Comunicar Journal Blog

Young people’s learning with digital media beyond school: From the informal to the formal

Author:  Ana Sedeño   Translator:  Daniela Jaramillo-Dent

priscilla-du-preez-XkKCui44iM0-unsplashThe paper «Young people learning from digital media outside of school: The informal meets the formal» published in issue 58 of Comunicar Journal, presents the research results of professors Sara Pereira, Joana Fillol and Pedro Morur from the University of Miño in Braga (Portugal). It deals with informal learning and its relationship to the school. This article was based on data from workshops, interviews and questionnaires collected from 78 young people aged 12-16 in schools located in northern Portugal.

The study undertakes a new bibliographical review of the reflections and studies in which the media have proven to significantly contribute complementary content to adolescents’ learning, as part of the Transmedia Literacy project, a European project that attempted to systematize different perspectives on this phenomenon. The study analyzes the informal learning strategies of adolescents, presented as an explanatory diagram divided by Trial/Error, Information Search and Imitation/inspiration.

It seems that students at these ages are aware of this cultural and educational gap and do not expect to learn about media in school: «They are two different worlds,» they say.

Some solutions provided by researchers include changes in educational policies and the production of resources to help teachers train in media topics and use them on a daily basis in the classroom, while at the same time develop transmedia literacy skills. You can read the full article here.

Transnational family, temporality and media

On September 7-8, I attended a thematic research workshop at the University of Portsmouth (UK). The theme of the workshop, quite vividly corresponding to the urban life in many global cities, especially in Asia, is transnationalism. A seemingly grandiose topic while very much down-to-earth, «transnationalism in the global world – contested state, society, border, people in between» takes place among a large number of families in Asian cities: Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Patterns of transnationalism vary: the bread-winner travels more than stays with the family; housemaids from another country living together with the employer family; family members scatter around the globe and are connected via media tools, and to name a few.

Time, in this setting, is polysemic and multi-layered. While the material bonds of collective life are dispersed, the shared imaginary of belonging to a community/family transcends spatial borders and also encompasses past trajectories and future continuities. In this regard, media tools play an essential role to sustain and realize such trajectories and continuities. The advancement of mass transportation facilitates the border-crossing travel which enables transnational experience in business, academics and a wide range of social life. The invention of optical cable and the internet blurs these borders by bringing in temporal simultaneity as family members could still share the Christmas together via Skype group chatting and collectively make important decisions via instant conversation tools.

However, the advantageous conditions above provided by media tools, to a large extent, benefit more on those enjoying social-economic privileges while unskilled labors (migrant labors) suffer from «time» – the mis-matching of temporalities in their lives. To put it simple, the simultaneous daily life of the transnational housemaids (e.g. Filipinos and Indonesians) is with their employers instead of their own families. The simultaneity of their family members far away in the home countries, in forms such as children’s entering of college, marriage events and even sickness and death, is out of control from the housemaids. A mis-matching of time in their life could hardly be solved by media tools but curbed by the cruel social conditions – the globalization of capital and manpower.

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During this workshop, the critical topic of «transnationalism» could no longer be a simple illusion of optimism in terms of world travel or monetary flow. A bloody reality is at the door step, urging us to re-think and to re-tell of «fairy tale».

How cultural identity outweigh​ partisan​ identity in election: A response to Iyengar

