goodbye 2007; hello ongoing misunderstanding of literacy...

according to jack miller, president of central connecticut state university, the level literateness across the nation's cities can be measured by focusing on "six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources." he has made the results of this annual study, begun in 2003, available for public consumption; a story that is no doubt the focus of public curiosity and, in the case of minneapolis, chest thumping.

as someone who believes in and engages a broader view of literacy than is found within the bounded terms listed above, i find myself at once amused and exhausted. can all of the work being conducted under the auspices of new literacies be for naught? can the virtual "miles" of literate engagement being enacted and performed across online and offline spaces be reduced miller's "internet" variable that he describes thusly:
1. Number of library Internet connection per 10,000 library service population
2. Number of Internet book orders per capita
3. Number of unique visitors per capita to a city’s internet version newspaper
4. Number of webpage views per capita to a city’s internet version newspaper
further distressing is the characterization of miller's results in an article in USA Today:
Miller's findings echo those in a National Endowment for the Arts report last month. The NEA focused on reading for pleasure, but both the NEA and Miller conclude that even as more Americans are earning high school and college degrees, reading is declining.
so, despite the plethora of evidence - empirical and otherwise - that we, as a national and international population, are engaging in immeasurably more multimodal and multiliterate communicative practices, the public perception is actually moving in the opposite direction. im reminded of one emphasis that was resonant at the anthro meetings in d.c. regarding the urgent call for educational researchers to enter the public policy debates and discourses. im starting to feel the urgency, and recall a similar plea made to senior scholars at nctear 2007 to take time to write editorials, sit on curriculum committees, and (eek!) participate in developing better and more accurate forms of assessment when it comes to making sense of the varied and complicated ways that youth are making sense of the worlds they navigate and negotiate daily.

of course, this could all just be rantings of someone whose two 'home' cities are not represented in miller's top 10...

happy new year :)


initial success and drug sentencing - the forecast is still grey for teens...

a couple of news stories caught my eye today. the first has to do with the mandatory sentencing of drug offenses. namely, the supreme court ruled that judges may employ judicial discretion "to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine powder." this alleviates the inequitable treatment between crack and cocaine arrests 'on paper,' however, as noted by ny times writer adam liptak, "if history is any guide, judges will continue to use their sentencing power relatively sparingly," quoting "law specialists." his commentary continues:
"Now that the Supreme Court has again emphasized that federal trial judges have the discretion to move outside the guidelines, further departures are rather likely. But the size of that may not be huge, said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. “The really interesting question,” Professor Berman said, “is whether we get a more significant gravitation away from the guidelines."
what does this mean for how youth get sentenced? and what discretion judges use in swinging their gavels in the direction of educational and treatment programs over detention and jail placements?

i can only hope these same judges, who are sure to hear about this ruling, don't also read another news story from today:
Your initials may spell success
yes, that's right: this article details the results of a series of psych studies that report how "'name-letter effect' influences performance in different situations."
a few tasty tidbits from this article:
"Basically what [they] found was that people tend to favor the letters in their own name, and in particular, they have a fondness for their initials," said Joseph Simmons of Yale University, co-author of the new studies.
"People tend to gravitate toward life outcomes that resemble their names," Simmons explained. "So for example, we know now that people named Jack are more likely to move to Jacksonville as compared to people named Phil, who are more likely to move to Philadelphia."
In a separate study, Simmons and Nelson compared students' initials with their GPAs and found that students who had "C" or "D" as an initial had lower GPAs than students who had "A" or "B" as an initial. People with "C" or "D" initials don't want to do badly, Simmons explained, but on some unconscious level doing poorly is "just ever so slightly not as bad, and so they're ever so slightly less motivated to avoid it."
with all of this information in the ether, we can only hope that it gets filtered thoughtfully, and motivates responsible action. what responsible means is a topic for new post...


Media, Learning, and Sites of Possibility - in print!

our book is in print! almost three years to the day since marc and i solicited submissions for our edited volume, which we hoped would transgress the dichotomous tone of media in/and education conversations that we kept bumping up against in our readings on the subject. even in that brief period of time much has changed in how we conceive of and engage media technologies and media texts. in this collection, we feature the work of six colleagues whose work holds resonance for current conversations about the relationships between youth and media, and who push open our conceptions of media and media engagement. we're also excited to see another vision realized - that of having respondents for each chapter who initiate what we hope will be an ongoing conversation for some time to come. among them, one of our wonderful series editors, michele knobel who, along with colin lankshear, our other series editor, were the best cheerleaders we could ask for!



we could argue that everything in life, in large part, has a cycle, a rhythm, a predictable heartbeat... and when that momentum is disrupted or derailed, the chain reaction can have unimaginable consequences for which we are left unprepared. in ethnographic work, relationships and local knowledge are the lifeblood of the experience. this is even more true when the work is participatory in nature, and involves multiple people with multiple perspectives, interests, intentions, and histories. so when this rhythm, this lifeblood is thinned, or halted, or cut off for even an instant, the impact is significant...

recently, i was sharing some of my experiences doing participatory research with youth with a class of graduate students in a qualitative methods class. i talked about the various projects i've been involved with over the last decade and what "participatory" has meant across those contexts. and more specifically, how i establish rapport with the youth who are involved with my research. i hadn't really articulated these aspects of my work before, and was excited to have the chance to reflect on these
here's some of what i came up with:
- a pedagogy of play
- multiple modes of participation
- researcher vulnerability
- willingness to let the focus of inquiry evolve and change

i wrote a bit about this in the handbook chapter that's coming out soon, and i'm working on expanding these aspects in a methods piece i'm writing about participatory research in a digital age. i'll also be using this space to tease out these ideas in the near future. for now, i must return to the final stages of a paper that is long overdue to our discussant in prep for the anthro meetings this week...!


