An Inquiry into Young Children's Multimodal Media Practices

An Inquiry into Young Children's Multimodal Media Practices

An Chih Cheng (DePaul University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0137-6.ch009
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This chapter explores young children’s interactive and authoring experience with digital media, such as smartphones, digital cameras, and touch-screen computers, in an informal learning environment. A visual ethnographic approach was undertaken in order to understand the social and multi-dimensional nature of media experience. The results indicate that children acquire digital media literacy at a very young age; that children’s competency in digital media can be considered as a valuable form of cultural capital; and that children’s digital media practices reflect their personal and family histories as well as broader social ideology.
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Theoretical Background

The term media often refers to a wide variety of information, communication channels, and technologies, and their content. The term technology literacy commonly refers to a skill or competency in the use of digital media, for example, using a word processor or looking up information on the Internet (Lankshear, Snyder, & Green, 2000; Wonacott, 2001). Recently, in the fields of media study and literacy study, researchers see the use of and engagement with digital media as part of broader multimodal literacy practices that include all kinds of communicative modes and functional purposes such as visual, aural, verbal, tactical; physical, digital, virtual; social, cultural, political, etc. (Barton, 2001; Bomer, Zoch, David, & Ok, 2010; Hobbs, 2006; Kellner, 1995). This social conception considers digital media as part of varieties of semiotic resources, and the interpretation of which is essentially social and context-dependent (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 1999). Such a pluralistic perspective of media literacy practices rejects the traditional view of technological determinism, which asserts that technology determines cultural practices and social structures and that technology literacy can be taught in schools as a context independent cognitive skill (Murphie & Potts, 2003; Snyder & Beavis, 2004). Instead, it considers media literacy as a social practice that recognizes different forms of practices within contexts and takes into account the interrelationships among individuals, media, and social structures. It acknowledges an individual’s own agency as he or she uses and interacts with digital media for his or her own meaning-making purposes. The goal is to provide a framework to elucidate how media practices, usually practices of those in a dominant social position, are utilized, legitimized, and privileged within a particular social power structure in order to help those in disadvantaged, marginalized positions (Boler, 2008; Freire & Macedo, 1987; Kellner, 1995).

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