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My Digital Literacy Journey

This was my first assignment for a Masters Elective in the Communications & Technology Program. It was a course titled New Media Narratives. This was my first Podcast production and the subject was my digital literacy journey to date.

Assignment 3 for Digital Narratives, Distributive Publishing

Digital network media has radically changed the relationship between publishing institutions and society.

Clay Shirky (2008), in a McLuhanesque insight, says that when we change the way we communicate, such as with the emergence of digital networks, we change society (p.17).  Digital networks have enabled new ways for groups to form and media convergence; both have had a profound impact on society (Jenkins, 2004; Shirky, 2008).

This post will explore the impact of digital network media on the democratization of publishing and the epochal changes occurring in the relationship between publishing institutions and society through three examples:  new economic publishing models such as crowdsourcing; self-publishing on platforms that circumvent traditional publishing avenues; and lastly, transliteracy as an integral part of published works in order to engage the audience and remain viable.

Decentralized economic models

Pitch for Incente Documentary on Kickstarter (Source: via Teresa on Pinterest )

Traditionally, the media and entertainment industries have enjoyed virtual control over what gets produced via barriers to entry afforded by their market dominance, ability to raise money to bankroll projects, and access to technology. Digital network media, however, are creating business models that break the traditional rules and provide access to resources – both technological and financial – that were previously out of reach of individual artists. For example, crowdfunding lets creators publicize their projects using the Internet and social media. The first crowdfunding site, aristShare, launched October, 2003. Another site, Kickstarter, has raised huge sums of money and achieved commercial and creative success.  In 2012, three Kickstarter films ranked among the best-reviewed films of the year and six films garnered Oscar nominations (Geist, 2013).  Inocente, a documentary on a 15-year old homeless girl who dreams of becoming an artist, raised $52,527 on Kickstarter and won an Academy Award.


Another recent development underscores the flux in the digital economy.  Warner Bros., a major film studio, turned down creator Rob Thomas’ movie pitch based on his cult TV show Veronica Mars. The show was cancelled in 2007 after three seasons, but had enough of a following to raise $2 million on Kickstarter in less than 11 hours. It went on to raise over $4.5 million with time still remaining. Fans receive rewards for their level of donation but ultimately the win is their collective abiliy to create something that otherwise would not materialize (Jenkins, 2013).  The power of the audience to resource and hence decide what gets created marks a fundamental change in relations between media institutions and society.

New media gurus predicted these models would emerge. Benkler (2006) explains the new economic models as “commons based peer production” (p.59) where individuals, neither hierarchically assigned or even paid, act on their own will and passion to develop or contribute to the development of a shared vision or product. Jenkins (2004) predicted the emergence of a digital economy negotiated between producers and consumers and the emergence of a micropayment system allowing producers to sell their content directly to the consumers, cutting out intermediaries and lowering production and distribution costs.

Decentralized editorial power

Garbage Patch  Story Picked up by The New York Times:  Source: via Teresa on Pinterest




The convergence of media industries and resulting loss of diversity in journalism is being counterbalanced by the emergence of a crowdfunded blend of journalism, production and consumption (Aitamurto, 2011).  For example, the site Spot.Us acts like a collective intelligence site for freelance journalists. Readers make cash donations in order to fund a story, providing collective judgment about issues they believe deserve attention. Readers can also donate other resources such as knowledge on an issue, photography, or editing.  Crowdfunding is a form of participatory culture where donors feel empowered and encouraged to participate – becoming co-creators.  This is also an example of collective intelligence; rather than rely on an expert to determine what is newsworthy, the wisdom of the crowd becomes the arbiter of what is newsworthy. Mainstream media is paying attention and exploring new sources outside their traditional publishing process. On November 10th, 2009, the New York Times published a story from Spot.Us by Lindsey Hoshaw on the Pacific Garbage Patch, an island of trash afloat in the ocean. This was the first crowdfunded story to be picked up by a major US publication.

The rise of the amateur publisher

Self-Publishing is Growing Across More Platforms: Source: via Teresa on Pinterest

Digital network media have given society its own means to publish, resulting in “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history” (Shirky, 2009). Toffler (1980) coined the term prosumer to describe the emerging trend of consumers as co-creators and active producers in the economy.  This new peer-based media ecosystem is creating a lot of content that competes against traditional publishers for audience share and relevance. The rise of the amateur publisher is supported by HTML coding tools that make it easy to create and update blogs, and comment boxes create opportunities for dialogue to take place between authors and readers (Lessig, 2008). Internet search engine hubs like Technorati count links to blogs and index and rank them to “show the revealed preferences of the blogosphere” (p.61), allowing us to see that many blog sites outperform traditional media.

