Saturday, March 17, 2012

Assignment 2: Participatory culture and democracy

For assignment 2, I have chosen to combine my individual analysis of each of three texts in one, since my texts are focused in one area and this approach should eliminate repetition that would be necessary in three separate posts.
Online participatory culture & democracy
In researching this assignment, I finally settled on a single focus of online participatory literacy/culture and its potential for people to have greater involvement in politics, and improved democracy. The global and molecular network of the internet appears to me to be the greatest opportunity for true democracy yet and for this reason interests me a great deal. The three texts I have chosen look at different aspects of participatory culture and democracy and I suspect they are only the tip of the iceberg – it would bear greater research and study.
According to Henry Jenkins (2009), the author of the blog, there are three modes of participation for young people online: 1) “hang out” with friends they already know, 2)”mess around” with programs, tools and platforms, and 3) “geek out” as fans, bloggers and gamers in an area of intense personal interest, connecting with others who are also intensely interested. This geeking out out leads to social connections, conversations and shared experience – and he argues, “a starting point for other civic activities” (paragraph 14). He continues on to posit how geeking out may be the key to a more participatory democracy and uses the example of the Harry Potter Alliance and its mobilization to fight for important causes.
A starting point is not enough, I would argue, and the HP Alliance may be an exception, even though the supporting skills may be developed through geeking out, and the barriers to civic engagement have been concordantly lowered, and I would argue that the requisite motivation for civic engagement and action is not necessarily a product of online participation of any of the types he cites.
Joseph Kahne in his video conversation with Howard Rheingold (2011) explains that 77% of young people did not vote in the 2010 (US) election.  A (US) national survey showed that 55% are disengaged from civic and political life. Yet another study of 400 children over three years showed that online kids who did more than just socialize were more likely to participate in the community (offline). Kahne (2011), like Jenkins (2009), exhorts youth to follow their deep interests to learn from online participation.
Kahne’s purpose is to understand how online participation leads to or might drive political participation by youth. I suspect that the McArthur Foundation’s intention is to increase youth involvement in politics (considering the alarming statistics noted above).
Axel Bruns`s claim to fame is produsage: “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement” (2009, p. 21). The process is built on “the affordances of the technosocial framework of the networked environment…through many-to-many communications media.” It is a participatory online activity espoused by Generation C – a new population of expert produsers (Bruns, 2007).  Produsage could be leveraged to create more democratic involvement in the community and politics. In fact, Bruns is suggesting that partisan, power politics be replaced with his more distributed and participatory model.
One of the principles of political produsage is that a large community of diverse and informed citizens can contribute more than a closed team of politicians and policy makers.  This is similar to James Surowiecki`s idea in The Wisdom of  Crowds (2005) that you’re better off entrusting a decision to a diverse group of people with various levels of knowledge than leaving it in the hands of one or two people, no matter how smart they are (p.21).
According to Pierre Levy (1997, p. xxviii) and quoted by Bruns (2007, p. 13), “if our societies are content merely to be intelligently governed, it is most certain that they will fail to meet their objectives. To have a chance for a better life, we must become collectively intelligent.”
Participatory literacy in new/digital media and Jenkins`s participatory culture are definitely requirements for the form of democracy that Bruns suggests. If youth cannot be lead to greater political involvement and civic engagement through online experiences as Kahne and Jenkins suggest, perhaps the expectations fueled by today`s online youth will drive us towards Bruns`s produsage politics and greater democratic participation. 


Does social media and the Internet fuel youth political engagement? (2011, August 4). Howard Rheingold on YouTube.
Bruns, A. (2007). Produsage, Generation C, and Their Effects on the Democratic Process. MiT 5 (Media in Transition) conference, MIT. Boston, USA.
Bruns, A. (2009). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond. New York: Peter Lang.
Jenkins, H. (2009, May 1). "Geeking Out" For Democracy (Part One). Retrieved March 12, 2012, from Confessions of an Aca/Fan:
Levy, P. (1997). Collective intelligence: Mankind's emerging world in cyberspace. (R. Bononno, Trans.) Cambridge, USA: Perseus.
Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon and Schuster.
Surowiecki, J. (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds. Random House Digital.

No comments:

Post a Comment