Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Culture Digitally

My fellow grad colleague from my UC San Diego days, Tarleton Gillespie (now at the Comm Dept. at Cornell), recently created this collaborative blog and its Five point research questions promise to generate some exciting thought and new research. Soon, I plan to post on some recent gaming research Barbara and I have been working on: Seeking the pedagogy of Wisdom in digital Alternative Reality Gaming.

Given some of our conversations today at lunch, this blog is a welcome forum. ---Enjoy! Lonny Avi

Culture Digitally:



With the generous support of the National Science Foundation, who also sponsored the workshop that helped us initiate this collaboration, we have developed Culture Digitally to serve a number of purposes. First and foremost, it is meant to be a gathering point around which scholars who study of cultural production and information technologies can think together. We come from a range of fields, including Communication, Sociology, Media Studies, Science & Technology Studies, and Anthropology. But we are connected by our research interests, an emerging area of scholarship that currently lives across, or sometimes falls between, our home disciplines. It’s our sense that this emerging discussion needs more homes, be they virtual or institutional.

On this group blog, we hope to offer thought-provoking scholarly conversations, provocations and starting points for intellectual inquiry in our field, discussions of problems and tensions in the arena of cultural production and in the scholarship addressing it, links to references vital to the scholarship we do. We hope to comment on current events, emerging cultural trends, new laws and policies, and technological innovations. We hope to deepen the discussion of new media and digital culture by bringing to it historical, comparative, and ethnographic perspective. And we hope to enliven the blog modality, by incorporating tools that allow for synchronous collaboration and creative engagements with ideas, objects, and images.

Five points Aug 5, 2011

By the end of the first workshop, we had turned a enormous range of ideas into five groupings of discussion topics. If we started with a sky full of stars, by the end we had formed them into loose constellations. Now, looking ahead towards the second workshop in April 2012, we want to sharpen this picture. So Hector and I have gone back through the workshop discussion and the more recent online conversations, and identified a “point of light” that stands out in each of those constellations (to overextend the metaphor). Each of these seem, to us, to be some kind of focal point in the conversations we’ve developed, something that seemed to emerge from our discussion. They are:
Affordances, technical agency, and the politics of technologies of cultural production: How do we develop our thinking about the way technologies shape behavior? In an attempt to avoid deterministic claims, have we overcorrected, leaving us unable to make sophisticated claims about technical agency? In what ways do we, quite regularly and deliberately, solicit being “determined” by the media and information technologies we use in producing and consuming culture and knowledge? [technical_agency]
Social and professional imaginaries: who is in a position to construct the visions of technology and digital culture that circulate around us? How do social imaginings of our relationship to digital cultural production become the professional imaginaries of designers, producers, information providers, critics? How do those imaginaries get embedded into the technologies and cultural texts we engage with? [social_imaginaries]
Theorizing practice: making do, in the shadow of ideologies: In trying to understand the micro-practices of cultural production, how do we get at the lived rhythms of people, the way their efforts to produce are embedded in, beholden to, and driven by their need to make do — whether that means economically, politically, culturally, personally, morally? What do the ideologies of “participation,” “engagement,” and “voice” mean in the mundane realities of lived experience? What does making do with digital technology and culture mean from different social positions, e.g. entitled and marginalized? [making_do]
Advancing the user debate: the dynamics of micro-participation: User participation in new media has been an important topic in recent years.  Various theoretical perspectives from “Participatory Culture” to political economy have been deployed to understanding UGC and its culture.  A new and interesting phase in this phenomenon is emerging, however.  “Micro-participation” is increasingly becoming important.  In this case it’s not the labor intensive production of novel content such as machinima or user produced videos on YouTube and their attendant communities that are the subject of study.   Rather micro participatory actions such as “likes,” status updates, images in profiles, mobile data, tags, and other quick direct or incidental contributions that in their aggregate amount to a wealth of UGC, giving value to social networks and other media business and compelling increasing forms of users surveillance and behavior modeling.  What are the theoretical perspectives that would help map the power flows within incidental matrices of participation?  What laws, policies, norms govern user and corporate expectations regarding micro participatory data or incidental data?  [micro_practices]
A methodological quandary: our place in the research, as makers/participants/users ourselves: New media researchers are increasingly finding themselves in the position of participant observers.  Often they are also technical experts, users, and participants in the communities/technologies they study.  To what degree can method be augmented by this expertise? What are the boundary/identity problems confronted by researchers in this situation?  Advantages? Can we do research that is interventionist? Action oriented?  Can we devise research agendas that embrace these research identities?  What are the sites, theories, and approaches that would facilitate that agenda? [participatory_research]

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