Bridging the Gap

The need to meaningfully connect with others is the main drive behind the Social Media explosion of the past two decades. Most young people pour a good portion of their time and energy into becoming discerning, critical media consumers, usually during their time off from traditional educational outlets (i.e. school). They engage with friends, memes, videos, status updates, and even generate original content across multiple social networking platforms daily (usually several times a day depending on ease of accessibility). They rely in ingesting information from a myriad of media sources, and they synthesize every piece of data to create personal meaning. Then, through the act of circulating that content, each perspective is resubmitted for further analysis from their peers – every single day. With the rate of transmission, it is hard to argue these skills, or “new media literacies”, are not valuable to potentially aid traditional educational outlets and vice-versa (Jenkins 4).

When writing papers, students are often discouraged from citing Wikipedia (as it is not a credible source), solely because it is not regulated as fervently as other scholarly journals. However, with each passing year, it is harder to ignore that social norms require adjustments to include collaborative sources like Wikipedia as legitimized sources of information (usually in conjunction with other articles to provide diversity of source material) because their popularity stems from “strong incentives for creative expression and active participation” (Jenkins 7).

As media consumers reared in the Digital Age, often young people are caught up in the division between the acceptable forms of learning and those that were seen asdistractions. Students inherently learn to dissect their lives to become more culturally literate, while still gaining “traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom” to round out their education (Jenkins 4). Rather than relying solely on individual study, the dynamic of community involvement expedites the rate of competency by implementing the principle of immersion. In order to develop understanding and etiquette in regard to social media consumption, students are often left to their own devices. As the job market continues to evolve, these distractions become more and more vital skills to success.

By the dominant ideological perspective buying into this disavowal (valuing traditional education over learning new media literacy practices), essentially kids are being taught that it is culturally accepted to blunt the progression of their interests, rather than incorporate both sects of learning to create a more viable skill set. Fortunately, when breaking down the facts, the Social Shaping model holds a serious amount of weight, and progression will occur (and has already started) to bridge the gap to a more heavily participatory culture.

Perhaps a reason for this shift in philosophy stems from a very simple concept: having agency makes people more actively involved in shaping the progression of the new media landscape. Rather than being told what to learn, young people are exploring on their own, finding solutions to the questions no one else will openly answer (and rightfully so).

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