Jenkins (2009) defines participatory culture as comprising a number of components

  1. Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.
  2. Strong support for creating and sharing creations.
  3. Informal mentorship from experienced participants
  4. Members believe that their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connections with each other.

During a presentation by Alec Couros to the UVic EDCI569, participatory culture was described as the connection between an increase in the number of online tools that can be accessed by individuals and the abundance of content that exists online. Web 2.0 (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.) demonstrates the vast amount of tools that we as individuals can use to communicate and the resulting volume of online content that stems from those tools (video, blogs, tweets, etc.) Jenkins (2009) proposed that “tools available to a culture matter, but what that culture chooses to do with those tools matters more.” This is a poignant quote, especially in the wake of recent events including terror groups using social media to efficiently disseminate political or religious rhetoric intended to influence others.

It has been said that with the advent of increased access to online social structures that people are connected, but becoming increasingly disconnected with each other. Dr. Jim Taylor in a blog post from 2010 writes that technology is becoming an escape from life, rather than immersion in it and you miss out on deeper connections with people and do not engage in anything of personal value. Ujjal Dosanjh was recently interviewed on CBC’s The Early Edition regarding the idea of multiculturalism in Canada. Although he was discussing the idea of immigrant populations and physical spaces, the concept in the quote below is very relevant with regards to the discussion of becoming disconnected. (

“If you are going to a particular church or temple…that’s not a ghetto. If you live your entire life amongst those people and the only connection you have to the society at large is the economy and you don’t take in the cultural value, because ultimately we left other countries to come to Canada because it has better values, not just more money, not just affluence, it’s the values that are more important than the affluence and those values are about freedom, about democracy, about being tolerant of others views, and living with others and communicating with others, integrating into the society…” Ujjal Dosanjh, 2015

In Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book A New Culture of Learning (2011), they make an argument that this new learning culture is comprised of two elements:

  1. Massive information networks that provide unlimited resources for learning on any subject
  2. Structured environments that allow for unlimited agency to build and experiment within the bounded domains.

Personal learning can be found in both elements, but it is with the second element that formalized education can find new growth and direction. While reading an article in Dwell magazine on the building of modern schools in New York, I began to think about the idea of experimentation and building within structured domains. Why do we call the buildings modern schools? I know this is in reference to the architectural design of structure, but if we are to build “modern” school(ing) it is important to look at what the domains of learning are. The new domains of learning are about digital literacy and global citizenship, but this needs to be presented to students not in a flood of unlimited resources with the teacher saying “Go”, but within a structured environment that allows students to interact in a meaningful way with others towards a common goal.

Although this discussion has focused on the digital citizen, it is important to recognize that the concept of participatory culture should be viewed both in the online world as well as the physical space we occupy. Participating in 3D life, movement and interaction with the physical world is as important a discussion as the idea of how to interact in a meaningful way online. We define ourselves ever increasingly by our digital identities, but it is now becoming just as important to look at how we define ourselves within our physical environment.


Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Mit Press.

Taylor, J. (2010). Does Technology Connection Mean Life Disconnection? [Blog post].

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Tobin, S. (Producer). (2015, January 16). Ujjal Dosanjh on award [Audio poscast].

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Weiss, A. (2015). Building Modern Schools in New York City.

Retrieved from new-york-city