Henry Jenkins, Wikipedia, and WWOI’m cribbing today from these notes that Doug Foxgrover made of a talk by Henry Jenkins, transmedia/new media guru at MIT, at Educause. The talk was on “What can Wikipedia teach us about new media literacies?” The talk itself is podcasted here.

I bring it up because education was (and is) very much a goal of WWO. It’s part of the mission of ITVS, our sponsor, and very much on my mind these days as I work to shape the WWO lesson plans for high school teachers. (Looking at first drafts now; ready in about 3 weeks?)

This gets important, as Jenkins, Jane McGonigal and others say that “new media literacy” is exactly what people are going to need to be capable learners and contributors as the world moves into a participatory digital culture. Jenkins’ checklist for that culture maps really well onto World Without Oil:

  • Low barriers to artistic and civic expression (people played WWO by email or even by phone)
  • Strong support for creating and sharing what you create
  • Some kind of informal mentorship (peer to peer, mostly, but our WWO characters filled this role)
  • Members feel their contributions matter
  • Some degree of social connection between members

The new media literacies are social skills and participation skills, and there’s nothing like a shared crisis to get people talking and working together – even if that crisis is of the “what if?” variety.

Three other things in Jenkins’ talk resonated with me: one, you must take the students’ participation seriously – it must matter. In WWO we pretty much let our “students” drive the bus, to really good effect I think. Two, you should let the participation emerge from students’ own cultural life – again, something WWO explicitly did. And finally, Jenkins identifies a core challenge as ethical: as the traditional forms of professional training (such as journalism) break down, how do you prepare ordinary citizens, and young people in particular, for their increasing role as participants? This is exactly the big deal about WWO, I think: to democratize real-world problemsolving, to empower people to collectively forge their own solutions.

Jenkins lists “four big ideas”: Collective intelligence, Judgment, Networking and Negotiation. And cites WWO as an example of the first big idea. WWO Lives!

In other news, the price of oil – not. Anyone else noticed how it has completely fallen off the news radar lately?