Category Archives: Popular Culture

The End is not Nigh

 

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Why do we have to be seen to be choosing between hardcopy or digital texts?

I have heard many comments both for and against.

The positives I often hear are that e-readers are light and easy to use, can store many books on the device, can be accessed on many other devices such as tablets and a lot of schools and public libraries have e-books that can be borrowed.

The negatives are along the lines of you can’t cuddle up with an e-reader, what do you do if you run out of charge and I just don’t like reading on screen.

I have noticed in the school I work in that there really is a split between positive and negative e-book readers. This split isn’t at an adult level, rather it’s the students, especially for leisure reading. For the students there seems to be an anecdotal feeling that they just feel more secure with a hardcopy book.

A few years back there was a doom and gloom prediction that the dawn of the digital book was going to put a nail in the coffin of                  hardcopy published books. This was a knee jerk reaction to the             unknown. Recently a major bookshop chain in the United Kingdom       announced that it would stop selling e-readers in their stores. This     decision is a direct result of the range of devices that can be used to read e-books. To me this is a good sign as it means that the devices we do have, such as tablets, are incorporating technology that not so long ago needed their own dedicated device, making devices truly              multifunctional. This functionality needs to be harnessed by                     publishers, authors, educators and the wider community.

When I attended a few different conferences a couple of years ago, publishers and authors would talk about the current concerns and the legalities that were causing blockages to the rise of the digital book, but there was an acknowledgement of the potential of digital books. These concerns are now being studied and recently Macquarie             University released a briefing report in which authors identified that traditional publishing was still the most common, followed by digital publishing. Some authors are embracing the digital and are playing with the potential affordances for their readers such as Shaun Tan’s app for the book Rules of Summer. It was with some naïve amazement, to me, that this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia included a digital book, Audacity by Carlie Walker, on the shortlist. What a positive step this is for the validation of the form, to have the major                  publicly  acknowledged children’s book organisation in Australia take the brave step to include a non-traditional format in the awards process.

Those of us in school libraries need to take note and modify our        practices to adjust to this digital potential of books. I have been            purchasing for the school library, for the past few years a range of       fiction and non-fiction books plus online subscription services. I have to admit that it has not been totally successful for fiction reading, but students, especially senior students like that they have access to           library books and resources on a 24/7 basis. My mission is to continue to support and promote digital books with my whole school                 community and to take note of the research that is beginning to appear that will aid a positive transition to an increased use of this part of the school library collection. One example is the research from New            Zealand that showed that when youth select books traditionally they browse the bookshop or the library for a book that draws                      their attention, not too different to my own adult selection behaviour (Cunningham, 2011). I need to take this information and adapt my          promotion to make it more visually stimulating and hopefully this will lead to the students, who many would refer to as digital natives, to take the next step and try reading a digital book for pleasure.

References

Cunningham, S. J. (2011). How children find books for leisure reading: Implications for the digital library. JCDL ’11 Proceedings of the 11th annual international ACM/IEEE joint conference on Digital libraries (pp. 431-432). New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/1998076.1998170

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What My Dogs Can Teach Me About Youth, Popular Culture and Text…

My Three Cavaliers. Authors Own Photo

Ok folks stay with me on this one…it will make sense…
When I was younger I had a bad experience with two        different dogs in one week. Slowly over time with more knowledge and                           remembering that I used to like dogs I rebuilt my           confidence. Sometimes I think it is similar for people who aren’t confident around youth. We need to remember that at some stage in our lives we were youth and harness the memories to help the youth of today. Yes things are different for each generation but the range of emotions still ring true.

My Kelpie Pup Authors Own Photo

We can’t label all popular culture the same, just like we can’t label all youth the same. I personally like the comment by Stacy Takacs in the book Interrogating Popular Culture: Key Questions when she states “how is the work used by institutions and individuals to order social relations?” (Takacs, 2015, p. 8).
It reminds me of myself and my dogs.

My husband often reminds me that I was the one who had a list of requirements before we could get a dog. Once our first dog arrived it didn’t take me long to feel comfortable and some would describe me as a “crazy dog lady” now. We have four dogs, three cavaliers and a kelpie. On the human front I am now part of a dog owning culture but then I am also part of further subcultures related to dogs, the unusual sport group – flyball, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, APDT (Australia),       cavalier owners and kelpie owners and about to venture into the agility subculture. This is just the same for Youth. Yes they are part of the youth culture but as they explore their own identity they become involved in popular culture and youth related subcultures. Think of all the different groups we see each day within our schools, the Minecraft user culture, the K-Pop fans, Hunger Games fans and yes Whovians, just to name a few.

