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Participatory Culture: The Culture of Democracy and Education in a Hypermediated Society

04/23/2010 2:30 PM e14"633
Henry Jenkins, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California; ; Erin Reilly, Research Director, New Media Literacies Project, USC; Sangita Shresthova, Manager, Part. culture project, USC; Pilar Lacasa, Professor of Psych and Education, Univ. de Alcala; Mitchel Resnick, SM '88, PhD '92, Head, Program in Media Arts and Sciences; LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research; Karen Schrier, Director of Interactive Media and Technology at ESI Design

Description: Even back in the early days of Comparative Media Studies (CMS), when Henry Jenkins and colleagues met in the basement of the Media Lab, there was much discussion of how new media might shape learning and spur novel forms of expression and community engagement. Over the years, as Jenkins and these panelists attest, CMS, with its extended family of collaborators and visiting scholars, has both refined and broadened its study of the impact of new technologies on education, culture and politics.

Mitchel Resnick of the Media Lab has frequently made common cause with partners at CMS, finding them "kindred spirits" in "thinking about technologies as ways of empowering people." Resnick develops tech tools to unleash creative expression in children, and he argues for the central role of play in learning experiences. Exploration and experimentation, "the testing of boundaries," should be integrated into school curricula, he believes, so children can "figure out what questions they want to ask." Resnick praises CMS for taking ideas from the media world, like remixing and online sharing, to help people "rethink ideas about learning."

Some CMS graduates are designing pathbreaking educational material for schools and other educational venues.Karen Schrier developed an interactive game around the Boston Massacre intended to create a "paradigm shift in teaching history." The game assigns each player a unique perspective from which to interpret events of the time. The idea, she says, is to reconstruct history. Ultimately, Schrier hopes "new literacies" such as critical and ethical thinking, and reinterpretation, will be incorporated into school coursework.

In Spain, Pilar Lacasa applies the insights she has distilled from research at CMS to projects with software and game companies, hoping to transform her nation's schools. At MIT, she learned the value of playing games, and using them in education to create learners who truly participate. She views electronic games as important tools for teachers, and she celebrates the rise of YouTube for its contribution to media production and participatory culture in young people.

"Teachers need to realize they are hunters and gatherers," says Erin Reilly, a former CMS lecturer and current new media literacy researcher. Like media makers, teachers cook up lesson plans with peers, "coopting from others, and adapting for their own discipline and learning objectives." She is working with teachers in large school systems on strategy guides, derived from collaborative brainstorming sessions. She envisions teachers from different communities using technology to share and build on each other's stories and experiences, "pooling knowledge toward a common goal.

As a child of two cultures, CMS offered "a place where there were no borders" to Sangita Shresthova. A dancer"researcher, Shresthova realized at MIT that stories can be told across several media and that communities can come together and even ease mutual suspicions during live performances -- such as a Bollywood dance event she staged in Prague with remixed film and song. Spectators can become participants, she learned, and creating communities, whether through events like these, or through online fan websites, allows people to think differently and "take action on other issues."

A growing emphasis at CMS, says Henry Jenkins has been the connection between participatory experiences, education and civic engagement. He notes that technology and new media do not bring about participatory culture so much as support deeply engrained participatory practices and enable new forms of engagement. "The urge to participate is greater than that," he concludes.

About the Speaker(s): Henry Jenkins joined USC from MIT, where he was Peter de Florez Professor in the Humanities. He directed MIT's Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993"2009, setting an innovative research agenda during a time of fundamental change in communication, journalism and entertainment.

As one of the first media scholars to chart the changing role of the audience in an environment of increasingly pervasive digital content, Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture. His research gives key insights to the success of social"networking Web sites, networked computer games, online fan communities and other advocacy organizations, and emerging news media outlets.

Jenkins is recognized as a leading thinker in the effort to redefine the role of journalism in the digital age. Through parallels drawn between the consumption of pop culture and the processing of news information, he and his fellow researchers have identified new methods to encourage citizen engagement. Jenkins launched the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT to further explore these parallels.

He is the author and/or editor of twelve books on various aspects of media and popular culture. His most recent book is Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.

Jenkins has a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Georgia State University, a M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa and a PhD in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin"Madison.

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Comparative Media Studies

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