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.
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.
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
An article came out today by J. Nathan Matias (find it here, it’s really interesting) calling for a re-examination of online anonymity, which for so long has been painted as a pantomime villain that automatically leads to abuse and problematic behaviour.
In the article J. Nathan Matias argues in essence for a reversal of the approach to anonymity and abuse, calling for a re-evaluation of online abuse that acknowledges the fact that it is and obviously is not solely an online phenomenon, but that it emerges from pre-existing social structures and resources. This is really interesting, especially in the wake of a re-emergence of anonymous platforms such as Yik Yak (before the update) and ask.fm.
On November 5th I’ll be presenting my latest paper at a one day ESRC conference at Cambridge on ‘bridging the structure/agency divide’.