Blog Updates from the project



Week 2 Workshop Report: What should the game teach? (part 2)

by Kate Raynes-Goldie

Another goal for the second week was to talk about different kinds of privacy – especially aspects of privacy that are perhaps not thought of as connected with online privacy. In my own research with 20-somethings and that of others (such as Zeynep Tufekci and ) that young people (college/university-age students) conceive of privacy in a different way than traditional legal conceptions which are based on the “ right to be left alone ” or total withdrawal. This sort of privacy usually revolves around protecting and managing information gathered about individuals by institutions, such as banks or law enforcement.  ”Institutional” privacy, as it can be called, had traditionally been what the world’s data protection and privacy commissioners have been concerned with. On the other hand, things like identity, reputation and context management (or “social” privacy) seems to be more of a pressing concern to 20-something social media users. This sort of disconnection of terms has probably what lead to misunderstandings that youth don’t know or don’t care about privacy at all . We wanted to explore this distinction with our younger co-designers. How did they conceive of privacy? What did they know about online privacy issues? Where they more concerned with institutional or social privacy, or something else? Through a number of exercises, our goal was to explore these questions and, co-construct a shared idea of what we (both adults and children) meant when we talked about privacy. To that end, and to avoid skewing results, we didn’t use actually the word “privacy” until later in the workshop. What we found was partially unexpected.

The first exercise was a drawing exercise where the children each picked one of the following and drew a picture about it:

  • Not being watched
  • Keeping secrets
  • Other people thinking true things about you
  • Being left alone
  • Knowing what is said about you

At the end, we asked “are any of these things connected to privacy?” Three said yes, three said no and one said maybe. What was also interesting was that the two pictures of “being left alone” described sad situations. Overall, it seemed that there is some confusion about what privacy actually means.

The final privacy exercise of the day was bringing together what we had talked about to get some ideas of what the privacy game we’re creating together should actually teach. Based on the advice of Sara Grimes , I told stories about different online privacy situations and then we discussed them. As Sara suggested, stories about other people would make it easier for everyone to feel comfortable sharing since it would be less personal. Coming out of this discussion was the somewhat unexpected part. All the children but one said that adults had told them to be concerned about their online privacy. And what they were usually told about (especially the girls) was worrying about strangers — a threat that has been shown time and time again as . While this wasn’t surprising, what was surprising is that that they hadn’t been told about institutional privacy issues, such as how to make choices about when/if to trust websites or online games and the consequences of those choices. Despite this, they were all quite savvy that online games were “greedy” and that the agreements they were asked to sign when they joined weren’t there to protect children, rather they were there to protect the companies “from being sued.” Despite this knowledge, there seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between this knowledge and actual action — a problem adults have as well. I suspect, though, that the emphasis on “stranger danger” rather than institutional privacy and trust combined with a lack of education in that area underscores that disconnect. Making good privacy choices with respect to how companies might use your data is just not being framed as important.

Based on this, our co-creators wanted the game to help children make good choices around who to trust online, beyond strangers. One of them wanted to know how to figure out if someone else really was another kid or not. Another wanted to know more about viruses, spying and hacking. They were also curious about how to determine of an online game company would be “greedy” or not, and thus if they could be trusted.

The research supports this focus as well. Valerie Steeves, Trevor Milford and Ashley Butts notes in their best practices for educational initatives in their , that children and youth should be encouraged to critically reflect on “the role of advertising, marketing, and consumerism as drivers of children’s online experiences.” This is exactly what our co-creators want to to know more about!




Week 2 Workshop Report: Games as experiences (part 1)

by Kate Raynes-Goldie

During the second week we started talking about games as well as privacy. In our opening circle, we all shared what our favourite online games were (one of the children asked if we meant group games or Flash games, or both – great question! We included any game you played on the internet). Moshi Monsters was by far the most popular:

Our favourite games
Moshi Monsters (x4)
Monkey Quest (x4)
Club Penguin (x5)
Webkinz (x5)
Neopets (x2)
Shift 2
Wolf Quest
Animal Jam
Test Subject Green
Bitstrips (x4)
Balloon Tower Defense 3

We also found out that other than the adults who were on Twitter and Facebook, one of the children has an account on Facebook, another on Twitter and one uses his mum’s account to play Farmville.

After some privacy exercises (discussed in the next post ), we began to bring in some more formal game design exercises. David and I are both self-taught game designers, so we’re finding Jesse Schell’s really helpful for formalising what we know and passing it on to the group. The book’s chapters each examine a different lens for understanding and designing games, such as theme, iteration, worlds and characters. From our discussions so far, we know our young co-designers already know a lot about games because they play a lot of games. But like us when we started the workshop design process, they still need to formalise that knowledge so that they can reflect on it. Before getting into the nitty gritty of game mechanics (rules, balance, actions, space etc.) we thought the most accessible entry point would be the lens of experience.

