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An Interview with Dr. Henry Jenkins

By Lisa Gualtieri / January 2011

TYPE: INTERVIEW
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Last April eLearn Magazine editor-in-chief Lisa Gualtieri sat down with Dr. Henry Jenkins at the Cambridge Marriott to discuss his ground-breaking research on digital and media literacy. Formerly director of MIT's Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program, Jenkins is the Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at USC Annenberg. He has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture. His research gives key insights to the success of social-networking Web sites, networked computer games, online fan communities and other advocacy organizations, and emerging news media outlets. He is the author of Convergence Culture, frequent tweeter, and blogger

Henry Jenkins

Lisa Gualtieri: Start by telling us about how you became interested in digital literacy.

Henry Jenkins: I come out of a tradition of media and cultural studies, which has long looked at the ways people make sense of media in their lives—that's been a central theme of my work going back to graduate school. Mostly I did work on fan cultures and fan communities and the ways they were reading television and rewriting television. That sort of gave me a set of skills for thinking about literacy. At a certain point I ran into Kurt Squire and James Paul Gee—who were dealing with many of the same issues, but from an educational research perspective—and I started to realize that there was a conversation to be had at the borders between media and cultural studies and education. That conversation has just deepened over time. Along the way we all connected with the Digital Media and Learning Initiative the McArthur Foundation had established, where they were (I think partially inspired by John Seely Brown's involvement with their board) really looking at what are the scales, what are the ways young people are consuming media outside of school in informal settings, and how can we learn from those things what we need to do to redesign the public institutions that serve the needs of young people. So it was sort of like a meeting of minds, a series of research strands that came together, and over time I got deeper and deeper into that side of things.

LG: Can you talk about the different types of literacies? For instance, Howard Gardner developed the notion of multiple intelligences. Is that intertwined with your notions of literacy?

HJ: I think all of these ideas are closely connected, including the notion of very traditional literacy. A lot of people have set up audiovisual literacy as displacing traditional print literacy, and we don't see that at all. I see it more as a series of layers in which we expand our capacity to communicate, and as we expand the capacity to communicate, we need skills at every level of using those tools, those technologies, those modes of expression. So we could see traditional literacy as building the foundation; multi-literacies as sort being built around it—The New London Group, the work that James Paul Gee has done, Gunther Kress' notion of multi-modality, and then beyond that are what I'm calling the new media literacies. Those are no longer simply individual skills; they are social skills. And they are social skills because literacy now unfolds within a networked society. So as we participate in networks, as we communicate with each other across distances, and we pool knowledge and we compare notes and we create new things together, we need skills in co-creating things together that are different from the kinds of skills we needed when writing was mostly a matter of an individual author with a pen writing on a piece of paper. Certainly the author writing on a piece of paper had to imagine an audience, but that's still different from writing on a Google doc. It's different from what my colleague Jenna McWilliams talks about, reading with a mouse in hand; that is, with the idea that you're already in the process of communicating as you read, and that your communication and writing may involve multiple authors from the very beginning. That's a very different way of thinking about the communication process than we've seen, even with some of the multi-literacy literature that came before.

LG: How does that fit into information overload?

HJ: Information overload is a problem we all face. But what people mean by multitasking is the ability to parse through that information overload, to decide where it makes sense to pay attention, to scan the environment looking for relevant data and being able to dig deep and engage with it as a need-to-do basis, which is different from contemplated reading that you only are paying attention to one thing for an extended period of time. But the point is, these are skills or modes that we have to learn to flip between. We have to be able to use which mode of engagement is appropriate for the task at hand, and there are times when reading a single book by ourselves in the woods is the right mode. There are times when parsing lots of information in small bits that flows through Twitter may be the right mode to make sense of the environment. But the student needs to be able to flip between the two needs, and know what's the right mode for doing the task at hand. And that's what we in the new media literacies talk about as multitasking. It's not knowing how to do six things at once, but it's about knowing how to decide what's the right mode of attention for the different kinds of information encounters that you're having.

LG: How do you teach kids that? How do you teach adults that, for that matter?

HJ: That's exactly the question we're asking in our research. We're certainly exploring and experimenting with classroom interventions. But the whitepaper was really "here's a set of skills or challenges we face." What do we educationally do to engage with them? In the whitepaper we do talk about ways of communicating information across multiple channels. We talk about calling attention to the different information contexts we're involved in, and getting students and teachers to think about what's different about processing information say on Twitter than processing information in a book. The multi-layered conversation that Twitter represents—where you're often reading across multiple topics and trying to learn how to connect pieces of information together, trying to figure out who is talking to who in the noise that flows through your Twitter feed every morning—that's a literacy, that's a skill. And it's one we're not born knowing; it's one we've acquired. And it's one that having acquired, we can then begin to articulate, reflect upon, present, and share with other people.

