Although it has been done for a few months now, I realized I never posted my dissertation here. So here it is, enjoy!
USING INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES TO ADVANCE A PARTICIPATORY CULTURE:
A STUDY FROM A HIGHER EDUCATION CONTEXT
Advances in information and communications technologies (ICTs) have empowered individuals to share their intellectual, cultural, and creative expressions with wider and more diverse audiences than ever before. This has been made possible by a variety of factors, but most saliently by what has been termed Web 2.0, which is a set of design patterns for structuring websites so that they can be actively shaped and influenced by the interactions and contributions of users (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace). These changes have been described as creating the conditions necessary for shifting society from a consumer culture to a participatory culture. This emerging cultural formation has been hypothesized to have a great deal of potential for advancing education and learning by moving the locus of activity from existing power relationships (consumer/producer, expert/novice, and teacher/student) to one that focuses on the individual’s empowerment and willingness to construct and contribute to one’s cultural and physical reality. Despite this potential, there is little research that looks to understand how such ICTs deployed into specific communities do (or do not) make possible these goals.
This study aims to understand the relationship between ICTs and their potential for creating and sustaining a participatory culture, particularly by pointing to a set of factors that highlight the existence of and mediate involvement in a participatory culture. To understand this relationship, this study analyzes an Web 2.0 technology that was used electively by a graduate school community for a two-year period of time (September 6, 2006 to September 6, 2008) by N=2,580 students, faculty and staff. The factors that mediate involvement include: communication across organizational structures, spaces for alternative discourses to develop and integrating interpersonal networks. The study concludes that Web 2.0 technologies promote the formation of participatory cultures by making the cultural, intellectual, and creative work of a community visible, and that visibility in turn encourages individuals to participate.