ACCS 2018 Panel – Fearful Futures and How to Navigate Them

Next week I’m going to be heading to Japan to attend the Asian Conference on Cultural Studies with some of my UEA colleagues from the School of Education and Lifelong learning.

The conference theme is: ‘Fearful Futures: Cultural Studies and the Question of Agency in the Twenty-First Century’. It looks like an amazing event, with some really interesting panels and speakers. The full programme can be found here . It’s a provocative and interesting theme to tackle that speaks to the current climate, and I’m really interested to see the sorts of research and discussions that come out of the event!

Our panel details are below. We’ll be tweeting about the event on our joint twitter page (@CCSEResearch), so follow along if you’re interested! If you’re in attendance, come and see us! I’m excited about the event, and have to say, our symposium sound pretty damn awesome.

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Call for Papers: Digital Culture and Education

 

A call for papers is out for a special edition of Digital Culture & Education, an international open access peer-reviewed journal. I recently got named as an editor of the journal and am really happy to be helping to launch this exciting special edition.

Full information can be found here, feel free to email me for a discussion about it!

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La plume de ma tante… What French language lessons can tell us about current UK digital skills education

A quick French lesson

Over the last few days I’ve been mulling over the state of digital skills education in the current UK educational system, reflecting on a phrase that I randomly heard for the first time in forever on a BBC podcast – “La plume de ma tante”.

For those not familiar, ‘la plume de ma tante’ was a phrase commonly used in French language teaching in the UK for the first half of the 20th teaching. It translates literally as “the quill of my Aunt”, and it was for a long time one of the very first things every British student of the French language would learn in a French lesson.

You might be thinking to yourself that it is a really odd phrase to learn at the beginning of a French language course, and you would be entirely right. It was used as a functional example of French grammar. The phrase shows how the definite article and possessive adjectives change form according to gender. A useful grammar lesson for sure, and one that has useful applications for a study of the language, but nonetheless ‘la plume de ma tante’ was such an obscure phrase it was fairly useless if you wanted to learn practical French phrases.

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Upcoming one-day conference, Oxford, January 2018

As this year closes in already filling up my diary for 2018… First event London the books for me is a brilliant and rammed one-day event in Oxford about ‘materialities and mobilities in Education’. 

I’ll be presenting my latest about how technology is shaping transitions into higher education. The entire day looks amazing and I’m hoping to catch as many talks as possible. 
Apparently the event is fully booked AND there’s a waiting list… So if you’re coming, I’m looking forward to seeing you there! 
Full details of the day below 
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Monday January 8 2018

Materialities and Mobilities in Education – One-Day Conference

School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK (Gottman Room)

Kindly sponsored by the Economic Justice and Social Transformation research cluster

9.30 – 10.00am: Registration

10.00 – 11.00am: Welcome and Keynote 1

‘Spatial imaginaries’ and the transition to university: an intersectional analysis of class, ethnicity and place (Michael Donnelly, University of Bristol).

11.00 – 1.00pm: Parallel Sessions

 1a (Gottman Room)

i. Mobile preschools, mobilities and materialities (Danielle van der Burgt and Katarina Gustafson, Uppsala University)

ii. Moving beyond immobility: narratives of undergraduate mobility at the ‘local’ college (Holly Henderson, University of Birmingham)

iii. We’re going on a journey: materialities and mobilities in the Outward Bound Trust (Jo Hickman Dunne, Loughborough University)

iv. Building colleges for the future: pedagogical and ideological spaces (Rob Smith, Birmingham City University)

v. The construction of hypermobile subjectivities in higher education: implications for materialities (Aline Courtois, University College London)

1b (Gilbert Room)

i. Materiality and meaning-making: towards creative mapping praxis on ‘post-conflict’ Belfast (Amy Mulvenna, University of Manchester)

ii. Materiality and the formation of transnational identities among British Ghanaian children schooling in Ghana (Emma Abotsi, University of Oxford)

iii. The school bus as agentic assemblage (Cathy Gristy, Plymouth University)

iv. Learning ‘the feel’ in the wooden boat workshop: material perception as understanding (Tom Martin, University of Oxford)

v. Relational mobilities: global citizenships between international ad local private schools (Sophie Cranston, Loughborough University)

1.00 – 1.30pm: LUNCH (Gottman Room)

1.30 – 2.15pm: Keynote 2

Choreographies of belonging: Reimagining ‘local’ students’ everyday (im)mobiities in Higher Education (Kirsty Finn, Lancaster University)

2.30 – 4.30pm: Parallel Sessions

Session 2a (Gottman Room)

i. International study in the global south: linking institutional, staff, student and knowledge mobilities (Parvati Raghuram, Open University)

ii. Higher education mobilities: a cross-national European comparison (Rachel Brooks, University of Surrey)

iii. Transnational encounters. Constructions of schools and (post)colonialism across continents 1945 – 1975 (Ning de Conick-Smith, Aarhus University)

iv. The space in-between: the materiality and sociality of the international branch campus in China (Kris Hyesoo Lee, University of Oxford)

v. Materialities and (im)mobilities in transnational capacity-building projects in higher education (Hanne Kristine Adriansen, Aarhus University)

