Participatory culture allows us to “embrace the values of diversity through every aspect of our interactions with each other and help us to distinguish between how people engage with different forms of media (2, 13). In Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito and danah boyd trace their thoughts about the “changes of the media environment and the shifting stakes in policy surrounding digital media” (vi). While the three authors share differences in age, they discussed and reflected on pivotal issues in society (e.g. politics, youth, learning gaps, government) and how those issues have been affected or shaped by the media in society.
Our culture, or the “sum total of our human experience” serves as an important tool to understand how we express ourselves and how we interact with one another. For example, in the book, Jenkins provides an example of how his grandmother’s quilting portrayed her life story. He compares his grandmother’s experience to understand whether or not we share deep “ties or relationships” when producing and sharing media content in today’s online communities (11). In my opinion, most people do not share relationships (key component of participatory culture) of this caliber when engaging with media.
Participatory culture requires some type of “shared practice or culture, notion of affiliation, collective identity or membership” (11, 14). It allows us “to acknowledge the ongoing struggle of many different groups to gain greater access to the means of cultural production and circulation” (22). Networks on media platforms (networked individualism) that consist of shared goals and values allow us to determine what we see and understand in the media. It is important, however, that we develop our own voice, contribute to conversation and understand the importance of educating and sharing a sense of values when engaging in media.
boyd introduced a very interesting chapter in the book entitled Youth Culture, Youth Practices where she discusses the importance of youth, how youth engage with the media and how technology has affected the culture in which they communicate with one another. Being that I am only 22 years, I am not far removed from my childhood years and what it was like for my parents to monitor my use of the Internet. Between the ages of eight to 14, I used AOL dialup Internet service. My parents monitored my ability to see certain websites and web content. As I got older, I gained normal access to websites but my parents continued to stress the idea of being careful of what I put on social media.
When thinking about my childhood, how I used the Internet and how technology has changed the way I communicate and understand the world, I think about how technology has changed the way kids share and understand information in today’s society. As Jenkins said, technology has “provided openings for young people to shape society and culture despite their lack of economic and institutional power and resources” (37). This is very true because the children and youth growing up today have so many opportunities to discuss and share information about their goals and beliefs with others all over the world. Whether through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, within those four platforms, youth can express certain aspects or components that relate to participatory culture.
While growing up and through my early teenage years, we did not have as many opportunities. My parents monitored what I saw and used on the computer. I do not think parents have to be over critical about their kids using social media. “Concerned parents, determined to protect their children from harm, often go into overdue, failing to see how misinterpretations amplify their fears” (42). I believe if parents spent more time at home educating their kids about effective ways to use media and informing them on how to be safe in these situations, parents would not have to become fearful as much as they do. As Mimi stated in this chapter, I “wish people would not go first to whether technology is good or bad and, rather start with the behavior and consider the different factors that contribute to it” (43). Parents idea of “restricting youth and teenagers’ access to social media” serves as a Band-Aid to their problems. As danah stated, youth and “teenagers need opportunities to learn how to interact in a healthy way” when using media platforms (53). Thus, children can learn and develop good habits when using media platforms. After all, technology “do not themselves make participatory culture. People do. And they do so by imagining – and working to achieve – new ways of connecting, coordinating, collaborating and creating” (184).