maxresdefaultPartisan polarisation has long been studied by communication scholars, from conflict displacement to ideological realignment and to social identity. Individuals tend to act according to group norms if they are identified to a group, sometimes even ignore scientific facts and support policy decisions as long as the majority in the party do so. Iyengar describes this phenomenon as affective polarisation and argues partisan tend to have a hostile feeling, if not discriminate out-group members, i.e. those in other parties.To what extent can this proposition be generalized to other places or is it America-centric?
Using the 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive Election as an example, I believe cultural identity sometimes are more important than partisan identity, and hostile feelings not only exists in mass but also elite level.
Unlike America, Hong Kong is a battlefield between two cultures. On one side it is the colony that left Hong Kong with British system and turned a small village into an international financial center, on the other is the rising Authoritarian regime. Facing the tightening grip of Beijing, many worries Hong Kong will be turned into just another ordinary city in China. The uniqueness of Hong Kong, for instance, freedom of speech and fairness of elections, are diminishing as Beijing abducted Hong Kong booksellers and interfere elections in Hong Kong.
Chief executive candidate must gain support from 1200 election committee members, where pan-democrats have less than 350 seats and pro-Beijing own a majority. Carrie Lam and John Tsang were the front runners in the election, and they have extremely similar background: both were the former members of the government (i.e. mostly support Beijing’s decision). The only difference between them is Lam had support from Beijing while Tsang did not. Pan-democrats abandoned their underlying ideological difference and supported John Tsang, who is the member of pro-Beijing.Both partisan group and cultural group exists in the city.
John Tsang was supported by pan-democrats, not because of his political identity but cultural identity: he remains British humor and unlike Chinese officials, is willing to open to (or at least to create a perception) public examination. These cultural characteristics allowed Tsang to get support from pan-democrats.While Iyengar’s framework works well in America, more discussion and study are needed to extend it to other cultural contexts, especially contest with two conflicting cultures.
Reference:
Iyengar, S., Sood, G., & Lelkes, Y. (2012). Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization. Public Opinion Quarterly, 76(3), 405–431. https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfs038
Iyengar, S., & Westwood, S. J. (2015). Fear and Loathing across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization. American Journal of Political Science, 59(3), 690–707. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12152

Re-thinking digital competence

In their latest article, Amiama-Espaillat and Mayor-Ruiz demonstrated a comprehensive study on Generation Z in the Dominican Republic. Aiming at assessing their digital reading and reading competence, the researchers conducted survey among adolescents at 10th grade in both public and private schools. Adopting existing reading competence measure scales, the researchers discovered that the reading proficiency literacy vary between students in the two types of schools.

It is concluded that, «a student with prior knowledge and one who lives in a literate culture will more efficiently incorporate what one has read while at the same time enriching one’s reading experience. It is a matter of the ‘rich get richer.'» On the contrary, a student with limited prior knowledge and reading habitus, even if the person reads a lot and uses ICTs, that student will be unable to efficiently incorporate the information.

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Cruel but true, the gaps in whatever terms such as knowledge gap, digital gap and so on, exist and the situation is even getting deteriorated. It has been testified by lots of scholars that, what matters most to people’s digital competence is their knowledge of how to use it and the peer culture that creates a «habitus» of «getting used to using it», instead of the how the quantity of digital devices available to the people. To put it in an ancient Chinese saying, «it is better teach how to fish than give fish» – an ancient wisdom while still exhibits contemporary universal value. This significant but callous phenomenon has been well proved by the authors.

While the measure tools adopted by Amiama-Espaillat and Mayor-Ruiz so comprehensive that we as readers are able to grasp a general picture of how Dominican teenagers make use of their digital devices in daily life, I am curious if the teens, who show lower points in reading proficiency competence, could be regarded as «low competence». As the authors of the article well aware of that: «students’ use of Internet, even for academic purposes, seems to be insufficient to develop the necessary reading or digital competence», the digital competence of people, especially who are termed as the «generation z», comes little from schooling or academic activities. It is quite true that, from our daily observation and also from the minor findings of this study, multi-channel use of digital devices constitutes the major part of people’s learning experience – learning by doing. There is not significant discrepancy between different generations in terms of learning process.

As pointed by the article authors,  there is a great need to further examine other factors such as teachers’ technological and pedagogic competence. Perhaps, more facets are worthy of further examination: parenting, peer groups, and the process-dimension that shows how teenagers gradually adopt certain digital use habits.

 

Amiama-Espaillat, C. & Mayor-Ruiz, C. (2017). Digital Reading and Reading Competence – The influence in the Z Generation from the Dominican Republic [Lectura digital en la competencia lectora: La influencia en la Generación Z de la República Dominicana]. Comunicar, 52, 105-114. https://doi.org/10.3916/C52-2017-10 

Link to the article: https://www.revistacomunicar.com/indice-en/articulo.php?numero=52-2017-10

 

Reflections on «The Emotional Impact of Traditional and New Media in Social Events»

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This research paper monitored Romanian mainstream media and social media for a month after a tragedy occurred. The fire occurred during a rock concert with 400 people in the club at the time, killing 64 and injured over 100. Minodora Salcudean and Raluca Muresan use “#Colectiv” to collect the data from the online press and from social media (mainly facebook, Instagram and twitter). The authors’ research suggests professional journalists still act as “responsible filters” when reporting the emotional tragedy. The authors believe the journalists make use of the authentic information and opinions from social media thus produce quality news report when covering a fire tragedy.

