Monday, August 14, 2006

Study, R3pl4y, Z00m

Julia Lupton of Design Your Life summarizes her reactions to last week's series in the Los Angeles Times on the media habits of the digital generation in "Chicks and Tech":

The LA Times has run a series of articles this week on teen technology use. One surprise: girls are more wired than boys. They're more likely to multi-task, they play more video games, and they're more open than their pals to new uses for old gadgets (like movies on the i-Pod). Unfortunately, the study focused on consumption, not production. There's nothing said about kids' use of programs like Flash, Dreamweaver, or even Blogspot to create their own media or be their own brands.

The article Lupton focuses on, "Girls Just Want to Be Plugged In -- to Everything," shows young women following the pattern of adult females that Henry Jenkins has described, in which busy working mothers often consume media in multiple, shorter sessions or situations of simultaneous attention.

One of the other LAT pieces, "They Do It All While Studying," quotes my Doppelgänger David Walsh, who expresses skepticism about the benefits of multitasking. As a multitasker myself, I'm obviously a biased source, but I think that by focusing on scanning, surfing, and code-switching, the Los Angeles Times really misses one of the essential features of new media practices: how digital artifacts can actually receive more sustained attention by virtue of their iterability and their potentially high degree of granularity.

The most common question that undergraduates ask -- "What is that thing?" (in a painting or photograph) or "What was that thing?" (in a film or piece of music) -- is often hard to answer with analogue media. Zoom and replay technologies allow members of the digital generation to close read new media objects of study in a deeply attentive manner quite different from the ADHD habits that the LA Times documents.

Unfortunately, one of the problems that educators face with teaching our students appropriate disciplinary close reading practices is that copyright law often prevents us from capitalizing on new media delivery systems that our students have come to expect in their peer-to-peer everyday practices. In other words, we don't want to put video or audio clips online or post photographs of art objects on the Internet, where they would be most useful to students as objects of serious, sustained, and repeated out-of-class contemplation, if a DMCA order will be our reward for pedagogical ingenuity.

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