Of the 6.5 billion people that inhabit our planet, each is an individual, yet despite their individuality, they are part of a broader collection of individuals formed into societies. Not all individuals in these societies have equal opportunities, however. In most cases, the effects of these unbalanced societies are binary- those with and those without. In many societies, stronger groups dominate in voice and thought: teachers vs. students, men vs. women, white vs. black, heterosexual vs. homosexual. Like most ecosystems, however, each member relies on others to contribute to the whole. When not all members are able to contribute or feel their voice is heard or valued, the effects can be detrimental to the entire society, as we will see.
In many instances, minority groups with a lack of opportunities are confined or marginalized by the societies in which they live. While those on the outside of this confinement enjoy the benefits of opportunities, those on the inside are not always invited to participate. This marginalization in some societies has led to the limiting of social and political expression, and most disturbingly, in many minority groups access to quality education has been restricted by the majority through economic and cultural bias.
Fortunately, some individuals in minority groups have managed to find a passage, or what I will further define as a ‘rift’, in their confinement. In the case of this essay, these ‘rifts’ have included innovative methods of expression and education. In the past, these ‘rifts’ have been limited to the available technology and media of the time which have included newspapers, books, radio, and television.
Individuals have been able to use their resourcefulness to find a means within themselves to move through these ‘rifts’. Until a few centuries ago, an individual’s resourcefulness has been in large part limited to the resources that they possess and those within their network. Individuals have been able to use their talents in writing, art, music, and acting to reach audiences in and sometimes beyond their confinement. When they have been able to break through the ‘rift’, their contributions have benefited the entire society in which they live, not just those with whom they were confined.
Recent advances in modern technology have given an edge to people who locate a ‘rift’ in their confinement. This essay will set out to first define and examine ‘new media’ and its development over the past few decades. ‘New media’ has already been used to coordinate revolutions (Bhuiyan, 2011), empower citizens to classify galaxies (Lintott et al., 2008), and provide disaster relief (Zook et al., 2012). It is the use of this mobile, highly accessible, multi-lingual, and low-cost medium that is allowing people to expand their network and discover the increasing number of resources at their disposal. ‘New media’ is providing a new dimension for individuals to increase their resourcefulness. How can these new resources be leveraged to help marginalized people break through a ‘rift’?
In attempting to find an answer to this question, this essay will take the following route: 1) I will define and examine ‘rifts’ that can appear in cultural confinement in order to provide groundwork for scenarios ahead, 2) I will define and examine the concept of resourcefulness, what is it and how individuals can use it to find a means through the ‘rift’?, 3) Through an interdisciplinary approach, I will examine supporting texts that help to identify individuals who have been held back from expressing themselves through traditional means, ‘rifts’ a few have found in their confinement, and examples of resourceful means individuals have used to express themselves, 4) I will compare those who have been rendered voiceless to those who have found quality education out of reach. It is worth inquiring if groups who require better access to education can mimic the process of locating a ‘rift’, and 5) Finally, I will explore if ‘new media’ has had a significant impact on the resources available to select populations and if these resources affect their ability to journey through the ‘rift’.
In conclusion, ‘rifts’ have been found in confining systems throughout time. It is worth examining how voiceless individuals have managed to locate and exploit these ‘rifts’ in order to see if such a process can be utilized by those in search of better educational options. With the help of additional texts and articles, I will examine the role ‘new media’ is helping to play by increasing resources within marginalized communities. Is ‘new media’ aiding marginalized people in discovering and exploiting ‘the rift’ to a) educate themselves and b) find their voice? I hope to discover that recent advances in ‘new media’ has added a new medium to resources at one’s disposal, but also has created its own ‘rift’ so that more marginalized individuals have an opportunity to be liberated from their confinement.
What is ‘New Media’?
At this point, it is important to clearly define ‘new media’ so that we can later use it to examine this emerging medium’s assistance in helping individuals to break through ‘rifts’. Before we define what ‘new media’ is, however, we should first define what it is not. If ‘new media’ is ‘new’, is media from the past ‘old’? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it is not the most recent invention in media, but no, in that people have not abandoned media widely used in the past (Borgman, 2000, p. x). Although this type of media has been coined under different phrases, such as ‘traditional media’ (Smith, 2005), ‘media pre-Internet’, and ‘legacy media’ (PBS), it will be referred to as ‘old media’ in this section of this essay.
