Wednesday, 28 April 2010

digital narratives

My first-years finished their first major piece of assessment this week. The task was to create a 'digital narrative' in groups that tells the story of transition to University. This is the third year I've taught this course, so I've seen quite a few of these now, but I still think it's a great assignment that the students seem to engage with. It gets them to think critically about why they're at Uni, but it also gives them a platform to contribute. Here are a couple of really creative ones that take pretty novel approaches. If you want to see more, just type 'Youth & Society Digital Narrative' into YouTube. 

And yes, lots of technical errors/timing issues in this one, but it's still neat! (Inner nerd bias?!)

raunchy teachers: friendship vs. journalism

This is great. Jonathan Holmes from Media Watch takes some sloppy/unethical journalism to task. Essentially, some teachers copped some flak for posting 'risqué' photos of themselves on Facebook and their 'friends/Friends' who happened to be journos saw them and ran a story on them. The teachers took the standard measures to ensure their privacy, but there's no accounting for Friends, eh?

Two morals for the price of one story: 1) what happens at band camp and then gets posted on Facebook does not stay at band camp; and 2) be careful who you Friend! They'll trawl your profile and send your party pics into the newspaper.

we're living in the good old days

This article, '5 reasons the internet could die at any moment' got me thinking. The research I'm doing now is so anchored to a particular context and a particular period of time in 'internet history' (the social network site boom) that I often feel like I've got the blinkers on. I'm sure this is symptomatic of PhD projects in general, of course - the whole thing is often about narrowing down and maintaining a focus. Despite all this, one of the things I get asked about most often is 'where to next' for social network sites and the internet in general. It's such a good question (once you get beyond the crystal ball jokes) and my answers are always so vague!

I think it's important not to get too bogged down in the pessimism. Yes, Facebook is surely trawling our data for little (read: vast sets of) gems to sell to marketing agencies, and sure, concerns over privacy are going to continue to be central in our discussions of these spaces. At the same time though, let's not lose sight of the great potential we're in the process of realising here: our ability to (re)connect, to share, to laugh at each other and to make our weird, fascinating little lives quite visible. This has always been the gift of the internet, but only in the last five years or so have so many people had the access. While discourses about an obligation to remain connected and always online will certainly persist, my hope is that with time people will be able to fine-tune their management of social media. I have a friend at the moment, for instance, that is on a 'media diet'. This entails only checking Facebook once a week, and trying to limit checking her email to twice a day - at 9AM and 4PM. I think strategies like this are neat, but I'm also conscious of the fact that for some its an unrealistic exercise. I for one lack that kind of discipline. There's a more organic and gradual alternative, I think, that most people I speak to seem to be finding. I'm also optimistic that new forms of online sociality will continue to appear and disappear, and make a come-back and then be shut down.. and then made into a movie. Remember MySpace? Ah, those were the days. Some of my recent interviewees are still on MySpace, by the way! It's very hip with the younger kids: 15 and 16 year-olds, especially. I'm writing a paper about this at the moment, actually: something along the lines of 'MySpace is for kids and Facebook is for adults: rites of passage in digital participation'. Tentative title!

Anyway, I was talking about this stuff with my first-years last week and I thought it was great when someone said something along the lines of 'I remember the days when I used to get texts from people, now I have to use Facebook! What ever happened to the old days of texting?!' Ah, those were the days. I can't wait to get to the point where we look back on Facebook as that tranquil, golden period in our lives where the pace was slower and the world seemed like a less threatening place.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


via woodlandcreature:
Remember when Facebook was called Thefacebook and looked like this? I can’t believe I’ve been on it for almost six years, since summer 2004.

(via mknell : arig)
So there you go. When people call it 'the facebook', they're not being out-of-touch and ridiculous, they're just being retro.

call for papers: continuum

Conventionally speaking, the study of youth cultures and their associated practices has been focused around the notion of the youth cultural group as a locally situated, physical entity. In recent years, however, research has pointed to the impact of digital media technologies on young people, their cultural practices and forms of interaction. In particular, it has been noted how more recently introduced communication technologies, notably the internet and the mobile phone, have opened up new, often ‘virtual’ spheres of interaction between young people. This in turn begs new questions about the nature of youth culture in the early 21st century. This special edition of Continuum will consider the impact of new communication technologies on youth culture and the way the latter have altered and enhanced the forms of interaction underpinning youth cultural practice.

Papers are being sought in the following areas:

  • Mediated youth identities
  • Engagement with online social spaces (social network(ing) sites, online games and other virtual environments)
  • Youth engagement with peer-to-peer file sharing
  • ‘Trans-local’ youth cultural formations 
  • Access to sport and extreme sport (Roller Derby, breakdancing, martial-arts, etc.)
  • Risk-taking behaviour (chemical cultures, piracy, etc.)

Abstracts of approximately 300 words should be submitted to b.robards at no later than 14th May 2010. Authors are invited to contact Andy Bennett (a.bennett at to discuss their approach in advance of submitting abstracts. Successful authors will be asked to submit a full paper, which will be subject to a blind refereeing process.

Please feel free to distribute widely! A PDF version of this CFP can be found here.