Reflections on Culture of Online Participation (and Memes)

How do I feel about memes in general?

I feel as though the craze will never die out because people will always come up with new, different, and funny ideas. It really relies on the “bandwagon” principle… If you don’t see the meme at its inception (or know the pop culture reference it is born from) you are lost, confused, out of the loop, etc. until someone initiates you, or you take initiative to do some research. I remember seeing “Two trailer park girls say Cash me ousside” and I knew the original reference (Eminem hit) but I had no idea why this girl was saying Cash me ousside. I originally actually thought she had a speech problem/disability and that the Internet was exploiting it and I was upset by this. Then, I found out it was from a Dr. Phil episode, and realized it is just as bad – this girl needs help. She doesn’t need to be propelled into fame only by being made fun of. I often think about the people – the real people in real positions – who get forever frozen into a meme – and I wonder who is handling it well and who isn’t.

What does the new culture of participation mean for my future classroom? For schools in general?

The first thing Alec talked about was how he taught a class that had people from 75 countries attending. You just can’t get that kind of diversity in a face-to-face class (although we are seeing more diversity in terms of international students and immigrants to Canada). This made me think of how, even from a young age, we need to be teaching children about how globalized our world is. It is great to know about our close surroundings, and what is made locally, etc. – but the reality is that the world, even though it is a big place, has gotten smaller and closer together because of social media. The sooner students learn how to interact with people from different countries (how to be polite, respect diversity, etc.) and the sooner they learn just how far away things that they use come from (think about all of the different countries that computer parts have seen before the computer gets to your desk!), the better. What better way than to be authentic, and get kids involved in social media? I think that, to do right by our kids and prepare them for the technological future that is coming, we need to introduce them to these environments and also give them the tools to be safe, kind, critical, and productive (contributing/creating/sharing) online. So in my class, instead of just having a class website that is teacher-led, or showing students an article or two online, I am realizing I should get them actively involved in having accounts and having a presence online. If our education is going in the direction of student-led, then online learning should be no different.

Alex further stressed the idea of sharing, creating, and participating online. I reflected on that because 99% of the time I am a silent lurker online. I rarely like posts, and if I see something controversial, I have been known to type up huge novels of my thoughts on something, only to delete it because of fear of being judged, argued with, etc. I absolutely hate online drama because I know how easily I have been sucked into it in the past. Other times I have (I will say it) the bravery to go ahead and hit “Reply”, and I usually feel better for it, because I like sharing my views with others to give those who maybe had never thought of it from that POV before a brand new perspective. I know Katia said that lurking is still an online presence, but it really does make sense to me to make sure my students are doing something too, so they realize the power that the online community can hold (they realize they can get likes, can get disagreements, and can share their learning with the world) – the next step, then, is to make sure that that power doesn’t corrupt (teaching online rules of etiquette).

As an aside, I thought it was interesting how upset I got when I realized the Anthropological Intro to Youtube was on (surprise!) Youtube. It makes sense that this resource would be on Youtube for an authentic experience. I was rocking out to some music and really just wanted to read. I love videos, but I also like multitasking, I have discovered – and reading allows me to do that. I can read and write and sing, whereas paying attention to video means I have to drop what I am doing and absorb. I think I need to practise this more. Also, while I am at it, another pet peeve of mine from Youtube: I cannot have music playing in the background. I can’t text or Google when my Youtube app is playing on my phone, because it will pause the video! Is there a way to change this?!

When Alex mentioned the idea of too much technology (ie a toilet with a built in iPad) it really resonated with me. When I introduce technology to students, it should be with purpose – something they will be achieving, or something to better themselves – not purely for entertainment. They likely get enough of that at home, and the idea of our future generation as mindless zombies (as some of my generation already are) terrifies me! Of course online classwork should be exciting, but should also have an educational purpose behind it.

Watching the Wesch video…

When he mentioned Youtube channels versus Networks and how no producers were needed (because any “Joe blow” can contribute) the first thing I did was mourn the loss of paid jobs and professionalism in the media industry. However then I remembered hearing that popular Youtubers do actually get paid. However, I just wonder how the dollars add up differently.

I love when he mentions how various Youtubers are “venerating” the original, or are paying homage to it. At first I really thought that online communication tore us further apart, but this video made me think how online communication ccan actually bring us together – make friends, and find happiness (maybe even by imitating a Numa Numa video). As of 2008, 15% of videos were remixes or homages. Wow!! I think it is important to stress to students that if they are making a video based on something else, it isn’t stealing or not being creative – it is being inspired (as long as you mention the original you got inspiration from!) Most of the time, when I see re-mixes, they don’t just add one new element (new actors for example) but put a few new spins on it and turn it into something really unique.

I laughed along with the audience when he said “if your work reaches more than 200 people it’s a big deal”. I am shocked at how I already have 80 followers on Twitter – friends whose faces I have never seen! This made me think of how some classrooms do those Share things on Facebook, where there is a sign that says something like “Share this so our class can see how big the online community is” and I think that would be a great experiment to do with kids. We could even get bets going on how many likes/views/shares we would get by a certain time! We could even send out a class tweet and brainstorm hashtags to try to lure in as many people as possible to Retweet!

I also thought it was great how, in the comments, he mentioned how he asked for student participation in building this video for the presentation, instead of a Powerpoint. Powerpoints have long been thought of as the “exciting, interactive” alternative to basic oral presentations, but even they seem to be getting basic and old now – and there are so many ways to make presentations even more interactive and fun (ie. Prezi).

Culture of Participation and Cyberbullying:

I also believe that this culture of participation ties into cyberbullying and addressing that issue with students. I feel discussions about bystanders, victims and bullies are as important as ever now to have with our kids and students. It may be a different platform but bullying can still happen and be just as hurtful. As Katia talked about in class, online and real life blend together – online is just as close to our identities, our self-esteem, our realities – as real-world interactions are. In regards to online abuse, bystanders are everywhere, and have the same options real-world bystanders have: Get the victim help, stand up to the bully, or remain silent (and be ACTIVE in letting the bullying continue).

To stray from the post, one thing that I especially think is important, is explaining to kids that they CAN change their behavior. They are not fit into a mold that will be their legacy forever. I think that if students get labelled as bullies, or “bad”, they may deflect from it and feel stigmatized and only act out worse. Consider Trump supporters, being called racists – it may be true, but is it the best approach to getting them to change their mind and actually end their racism? It feeds their fire, and they get their backs up against the wall and get defensive and close off from listening to reasoning. Instead, I think it is important to frame it to bullies as bad decisions – that “what you are doing is bullying behavior, it is hurtful and needs to stop – there needs to be restitution” and especially focus on how a victim would feel in that situation, to encourage empathy. Anyone have thoughts on this?

Also, here are a few possible explanations of where the potato meme could have originated from, in case you were curious. Here is another one (which a poster from the previous link shared). It seems to me like the culture of mythology is being revived by online participators (where we don’t know exactly where it happened and how it happened and if it happened) fun fun!


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