‘Old media’ includes such mediums as television shows, radio, newspapers, books and magazines. Each has been given life with a new generation of talent. Thanks to Johannes Gutenberg’s advancements in movable type in the mid-1400’s (LEMELS-N MIT, 2004), books, newspapers, and magazines became possible. The effects were more than just entertainment. Before that point, only the privileged had access to books and literacy. The printing press not only helped to democratize access to information, but also increased the spread of new ideas. The radio became the next big thing in the 1920s (Sayles, 2009), quickly becoming a new source for news, storytelling, and conversations. Thanks to Guglielmo Marconi (Bridgman, 2001), families found a new tradition in huddling around the one big, brown radio in the living room, attentively engaged in the ideas being displayed on this new piece of technology. That tradition transformed as family members went from attentive listeners to attentive watchers in the 1940’s (TIME Magazine, 2012). The new medium of that era was television and people sat around the parlor watching the latest news and entertainment.
Many of these ‘old mediums’ are still in use today, but not necessarily in their original form. For example, magazines and newspapers (Currie-Sivek, 2012) are now making the move online and some are even deciding to cease their print versions entirely. Radio broadcasts are streaming live on the Internet now that radios are becoming less popular. As you can imagine, we also now have radio broadcasts living purely online. Finally, many advances have been made in the ways in which we consume our television and news shows. Televisions have changed to not only accommodate cable television shows, but shows being broadcast on the Internet. In fact, many televisions serve as computers and vice versa. It is worth examining the benefits ‘new media’ can offer us that ‘old media’ cannot.
‘New media’ includes mediums such as the Internet, Web sites, social media, Web 2.0, and video games. With ‘new media’, individuals are now able to access media when they want, versus at a specific scheduled time. It is also easily updated, so an individual can be sure the information they access is the most recent version. The one notable feature that ‘new media’ offers us that ‘old media’ does not is that it is interactive. Individuals are not simply consumers of ‘new media’, they are publishers, commentators, creators, and distributors of this information. Where ‘old media’ delivers information to individuals, ‘new media’ is about community collaboration and contributions. Howard Rheingold (2012), author of Net Smart, coins this community effort as a “participatory culture” (Rheingold, 2012, p. 12). One ‘YouTuber’ (individual that partakes in the popular video site YouTube) Dan Brown (2009) (known as “pogobot” on YouTube), points out this engagement in one of his videos. He explains that individuals do not simply ‘tune in’ as they do with television shows, they interact and become part of a community of viewers. This practice of ‘co-watching’ has become so popular, that YouTube now airs live events like presidential debates with a comment panel along the side (Reisinger, 2012).
Another commendable feature of ‘new media’ is that it is more accessible than ‘old media’. In Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, Mohamed Ally (2009) reports that “mobile learning through the use of wireless mobile technology allows anyone to access information and learning materials from anywhere and at anytime” (Ally, 2009, p. 1). A device that connects one to the Internet could allow an individual to access books, magazines, shows, and radio broadcasts. While people have to pay for the device and access, the media itself is often free and mobile. There is no need to pile a book, magazine and radio in a backpack when it all is accessible online via a tiny phone.
As for its uses, ‘new media’ has a wide range of possibilities. One individual might use their “Droid” phone to access a podcast for a class they are taking during their morning subway commute, while another might use their “iPad” to video chat with their family across the world. Colleagues can collaborate when they are a nation apart and regular citizens can help scientists to discover new life forms. As Rheingold (2012) says, “knowing that you have a printing press, broadcasting station, community hall, marketplace, school, and a library of all knowledge in your pocket- and knowing how to use it for your own benefit-is what makes the difference between a consumer of electronic gadgets and an empowered citizen” (Rheingold, 2012, p. 18). I will soon analyze the deeper role ‘new media’ can play by helping those who have been denied opportunities to discover access.
