Monday, February 27, 2012

Story of a DML Panelist: Who Gets to be Participatory?

This is me.  As videoed by my three year old.  Some aspects of my identity are closed off, others are left in tack or even fore fronting, (MaMaMa!).  I think composing, whether through video or text or tangible design, always does this kind of filtering out of ideas and identities.  I could here, for instance, tell you about my story as an early childhood teacher, a graduate student, an adjunct college instructor, a teacher consultant, a writer, mother of a young child.  I might even present myself as multiplicitious, showing how these identities converge and inform one another.  I would inevitably leave some things out.  My whiteness, my middle classness didn’t make my initial list above.  It’s these erasures that are academically interesting and politically vibrant to me.  What stories, whose voices, what aspects of identity are hidden or unvoiced in the compositions that are circulated in schools and the larger public sphere?   

One of the draws into new media studies for me is the call for participation from stakeholders.  As shown in the student work I am sharing today from a Digital Is resource I created, Wanna See the Movie?, this idea of participatory culture has potential to shift the view toward untold stories and unheard voices.   And at the same time I am wary of a romanticism with the digital that masks more of the same objectivist logic that promotes competition, individualism and measurement.  Right now many public schools in my region, are purchasing expensive software, like Teen Biz marketed and profited upon by the Achieve 3000 company.  This program and other similar ones, narrowly defines literacy practices according to numerical measures of student reading abilities and defined boundaries for what student composition can look like and be used for.  In some schools these packaged technologies leave little or no space for multimodal composition or possibility for public conversation.  

Multiplicity, voice and creative production could screw with the formulaic, regurgative, and consumptive terms of composition under which students usually write and read.   These different frames of literacy learning are valuable to me in their potential to make visible people, stories and parts of our identities that are more likely hidden or seen as resistant.   To be useful to a call for social change, multiplicity has to be connected to social critique in which hierarchies of difference and their connection to material economic inequalities are named and challenged.   The frame of participatory learning pushes us as pedagogy and practice shift toward more open and creative classrooms, to continue to think about who is getting to participate in these shifts and to whose benefit.  

As I began my introduction of self here with my young child’s video, I made visible the voice of the young child, who is usually silenced in academic forums.  I also put pressure on the conception of academic work as distinct from the personal, from the home life as I forefront myself as a caregiver.  If you all accept my negotiation of academic identity, this can be a move in critique of a dominant narrative of academia as adult, male and separate from the private labors of family life.  The video here in this context represents a critically aimed multiplicity.  And at the same time it closes off other areas of difference.  As I nominate the mothering identity here before any other, I reproduce a history that puts the primacy of care-giving with women (even as in the same moment I challenge the history of maleness in academia).  For instance, it could be more disruptive, or at least disruptive in another way, to connect maleness with mothering.   The issue is in both the participation of a particular story/identity/voice and the reflective moment to show what is and isn’t being made visible thereby in terms of social hierarchies.  

In that a singularity of expression is so understood as the problem  (to those who believe in a problem here at all) of traditional composition in schools, the “multiplicitious” text must also be held in reflection to notice the singularities of meaning that are present there, too.  

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