NCTEAR 2008 - Deadline extended!!

the proposal deadline for nctear 2008 has been extended until nov. 30, 2007. see my earlier posting for more on the nctear cfp.

submit, submit, submit!!


video cultural commentaries; & journal of culture & tec

a couple of youtube videos that have been circulating:
women in art - female portraits in art over 500 years. i loved the background music.
a vision of students today - another one by michael wesch

and a journal that my friend heather recently told me about:
vectors: journal of culture and technology in a dynamic vernacular - gives 'dynamic journal' a whole new meaning!


don't be a multislacking bluetool

i'm not usually a fan of "adults" trying to decode "kidspeak," but this clip held some fun gems. and if you disagree, then you're just agnorant.

teen talk


past is present again

80s male rock stars 20 years later

except for the fact that kenny rogers isn't my idea of an '80s rock star' and that billy idol now looks like a gargoyle, this made for some fun reminiscing.


WoW! (more) youtube academic literacy

you might notice that i added a sidebar feature that includes a rotating pool of literacy-related videos posted on youtube and videogoogle. i was doing some additional searching for such clips and found the following video.

literacy & world of warcraft (13:10)
(a project assigned by mark warschauer, whose work is well worth checking out, if you haven't done so already)

i suppose we can expect more of this - literacies "homework" online - to come as profs and students explore and blur the lines of what counts as knowledge, work, research, effort... this is of particular interest to me as i venture into these acts of blurring, myself, both in the requirements i design for my classes, as well as in the kinds of academic publishing i'm engaging in (dangling preposition, notwithstanding!).

so i return to this video about world of warcraft (WoW): i learned a lot about the game, rules, and sensibilities of one particular player. much of the 'learning' came from direct dialogue from either the interviewer/video-maker, or the young man being interviewed for a large part of the video. the author also uses captions to add important background information to what is being said, to support the WoW neophyte's comprehension. all of this in service of a question posed at the beginning of the video:
what kinds of social interactions are present in-game? (referring to the inside playing environment of WoW)

but i'm left wondering about the author's stance on, as he claims at the beginning of the video, what "literacies [are necessary] for social interaction to be truly effective?" how is he defining or understanding literacies as existing beyond print - at one point in the video he comments on the literacy opportunities available when typing in-world. the data is there, in his video, but i'm less sure about the analysis. which brings me to a larger question about the representation of analysis in video, audio, and other multimodal and non-print formats...

i find the possibilities are exciting, but they can also be frustrating when the inevitable questions of evaluation and assessment are brought to the surface. we know how to scaffold someone's inclusion of primary and secondary sources when writing literature reviews and other academic papers. but how prepared are we to support our students' as well as our own forays into new academic playgrounds of the fourth kind...?


on youth, education, race

a recent piece from "talk of the town" in the new yorker that discusses the issues of race and education surrounding what has come to be known as the case of the "jena 6":

and a couple of editorials by bob herbert of the new york times that resonate with above piece:
the school to prison pipeline
our schools must do better


blog updates and other thoughts

due to all the other writing that's consumed my time, my blog writing has suffered. however, i've been playing around with some of the new add-on features that blogger provides and am especially jazzed about the video searches. i also added a section for announcements related to upcoming conferences and calls for papers that i find out about that look interesting. if you know of others, please pass along.

a note about the previous post - it's a call for proposals for the 2008 nctear conference that will be held in bloomington, indiana. it's one of my favorite conferences - small, generative of good talk and new ideas, and manageable in size and scope. this year's theme is particularly exciting because the combination of strands within the context of the theme - literacy research in communities - offers a chance to bring together the past three years' themes which were, respectively:
2005 - literacies across time, space and place: new directions in literacy research for political action
2006 - literacy as a civil right: reclaiming social justice in literacy research and teaching
2007 - what counts as literacy: living literacies of the body and image

im hoping for papers and presentations that consider literacies representation across new media as/for social justice; and the pedagogical implications of literacies research with adolescents across home/school/community boundaries; and an exploration of how new forms of communication across virtual and physical geographies shapes and informs individuals' sense of community/ies...

that is, for so long, the conversations about new literacies and social justice and critical pedagogy have remained tri-chotomized (if you will allow me the imagery), despite the overlap of these areas of focus in many scholars' work. why can't innovation also address equity and social inclusion? how might a critical perspective on literacy engage social networking spaces and digital communicative modalities? the reality is that these intersections are also readily present in the work and intentions of many young people. they understand that the theory/practice split is a farce. so should we all...