To investigate this lens, we asked everyone to think about how various things made them feel as we played a few different games ( Zip Zap Zop and , which you can see a photo of us playing below) At the end of the game, we sat down in a circle and everyone wrote down an emotion we had on one sticky note, and then on another sticky what we were doing in the game when we felt it (photos of the discussion white board below). One of the children had a great idea to make the exercise even more reflective by having everyone guess which emotion went with each moment.

Next week we’re going to delve more into experience by adding the question of “why?” We’re also going to test some prototypes David and I worked on this week based on the children’s feedback and ideas thus far. We’re excited to be working with such a great group!




Week 1 Workshop Report: Introductions

by Kate Raynes-Goldie

What’s all this?

A few months ago, we announced that we had received a grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to develop a cross-media privacy literacy game, for children, with children as co-creators. Since then, we’ve been working on the foundation of the project: the curriculum for a series of privacy and game design workshops. These workshops provide the “ scaffolding ” (this is one of our favourite words – it is a concept critical to our approach which I will write more about later) for the game design by providing the children with the tools to think critically and be reflective about games. The workshops also give the chance for the children to share and discuss what they already know about privacy, what they are confused about and what they want to learn and teach their peers. The outcome of these discussions will shape the content of the game we create together.

We also feel our approach is pretty unique and important. Contrary to popular discourse, we (based on the projects we’ve collaborated on at ) believe children and young people not only care about online privacy, but know much more than they are usually given credit for. One of our research goals is to explore what children already know, and then enable them to become aware and reflective about that knowledge so that they can build and extend on that foundation – a process we also hope to build into the game we create.

First workshop

Another project goal is to share what we learn together, since we don’t think anyone else has done something similar (yet!). With that in mind, this is the first in a series of blog posts that will document our process over the course of the project, which we will complete by the end of January, 2012.

We ran our first workshop last Sunday with the group of children that we recruited over the past few months. Recognising the dearth of women in game design, one of our goals was to have an equal number of boys and girls as co-designers. During the original recruiting process, we had near gender parity, but unfortunately two of the girls dropped out before the first workshop. The final team was made of 7 Toronto-area children, ranging from 8 to 10 years old, with 2 girls and 5 boys (for privacy and confidentiality their names will not be used). The adults are myself , David Fono and our workshop facilitators and curriculum consultants, Noah Kenneally and Jaime Woo . The workshops run 4 hours and are a mix of discussions, interactive exercises and games. Later workshops will include prototyping and game testing.

The agenda of the first workshop went roughly like this:

  • Ice breakers
  • Introduction to the project
  • (physical game)
  • Break and snacks
  • Privacy creative activity
  • Big Booty (clapping game)
  • Break and snacks
  • Privacy spectrogram
  • Closing circle

For the activities around privacy, we used various interactive exercises, such as having everyone draw activities they liked to do by themselves and then doing a show and tell; or drawing a house together, dividing up the rooms and then discussing who is allowed in each room and why.

What we learned

The goal of the first week was to cover most of the privacy questions and then move on to more of a game design focus in later weeks. We got through about half as much as we had planned, so we had to move a number of activities to the next workshop. The first key learning then is rather obvious: things take much longer than we thought! We suspect that breaking up the privacy curriculum will actually be beneficial as we felt that the first week might have been too early to discuss privacy questions (such as secrets and sharing) as we will all still getting to know each other. I’ll report back more about our privacy discussions in the next post, but until then I can confidently say that children 8-10 are definitely thinking about privacy (even if they don’t use the word).




Gaming Privacy (or, Privacy: The Game! For Ages 8 and Up)

by David Fono

We are tickled to announce that we here at Atmosphere Industries in partnership with , were one of eight recipients to be awarded a generous grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program to create a pervasive/crossmedia game for kids, with kids as co-creators. The goal of the project will be to leverage children’s existing awareness regarding privacy to create a game that develops privacy literacy skills for ages 8 and up. We think this project is unique and critically important in its approach in a time when many efforts to protect children’s privacy are heavy-handed, alienating and ultimately counterproductive. These approaches tend to ignore the knowledge children have about the online world as well as the fact that a child’s privacy can be inadvertently compromised by his or her parents. By working with children as co-creators, we hope to create a respectful, engaging and fun game that teaches privacy literacy in through critical thinking and advocating for oneself. And, as a bonus, we get to help to launch a new generation of game designers!

The project also contains a significant research component which examines conceptions of privacy among young children, which is why we’ve partnered with and will be drawing on the lab’s collective expertise in early childhood education, privacy, autonomy and research-based activism. We also have the generous support of the Ryerson DMZ , who are providing a hub for the game development process.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Official Press Release
Full List of Funded Contribution Projects
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