I saw used). Where I noticed this was primarily math, english, and social studies.

    The textbooks being used by today’s students are just as shocking, upon actually reading them, as one hears in reports by conservative think tanks or in Thomas Sowell op-eds. They look like comic books, not “text” books in academic subjects.

    As I told my wife recently, most of them represent what I call “factoid” education. Its less like going into any depth or detail on a subject and more like reading the crawl along the bottom of the screen on a cable news station. You can go through chapter after chapter after chapter and the knowledge, theory, and facts presented are cursory, contextually isolated, surface level, and lacking in serious theoretic or factual background knowledge. Real depth of any kind is simply not present at all, even at the Senior level.

    Then you have all the multicolored sidebars, boxes, Disney-like cartoon characters, splashy graphics etc., and the entire experience is more like what one would expect for the teaching of grade school children, not young adults.

    This really IS scary, folks, and the likelihood of most of it being in any sense accidental or a manifestation of mere human incompetence or unconcern isn’t tenable.

    The “dumbing down” we’ve seen over the decades and continue to see today is, indeed, deliberate, and the kinds of ideologues and utopian fantasists behind the plethora of intellectual fads saturating the public schools and teacher’s colleges are among the most disturbing specimens of unbridled Platonic hubris in the modern era.

    While all of these people and ideologies may not be doctrinally compatible with each other across every point of theory, they are all united across one front against their common enemy: America, Western civilization, free-market economic relations, the individual, limited government by the consent of the governed, the family, the entire classical liberal political movement of the last two centuries, and religion (at least in its various traditional Judeo-Christian forms).

    Oh, and the “axemaker” mind. Axemaker minds, you see, also make, not only axes (and horrible, terrible things like internal combustion engines, refrigerators, air conditions, hairspray, pesticides, golden rice, styrofoam cups, and McDonald’s french fries), but ideas generated by free, independent thinkers, and ideas like this are very, very dangerous for the “systems” thinkers and those seeking people who will “fold into social collectives.”

  6. Remember when mickydees had the good fries, cooked in beef fat like the french still do? those were good days. bye bye miss american pie. my kids work, in every indiscerable subject always takes a classic story and says, ” now create your own ending”, ” what do you think happened next?” “make inferences”…. its sick.

    ok no more maudlin…. lets look at today’s propaganda fantasy press from the
    Sacremento Bee.


    PLEASE EVERYONE COMMENT ON THIS FARCE after the article on the sacbee
    which uses all the classic little c schticking points…
    george bush did it
    only tea party nuts oppose it
    republicans LUV it ( huck n jeb)
    —————————————————————exerpt below…..
    Has Washington played a role?

    Only to the extent that the Obama administration’s Race to the Top school grants competition gave points for having standards – any standards, not necessarily the Common Core – that showed that high school graduates were ready to do college work or get jobs. The Common Core wasn’t required.

    Critics claim that the Common Core would nationalize education and threaten state sovereignty. Is this true?


    • Never mind what the Dr. Catherine Halsey character looks like, get a load of the dialogue (cut & paste from Desuetude’s link):
      Interrogator: “Tell me about the children.”
      The interrogator, who is framed in shadow, sits at the other end of their table.
      Interrogator: “Dr. Halsey?”
      Halsey looks at her speaker defiantly. He is framed in shadow.
      Doctor Catherine Halsey: “You already know everything.”
      Interrogator: “You kidnapped them.”
      Cut to John-117, now wearing a breath mask, lying down on the bed as machines prepare to operate on him.
      Halsey (voiceover): “Children’s minds are more easily accepting of indoctrination, their bodies more adaptable to augmentation. The result was the ultimate soldier.”

  7. So common core is so bad that it will tank test scores nationally, intentionally. Ill written, material repeated in grades, questions with no right answers, etc, vague interdisciplenary assignments, developmentally inappropriat work, all causing demoralization, and the empty heads necessary Robin speaks of. All they will know is the ” big ideas” grant and wiggins, and that is done by ” deep engagement” coleman pimental with the nonesence material imbedded with prpaganda and misinfo against western civ. This is
    the dialectic creation of chaos or problem, necessary for the
    dialectic. To solve the intentionally
    created problem, “. Kids scores
    are low!”
    ” not competative with hong kong
    and finland!”. Boom, in swoops gamification to save the day. ” cause kids like games!”. ” they will be engaged!”