LG: We're not born knowing how to read either. The difference is that our grandparents learned how to read, and they didn't learn how to use Twitter.

HJ: One of the tendencies is that education values those things that have been taught formally in school and devalue those skills we acquire on our own outside of the classroom. So the idea that someone who watches is illiterate is nonsense. It's just that we learned how to watch television sitting beside our mom and dad who pointed things out to us as we were watching it, who answered our questions. We learned it over time in an informal setting. Twitter is something similar. Odds are nobody went to school to know how to Tweet. We learned it by practice, we learned it through observation, we learned it by engaging with other people. But it's nevertheless an acquired skill, a literacy that is important at the present moment for our communication needs.

Now I don't want to inscribe Twitter as a permanent technology. Using Twitter is an example of a set of literacies, of processing information across multiple channels or multiple inputs.

LG: Right, because we all know that Twitter is unlikely to be around in five years.

HJ: Yes, exactly. So this will shift. That's why we don't tie the literacies to specific technologies. We're saying that these are sets of skills that cut across technologies. Technologies are constantly going to change. But there are certain cultural practices that have started to emerge that help us to navigate though those new technologies, and to engage more fully in participatory cultures. And that's the essence by what we mean by new media literacies.

LG: It's not just that technologies are changing, but devices are changing. Following the movement to wire classrooms, many schools had computers sitting in the corner that teachers didn't know how to integrate in their lesson plans. Now we've got iPads, and cell phones that students have to keep off of or they're confiscated. How do new technologies fit in?

HJ: Clearly one of the things students have to know is how to use the technologies, and we again, should not naturalize that. This phrase "digital natives" is used so often and sort of implies that those who grew up in a society that had network computing know how to use network computing, and know how to do it better than their parents. But the reality is that kids have unequal access to those technologies, they have unequal access to those skills, they have different degrees of scaffolding and support in and outside of school, which means those skills are unevenly dispersed across this generation. As new technologies emerge, they demand new ways of interacting and new interfaces, and that's not going to be evenly scattered across society. So the assumption that teachers are somehow digital immigrants and students are digital natives I think clouds us to the reality, which is we are all in transition, dealing with emerging technologies and trying to learn how to use them.

I think the problem is schools often want to reduce it to the most fundamental level that is just using the device, so that in some ways keyboarding simply replaced typewriting in schools. You used to go to typing lab and no one talked about what you typed, you just learned the tough system of typing, and you did "A sly fox leaps over…" whatever—that idea of the endless practicing. So when the computer lab replaced the typewrite lab in schools, the tendency was it is all about the keyboard and not about the inner environment that you're navigating through, not about the skills you're deploying in processing that information. And so one hopes that the push from new media literacies is to enlarge the space, so it's not just about the device, as important as the device is. It's about the environment, it's about the cultural practices that grow up around those devices, and how we're able to participate in those in a meaningful way. And that's not something you teach in a special lab that's separated from everything else, any more than you have a special lab for using the pencil. It's got to be integrated across the curriculum, so that each discipline in school, each subject area takes responsibility for those skills that are fundamental to its own practices. And it takes seriously what are the skills that a scientist uses when we're teaching science? What do urban planners use when we're teaching geography? Those kinds of questions get integrated into the classroom.

Learning to use the technology grows organically out of using tasks that require the technology, right. You learn the technology in order to do something; you don't learn the technology abstracted from meaningful tasks and identities that people are involved with. So it's not about teaching the technology at the end of the day. Learning the technology will be a byproduct if what you're teaching is how to think through the cultural changes the technology has wrought. And that means that in some of the stuff we develop in new media literacies, we propose very low tech versions. There are things you learn that don't require you to be on a computer that nevertheless contribute to understanding how to navigate a networked society. So if you're in a school that has no laptop per child, you can still engage in fostering those skills that will prepare the student to think in a digital way once they have access to digital technology.

LG: Can you talk about producers and consumers? Children are born creative; does technology facilitate their creativity as producers or does it turn them into consumers of information?