Session 2b (Gilbert Room)

i. ‘In two places at once: academics with caring responsibilities, conference mobility and the role of communication devices’ (Emily F. Henderson, University of Warwick)

ii. Data and school spaces – materialisations, circulations and temporalities (Matt Finn, Exeter University)

iii. The role of technology in shaping student identity during transitions to university: how technology is affecting the way students experience and conceptualise the university as a social, academic and physical space (Harry T. Dyer, University of East Anglia)

iv. Making space for academic work (Mary Hamilton, Lancaster University)

v. Materialities and mobilities of the university: widening participation students’ narratives of success (Emma Wainwright, Anne Chappell and Ellen McHugh, Brunel University London)

vi. Between omnipotence and immobility: a comparison of banking, Hollywood and further study as popular pathways amongst graduates from an elite university in New York (John Loewenthal, Oxford Brookes University)

4.45 – 5.30pm: (Gottman Room) Closing Remarks; Book Launch and Wine

One day symposium on ‘researching young people, digital technologies and health’

Apologies for the lack of posts here lately! It’s been a manic summer full of running around, writing, and planning my next research project, and I’ve already sunk back into the new year teaching schedule…

If you’re curious about some of the things I’ve been doing this summer, you can listen to this podcast I recorded over the summer, or read this article I wrote for The Conversation. I’ll be updating this blog on my new research project as it progresses and evolves.

For now, please find below some information about a brilliant upcoming event in Manchester in a few weeks time. The lineup is brilliant, including some of my favourites;  Deborah Lupton and Huw Davies. I’m busy on the Friday, otherwise I’d be there soaking up the wealth of knowledge, but I hoping others will go and share some of the ideas on Twitter!

 

All the information can be found below!

 

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Online news, fake news, filter bubbles, and mainstream media. Or how I learnt to stop retweeting Trump. 

A report came out today from the Reuters Institute in Oxford University, published by Rasmus Neilsen, detailing where people get their news nowadays. It’s really interesting, and confirms what many researchers have suggested in the last few years, that the internet is becoming an important space for the production, consumption, and sharing of news.

The report notes that 84% of the 18-24 year old participants viewed the internet as their main source of news, though interestingly only 24% of 18-24 year olds viewed the more narrow category of ‘social media’ as their main source as news. This says a lot for a working definition of social media, for our understanding of where young people are on the internet, and for our understanding of how young people use the internet. Researchers need to continue to grapple with the shifting boundaries of social media, and clearly need to continue to broaden their scope beyond just Twitter and Facebook in order to understand the entirety of the young people’s online actions and interactions.

With only 4% of participants viewing print media as the main source of news, and 9% listing TV as the main source, it is clear that the shift towards online news consumption is not abating any time soon. However, we also need to consider another form of news consumption that we can begin to unpack through looking at Fiske’s ideas around ‘popular culture’ and ‘mass culture’.

Fiske’s writing in the 1980s attempted to problematise the narrative around how we consumed media. Rather than viewing the relationship between audience and media as a simplistic one-way street in which the media told us how to feel about an issue, Fiske argued that there was a distinction between ‘mass culture’ and ‘popular culture’ that needed to be considered. Mass culture in essence is the culture that is presented to us by the institution of the media. However, Fiske noted that we could resist, subvert, and challenge these messages, and that we could in turn create our own culture; popular culture. Popular culture, in Fiske’s words, is “made by the people, not produced by the culture industry”, and therefore contains the voices and ideas of the people. Fiske suggested therefore that we need to understand both how culture is presented to us, but equally how it is used, and what life it took on when it came in contact with a socially grounded audience. He noted that:

“…by ignoring the complexity and creativity by which the subordinate cope with the commodity system and its ideology in their everyday lives, the dominant underestimate and thus devalue the conflict and struggle entailed in constructing popular culture within a capitalist society”

This suggests therefore that news is not just what we read and consume from a popular news source, it is also our reactions to these events and issues.  We can understand news not only as a product of ‘mass culture’ passed to us by the news media, but also as ‘popular culture’ created in part through our reaction to the news. Through our responses to Trump’s Tweets, through our browsing of vitriolic comment sections, through reading our Aunt’s Facebook posts, through reading blogs, we are consuming both ‘popular culture’ and ‘mass culture’.

Interestingly, mass culture and popular culture are not separate or separable; they exist together, meaning that popular culture, though subversive, contains multiple layers and multiple voices (or what Bakhtin termed ‘Heteroglossia’). As Fiske notes:

“A text that is to be made into popular culture must, then, contain both the forces of domination and the opportunities to speak against them, the opportunities to oppose or evade them from subordinated, but not totally disempowered, positions. Popular culture is made by the people at the interface between the products of the culture industries and everyday life”.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the internet, where we are surrounded by issues as they unfurl, with many layers of commentary, and many attempts to create ‘popular culture’. Thus popular culture becomes a battleground as multiple forces attempt to create the narrative of the news and shape popular culture out of the remnants of mass culture. The news then is not the battleground here, instead it is people’s reaction to the news. In otherwords, the news is arguably less important today than the reaction to the news.

