VOICES conference!

I am super excited about the Virtual Ongoing Interdisciplinary Conferences on Educating with Song (VOICES) conference!

“VOICES will present the latest research, pedagogy, and practitioner perspectives on effectively communicating the ideas of STEM through song.”

…hey, I like using (rap) songs to communicate about STEM-related topics!  Maybe that’s why I was asked to help organize. 🙂

The timing is great (September 27-28, 2017).  Students who take my inaugural Hip-Hop, Communication & Society course will all be able (required) to attend the conference, which only costs $10 and will take place virtually.





Courses Taught

These are the main courses that I teach at MSU.

  • Avatar Use, Psychology and Significance 
    Theory and research on the psychological experience and effects of avatar use
    Example syllabus here
    (note: this course is undergoing significant changes to focus more on a game/VR design-student audience)
  • Science Fiction, Communication and Technology
    Examination of relationship between science fiction themes and our lives.
    MSU AT&T award for Best Blended Course, 2015.
    Example syllabus here
  • Media and Technology (PhD Seminar)
    PhD seminar on theories of media and technology use.
    Example syllabus here.
  • Understanding Media (large intro course for ~300 undergrads)
    Introduction to various topics of research and history of media
    Example syllabus here.
  • Video Game Impacts: Play with Meaning (Honors Research Seminar)
    Hand-on research course in which honors undergraduate students conduct video-game studies.
    Course only available for freshman/sophomores enrolled in the Honors College.

I won a thing

I’m grateful to have won an MSU Teacher Scholar award – given to six tenure system faculty, “who early in their careers have earned the respect of students and colleagues for their devotion to and skill in teaching.”

My dept chair, Johannes Bauer, has been extremely supportive and was kind enough to nominate me. The write-up here is overly flattering and exaggerates some of my contributions, so I hope nobody expects me to live up to them. 😉

Ratan recognized at All-University Awards

Professor uses skateboard to keep students’ attention

“Media and Information professor Rabindra Ratan knows that in a big lecture, students get distracted and fall asleep. To keep his students engaged and awake, he skateboards around the class. The potential that he could wipe out at any moment is what he says keeps the students’ attention. “It’s fun,” Ratan said. “It keeps their attention and it keeps me from getting bored too. The students watch me to make sure they don’t miss when I fall.”

CQ Researcher: Does video gaming have a gender gap?

I wrote part of a “pro/con” piece for CQ Researcher about whether video gaming has a gender gap.  Although we were on opposite columns, Dr. Kishonna Gray and I made similar arguments: the gap seems to have closed in casual gaming, but not in more competitive, online gaming spaces.  This is likely because of the hostility toward and stereotypes about women and girls that are prevalent in these spaces.

Here’s my half of the piece.

“The statistic that nearly half of gamers are female is dangerously misleading. It ignores significant gender differences in game genre preferences and veils a gender gap that detracts from equal participation within and beyond gaming writ large. Recent research shows the multiple consequences of this gap. Women and girls are more likely to be harassed by other players and perceived as uninterested and low-skilled. Female characters are less visible in games (especially as protagonists) and often are hypersexualized. Possibly contributing to this is a gender gap in the industry, with a significantly smaller proportion of women employed in game-development than men. These gaps are not caused by inherent sex differences. For example, studies have shown that boys have better spatial or mental rotation skills — the capacity to orient two- or three-dimensional objects in the mind — than girls. However, researchers also have found that those initial skill differences are neutralized after a short amount of action gameplay. Similarly, studies have found that men are no better than women at playing certain games (such as “EVE Online” and “EverQuest II”) when controlling for total time played. So why are women often relegated to the “girlfriend gamer” stereotype, playing support roles and healing their boyfriends instead of reaping the benefits of gameplay? The answer lies in a vicious stereotype-driven cycle. Research has shown that exposure to gender stereotypes in gaming reduces women’s self-confidence and ratings of their own skills. It also increases self-objectification, aggressive thoughts and acceptance of the rape myth. In my own recent study, women who believed they were playing against a man as opposed to a woman (the actual opponent was a bot) not only performed worse in a first-person shooter game but also rated men as better suited for careers in computer science, technology, engineering and math. This leads to two conclusions. First, the stereotype that women and girls are not true gamers prevents them from participating equally in video games, hindering their ability to combat the stereotype. Second, the gender gap in games leads to gender inequality in technological fields. Recognizing this, we should encourage our daughters, sisters and mothers to play more video games and we should demand that our sons, brothers and fathers not act cruelly or lecherously to the females they meet in gaming spaces.”