Designs of Meaning: Redesigning Perceptions of School and Self Using Tactics of Resistance

Designs of Meaning: Redesigning Perceptions of School and Self Using Tactics of Resistance

Donna Mahar (State University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-842-0.ch002
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This chapter focuses on Colleen, one of 22 youths who took part in a two year qualitative study designed to explore young adolescents’ use of information communication technology (ICT) and popular media texts to make sense of themselves and their world. The rationale for the study stemmed from limited research concerning the overlaps and schisms between adolescents’ use of ICT and popular media texts in their everyday lives (home, community, peer group) and how adolescents’ engagement with ICT and popular media texts affects established social institutions. The New London Group’s (1996) conception of multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000) and an activity theory-influenced framework (Beach, 2000; Cole, 1996; Engestrom & Miettinen, 1999) were used to guide the study. Colleen’s use of ICT and popular media texts, both in and outside of school, illustrates the non-linear, non-hierarchical complexity of the pedagogy of multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000).
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Subj: Something That Might Interest You

Date: 6/10/2003 10:17:20 PM Eastern Daylight Time


To: Author

My god! It’s almost the end of the year! my last day of class is tomorrow and then i just have to finish finals. Blah. Well, I’ll get to the point. Lately,I’ve been watching this really great cult 60’s show called The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. the plot goes something like this: a man resigns his position from a top-secret British intelligence agency and is immediately kidnapped and taken away to a strange “village” which is totally isolated from the rest of the world. the people here are taken to either protect or to extract the information in their heads. They have no names-just a number. The man I speak of is number six. in this place, cameras are everywhere-nothing goes unnoticed and no one has yet escaped. Conformity is the key in this community-but the prisoner doesn’t want to crack or conform- he just wants to escape. so in every episode, a new tactic is used to try and break number six’s will-and fails. The perimeter is guarded by this killer weather balloon thing called “rover” It’s job is to knock out and retrieve or kill the escapees-but since number six is so valuable to the people of the village, his encounters with the rove are merely a “nasty experience”, as they are called there. i though you might be interested because the principles of the village reminded me of life in middle school-keep the students happy, but don’t give them any real freedom. Squash out their individuality like a bug and if they try and be different or stand up- god forbid! So-in sort of a conclusion, i give you number six’s statement to number two in the arrival episode:

“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! My life is my own!”


(I’m hopelessly addicted to that show now:)


Colleen dePointe du Lac, the Anti-Britney, aka rocket queen

high priestess of ozz, disposable teen, Taltos, sister of Ashlar, mistress of axl rose & professional builder of mechanical animals hail to the almighty ozz god! (They call me Mr. Tinkertrain, so come along and play my game, you will never be the same!)“you know where you are? you’re in the jungle baby! you’re gonna die….

From September 2001 to June of 2003, 22 suburban adolescents ranging in age from 12 to 15 shared with me how they interpreted aspects of their world, as well as how they worked to resist and change aspects of established social systems they encountered. Due to their age and the various positions they held within these social systems, many of the changes and challenges they initiated were of a covert nature. The preceding email was composed by Colleen. This chapter highlights Colleen’s use of information communication technology and popular media texts to define herself and her place in the world.

For Colleen and her peers, interpreting the multiplicity of messages surrounding them resulted in what at times appeared to be disorganized rips in an existing social order. These adolescents are different than the youths of the 1960’s and 1970’s who directly confronted political and social hierarchies with the intent to change them. This early 21st century cohort of suburban teens caused disruptions in social systems by the very nature of who they are and the world they live in. Rather than being intent on “raging against the machine,” Colleen and her peers were willing to work within existing social systems in order to achieve their personal goals. “Disorganized rips” refers to the individual challenges and changes that occurred within existing social systems as these adolescents designed ways of reading both their world, as well as establishing their role within it. These rips became identity markers noting changes in how these adolescents interpreted their world as well as the often-unintended changes they brought to the world they lived in and the texts that supported it.

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