This research could be more comprehensive if the authors could take the impact of the picture into account when investigating how journalists use social media as a source and how emotional items are being quoted. As mentioned by the authors, social media is a cheap and convenient source of information, particularly in terms of citizen’s opinion and image-on-site. The latter is essential to the news report of tragedy, as 1) media might not have the resources or time to report onsite during the occurrence of tragedy; 2) news report with pictures, especially when related to victimization and emotions, are often found to have a greater popularity when compared to reports without images. Journalists could, therefore, be more likely to include images than text in their reports of tragedy.

Information from social media is a double-edged sword. Acquiring information is one thing, verifying is another. In the social media (and citizen journalism) era, fact-checking has never been so important for journalists. Journalism is valued due to credibility. Speed should not be a substitute for accuracy. The result suggested by this research is optimistic; whether it is the overall trends of journalism practices need to be examined in other countries, as well as in non-tragic daily life period.

 

Reference:
Minodora Salcudean and Raluca Muresan. “The Emotional Impact of Traditional and New Media in Social Events.” Comunicar, 50 (2017).

Youngsters’ Watching and Tweeting Habit Calls for Media Education

Torrego-Gonzalez and Gutierrez-Martin’s research indicates there is a massive ground yet to be covered for critical media education in younger generations. “Watching and Tweeting: Youngsters’ Responses to Media Representations of Resistance” sampled youth audiences’ Twitter response to two films loaded with political implications—“V for Vendetta” and “The Hunger Games”. The finding is rather disheartening. The sampled tweets show that many youth audiences only stop at expressing their preference of the film or descriptions of plot details, rather than engaging in serious, in-depth political reflection intended by the films.

Social media can be a powerful tool with its ability to reach and mobilize incredibly large populations. Its transformative power was witnessed in the Arab Spring movements. In this case, however, its power to strike up serious political conversations as a second screen media seems to be limited. Social media can be a powerful tool to reflect and educate, but few seems to know how to harness it.

Some scholars like Henry Jenkins, as mentioned in the article, view digital cultures in a positive light. In Jenkin’s theory of Convergence Culture, it is theorized that the emergence of participatory culture and collective intelligence, which is central to Gee’s idea of “affinity spaces,” will grant media users a new form of media power. It is true that Web 2.0 users are given a voice, but the research finding reveals the potential of the voice is yet to be realized.

Indeed, many factors can contribute to this outcome, including the nature of Twitter as a social media platform as well as the individual film’s presentation itself; but as media scholars, what can be done to change this scene is to push for more substantial media education. Providing guidance to youths in how to critically engage such films not only will increase their appreciation of the media, but what is more important is the construction of a far-reaching public sphere that is well-informed and politically aware. With this goal in mind, hopefully media education can inspire younger generations to make better use of the new-found media power with social media.

Reference:

Torrego-Gonzalez and Gutierrez-Martin. “Watching and Tweeting: Youngsters’ Responses to Media Representations of Resistance.” Comunicar 47 (2016).

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Data News in the Pulitzers

by Roselyn Du

The Pulitzers are now in their centennial year. A hundred years is a long way to go. Along the way, there are milestones that are remembered. One in 2012, marked by Huffington Post. Its military correspondent David Wood won in the National Reporting category with his 10-part series “Beyond the Battlefields”. That milestone celebrates the first win for the then seven-year-old Huffington Post and evidences the Pulitzer committee’s recognition of online-only news. As the president and editor-in-chief of the “paper” Arianna Huffington commented, it was an affirmation that great journalism could thrive on the Web.

Another in 2016. Yes, freshly out yesterday. The New Yorker became the first magazine to win a Pulitzer, with Emily Nussbaum’s critical reviews. In 2015, for the first time ever, magazines were permitted to enter the awards and the New Yorker was finalisted for feature writing.

I am actually waiting for another milestone. One for data journalism. In the journalism classes I teach, I’ve always asked my students, “when do you think there will be an award category in the Pulitzer for data news?”

