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Because of the focus on stigma and prejudice here, it is important to distinguish identity theory from identity politics narrowly construed. In the end all social identities are political because we cannot escape them and they affect our everyday lives and potentials. The novel theoretical framework presented in Section 2, synthesized in the concept of a sociodata ecology applied to the case of identity in the AIR Project, ranging from accounts of computational identity representations to a theory of stigma from seminal work in sociology, assists in providing insight into user identity self-representations across media as diverse as forum profiles, virtual worlds, and computer games.

Current user representations in computational media are inadequate for capturing complex phenomena and subjective experience of social identity. The case of racial representations in computer gaming can illustrate this phenomenon.

In light of the theory presented above, we can continue examining popular current games such as Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and World of Warcraft , which implement existing social identity constructions. In addition to their cultural affinities for many weapon and armor styles, Redguards are also physically blessed with hardy constitutions and quickness of foot.

Such games, we have seen, hardcode racial stereotypes into their infrastructures and fail to ask even obvious questions, such as: What is the effect of racial profiling upon exploration in the storyworld? How can race be represented as more than a set of numerical variables?

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And how can we examine the subjective experience of social oppression or privilege as opposed to cosmetic changes to avatar appearance? Computational identity representations have currently been used in only modest ways to implement characters with identities that transform in response to character actions, context, or just the passage of time. The Microsoft Xbox game Fable is notorious for a similar, if less elegantly executed, effect. He accumulates meaningless treasures, and perhaps a life partner, and eventually goes bald, grows old, loses his partner, and dies. Such examples are revealing in the technical facility for transformative identity they suggest, the conventional metaphors they enact, and the constrained set of computational approaches upon which they are based.

These examples display the technical possibility for evocative transformation within gaming. We can also use computational or mathematical models to represent critical perspectives on complex models of social identity themselves. Mathematical modeling of identity need not reproduce disempowering identity representations as in Oblivion , nor need they represent simplistic ethical choices.

Questioning the limitations of current identity representations in games does not require the production of didactic games that eschew the fantasy inherent in the medium; the call here is not for diversity training games. Indeed, Shadow of the Colossus and Passage in particular represent poignant affective possibilities for character transformation. Yet, toward the aim of critical reflection on identity, we can go further. We are modeling attitudes, objects, and various aspects of a relation between them; to do this job, we are using, among a large group of things and relations, various of those things and relations to stand for the objects, attitudes, and relations we wish to model.

Ordinary, informal, nonrigorous language overcomes all these problems, however, with a bravura, panache and elegance that leave the formal logician panting and applauding. The epigraphs above hint at the relative powers of both mathematical logic and imaginative language for capturing subjective, nuanced, and contextually contingent concepts.

My own work comprises an interdisciplinary computational approach that can attempt to leverage human subjective expression with the polymorphic possibilities of computational data-structuring and algorithmic manipulation.

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One outcome of my research has been an expressive form called polymorphic poetry or polypoems , which combine prose poetry, dynamically reconfigurable data-structures, and forms culturally grounded in African diasporic oral traditions of signification, with the use of algebraic techniques to construct imaginative metaphors on the fly. During the execution, each time the user enters a term it is scanned for relevance to the domains and a response is produced as output to the screen.


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The system constructs conceptual spaces, using the algebraic semiotic framework, and blends these to construct metaphors using a conceptual blending algorithm. This narrative template is integrated with metaphors generated on-the-fly. This polypoem implemented with the GRIOT system actualizes the winding together of the separate cords of computational and mathematical modeling, social identity, and imaginative metaphor in fiction in a cultural artifact.

The GRIOT system has also been used for composing graphical images to create a type of visual poetry that also addressed identity. This technology enables the GRIOT system to be used to construct graphical and textual character representations for games, social networking sites, and educational software.