In this new media ecosystem Canadian internet users have the 2nd highest level of engagement in the world, spending more than 41 hours per month online and ranking 2nd worldwide in video hours consumed (comScore, 2013).  Social Media sites in Canada are increasing their visitor base and engagement. The annual growth rates of the visual web are particularly significant – Tumblr (96%), Pinterest (792%) and Instagram (900%) (comScore, 2013). Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says “The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging. It’s just morphing onto other platforms” (Kopytof, 2011).

Self-publishers: the future of publishing

Amanda Hocking Self-Publishing Superstar:  Source: via Teresa on Pinterest


Tim O’Reilly, publisher and founder of the Tools of Change Publishing Conference says that self-publishing is enabled by the democratization of technology. He predicts self-publishing is the wave of the future (Webb, 2013).  Best-selling author Amanda Hocking is an example of self-publishing success. After constant, frustrating rejection by traditional publishers, she self-published on Amazon and quickly entered Kindle Million Club for sales (Pilkington, 2012).  Marketing is done by her fans, through positive reviews on sites like Goodreads or Amazon whose computer-generated recommendations do not differentiate between self-publishers or legacy publisher titles (Fowler & Trachtenberg, 2010).

The transition from print to electronic publishing is opening up new business models that benefit both publishers and authors. The e-book eliminates intermediaries and enables direct contact between author and reader. Compared to print publishing, the creation and distribution of e-books is economical, enabling an almost infinite numbers of titles to be carried and electronically distributed to numerous platforms. The e-publishing marketplace is an example of the Long Tail theory reflecting “culture unfiltered by economic scarcity” (Anderson, 2008, p. 53).  Readers benefit with lower prices, an average of $2.99 on Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of self-published eBooks (Pilkington, 2012). Numerous options exist for self-publishing. Pressbooks promotes that if you can blog you can make a beautiful e-book. Their open source software is built on WordPress and authors can make an ebook alone or with collaborators and export to numerous e-book formats. Apple recently launched Breakout Books to promote high performing self-publishers in their iBooks store (Coker, 2013).

Despite trends in self-publishing O’Reilly is optimistic for the publishing industry. Using himself as an example, he predicts self-publishers who enjoy the experience, will in-turn become publishers and extend their acquired publishing expertise to help others. Despite her solo success Amanda Hocking signed on with a traditional publisher in May 2012 explaining that she was burned out by the stress of solo publishing.

Transliteracy for engagement and viability


Transliterate brothers, John and Hank Green, sell out Carnegie Hall:  Source: via Teresa on Pinterest


O’Reilly (2013) also predicts the rise of the cross-media star becoming the backbone of the industry — those who engage audiences through a variety of mediums. Jenkins considers the new literacies to be social skills that require new ways of thinking about how to communicate (Jenkins, 2008).  John Green is an example of a popular author whose books, video channel entitled VlogBrothers, and live appearances, most recently at sold out Carnegie Hall, are all outgrowths of the same spirit and the same engagement with his audience, yet each requiring different skills in order to engage with his audience.  Green says, “For me there is no bright line between publishing and making stuff on the Internet . . . They are both about collaborating with others to make something new (Kaufman, 2013). His ability to move easily across discursive communications platforms demonstrates his transliteracy skills (Thomas et al, 2007). As literacy practices alter around new genres, our understanding of what constitutes legitimate fields of publishing will also change (Ware, 2008).  O’Reilly says the book as a user interface will continue to change and that people who embrace all the ways to express what we (publishers) do and think that way will be the stars, not those who stick with one form of expression (O’Reilly, 2013).

Digital media provides new publishing models, new means to publish and media convergence to enable what Tim O’Reilly (2004) has coined “an architecture of participation”. Functions once only the domain of professionals in publishing institutions has transferred to broader society, transforming roles and relationships.

To see the entire Pinterest Board supporting this post please link here.


Aitamurto, T. (2011). The impact of crowdfunding on journalism. Journalism Practice, 5,(4), 429-445.

