Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins

     In the article “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” by Henry Jenkins, a new perspective is given about the new media generation. What Jenkins did was separate the pros and cons of having a generation that is dependent on not just social media, but computer and technical skills in general. There is a certain expression that today’s generation has that no other generation has had before. Jenkins calls this “participatory culture”; which can be described as, “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 along to novices” (Jenkins, pg 3). Continuing with this definition, Jenkins states, “Also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created)” (page 3). What he is saying here is that there are formal and informal ways to having media education and living in an era where having a certain set of skills is not only required but recommended.

     Two of the pros to having media education and knowledge is, “diversification of cultural expression” and “the development of skills valued in the modern workplace” (Jenkins, page 3). Out of the list of pros that were mentioned, these two I found to be the most important. This generation is usually labeled as being self-centered and not cultured enough. However, with having a “diversification of cultural expression” allows young people to learn about other cultures without having the need to travel. There is freedom to learn about other cultures without barriers such as money to travel and learn. The second pro, having skills that is valued in the workplace, places this generation at an advantage to grow faster in the workplace than any other generation. Developing these skills allows new workers to be well-rounded in any field they work in. Even though these pros seem to be the more obvious advantages, one of the cons puts a set back on this new media education.

     “The Participation Gap”, is what Jenkins describes as, “the unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow” (pg 3). Sticking to Americans for now, not everyone in this country has access to new technology that allows them to have media education compared to students who go to a school with smartboards and computer labs. Those students, unfortunately, will not be hired or considered to be educated enough because of their lack of developed skills needed as I stated previously. However, those students can accomplish the same success, it will just take more work to each that point. “Fostering such social skills and cultural competencies requires a more systemic approach to media education in the United States” (Jenkins, pg 4).

     Along with new media education, Jenkins discusses “New Media Literacies”. He describes it as a combination of old and new literacy. “New media literacies include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass and digital media” (Jenkins, pg 19). This method will allow students to not completely disregard the advantages of using print culture to replace digital media. After reading this article, I came to the understanding that there needs to be a balance between having paper and print skills and having technical skills. This was an interesting article that gave a new light on how this generation takes media and applies it to every part of their life.


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