HJ: What we're calling participatory culture is a culture where everyone has the potential to produce and contribute creatively—expressively—where everyone contributes to the production of knowledge and exchange of information. So it's not simply about consuming things produced by others. It's precisely about being able to rewrite and rescript the environment around you, to remix the media that comes into our lives. That is in some sense a modern definition of what the consumer does in a digital age. The Pew Center for American Life has studied over the last decade young people's production of media, and I think when last I looked 69 percent of young people in the United States have produced media. That's an extraordinary shift from previous generations. That's a symptom of what we're describing as a participatory culture.

What we're suggesting with new media literacies is we build on those natural creative and expressive skills that young people have, and show them how to engage with them in ways that they don't just express themselves, but allow them to participate in a larger community of fellow media producers and distributors. But that becomes part of the goal of fully entering a participatory culture.

LG: You talked about digital natives, but what about people who did not grow up with technology, or who came to technology as adults: does the same theory hold?

HJ: I think those people who come to technology as adults are going to learn how to use technology when it is meaningful for them to do so, when it is embedded in a community practice that allows them to use the technology as a vehicle towards a set of meaningful goals. They're not going to learn how to use technology when they're asked to use technology in the abstract, and that's where I think the panic comes in, "I'm not very good at technology." And I have the same problem as most of the people I work with: If I presented a machine and said, "Learn how to use it," my first question is, "Why? What is it I want to use it to do?" And that's a totally legitimate question to ask. So for many of those people, it's that they haven't been exposed to something they meaningful want to do using this technology.

Once you're in that, you've found that community of interest. The community of interest has historically been a place that's helped people learn how to use the technologies in order to be participatory—it's a support system for people to learn how to use the technology, and includes people who are both advanced and newbie in their relationship to the technology. And it has systems built into it that allow you go from a starting point to a more advanced level.

LG: What about using simple devices in creative ways versus using complex devices? For instance, the infiltration of cell phones is global and it seems like the movement to have $100 laptops could just be subsumed by mobile devices, especially smart phones. Do you think that there can just be simple devices that can be used creatively for many purposes?

HJ: I definitely think what we're seeing around the world is that the mobile phone has allowed lots of cultures to jump over the computer and to be engaged with a lot of these practices without having to go through the so-called digital revolution. I think this country has been a little slower in adopting the mobile phone, but it's getting there. Certain populations in the United States, the African-American community being one that Craig Watkins tells us about, use the mobile phone very effectively to serve their cultural, social, and economic needs. The African-American community has historically been behind in adopting computer technology, but they're ahead in adopting mobile technology.

The question of whether it can be used to do everything the computer does I think is still an open question. I mean I think it does allow us to connect with each other in powerful ways; it's become more and more a production tool that we can use to take pictures, to record conversations—ike what we're doing right now—to transmit that information to other people. It allows us access to information pretty broadly. You know, my iPhone allows me to search the Web and take care of my email and tweet, and many of those functions but it doesn't have a robust system for programming. Therefore at the higher end of technical skills, if I want to build my own simulations or visualizations, it's not very good for participating in the virtual world. There are certain functions that we still are not at with the mobile phone. And whether we'll get there or not I think depends on whether the iPad supersedes the iPhone as the delivery device; and then does the iPad remain a high-end item, or does it go down in price as we go forward. Those are questions we still don't know the answers to.

LG: While I was waiting for you I tweeted that I was going to interview you. I was going to ask if anybody has any questions for you too. I'm sure I would have gotten some responses.

HJ: That's the sort of open-ended communication that I think is really interesting right now. Having an information device that's with us everywhere we go allows us to reach out to each other. Twitter, I think, would not have made as much sense in the absence of more mobile phone penetration, because it's a way of ongoing communication between people. The phone also in theory is really good location awareness, but I don't think we've used that as effectively as we might so far for teaching. I think there are some really interesting applications people have done, and sort of augmented reality games, for example, that could take advantage of mobile technologies very effectively, that get people to look at their physical environments in new ways to create levels of annotation on the physical world; you know, old documents, old photographs, video clips that are relevant to where we are at that moment. And I think that's probably the next step educationally. So Eric Klopfer and Kurt Squire are doing a lot of work building tool kits for teachers that would allow them to use mobile devices to build educational experiences that are designed to fit the specifics of the physical location. And often that leads to students developing them themselves, looking deeper into their neighborhood, interviewing long-time residents, digging in the City Hall history records for photographs of the neighborhood decades before, and figuring out what they want to communicate in that way, and constructing a class project that ties into the location awareness of mobile phones.

