I had the opportunity to speak with ACRL President Julie Todaro this afternoon for a minute while introducing a free ACRL-hosted “springboard” webcast featuring Henry Jenkins of, among other things, Project NML. He’s pretty much the sharpest tool in the media literacy shed, and what follows are some notes from his talk (he speaks very quickly, so all is in rough paraphrase). An interview and link to the full webcast will be up via ACRL soon – I will link to them once they’re available.
Intro to new media literacies with vignette of an example student – Jessica – young person joining a community around the artist Soulja Boy, a hip hop artist who encourages fans to learn how to dance, remix, and circulate his media through a participatory community. This is an example of participatory cultures – low barrier to activity, less experienced participants can be mentored by experienced participants. Spaces where adults and youth interact with each other in less formal surroundings than the established education sphere. Members in participatory cultures believe that their contributions matter. Ideas come from all directions, and ideas are incorporated by many parties.
To what degree does this describe higher education and/or libraries? How do we build cultures in academia that reflect participatory cultures in society?
New skills that should be incorporated into all subjects in the curriculum – references his MacArthur Foundation white paper (pdf) on requisite media literacy skills for learners – he will focus today on appropriation, collective intelligence, and networking as new skills for effective participation in new media cultures. Appropriation in Soulja Boy example – multitasking, scanning environment and seeing the important details. Information comes at us so fast we have to prioritize salient aspects – young people are used to this. Networking – understanding yourself as addressing the public through your production. Teenager’s bedroom as now a platform for publication as well as an inner sanctum. Soulja Boy encourages fans to remix his content, which introduces young people to various issues of copyright, content ownership, and so on.
Both a laissez-faire culture and a surveillance culture exist around digital media – parents either scrutinize or keep their distance. Librarians are involved in the flow of information all day long, and therefore should within our user communities encourage people to reflect on the role they play in media and society. Upcoming paper with Harvard – how does digital participation, use, downloading affect ethics, etc.
Example of student relationship to piracy – student interviewed in Harvard study: “I pirate everything”. Student struggles with ethical demands on his attention – he is more comfortable taking content illegally from established rockstars but will still support smaller bands who need the patronage. Another example from the same study – a musician who was interviewed advocates against illegal downloading for its potential damage to smaller musicians. These ethical conflicts are typical.
Tension between legal norms and ethical challenges – downloading music is a perfect example. Examining the balance between social norms, “social bads and goods,” and participation. Ethics in an evolving media landscape.
Second problem – the “transparency problem.” Although they are avid consumers and producers, youth may not have the vocabulary to understand and describe their participation in new media. Jenkins describes seeing Moby Dick as a mashup or a remix of many examples and outside influences – work that has been inspired by the novel since its publication, comics, music, etc. – the continuing influence of the novel on society can be studied and taught in order to captivate student interest and make its importance known. Example of writing a contemporary version of Moby Dick that focuses on the drug trade rather than the whaling trade, cocaine as the whale, etc. All of this as a way to think of classic works as “living resources for the present.” How do we transform works for the present time, and what are the ethical challenges for translating established works. Roberto Pitzarelli Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Invisible Man will receive the same treatment.
Participation gap – libraries have been central to decreasing the digital divide, helping users gain access to information. Gap in terms of access to experiences and information liearning opportunities. Libraries as one of the spaces central in struggle of closing the participation gap.
Gaming and games – libraries as space for thinking of game play as an activity that is related to literacy. Ties into research functions that libraries have played. Hoping that librairans will be crucial partners in building and shared learning resources around new media literacies. Librarians as “information facilitators” who know a range of strategies around finding and deploying information, there as coach and/or mentor who helps patrons make sense of ethical challenges in the information economy. Libraries as another space where adults and youth can interact on different terms than in formal educational settings, like many participatory cultures.
Struggles that ALA, ACRL have decided to take on – the repression of young people’s information activity. Maintaining access to tools and resources while helping students confront these challenges.
Q – B. Cambell – is the cost of technology a barrier to engagement?
A – Yes, in both digital divide and participation gap. Quality of access to information – gap in access to skills created by material access to information, used to be encyclopedias at home, now it’s computers in the home. How do we provide them with the resources to
Q – Are language and cultural barriers a challenge to communication?
A – Gaps in language affecting kids’ ability to communicate, but some participatory cultures motivate young people to . Manga and cosplay – some kids are being motivated to learn Japanese to better participate in these subcultures.
Q – Haven’t librairans always been information facilitators?
A – Yes, but it’s important to articulate the role of librarians in the new information economy. New context, need for new skills to translate library services.
Q – Where are young people pre-highschool learning about copyright?
A – From each other, and badly (like they learn about sex from one another). They are learning badly and selectively about copyright, so we should create online resources to help students understand both fair use and copyright protections.