Anderson, C. (2008). The Long Tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more. New York: Hyperion

Coker, M. (March 4, 2013). Apple iBookstores in the U.K. and Ireland Promote Self-Published Authors in Breakout Books Feature [Web log message]. Retrieved from

comScore. (2013, March 4). Canada Digital Future in Focus 2013.  Retrieved March 24, 2013 from:

Coyle, J. (2013, March 22). Veronica Mars’ campaign rattles movie industry. MSN News. Retrieved from

Fowler, G. & Trachtenberg, J. (2010, June 2). ‘Vanity press goes digital’. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Higgins, C. (2013, January 17). John and Hank Green Sell Out Carnegie Hall. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Hoshaw, L. (2009, November 9). Afloat in the ocean, expanding islands of trash. New York Times. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2004). The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal Of Cultural Studies, 7(1), 33-43. doi:10.1177/1367877904040603

Jenkins, H. (2008). Combating the participation gap:  Why new media literacy matters. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2010). Transmedia storytelling and entertainment: An annotated syllabus. Continuum: Journal Of Media & Cultural Studies, 24(6), 943-958. doi:10.1080/10304312.2010.510599

Jenkin, H. (2013, March 26, 2013). Kickstarting veronica mars: A conversation about the future of television (part one). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Lessig, L. (2008). Remix. Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: The Penguin Press.

O’Reilly, T. (2004, June). The architecture of participation. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Geist, M. (2013, March 1). How ‘crowdfunding’ is changing the way movies are funded: Geist. The Star.Com. Retrieved from

Kaufman, L. (2013, January 16). A novelist and his brother sell out Carnegie Hall.  The New York Times.  Retrieved March 25, 2013 from

Kickstarter. (n.d.) Retrieved March 24, 2013 from

Koppytoff, V. (2011, February 20). Blogs wane as the young drift to sites like twitter.  The New York Times. Retrieved on March 24, 2013 from

O’Reilly, T. (2013, February 12). Tools of Change Publishing Conference 2013. Tim O’Reilly, Some Reasons for Optimism. [Video]. Retrieved from

Pilkington, E. (2012, January, 12). Amanda hocking, the writer who made millions by self-publishing online. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybodyThe power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin.

Shirky. (TedTalks, Producer). (2009, June).  Clay Shirkey: How social media can make history. [Video]. Retrieved from (n.d.) Dissecting the great pacific garbage patch.  Retrieved on March 25, 2013 from

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S. & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday, 12 (12). Retrieved from

Ware, I. (2008). Andrew keen vs the emos: Youth, publishing, and transliteracy. M/C Journal, 11(4). Retrieved from

Webb, J. (2013, March 5). Self-publishers will be the publishers  of the future: Tim O’Reilly on self-publishing and the cycles of democratization via technology. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Collective Intelligence Assignment 2 for Digital Narratives Class

With the recent Alberta budget cuts, the Education Minister is requesting a new “more unified post-secondary system”, a collaborative approach to controlling costs, while continuing to ensure accessibility. The education landscape is changing. Henry Jenkin’s believes that schools have not kept pace with the changing media landscape or the ability to exploit the participatory culture it offers.  Could Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) be a step in the right direction? MOOC design fits nicely against Jenkin’s key requirements for participatory learning. MOOC’s are voluntary, free and available online.  A learning community develops around a common interest in a topic. Collaboration and mentorship opportunities emerge as students help each other and a sustained interest in the community motivates completion and a connection beyond the course timeframe.

The three texts I have chosen look at the MOOC as an emerging form of participatory literacy from three different sources.  First, a TedTalks Video from Dr. Daphne Koller,  a professor of Computer Science at Stanford and the co-founder of the online MOOC platform Coursera. Second, a column from The Guardian by Clay Shirky, author, consultant and adjunct professor at New York University who specializes in the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. Third, a short informational video on MOOCs created by Dave Cormier, Web Communication and Innovations Manager at the University of Prince Edward Island (and attributed with coining the term MOOC) and his fellow research team all Ph.D.’s or candidates with appropriate areas of expertise.

Please click on the images to access the chosen texts on my Pinterest board.  A brief analysis of each follows. Here is the my board  Also each text has been embedded in the visuals that follow.

