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Tools for New Media Literacies

The last MiT5 plenary session for today is on Learning through Remixing, and Henry Jenkins introduces it through examples of remixing as pedagogical practice in earlier times. This can perhaps be described as a process of taking culture apart and putting it together again, in order to better understand how it works.

The first speaker on the panel is Erik Blankinship, of Media Modifications, who build tools for exposing and enhancing the structure of media in order to make them more understandable to all (and he demonstrates this now by using a few redacted clips from Star Trek: TNG). Some of these which will also be online soon at, and another example for this is showing clips from The Fellowship of the Ring (the movie) next to the text of The Fellowship of the Ring (the book), and even a comparison of the Zeffirelli and Luhrman versions of Romeo & Juliet with the original Shakespeare text (which allows the viewer to compare how differently the two directors interpreted the text, and even to created hybrid versions with the 1996 Juliet and the 1968 Romeo interacting with one another). Fascinating stuff!

Nex up is Juan Devis of KCET/PBS Los Angeles. He presents a project with high school students which enabled them to explore their cultural origins; this was useful, but limiting as the students were involved in developing the gameplay, but not the game itself, and in that it was focussed on their past, but not their present lives in the U.S. A new project was going to focus on their present-day neighbourhoods by creating a game loosely based on Pac Man where the Latino immigrant is trying to clean up his neighbourhood by is chased by local minutemen (needing to pick up the green card which confers special powers). Further beyond this, is it possible to create a game which in the process of the game itself teaches about American civics? This new project builds on Huckleberry Finn, but remixes it and sets it in modern-day Los Angeles - the project is still underway, and we will see where it goes...

Renee Hobbs from Temple University is next, and she begins by noting how central remixing is to media literacy - young people must understand the constructedness of media representation, and remixing is a key tool in this. She's been involved with a project called MyPopStudio, which introduces media literacy concepts to girls between the ages of 10 and 12. It involves a number of online spaces for the building of creative production and critical analysis skills, which Renee now demonstrates. This provides to children the power and the pleasure of remixing familiar culture, and offers delight in discovering the shifts in meaning which result from juxtaposing different, contradictory cultural elements.

Ricardo Pitts-Wiley from Mixed Magic Theater is the next presenter, and he takes a slightly different approach - focussing not so much on remixing, but on ensuring broad representation of different perspectives in the mix in the first place. He is involved in a project which reinterprets Moby Dick while maintaining the structural integrity of the novel itself; this could mean reinterpreting the white whale as the 'white thing' cocaine, and the hunting party as a group out on a revenge hunt to track down this killer. The entire novel can be reinterpreted through this prism. However, this also requires a much broader new pedagogy which stops not simply with the kids involved, but goes well beyond them, to their parents and communities - at present in the U.S., there is no common literature, no common culture, across a wide and varied cross-section of society. Two more projects will focus on Frankenstein and Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Alice Robison from MIT is the last panellist, who notes the move from new literacy studies to new media literacies within a participatory cultural environment. This builds on multimodal literacies, multiliteracies, collective intelligence, problem-based learning, situated and distributed cognition, and other theories, and questions where meaning is situated; this is not about production vs. consumption, but about the encounter of multiple meaning-making participants and the contexts within which they interact. Music mashups, which combine very unlikely sources, are one such example, and the NML project (founded by the MacArthur Foundation) has developed videos and other content which can be used in education to examine these issues.

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