Imagine a mouse in a cage made of clear plastic. The cage is square, possesses nothing but a bed and a feeding dispenser. The mouse can see another larger cage full of other mice located nearby. She envies those mice because that cage has toys, ladders to different levels within the cage, a variety of food, and other mice to interact with. On her normal route around her cage one day, she notices a tunnel about the size of her on the side of her cage, not too far above her head. She reaches up to crawl through, but can’t quite pull herself up into the tunnel. However, she can stand up tall enough to see what is in the tunnel. Turns out she can see straight through the tunnel to the cage she had been ogling. She becomes very frustrated and sad. She would like to meet the mice in the other cage and experience what that cage has to offer. Eventually, she becomes determined. Crossing over to the other side is all she begins to think about. She scans her cage to try and find something she can wedge over, but nothing seems quite tall enough to give her enough height to climb through. As she is pondering, her lid opens at the normal time and her daily piece of cheese is dropped in front of her. Aha! The cheese! Instead of eating her cheese, she pushes it over under the hole, climbs in, and makes the short journey to the other side. She is amazed at how much that cage has to offer- the levels, the toys, the mice! As she roams around, trying out the new experiences, each mouse takes a turn to come over and sniff her; they have never seen another mouse like her before. The lives of the mouse and mice are enriched because she used the only resources at her disposal to climb through the tunnel to the other side.
The mouse in this story was confined by a majority group- her owners. They a) prevented her from benefiting from all the larger cage had to offer, b) restricted her from contributing her unique qualities to the larger cage, and c) didn’t allow the other mice to benefit from another perspective among them. This mouse was confined until she found the tunnel to the other cage and she is not unlike minority groups who find themselves without access to the opportunities the majority has available to them, as seen in Fig. 1. Similarly, the word ‘confinement’ can be used to describe the situation minority groups also find themselves in by the culture of the dominating majority (depicted in Fig. 1 by the brackets). Finally, the term ‘rift’ can be used to describe the breaches found in the confinement (depicted in Fig. 1). However, like the mouse featured in the story, individuals who find themselves confined by a culture must find a means to journey through the ‘rift’. As we are about to see, it is one’s resourcefulness that allows them to find this means within themselves.
The Collins English Dictionary (n.d.) defines ‘resourcefulness’ as “ingenious, capable, and full of initiative, especially in dealing with difficult situations” (“resourcefulness”, n.d.). Before an individual can act on their resourcefulness, they have to see the skills and innovation they already possess as an asset at their disposal. Without reflection, individuals may think their situation is unique and does not require action. They may feel powerless and think they have nothing to offer and no opportunities at their disposal. Edward Said, a twentieth-century philosopher, drew on his childhood spent between Cairo and Jerusalem and his feeling of ‘not belonging’ when he discovered the value of his thoughts and voice. Said (2002) suggests writing an inventory of oneself in the context of history “to understand one’s self in relation to others and to understand others as if you would understand yourself” (Said et al., 2002, p. 13). Popular media, such as television shows, can reassure individuals “that there are others in the world like [them]” (Sender et al., 1998, p.23) which might influence an individual to consider not only helping themselves but helping also for the benefit of others.
It is this resourcefulness that allows individuals to find a means out of their confinement. Through reflection, an individual is able to discover their own human capital is enough to journey through the ‘rift’. Resourcefulness allows an individual to utilize their strengths, talents, and passions to create change for the benefit of themselves and others. This change speaks to and for those in the minority with them, as well as to ‘others’ in the majority. We shall now look at two accounts of marginalized groups that have been confined from accessing the opportunities available to the majority. Furthermore, we will look at a few in these marginalized groups who have used their resourcefulness to journey through ‘rifts’ they have found.
The power of expression and thought is often controlled by those in the majority. Marginalized groups have often found their ability to express themselves limited because their thoughts do not fit the popular and trending group thought in the majority. This is unfortunate on two accounts: 1) individuals within the minority experience difficulties they attempt to express themselves through the popular mediums (such as writing, art and music) that are widely consumed by all groups and 2) all groups have a limited scope of the full potential of expression because the scope is limited to the majority’s group consciousness. It is worth solving this problem because the global pool of thought will always be biased until it is solved.
