Amateur Cultural Production and Peer-to-Peer Learning

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* Article: Amateur Cultural Production and Peer-to-Peer Learning.


A paper for the 2008 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association


"What characterizes learning in settings where kids are engaging in popular, networked, and viral new media cultures?

First, there is very little explicit instruction, and learning happens through process of peer-based knowledge sharing. People engaged in a practice seek out information or knowledgeable peers when it becomes relevant to their work, and in turn, they help others when asked. Although there are people acknowledged as experts, they are not framed as instructors.

Secondly, rather than working to master a standard body of material and skills, participants in these practices tend to specialize. Much like we see in academic life, there are opportunities to develop status and a role as an expert in a particular, often narrow specialty. Alternately, this can involve developing a particular style or signature in creative work. It is not about trying to acquire the same body of knowledge and skills as all one’s peers in a given community of practice.

Finally, these environments are based on ongoing feedback and reviews of performance and work that are embedded in the practices of creation and play. These groups also have contexts for the public display and circulation of work that enables review and critique by their audiences. Competition and assessment happens within this ecology of media production and consumption, not by an external mechanism or set of standards. In other words, individual accomplishment is recognized and celebrated among peers in the production community and other interested fans, providing powerful motivation for ongoing learning and achievement.

We can see these dynamics at play in a wide range of settings; these are not processes that are exclusive to new media engagement. New media becomes significant when it enables kids to have greater access to these specialized practices of peer learning, knowledge sharing and amateur communities of creative production. For this paper, my goal is to illustrate these dynamics through some examples taken from an ethnographic case study. This work is part of a larger study funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their Digital Media and Learning initiative. I’ve been working with a large team of researchers examining different sites of young people’s informal learning and knowledge networking, where they are engaging with and mobilizing new media. " (

Case Study

See: Fansubbing