Making Sense of Authors and Texts in a Remixed, Participatory Culture

Making Sense of Authors and Texts in a Remixed, Participatory Culture

Crystal L. Beach (The University of Georgia, USA & Buford High School, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2101-3.ch017
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Abstract

Mikhail Bakhtin's and Jacques Rancière's theories can help educators understand students' texts in today's remixed, participatory culture. Specifically, this chapter will focus on two key terms: Bakhtin's heteroglossia and Rancière's emancipated spectator. First, the aforementioned terms will be defined in relation to the authors' ideas and applied to literacy education. Then, these ideas will be connected to how authors and texts are shaped by remixing within a participatory culture. Next, Bakhtin's and Rancière's works will be discussed to understand how they speak to each other concerning remixing in a participatory culture, pulling from examples from the research literature. Finally, it will be important to consider the implications of their work for literacy educators and researchers.
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Introduction

My classroom is built on one main idea: helping my students become critical readers, writers, and thinkers of the world around them. My students are now reading and writing in a world that is constantly changing. In fact, they are reading and writing in a world that is changing so quickly that even we, as literacy educators and researchers, have a hard time keeping up with at times due to the many new ways of reading and writing within a participatory culture.

If one reads any news headline, or scans social media feeds, one can see how adolescents’ reading and writing practices are being shaped by various influences. From tweeting YOLO during a test (The Huffington Post, 2013) to posting images to Instagram without thinking about what those messages might say about the poster and the viewers (Becker, 2013), to jumping into cultural issues such as bans on Instagram hashtags (Daer, Hoffman, & Goodman, 2014; Whelan, 2015), students are producing texts in ways that they are not always considering as acts of consumption, production, and dissemination of texts. Also, they are not always thinking about the ways in which their names may be connected to those texts forever, just like the Shakespearean plays we read in my classroom.

Yet, my students keep adapting and reading and writing, a lot, actually, and end up creating vibrant, multimodal, remixed texts every single day. Surprisingly, though, my students do not always see themselves as authors of texts. “That’s not real writing!” they say as they constantly joke with me. For this reason, I started thinking about what exactly a text and an author mean in today’s remixed, participatory culture.

According to Alvermann and Beach’s (ongoing) research study, Becoming 3lectric, a remix can be defined as taking a variety of content, in any form, and “co-creating” a text. In other words, a remix is not just new, repeated content; it is the use of one’s language to create a new meaning to a text (Jocson, 2013, p. 71). In other words, a “remix means to take cultural artifacts and combine and manipulate them into new kinds of creative blends” (Knobel & Laknshear, 2008, p. 22).

In regards to participatory culture, Jenkins (2006) defines it as:

A culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created). (p. 3)

By using this definition, one immediately can begin to make connections between remixing and language use because members are co-creating texts in which (new) meanings, or contributions, matter. Furthermore, today one can see how the meaning of a text is consumed, (re)produced, and disseminated rapidly specifically due to the virtual economies (Alvermann, Beach, & Boggs, 2015) afforded to us by digital media in a participatory culture.

In order to analyze authors and texts in today’s remixed, participatory culture, I will be using Mikhail Bakhtin’s and Jacques Rancière’s theories. Specifically, I will be focusing on two key terms: Bakhtin’s heteroglossia and Rancière’s emancipated spectator. First, I will define the aforementioned terms in relation to the authors’ ideas and apply them to literacy. Then, I will tie these ideas to how authors and texts are shaped by remixing within a participatory culture. Next, I will discuss how Bakhtin’s and Rancière’s works speak to each other concerning remixing in a participatory culture, pulling from examples from the research literature and discussing the reality of the participation gap. Finally, it will be important to consider the implications of their work for literacy educators and researchers.

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