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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Class Blog: February 18th

Social network is everywhere. Barely no one could escape it: even if you say no to all social platforms, you may still be tagged in other’s pictures; or be forced to open and manage an online platform due to professional reasons.

With the transformation of social networks, the issue of identity becomes public’s major concern. People’s online identity evolves. During the so-called “connective turn”, there is a trend towards connectivity and narrative from both sides of the users and business. Users gradually learnt how to utilize the developing features of social platforms for their own advantage. They know how to use SNS to carry out self-staging and self-branding actions instead of mere passive self-expression. Dijck (2013) did an interesting comparison between Facebook and Linkedin as two typical cases after their revolutionary change of main features.

After the introduction of Timeline as a narrative biography, Facebook integrates more life narrative elements into its interface strategy, triggering users’ attention on how to and to whom to tell the story, thus complete both self-expression and self-promotion. While users get more skilled at narrative interface, companies strive to present digital storytelling to users instead of ads, and FB itself increases more control over users to build a larger database. Compared to Facebook, Linkedin mainly focuses on offering recruitment and advertising services for corporations and agencies. Despite its characteristic of professionalism, Linkedin users apply a subtler and more professional way to create their image and highlight their strengths.

Unlike G+, on which as Rachel said in G+ Challenge, people are not trying to craft an online identity, users on FB and Linkedin are eager to self-perform and self-promote. In Dijck’s words, people use different platforms to reflect different needs and craft different identities. For example, even if the Linkedin interface emphasizes more on users’ self-promotion while FB more on self-expression, people could still choose what their online identity could be on different digital platforms, and what kind of story they want to tell. However, due to the power struggles from platform owners, employers, and users, people are subject to possible manipulation from social media. People should maintain their authenticity in this digital world of transparency, and treat social media as mere a tool of identity formation rather than a path towards a lost land.

This week’s readings explored the ways people actively participate in social media, and how literacy practices continue to evolve with the development of networked publics. From the design of self through connectivity and narrative, to the acknowledgement of a participation gap that warrants an insertion of criticality as youth engage with dominant ideologies and social control, there is no denying the relevance digital mobility has on all of our interactions, whether professional or personal.

One thing’s for sure: “Mediating technologies […] change everything” (Boyd 125). When looking at the advent of the internet, how we protest oppression and brutality has been reimagined — the era of the Black Lives Matter movement has revolutionized the, “Tools we have to organize and resist” because they are, “…fundamentally different than anything that’s existed before in the black struggle” (Stephen). With gains in forcing issues of abuse and discrimination to the foreground, the level of privacy available to citizens has adjusted and has become even more insidious with social voyeurism, and corporate and political information mongering. The way corporations and advertising use our personal information to tailor ads to us and our networks is just one way, privacy has taken on a new face.

But, there is no denying this new sense of agency at the heart of how young people interact with and craft their social media networks. This is how they learn. As Hull and Stornaiuolo point out in their article on Literate Arts in a Global World, “engagement with distant and global audiences via digital social networks should be throughout curriculum.”

The pervasive nature of publics has managed to impose itself on identity, relationships, politics, and expression. As we negotiate meaning, as active or inactive participants as Colin pointed out in his post on Douglas Rushkoff, there is no denying while social media is in many ways empowering, it also can leave people vulnerable to isolation, peer pressure, myopic views on multiculturalism, and the reinforcement of the status quo all in a single click.

Class Blog: January 28

Our first weeks together have followed an interesting path: from discussion of mediation and the act of transmediating to this week’s exploration of how such practices can invite certain kinds of participation and connection. And while we’ve looked at these concepts on distinct weeks, our class interactions (both on- and off-line) illustrate just how intertwined they are.

There are lots of examples of this – the most obvious being our Google+ site itself, which is a medium that we use to re-mediate ideas in order to participate and connect with one another. Another example is the site Ah-Keisha used for her blog: Medium, which is (literally) a medium (i.e. a blog) as well as a platform for connecting. But we can also see examples offline. Like in Ashley’s blog  post about using transmediation with her students. This not only mediated theories we’ve discussed in class for her students, but also invited their participation in the practice.

As our Google+ community has extended ways of participating and connecting in the class, it’s been interesting to see the variety in platform, style, tone, and topic across individual blogs. There’s been some interesting work in pushing on definitions of “schools” and “success.” Colin’s critique of “teaching” in the “teach a man to fish…” proverb raises some important questions about teachers and their roles in larger networks of learning – a theme that resonates with our Connected Learning reading this week.. Ah-Keisha anticipates some of next week’s readings on “critical literacy” in her powerful post, which examines the structural inequities that “undermine the future of large sects of our young population.”

