New Media Literacy & Video Games

This past week I have been studying up on new media, media literacy, and new media literacy. It is interesting to me how much of this literature surrounds use of video games in education. New media is defined in different ways by researchers in different disciplines, but my gloss definition is something like “digital interactive communication formats”. Why is this kind of literacy important? Why should people be able to intelligently and critically consume, analyze and create digital interactive media? Education is not only about concepts: it is also about artifacts. As the artifacts (the tools and things we humans create and use) in our world change, so must our education. What it means to live in a high functioning way in our world changes as the artifacts change (and because artifacts are a part of culture, as the culture changes). Similarly, as the formats and functions of the artifacts change (for instance, from paper to digital, from read-only to to read-write), so must our education change. If K-12 education is to bring our children up to speed with the world they inhabit, and empower them to become meaning-making citizens, we must attend to the enculturation process and the products of our culture (and to reflect on those processes and products).

Where video games fit into this artifactual nature of our current digital world is an interesting question (interesting at least to me). How can we operationalize new media literacy education, what are the ultimate goals of education in general (and do these also change with cultural/artifactual changes), and how can video games help us (or hinder us) in achieving those goals? Does new media even represent a change, or is it just hype? To be sure, new media literacy education is merely new media education if we fail to focus on reflection, critique and synthesis. Video games are fun and learning experiences themselves, but can they be also used as contexts for reflection, tools for creation, and worlds of transferable learning scenarios and skills? If so, what affordances are necessary for this to occur?

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