Digital Dreamers: A Conversation between Jose Antonio Vargas and Henry Jenkins

Last week, I participated in a plenary conversation at the Digital Media and Learning 2016 conference at the University of California-Irvine. My thinking partner for this exchange was Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder and CEO of Define American, a non-profit media and culture organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in America; the founder and editor of #EmergingUS, a digital platform that lives at the intersection of race, immigration, and identity in a multicultural America; and a filmmaker.

I was thrilled to have this chance to reconnect with Vargas. As we both note at the start of the conversation, we had developed a special relationship a decade or so ago, when he was starting as a reporter at the Washington Post and I was often consulted as a source for his stories about video games and about the role of new media in the 2008 presidential campaign. We lost touch with each other, so I was surprised, along with everyone else, when Vargas came out as undocumented in a cover story in Time magazine and have watched with close attention and distant admiration as he has emerged as a key figure in the debates around immigration reform in America over the past few years.

During this same time, I have moved to California and found myself more and more writing about issues of race/racism and social justice, after spending the first part of my career largely avoiding such topics. So, in this exchange, we both share something of our personal journeys and then talk about the role of media — old and new — in creating the context where today’s debates around immigration reform, Islamaphobia, and racialized police violence have been taking place, and we engage with the diverse audience of researchers, educators, and community leaders drawn to the MacArthur Foundation sponsored event. Since the conference organizers have made a video of the event available, I wanted to share it with my regular readers here.

If you would like to read more of my own recent writings about growing up as a white southerner and how this has impacted the way I think about race, see this piece about a family photograph and this one about the debate around the confederate flag.

Below is another video produced in association with the DML conference — in this case, Howard Rhinegold interviews Sangita Shresthova and Gabriel Peters-Lazario, my frequent collaborators, as they describe a workshop they ran focused on world-building and transmedia for social change.

GeekOut Interview: Transmedia Worldbuilding for Civic Engagement from Connected Learning Alliance on Vimeo.

If you have not already registered to attend our Oct. 21 conference, Transforming Hollywood 7: Diversifying Entertainment, please do so. Tickets are going fast, and we think this is going to be a really significant discussion about how we may produce a more inclusive culture both behind the camera and on screen. I will be sharing videos of the event here sometime down the line, but you will want to tell your grandchildren you were there when it happened. 🙂