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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Jenkins’

A Second look at Jenkins

December 9th, 2009 No comments

In earlier Writing for Electronic Communities class we discussed changes that need to be made to our collaborative essay.  I have been assigned the section on Remix culture and Youtube.  Prior to this essay, I had every little experience with the art of composing remix. I needed to do quite a bit of research to be able to discuss the components and issues of remixing existing works to create something new and unique.   I looked to scholars such as Henry Jenkins, Chuck Tyron, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Lawrence Lessig, Eduardo Navas, Nick Diakopoulos, and others.  I explored relevant intellectual property laws at the U.S. Copyright Office and World Intellectual Property Organization.

Jenkin’s Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, which I recently (re)explored in light of the this essay, provides an insightful look at remix and sampling. Jenkins, like many others seems, to feel that remixing should be encouraged and embraced.  This is particularly important in the education system where students can learn to analyze remixes and discuss what must be understood to compose a remix such as various materials and relevant copyright law.  Similarly, he discusses how “students learn by taking culture apart and putting it back together again” (p. 55).

Jenkins spent some time explaining the concept of influent and how this is similar to remixing in many ways.  He states, “the digital remixing of media content makes visible the degree to which all cultural expression builds on what has come before it” (p. 55). He discusses the artistic process and explains that artists do not create uninfluenced by other works.  Instead, they “build on, are inspired by, appropriate and transform other artist’s work…by tapping into a cultural tradition or by deploying the conventions of a particular genre” (p. 55). Jenkins points readers to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey as a remix of Greek mythology and the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a “mash up of stories and images from across the entire biblical tradition” (p. 56).

He explains the complex nature of remixing and its many components which may not be well understood by those who have not worked in this area.  Jenkins explains that successful sampling from “the existing cultural reservoir requires a close analysis of the existing structures and uses of this material; remixing requires an appreciation of emerging structures and latent potential meanings” (p. 58). This process may also include making relevant connections between sources that are not usually thought of as related.  Jenkins and the other before mentioned authors have given me much to consider when composing this section of the project.

Another computer game encourages innovation

November 10th, 2009 2 comments

We’ve already discussed how multimodal computer games promote interaction and participatory culture for the expanding minds of children. Henry Jenkins, Ravi Purushotma, Margaret Weigel, Katie Clinton, and Alice J. Robison thoroughly discuss the coupling of pedagogical uses of new media technology, such as computer games, with the development of literary skills in their research text, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

Teachers and researchers recognize hands-on learning as often being a preferred and faster method of learning for school-age children. “Metagaming” and simulated programs, such as The Sims, help broaden experiences and skills that cannot be taught effectively through verbal lectures (Jenkins 40). Countless other simulation games are valued by teachers for their help in building problem-solving skills, such the early 1991 game, Myst.

Perhaps the most impressive game that I’ve seen, however, is Crayon Physics. Michael Thompson’s review of Crayon Physics offers a great description of the game and what skills it builds in its players:

“The basic idea behind Crayon Physics is that gamers have to get a ball to a point that is marked by a star. This is accomplished by drawing a number of different items that can act in a variety of ways to help get the ball from Point A to Point B. On a basic level, the drawings act as ramps or barriers, while more advanced implementation accomplishes a number of feats like creating weights and levers, as well as malleable platforms that can be affected by other creations.”

Thompson calls the object a “puzzle,” identifying the game’s real pedagogical value – players can solve these puzzles by “drawing” innovative solutions, instead of relying on items already provided by the game. There will obviously be more than one way to solve each “puzzle.” Thompson says players can be “creative and solve each puzzle through whatever means they can conceive, as opposed to only having one convoluted method as the only solution.”

crayon physics

Jenkins may have valued knowledge of Crayon Physics in arguing for Ian Bogost’s theory of “procedural literacy, a capacity to restructure and reconfigure knowledge to look at problems from multiple vantage points, and through this process to develop a greater systemic understanding of the rules and procedures that shape our everyday experiences” (Jenkins 45).

Jenkins stresses the value of simulation in games, arguing that schools need to build on skills afforded in each to help students become both literate and  critical readers. His idea of “distributed cognition” explains how students learn the affordances of different tools and information technologies (Jenkins 65). Crayon Physics perfectly argues his case for the use of computer games, as players must choose apply different solutions to different problems based on context.

New Media Education

November 6th, 2009 No comments

The incorporation of new media in the classroom has been an ongoing process.  In the mid-1960s, bulky vacuum tube computers were establishing a presence on well-to-do universities, and smaller miniframes and minicomputers were starting to be used.   According to Catherine Schifter’s 2008 article, “A Brief History of Computers, Computing in Education, and Computing in Philadelphia Schools,” computers were often used in the 1960s for computer-assisted instruction.  Many teachers were hesitant to use this new technology and preferred educating with tools they knowledgeable with rather that this “alien” technology.

It wouldn’t be until the rise of Apple and their donations of computers to schools and universities would a class rely on computers as an educational tool.  In the 1980s, computer classes, or “labs”, became part of the curriculum.  However, the use of computers was still very constricted to the teaching of computer literacy.  This was so because computer skills weren’t needed in other classes, or if they were at all, they were used on a very basic level (simple math problems, science quizzes, etc).  Their use for higher level teaching was not popular outside of programming courses at universities.  Apple’s development of a decent word processing program, the Apple Works suite, became a common in 1984, but high school typing classes wouldn’t be until 1990.

Then textbooks began supplementing their material with 3.5in floppy disks and CD-ROMS.  The multimedia program, Hyperstudio, introduced high school students to multimodality in text.  Computer rooms in school were becoming more and more common as this “Internet” thing was slowly being realized as more than just a fad.

Now, computers and education have become integrated down to the elementary level.  The importance of computer literacy and teachers who are knowledgeable with computers have facilitated that integration.  A first grade teacher at Prairie South School in Central Saskatchewan, Canada, uses technology daily with her six to seven year old students.  They routinely use the Internet and even have their own blog, Blogmeister.  The following video was made by the class and is an example of just how fundamental new media has become in our schools.  (Pardon the music)

However, even though schools across the nation have created a multitude of computer classes and classes have worked computer use into their respective studies, there is still a need for a more systemic educational standards.  The participatory nature of new media presents many obstacles and questions that children, if left on their own, may or may not successfully navigate to became active and intelligent members of this new culture.  This is the argument Henry Jenkins et al. have constructed in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.  They stressed that young people need to develop a certain set of skills to achieve such a participatory status.  Those skills are play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation.

They ask and address three questions on page 56 to which the aforementioned skill set need be applied to:

  • How do we ensure that every child has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant in the social, cultural, economic, and political future of our society?
  • How do we ensure that every child has the ability to articulate his or her understanding
    of the way that media shapes perceptions of the world?
  • How do we ensure that every child has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that will shape their practices as media makers and as participants within online communities?

These questions raised by Jenkins and his colleagues are one that educators and scholars have been asking since computer technologies were seen as an important and ignored learning tool.  It would seem that teachers all over the world have been grappling with this problem and have been adjusting their courses accordingly, however new media have advanced incredibly fast in the last decade.  Administrations have be hard pressed to adjust so quickly and teachers may be more capable for impromptu adaptations, but the educational system is a slow giant.  We need to look at how schools are helping students become active participants in our “Web 2.0 culture” and determine what we can do to improve that transformation.