Open Badges – first thoughts

Merit badges

Merit badges – Rocket Ship (Flickr)

I was prompted to have a closer look at open badges after reading a blog post by Doug Belshaw entitled ‘Aren’t Open Badges all about gamification?‘.

I have a naive, yet sceptical view of badges as either:

  1. A simple reward system, akin to smiley face stickers in a classroom or gold stars adorned by McDonald’s workers.
  2. A collection game, like football trading cards or Pogs (remember Pogs?)

What I wanted was to dig deeper to see if the reality lives up to the hype or not. Open badges is an initiative supported by Mozilla to develop a mechanism to reward achievement:

A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned. Open Badges take that concept one step further, and allows you to verify your skills, interests and achievements through credible organizations. And because the system is based on an open standard, you can combine multiple badges from different issuers to tell the complete story of your achievements — both online and off. Display your badges wherever you want them on the web, and share them for employment, education or lifelong learning.”

I was even able to earn two badges by completing some very simple learning via the Open Badges site:

Open Badge
Open badge 

After my initial flurry of excitement I quickly fell back to my default position of ‘slightly sceptical’. I am a big fan of reward based systems and I could even see myself collecting these badges like the most diligent of girl guides. However, for badges to become an accepted mechanism for reward and recognition there needs to be significant buy-in from a number of mainstream organisations. At the moment it seems that badges are at a crossroads: either they will become huge and taken-up by the majority, or they will go they way of Pogs and disappear.

EDCMOOC – Week 1 – Dystopian technology film

Question – There are many utopian and dystopian stories about technology told in popular films from Metropolis to the Matrix. Can you think of an example and describe or share it in the discussion board, on your blog, or on Twitter?

The film Blade Runner (based on the novel: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) has achieved cult status as a dystopian depiction of the future. This summary from Wikipedia gives an overview of the plot:

The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically engineered organic robots called replicants —visually indistinguishable from adult humans—are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation as well as by other “mega-corporations” around the world. Their use on Earth is banned and replicants are exclusively used for dangerous, menial or leisure work on

The Tyrell corporation found that replicants become emotional the more life-experience they gained; to the point where they became emotionally unstable and dangerous. As a result replicants where banned from living among humans on Earth.  This depiction of a dystopian future of technology raises a number of cultural and psychological issues.

Androids are not just technology built to serve a purpose, but technology built in the image of man. There is something God-like in the creation of ‘life’; albeit artificial intelligence. The story echos that of Frankenstein’s monster whereby a once inanimate thing is brought to life, and like Frankenstein’s monster; the replicants become dangerous and must be destroyed. It is interesting that the technology built to serve man has become something negative or attributed with some form of evil. This seems to be the basis of many of the ideas around dystopic technological futures that technology is inherently negative and makes life worse rather than enhances the human existence.

The film suggests that humans fear the replicant not only because of their potential to become unstable, but because they have the ability to become emotional. The idea that a machine can become more than just the some of its parts by displaying emotions and insecurities suggests two issues:

The first is that the replicants have becomes a metaphor for human life, like a mirror on a society that is fraught with emotionally dangerous people. There is somehow the notion that negative events triggered by human behavior is fare, but tolerable, whereby negative events triggered by technology is completely unacceptable and must be banished.

The second issue is that the story suggest that humans lose control of the technology. This is a common theme in many dystopic technology stories where the technology becomes ‘aware’ and takes over. Evolution has taught us that the strongest species survives and this challenge from a ‘new species’ is a threat to human existence.

Blade Runner is a dark and frightening view of what a dystopic future may look like. However the story is set in 2019; just five years from now. The likelihood of descending into a technology driven dystopia within fives years is remote


Just another WordPress site