For those in the minority who wish to have their voices heard, it becomes a challenge to find avenues to express themselves and share their thoughts with an audience. The editors of traditional mediums (radio, television, newspapers, and academic articles) have not always been receptive to the ideas of the minority, only allowing the ideas of the majority to infiltrate society. For one to pass through a ‘rift’ requires a different approach from that normally taken to express oneself through these traditional mediums. Those who have located a ‘rift’, or potential method of transmitting their expression, have found it a useful tool for networking and expression. These few have found it within themselves and their network to express themselves and find an audience for their work.
We must also acknowledge the marginalized groups that can form within minority groups. Individuals located within these ‘marginalized-within the-minority groups’ share the perspectives of the majority, the minority, and another language all their own because of their unique situations. Homi K. Bhabha, another twentieth century philosopher, is interested in the ways in which colonized people resist their colonizers. Bhabha (1995) would agree that ‘sub-groups’ can form within these colonized groups in which “cultures are never unitary in themselves, nor simply dualistic in relation of self to other” (p. 207). He coined the term the ‘Third Space’, which introduces “an ambivalence in the act of interpretation” (Bhabha, 1995, p.208) to pose a possible space for groups to find a middle ground in communicating with one another, free of colonized and ‘inner-group’ terminology that can taint conversation. It is in the ‘Third Space’ that we can locate a culture’s ‘hybridity’ (Bhabha, 1995, p. 209), or “conceptualizing an international culture” (Bhabha, 1995, 209). In this space we “will find those words with which we can speak of ourselves and the others. And by exploring this hybridity, this “Third Space”, we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves” (Bhabha, 1995, p. 209).
It is important to consider the variance of marginalized groups who have been silenced over time. They are not particular to one sex, race or age. Consequently, the circumstances of their voicelessness are equally varied. Still, they share in common their exclusion because their particular culture is not part of the dominant culture. I will now compare four readings that illustrate sample groups who have often found themselves being spoken for due to racism, colonialism, sexism, etc., but whose voices now highlight the confining nature of “speaking for” and through their own writing highlight a resistance to this. To give context, it is important to first summarize these readings and identify the specific case of cultural confinement. Each group has had members who have located ‘a rift’, or “safe spaces” (Collins, 2000, p. 101), in their confinement. Finally, I will examine the chosen mediums in which the marginalized groups employed to express their collective voice.
In “Kochinnenako in the Academe: Three Approaches to Interpreting a Keres Indian”, Paula Gunn Allen (1986) analyzes three possible interpretations of the ‘Yellow Women’ story of the Laguna-Acoma Keres as retold by her mother’s great-uncle. Her own feminist approach is a reaction to the growing violence against women among the Native Americans and the tampering of the stories that are part of the oral tradition, which has kept these stories of the people passed down for generations (Allen, 1986).
In Chapter 5 of The Power of Self-Definition (Black Feminist Thought), Patricia Hill Collins (2000) introduces the publicly silenced Black woman. This “silence is not to be interpreted as submission in this collective, self-defined Black woman’s consciousness” (Collins, 2000, p. 98). Collins argues that Black women have sought out “safe spaces” to carry on their discourse and expression. She explains that what emerges in these spaces are the voices of survivors, not of victims (Collins, 2000).
“Off the Straight and Narrow” examines the revealing of gay images in the media. Media plays an important role in what populations are represented and the voices of these populations. Throughout the broadcast, media critics provide context and narrative that explores the effects on acceptance and normalities of this new imagery (Sender, Griffith, & Media Education Foundation, 1998).
In Resisting Difference: Cultural Studies and the Discourse of Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux (1992) highlights the crisis in our American public education system that is caused and supported by the version of democracy we have settled on which we have settled. Giroux says that when our public institutions are seen as a prototype for other countries, our own citizens accept the current status quo of our government and its citizens. “But the failure of formal democracy is most evident in the refusal of the American government and the general population to view public schooling a significant role in the ongoing process of educating people to be active and critical citizens capable of fighting for and reconstructing democratic public life” (Giroux, 1992, p. 199). Giroux believes that only through cultural studies can we transform schools and invoke the civic sense in the minds of students (Giroux, 1992, p. 201).
