Call for Proposals

Image: Courtesy of Institute of Play


In the twenty-first century a profound shift is underway. Digital media are central in almost every aspect of daily life, most notably in how we learn, communicate, reflect, (co-) produce, consume, create identities, share knowledge, and understand political issues. Corresponding with this increasing accessibility of digital and networked tools, we see new forms of public and private collectives which serve as seedbeds for user-driven innovation, the prevalence of many-to-many distribution models and the large-scale online aggregation of information and culture. This increased access to information, knowledge, and platforms has prompted new learning ecologies that possess the potential to support the kinds of situated, learner-driven, socially inflected, participatory learning opportunities we know are possible today.

Alongside transforming how we create, access, and use knowledge, these changes raise a series of socio-technical concerns regarding the tools, technologies, and policies that underpin digital media practices and their related learning opportunities. These issues operate on both macro and micro levels. They range from processes and protocols shaping the flow and tracking of data in social network sites like Facebook or MySpace to reward and reputation systems in multiplayer online games, collaborative DIY communities like or deviantART, as well as to emergent problematic practices like sexting and cyberbullying. These are, in short, concerns that give shape to both formal and informal learning ecologies and learning experiences. Developing an understanding of the impact of digital media experiences on learning, civic engagement, and professional and ethical development requires that we consider the implications of the design frameworks, institutional configurations, social practices, and research methodologies at play in our connected world.

As Bruno Latour notes, “New innovation will be absolutely necessary if we are to adequately represent the conflicting natures of all the things that are to be designed.” Understanding the role of innovation in light of past and present digital media practices is thus central to imagining and designing learning futures. To this end, the conference will focus upon themes of understanding the types of processes, methods, collaborations, and institutional models required for innovation. We are also concerned with gaining insight into the roles contradicting stakeholders (disciplines, institutions, economies, etc.) may play. This includes designers of social network sites, games, or mobile applications and learning environments such as afterschool programs, schools and other sites of learning. It also includes social scientists studying youth engagement in interest or friendship-driven communities, those involved in developing profiles of participants in intergenerational learning environments, practitioners looking to help integrate technology into learning environments, researchers studying the intersection of learning and socio-technical practices, and policy makers seeking to shape the future of connected learning, to name but a few possible participant profiles.

From these diverse perspectives, we seek to address the following questions:

  1. What are the central concerns shaping learning within peer-based, participatory, open ecologies? What are the new collectives (including hybrid public institutional models) that are emerging in today’s open learning ecologies? How is learning happening in user-innovation communities? How does remix, mentorship, sharing, and exchange occur? How do issues such as cyberbullying, problematic content, and privacy shape participation in these ecologies? How is diversity shaping learning constituencies? What forms of identities become possible? What are the relationships between different stakeholders, such as learner-centered partnerships and collaborations between teachers, administrators, students, institutions, policy makers, researchers, and designers? What are the design-driven pedagogies and learning models we should explore? What is the role of embedded assessment in understanding learning? How do we understand flow and engagement?
  2. What is the knowledge base required of designers, researchers, and practitioners working on peer-based, participatory, open learning ecologies today? What is missing? What new forms of knowledge need to be developed? What existing frameworks need to be rethought?
  3. What core socio-technical practices are shaping (or have the potential to shape) the future of learning? What practices may be impeding innovation or getting in the way of learning? How can and should knowledge about practices shape policy, design, and implementation of innovations?

We seek to support collective inquiry into the infrastructures and practices key to digital media and learning, whether research practices, learning protocols, assessment schemes, game design, or the creation of participatory undertakings. This conversation welcomes those engaged in developing a critical understanding of the design and broader socio-technical concerns shaping learning futures, as well as in other well articulated issues key to comprehending the impact and possibilities of digital media for learning. All participants are encouraged to reflect on the implications of their work for social practice—to consider the impact of their own practice or research findings on how things are currently done or could be done differently.