Monday, February 28, 2011

Week 7: Participatory Literacies

As Howard Rheingold notes, “a participatory culture in which most of the population see themselves as creators as well as consumers of culture is far more likely to generate freedom and wealth for more people than one in which a small portion of the population produces culture that the majority passively consume.”

  • according to recent studies by the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life, more than half of American teens online have produced media content and about a third have circulated media that they have produced beyond their immediate friends and family.
  • growing importance of participatory culture in the everyday lives of young people. Work across a range of disciplines suggest that these emerging forms of participatory culture are important sites for informal learning and may be the crucible out of which new conceptions of civic engagement are emerging. 
  • the next techno-cultural shift according to Rheingold 
  • collective intelligence

Required Readings: Adora Svitak “What Adults Can Learn from Kids,” Howard Rheingold, “Adora Svitak: A 12 Year Old on Digital Literacy," Henry Jenkins, “Combating the Participation Gap,” Howard Rheingold, Introduction,“Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.”

Recommended Readings: Henry Jenkins, “Your Kids on Social Media.”Mark Prensky, “What Makes a Digital Native?”

Discussion Questions

Q1. Rheingold says that media is changing the way we communicate. After reading the introduction to Smart Mobs and listening to Jenkins’ podcast lecture, what in your view, are some of the ways that new media is affecting communication?
Q2. The ability to be critical is at an all-time high if one considers the plethora of information available online.
What are some ways we can be critically literate about texts that are online?
Q3. Henry Jenkins explains that “many kids today” see themselves as not only readers of their culture but as authors of their culture. What examples do you find in your daily life that supports this view? What role would you say new media plays in your own authorship of culture?
Q4. Are there any critical new media skills missing from Jenkin’s list (see lecture notes)?


  1. Digital Literacy

    It was interesting to watch Adora Svitak on Ted; childish obviously needs a new meaning. I recall once seeing her on a TV show. Do we have many Adoras in our midst??? The interview of Rheingold with Adora brings about some of the topics of concern for us too: the questions on life online; evaluating websites; multitasking; social media; collaboration & network awareness.

    On multitasking – Adora being so honest, brings the concept of distraction, “I end up forgetting what I was doing in the first place”. On Blogging the discussion brings about the important distinction; as some write on Facebook with friends, others do blog, probably the once interested in specific topics or with a view of publishing. The need for social bookmarking sites such as delicious is brought out in the interview. The importance of social bookmarking sites becomes a necessity when so much information is thrown at you.

    The concept of netiquette is something we tend to forget being online: public vs private; leaving the digital trail; don’t do what you won’t do face to face etc. The new generation of digital natives are often much more aware of these realities than many laagers.

  2. In my opinion, new media is affecting communication by increasing the amount of data, information and knowledge there is available to transfer between people. An example that comes to mind is the ability to link from web page to web page. Quite often a page containing information will link to several other pages, where there is additional content. This is helpful for a blog post, for example, giving it credibility and substance. The message, however, can get lost in all of the links and pages. Information overload is becoming more and more prevalent making it more difficult to get the exact information you are looking for.

    As Jenkins discusses in his lecture, more and more people are becoming producers of content. The amount of remixed content on the web is a great indicator of the creativity and freedom people have on the web. But at the same time, the challenge and responsibility of finding the information one is searching for belongs to the web surfing individual. Mobile technology, as explained by Rheingold, is being used for various purposes including smart mob formation. But mobile technology is also increasing the amount of information being sent and retrieved, all in real-time.

    The combination of new media technologies, a participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006) and mobile technology has resulted in what Jess refers to as a “plethora of information available online”. We can be critically literate about the texts online by being able to verify what we read with reputable sources. This does take time and experience, but a constant questioning of the content is important.

    The web may have excessive information, but it is this content that will also help in our critical literacy. For instance, the social networks we have established online can be used to provide guidance with the information. People we know and trust can suggest which information or sources we can trust or ignore.

  3. Can I begin by saying that new media comes with a frustration? I say this because I just wrote my post, went to publish and now am getting a 'sorry your post could not be completed'. Maybe that shows how easy it is to create and also how easy it is to lose information in this new media that is at our fingertips!

    People old and new have the ability to create-this ability is something that we have come to accept. When we visit a site, we expect that we should be able to post a comment, share the link with friends, or post the information through different networking sites. If a site does not allow us to do this, we feel frustrated and feel like the site is lacking something. We are no longer ok with a one way communication channel. Creation and consumption go together.

    Of course this leads to wondering whether there is accuracy in all that we see. Here, we can say that we should go to trusted sources and verify information. I also think it may be more fundamental than that-we must take today's information with a grain of salt. New media allows for such ease of sharing but also ease of manipulation. A photo can be altered, text can be taken out of context and shared with the masses, to a point where it becomes believable. It becomes the truth. The responsibility lies on us to in a way be cynical of what we see.

    So much of our new media came to us as a way to rid us of always being tethered to our desks, giving us more free time. Today's reality seems opposite. We may not be tethered to our desk but we are tethered to the information. Our smart phones allow us to constantly check our work emails, our twitter feeds always allow us to see what is trending, our Facebook status shows everyone what we are doing and vice versa. The convenience by which we can create information has led to the burden of always being expected to create it.

  4. Paul, I'm thinking about your reminder that Adora mentions her distraction...I know this idea has gained currency with the wide availability of digital devices.

    Before computers, studies showed that noise itself was distracting:
    "As modern technology advances, more people are being subjected
    to loud noise during the course of their work. The detailed effects of auditory distraction remain unsettled, although the balance of evidence suggests that loud sound distracts attention from complex tasks such as calculating. Previous researches have shown that noise can impair performance in arithmetic..."

    Quotation from: The Effect of Bursts of Noise on an Arithmetic Task
    Muriel M. Woodhead
    The American Journal of Psychology
    Vol. 77, No. 4 (Dec., 1964), pp. 627-633
    Published by: University of Illinois Press
    Article Stable URL: (page 627).

  5. Tarjinder: your line: "Creation and consumption go together," is very Tweetable...

  6. Noise is part of the communication cycle. The shannon weaver model of early theories of communication brought out this aspect of noise very well. With the modern technological advancements and multi tasking; the distraction (noise) is not just on a model or process but rather on the choice of application and 'swithching between'.

  7. Hello all! I just checked the transliteracies project blog at UCSB and note that it is all about reading online in different ways. To me, literacies are two-way -- they include skills in creating as well as consuming. To that end, I've been compiling resources about participatory media literacies on a wiki. Sue has been adding transliteracy material.
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