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In this manner, we have also experimented with changing iconic human representations based upon context in computational environments, as illustrated in an image from a system called Generative Visual Renku in Figure Kenny Chow and I have defined a set of combinatorial, recursive, and procedural rules to allow such transformations to take place. This is, however, just an early step toward the types of applications envisioned in the AIR Project. The following are examples of systems that demonstrate polymorphic poetics via mutable character or profile representations. The systems have been described elsewhere; however, the following descriptions elaborate the particular ways in which their development engages with and was driven by the theoretical framework outlined above in Section 2.

Chameleonia: Shadow Play is a prototype critical identity politics game in which an avatar and its shadow performed and socially-constructed selves dynamically transform, along with the cinematic presentation of the scene, based on player-selected gestures and the current location. Chameleonia implements naturalization phenomena as well. One of the major ways in which humans naturalize within communities is by displaying contextually appropriate gestures.

It also implements the concept of torqued identity. Avatar Breeder is a generative satirical artwork constructed by Daniel Upton and Jisun An in a graduate level course I taught. It serves to undermine the essentialist nature of normative categories of identity encountered on bureaucratic forms. Avatar Breeder allows users to breed avatars together to create new ethnic categories, then labeled by users. A user is provided with an initial pool of avatars labeled with ethnicities from a Georgia Tech form.

The user selects two parents, which genetically combine to create four potential children. The system implements metonymic categories including stereotyping and salient examples. As user-generated content grows, the normative categories are eventually marginalized.

IdentityShare offers a dynamic means of self-representation based on open-ended categories and tags. Standard profile models that include normative categories such as name, age, gender, location, and race are bolstered by a customizable database of user-created fields, with design features to ensure database consistency. Users can select which categories are most important to them using checkboxes. The system also implements category centrality.

DefineMe: Chimera is a social networking application like Facebook in which users define metaphorical profiles and avatars for each other rather than solely specifying their own representations. The initial content domain consists of animal types constructing chimeras because they are potent and entrenched metaphors for human personality [63] , however the model extends to more everyday social categories such as scenes or fashions. The pilot work discussed above is intended to have transformative effects in part through expressive use of media, in other words, the domain of poetics.

Now performing feminine displays of muscle-bound preening, now daughter of colonialist demonized separatists, now imbibing the nectar of negritude to spew lyrically, rhythmically onto the page, now checking the census box for multiple ethnic memberships — our identities are in flux, constructed cognitively through our abilities to map from one concept to another as conceptual metaphors, and to blend concepts to form new ones. Accounting for ways in which the structure of computational media enables expression of dynamic content comprises a type of poetics.

Poetics deals with problems of verbal structure, just as the analysis of painting is concerned with pictorial structure. Since linguistics is the global science of verbal structure, poetics may be regarded as an integral part of linguistics. Contemporary cognitive linguistics sees issues of concept generation, metaphor, and narrative as pre-verbal phenomena, hence cognitive poetics must account for meaning-making at large, including in computational media. The notion of polymorphic poetics holds at its center a concern for the dynamic nature of computational media representations as they are acted upon by algorithmic procedures and given computationally amenable form by abstract data structures.

Social identity representations are a clear case through which to discuss polymorphic poetics. With most current computational social identity technologies such as computer games , our self-representations inherit none of the fluidity of our personae in our embodied, situated, and imaginative lives. These are self-representations with the following characteristics:. These characteristics emerged from previous research developing theory and technology for interactive and generative narratives and poetry based upon an interdisciplinary theoretical framework of computer science, cognitive science, and cross-cultural discourse models [66].

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As seen in the pilot work and other projects I have worked on, outcomes based on this framework have included polymorphic poetry texts that are generated to vary in semantic content, such as metaphorical exposition and affective tone, in response to user-input on each iteration and polymorphic personae graphical characters bolstered by semantic back-end data to enable them to visually transform depending on context and user actions. The notion of polymorphic poetics generalizes these results in order to articulate a prescriptive and analytical account of computational media aesthetics applicable to other domains, including the realm of social identity, as discussed here.

