To jump on the bandwagon is a phrase that is used to describe movements or situations that individuals participate in due to its popularity. Similarly, in Michael Wesch’s video, participatory culture is described as redoing or remixing certain trends portrayed in the media – which is essentially the same thing. Furthermore, Wesch states that participant observation is when individuals actually participate and take action, rather than simply observing. The examples Wesch provides include the famous “Charlie bit my finger” video, as well as the Soulja Boy song and dance. I vividly remember dancing the Soulja Boy with my cousins when I was in the sixth grade, however, I did not find out, until now, that it was user-generated content that was discovered through the internet. I believe that this demonstrates the impact that the internet and participatory culture has on media and society. To this day, participatory culture continues and is demonstrated on every single social media platform. With that, as future educators, it is important that we are aware of these trends and understand how they can influence our students and society.
Examples of Participatory Culture
Over the last decade, several trends arose from participatory culture. We have seen individuals from across the globe doing crazy dances such as the Harlem shake or Gangnam Style, as well as individuals yodelling in stores because of Mason Ramsay (better known as “the Walmart yodelling kid”, who now has his own extended play record and tour). In addition, there have also been challenges created due to participatory culture. Some of these challenges were virtually harmless, such as the planking challenge of 2011 (as pictured to the right) or the spicy noodle challenge. Whereas some were a little more risky and dangerous, such as the cinnamon challenge, the Kylie Jenner Lip challenge, and the Tide Pod challenge. While some of these challenges or trends were all for fun and games, there were some that served a meaningful purpose, such as the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) ice bucket challenge. As previously stated, to this day, similar trends still exist. As we discussed in class, the majority of these trends can be found on the social media platform called TikTok and include things such as dances or various challenges. A specific example we explored in class was the TikTok dance to the song The Git Up which, similar to the Soulja Boy dance, blew up and became part of a music video all because of participatory culture.
Participatory Culture in the Classroom
For my pre-internship, I was placed in a grade 3/4 split class. During my time with these 8/9/10 year olds, I would be asked almost daily if I knew how to do the “woah” or the “Renegade”, if I had a TikTok, or if I was a VSCO girl (as well as how many scrunchies/hydroflasks I owned). These students would also be seen dancing TikTok dances without music (as we also discussed in class). This demonstrates that participatory culture affects not only teenagers, but also younger children and youth. As demonstrated above, there is a wide variety of trends that can be considered part of participatory culture that can directly influence children and youth. With that, as educators, I believe that knowing and understanding these trends opens up a window in understanding our students, discovering their interests, and using this knowledge to plan our lessons in order to make them more relatable and engaging. In addition, not only can we utilize these trends to connect and relate to our students, but we can also use them as a way to teach our students about the dangers or negative influences that some of these trends may have.
Our New Digital Reality – Putting the MEDIA in MEDIATE
I believe that because our networked, participatory, and digital world is constantly evolving, the way they influence schooling is also changing. Wesch makes the following statement:
“I don’t think of [media] as content and I don’t even think of it as tools of communication. I think of media as mediating human relationships and that’s important because when media changes, then human relationships change and that’s where the anthropology of this comes in. And that’s why I wanted to suggest that we’re gonna have to rethink all of these things, including ourselves.”
I believe that this suggests that media directly influences our daily lives and the relationships we build. As we enter a time in history where the digital world plays a significant role and the world is becoming technologically saturated, the way in which we create and build relationships will be different. Since there is a possibility that I will be doing my internship virtually this fall, I wonder how building relationships with my students will be like. Although it will be different from being in a physical classroom, I believe that relationships can still be established. For example, in this class, the majority of us have never met in person; however, I feel as though we are building strong and authentic connections and relationships with one another. Overtime, we have seen how much technology and media has evolved and I agree with Wesch that media is being used to mediate relationships. For example, seeing what others are up to or keeping up with others now does not require both sides being on social media at the same time – it has become asynchronous. Wesch provides the example of vlogging through a webcam and in our EDTC 300 class, we use the examples of tweeting and blogging. Although Wesch’s speech was posted in 2008, there are still a lot of YouTubers today who have established their audience and fan-base just by daily or weekly vlogging and through these videos have created relationships with these groups of people. This demonstrates that we do not need to be on media at the same time to communicate or to build or maintain these relationships, as media mediates it for us. I believe that in our current situation of covid-19, this is important because we rarely see our friends and family face-to-face, yet the media makes it feel like we do.