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Rules of Engagement in Participatory Cultures: Negotiating Feedback, Audiences, and Critique in Online Communities

More liveblogging from the Digital Media & Learning Conference at UC San Diego (follow on #dml2010). Packed room! Going to get hot in here, but worth it.

Lyndsay Grant, FutureLab

DanPerkel, UC Berkeley

Becky Herr-Stephenson, UC Irvine

Kurt Luther, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Lyndsay starts talking about BBC Blast (in UK), how young people are interested and engaged in creative activities, experience of feedback online and offline, their perception of the role and purpose of feedback, overlaps between offline and online audiences. In the context of the BBC Blast initiative, "Get Creative!" For young people aged 14-19. Offline: Blast Bus, touring workshops, young people's performances, and Online: Website, showcase to upload their work, message boards where they can chat to each other, tips and tools from experts. At the time of the study, they had organized it around six areas (...art, music, dance, film, writing, games...).

Particiaptory Culture..."a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one's creations, and some type of information membershipl..." (think that was a H. Jenkins quote).

Questions: peer to peer learning about creative media and activities. COULD PARTICIPATION IN AN ONLINE CREATIVE COMMUNITY OFFER OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL INCLUSION? (oops, hit the caps lock key by accident, pardon the shouting) Participants were 16 young people aged 15-21 from across the UK. Members of BBC Blast's Youth Panel. In-depth interviews by phone, MSN or email (participants' choice).

A silent audience: Very few received feedback, but no seen as a problem. Perception of an audience in absense of feedback. Publication not about developing skills, but displaying work they are proud of. Is this participation? One student wrote, "I only put it up there to show people, I didn't really want input."

On and offline audiences (and gener). Online judgments. Some prefer the anonymity, some prefer trusted friends. "I am vaguely intimdidated by the standard of others' work." OR "the people who are judging it don't know you. You can kind of remain anonymous if you know what i mean." (Could be gender issue.)

Personal, emotional self-expression: feedback on emotions not appropriate. Private expression rather than public voice (does not invite peer feedback or wider response)."I don't think art is about teaching but about nurturing and guiding the individual," wrote one of the student participants.

Another audience? Impressing the BBC and creative media employers. Understanding importance of social capital for unemployment. Portfolio-building. So, the students liked having this aspect of professional social-networking. Lindsay wondered whether that was a good thing or not.

One student wrote: School feedback is technical -- are spelling and grammar correct, etc. But on Black, feedback was more authentic, about whether people liked it or not. What was different? Showcase and message board integrated. Social use of message boards, "feelin contributions matter" Interest and peer-driven participation.

Feedback and chat: opportunities for feedback in message boards? 1. exchanging info 2. sharing diverse perspectives 3. building social connections. Some participants progressed towards social connections.

Feedback and inclusion? They were cautious about feedback, using more for personal expression not public engagement, and saw it as part of social capital and future employment.

Dan Perkel now talks about Ambiguities and improvement (missed the rest of the title). We know the percentages are high for sharing things online that they created themselves. 3 billions photographs a month on Facebook (!) He studied a site called deviantART (started in 2000). Before Web 2.0. One of the things they do is they put their work up, then there are artist comments and statistics, and comments. Describes it as largest online art community, and there are many sub-cultures, offline, online. Online communities and social network is relevant, but they are diverse people trying to all be on the same site doing somewhat normative things.

Around the issue of criticsm: how to give a helpful critique. What counts as a good comment? How should you react to critique? What is constructive criticism? People seemed to have different ideas about what the site was, and what it was for: learning, marketing. How do I become noticed and popular, vs. how do I learn -- quite different. Some people say there is a normative ethos, "one has to improve around their work." 

(Shows images and texts of comments to show how deviantART members think/feel differently about what the norms are for posting art to the site.)  "Why improve if everyone already thinks he's good? That's not how its supposed to work." "People shouldn't be criticized for not improving their art." And, "DUDE, if you think art is NOT about getting criticsm and feedback, why are you here?"

