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Laura Marie

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture Response

4 min read

In the first chapter of this report, Jenkins and his team discuss the participatory culture that is happening throughout the world amongst teenagers who are not only surfing the web anymore, but participating, creating and building their own identities and products online.  I found the chapters I read fascinating and even eyeopening because before I started this class, I will admit I was partially close mided to the amazing accomplishments some teenagers were acheiving with the internet.  The examples talked about in the beginning of the paper of teenagers who started their own websites or programs that became nationally known or grew into companies or career was just amazing to me.  The discussion of "affinity spaces" where teenagers are learning in an informal environment about popular culture, and how this type of learning is beneficial and as help them learn more or at least differently than they do in a formal school setting made many good points.  The fact that these environments bridge the gaps between racial, social and economic differences and bring people with similar interests together despite any of these difference, peers teaching and learning from one another about similar interests and having the freedom to experiment with what tools work for them and what they do or don't want to participate in are just a few of the things that I agree make these spaces beneficial.  

As I have seen in many of the papers and articles we've read in class, they address the critics of social media and the internet, and the second chapter addresses three issues with this participatory culture that Jenkins says, and I agree, needs to be addressed if this type of culture could become a meaningful educational tool.  These three issues are the "participation gap," "the transparacy problem," and the "ethics challenge." The participation gap deals with the issue of rescources not evenly spread out through the country with people in lower income families and school systems not getting the same access or quality of technology that people in more affluent areas get.  Again this is something that has been discussed in other readings, and I believe is a huge problem in our country today.  The tranparacy problem which concerns a youth's ability to effectively assess the information they are getting from websites, and differentiate between the websites that are factual and reliable and those that are biased or product driven.  It is true that with all the information available at our fingertips, it can be difficult to find the truth and children especially may not take the time to make sure the information they are reading is factual and backed up by reputable sources.  I know that I still struggle with this as an adult and sometimes find myself taking the word of an author without taking the time to find out if they actualy know what they are talking about and are providing sources and expertise in their claims.

 The ethics challenge is the most concerning in my opinion because it talks about how adolescents don't always have the capacity or capability to understand what they should or shouldn't be sharing or doing on the internet, but how many of them have almost complete freedom to post or participate in whatever way they want to.  I feel like this issue is the most dangerous because as it says in the article, children don't always have the experience to understand what they shouldn't share, and as we have seen with problems like sexting, they can have lasting consequences.  Many adolescents lack the ability to understand the levity of their actions online and how they can have very negative effects.  Youth have the ability to access websites that they should not be able to just by falsifying their birthday when signing up, and end up in environments that could be harmful or dangerous, and that 20 years ago, no 13 or 14 year old would have been able to have access to.  While I am someone who believes that it's a parent's responsability to monitor and restrict thier child's internet use, I also know that these days that is getting harder and harder to do with the amount of technology and ways children are able to access the internet.

I agreed with most of what I read in this paper, and I do think that this participatory culture is a positive thing in many ways, but I also see the flaws, and I think we need to continue to find ways to keep children safe while still encouraging them to learn and grow using the internet.