  8. So
    1. disengage kids from tradition- (commoncore)

    2. Fill with radical feelings-
    Deep engagement with
    Big ideas ( grant wiggins)
    ( pimental/coleman)

    3. Lower scores nationally
    manufacture problem
    by a large delphi and controlling assessment data and the press
    ( coleman/ barber/ gates/..)

    4. Bring out predetermined solution
    ” will keep kids engaged”

    5. NSA… PRISM, etc necessary to enforce.

    Little c turns to Big C
    Hegelian dialectic process
    mission accomplished

    • Except they do not want big C. It does not bring sufficient revenue into the State coffers for the nomenklatura and their cronies.

      By the 80s the Soviets had figured out that nationalizing the means of production is lethal to the economy. So their advice to 3rd world countries became to “use capitalism.” Keep the pretense that these economic crises are crises of capitalism instead of the truth. That they are a result of state-direction in certain areas of the economy that spends without regard to demand or output.

      Right now radicals like Gar Alperovitz are selling their transformation visions by maintaining more Staism and a needs and Green economy as the only solution to the crisis of capitalism that is the Great Recession. Except that’s not what created the Great Recession or keeps it lingering. No economy can prosper with this kind of regulatory overkill and uncertainty on what the rules will be going forward.

      Economist Robert Klitgard said that corruption is the inevitable product of rents plus discretion minus accountability. That describes it all these days. From what drives too many District Supers and Principals to tech companies to politicians and bureaucrats and foundation employees. None of whom see themselves as suffering a downside from the socially destructive policies that bring them more revenue or promotions.

      • So how do they keep it from tipping? Because it always does, accountability is the key here, if the laws are relative as we are seeing, and there are those willing to lie profusely while staring evidence and documents in the face, then how can it be kept to the small c?

        • Small c is premised on using education to create new mindsets which is the actual implementation purpose whatever the participants like principals and district supers believe or personally intend. Most know a portion and get that it is dramatic social change but they don’t know any history or economics that would trigger a recognition of the link to past calamities.

          That’s really the huge danger here. The changed mindsets that would tolerate these shifts lack the rational mind that makes human society as we know it possible. It really is a repeat of the kind of emotion-driven, herd mentality that is always catastrophic. It will tip into something bad because there’s no real regulator being left in place beyond conform to the herd.

          I am relatively calm about all this because I have managed to pull together all these facts that were never supposed to come out. And I have done it on the front end. I have worked extraordinarily hard to put all this together but there is not any ambiguity where I am with the documents I have as to what is really intended.

          Or the commonalities with past tragedies. This is a good old post on that if you have never seen it. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/comparing-the-real-common-core-to-notorious-authoritarian-social-engineering-disasters/

  9. Sorry! anonymous was ol tech wizard madmommy. thought it disappeared never got my name in and now you have 2 version of same comment, apologies!

  10. Robin,
    little c looks like life in the hunger games. Matches also the central planners regionalization, megaregions,wildlands project and transpo/ rail goals. Elite “capitalists” live in colorful cities.

    “Some pigs are more equal than other pigs”

  11. Robin i just had a revelation about how ppp’s fit into the little c. They are the stakeholders. They are annointed ones Of the ” mixed economy communist/capitalist” proclaimed by my 5th graders pearson 2008 textbook. The chapter is on economies, has a big picture of Mao. Softpeddles communism and proclaims there are only 3 types of economy. The third way is the mixed one. Comm/cap which they are telling my son is America’s economy. The mixed is the ppp annointed class who own means of production through copious state gifted grants etc, partnership payoffs… To get a big chunk, but the partner like pearson or virgin gets billions of public money and enterprise are allowed to fail. Branson’s trains, solyndra, california redevelopment.
    The money gets granted and the buildings dont get built. Its all in the contracts and resolutions they all have huge backdoors, you know. The average person does not read or know of any of this.
    So following your work here is such an enhancement to my understanding, hopefully there will be a way to get it to the masses in a way that is understandable.

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