Craig Watkins - Democratic Futures: Mobilizing Voices, and Remixing Youth Participation

"It is the story of this world—a world of civic-minded makers, doers, and innovators—that DML2013 participants will tell in unique, inspiring, and wonderful ways."

About The Speaker(s)

Craig Watkins is the Chair of the 2013 Digital Media and Learning Conference, and studies young people's social & digital media behaviors. He teaches at the University of Texas, Austin, in the departments of Radio-Television-Film, Sociology, and the Center for African and African American Studies. Craig is also a Faculty Fellow for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to serving as the Principal Investigator of the Connected Learning Research Network project "The Digital Edge," he is working to design and pilot new learning initiatives in both out-of-school and in-school settings.

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (14:25) I think what DML2013 does, is reintroduces one of the primary motivations behind the [MacArthur Foundation's] Digital Media & Learning initiative...From the very beginning, one of the questions that the DML initiative has asked is: 'How is the adoption of social & digital media platforms affording opportunities for young people--and those who interact with young people--to reimagine what civic life and participation in community life might look like?'
  • (15:59) When we thought about this conference, the title "Democratic Futures" struck as a really interesting way to frame so much of what we anticipate happening at this conference...this idea that how we think about the future of democracy...is that it's something that we actively participate in making and creating.
  • (23:04) A lot of those same activities that we see in the realm of popular culture, we're also seeing in the realm of civics....[Youth] are producing media, they're circulating that media in some really interesting ways. They're creating dialogue--not only with peers, but with elites--and really redefining those relationships to...gateways into political activity.
  • (25:34) How do we make sense of "flash activism" (what other people have called "slacktivism")? Do we think of that as the first step on a ladder of engagement where the goal is to get kids more and more deeply involved? Or is there some value to just "flash activism" on that scale as an end in itself?
  • (26:18) One of the things I'm really excited about going to the conference next week is to hear more from practitioners about how they're supporting youth to use online tools to pursue their interests, and to hear from youth as well about how they can take advantage of creating their own ways to pursue their interests.
  • (28:52) Students/children have to learn the tools and the levers and how to use them. Unless [adults teach youth] consciously, we create a massive equity gap.
  • (32:07) What is the role of schools, and public schools in particular, in terms of remapping/rethinking/reimagining what youth civic engagement might look like and what it should look like?
  • (35:40) I'm wondering if the Hangout can talk about this persistent public opinion that youth are uninterested or unengaged when it comes to politics and civics, and how DML2013 can address this view, and what we--as a community--can be doing to change that opinion?
  • (39:09) Is 'activism' the new 'feminism' in the sense that people don't want to associate with the label when that's the activity that they're involved in?
  • (44:26) Digital media opens up a lot of doors for civic & political engagement, but there also seems to be some risks involved as well...how can adults help youth navigate these kinds of risks that come from using digital media to engage civically & politically?
  • (48:17) How do we anticipate a "digital afterlife" for stories where don't have a whole lot of control over the conversation that people want to have, sparked by the material that young people put out? The stakes are even higher when that content is explicitly civic or political and will follow young people for the rest of their lives.
  • (53:53) One of the things I always ask myself as I go into the DML Conference is how the ways that we interact with each other and model our relationships with our learning in that space--how can that be a praxis for what we want digital media & learning to look like for when we go back home in our day-to-day work?
  • (56:56) What I'm most excited about us the chance to meet people who are struggling with these same issues across the range of experiences with young people in general. How do we get these tools into kids' hands?...How do we build a world around them which enables them to take these things places that we haven't imagined yet?

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