However, this generalization does not arise simply, since clearly text-based works of poetry are quite different from avatars or social networking profiles, and future work must be done. Computational models of cognitive categorization and social classification drove the development of the systems above, however development of future systems based on this framework can be pursued in a more systematic way. It would even be desirable for diverse types of systems to be developed using a shared programming toolkit or application programming interface API , a proposed outcome of the AIR Project.

Extensions to the models to be developed as a part of the AIR Project consist of developing and refining formalizations and techniques to implement a small subset of cognitive and social identity phenomena in software, initially addressing torque, metonymic category models, marginalization, markedness, naturalization, and category gradience. These are summarized in Figure Such AIR project technologies would enable subjective meanings to be incorporated into user representations along with graphical images.

This means that in addition to graphical models, semantic information about users will be formalized and represented in data structures representing characters. For a simple example of racial profiling in a computer game, if one wanted to cause all non-player characters of a particular type to respond suspiciously to a user, the ontology knowledge specification structure should entail that metadata indicating characteristics that are prototypical for a given race are negatively attributed. Similarly, such knowledge structures can inform how a given user-representation should be presented, or can even enable a user to have multiple representations e.

A clarifying example to illustrate how this could aid in constructing more critically aware games follows. Rather than enabling the actual actions, they merely manage numerical statistics, altering the values of hit health points or points on a career trajectory respectively. Such meaningful functions are the type that the AIR Project enables.

The case of social identity representation in computational media provides an excellent example, showing that social sciences and humanities insights are necessary for identity technologies that enable critically awareness. The preceding has described specific examples of how my current and future work attempts to do this. Our interlocking perceptions and conceptualizations of the social worlds we inhabit are mitigated through imaginative cognition processes by which our identities are constructed in a manner far more complex than allowed by haunting checkboxes strung in arbitrary conjunctions — such as, Caucasian or Near-Eastern, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black non-Latin.

Even the rich mathematical language of computational data structuring and algorithmic processing can only grossly begin to approximate the complex possibility spaces of projected selves. Hear elementary school teacher, Diane Holtam, speak about how she works with other teachers to disabuse stereotypic notions of Asian American students' abilities.

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Curriculum, in its most simple, essential, commonly understood form, is the "what" of education. It is crucial to academic performance and essential to culturally responsive pedagogy. Even the most "standard" curriculum decides whose history is worthy of study, whose books are worthy of reading, which curriculum and text selections that include myriad voices and multiple ways of knowing, experiencing, and understanding life can help students to find and value their own voices, histories, and cultures. Hear high school creative writing teacher, Foster Dickson, talk about text selection and the importance of a diverse selection of authors.

Learning Lakota For a high school on South Dakota's Rosebud Reservation, culturally responsive curriculum is proving a hefty antidote to the violence, poverty and growing cultural disconnect hindering student success.


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Teachers are often a young immigrant's first regular, ongoing contact with someone outside their home community and culture. It's a relationship that can provide the emotional scaffolding necessary to cross the linguistic and cultural divide between country of origin and country of residency. With a hearty mix of creativity, cultural acumen, and professional expertise, teachers can help English language learners acquire language skills more rapidly — and foster inclusion in the school community. Listen to elementary teacher, Diane Holtam, talk about bridging the gap between her newly arrived immigrant students' home language and English.

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Breaking the Prejudice Habit by Patricia G. Nene faces her fears about doing math and overcomes them. Polychrome Publishing Corporation. ISBN Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice. New York: Teachers College Press, Teaching to change the world , 3rd Edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill, Performative Acts. Opposition and the Education of Chicanaos.

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Decolonization and the Curriculum of English. Children and the Grammar of Popular Racism. How White Teachers Construct Race. Strategies of Stardom. Knowledge and Ideological Representation. The Politics of Knowledge. DuBois white teachers women York Zabeel.