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Who knows. But there will be one sooner or later, I think. That “sooner or later” has been pretty vague however, until yesterday, when this Pulitzer centennial year’s results were announced. As a matter of fact, I saw data news winning. The Washington Post’s police shooting reports  (in the National Reporting category) is typical data news. It is a “revelatory initiative” in creating and using a national database to show how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be. The Post organized an extraordinary team of reporters, editors, researchers, photographers and graphic artists and painstakingly put together a database containing the details of 990 fatal police shootings across the nation in 2015 and a series of articles describing trends in the data. The data show that about one-quarter of those fatally shot had a history of mental illness; most of those killed were white men; unarmed African Americans were at vastly higher risk of being shot after routine traffic stops than any other group; the vast majority (74%) of people shot and killed by police were armed with guns or were killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making direct threats; and that 55 officers involved in fatal shootings in 2015 had previously been involved in a deadly incident while on duty. Very revolutionary new way of story-telling. Data mining, data analysis, and data visualization all in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

Well, yes, this Pulitzer is not under a stand-alone category named “data news” yet, but it does mean something in the, maybe near, future.

We have entered what is called “the age of data” and “the age of new media.” Data journalism is the marriage of the two. With vast amounts of data now openly accessible online, and the new technologies available to explore, analyze, and visualize data, news media are increasingly making use of these valuable mines of data to source and produce their stories. Data journalism – the use of numerical data in the production and distribution of news – is an emerging area in the field. The very old-fashioned Pulitzer Prizes, after 100 years of amusement, may be enlightened by this new era of big data mixed with new technologies. It may decide to change, just like it has in its past.

New media and political engagement of opposition party and the citizens in Cambodia

The Medias in Cambodia is apparently changed, especially after this last national election when the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), the most influential party, which ruled this country over the last three decades, lost its seats from 90 to 68 over the total 123 seats in the National Assembly. Also, it pushed to free the innocent political prisoners and forced to imprison the government official who committed crimes, according to Kem Ley, the analysts and researcher.

Cambodia has more than 20 TV channels, 160 radio stations, 380 national newspapers and nearly 40 international newspapers, the statistics of the ministry of information, Cambodia. Its population is around 15 million.

Media in Cambodia are divided into the pro – government, anti – government, independent news agencies and the shadow news companies, says Van Vichar, the former senior news reporter of Radio Free Asia (RFA), the anti – government radio in Cambodia.

Given that most of the mass media are strictly controlled by the government, the opposition party uses Facebook, which recently becomes the most influential media, to voice their political opinion.

The Opposition party created a facebook page called “Sam Rainsy,” the name of the party leader with nearly two million Facebook users, who liked and followed this page.

It is the biggest ever result in historic Cambodia poll since 1993 when the opposition party won nearly half of the total seats in the national assembly.

I believe Cambodian young people are the most active population using facebook to engage in public affairs. More than 6.6 million eligible voters, 3.5 million were between 18 to 30 years old. As resulted, the opposition party got more than 2.9 million votes, whereas the ruling party received a dogfight result of about 3.2 million votes, according to National Election Committee statistic.

The public policy set by opposition party during the election campaign, got more attention from middle – aged voters such as, increasing salary for government officials, creating more jobs for fresh graduates and decreasing oil price, as well. When those policies were reached the voters through any means of social media, they vote for that party in hoping for a better change.

In the article published in Comunicar (2012, vol. 20) titled «Media Literacy and Its Use as a Method to Encourage Civic Engagement» composed by Culver & Jacobson, they revealed that new media education platform is very important to cultivate young people’s citizenship. «All programs used technology as a means to an end, not as the ultimate goal. In each program, students learned about new technologies and how to use them. But this use was always in the service of a broader goal, that of helping the students to become more active civic participants. Students learned how to use a particular technology so they could tell their story about a specific.

In Cambodia, in recent years, new media use among young population has increased dramatically not only for entertainment, but also for easier access to public affairs. However, it’s still a great need of media literacy education. For example, when everybody can use new media to spread information, there is a big possibility that both authentic and fake news can appear.

In the recent election, few days before the election, there was a rumor about the leading party government’s president, saying that he was dead because of disease. Immediately, Cambodian People Party, the ruling party declared it was fake information by showing their leader’s face on the TV screen.

Sam Rainsy’s Cambodian National Rescue Party president claimed that his party won election, “At least, at least 63 seat.” The statement was issued on his Facebook page on the day after the election was completely ended. However, the result was officially declared by the National Election Committee, the ruling party was still the only party which led the government.

