Monday, February 15, 2010

Digital Media Learning Conference, 2010

Later on this week, I'll be heading down to sunny San Diego to participate in the First Annual Digital Media and Learning Conference, supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Hub at the University of California, Irvine. The theme for this inaugural event is "Diversifying Participation," the conference is chaired by none other than Henry Jenkins, and will be keynoted by the wonderful S. Craig Watkins and the amazing Sonia Livingstone. Needless to say, I am very excited and grateful that I get the chance to be a part of the conference, and can't wait to meet (or at least see) so many of the names that I've been reading, citing and writing about for years now. I also can't wait to hear about all the cutting edge research that's being done on kid's digital media, informal learning, digital games and everything else that will be covered over what is promising to be quite a jam-packed 2 days.

Here's an excerpt from the original call for proposals, which provides a nice description of the aims and scope of the DMLC:
A growing body of research has identified how young people's digital media use is tied to basic social and cultural competencies needed for full participation in contemporary society. We continue to develop an understanding of the impact of these experiences on learning, civic engagement, professional development, and ethical comprehension of the digital world.
 Yet research has also suggested that young people's forms of participation with new media are incredibly diverse, and that risks, opportunities, and competencies are spread unevenly across the social and cultural landscape. Young people have differential access to online experiences, practices, and tools and this has a consequence in their developing sense of their own identities and their place in the world. In some cases, different forms of participation and access correspond with familiar cultural and social divides. In other cases, however, new media have introduced novel and unexpected kinds of social differences, subcultures, and identities.

It is far too simple to talk about this in terms of binaries such as "information haves and have nots" or "digital divides". There are many different kinds of obstacles to full participation, many different degrees of access to information, technologies, and online communities, and many different ways of processing those experiences. Participatory cultures surrounding digital media are characterized by a diversity that does not track automatically to high and low access or more or less sophisticated use. Rather, multiple forms of expertise, connoisseurship, identity, and practice are proliferating in online worlds, with complicated relationships to pre-existing categories such as socioeconomic status, gender, nationality, race, or ethnicity

My contribution will consist of participating in a panel on "The Mangle of Play" (in reference to Constance Steinkuehler's article of the same name), which will look at how players use workarounds, cheats, social capital and other informal knowledge systems to confront (and sometimes overcome) design challenges within a number of different MMOGs (and the specific contexts/case studies of each's presenter's research and focus). The panel was co-organized by a number of grad students I met at this summer's State of Play Grad Symposium, and is shaping up to be a pretty compelling (and hopefully engaging!) combo of papers/research and dialogue.

If you're going to be at DMLC and would like to meet up, be sure to drop me a line!

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