LG: That sounds like the kind of work Elliot Soloway would be doing.

HJ:: Elliott has definitely been a leader in that whole side of things.

LG: Another question for you is about virtual worlds. I've read a lot of what you have written about virtual worlds, and I'm a bit cynical because I used virtual worlds in the '90s for teaching. My favorite one was "Worlds Away." Virtual worlds died out, and now they came back. Or are we on the down curve? How do they fit into your notions of literacy?

HJ: Again, keep in mind that the devices and platforms are going to shift, and so what we're looking at are skills that carry over across devices and platforms. I think the virtual world movement has ebbed and flowed a lot over the time that it's been around. It tends to get oversold—teachers tend to be told it's all about the virtual world and not that it's all about collaboration and negotiation and simulation and some of the other things you can use virtual worlds to do. I don't think there's anything magic about virtual worlds, but virtual worlds can be used to bring people together across distances and have them feel coequally present, which I think is a very important experience. Some of that may be carried now by Skype or Illuminate or technologies for virtual conferencing, but I think that they do still have enough bugs in them that probably virtual worlds are a better interface for dealing with diverse populations over distance. Virtual worlds are really good for creating shared activities. When they're used well by groups like Global Kids, which uses them to have children identify a set of information they want to present to the world, and to think about how to model and design and construct a representation. That's really a powerful thing to do. Virtual worlds can be really useful for simulations. Nonny de la Peña at Annenberg has done some really interesting things for a virtual Guantanamo Bay—getting students to really understand what happened there, what the environment was like, why it's become the issue it's become by having a world that you can walk through and engage with in physical terms. Those are really powerful uses of virtual worlds. To have a class in Second Life just to have class in Second Life doesn't make sense to me, to have students sitting in their desks in one classroom typing and engaging in a virtual world, it is getting in the way of face-to-face interactions at that point. Unless it's got something that's an immersive simulation, I probably wouldn't bring it into the physical classroom, but I would use it in a classroom if I was trying to connect students from one place to another to engage in some sort of shared encounter with each other.

So it's not the revolutionary device that's going to change the world. It is one more possible way of using new media to teach. And like every other device we should question what is it good for, what does it allow us to do that we couldn't do in traditional face-to-face learning? And if the answer is nothing, then you shouldn't be using it. It takes too long to learn. The designing characters are clunky and difficult in most of these devices. It tends to be something students use for short periods of time and then drift away. And that's sort of part and parcel of where virtual worlds are. So unless what you want to do is more powerful than those hindrances, why try to fight and overcome them? It's going to mean a lot of time with little payoff. If what you want to do surpasses them, then it's probably the right set of choices to make.

LG: Have you seen the movie "Hot Tub Time Machine?" The boy, Jacob, seems to be obsessed with Second Life to the extent of shutting out the rest of the world. What do you think of that?

HJ: It's a classic media representation of new media technologies. We have to recognize that those old media are at war with new media for the attention of young people, like the character in that film. So the first thing one wants to look at any representation is what motivates it—you know, why are we having these set of representations? Why is our news media really prone to sensationalize the uses of technology—focus on addiction and sexting and cyber bullying—to the exclusion of any constructive relationship to that technology. So the first question is what motivates the representation.

The second is, is that representation accurate or not? And in this care certainly we have to concede that there are people who have retreated into Second Life and virtual worlds to the exclusion of other kinds of activities. We then would want to know why it is happening. What does Second Life mean to these people? Is it because Second Life is seductive and addictive? Is it because the real world has been harsh to these people and there are problems they're trying to avoid? Is it a symptom of depression? People who are depressed often don't want to go out into the physical world and don't have really strong goals for themselves, and such people may use technology. It doesn't mean the technology caused the depression; it may simply be the technology is a vehicle through which they began to engage with other people and work their way past it.

The character in the film is curious because he doesn't seem to be depressed. He does seem to be fully capable of functioning in the real world, once we get deeper into the narrative. He does have hobbies, like writing "Stargate" fan fiction that suggest he engages with online communities of interest quite often. Yet his use of the virtual world in that opening scene is not just limited to the virtual world, but his functions within it are very limited. He is playing a prisoner in a virtual world who has no freedom of movement and is isolated inside the virtual world. So it is a particular parody of the idea of technologies as isolating and as obsessive. But it doesn't seem that he is a dysfunctional individual, as the story goes along, so I'm not sure the representation in the film is even coherent as a way of understanding what role virtual worlds play in our lives. It's more of a throw-away gag, like so many others in that film, that plays on a stereotype we have about virtual worlds but doesn't necessarily reflect any deep thought about what role virtual worlds play in our actual lives.

