Digital Media and Learning Conference 2010

Earlier this year, we issued a call for proposals for panels and presentations for the first Digital Media and Learning Conference, an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Hub at University of California, Irvine.  I was honored to be asked to be this year’s conference chair. Our initial theme is “Diversifying Participation.” Here’s some of the language we used in formulating that theme: “A growing body of research has identified how young people’s digital media use is tied to basic social and cultural competencies needed for full participation in contemporary society. We continue to develop an understanding of the impact of these experiences on learning, civic engagement, professional development, and ethical comprehension of the digital world. Yet research has also suggested that young people’s forms of participation with new media are incredibly diverse, and that risks, opportunities, and competencies are spread unevenly across the social and cultural landscape. Young people have differential access to online experiences, practices, and tools and this has a consequence in their developing sense of their own identities and their place in the world. In some cases, different forms of participation and access correspond with familiar cultural and social divides. In other cases, however, new media have introduced novel and unexpected kinds of social differences, subcultures, and identities.”

We wanted the conference to push those who have been part of MacArthur’s DML initiative in the past to dig deeper and reflect on the impact of these differential opportunities for participation on their ongoing research; we hoped that this call would identify new projects which work with communities that are still under-served or under-studied. As we finalized plans for the event, we are pleased to see that both goals have been met and surpassed.

We were thrilled by the responses we’ve received about the conference, even if we were a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of panel proposals, which  quickly swamped the available space at our conference venue. The screening committee has had to make some hard decisions, turning away some outstanding proposals, merging some other groups, tightening the presentation time, trying to accommodate as diverse a group of participants as possible. The panels selected reflect a broad range of different new media practices and platforms, often bringing together groups that have pursued separate agendas and trajectories, to share notes and pool best practices.  These panels, accompanied by keynote addresses by S. Craig Watkins and Sonia Livingstone, add up to what we hope will be an illuminating and provocative event.

Today, we are rolling out the conference website, which will be the central location for information about the event, to be held February 18-20, 2010, at Cal IT2 University of California, San Diego. This website will be updated soon with the full schedule of panel sessions, but for the moment, we are still working with our speakers to facilitate the final integration of the schedule.  We look forward to seeing many of you at the event and hope that it sparks more extensive conversations across the emerging field of digital media and learning about the challenges and opportunities to further diversify our still emerging participatory culture.