In “Kochinnenako”, Allen (1986) speaks to the “the systematic loosening of tribal ties” (Allen, 1986, p. 285) due to Western patriarchal influence, which has unwound a tightly bounded matriarchal culture. This Western influence has complicated the oral tradition and stories passed down for generations. Collins (2000) also addresses this Western, white, patriarchal influence on the oppression of Black people, primarily Black women, in the chapter Self-Definition. Not only were these women, who she highlights, females, they were Black females, and, in many circumstances, they were not only rendered voiceless, they were invisible (Collins, 2000, p. 100). Until the 1970s, homosexuals were not simply voiceless, they were diagnosed as having a sickness with experts speaking for them. During the “Off the Straight and Narrow” broadcast in 1998, media critic Larry Gross tell us that “the 1967 CBS documentary really uses gay people as exhibits and the authoritative voices are those of psychiatrists, of judges, of outsiders… testifying to their own ‘sickness” (Sender, Griffith, & Media Education Foundation, 1998, p. 3). Finally, in schools across the country, countless students have been silenced by dominating teachers and school systems. As Henry Giroux (1992) puts it, “voice provides a critical referent for analyzing how students are made voiceless in particular settings by not being allowed to speak” (p. 199).
Under culturally confining conditions, ‘rifts’ may manifest as “safe spaces [that] help Black women resist dominant ideology” (Collins, 2000, p. 101) and the classrooms of radical teachers (Giroux, 1992, p. 206) who encourage cultural discourse in their courses “that provide a resource for rethinking the relationship between the center and the margins of power as well as between themselves and others” (Giroux, 1992, p. 209). Finally, tribal people have maintained their oral traditions to keep their stories alive (Allen, 1986, p. 286).
In culturally confined conditions, it is sometimes difficult to locate a ‘rift’. How might one identify such a ‘rift’ to express themselves? I propose that Allen (1986) might encourage us to look at our history, roots, and traditions to highlight a possible ‘rift’ as she believes the oral tradition “is the source of [our] identity as a people and as individuals within [our] tradition” (Allen, 1986, p. 286). Collins (2000) might ask individuals to turn to “safe spaces”, as they will be filled with individuals who understand, relate, and will listen (Collins, 2000, p. 101). Finally, Giroux (1992) might encourage us to go radical and create our own ‘rifts’ in order to turn our classrooms into “sites where knowledge and power enter into relations that articulate with conflicts being fought out in the wider society” (p. 203). Though this ‘rift’ may have been there all along, perhaps these individuals only found it because it presented itself at a time when they needed it the most.
Once a ‘rift’ has been identified, marginalized groups must rely on their resourcefulness as a means to express themselves. Each culture relies on different mediums to exploit ‘the rift’. For example, stories and writing have become a vehicle in which marginalized societies have been able to chronicle their experience on the edges of society. Music has also been a safe haven for the voiceless, from disco (Sender, Griffith, & Media Education Foundation,1998, p. 4-5)
to blues (Collins, 2000, p. 106), providing a medium for expression and informal mentorship. Tribal people’s voices have been limited by Western culture, but their oral traditions still allow them to pass on their traditional stories (Allen, 1986, p. 286). Additionally, Black women have traded advice through blues music and compared transformational stories through writing (Collins, 2000, p. 106, 113-114).
Despite being excluded from the dominant culture in the United States, few individuals in marginalized groups have found opportunities to express themselves outside of their own communities. Individuals within these groups must find their ‘rift’ and the medium in which they can best express themselves. It is important to consider the limitations of the resourcefulness of individuals who do locate ‘rifts’, however. How is ‘new media’ opening up doors that have been locked until this point in time?