This is increasingly apparent through Trump’s retweeting of News platforms such as the Drudge Report and Fox News, and his attempts to delegitimise other sources such as MSNBC and the New York Times. We can see the multiple interacting layers of popular culture in action as Trump provides his own attempt at the creation of popular culture. This is inevitably followed by other users retweeting Trump and providing their own commentary, followed by other users reacting to this…and so on… Indeed, this even becomes cyclical as Trump’s tweeting then become the news, which is then further commented upon. Thus popular culture and mass culture become largely inseparable online, and the division between what is news and what isn’t becomes hazy.

When we consider how we consume news, and where this comes from, we must not forget to also consider how we create and perpetuate news. We must consider what voices we are amplifying, what narratives we are resisting, and what sources we are challenging. We must not forget that retweeting users that we disagree with in some manner amplifies their voice through their heteroglossic presence. The internet is not a level playing ground for everyone, and as users we choose to give credence to others through following and retweeting them. We should think about who we allow to create popular culture, and also whose voices we amplify, even in protest to them. Finally, both users and researchers should understand that the news isn’t just something that comes from a newspaper or a website, but that it increasingly is a complex mix of many voices and agendas.

Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Problem: What the internet reaction tells us about the relationship between media and consumers.

A while ago I wrote a blog post about the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge; a craze taking the internet by storm (or, at least, heavily reported across various media channels – but that’s a distinction for whole other blog post…) in which people filmed/photographed themselves trying to get fuller lips by creating a vacuum around them. The results were obviously not great, and it led to many a think-piece about ‘kids these days’ being stupid, passive, and gullible. I always think this reaction is incredibly patronising to a generation who, according to recent data, are showing adept media literacy and criticality in a landscape with far more sources competing for attention. It is always worth remembering that we all did stupid things as kids. I did a million stupid things, including swallowing my mum’s earring for a game of hide-and-seek. The difference was of course that I didn’t have a camera in my face and an internet to project my failings onto (until now I guess). The earring never emerged, but I’m sure I’m fine…

 

But nonetheless, many a reaction was formed about how gullible the current emerging generation are, a far too simplistic narrative that I think needs to be problematized and examined, rather than assumed. Interestingly, this narrative can be further challenged by a more recent reaction to another Jenner sister’s media forays.

 

Today another Jenner sister was trending in the media for an entirely separate reason. Kendall Jenner starred in an incredibly tone-deaf Pepsi advert that borrowed the imagery and timbre of many current protest movements in a move of crass neoliberalism, highlighting some of the greediest aspects of capitalism. It was a move that many people saw through, and that garnered a wealth of criticism cross the board. Many posts will be written today about what just how misguided and offensive this advert is, and that is a much needed reaction. Here however I want to briefly unpack just what this reaction means for how we think about the relationship between media and audience.

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Call For Papers on Language, New Media and Alt-Realities

If you’re interested in/researching ‘fake news’, alternative facts, clickbait, and/or the ‘decline’ of ‘experts’ (really not sure how many scare quotes to use here…) then check out this call for papers below. Sounds like a really interesting conference. The submission deadline is a little tight, but I’m going to try to attend if nothing else!

 

Details below:

 

Language, New Media and Alt-Realities

April 21, 2017, University of Reading

Proposals are invited for 20 minute paper presentations as well as posters/web-based presentations addressing the theme of ‘language, new media and alt.realties’.

Possible areas of interest include:

·       New media epistemologies and ontologies

·       New media discourse and political polarisation

·       Algorithmic pragmatics and political debate

·       Authoritarian and populist discourses online

·       ‘Trolling’ as a form of political discourse

·       Agnotology (the cultural construction of ignorance)

·       The crisis of ‘expertise’

·       ‘Fake news’ and ‘clickbait’

·       Hacking and disinformation

·       Infotainment and spectacle

·       Conspiracy theories and memes

·       Journalism in the age of social media

Please send your proposals in the form of a 250-word abstract to Prof Rodney Jones, University of Reading r.h.jones@reading.ac.uk

Deadline for Submitting Proposals: April 5, 2017

We need to talk about Growing Up Digital…

The new Growing up Digital report came out in the UK today from the Children’s Commissioner (Find it here).  It’s a nuanced report with many interesting ideas and thoughts about the internet. It acknowledges that children are on the internet more, and that this is not going to change. It acknowledges the internet can be a great place (It literally starts with the sentence “The internet is an extraordinary force for good…”). It suggests that children need to be taught critical skills online as well as offline. It’s really nuanced and well written.

So why is it that nearly all the press reporting on this is SO APPALLING?! Continue reading