Literacy Research in Communities

The Assembly for Research of the National Council of Teachers of English announces a conference on Literacy Research in Communities, to be held February 15-17, 2008 at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. In this call, we would like researchers and educators to consider what it means to do literacy research in and with communities, both communities that are familiar to the researcher and those that are not. We define communities broadly (i.e., classrooms, virtual communities, schools, neighborhoods, community centers etc.). One goal is to begin a conversation about the various ways that researchers represent and capture the voices of those we study and the challenges and tensions associated with doing so. Questions that guide the conference can be broken down into three related strands: 1) Representation and Relationships; 2) Methodological, Theoretical, and Epistemological Issues; 3) Ethical Dilemmas and Issues.

We invite proposals that address the following issues, topics and questions that will frame our Midwinter Conference for 2008.

Representation and Relationships
  • How do researchers and educators engage in doing literacy research in communities, especially those which consist of marginalized or historically underrepresented groups?
  • What are the various relationships between researchers /educators and the community members with whom they study and work? What role do these relationships play in the research process?
  • How do community members participate in creating scholarship with researchers?
  • What role do community members play in the dissemination of this research and scholarship as it is made public to various audiences?
Methodological, Theoretical, and Epistemological Issues
  • What methodological and theoretical tools do researchers use to problematize their own assumptions and to ensure that they justly represent the communities in which they study?
  • What have researchers/educators learned about the knowledge and experiences of various communities as a result of their literacy research and how has that knowledge impacted their scholarship, the communities in which they study, policy, and the field.
  • How do educational researchers/educators define and understand their work with diaspora communities, communities in transition, transnational communities, virtual communities, and undocumented communities?
  • How do educational researchers/educators conceptualize “the literacies of communities”?
Ethical Dilemmas and Issues
  • How do researchers/ educators value and incorporate the voices and represent the knowledge and experiences of the people in the communities that we work and study?
  • To what extent does the scholarship that researchers/educators create help the communities in which we study? Who is the work done for? And for what purposes?
  • What are some of the challenges of doing research in communities? What ethical dilemmas do researchers and educators face as they engage in studying the literacy of communities, particularly communities of historically underrepresented groups?
  • What ethical responsibilities do researchers and educators have in representing communities and the literacies within them in their scholarship and programming?
We welcome proposals grounded in diverse perspectives, including, among others: critical race, postcolonial, postmodern, multicultural, feminist and queer theories; critical discourse analysis; critical and anti-racist pedagogies; and ethnic, cultural, cross-cultural, historical and comparative studies. We invite proposals that focus on empirical research including teacher/action research, as well as conceptual/theoretical work.

Proposals (no more than 2 single-spaced pages) should address the following:
The research question(s), methodology, findings/issues/questions for discussion, and how the research will contribute to the conference conversation. If your paper is a conceptual/theoretical one, please describe your theoretical framework and argument and tell how it will contribute to the conference conversation. Please indicate in the opening lines of the proposal whether you intend to focus on empirical or conceptual/theoretical questions.

Cover Page - Include the following information for all presenters:
- Name(s)
- Affiliation(s)
- Mailing address(es)
- Telephone number(s)
- E-mail address(es)
- Title of presentation
- Indicate whether this is a round table or poster session.
- Audio-visual requests (overheads, TV/VCRs supplied without charge and upon request)

Review Process: Review criteria will include the quality of the proposal and the degree to which it addresses the conference theme.

Submit proposals via email to: LELLC@indiana.edu
Please include “NCTEAR Proposal” as the subject line. Proposals must be received by November 2, 2007.

Address any questions to Conference Co-chairs Stephanie Carter or Gerald Campano to: LELLC@indiana.edu



this site is not what i expected:


on writing...

two more reasons why i enjoy elizabeth gilbert:
(from her website, the section titled "thoughts on writing"):

"The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck."

"I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows."


hope, with strings attached, might not really be hope at all

earlier this summer, i was invited back to the program where i have been a participant observer and teacher for the last two+ years to serve in a different capacity: as a guest speaker in a class about college. it was one of the rare times when i've readily discussed my role as a faculty member while at this organization, but was happy to share what insights i could about my own college experiences and as someone who contributes to admissions decisions at the graduate level. all of the participants in the class had been at the program for at least three months and had either already obtained their high school diplomas or had taken the GED test. most of the young men in the class were awaiting scores.

i went in prepared to engage the group in a discussion about what college meant to them, what role they saw it playing in their lives, and how they envisioned the path to achieving their higher education goals. i should note here, if i haven't done so already, that i am excited about the existence of this class within the context of a program for court-involved youth, for whom educational opportunities are significantly less accessible than they ought to be. (more on that another time)

our conversation humbled me in a way that i didn't expect to be humbled. i used a "college by the numbers" approach to initiating conversation and allowing time for their questions. on a large chart paper i wrote down prompts like, "age you entered school," "# of years you've spent attending formal education," "# of mentors you've had," etc. my goal was to point out the vast range of experiences each participant undoubtedly has already had that he might build upon when moving forward; i wanted them to see that they weren't starting at zero; they had/have a wealth of experiences to draw on when writing entrance essays, going on interviews, making plans for the future. as the program notes, they (and i) strove to create experiences of success while participants were enrolled in classes here. we moved through these exercises together and then the conversation took a turn. i asked them to consider the questions: "what kind of life do i want to lead? what will get me there?"

what resulted was a conversation laden with angst:
-how can i pursue my education when i keep getting stopped for just walking in my neighborhood?
- i can't just leave my family; my friends; my life
- i want freedom. how will going to college help me with that? how can i have freedom when everyone and everything around me won't let me have it?
- in here isn't the same as out there
- the people around me, the neverending police searches - they'll lead me straight to prison

- i want to lead a life that's free; a life of freedom.


hopeful news??