1.  TedTalk Video from Dr. Daphne Koller: What we are learning from online education.

This inspiring presentation uses fact based, credible evidence, moving emotional testimonials and examples to persuade us on MOOCs. Her academic credentials and experience in designing and delivering MOOCs adds to her credibility.  No opposing perspectives are addressed. She pitches MOOCs as a means to provide the fundamental right of education for all. She uses graphs to demonstrate that tuition has increased by 559% since 1985 with less than half of students attaining employment, using that education.  She says MOOCs can improve this by providing the best professors and courses to whoever wants them.  There is no support to indicate that the courses currently being developed or delivered by Coursera are strategic in considering how to address the gaps in employability. Some of her claims are not backed with evidence. For example, she tells how students are using MOOC course certificates to get better jobs and attain actual college credit for completion.  But this is anecdotal and not backed with data. Impressive stats on participation are shared but controversial completion metrics are not.  Her most impressive argument comes in the unprecedented opportunity MOOC course data analysis has in being able to understand human learning and hence improve education.  The video format puts the onus on the viewer to dig deeper on Koller’s arguments.  For example, I searched for the last research paper she displays graphically on the benefits of Active Learning in a Large Physics Classroom.  I found it in the Journal of Science along with two separate published academic criticisms of the research results.

2.  The Guardian article from Clay Shirky: Higher Education: our MP3 is the mooc.

Shirky compares what is happening with the disruption offered by MOOCs in Higher Education as akin to what happened in the Music industry. In critiquing Shirky’s argument it is important to note his expertise and consulting demonstrates a bias towards the internet as a positive revolutionary force to enabling group forming and collaboration. His article takes for granted that MOOCs will positively transform higher education, no other position is considered despite their early days. He makes it appear that Udacity and fellow MOOC providers are the original innovators of online platforms, yet schools like MIT have been offering OpenCourseWare online for free since 2002. He says, “that open courses, even in their nascent state, will be able to raise quality and improve certification faster than traditional institutions can lower cost or increase enrollment.” This is a hopeful statement but not one that he has evidence with which to defend the quality or improved process of learning.  It is also an aggressive claim given that MOOCs are still emerging on the backs of investors, their future business models yet to be confirmed.  To become viable, what will be the model? Corporate sponsorship? Will the consideration be the exchange of participant’s data? When the viable model emerges will it discourage enrollment? Shirky criticizes the for-profit Kaplan college system for poor education and increasing debt. Shirky’s writing also segments higher education into elite and non-elite status, he assumes his Yale education and its big lecture classes are superior to the education that 75% of American’s are getting at “mediocre colleges”.  As a business student I attended a local college and then transferred to a more prestigious university program to complete a degree.  For me, there is no question that the college education was superior in terms of overall value and learning. Shirky is a highly regarded writer but this piece is speculative and opinion based. Shirky’s  Blog version of this article.

3.  YouTube Video: Dave Cormier: What is a Mooc?


This video uses simple line drawing animation to effectively inform the viewer on MOOC benefits by differentiating them from traditional learning.  Informative but assumes the viewer has a certain level of digital literacy describing them as open, participatory, distributed and using symbols like the twitter bird, blog posts and tag icons. Emphasizes there is no single path to learning and that students learn from each other. This develops life long learning networks that can continue long after the course is over.  The video presents an informative yet wholly positive perspective.  Some information could cause confusion, “participants are not asked to complete assignments but to engage with each other and material all over the web . . .” This is not an accurate statement for all MOOCs as this author’s research colleague, Dr. Siemens has provided credit for MOOCs as he explains in this interview with Harold Rheingold. The issues and concerns that MOOCs present, is not considered in this video.  It is an effective, but simplified conceptual presentation. My biggest critique is not apparent with an initial viewing. In researching the authors and credits at the end of the video I learned it is one of four videos created and embedded in the researchers grant funded paper, The Mooc Model for Digital Practice. Which is responding to the Federal Governments consulting paper Building Critical Skill for Tomorrow.  This video is helpful on its own but there is a lost opportunity in that comments could have been posted in YouTube to connect viewer who is interested in more information to the original research paper it was created for, in addition to its three additional companion videos. A concluding URL in the last frame of the video offering more information would be ideal.


Cormier, D. (Producer & Writer). 2010. What is a mooc? [Video]. Retrieved from

Deslauriers, L., & Wieman, C. E. (2011). Response. Science, 333(6047), 1221.

Jenkins, H. (2006, October 20). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century (part one) [Web log message]. Retrieved from

McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G. & Cormier, D. (2010). The Mooc Model for Digital practice. Retrieved from

TedtalksDirector. (Producer). 2012.  Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education [Video]. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2006, October 20). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century (part one) [Web log message]. Retrieved from