Sunday, March 10, 2013

Summary of the report “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture”

This report begins by discussing some new phenomenon in digital age, where the line between creators and consumers blurs and many students develop their media skills in informal settings.  Then this report introduces the concept of “participatory culture” (p. 7), and the rest of the report focuses on the context where participatory culture emerged, rather than addressing the technological aspect. Therefore, it takes “an ecological approach” to study the media systems as a whole.

This paper then reviews previous studies on the benefits brought by the participatory culture in terms of educational, political, and economic implications. After that, three drawbacks of laissez faire approach are discussed as followed:
(1)   Participation gap: technology access is not the only one reason for explaining the differences among youth’s involvement with Internet. More importantly, other factors, such as race, age, gender and class, can affect children’s participation. Therefore, this research addresses the participation gap rather than the technology gap.  
(2)   Transparency problem: children are lack of the ability to determine the accuracy of information they receive from the Internet, especially in an environment where the advertisements are more embedded in the information provided.
(3)   Ethic challenge: Lack of clearly-defined ethic norms for the online community of young people.
In order to address the three flaws participatory culture brings to children, this report then discusses the meaning of literacy in the participatory culture. Based on the definition of literacy provided by the New Media Consortium, this report suggests modifying the definition in two ways. The first modification is the importance of traditional textual literacy in digital age: this report argues that the traditional reading and writing skills are still indispensible parts of literacy. In other words, the literacy in the 21st century expands to include more competencies, such as the ability to deal with digital technologies, rather than replaces the traditional ones.  The second modification is that new media literacy should be treated as social skills rather than individual skills. By addressing the social aspect of the new media literacy, this report points out that “this disparate collaboration may be the most radical element of new literacies” (p. 21).

This report then lists 11 core media literacy skills based on literature review and a survey on the forms of informal learning, including: play, simulation, performance, appropriation, multi-tasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation. Along with each skill discussed here, this report also provides a section called “What Might Be Done” to introduce some actions that educators might take to enhance those skills.  

Finally, this report discusses a systematic approach- including actions taken by schools, afterschool programs and parents- to improve students’ media literacy.

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