Intel and $100 laptop join forces

then what??

can literacies be digital?

"digital literacy" is a phrase that has been cropping up everywhere i read and look recently. the use of literacy, to indicate the ability to navigate a particular discursive realm - in this case, the "digital" realm(s) - has always left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. particularly for those of us who conceptualize and actively engage a concept of literacy as social practice. i "get" literacy in a digital age. i can wrap my head around our evolving digital communicative landscape. but what are we really saying when we talk about literacy that is inherently digital - as implied by the phrase "digital literacy"? when we talk about the digital literacies of adolescents, are we really referring to the literacies that we observe in the daily lives of young people who are living and interacting with an increasingly digitized world? and if so, is that the same thing as "digital literacies"?

perhaps i'm getting bogged down with semantics and possibly missing the entire point...


or perhaps we dilute or oversimplify the phenomenon when we gloss over a complicated and diverse emerging landscape of literacy and communicative practices when we simply say digital.

and perhaps it's just a code for like minded "digital literacy" folks to give a silent nod to one another. if the literacy research world were configured like a series of gangs - instead of camps, as we politely note in mixed company - might "DL" be our insignia, our secret handshake, a way of weeding out and letting in...

couldn't the same be said for other adjectives we use to mark and demarcate areas of literacy studies? absolutely. for some reason, this has stuck with me recently b/c i, myself, use the phrase and went off on quite a tangent while writing an explanatory section on this notion for a paper i'm writing. naturally, i wanted to share my confused musings and solicit any and all guidance. we seem to be on a precipice... but, of what??


hope for the middle?

headlines from july 5th:

Baby survives being buried alive

Shunned from society, widows flock to city to die

despite having a history of strong female leaders, indian institutions and customs continue to devalue the lives of female children and women. given these historical and institutional frames, and regardless of a burgeoning middle class and new opportunities for young women, what hope is there for adolescent girls and young women in the middle of the life cycle? having read my sister's recent posts from her time in india - she's interviewing women in rural india about their lives and about their views and interest in education, job training, etc. - it's difficult to the gap between (historical/cultural) conventions and (contemporary/human) agency narrowing.


summer sights and sounds

a couple of weeks ago, we officially entered the summer season. if the heat doesn't give it away, the throngs of kids out and about in the middle of the day surely should. i have to curb my impulse to ask them why they aren't in school - not that i do that during the traditional school year, but the impulse is there. so what are kids in my neighborhood up to whilst i sit and type, type, type away?
- they walk in groups and eat pizza
- share music by splitting headphone feeds from one ipod
- flirt
- ride bikes
- shop, purchase, preen
- laugh, giggle, and more laughing

kids laugh. teens laugh. scream with laughter. giggle, chuckle, hoot, holler, chortle...

several years ago, while on a train from paris to visit the chartres cathedral, i had a thought that was brought on by the sounds being made by teenagers at the other end of the train car: what do youth sound like?
more recently, as i've been working hard to conceptualize, operationalize, and put down on paper and image the notion of engaging youths' voices, i find myself thinking a lot about that train ride and asking myself the following related questions:
  • what does youth voice look like?
  • what does it mean to listen to young people? to see them, and not just look at them?
  • what does youth engagement in research look like? feel like? what does it compromise? what does it engender?
  • how do researchers and educators create spaces for youth to voice themselves? pay attention to the spaces they are already voicing? engage in collective voicing with youth?
  • which voices - words, pitches, timbres, accents - are sought? heard? included?
summer provides ample opportunity to see youth voices in action, if only we pay attention and adjust our sensory filters to see and hear, and refrain from giving into the impulse to map young people onto the institutions with which we regularly associate them (e.g., schools)...



this week, there's been a lot of hype about people, lines, and the iphone and all manner of news has been peppered with images that look like this one - an AP wire photo had the following caption on cnn.com:

Martin Perez, left, and Erika Puquirre, right, are at the head of a line in front of an Apple Store in Santa Monica, Calif.

here are some other human lines...

to the right is a photograph of people waiting to vote in Sierra Leone

the left is one that depicts people waiting in line for coal in Amsterdam in 1956

the soup kitchen line during the great depression

waiting for a wiggles concert at disney land, in california

malawians waiting in line for food rations


hot dog fingers and learning to question

when adults today are skeptical of adolescents' ability to "learn from tv," i can't help but think back to my own experiences as a gawky adolescent who learned with and from the characters, plots, dilemmas, and dialogue on tv. perhaps that's exactly what the fear is about. of course i relished the evenings spent watching hunter and murder she wrote with my grandmother, and was confounded by my immigrant parents' disdain for the precociousness of the cosby kids and the offspring of elyse and steve keaton on family ties. but i most remember the lessons i learned while watching afternoon tv programming, lying on the carpet in the front of the glowing box. i was reminded of one particular lesson this past week when i read the numerous eulogizing accounts of don herbert, the mr. wizard of mr. wizard's world.

picture this: mr. wizard wearing goggles the overtook the top half of his nearly-completely-bald head, dressed in trademark collared shirt under a v-neck sweater, and wearing thick rubber gloves. in front of him a large bucket with smoke emerging from the top.

