Catching Up: Mostly on Media Literacy

The New and Improved Henry Jenkins

I was so impressed by the experience of participating in the MacArthur Foundation's press event, which was partially held in the New York Museum of Natural History and partially held in Second Life, that I sought out Barry Joseph from Global Kids, an organization which regularly runs events through Teen Second Life, to see if there might be a way I could engage with their youth participants. My one concern, as a media scholar, had been that when we spoke in Second Life at the press event, we appeared as cinematic images and not as avatars.


So, in speaking with Joseph, we decided that I should get an avatar if I was going to relate to the Second Life youth on their own terms. Joseph was nice enough to volunteer to get some members of his group to create an avatar for me. Apparently, some of the youth had expressed a particular fascination with my beard and therefore wanted to be able to reproduce it and share it with their friends. (I wasn't sure which Henry beard they wanted since mine comes in various lengths from trim to shaggy depending on what point it is in the term and how hectic my life has been.)

This past weekend, Barry wrote to introduce me to the second Henry Jenkins. I have to say that I bonded instantly with this frisky fellow.


I have heard television puts ten pounds on you. It would appear that Second Life takes thirty or forty pounds off -- not to mention adding some of that vigor and vitality that has been worn away through many years of living the life of the jet setting academic.


Barry says they had two groups work on constructing me an avatar -- a group of adults known as The Magicians and several teens -- 1000 Carlos and Nik385 Doesberg -- and then they combined the best features of the two for the finished product. Thanks to everyone involved. It's been years since anyone has drawn a representation of me that didn't consist of a series of circles -- the bald head, the glasses, and the round little tummy. Indeed, some years ago, a whole Kindergarten class made Henry Jenkins masks by gluing string to paper plates! Even then, my beard was the subject of considerable fascination.


Barry and I are now working on the details of when and where I will be engaging with the Second Life Youth. I can't wait.

Media Snackers

Last week, I did a podcast interview with DK of the British media literacy group, Media Snackers. Here's how they describe their vision on their home page:

Remember the set menu of print, radio and television, delivered at specific times, for the masses and only in the ways the creators defined?

With the arrival of the Internet, digital TV, mobile phones, iPods, weblogs etc.--the media landscape has changed from the linear, to one of many layers, consumed by self-serving and empowered individuals.

Young people are the new 'WWW' generation--snacking whenever, wherever and whatever they like through the multi-channeled and many technological avenues available.

Creating as much as they consume--constantly hungry, always 'on' and totally self-serving!

The Media Snackers podcast series consists of ten minute conversations with leading media educators from around the world -- including, not coincidentally, one Barry Joseph from Global Kids (who always seems to be one step ahead of me!), Rob Williams, Benjamin Stokes, and a wealth of others from around the world. This is a great resource for ideas and insights into youth and new media.

There's also an excellent blog which includes some interesting discussion of major trends in this area. (I am certainly going to add it to my rss and blog list). Already, this blog has gotten me into trouble. They have a fascinating chart prepared by Gary Hays from Personalized Media, which shows the progression from Web 1.0 through to the future emergence of Web 3.0. I saw this chart the same week as The New York Times wrote an article claiming that Web 3.0 was right around the corner. Hosting a conference last weekend about the Futures of Entertainment, I couldn't resist leading our audience in a Countdown to Web 3.0 as a way of marking a transition from our own focus on social networks (web 2.0) into immersive worlds (web 3.0). I fear that this little stunt will follow me around for a while!

For the record, I am deeply suspicious of the whole Web 2.0/3.0 rhetoric. It implies dramatic breaks or ruptures in the media scene, when in fact, media change is gradual and there is a tendency for old media systems to linger even as new media systems are emerging. I do think that there are significant differences between the world of social networks and the world of immersive worlds. I have trouble imagining Second Life replacing all of the functions of the web, however, as might be applied by the Web 3.0 concept that seems to have taken root over the past few weeks. It is this idea of dramatic shifts that I was spoofing by doing a New Year's Eve style countdown to Web 3.0.

Learning Games to Go!

Finally, I wanted to share with you the latest podcasts produced for the Learning Games to Go Project -- a collaboration between the Education Arcade and Maryland Public Television. Previous podcasts have featured interviews with Scot Osterweill and the over-exposed Henry Jenkins. But, the newest one -- the first to include video content -- features Scot interacting with the CMS undergraduate and graduate students who are working on the Labyrinth game which I described here a few weeks ago. It gives you a real taste of the CMS community spirit as each of these creative individuals reflects on a toy or artifact that enabled playful learning and along the way give us a sense of what they didn't like about some of the educational games they played growing up.