New Media Literacies and Participatory Popular Culture Across Borders

The edited collection Amy Zenger and I have been working on, New Media Literacies and Participatory Popular Culture Across Borders, has been accepted for publication by Routledge Press.  The book will include contributors from South Africa, Nepal, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey, Australia, and the U.S.  We’ve got some great and eclectic chapters and are excited about this project (and grateful for Routledge for agreeing to publish it).

The book has two central areas of focus. First, the book explores the ways in which new media and online technologies are shaped by, and influence, the connections and tensions between transnational popular culture and local cultural practices. Participatory popular culture raises new questions about the interplay between the mass popular culture and local audience members. This collection will explore the role of new media in the economic and cultural debates about “globalization” and how those are complicated by the local uses of popular culture texts. Technologies that allow an individual to not only access popular culture texts from around the world in an instant, but also share, comment on, appropriate, and remix those same texts alter the way the way the individual perceives popular culture, and alter his or her sense of agency in regard to the texts. New media technologies have changed the relationship between mass popular culture text and individual users, and they engage individuals in new ways of negotiating language and culture.

Those negotiations of language and culture define the second focus of the collection: the influence of participatory popular culture on the literacy practices of young people. Through cross-cultural participatory popular culture, young people are engaging with and responding to global audiences in ways and to an extent simply not available to previous generations. Though we should, of course, be wary of being naively celebratory in our approach to studying these practices, there is no denying that many young people are in contact with texts and people around the world through the lenses of popular culture: Popular culture provides the rhetorical, linguistic, and semiotic building blocks through which they engage in cross-cultural discourse. They encounter these texts on a global stage, deal with issues of difference and unfamiliarity, and then rebuild them in local contexts. While their practices and ideas are certainly shaped by the popular culture content that corporations produce and distribute around the world, it is also the case that young people are appropriating and reusing these same texts to perform identities and make meaning in their own lives.

The chapters in this book, then, analyze how young people are interpreting, creating, and distributing popular culture texts across cultures, and study how young people are thinking about the role of culture in defining the nature of texts, the negotiations of language use, the employment of rhetoric, and the construction and performance of identity.  The individual chapters offer many different perspectives about local responses to these global forces from scholars working in a wide range of international contexts.  How do young people access transnational texts online, but then respond and rework them according to their local contexts and concerns about identity? How do these online practices influence their approaches to reading and writing, both with print as well as with images, sound, and video?

It’s a very different world we live in now, and exciting to be around.

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