Q – How do we get faculty on board?
A – Series of books through MacArthur foundation that are available online about new media literacies. Get faculty to ask, “how do I teach in a world where students are learning these new skills outside of the academy but still need to be mentored in their successful application?”
Q – Are students actually learning about technology, or are they using it as a means to an end?
A – It’s both – they want to learn tech to be able to do things, but they can’t survive in the real world without the vocabulary to communicate about it = the transparency problem. It’s about the cultural and socal impact of these technologies. Tech shifts rapidly, so we need to tech skills in the social and cultural relationships to technology.
Q – Do students understand themselves as in violation of copyright?
A – They probably think of themselves in violation of copyright, but not sure how badly. Downloading is one clear cut aspect, but remixing and appropriation is another, much more unclear area of copyright. Both teachers and students are confused about what they can use and how. “There is a generic sense of guilt.”
Q – Where/how do adults learn these new media literacies?
A – Big question. Parent education is lacking in this area. There’s not a sense of how to build a constructive relationship with new media. Creating some resources for parents, engaging adults more fully in these conversations.
Q – How do games fit into academic libraries?
A – Public libraries have a broader opportunity to be social spaces, but academic libraries is about using games as an object of research. Having other popular media in the library. Building excitement about learning. Games are systems of representaitons, make some info visible and some info obscured. New roads into learning, what’s inaccurate about games, thinking critically about games and their implications. Not necessarily game nights in academic libraries, but an activity that encourages students to talk about the research process and simulations. Work of David Schaefer, James Gee – scholarship about gaming and learning, scholarship that goes beyond gaming and violence.
Q – What about college student libraries? How do we encourage access?
A – The push to get computers into libraries outstripped patron access to computing and information in policy form – too many limitations. As we develop a sense of what’s valuable in online learning that we develop policies that encourage maximum access.
Q – It seems that ac. libraries are currently not set up for participatory cultures – one way in, one way out. How do we build this?
A – Building MENTORSHIP SPACES in libraries is key. Participatory cultures are spaces where the experienced can teach the newbies – creating some programming that brings students face to face with adults using technologies in productive ways. Using social technologies to create communities of interest. Expand collecive intelligence functions. Take each of the new media skills and see how libraries could use these to enable new literacies.
Q – Rural access to internet is a problem. How do we combat this?
A – This is a huge policy problem. The digital divide is “totally off the map” politically, and it needs to be brought back into the forefront. Kids in rural communities are more active in taking advantage of media making opportunities, surprisingly. Global citizens.
Q – How do I and others who didn’t grow up with new media break out of the thinking process that technology is either/or?
A – Stop thinking about tech as either/or – it’s not just physical or virtual. Things are become hybridized – not replacing analog with digital, but figuring out what works best and how. Developing skills, and sometimes separating out skills from technology skills so they are more broadly applicable. Engaging people socially, not just through new technologies. Think about what can you do better using this new tehcnology, and what can you do better using traditional technology.
Q – Students think that because they can easily download music it must be okay. How do we combat the idea that if it’s technically possible it should be condoned?
A – We should reinforce the idea of social contracts and social responsibility. Pull it down to basic principles, right and wrong, in addition to possible or impossible. Analogy to shoplifting – it might be easy, but it’s still not okay.
Q- Rise in media literacy is connected to rise in text literacy?
A – Some studies show that young people are reading less, but they are certainly also (through email, IM, blogs, fan cultures) writing more and participating more. They are reading more of each other’s work, which isn’t considered “text” formally, but is still literature of a sort. It’s a mistake to say there is no text literacy involved in the kinds of online activities kids are involved in. It’s not that one rises at the expense of another, but we don’t yet know how to build a bridge from new media literacies to text literacies.
Q – How prevalent are participatory cultures in the academic and business worlds?
A – Got Game, a book that considers how gaming skills make their way into the workplace. In academia particip. is making its way in collaboration across disciplines. It’s happening more slowly in academia, but it’s still happening.
Q – Fair use is complicated, how do we expect teens to understand it?
A – It’s about providing kids with better resources to understand these issues, in their languages. They are already having the discussions, we just need to create material that communicates with them better.
Q – How do we keep students from resenting our intrusion into their social spaces?
A – We don’t want to intrude into social spaces against their will – create a context where they know we’re available to answer their questions if they need us.
Q – How do new media literacies contribute to development of critical thinking skills?
A – It’s absolutely essential to think of these as critical thinking skills. Collective intelligence – everybody knows something, nobody knows everything. We need new skills in monitoring, processing, evaluating information and new media. These are social skills in terms of collective intelligence. That’s where critical thinking skills come in where new media literacies are concerned – we need to rethink critical thinking.