Class Blog: February 25th

The Internet is made of cats. Seriously. Don’t take it from us — check out the Wall Street Journal’s take on it. Or spend (some more) time looking at Nyan Cat, Grumpy Cat Ⓡ, and LOLcats.

Despite the goofy nature of these memes, the subcultures that perpetuate them follow particular practices, which, as Lankshear & Knobel point out, reflect ways that we think about literacy. “We think of literacy as having technical, discourse, and evaluative dimensions. Being literate in ways we think are well exemplified by serious aficionados of popular remix practices entails being proficient in each dimension” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008, p. 29). We can see the rules of remixing come to the fore in places like the LOLcat translation project with the Old Testament (absolutely worth a look!) or in the linguistic patterns of Doge (Doge is a dog, I know, but this analysis is great). Syntax, punctuation, typography — even the smallest details play a role in one’s ability to participate fully in remix cultures.

Within these digital realms, our students can find ways to reimagine the stories that they have read in order to better relate to and/or understand the texts they encounter. Readers in the minority subsets have found it difficult to find one’s own self within texts, especially canonical texts, which typically feature a white male perspective written by the same. In “Restorying the Self:  Bending Toward Textual Justice” Thomas and Stornaiuolo point out that, “…as young readers imagine themselves into stories they reimagine the very stories themselves. We map out different forms of restorying that we have witnessed, as people of all ages collectively reimagine time, place, identity, perspective, mode, and metanarratives through retold stories” (Thomas, E.E. & Stornaiuolo, A 8). Here, we see the concept of restorying as a type of remix, wherein a reader reimagines a story, changing its elements to suit their needs in better understanding or identifying with a story.

Our current digital age better affords readers the opportunity to connect with texts, as well as other readers, in the process of restorying. The popular blogging platform Tumblr, for example, offers a space for readers to write, share and reblog these reimagined narratives. Because of the social, interactive, and sometimes collaborative, nature of these websites “[t]oday’s readers are using the tools of social media to collectively make meanings that are not just independent of authorial intent, but can also deliberately contradict it— in other words, meaning itself is in the process of becoming crowd sourced and jointly imagined” (Thomas, E.E. & Stornaiuolo, A 12). Thomas and Stornaiuolo point out the example of a racebent Elsa, or the fan theory that Harry Potter’s Hermione is black, which each quickly became viral on tumblr. Indeed these tools make it easier to carry out something that has been happening for ages. The concept of restorying is not something new, but our digital age makes it much easier, and our connections to culture are much easier to access.

Our G+ community is populated with attempts to participate in online remix culture: from transmediating memes in our second week of class (Rachel’s Hey, Girl and Colin’s What if I told you…) to cross-cultural comic strips (Rachel’s time in South Korea and Joyce’s look at the Chinese New Year). Where do these examples conform to the practices of remix culture? Where is our own remix illiteracy apparent? These (failed) attempts provide some insights into the complexity of participating in remix culture: it’s unlikely anything our class has produced so far will go viral.

Vasuvedan (2010) spends time speaking to the educational implications of remixing, and the space that it allows for teachers, and even moreso students, to play with power in the school setting as well as outside of school.  “In a national curricular climate where testing too often leads discussions of pedagogy, it is imperative to seek out spaces of education that are governed by principles of discovery and play and that are free from punitive measures of learning and engagement. By paying attention to digital geographies, particularly the navigation across digital spaces and orchestration of multiple modalities, educators can cultivate youths’ literacies while at the same time inspire new sites of education.” (Vasuvedan, p. 79)

Vasuvedan focuses here on the playful nature of digital spaces and how we can use these playful spaces to expand our educational practices.  Colin begins to touch on the “messy” aspects of learning literacy and playing digitally in his discussion with his student and alum.  What is more important and valuable?  Learning on the job or having the foundational skills to be successful?  By letting our students try things out in digital spaces, they may be able to find a playful mix of these two practices.  While Adina felt confused about the direction of her blog.  Should she be, or is this the right space for her to play, discover and be free about digital literacy? Ah-Keisha’s sons felt unheard and ignored at a time when they should have been resident experts.  How could remixing of this history, and the experience of the school’s black students have made a much more rich and meaningful experience for the students at their school?  Megan’s description of her digital journey shows how this play and discovery can happen anywhere and with anyone.  If adult’s are still discovering this new world and learning in these digital spaces, why aren’t we giving our students the same freedom of play?

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