Saturday, January 3, 2009

Howard Rheingold's Participative Pedagogy

The communication technologies which make CNL possible also call upon us to shift our thinking to develop new methods and approaches to learning. We develop me methods, which capitalize upon and incorporate the participatory nature of the technologies and the corresponding literacies. Following a post today from Howard Rheingold on, I was directed to an essay Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies. Rheingold strikes again and hits the nail on the head with his comments on Participative Pedagogy and new literacies. I found the following exert particularly relevant and thought provoking:
To accomplish this attention-turning, we must develop a participative pedagogy, assisted by digital media and networked publics, that focuses on catalyzing, inspiring, nourishing, facilitating, and guiding literacies essential to individual and collective life in the 21st century. Literacies are where the human brain, human sociality and communication technologies meet. We're accustomed to thinking about the tangible parts of communication media−the devices and networks−but the less visible social practices and social affordances, from the alphabet to TCP/IP, are where human social genius can meet the augmenting power of technological networks. Literacy is the most important method Homo sapiens has used to introduce systems and tools to other humans, to train each other to partake of and contribute to culture, and to humanize the use of instruments that might otherwise enable commodification, mechanization and dehumanization. By literacy, I mean, following on Neil Postman and others, the set of skills that enable individuals to encode and decode knowledge and power via speech, writing, printing and collective action, and which, when learned, introduce the individual to a community. Literacy links technology and sociality. The alphabet did not cause the Roman Empire, but made it possible. Printing did not cause democracy or science, but literate populations, enabled by the printing press, devised systems for citizen governance and collective knowledge creation. The Internet did not cause open source production, Wikipedia or emergent collective responses to natural disasters, but it made it possible for people to act together in new ways, with people they weren't able to organize action with before, in places and at paces for which collective action had never been possible. Literacies are the prerequisite for the human agency that used alphabets, presses and digital networks to create wealth, alleviate suffering and invent new institutions. If the humans currently alive are to take advantage of digital technologies to address the most severe problems that face our species and the biosphere, computers, telephones and digital networks are not enough. We need new literacies around participatory media, the dynamics of cooperation and collective action, the effective deployment of attention and the relatively rational and critical discourse necessary for a healthy public sphere.
In Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement, Rheingold wrote:
If print culture shaped the environment in which the Enlightenment blossomed and set the scene for the Industrial Revolution, participatory media might similarly shape the cognitive and social environments in which twenty first century life will take place (a shift in the way our culture operates). For this reason, participatory media literacy is not another subject to be shoehorned into the curriculum as job training for knowledge workers.

Participatory media include (but aren't limited to) blogs, wikis, RSS, tagging and social bookmarking, music-photo-video sharing, mashups, podcasts, digital storytelling, virtual communities, social network services, virtual environments, and videoblogs. These distinctly different media share three common, interrelated characteristics:
• Many-to-many media now make it possible for every person connected to the network to broadcast as well as receive text, images, audio, video, software, data, discussions, transactions, computations, tags, or links to and from every other person. The asymmetry between broadcaster and audience that was dictated by the structure of pre-digital technologies has changed radically. This is a technical- structural characteristic.
• Participatory media are social media whose value and power derives from the active participation of many people. Value derives not just from the size of the audience, but from their power to link to each other, to form a public as well as a market. This is a psychological and social characteristic.
• Social networks, when amplified by information and communication networks, enable broader, faster, and lower cost coordination of activities. This is an economic and political characteristic.
Like the early days of print, radio, and television, the present structure of the participatory media regime−the political, economic, social and cultural institutions that constrain and empower the way the new medium can be used, and which impose structures on flows of information and capital−is still unsettled. As legislative and regulatory battles, business competition, and social institutions vie to control the new regime, a potentially decisive and presently unknown variable is the degree and kind of public participation. Because the unique power of the new media regime is precisely its participatory potential, the number of people who participate in using it during its formative years, and the skill with which they attempt to take advantage of this potential, is particularly salient.
Rheingold, Howard. (2007) "Using participatory media and public voice to encourage civic engagement." The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning: 97-118.