Just as marginalized people have found themselves silenced by the majority, they have also found themselves in search of alternative means to education. According to Giroux (1992), the general public and American government have failed “to view public schooling [as] a significant role in the ongoing process of educating people to be active and critical citizens capable of fighting for and reconstructing democratic public life” (Giroux, 1992, p. 199). By flipping the language used in most classrooms to one that is “forged in the discourse of difference and voice” (Giroux, 1992, p. 204), radical educators are able to build a strong foundation of “cultural practices that offer students a sense of identity, place, and hope” (Giroux, 1992, p. 205). Collins (2000) further examines the exclusion in the traditional education system in America as being particularly hard on Black women who have been denied access to that education. “White-controlled institutions” (Collins, 2000, p. 214) do not appeal to or welcome Black women into their “White middle-class worldview” (Collins, 2000, p. 214). Many ‘uneducated’ Black women found their version of ‘the rift’ in the formal education system by joining Black women’s clubs, Black sororities, and Black churches (Collins, 2000, p. 214).
Although marginalized groups, such as the ones already mentioned, receive the same compulsory education offered to everyone in the United States, it has well been argued that not all of these experiences are the same. Not all students enter Kindergarten with the same variety and level of vocabulary and experiences, putting some at a disadvantage from the time they enter school. In other cases, students become a number at a ‘sub-par’ school that doesn’t challenge them. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian “educationalist” (Smith, 2002) who studied educational inequalities throughout the mid-nineteen hundreds, pinpointed the interactions between faculty and students as one of the most damaging factors in a child’s education. He coined the phrase, “banking concept in education” (Freire, 1993, p. 58), to describe the act of depositing (teacher) and state of being as a depository (student) when “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (Freire, 1993, p. 58). In this form of pedagogy, there is no dialogue between the educator and the student, there is only a passing of information. There is no synthesis, application, or creation of knowledge. As Freire says, “only dialogue, which requires critical thinking, is also capable of generating critical thinking” (Freire, 1993, p. 81). Yes, these students are educated, but it is an incomplete education. For the purpose of this essay, we will consider these individuals “uneducated”.
It is worth inquiring if the process of locating a ‘rift’ can be utilized by marginalized groups who require better access to education. In the course of discussing how to discover a ‘rift’, we must first identify groups who have been denied access to quality education. In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Collins (2000) specifically addresses Black women who have been denied the opportunity for the same quality of education White men and women have had access to in what she calls “White-controlled institutions” (Collins, 2000, p. 214) that do not appeal to or welcome Black women into their “White middle-class worldview” (Collins, 2000, p. 214). When it comes to opening access to higher education institutions, “White Americans are the ones who want affirmative action programs in higher education dismantled, even if such efforts effectively bar African-American access to elite colleges” (Collins, 2000, p. 234). In Resisting Difference: Cultural Studies and the Discourse of Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux (1992) addresses students who have been denied a thorough education that encourages them to become “active and critical citizens … [who] reflect on the conditions that shape themselves and their relationship with others” (Giroux, 1992, p. 199). Giroux (1992) argues that “schools cannot be separated from the social problems currently facing society” (p. 199), ignoring the environment of the ‘whole student’ (“political, economic, and social realities” (Giroux, 1992, p. 199) for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ plan. This observation echoes Collins’ (2000) thoughts that formal institutions have yet to break the ‘for White men, by White men’ mentality. While Giroux (1992) comments mainly on teaching methods, Paula Gunn Allen (1986) adds in “The Sacred Hoop” that it is also our written words to blame that have wrongfully educated people about Native American culture. According to Allen (1986), much of the Native American literature and stories have been lost through the ages because Native Americans traditionally pass down their stories verbally and by song, ceremony, and memory (Allen, 1986, p. 3). Traditionally, Westerners have a different view and understanding of the universe when compared with Native American beliefs. This fundamental difference has led to Native American interpretations being misrepresented in literature for centuries (Allen, 1986, p. 4). Western misconceptions have no doubt tainted textbooks read by Western and Native American children, alike. Schools and publishers “have been unable or unwilling to accept this difference and to develop critical procedures to illuminate the materials without trivializing or otherwise invalidating them” (Allen, 1986, p. 4).