the lesson: direct contact with liquid nitrogen can cause frostbite and potential amputation of affected body part.

the demonstration: mr. wizard holds up a hot dog and asks us, his viewers, to imagine that the hot dog is a human finger. (we do) mr. wizard gingerly picks up the naked frank with long metal tongs and drops it into the bucket of liquid nitrogen. after several seconds (maybe 10? 15? 30? the details are a bit fuzzy - it was over twenty years ago...) mr. wizard retrieves the hot dog with the tongs. he reminds us that the hot dog is meant to simulate a human finger. (we remember) with his goggles still on he taps the dog on the edge of the counter top (or with a hammer or some other tool - again, time has passed...) and the hot dog shatters in two. (not sure if something can shatter in two, but that's what i see in my mind's eye).

the impact: i have never gone near liquid nitrogen without taking the proper precautionary measures.

but beyond that, thanks to the optimistic hokeyness of this show (and other shows that i watched in secret), i can't go very long without asking why or how. that's tv worth watching.


sometimes, moving pictures and sound just do a better job of saying what i'm thinking... (minus the commercial endorsement at the end)


it's baaack....

that's right - the 7th annual media that matters film festival is now online. they put it best:
"An image captures a feeling, a story shares a message, a movie becomes a movement. Media That Matters brings you 16 inspiring shorts by filmmakers committed to changing the world."

check it out!


unity (through) hope (might equal) peace

i took these photos outside of truce, a youth development and media organization located in harlem and part of the harlem children's zone. they have an excellent public arts project going on right now and are developing a garden and several more of these fence messages. the others read:
build love
build power
build hope
[build unity]
build peace

the message is hopeful, thoughtful, and curious. which comes first? i've listed the phrases as they appeared from left to right on the fences on either side of the truce building. i'm eager to see the project and the messages unfold, particularly as they are youth directed and youth produced. more pics to follow.

(note: my camera and the sunlight were not too sympatico on this particular afternoon, so i'm aiming to shoot the fences again.)


it's a bird, it's a plane...

it's another piece of digital technology banned from schools!


the ipod (and other digital media players)


b/c it has the potential to be an instrument of cheating.



at least seriously according to the principal at mountain view high school in idaho. the article also notes:
"The practice is not limited to the United States: St. Mary's College, a high school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, banned cell phones and digital medial players this year, while the University of Tasmania in Australia prohibits iPods, electronic dictionaries, CD players and spell-checking devices."

wouldn't it be lovely if we could be ahead of the curve on this one and think creatively about what assessment means in an age of instantaneous information acquisition and dissemination? at a dissertation hearing this morning, a committee member posed the question of assessment this way:
how can we assess what kids are doing (and learning) in this digital age?

to that i would add the following:
what are we assessing? and what does it mean to assess?
who is assessing what?
what do tests and other measures actually test and measure?
who is being evaluated when a student's performance on an instrument is measured?

codes are published for quicker advancement through levels of video games. we learn shortcuts for making simple things simpler. you can buy precut, pre-marinated, pre-cooked vegetables at the super market and live a completely heat-n-eat lifestyle. we live in an age of the spanx revolution, SAT tutoring franchises, and professional editors. where do we draw the cheating line? and who draws it? i'm not wholly anti-test or timed assessments. they're clearly helpful for olympic training and i was certainly the beneficiary of numerous 1st place "wins" on timed multiplication tables (the external motivation that always worked on me was the promise of leaving the classroom with a library pass or a resource room getaway - that made cramming for fierce competition with my fellow 3rd graders seem like a small price to pay). still, i wonder whether we sacrifice real meaning making and engagement with texts for the sake of time and curriculum coverage. at the dissertation hearing today, the issue of "real deadlines" in the "real world" came up, and naturally we all agreed that sometimes all of us must negotiate multiple timelines - and timescales - in our everyday lives. but are multiple choice tests or other "easily cheatable" tests the answer? the *only* answer?

and is it just coincidence that if we switch the 't' and the 'ch' teaching becomes cheating, and vice versa?


tech culture and cultural techs

an article in cnn.com's technology section caught my eye this morning:
Social-networking sites link Hispanic youth (posted 4.27.07)

in brief, the article explores the growth of social networking sites aimed at a spanish speaking, self-identified as latin and/or hispanic audience such as elhood.com and vostu. according to the article, "ElHood is sort of a bilingual MySpace promoting the latest in Latin music, and for Miami-based [Indie rocker Eric] Monterrosa, it has become a personal and professional lifeline. It is also the latest in a wave of Hispanic social-networking sites building links across the U.S., Latin America and Spain, all hoping to capture coveted advertising dollars."

