Nepal: An Autoethnographic Project

My autoethnographic project is centered on a trip I took to Nepal in July of this year. I spent two weeks in Nepal volunteering in childcare. I chose Nepal as an area to explore for my Digital Asia project after reading Aslop’s (2002) Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-Ethnography. Aslop’s (2002) article inspired me to reflect on my own home experiences in comparison to the reflection of my time spent away.

Autoethnography as a method of research has enabled my work to be grounded in personal experience which will deepen others capacity to empathise with individuals different from us (Ellis et al 2011). Originally for my final project I planned to video (in 360 degrees) my family and I cooking and eating dal bhat, which is a traditional Nepali meal. However, after multiple blog posts and research it was clear that I needed to show (digitally) the contributing factors to the creation of the traditional meal. From Chris’ feedback I decided to create a Google Map with different layers showcasing my volunteer experience.

  • Layer 1 (Volunteer Experience):  displays the movement of seven volunteers’ (including me) trip to Nepal.
  •  Layer 2 (Nepali Dal Bhat): displays the movement of products that created dal bhat. Dal bhat is a local dish to Nepal. The meal consists of rice, lentil soup, saggi and sometimes pickles.
  • Layer 3 (Australian Dal Bhat): displays the movement of products that created the dal bhat eaten in Australia in my family home. This includes the country of origin of most of the ingredients

Please enjoy clicking through the points on the map, there are many photos and Google Doc’s to explore.

Leeds

The University of Leeds in the United Kingdom is an outstanding institution based in the heart of the city. For me exchange was an escape from my normal routine, a chance to branch out. I was desperate to explore on my own and meet new people.

At first I wanted to study in Ireland as all my family live there. Unfortunately, most Irish universities only accept science students (I am a media and communications/ commerce student).  So I then looked towards the UK.

Up until about six weeks before my departure I was going to the University of Exeter. This was because my university was only in the midst of trying to partner

with Leeds. One afternoon I got the call from the outbound exchange coordinator asking if I would want to go to Leeds…the first person from my university. I said YES of course.

More about Leeds University:

  • There are hundreds of cool and interesting clubs and societies. When I was in Leeds I joined a writing society, the TV club and the baking society.
  • There is a lot of on campus/ around campus accommodation. I stayed in Henry Price and absolutely loved it. Beware, most of the time the university will place you with other international / exchange students so it can be quite hard at first mixing in with the domestic students.
  • Leeds Varsity is a big event…don’t miss it
  • If you love sport, go to Leeds. The University has a team for every sport imaginable and it is quite east to join
  • The gym is free for all students at certain times of the day
  • Subjects are comparatively harder than in Australia, the teachers request more participation and the word count for essays are usually around 4000 words!!

If you’re looking for somewhere metropolitan Leeds is your place!

Critique: Ivan’s Virtual World

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This semester I have been following Ivan’s virtual library artefact for DIGC302. Ivan’s initial idea was to recreate the traditional academic learning space into a virtual environment. The example he used in his presentation was to recreate an art work/ art gallery for students studying history or art. I will refer to this as a virtual library. Ivan’s reasoning behind this was to increase the engagement and motivation levels of students. Recently, serious games for education and the use of virtual reality (VR) has become one of the major research topics in the field of technology-engaged learning (Nian-Shing 2013). Personally, I have often found reading lengthy journal articles and text books to be quite demanding and disengaging.  To make this virtual world, Ivan uses a program called Unreal Engine. Ivan first started using Unreal Engine in Digital Game Cultures where he helped create the yellow house gallery.

The main feedback I gave to Ivan after his initial presentation was that he needed to narrow the content theme he plans to create. The idea itself is interesting and doable but there is the potential of trying to create too much in a short time span.

The class gave Ivan a copious amount of feedback about what they thought he should create. A model of Gallipoli was mentioned by Ted as it is an area of study that the majority of school children learn about. Sarah Frazer, a communication studies and science student in our class told Ivan that it is extremely difficult to study molecules in science as there are three dimensional, text books can only provide two dimensional models.

Ivan continued to try and work on these ideas. In his Beta he showcased the Unreal Engine projects he had been working on. Initially he tried to create the virtual library however he realised that there were too many difficult elements and was stuck on too many intricate details. Then Ivan tried to create a molecule, however that proved to be even more difficult. Ivan then tried to create Howl’s moving castle but he ran into copyright issues. Finally, Ivan decided to create an outdoor landscape that he hadn’t created before and it turned out really well.  A lot of his work is trial and error.

It is important to note that despite his difficulty Ivan still followed through with trying to create something with the program. Ivan kept trying different prototypes. Plattner (2000) explains that the reason prototyping is so important is because it enables you to fail quickly and cheaply. Ivan failed early and failed often (FEFO) but each time created a better iteration.

I enjoyed exploring Ivan’s island in his beta presentation, it looked very real. The sound definitely added to the ‘realness’ of the environment. It is important to note that the aim of his project has changed from creating a virtual library to creating something simpler and visually appealing. Ivan needs to create a virtual world that has purpose and context.

With the introduction of new technologies (360 cameras, VR and augmented reality technologies) people often think that it is the technical difficulties that are most important. However, the portrayal of the message, narrative or story can be very difficult. In the article VR: five insights for communication professionals, the author explains that VR developers want to innovate endlessly, and communicators that can embrace “the big idea” will be the most successful. In terms of the current environment Ivan has created, I suggest that he put more elements within it, for example people, animals and/or other objects. If he were to put animals into the environment paired along with this could be specific information about that type of species. In September 2015, Google launched a program called Pioneer Expeditions. This program enables teachers to bring students to virtual places such as underwater and outer space. Each place is annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum used in schools.  Furthermore, VR-based learning is currently centring itself around the hard sciences – biology, anatomy, geology and astronomy. This is because the curricular focus and learning opportunities are enriched through interaction with animals, environments and dimensional objects.

When virtual reality meets education, is a good blog post that highlights the key reasons why VR-based learning can work in schools (lower and higher education). Furthermore, in Ivan’s virtual world, there are currently limited reasons for the player/user to look around. This article, How to make a great virtual reality experience, lists the most important tips to creating a good VR environment.

I suggest that Ivan spends more time, on a regular basis informing himself on how to use Unreal Engine via the online tutorials. But also researching the best way to portray the narrative he wants his audience to perceive and understand.  Due the the complexity of the program, Ivan has spent most of his time learning about what he is doing rather than building a final product, which is not a bad course of action. Next time Ivan wants to produce an idea he will be able to do it quicker and better because of his past experience with the program. Due to the short time period left, I suggest that Ivan stick with meditation island. He can tweak design elements and textures already created to make a more immersive environment (a significant factor when creating a virtual reality project).

Finally, for his artefact I suggest that Ivan attempts to upload his project to Google Play. This way users can use Google Card box to view the material. By uploading his work to this platform Ivan is also adhering to the social utility aspect of the project criteria.

Great job Ivan, your skills  have improved so much this semester! Good luck for the future!