LG: How does what you're talking about fit into the corporate training world where they latch on to technologies often in more limited ways than in higher education?

HJ: I think you're right: The corporate world does latch onto new technologies often in very limited ways, and it's in part the vision of what kind of employee they're trying to train. If you're training someone for an assembly line, then drill and practice is probably not a bad way to do it. I mean it's monotonous, it's routinized, it's non-creative, but it's a preparation for the job that you're going to be doing, and probably a good test at whether you're capable of doing that job or not. But most companies today I think want creative workers, workers who can work in teams that are more laterally constructed, where each person can step up and lead, where they can work within different parts of the corporation. And a drill and practice model is not adequate for preparing people to work in those ways. They're primarily not aimed to prepare people for jobs, but they probably do a better job of preparing people than the kind of narrowly constructed drill and practice kinds of uses of new technologies that many companies have engaged with. I heard recently about Cisco developing an alternate reality game that was played with their employees, it was much more open-ended, process driven, collaborative, and depended on notions of collective intelligence. And it was designed in part to build team morale, but it also would have been a very good system for fostering all the new media literacies that we've been promoting through our work with the schools.

LG: Let's say Mayor Menino [the mayor of Boston] gave you unlimited funding to start a charter school, or if the MacArthur Foundation did. What would you do?

HJ: Luckily it's a question I've not had to tackle yet. MacArthur has funded the Quest To Learn School in New York that Katie Salen has developed, and it's a pretty good model for what we would recommend—it's based on learning through design, learning through remixing, developed challenges and quests that you play out that require you to integrate knowledge together in constructive ways that's multidisciplinary in its structure, yet covers the stuff that are demanded by the standards. It has really reconfigured the boundaries between different classes in interesting ways. That's similar to what we did with the reading of participatory culture study guide we developed, where we were trying to resist an urge of standardized testing that forces us to teach the same thing to every student and then measure how well or badly they learned it, and move to a world where every student is expected to develop some expertise and take ownership over making sure the class learns enough to be intelligent about different aspects of knowledge. That's much more the way a Wikipedia model works or the way an alternate reality game model works, where people pool what they know, and each has acquired a set of knowledge they feel a sense of responsibility over.

When we taught Moby Dick, one way to do it would be to have students take ownership of particular characters and say that I'm going to be an expert on Starbuck, and you're going to be an expert on Ishmael, and you're going to be the expert on Ahab, and we're going to pay attention to where those characters crop up in the novel and identify what the key lines are and the key motivators for those characters. But you could also say I'm going to pay attention to the foods of the 19th century, and you're going to pay attention to the Bible references, and you're going to pay attention to race, and you're going to pay attention to the riggings of the ship. Whenever those things crop up, we're going to sort of figure out what's going on there and why it's significant and share it with the class. The result is not that everyone can answer the same question on the exam, but that each student comes away having a deeper sense of mastery and a sense of authority over a chunk of Melville's text, and knowing that there's a lot more to read in the future and to get more out of the next time they encounter it. So that's a way of rethinking how schools approach things.

It's also about not just breaking down the boundaries between disciplines, but also breaking down the boundaries between the real world and school. So the first thing I would do is make sure that the students have access to all of those technologies our current educational institutions are blocking—make sure that YouTube is available, make sure Wikipedia is available, make sure FaceBook is available and LiveJournal—so that students can engage in creative and productive ways t and teachers can help them learn how to use those technologies creatively, responsibly, safely in the course of their everyday lives.

LG: I've read that when children have access to buffets, and can select anything they wanted, that even if they start off eating junk food, eventually they gravitate towards broccoli and healthy choices. Do you think that if you give kids devices, even if they start off by playing games for fun, they gravitate toward learning opportunities? Or do they need scaffolding?

HJ: I think you need scaffolding. It's an interesting question. If you follow deeply any interest, it connects you with many other interests. Mary Louise Pratt has a great essay about her kid's baseball card collecting, in which he described starting to learn about baseball first taught him to deal with math because he calculated batting scores; taught him to deal with geography so he could learn where the cities were that the major teams were playing with; taught him a framework for understanding history as he went back and forward in tim, and discovered what was going on when Babe Ruth was on his run; taught him to think about architecture as he looked at different stadiums and different environments and tried to figure out why Seattle has a different kind of covering on the stadium than Los Angeles might have. And all of that paved the way for deeper and deeper learning, much of which schools would recognize in value. Those all flow logically out of the students' interest.