other excerpts from the article that have me thinking and wondering about the intersections (and working definitions) of technology, culture, and youth:
  • "About 56 percent of Hispanics in the United States use the Internet, compared with 71 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 60 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But the number of Hispanics online jumps to 67 percent among 18- to 27-year-olds -- the group most likely to visit social-networking sites and one coveted by advertisers."
  • Another site, Vostu.com, presents itself as an alternative to Facebook.com, where students post profiles of themselves visible to a mini-network of their college or high school classmates. ... Dan Kafie, the 24-year-old Honduran native who co-founded Vostu, believes his site can compete with the larger ones because it's specially tailored to the needs of a relatively small but affluent group. ... "There's similar types of sites, but they don't capture the cultural subtleties," Kafie said. "We thought there's an opportunity."
  • But are technology, culture and language enough to draw people away from MySpace, Facebook or Google Inc.'s YouTube?
  • "More young people come to this country and don't have a family," Monterrosa said. "They are here to strive or to study and they need contacts. They don't have money to go to shows or clubs, but they can reach out to people who also like the same things," he said. As for those in Latin America, they can connect with music and youth scenes that are difficult to find outside the big cities.
  • "The youth, they want it to be fast. They want it to be hip, and they want to see themselves in it -- but not just themselves,"


fictive kinship

when the identity of the shooter in the virginia tech killings was revealed, a couple of the young men who are enrolled in a digital media class i co-teach made the following statements:
"i'm glad he wasn't black."
"the new york times probably wouldn't have printed it if he had been, anyway."
both young men are african american and had just made claims about the ny times being a newspaper for white people, unlike the daily news, which, in their opinion, had stories that mattered to them: "to black people."

elaine richardson, during a colloquium delivered at teacher's college this week, spoke of fictive kinship when responding to a question about her talk, in which she explored african american young women's engagement with hip hop lyrics and video imagery. she noted that despite diverse opinions that may exist within a minority or marginalized group of people, there tends to be, in some of those communities, a sense of wanting to protect someone who looks like you from those who don't look like you; similarly, when someone who looks like you does something you wish they didn't, you feel the pain on behalf of everyone who looks like you. thus, the young women that richardson talked about expressed critique in response to the images represented nelly's "tip drill" song and video, while at the same time finding messages of empowerment and accommodating this text.

the limits of my own fictive kinship were tested this past week when the country in which i was born and where many of my relatives still live made me cringe with a mix of embarrassment and frustration. should people be displaying awkward public affection in the manner that richard gere performed on stage at a fundraiser last week? probably not - i say this not for reasons of "morality," but rather because the whole mess looked more like a poorly choreographed sequence from dancing with the stars than a playful "star"-to-"star" kiss on the order of brody-on-berry at the '03 oscars.

these are moments of self-definition borne out of public performances in which ethnicity and race take center stage. as an adolescent, i don't recall feeling excluded from the literature i was reading or the television i was watching - a claim i sometimes i take up in my classes in response to how young people engage with such texts. however, i was keenly aware of when "people who looked like me" did something that mortified and disappointed me:
- watching the funeral of indira gandhi and knowing that she was gunned down by her own bodyguards
- watching earth, a film by deepa mehta
- reading the karma of brown folk, by vijay prashad


recently in class we listened to a youth radio podcast by ayesha walker, a young woman reflecting on the v-tech shootings. the last lines of her piece are as follows:
"Here, our tragedy is so embedded in the city that it doesn't make the headlines. It's just what we're known for."

is there room to change what "we" are known for? and what informs the ways in which young people make sense of themselves? what leaves lasting impressions? and which are the moments, words, images, and interactions that last a lifetime?


online findings and sitings

check out this series of very excellent interactive multimedia stories: inanimate alice
(thanks for the link, angela!)

the birth of wiki-man - see also other words-to-music by verytasteful.com

also, my favorite wiki hosting service, pbwiki, is now ad-free for educational wikis!!


arresting developments

a few weeks ago, a 7 year old boy was arrested for being in possession of a banned dirt bike - it was motorized and that's not allowed in baltimore, where the boy lives.

it's bad enough (horrific, actually) that we're suspending kids as young as 4 for "improper touching" - remember the hug-gone-bad story? - but can't we (and by we, i mean law enforcement, lawmakers, adults in positions of power) find ways other than physical and verbal intimidation to communicate with elementary school age children?

in the spirit of multiple perspectives and sources, i leave you to read the following re: the bike story and ask you to think about what is being educated to the young boy at the center of it all:

Arrest of 7-Year-Old Draws Condemnation

HANDCUFFS, TOO: Baltimore police arrest 7-year-old bike rider

Groups clash over child’s arrest


with words like this, who can sleep?

Where the FUCK did you learn to drive? Jerkoff!
Words spoken by a baseball cap wearing, ruddy complexioned, Bluetooth headsetted driver of a navy blue SUV to my turbaned cab driver in response to the bopping and weaving the cabbie was guilty of as he tried to jot down a phone number of a car for sale while driving at high speeds down the West Side Highway, all the while as I clutched the Mac I was transporting for use in our digital media class.

You’ll never have to lift anything heavy with all these men around in here.
Words spoken by a female staff member at the alternative to incarceration program where I conduct fieldwork and occasionally teach classes as I walked in with my arms full of the cardboard box containing the Mac I had risked my life for just a few minutes earlier.

It’s not me, but it’s me, you know? You'll see...
Words spoken by a graduate of the above noted program after giving me his Myspace url.

JESUS is my boss
Words embroidered into the navy blue cap worn by a man who looked at me strangely as I was recording field notes into my digital voice recorder as I headed home from fieldwork on the subway.


adding to my list of favorite blogs...

drop that knowledge - authored by youth radio's education director and senior producer lissa soep. if you haven't already done so, check out the youth radio website, subscribe to their podcasts, and visit dtk frequently to engage in conversation with an emerging leader in youth media discourse and dialogue.


more numbers and sense

Experts: Testing companies "buckling" under weight of NCLB

a few choice passages:

"A handful of companies create, print and score most of the tests in the U.S. and they're struggling with a workload that has exploded since President Bush signed the education reform package in 2002."

