media effects research: media and youth literacy

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So I’m co-authoring a literature review with one of my professors that will analyze the state of media ecology literature that details the effects of digital media and technology. I’m waiting to solidify my abstract after completing  my initial research, but I thought this would be an excellent forum for expounding my ideas. I’ll begin the title of every relevant post with “Media Effects Research” and group them in a category.

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The first article I read is titled Media, Information Communication Technologies, and Youth Literacies, and though the author largely reviews the impact of new media on classroom settings, she also makes some interesting clarifications and poses a few questions I’d like to research further someday (though not in the aforementioned paper I’m constructing). Also note that the article was written in 2004, so I think some of the author’s postulations are slightly less relevant.

On page 79, Alvermann defines the term hypermedia as referring to “the links available to readers as they move between computer windows and a mix of media texts, such as sounds, images, words, movies and the like” and references literacy expert Jay Bolter’s thought that this new environment is challenging “the notion that any single text represents an author’s complete, separate, or unique expression” (p 79). On first read, this sentence’s phrasing confused me as I would imagine a given text would most likely represent an author’s complete analysis; however, I think what Alvermann is trying to say is that a given text doesn’t (and likely can’t) represent all knowledge on the subject matter, hence the desire to link other resources for a theoretically complete and thorough explanation. Though I agree that it’s virtually impossible for one author to explain all of the angles on a subject matter, I think we are overlooking a few important follow-up questions:

  1. Why is it so important to converge all relevant sources and have all of the knowledge on a given topic at our nimble fingertips? (Obviously, we think the more informed we are the better, but why do we believe that to be true?)
  2. What ramifications result from this convergence? Does it hinder our ability to process information? Does it lead to clarification, or confusion? (I have read other resources that document findings relating to these questions, like The Winter of Our Disconnect and The Shallows)(<– ironic that I’m adding to my point with in-text citations!)

The article goes on to point out the importance of using or at least analyzing media use in youth to glean possible applications for learning environments. The author poses two groups of questions that teachers could pose to students, which I would like to incorporate into future studies of my own:

  • “Are hypertext readings privileged in ways that traditional (linear) readings are not? For example, do hypertexts allow readers to make multiple interpretations of what they read with greater ease than do traditional texts? If so, what might be the consequences of this privileging? What kind of reader would stand to benefit? Who might fail to benefit?
  • How does hypertext create opportunities for readers to manipulate information in ways that are unavailable to them in print-based media? What are the trade-offs in working within such an environment?” (p 81)

That basically summarizes my takeaways from this article. It was brief, but certainly inspired additional questions. Alvermann ends with a statement about the existence of “promising evidence of the effectiveness of literacy instruction” that integrates different media, so I’m interested in looking into her cited sources and discovering said evidence and determining whether or not it is still applicable.

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