Friday, May 22, 2009

Project New Media Literacies

MIT's Comparative Media Studies program has put together a cool site called Project New Media Literacies (NML). It is a research initiative that "explores how we might best equip young people with the social skills and cultural competencies required to become full participants in an emergent media landscape and raise public understanding about what it means to be literate in a globally interconnected, multicultural world."

My only problem with that has to do with the modifier "young": this work concerns people of all ages.

A very useful document at NML defines the skills of participatory media culture (from a white paper called Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century). Looking at the list, I'm convinced that many groups of people, such as artists and actors, have been honing these collaborative skills for centuries. Today, we are using new networking technologies to develop them, but they build on traditional skills of literacy, research, critical analysis, and technical expertise. It's a feedback loop: we apply these skills to new technologies, and use the technologies to connect with each other, further developing the skills. What I find interesting is that these capacities emphasize flexibility, imagination, empathy, and the ability to shift and sort through texts and contexts: rigidity, top-down tyranny, and dogmatism don't make the cut.

Here's that excellent provisional list, as well as a video from the site:

Skills for New Media Literacy

Play - the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving

- the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery

- the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes

- the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content

- the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details

Distributed Cognition
- the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities

Collective Intelligence
- the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal

- the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources

Transmedia Navigation
- the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities

- the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information

- the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives,
and grasping and following alternative norms

- the ability to interpret and create data representations for the purposes of expressing ideas,
finding patterns, and identifying trends

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