Social Media Literacy in Modern Dissent Movements

Enjoy and be educated!

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Stephen Hawking: Scientist or Stud? (11/1/11)

Background Information

  1. Suffers from ALS (wheelchair and computer talking)
  2. Scientific genius
  3. Quantum Physics

It shows both his disease and disability contrasted with the complex intellectual nature of his work. This image puts him in the context of his life and makes the audience know that he is liberated by his brain capacity. He is also dressed in a tweed jacket with a chalkboard behind him, putting him in a school or university setting. This image exemplifies Stephen Hawking’s popular identity because it includes both representations of science and of his disability. This image omits any representations of his writing or the theories he is actually known for. It also omits his personality, rather than just a brain in a chair. This is a conservative image, omitting his mangled body and depicting him in a pleasant light.

These images show Stephen Hawking as a lady’s man. In many cartoons and spoofs, the disabled man is often the man who is most popular with the ladies…(Joe from Family Guy.) These pictures try to compensate for both his nerdyness and his disability by surrounding him with beautiful women who seemingly lust after him. This omits anything indicating what he’s famous for and the environment in which he is usually working. This picture shows him within a spectacle environment rather than a professional environment.

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Weekly Response #5

From my personal view, the development and encouragement of critical literacy is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of education.  With a solid foundation in critical analysis, students can be better equipped to manage the massive influx of media messages and re-representations.  This documentary highlights schools and educators who, I think, seek to do just that by incorporating technology into a new kind of classroom.

One student of the Quest to Learn school mentioned several times the importance of “trial and error” in his learning process when creating games and using digital media. This may be a simple detail but it really stuck with me due to my interest in critical literacy. By allowing students the opportunity for trial and error, as opposed to rote memorization/regurgitation, they develop non-linear thinking skills that encourage the search for multiple answers or explanations. In addition, another section that stood out featured a group of students using mobile devices to explore and subsequently derive meaning from art and exhibits at the Smithsonian. This was particularly compelling because the program combined multiple informational disciplines filtered through ever-familiar social media.  The program effectively bridged the gap between the student, or the audience, and the “author”. The students take in the information and re-represent it from their own perspective using social media in order to derive the meaning or message as they see it. This exemplifies a unique alternative to just reading about a piece of art, seeing a picture, or even by simply looking at it.

As far as the application of such techniques to public education, I believe the old-fashioned model of education is reaching a climactic collision with the explosion of digital media in this information age.  Fundamentally, the biggest roadblock in the way of applying this style to all classrooms is the lack of available funding and the deeply engrained cultural attachment to the traditional lecture style.  However, with generations only a small step behind my own, I see the gap between teacher and student as fixable only by the integration of technology that students are increasingly familiar with in order to facilitate an adaptive educational system.  And for those who don’t believe that it is possible or even right to do, I offer these three news articles that prove the significant improvement that digital media and gaming offer to the educational community and indeed the world.


Could anyone else use a computer alone when they were this young?

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Much like Volkswagens, Heineken commercials maintain the legacy of German engineering as both a source of solid physical and aesthetic design.  So, given the recent uptick in moustache and beard comedy among young people today, Heineken uses the opportunity to associate their beer with humorously exaggerated manliness through the focus on facial hair. They draw our attention to the product by contrasting the iconic green bottles on an old-timey, neutral-colored backdrop of a bare-knuckle boxing match, another nod to the association of import German beer with masculinity.  In the mind of a college student, one might see the mix of beer and fighting as a negative thing to be portrayed in an advertisement, but the relation is simply removed from realistic context. As the protagonist proceeds to defeat his opponent, women in the audience swoon and offer him more Heineken.  Basically, the overall message that some people might receive is that you have to prove your status as an alpha male by drinking Heineken and fighting someone. Not to mention, women totally dig it. But what’s missing is the reality of drunkenness, and that the real life translation of the commercial probably doesn’t apply without alcohol. So, why not make it a Heiney? Beer advertisers are adept at omitting the fact that even if pictured humorously or in an exaggerated manner, their product still can cause real life problems for real life people; even people with really awesome mustaches.  In order to actually drink responsibly, we need only know that the beer exists, and the rest should be up to us and not interfered with by surface-level humorous distractions.