Some people are also helping us think through the intersections of personal/professional identity in the blog genre and raise some really important points about digital technologies and identity more generally. Meg’s funny, self-reflective post addresses some of these tensions in starting a blog (What should it be about? What do I have to say?). Caitlin links these tensions to the question of identity: what is the difference between a makeshift identity and a “real” one? Particularly in professional, online/offline contexts? Such questions call Jim Gee’s conception of “mushfaking” – or strategies for “making do” when an ideal/real identity is not readily available (basically, fake it till you make it, as they say). From this perspective, a blog itself can become a way of experimenting with and developing professional identities.

This question of identity – whether makeshift, fake, real – raises the question of “authenticity” again. Last week we talked about blogging and authenticity in light of the Hicks and Turner article, and we wonder: can our individual and class blogs be “authentic” if they are a requirement of the course?  If yes, is it the same kind of “authenticity” as that of a person who starts a blog on her own? If no, can required activities, over time, take on aspects of “authenticity?” Is “authenticity” even a useful category for talking about blogs? We were thinking about Adina’s use of the blog to keep track of her reading and Rachel’s as her reflection on learning Farsi–what do these examples help us see about a blog’s multiple purposes and audiences?

We were also excited to see how people interpreted ‘connected learning’ and participatory culture’ in practice through the posted examples (maker movement, collaborative music, audience generated content!). We were talking about how having to translate some of these concepts into practice often shine a light onto the values and ideologies within the different frameworks we adopt (and of course, the tensions between those!). We keep going back to this idea of tensions raised in the first class, as even new ones emerge: what do we mean by digital divide? Digital natives? Why do participation and citizenship matter, and to whom? We are excited to talk more about these ideas tonight!

Class Blog: January 21

We are excited to move into our second week of DigLits with you all and hope you found the first class session and readings thought-provoking; we know we were already impressed by your backgrounds and the discussions you engaged in, both in-person and digitally!

Last week, we started to think about mediation, and after reading an excerpt from Bolter and Grusin (1999), we talked about the importance of mediation’s historical background—the idea that mediation is not new and/or not just about the digital: “Both new and old media are invoking the twin logics of immediacy and hypermediacy in their efforts to remake themselves and each other” (p. 5). Mediation and remediation are constant and non-linear; all mediation is remediation, and mediums need other mediums. This historical tracing was found in the three readings for Week 2 as well, particularly in the readings’ emphasis on how people’s practices evolve over time and in relation to other phenomena.

Lankshear and Knobel (2011) provide a broader overview of the field of literacy from its beginnings in reading and writing to its current concepts of “new” literacies (p. 27). Similarly, Buckingham (2006) speaks to the historical background of digital literacy; ideas about digital literacy as well as about multiple literacies have been circulating since the 1980s (p. 265). Like Hicks and Turner (2013), Buckingham (2006) tells us that we need to move beyond a definition of digital literacy that is only technical and informational (p. 264).

When talking about “new” literacies, Lankshear and Knobel (2011) make the distinction between newness in terms of paradigm (psychological versus sociological, p. 12) and newness in terms of ontology (pp. 27-31). In regards to ontological newness, new literacies are made up of more literal and/or tangible changes (as in technology) as well as of changes in priorities and values, and they call the latter “ethos stuff” (pp. 28-29). Lankshear and Knobel (2011) are careful, however, to point out that the technically new aspects and the new “ethos stuff” are dependent on each other (p. 29).

Hicks and Turner (2013) provide suggestions for how educators can engage in these “new” literacy practicesScreen Shot 2016-01-20 at 7.20.07 PM and promote digital literacy in their classrooms (p. 62-64). For example, as Ah-Keisha posted in this week’s G+ discussion, there is a collective of Detroit teachers tweeting about their horrid school conditions, and this serves as a point of “digital activism.” Hicks and Turner (2013) would say, “be an advocate” (p. 63), and using Twitter to expose the unacceptable conditions that students and staff are experiencing forces people to take notice and hopefully make changes to rectify this issue and make their learning/working spaces safer.

Many of the G+ challenge responses help us to also return to the notion of tensions that started our class discussion in Week 1 and that remain throughout this week’s readings—technology as an add-on versus a genuine opportunity, functional versus critical notions of literacy, paradigmatically versus ontologically new, and others. In the “Reflection and Discussion” questions at the close of their chapter (p. 30), Lankshear and Knobel (2011) ask readers to reflect on what types of literacy-based digital activities are truly “new.” How might we respond to this question when considering the first example of transmediation posted in our G+ community, that of a crossword puzzle shared by AG McCants? How does this crossword puzzle speak to mediation and remediation and ideas of “new” as discussed by Lankshear and Knobel (2011)?

In these readings, it was argued that digital technology be used critically in a way that allows students to create something totally new and of their own, just like what Megan and Joyce were able to do with their G+ challenges. Joyce created an Instagram tic-tac-toe quiz using multiple mediums to display one large picture with a message by creating and arranging smaller photos together. Megan was able to use technology to create an elaborate visual representation of her analysis and summation of Lankshear and Knobel’s (2011) article.