A Participatory Culture

White pelicans

With free and low cost availability of Web 2.0 technologies and tools, and the access to Internet within the university, halls or residences and other places means that the current generation of HE students can be considered as having the opportunities to take part in what Jenkins et al (2006) considers as a ‘participatory culture’.

A participatory culture is a ‘a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed to novices’ (p. 3). It is also ‘one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at least they care about what other people think about what they have created).’ (p. 3).

Pelican standingAccess to such a participatory culture has a number of beneficial effects for learners including: opportunities for peer to peer learning, the diversification of cultural expression, development of skills valued in modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship (Jenkins et al, 2006). However, as the Melville report states and other literature points out, not all current students can be considered as having the necessary skills to participate effectively in this participatory culture.  Jenkins et al (2008, p. 3) identifies three concerns that need our attention:

  • The participation gap. An unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world tomorrow.
  • The transparency problem. The difficulty that the young people face in making sense of how the new media tools that they use can shape their perceptions of the world.
  • The ethics challenge. The use of new media tools which can breakdown the traditional norms and practices as professionals, such as the fair use of content and consideration for intellectual property rights, and young people need support in understanding these issues as they are socialised in a Web 2.0 world.

Jenkins et al (2006) conceptualization of the above three concerns will provide a framework for our research in understanding HE students’ web 2.0 practices.

This pilot study would combine theoretical insights from academic research on ICTs specifically perspectives on digital divides and inclusion with pedagogic perspectives, outline above, on learning and technology.  

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robinson, A. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: Comparative Media Studies Programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Available at: http://www.projectnml.org/files/working/NMLWhitePaper.pdf [Accessed 2 Nov 2010].

 White pelicans courtesy of marlin harms

Standing pelican courtesy of hisgett

Share this page:


Dr Tracy Simmons

Department of Media and Communication

Dr Palitha Edirisingha

Beyond Distance Research Alliance