To me this is a clear blending of popular culture and identifying             subcultures. With my dogs I can choose not to take much notice of them, disterested in their characters or provide no guidance or            enrichment and then bemoan when they are dragging me down the street on a walk or not listening to instructions. Yet because of my         involvement in obedience training and dog sports the picture is very different. Only yesterday I was complimented on how well our dogs were behaving when we were all sitting outside a coffee shop on the main street of our town, to which I replied a grateful thanks but at the same time that a lot of work goes into it. For our youth it is much the same, many will bemoan youth without trying to engage with them. I don’t mean we become involved in their worlds, rather we take the time to talk to them about what is popular with youth from a variety of outlooks and give them the opportunity to share with us, as adults, what they will enable us to know. It’s another way of creating         cross-generational links. For me a classic example is Minecraft. I can see the educational worth and I understand that it creates a buzz in youth but I just don’t get how to play it myself. Yet I still love talking to the youth at my school about their Minecraft worlds what they are    doing in them and the feelings about the recent updates. I can have these conversation with the students because I am honest with them about my Minecraft knowledge but that I am interested in what they are doing.

I love that the perception of youth and their popular culture does not go unnoticed by those writing for youth. For me a great example is a book I came across earlier this year, The Door to Where by Sally Gardner (Gardner, 2015). It firstly drew me in as it was a time slip novel but then it became clear that it was a social commentary on the perception of youth. It is in my books (pun intended) an amazing read. Yet when you learn some of the reasons why Sally Gardner wrote the book it is even more fantastic. Sally Gardner began to wonder about the way youth were being portrayed in the English media and then made a link to the humble beginnings of Charles Dickens and would he have become the well-known classic author that he is if he had been treated in the same way as youth in the media today (Shah, 2015). What a stand to take. Maybe the rest of us should do this style of thought process too and lets change the perceptions in the wider world related to youth and their cultures.

References
Gardner, S. (2015). The door that led to where. London: Hot Key Books.

Shah, S. (2015, May 19). Sally Gardner, author of the door that lead to where, answers ten terrifying questions. Retrieved from Booktopia – a book bloggers’ paradise – the No. 1 book blog for australia : http://blog.booktopia.com.au/2015/05/19/sally-gardner-author-of-the-door-that-lead-to-where-answers-ten-terrifying-questions/
Takacs, S. (2015). Interrogating popular culture: Key questions. New York: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203766583

The Art of Slow and Getting to Know

The Hare and the Tortoise From: http://bit.ly/1kEGO9E Using Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

I must confess that one of the reasons my     husband and I decided to move to a regional country area of New South Wales was for a slower pace of life. Has this happened? To some degree yes but in other areas no. We have both been               continuing with our studies, joined a dog training club approximately an hour from where we live, continued with our Sydney flyball club and attending training and competitions, I started back at an adult tap class and have started taking a yoga class once a week. Not to mention the 3 hours I spend traveling to and from work each day. Where is the balance in all of this and the link to Youth and Popular Culture?

Well isn’t it the same for our youth of today, especially those                  completing their final school exams, the HSC in NSW? They need to be enabled to get the balance right. Are the adults who surround them setting good examples on this front? We may be talking the talk but are we leading by example? I am not attacking anyone with this comment, rather reflecting on what we all do, especially myself.

When I worked in a public library I was responsible for running a        programme of HSC lectures and I would get Rowan Kunz to come and speak about getting the balance right between study and the rest of their lives such as sport, while providing good techniques and             strategies for effective study. I also had sessions from the team at the University Of Technology Sydney Health Psychology Unit about stress. At the school I work in I am lucky to have access to a great pastoral care team who I can approach if I have any concerns regarding students, no matter what year group they belong to.

I believe that we also need to show this support in student’s use of technology. I love my technology gadgets and when the lecturer for one of my units this semester sent an email listing gadgets we could be using all at one time I could have put my hand up as a yes that’s what I’m doing now. I don’t believe that we should be regressing to luddites, rather we need to be grasping every development that comes our way and evaluating their affordances for teaching and learning. Who would have thought just a few years back that we would be seeing 3D printers in schools or able to use augmented reality tools to enhance teaching and learning?

At the same time we need to be taking on board the concerns regarding technology from the very young through to young adults and helping them and their families navigate this new minefield, as often it is seen. We ourselves need to be creating good habits like taking a break from technology before trying to sleep and perhaps learning to turn it off or take it out of our sleep settings. I know this is a hard one and I’m not sure if it will succeed in my household as the phone is the most reliable alarm in the house, but I’m going to try and we need to help support youth to do the same. So let’s see we can all do for our own good and the good of the students around us, while still being able to enjoy all the wonderful directions that technology can take us.