Being a serious artist = demonstrating willingness to be critqued? But is critique always a good thing? People need feedback at different stages of someone's development, perhaps. When you're young and getting started versus becoming or being a professional.

Becky starting with: How to be a Wrimo: Framing feedback in an online writing context/contest. Talks with teachers a lot, who think the topic of feeback is very complicated. They feel pressured to use a lot of the online mechanisms for feedback, but aren't always sure how to use it, make it work. Many highschool students don't have time to read novel front to back (that was same for me 20 years ago), because only expected to read 6-7 pages.

National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo.org) quick overview: has been around 10 years. Came out of ethos of online media, out of Silicon Valley, and embraces those values still. Millions of people participate in this impossible task (must write 50,000 words!) of writing a novel in a month. Have a young writer's program (under 13) and teachers can use it in their classroom. Permutations have happened online. Writing springs, for example. Write 6,000 words in 20 minutes. Goal is quantity, not quality. Doesn't have to be good, just has to be enough and done. Spent some time with fan fiction is that you get formative feedback, people can read it, give feedback, and then maybe from that feedback you change or adapt your next chapter. At first, a lot of positive feedback, but isn't really commenting on your writing practice. Some developed relationships with other writers (called beta readers). Some helped with punctuation, some can see more holistic view of your writing. So feedback is mixed bag. The goal is to write your novel during the month of November, to the end, without really relying on this notion of normative feedback. Which seems to fly in the face of what we say when we think about digital media & learning. This is not to say that people do this in isolation, or get no feedback.

You can get a widget and put it on your blog. You can get a graph that shows how far along you are, to display to other people. Not for feedback but for acknowledgment. If you win, you get a special winner widget for your blog or website. Boosts egos, keeps people going, encourages repeat participation.

There are also forums. But in the forums, what people are looking for is social support. They aren't necessarily looking to get feedback on their writing. "So I killed my main character..." is a common type of entry. Because you aren't supposed to revise! Or "Favorite Lines You Have Written So Far" which could include humor. Some entries will have the number of words written for each year during NaNoWriNo.

Kurt on Gatekeeping & Feedback in an Online Creative Community. Shows Csikszentmihalyi's Model of Creativity. (Think you can find that image online.) What about the communities we see with online communities and participatory cultures? Is this going to hold up? Online community of artistis, programmers, and musicians: http://newgrounds.com/ is the one Kurt looked at. Founded in 1995, 2 mill registered members. Participant observation since late 2006 data and methods. Indepth interviews with 17 members (missed the rest).

Newgrounds: bottom-up gatekeeping (leadesr and collabs in the Flash Portal). Top-down gatekeeping ("talent" scouts and artworks in the Art Portal.) The "When Farm Animal Attack" Collab. If you think about how animation studio works, lots of people with specific roles. It is different online, at least in this community. Instead of specialization, there is modularization. You can submit a short skit about what happens when farm animals attack, and then leader of the collab will decide which skit will be admitted based on what they want. Then gets published and ranked or rated and commented on. Kurt talks about what leaders do throughout this process. Pretty much a lack of communication among artists. "They artists didn't really have contact with the other members that much, it was mainly through me." So a more competitive model. Different social/psychological feel depending on whether you are leading or just participating/submitting. Obvious tension between including everyone and having a finished product. "Rejecting people is always hard, especially when you know they spent at least a few hours working on something to participate in your vision for creating something and then you rejedted them after they did it." Finally, you can then get your work scouted and published on the Art Portal page. Shows image of how scouting happens: staff pick artists and gave scouting privileges, who in turn can give scouting privileges to other artists. Very hierarchical (they refer to the process as "castration.")

Gatekeeping happens depending on what stage of production artist is in. Mid-production: information suggestions and critiques, mostly provided by friends or collaborators.

Questions: what should be the role of gatekeeping in participatory culture? What is it currently? How does gatekeeping change from one community or context to another? How can gatekeeping help or hinder learning? What tools, technologies, policies, etc. can we design to support appropriate gatekeeping?

 

 

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