"The number of students tested has risen sharply since the No Child Left Behind Act took effect. Illinois, for example, used to test only third, fifth and eighth graders but now tests students in third through eighth grades."

"To meet NCLB requirements, states administered 45 million reading and math exams during spring 2006. At the end of the 2007-2008 school year, they will give about 56 million tests because they must add a science exam at the elementary, middle and high school levels."

"From 2002 to 2008, states will spend between $1.9 billion and $5.3 billion to develop, score and report NCLB-required tests, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office."

after reading these numbers, 1 second of funding doesn't sound so bad, hmm???


school = tests

How/When did standardized tests become synonymous with public schooling? Why aren’t we doing more than critiquing and questioning them? What would that “more” look like? I am reminded of an exchange that occurred following Jay Lemke’s presentation during one of the plenary sessions at this year’s NCTEAR conference. Someone requested/challenged him to write an op-ed to the New York Times saying (in 500 words or less) the essence contained in the talk he had just given about transmedia franchises and transmedia semiotics found in adolescent’s worlds that are turning our understandings of literacy/ies inside out. Lemke talked about the complexity of meaning making in an age when story is not found in printed text alone; ““eating candy such as bertie botts (from Harry Potter),” he claimed, “is literacy if it is integrated into transmedia meaning effect.” Mimi Ito, in an earlier talk, shared several examples of amateur anime music videos (AMVs) that reflected the nuance and range of multimedia composition and storytelling that anime fans are engaged in, all the while challenging notions of literacy, composing, communication, plagiarism, homage, imagination, narrative, and learning. This post isn’t about lemke’s or ito’s talks, but rather about the role that they and others in the field of language and literacies studies might play in changing the tide of schooled literacy practices and policies, which have largely taken the form of rote learning, scripted and formulaic templates, and an unending sequence of tests and measures.

Today I came across the DiversityData Project currently ongoing at Harvard’s School of Public Health. From the website:
“The DiversityData project identifies metropolitan area indicators of diversity, opportunity, quality of life and health for various racial and ethnic population groups. This Website is now available to a wide variety of potential users interested in describing, profiling and ranking U.S. metros in terms of quality of life. The indicators provide a scorecard on diversity and opportunity, and allow researchers, policymakers and community advocates to compare metro areas and to help them advocate for policy action and social change.”

Among the indicators are education, crime, housing opportunities, and economic opportunities. The project has also issued its first report based on these data that focuses on the impact of urban schooling on children: Children Left Behind: How Metropolitan Areas Are Failing America's Children. The report includes findings about the best and worst metropolitan areas for children, broken down by race, and bases these assessments on a combination of factors. What struck me were a few lines near the very end of the report, in a section that offers suggestions for improvement based on “models that work” in the areas of 1) early childhood development; 2) housing choice, mobility, and neighborhood improvement; and 3) education. Of the latter, on page 37 of the report, they wrote the following:

“In order to reduce racial/ethnic educational achievement gaps, some innovative schools have adopted new approaches. One of the most influential school models is the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) for inner-city public schools, shown by independent evaluations to boost performance on standardized tests in multiple schools throughout the country. While observers warn that there is no single answer to the gulf dividing race and class, these programs appear to help by emphasizing strong principals with the power to remove unproductive teachers, extensive teacher training, team building, evaluation and retraining, and frequent testing.” (my emphasis)


how's that editorial coming along, jay??


fun with photoshop

oh the fun to be had with a little image, a little software, and just the right amount of imagination:
picture of the day


another online film festival

just recently discovered the Independent Lens online film festival, full of all kinds of shorts and longer shorts.

i landed on that site while exploring this one - Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.

the umbrella site for Independent Lens, a weekly series that airs on PBS. From the website: "Each episode introduces new documentaries and dramas made by independent thinkers: filmmakers who are taking creative risks, calling their own shots and finding untold stories in unexpected places."

untold stories
unexpected places



looking up and down and turning around

i looked up today and for the first time noticed that atop a house in my neighborhood is a beautiful rooftop deck. this is significant because i have lived in my house for six and a half years and know my neighborhood well - or so i thought. but today, while walking back from the grocery store, i thought to look up at an intersection where apparently i had never looked up before. so i spent the rest of the walk home looking up and noticing other things (some of which shouldn't be seen by the random passer-by...) and looking only slightly like a lost tourist and made it safely home with only a brief slip-n-slide on a patch of ice that hadn't quite melted away. i looked up. this one act, this one shift of line of sight, opened up new information and the story of my neighborhood has been expanded.

as a kid i was told to look right, left, and right again before crossing the street. i was told to watch my back, look straight ahead, don't look down (which always made me look down). as a child, when i was much smaller than the rest of the people in my house, i was told to look up but after i could navigate through every day activities on my own, i guess i forgot to look up as often as i look left, right, back, front, and down.

as qualitative researchers, we are taught to interview, collect artifacts, be participant observers and prepare fieldnotes, conduct focus groups... what haven't we thought to do? what situations can we create or put ourselves in that might render new insights into the questions that keep us up at night (or is that me?)? after reading the wonderful growing up with television, by joellen fisherkeller, a couple of students in my tv & youth class wondered how significant three case studies could be in the vast landscape of research related to the role/impact of tv in the lives of youth. i used to answer that query by advocating the richness and texture that comes from deep inquiry into phenomena, made possible through the use of ethnography, case studies and the like. but now i find myself asking a question in response: (how) can we afford to keep asking the same questions and using the same instruments/methods/positionalities/roles...? especially when the stories that are out in the ether are in desperate need of rewriting.

hopefully this will all make more sense in 9.5 hours at which time i co-present the first of two papers this weekend. maybe it will be ok if i just look up and present with my back to the audience...