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Weekly Response #2

Conor Scharr

New Media Literacies

15 September 2011

Weekly Response #2

1. “A symbiotic relationship between bands and fans quickly emerged on the system as bands wanted to gather fans and fans wanted to be connected to their favorite bands.” – Danah Boyd

Boyd, prior to this quote, explained the rise of MySpace as a social networking giant, one that everybody in the youth age group either had an opinion about, used, or both. However, when Boyd began discussing how MySpace grew out of interconnectivity between bands and their fans, I was drawn in. In the quote above, Boyd explains this relationship between bands and fans as symbiotic, meaning two entities feed off of each other.  MySpace opened up a free and easy pathway for immediate and personal feedback between two groups that are usually mediated by a television, iPod, or fleet of security guards.  I think the point that Boyd makes about the “symbiotic relationship” created by MySpace is incredibly relevant because it opened up an entire world of interconnectivity through social networking on a grand scale, mainly because the most avid consumers and participants in music culture are young people.

2.  “While text, images, audio, and video all provide valuable means for developing a virtual presence, the act of articulation differs from how we convey meaningful information through our bodies.” – Danah Boyd

Here, Boyd directly references gaps between face-to-face relationships and online interactions.  What the above quote serves to do is summarize the new kinds of literacy skills needed to interpret conversation or what a person puts forward online.  In person, body language plays a huge part in understanding social cues and skills.  Online, since the body is not present, one must be adept to reading these cues in lieu of vocal or bodily articulation.  In this way, Boyd is saying that creating our online self requires not just new technical literacy, but the ability to derive meaning, inflection, and significance from text and images alone.

3. “In modern technological and urban societies which function as a “society of strangers,” the oral mode is more narrowly useful.” – James Paul Gee

This is interesting because the “oral mode” that Gee refers to is defined as a birthright, a discourse for acquisition of knowledge based on interaction with intimates, i.e. close friends, family. While the oral mode itself refers to primary socialization between a relatively small group of people, the above statement is both true and problematic in nature.  The phrase society of strangers is used to define our large and densely populated yet socially disconnected world.  In my opinion, there has never been a more important time for the oral mode.  Social and media technology allow us to broadcast information in verbal form across the planet, and with this seemingly endless pool of information comes inevitable doubt of whether the information we receive has merit.  So, the oral mode of communication serves, in small settings, to clarify and relate truth and information in order to promote both media and social literacies. At the same time, the oral mode is increasingly important in bringing a large and increasingly connected world together.  By speaking to eachother to promote “acquisition” of knowledge, we thereby promote curiosity and learning.

4.  “In good video games, the problems players face are ordered so that the earlier ones are well built to lead players to form hypotheses that work well for later, harder problems.” – James Paul Gee

In his article discussing video games as learning tools, Gee makes several points about how the structure of the educational system fails to follow the innate process by which young people learn and develop skills.  He argues for the use of video games as learning tools, and the above quote successfully embodies the truly logical and developmental nature of a video game.  By discussing the dither-down approach to learning and application, Gee makes the point that in video games, players learn skills through trial and error and are then able to structure solutions to future problems based on actual application.  Alternately, students in school are expected to absorb information as presented through a mediated experience.  What does this say about media literacy?  It says that learning is more natural and successful when acquired through direct experiences, just like a player makes first-person decisions for the benefit of a character’s progression through a game’s storyline.

5.  “Beyond the primary discourse, however, are other discourses which crucially involve social institutions beyond the family (or the primary socialization group as defined by the culture), no matter how much they also involve the family.” – James Paul Gee

After encountering this quote towards the end of Gee’s “What Is Literacy?”, I had already read Danah Boyd’s expose on the teenage impression of MySpace.  I had already absorbed the idea of social networking as a tool for a new form of literacy via impersonal social media.  So, after reading this, it became apparent that both Boyd and Gee shared similar perceptions of the flexibility and usefulness of media literacy as a social construct, one that is equally as susceptible to change. Gee notes that these mediated social institutions operate parallel to the family, or primary discourse, yet not necessarily independent of it. What teenager wouldn’t reveal family disassociation as part of a personal identity performance?

