Collaborative Learning through Machinima

Here is a project by my students from year 4 of the BSc (Hons) in Computing and Games Development at Dundalk Institute of Technology during the Spring 2012 semester, for the Designing for Cultural Diversity elective. The class were set a project to present a practical demonstration of reappropriation of game engines and language localisation through the medium of a machinima movie. They produced the following mockumentary ‘Skyrim: You’ve been Maimed’, along with a  ‘making of‘ micro-documentary.

Skyrim: You’ve Been Maimed from Youcef Goubid on Vimeo.

A machinima is a movie made using the environment and assets of a videogame engine. For example, the online multiplayer 3D world of popular game franchise Halo is the setting for the chat show This Spartan Life. In it the host and interviewee converse amidst intermittent gunfire from the other occupants of the Halo gamespace.

By combining both theory and practice in a self-referential assessment, the project learning outcomes are reinforced for the learner, providing deeper understanding through first hand experience. The game environment also provides unique opportunities for reflective exploration of digital space and communicative expression.

Leveraging closed source media in a creative context unintended by the technologies originators allows the consumer to take control, recontextualising closed digital artifacts into fresh creative materials. Furthermore, pushing closed source computational media from read-only (or play-only) to a read-write state through creative hacking blurs the distinction between media-consumer and media-creator. Remixing disposable digital media compliments the use of open-source in the classroom, providing a more holistic view of creative technologies beyond mainstream platform and licensing parameters.

In other words, it’s important to go beyond mainstream creative toolkits, all media is fair game for creative use.

02. August 2012 by Kieran
Categories: teaching, Video Games | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

‘All Your Mediums Are Belong to Us’ at the ECREA Digital Culture & Communications Workshop

More slides, these are from my talk at the European Communication Research and Education Association/ECREA Digital Culture and Communication Workshop 2011.

The talk was mainly about using Booki and BurnStation in class assessment situations, but also went off on a few related tangents. These included Open Source vs Ad*be in design education, motivating students in large group projects, the affordances and risks of working on college projects in the ‘public’ webspace and a brief rant about Facebook’s ever changing and deliberately obfuscating privacy settings 🙂

I concluded with some thoughts on the collaborative and peer learning successes of the diy ‘maker’ and open education movements and how these can feed back constructively into formal higher learning. The underground always filters up to the mainstream, and I believe this applies as much to education as any other cultural field.

19. December 2011 by Kieran
Categories: Conferences, teaching | Tags: , | Leave a comment

‘Lo-fi computing audio-visuals as a mainstream aesthetic’ at Picteilín

Here are my slides from the 2011 Piceteilín Creative Media Conference.

07. October 2011 by Kieran
Categories: 8bit, Animation, Music, Video Games | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

C64 basic and Intellivision glitching

Here are some short exercises in game video glitching and 8bit graphics from my Vimeo account.

These visuals were recorded from an Intellivision TV Game system, I opened it up and connected up random points on the CMOS memory chip and PCB to generate these glitches.

This is recorded from the C64 emulator ‘Virtual C64’, while testing out this code example for generating colour bars from the Commodore 64 user manual.

Here’s another piece of Commodore 64 code,
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10
it generates a pattern based on pseudo-random numbers. Simple, but kind of hypnotic 🙂

28. August 2011 by Kieran
Categories: 8bit, Circuit Bending, Video Games | Leave a comment

Wardriving in a Virtual Reality bus

I’ve been using Wifi while commuting by bus a lot this week, reminded me of this project proposal I made in 2002 back when I was studying towards the Interactive Media MA at UL. It was for our ‘Interactive Media in Public Spaces’, as taught by Enda O’Donoghue.

The presentation shown above had 2 possible themes for my project, the first was changing the bus commuting experience for the better through design and interactive technologies.

It has a whole bunch of random ideas including equipping bus coaches with Virtual Reality headsets for each passenger and concept sketches for a modular bus made up out of people’s cars, and a circular bus where everyone’s facing each other.

At this time wardriving with Pringles cans modified into Cantennas was an emerging hacker trend, wifi networks were even less secure than now. So one concept was that the bus stops and shelters would act as the transmission points for the mobile network signal, with each bus as a node in a citywide wireless network. In effect the bus drivers are wardrivers of sorts, feeding off each others wifi signals.

The second theme explored was a reactive building, I looked a little into the possibilities of holograms and also physically altering the structure of the building. I must have been influenced by Daniel Rosin’s Wooden Mirror.

Anyhows, I went with the Bus idea and wrote up a treatment for a commercial solution called BuSpace.

BuSpace equips each bus with a wired, local area network. 2001 was the pre-smartphone era and Wifi wasn’t the ubiquitous standard it is today. Each bus would be equipped with a BuSpace server suitcase containing a laptop, GSM transmitter/receiver which plugged into a network point in the floor. The signal was then fed to network points on the back of each headrest, serving up WAP speed internet data to laptops, PDAs or mobile phones with (magical!) proprietary BuSpace cables…

Anyhows, this has been sitting on my computer HD for a long while, but I thought I’d put it out there. As someone wise once said “Publish or be damned” 🙂

28. April 2011 by Kieran
Categories: Design, Interaction Design, Wifi | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Burnstation and Booki, learning by doing

At DkIT I teach a module called User Theories to year 4 of the BA (Hons) in Communications and Creative Multimedia. It centers around the distributive, collaborative and communicative properties of digital media and the creative opportunities these afford. So for example, we cover topics like digital distribution, Creative Commons licenses and online communities.