"wassup rockers" and other questions of youth portrayal(s) in 15 minutes or less

i have seen kids. i have seen bully. having done so, it's fair to say that i have a complicated relationship with larry clark's portrayals of youth. but it's a recent film of clark's - wassup rockers - that has me intrigued, not so much for the film itself - i haven't yet seen it, but it's at the top of my netflix queue - but for the reviews about the film from netflix users. specifically, the differences viewers see between this recent youth pic and the others that clark has become known for, are interesting to say the least. whether viewers liked the film or not, they all more or less agree that wassup has fewer and tamer sex scenes, lots of images of kids just "sitting around" or skateboarding, and that the dialogue is sometimes lacking and certainly unexpected. having not actually seen the movie yet, i can't comment on the accuracy of these comments. i did, however, find the reasoning for viewers' like or dislike of the film quite intriguing. that is, while several individuals noted the toned down presence of jarring portrayals of teenage sexuality in this clark film, they all did not agree on the number of stars (1 to 5) they gave the movie.

...all of which got me thinking about what portrayals of youth we find palatable... believable... appropriately scintillating or adequately exploitive. i'm not ascribing any of these labels onto this or any other specific film, but raising the question to portrayals of youth - and their identities, social and cultural practices, literacies, etc. - in general. i am particularly keen on these imaginings as i prepare to share data about a new research project for the first time this weekend. with audience comes responsibility, and sometimes the stories we tell - that we solicit, interpret, repackage and restory - can have a lasting affect, like the frozen images that deborah appleman cautions us against in her chapter full of critical self-reflection ("are you makin' me famous or makin' me a fool": responsibility and respect in representation). so what will be our mission this weekend, as we cloak ourselves in the language of methodology and literacy theory? how will we engage the lives and performances of our research participants as more than data examples? how do we resist the danger of frozen representations when we have 15 minutes to share two years of work? and convey relationships that evolved slowly, over time, across experiences? how do we share texts and at the same time convey the stories behind the texts? and is there a way or space available that is better suited to work that is grounded in the pursuit of youth-full stories, new knowledge, and textured representations than the 15 minute paper presentation/short film/photo essay/reality tv series...?


photo essay

Incarceration: American Style

an excerpt:
ILLINOIS—At Stateville Correctional Center, the buildings are based on Jeremy Bentham's 1787 design for the panopticon prison house. The round house is the last remaining panopticon cell house. It's used for segregating inmates from the general prison population and for holding inmates who are awaiting trial or transfer, 2002.


myspace s.o.s.

when i logged onto my myspace account yesterday, i was dismayed - nay, heartsick - that all the messages in my inbox from a fellow myspacer were GONE! this person's profile has been deleted, which meant that all of our myspace message correspondence is gone, as well. so i offer this as a warning to those who may be relying on that messaging function as a source of data or who want to keep a record of some kind: cut and paste into a more stable format!

and, assuming that everyone already knows all of this, b/c i am somewhat of a ms neophyte, i ask: help! does anyone know how to retrieve these lost messages? is it doable? and why, oh, why do i not heed the call to back up my work - in whatever format it may exist?


complicating multimodality | vital signs

this posting was saved as a draft back in early november, 2006. i revive it here as i sit with too many thoughts to sort out for a new post...
cheers to a productive and thoughtful '07.

last thursday a participant was waiting in the hallway while we wrapped our digital media class made a comment that i've had on my mind ever since. he was standing in the doorway, with headphones half in his ear and half not, wearing a baseball cap and bouncing and moving to the beat of whatever music he was listening to. addressing one of the young men working on a laptop in our class, he asked whether he (the laptop user) was "on camera," then laughed. i looked up, smiled, and he continued by saying that no one was going to get him on camera. then, looking in my direction, he asked me the name of the class. i told him. then he, with his hand occasionally tapping the top of the door frame said that he wouldn't ever have his picture taken. he didn't have any pictures of anybody, and no one has any of him. he concluded by saying that the only time he had ever gotten his picture taken was in jail.


i have started sleeping with an assortment of documentary technologies around me, including a digital voice recorder ready to record the odd 2 a.m. fieldnote, and, of course, my computer. recently, it occured to me that the constant fading in, fading out of the light on the screen release latch on my mac was almost like its heartbeat. as it faded/breathed in and out, it reminded me that it was merely sleeping. and that i shouldn't worry, b/c it wasn't shut down or (gasp!) dead as i had feared several weeks earlier when the beating of the light ceased to exist.
so, as i have come to seek comfort in the lightbeat of my laptop, i start to wonder about other vital signs. what are the indications we look for as we look for signs of life... progress... movement... decay...