Critical Pedagogy and New Media Literacies
Editor's Introduction: Critical Pedagogy and New Media Literacies
Meredith Coffey and Rachel Mazique
Transcript for Editors' Introduction
Rachel: I’m Rachel Mazique.
Meredith: And I’m Meredith Coffey. We’re the co-managing editors of The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects (TheJUMP).
Rachel: Today, we’re happy to introduce Issue 5.2: “Critical Pedagogy and New Media Literacies.”
Meredith: The projects of Issue 5.2 include: “Remix in Higher Education” by Douglas Terry of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “The Rhetoric of Memes” by the students of Simone Sessolo’s New Media Writing course at The University of Michigan, “English is for Squares: Thomas was Alone as a Classroom Text” by Anne Meuser of Miami University in Ohio, and a website about “Cyber Bullying” by Elizabeth Meyer and Rachel Hall of Texas Tech University.
Rachel: All of these projects speak to a critical pedagogy—critical in many senses. They speak to the critical, or essential work that we as instructors do by encouraging various forms of reading, writing and thinking. The projects are critical in the sense that they do the work of critique and demonstrate students’ abilities as critical thinkers. Projects like “Cyber Bullying” are “mission-critical,” or essential, because they bring light to a serious issue—a matter of life and death for victims of cyber bullying. Not only are the students demonstrating critical, nuanced, and reflective thinking practices, but their instructors’ assignment prompts clearly demonstrate a reflective and nuanced approach to rhetorical pedagogy. Further, the work is critical in that it criticizes institutional impediments to learning—barriers to creative commons, resistance to collaborative work, or resistance to video gaming in the classroom, for example. Finally, the issue functions as a contribution to Critical and Digital Pedagogy as a discipline.
Meredith: In contributing to Critical and Digital Pedagogy as a discipline, the instructors and students who inspired and created these projects are fostering TheJUMP as a premiere resource for New Media Literacies. The student-authored pieces illustrate several of their new media literacies including play, or “the capacity to experiment […] as a form of problem-solving,” performance, appropriation, judgment, collective intelligence, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation.
Rachel: These literacies are fostered in a collaborative environment as TheJUMP seeks to circulate student work and instructor prompts in order to connect educators, researchers, scholars, and students with conversations that take place within the journal; for example, responses from our editorial collective as well as reflections by the students’ instructors, are published alongside the student projects. The critical, collaborative and connective nature of TheJUMP occurs not only digitally—within the cybersphere, but geographically as well. These, physical, geographic connections span across the country—and even internationally.
Meredith: In keeping with our broad geographic reach, the projects of TheJUMP Issue 5.2 come from undergraduates at universities in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas. Out of UNC-Chapel Hill comes Douglas Terry’s website “Remix in Higher Education,” which directly addresses the new media literacy of appropriation and “remix” in a pedagogical context. Arguing for the benefits of its titular subject, the project incorporates Creative Commons videos, the author’s own taped interviews with college students, images (including a meme, an Obama campaign poster, and comic book covers), and text (including captions, quotes, and more). “Remix in Higher Education” also acknowledges boundaries, however, by encouraging proper use of Creative Commons materials and providing overviews of copyright and plagiarism issues.
Rachel: Taking a look more specifically at the production and reproduction of memes, the website “The Rhetoric of Memes” is a collaborative effort by the students of Simone Sessolo’s New Media Writing course at the University of Michigan. The project offers readings of eighteen different popular memes, such as Condescending Wonka, the Most Interesting Man in the World, and Socially Awkward Penguin. Using Bakhtin’s theories of heteroglossia and the carnivalesque to analyze memes might seem like a surprising choice, but the student authors have collectively worked to produce readings that both provide insight into Chuck Norris jokes and innovatively bring Bakhtin’s ideas into a social media context, as one of our reviewers noted. In doing so, the project also succeeds in balancing its tone between humor—largely drawn from the memes—and sophisticated rhetorical analysis.
Meredith: The next project in Issue 5.2 also engages with ideas of fun and play as worthy academic concepts. Miami University student Anne Meuser argues in her project, “English is for Squares: Thomas Was Alone as a Classroom Text,” for the role of play in the classroom—again, a key new media literacy. Laying out a specific example of the pedagogical potential for play, the video offers a reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s canonical novel The Great Gatsby alongside a reading of the video game Thomas Was Alone. Interacting with the characters of Thomas Was Alone, the author contends, has the potential to help students engage more profoundly with major themes of Fitzgerald’s text, such as “friendship, struggle, […] sacrifice, […] determination and desire.”
Rachel: As I mentioned earlier, Elizabeth Meyer and Rachel Hall’s website “Cyber Bullying” takes head on the critical topic that its title names. Following a video introduction, the site recounts the stories of three prominent recent victims of cyber bullying, shares relevant statistics, and offers suggestions for both parents and teachers on combating the epidemic. To present this important content, Meyer and Hall successfully utilize a range of media possibilities: the website includes video, an infographic, images, and text (in prose, list, and hyperlink form). Drawing from a network of information online, Meyer and Hall’s website presents a form of collective intelligence and leaves it to us—teachers and parents—to use our best judgment in assessing the various critical uses of the web—to prevent harm and to negotiate various problem-solving strategies.