References

Ernest, J. M., Causey, C., Newton, A. B., Sharkins, K., Summerlin, J., & Albaiz, N. (2014). Extending the global dialogue about media, technology, screen time, and young children. Childhood Education, 90(3), 182-191. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1528862094?accountid=13380

Punamaki, R., Wallenius, M., Nygard, C., Saarni, L., & Rimpela, A. (2007). Use of information and communication technology (ICT) and perceived health in adolescence: The role of sleeping habits and waking-time tiredness. Journal of Adolescence, 30(4), 569-585. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/62056103?accountid=13380

Thomée, S., Eklöf, M., Gustafsson, E., Nilsson, R., Hagberg, M. (2007) Prevalence of perceived stress, symptoms of depression and sleep disturbances in relation to information and communication technology (ICT) use among young adults: an explorative prospective study. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(3), 1300-1321. Retrieved from  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2004.12.007.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

The latest Doctor
The latest Doctor, Actor Peter Capaldi  from http://bit.ly/1jI536B Using Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

I’m a child of the 70s and I can’t remember not watching Doctor Who, I even have a Doctor Who quote as my work email tagline. I starkly         remember watching Doctor Who for the first time in colour and not black and white, when my family got a colour television (and yes that’s how old I am).

It seems to me that each generation since the inception of Doctor Who has its own fond memories and favourite Doctor, for me it’s the Tom Baker era from the classic Doctor Who and keeps changing for the new Doctor Who. At the moment I think its Matt Smith due to the range of personality styles he presented. You can imagine my disappointment when I took a Facebook Quiz on which Doctor are you most like and I got John Pertwee, but hey for me personally it could have been worse, it could have been Sylvester McCoy, my least favourite Doctor!

By now you might me thinking, well what does this have to do with       current youth, their popular culture and texts? It has a lot to do with it. I have found that one small unconscious move on my behalf opened an inroad into one small important subculture in my school, which is a girls high school. The unconscious move, to put the small stuffed TARDIS that I had been given for Christmas on top of my work            computer, later joined by a Dalek. Some of the students who I describe as being comfortable with who they are and don’t consciously try and fit into any group noticed the TARDIS and it opened up a world of     conversations around Doctor Who and their love and opinions of it with me, their school librarian. In the past week we have been            discussing our hopes and expectations for the new series which started two weeks ago. Oh my pleasure when there were so many references to my favourite Doctor!

So my question to myself was “so is Doctor Who one of those                   phenomenon’s that is cross generational in its appeal and does this then create opportunities for engagement?”
I believe the answer is yes it does. Why? At a base statistical level the recent Australia Communications and Media Authority report into          children’s television viewing between 2001 and 2013 stated that in the 13-17 age bracket Doctor Who was the most watched drama program with 83,000 viewers.
In the context of popular culture a recent study highlighted that fans of Doctor Who are cross-generational in that many current fans were      introduced to Doctor Who by family members. This is not surprising considering the original intent of Doctor Who was to produce a               children’s television program that mixed science and history and in the UK was aired early on Saturday evenings to target children and adults in the 1960s. When it returned in 2005 it took this roll up again as a         Saturday early evening family program. I was living in the UK at the time and remember sitting with my husband, in our living room,      waiting to watch the first episode in trepidation and anticipation, like many classic fans and their offspring who they were introducing to the world of Doctor Who. I know the Australian experience was different, but in Australia I have seen this cross-generational experience at the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectaculars I have been lucky enough to      attend. It was with great delight that while attending one of the             spectaculars at the Sydney Opera House I saw and heard a Dad and three of his sons all engaging in the shared experience of Doctor Who.

Even outside of families cross-generational moments are occurring. In the research study by Booth and Kelly, one participant from the old guard of fans states “You feel sort of crotchety, who are these kids? They don’t even know who Jon Petwee is. It’s all good because a lot of them are coming to you. Well you were into the old series, which DVD should I buy. So it’s really kind of, it’s coming full circle so you feel like you’re the mentor figures.”

This cross-generational Doctor Who fandom is creating new digital         opportunities. Like many other fandoms there are many digital spaces in which fans are extending fan fiction and fan movie productions, blogs and networks. Yet a lot is occurring offline, such as conventions and fan club screenings, but even these are organised and advertised online. This to me is a great opportunity for the generations to work    together, the older to impart classic Doctor Who knowledge and the younger showing how to embrace and enhance the Doctor Who           fandom online. So here’s to the continuation of Doctor Who and the wonderful cross-generational opportunities it provides.

Tom Baker as Doctor Who.  From http://bit.ly/1Nu3uTm Using Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This post is dedicated to Verity Lambert and Elisabeth Sladen two amazing females associated with Doctor Who one on screen and one behind the scenes who were an important part of my own childhood without me even realising it at the time.