Friday, November 26, 2010

Must Read: Mimi Ito on YouMedia

©2010 YouMedia, Chicago Public Library
I've been neglecting my blog this month, due to an abnormally intense crunch time at work - deadlines, teaching duties, research, and planning for next semester have taken over (and extended) my life these days, leaving me little time to ponder or read anything that isn't imminently (or  much more often over-) due. However, in a rare moment of down time, I had the chance to read Mimi Ito's recent Huffington Post article describing the Chicago Public Library's (Harold Washington Library Centre) amazing and awe-inspiring YouMedia project. I don't think I've talked about YouMedia here on Gamine Expedition yet, but I'm really interested in what's going on there - both in terms of the activities and creativity that the centre is enabling, as well as the research and theory that the design of the project is based on. In the article, Mimi describes her recent visit to the Centre, as follows:
The space was teeming with teens sitting on bright comfy sofas, chatting and eating, playing Rock Band, mixing music, heads down in front of laptops, and getting feedback from digital media mentors. Check out spoken word artist and mentor Mike Hawkins freestyling if you want to sample what YouMedia has on tap. Unlike any other library experience I had growing up, YouMedia is loud, sociable, and hip -- but it's still all about the public mission of the library to serve as a point of access to culture, information, and the media of the day, staffed by smart guides to knowledge and literacy. Nichole Pinkard and Amy Eshleman, who oversee the site, took me aside to explain that over a hundred teens come through the space every day to check out laptops, make media, read books, engage in workshops and special projects, or just hang out with friends in a safe environment. They say that since they opened their doors to this teen-only media space about a year ago, news spread by word of mouth, texting, and social media messaging peer-to-peer among teens across the city, and their population includes young people in diverse public and private schools, as well as home schoolers. 
The article is fantastic and a definite must read for anyone interested in children's media, libraries and/or education. It looks at the foundations of the program, how it fits into the current debates (and mounting crisis) around public education, and proposes that we think more seriously about the role and potential of DIY Media in young people's lives, education, and civic engagement (both as enabling and as a form of). There are direct links between the centre and Mimi Ito's Digital Media and Learning Initiative - as Ito describes, they credit her research as the "as part of the inspiration for the design of the space" (as well as some sort of relationship with the New Learning Institute - so many connections). I'm always a fan of Mimi's work, and this is no exception. And as soon as I have a moment, I've got to set aside some time to find out more about Nichole Pinkard and her work as well! Happy reading :)

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