New Media Literacies

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= syllabus from Henry Jenkins

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"What does it mean to be "literate" and how has this changed as a consequence of the introduction of new communication technologies? What social skills and cultural competencies do young people need to acquire if they are going to be able to fully participate in the digital future? What are the ethical choices young people face as participants in online communities and as producers of media? What can Wikipedia and Facebook teach us about the future of democratic citizenship? How effective is Youtube at promoting cultural diversity? What relationship exists between participatory culture and participatory democracy?

How is learning from a video game different than learning from a book? What do we know about the work habits and learning skills of the generation that has grown up playing video games? Who is being left behind in the digital era and what can we do about it? And how might research on pedagogy and learning contribute more generally to our understanding of media audiences? Much of the reading in this course will be drawn from a series of books recently produced by the MIT Press and the MacArthur Foundation. These books reflect a national push by the MacArthur Foundation to explore how young people are learning informally through the affordances of new media and what implications this has for the future of schools, libraries, public institutions, the workplace, and the American family.

This emerging body of research represents an important place where media and communication studies is interfacing with learning researchers and public policy makers. Understanding these debates helps shed light on long-standing debates in media and cultural theory, especially those having to do with the social production of meaning around media content and the nature of online communities. A better understanding of how informing learning, cultural collaboration and knowledge production takes place through fan and game communities may offer key new insights into media audience research and may also help journalists to better understand shifts in how young people access and deploy news and information. At the same time, translating this theory into practice poses challenges which may force our field to rethink some of its core assumptions. This course is intended to be a meeting point between students interested in communications research and cultural studies, media production, and educational research.

The course is structured in two parts: Part One, Learning in a Participatory Culture, seeks to provide an overview of our contemporary moment of media change, of the kinds of informal learning which is occuring in the context of participatory culture, of how schools are responding to the challenges posed by new media technologies, and of core debates between those who value and those who criticize the new media literacies. Part Two, Core Skills and Competencies, digs deeper into what young people need to learn if they are going to become full participants in the emerging media culture, adopting the framework of social skills and cultural competencies which shapes the work of Project New Media Literacies, and illustrating them by looking more closely at such cultural phenomenon as computer game guilds, youtube video production, Wikipedia, fan fiction, Second Life and other virtual worlds, music remixing, social network sites, and cosplay. We will be examining more closely new curricular materials which have emerged from Project New Media Literacies, Global Kids, The Good Play Project, Common Sense Media, the George Lucas Foundation, and other projects which are seeking to introduce these skills into contemporary educational practices." (

More Information

Required Books:

  • Cory Doctorow, Little Brother (New York: Tor, 2008).
  • Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006).
  • Peter Lyman, Mizuko Ito, Barrie Thorne, and Michael Carter, Hanging Out, Messing Around, And Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning With New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press/MacArthur Foundation, 2009).
  • John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (New York: Perseus, 2008).
  • Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel, New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning (Maidenshead: Open University Press, 2006).
  • S. Craig Watkins, The Young and the Digital (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009).