Whether the student would find the resources they need to pursue those lines by themselves without adult involvement is another matter, right. The fact that he's Mary Louise Pratt's son makes a difference&mdashthe fact that there's someone there who is coaching them, making resources available, supporting their interest as they begin to learn. That's very different from saying, "Here, you graze at the table, and eat whatever you want," and sooner or later you're going to gravitate to the good stuff. It's much more, "Let's follow your interest, let's allow you to develop your expertise. But I'm going to make sure you know about what's out there that connects what you know and care about to other kinds of learning." And that makes the teacher or the coach a mentor; the teacher or the librarian a mentor or a coach, an information facilitator, someone who creates opportunities. You know, their expertise still matters in that scenario. It's not that the kid should be a "feral child of the wolves," it's that the teacher can help them navigate a complex world and develop systems that allow them to go from what they already know and are interested in to other things they may be interested in they don't yet know about.

LG: In the movie "Big",Tom Hanks' character teaches math through baseball to a kid at a dinner party.

HJ: Rich Halverson has done some great work on fantasy baseball leagues and the ways that they can be incorporated into math classes to get kids engaged in numbers who might not otherwise be interested in numbers. You know, there are lots of models out there that follow exact the route the Mary Louise Pratt is talking about with the baseball card collector.

LG: How do you see online education fitting into this? And do you see it segueing in these directions much the same ways as the traditional school segues in these directions? Or do you see it as a different animal entirely?

HJ: In many uses of online education are a way of saving money by reducing the number of teachers who are engaging with students. So you have one centralized authority that spreads information to multiple locations. I'm not very interested in that, and I'm very discouraged by that because it does take away the individual coaching or the localized coaching that we've been describing.

Thinking of distance learning as a way of connecting locations and varying expertise is far more interesting to me. The New Bedford Museum of Whaling had done a project linking kids to schools together along the routes that Pequod traveled in Moby Dick. So people in New Zealand connect with people in New Bedford, who are part of the whaling villages of New England, and with people at various points along the way; learning what the current culture there is like and what role whaling plays now as compared to then. They talked about having Inuit students who had to stop the class early because it was time for them to hunt whales, and that was a literal part of their culture as opposed to some of the other groups for whom it was a set of tourist attractions that they passed on the way to school. That sense of connecting is really powerful in terms of distance learning. It's just not the way we normally think of what distance learning could be.

But insofar as the ability to deal with diversity is part of the new media literacies. Classes that prepare kids for the future by connecting them with kids radically different from themselves, and helping them build social relations and learning to negotiate cultural differences, seems like a really powerful thing to do. And that would be a form of distance learning. It just doesn't look as cynical as the forms that we mostly hear about.

LG: Where do you see health literacy fitting into media literacies?

HJ:: I've been dealing with some of the health journalism folks at Annenberg since I've moved to USC, and they have an expanded notion of what health literacy is. It involved not only an understanding of your body, your diet, or the healthcare system, but larger social issues like poverty and environmental factors that impact the way people live. That means health literacy becomes a part of a lot of the disciplines we teach in school, if we do it in that more expanded way. To be honest, beyond this I haven't thought that deeply about it. We've not had an occasion to really try to systematically apply new media literacies to help literacy. But certainly we've seen some interesting simulations that get you inside your body and thinking about the defense system, the immunity system of the body for example, which have been used in really powerful ways, particularly kids at risk or people who have serious health issues that they're trying to work through. With the Education Arcade years ago, we experimented with an idea of a game where you design viruses and try to infect the human host. It was sort of a first person infector, and the idea was that by trying to infect the body, you learned the defense systems of the body and what it needed to do to protect itself. But it was kind of a reverse psychology, that instead of focusing on your body, you're focusing on trying to find points of vulnerability. And those kinds of models I think would be rather really interesting.

I think it's a great space for collective intelligence. There have been projects looking at what's in the grocery stores in different neighborhoods of the city, and taking inventories and comparing them to health data that shows certain areas are much more prone to diabetes than other areas, for example, and that it's tied to what dishes are readily available for kids to eat. If you live in an environment where the only thing to eat is good junk food, you're going to be prone to develop serious health problems as you grow older than one that you have access to natural, locally grown, organic vegetables and fruits and so forth. So that would be another model of a project that took advantage of the new media literacies that contributed to health education.

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