Outside Article:

The outside article I located and chose to read is one both by James Paul Gee and cited within his article, “Good Games and Good Learning”, entitled “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.”  Though the titles seem similar, the ideas reflected do indeed resonate with the concept of media literacy as newly engrained social tool through discourse communities like Facebook and MySpace.  Though lengthy, Gee’s aforementioned work offers a more detailed inspection of social media.  Gee delves into his own personal experiences with video games as a literary tool, finding that some of the most intelligent, albeit socially inept in a traditional sense, are those that inhabit the gaming world.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.. New York, NY: Palgrave-MacMillan.

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New Media Literacies – Weekly Response #1

Conor Scharr

New Media Literacies

Renee Hobbs

8 September 2011

While much of our readings in the past week have tended to be challenging and deep, a few lines seemed to jump out and latch onto the concepts and ideas floating around my head outside of class.  My reaction tends to focus mainly on the interchange of information we receive from news and current events through any of the vast array of media.  In the BTMM program we talk a great deal about reading between the lines, or not believing everything we see or hear and to find truth through our own inquiry in order to make informed judgments. Nobody likes to be lied to, and our current educational system calls attention away from outside media and towards whatever standardized knowledge-on-a-spoon happens to be the day’s topic.  In the textbook, Digital and Media Literacy, Neil Postman is quoted from the 1969 National Council of Teachers of English as saying “As I see it, the best things schools can do for kids is to help them learn how to distinguish useful talk from bullshit…Every day in almost every way people are exposed to more bullshit than it is healthy for them to endure.” (Hobbs 35)  This could not be more true today as the amount of information, and thereby “bullshit”, is ever more prevalent.  When I read this, I think immediately of how many popular American news organizations, the official watch-dog of the people, continues to fail us in delivering the unbiased truth about our government and the world around us.  Despite this, the same media companies converging through new media also provide us with unlimited access to information through the Internet and other sources. And yet, the system that is supposed to prepare children for having to make informed decisions based on available information instead holds them back by forcing knowledge acquisition and accumulation rather than emphasizing experience and exploration. To refer to Jerome Bruner’s “Symbols and Text as Tools of Intellect”, he more eloquently describes the latter by saying “downgrade the task of cultivating abilities in students, except for those abilities that led to the accumulation of decontextualized knowledge.” (Bruner)  What he’s saying, and I agree, is that the purpose of education should be to create willful seekers of further knowledge, not just filling a cup with knowledge, because that cup has holes.

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Sir Ken Robinson vs. John Dewey

To summarize Sir Ken Robinson’s video on changing educational paradigms, our current American standard of education is based on an antiquated structure intended to mass-produce literate, standardized workers. Robinson’s main point regarding the arts in education is that they are victimized and under-appreciated in our current system.  Likening this to the “epidemic” of ADHD, Robinson argues that it is detrimental to anesthetize our children when we should be opening their minds through the aesthetic experience of the arts. Basically, considering the virtually unlimited access to the arts and all information allowed by new media, it is counter-productive to our children’s development of divergent thinking to cut them off in a limiting, numbing environment like the traditional classroom. Psychologist and education reformer John Dewey states that the purpose of education is to understand one’s full potential and use learned skills for the greater good, not to mindlessly acquire standardized skills. This relates to Sir Ken Robinson’s belief that the key to thinking creatively, necessary to effectively participate in the arts, is “divergent thinking”, or the ability to see multiple solutions to a question that are not always obvious or directly related.  Where Dewey and Robinson meet is the idea that by removing or downplaying the importance of the arts, children are numbed to the acquisition of important skills and are thereby inhibited from fulfilling their full potential.

Conor Scharr, Rich Becker

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