The module is assessed half through an exam and half through in-class, continuous assessment projects. CA project one is normally a virtual ethnography of an online community and it’s inhabitants. This means that three quarters of the assessed mark is based on solo work.

In 2009 the remaining 25% was allocated to an experiential learning project. In other words ‘learning by doing’. The students worked in groups to bring what they learned about open source licenses and digital distribution to the public in the tangible form of BurnStation, a mobile MP3 distribution centre. The DKIT Burn Station crew were fully endorsed by Platoniq, who set up the first copyleft copystation in Barcelona five years ago.

Bunny Burnstation from burnstation on Vimeo.

Burn Station DKIT/The Marshes Dundalk Ireland from burnstation on Vimeo.

For 2010 I wanted to continue with more experiential learning, with a strong focus on working collaboratively in the digital domain. I also sought to encourage more discussion of class topics outside of lecture time, because the 4 hours set aside for the module per week often isn’t enough time to digest the content. With this in mind I set 10% for use of the Moodle forums and 15% for the production of a textbook called ‘Emotive Design’ through a system called Booki

Booki is a web based, open source platform that facilitates the collaborative production of textbooks. It is based on the conventions of a wiki, providing an environment where users can write book chapters and edit each others content, working together in real time or asynchronously. It also allows the easy export of these Wiki based publications into custom formatted, print ready PDF files.

MALT S2 – Booki Screencast from Kieran Nolan on Vimeo.

I first learned about Booki through a blog post about the Transmediale Festival earlier in 2010, where I read about the 6 day book sprint that led to the book ‘Collaborative Futures’. This initiative inspired me to incorporate a book sprint of sorts into User Theories class later in the year.

Collaborative Futures from Michael Mandiberg on Vimeo.

The ‘Emotive Design’ project involved imagining a design concept that could reduce user frustration with interactive media. In other words looking at ideas to provide interactive products with personality (for instance, avatars) so that users feel a strong bond to their interactive product, so increasing their satisfaction with it. The students were asked to reflect on their assigned readings and come up with their own idea for an ‘emotive interface’. This was made up of a detailed diagram and text based description.

This project took place over three stages. First the class posted their initial concepts onto the Moodle forum for peer review. The next stage was to work together in Booki to structure all these design concepts together into one textbook. Stage three was the final class session to finish the book, linking up the students both in college and at home through cyberspace during the final lab class of the semester.

This class happened when Ireland was hit with a cold snap in December 2010 and many of the students were stuck at home due to the snow, but it never snows in cyberspace! Half the class were at home and half were in the lab, so we were communicating both in meatspace and cyberspace and by the end of the lab session had formatted together a draft copy of the ‘Emotive Design’ text through Booki.

Experiencing teaching a class live online and in the classroom simultaneously was a new experience for me, but one I really enjoyed. I mentioned in a post on the Booki blog that it “bridges the gap between digital and print media and produces a tangible product”. It also bridges the digital and physical learning environments, by providing a online space that facilitates communication and collaboration.

Anyhows, thanks to Platoniq and Booki for their great Open Source initiatives, and to the CM4 students for their hard work on these projects 🙂

Burnstation links:

Booki links:

Adam Hyde wrote about the use of Booki at DkIT in a chapter of ‘Learning Through Digital Media, Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy‘, on the Media Commons Press, edited by Trebor Sholz (link).

The ‘Emotive Design’ booki project itself is available at:

29. March 2011 by Kieran
Categories: Booki, teaching | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternate Gaming Interfaces at F.R.O.G. 2010

Here are the slides from my short Pecha Kucha / Froga Kucha presentation at the 4th Future and Reality of Gaming (F.R.O.G.) conference in Vienna. More about F.R.O.G. at

28. September 2010 by Kieran
Categories: Conferences, Interaction Design, Talks, teaching | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One of the PCBs inside a 1989 …

One of the PCBs inside a 1989 Nintendo GameBoy DMG console. Big components and clearly labeled = very hackable

18. July 2010 by Kieran
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GameBoy Camera x 3 http://yfro…

GameBoy Camera x 3

13. July 2010 by Kieran
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Visual Voltage Workshop

January was a chilly month in Ireland, but Berlin (or Brrrr-lin even) was absolutely freezing. I was over in the ice and snow to attend the Visual Voltage workshop. The event was centered around how interaction design fits into sustainable living and how to better visualise, understand and optimise our energy usage through smart design.

The workshop was held by the Stockholm-based Interactive Institute alongside the Berlin-based design-research firm IxDS. The activities were concept building based and as groups we brainstormed up ideas for smart products and services to make people aware of their use of energy. There were also tangible examples of energy wise interaction design at the accompanying Visual Voltage exhibition, which the workshop was a precursor to.

The ideas brainstormed during the sessions were posted on display for the exhibition opening party. You can check them out here. The 2 days were great fun and I learned as much from the participants own work stories and insights as the seminars and activities.

More info at

09. March 2010 by Kieran
Categories: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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