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Rally welcome for the opposition party leaders during the election campaign. Photo: Leanghort SOK

The Hacks and the Hackers

A couple of days ago, I went to the Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong Meetup. Two of the speakers are data journalists, including one from the Initium Lab (http://initiumlab.com/about/ ), the exploratory arm of the hot and local Initium Media, which is believed to have the largest data journalism team in Hong Kong. Really like the Initium Lab’s stated aim: “We aim to push the limits of Journalism with Technology.”

Hacks/Hackers is an international grassroots journalism organization to create a network of journalists (“hacks”) and technologists (“hackers”) who rethink the future of news and information. It now has more than 80 local groups. The Hong Kong Chapter had its first social gathering in April last year. You can visit http://www.meetup.com/Hacks-Hackers-Hong-Kong/ to know further.

Oh yes, I should mention the meetup location for this time: Google Hong Kong, in the prestigious Times Square in Causeway Bay. Pretty nice place for such a meetup, with free snacks and soft beverage. How can I forget to say a few words about the big toy placed at the lady’s restroom: It is a toy carriage, red and chic. Sorry, no pictures to show you. Google made it clear:

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Review of “Initium in the whirlpool”

“What I claim is to live to the full contradiction of my time, which may well make sarcasm the condition of truth.” —Roland Barthes, Mythologies

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The Chinese population all around the world share the same language. But when you ask a Taiwanese and a mainland Chinese about who contributed most in the anti-Japanese war, the answers could be totally different. If you search for the keywords online, you will be overloaded with the results and opinions from netizens, media and other resources.

What is trustworthy in such an information whirlpool? Initium is trying to react to such situation. As a new media organization set up in August 2015, Initium intends to offer insights into Greater China region and international affairs with scrupulous reports and data analysis in Chinese. Its major platforms includes an app, a website, SNS accounts(Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and a newspaper to be published later on according to Annie, the executive editor of the Initium.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Initium aims at audience in Greater China region. But in reality, it was blocked in mainland China only 12 days after its launch, which means its content is regarded as harmful to the political authorities or threatening the social stability. In Hong Kong, citizens suspect that the company is financially backed by the Chinese government. Hence, whether Initium serves as the throat of Chinese government is under debate, because people have no idea who the largest investor is. According to Annie, the boss will show up in late 2015.

In my opinion, after browsing all sorts of news platforms in everyday life, I can tell the dedication and professionalism of its staff through their works. Its news articles, approximately 800 to 1000 words in length, emphasize the original investigating reports and data-based research. On the left corner of its Facebook page, it highlights a video In Praise of Fai Ching (廢青頌)[1]. It is their most successful video so far, liked and reposted by more than 700 people. It has drawn such wide attention that below the video there are diversified and polarized comments. Annie said, it hits the emotional point of Hong Kong youngsters and got spread quickly online regardless of who the video producer is. Against the backdrop that Hong Kong youngsters have to face the increasingly unaffordable living cost, the video well responds to this cruel reality. Every story has its own life and character, and the audience is the judge of its value and newsworthiness.

In the age of Internet, media industries in different countries have witnessed the fading of printed media. With the popularity of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat (China), to certain extents, people have got used to fragmented news and infographics. But can we proclaim the death of investigative journalism? Can lengthy but profound reportage still attract audience and wield clout in the current age? Seeing from the case of Initium, I would say, content is still the king. The popularity gained by the video and long-form articles signifies that an inviting topic accompanied by engaging narratives can still win respect from audience.

The fading or transformation of printed media is neither simply removing the contents from paper to screen, nor mixing words with images alone. There should be a more complicated and discursive process embedded in the concrete social context. Standing along among the blossom of all sorts of new media platforms, Initium, aiming at producing serious news stories, provides an interesting case for us to ponder.

Though Initium is in an embarrassing position, Annie is positive about its future. The website traffic is more than 1.5 billion and around 60 thousand people downloaded the app in the first month. Personally, I would rather describe Initium as a social innovation lab than merely media company. Let’s wait and see what kind of chemical reaction it will create in the center of whirlpool.

Website of Initium: https://theinitium.com/

[1] Fai Ching (廢青):A transliteration of wasted young persons in Hong Kong. Originally, it refers to the losers in school and workplace, unable to afford a flat in Hong Kong but like joining anti-government protest to vent the grievances. Having been approved by netizens in a popular local website(hkgolden.com) since October 2014, it is changing into a polysemous word of self-mockery, ridiculing and sacarsm.