The ‘uneducated’ and the voiceless have something in common- they have both been denied full access to services the majority has at their disposal. This common dilemma may allow them to borrow strategies from one another in order to find a way around their cultural confinement. This workaround, or ‘rift’, has been found in ‘safe spaces’, classrooms of radical teachers, and oral traditions by individuals who have been rendered voiceless. Similarly, the ‘uneducated’ may find ‘rifts’ in their confinement. Collins (2000) might encourage Black women to look for a ‘rift’ in their restricted access to education in relationships with other Black women (mothers, sisters, friends, mentors) (Collins, 2000, p. 103), writing, film and music (Collins, 2000, p. 104-105), Black women’s organizations populated with “better-educated teachers” (Collins, 2000, p. 214), and community development opportunities (Collins, 2000, p.212). Giroux (1992) might ask educators to consider flipping the classroom to that of a teacher leading critical discussions primarily through cultural studies “because it provides the grounds for making a number of issues central to a radical theory of schooling” (Giroux, 1992, p. 201). Freire (1993) has something to add here, too, “critical and liberating dialogue which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation” (p. 52). Finally, Allen (1986) would encourage Western governments and educators to look at Native American literature from “the point of view of its people … [in order to] learn the lessons of the past on this continent and the essential lesson of respect for all that it is” (Allen, 1986, p. 21).
It is not enough, however, to simply locate a ‘rift’. Like the voiceless who have used their resourcefulness to exploit the ‘rifts’ they have located, the ‘uneducated’ must also use their resourcefulness to locate education elsewhere. This self-empowerment shifts the balance of power from the privileged majority to anyone who wishes to access and benefit from knowledge. Each of the groups mentioned earlier would have a unique means of exploiting their ‘rift’. Collins would galvanize Black women to educate themselves in order to help and educate each other. She has already stated that, “despite social class differences among Black women, this tradition of becoming educated for Black community has permeated U.S. Black women’s activism”, … [rejecting] “limited definitions of education” (Collins, 2000, p. 214). Based on Collins’ quote, it could be asked why should education only come from formal institutions when it can be self-designed “to further African-Americans as a group, not solely for [their] own personal development” (Collins, 2000, p. 215)? Freire (1993) has also questioned this, “Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society?” (p. 29). Where Collins (2000) might focus on individual human capital to further a greater cause, Giroux (1992) would ask us to come up with a ‘Cultural Studies Pedagogical Paradigm’ that organizes “schools around a sense of purpose and meaning that makes difference central to a critical notion of citizenship and democratic public life” (Giroux, 1992, p.209). Students would be empowered to “rewrite difference through … narratives, languages, and experiences that provide a resource for rethinking the relationship between the center of margins of power as well as between themselves and others” (Giroux, 1992, p.209). Like Giroux (1992), Allen (1986) might also ask us to flip our classrooms, but to a discourse fully engaging the Native American perspective, not just through multimedia that puts certain song and ceremony into context for Westerners, but a follow-up conversation on why recordings may taint their meanings and the meanings behind the colors, words and symbols being used (Allen, 1986, p. 18-21).
As we have seen, certain populations can be rendered voiceless and ‘uneducated’ because of the groups they have been associated with. However, there is hope that a ‘rift’ can be found in their confinement. Individuals who find themselves without the same educational options as the majority can use a similar method other groups have found to locate the ‘rift’. Once a ‘rift’ is located, the ‘uneducated’ can then use their resourcefulness to exploit the ‘rift’ and empower themselves to access and utilize knowledge.
‘New Media’ as a Resource
As we have just seen, resourcefulness has been a tool employed by marginalized groups who have found themselves limited in their opportunities. This resourcefulness is always limited to an individual’s knowledge, possessions, and network. ‘New media’ has greatly contributed to this wealth of resources in many ways. I will now look at ‘new media’s’ impact on an individual’s resourcefulness.
Innovative developers have created ‘new media’ to be the most accessible medium of all time. Regardless of age, experience, location, time of day, or income, online content is available to anyone who seeks its help. The Internet space has become a community of volunteers who work tirelessly without pay to document, reload, and post about current news. This community of volunteers has helped connect content for those who can’t afford to purchase it, who are too ill to seek it elsewhere, or who don’t have options nearby. Individuals with disabilities have the ability to ‘hear, watch, and read’ a video thanks to closed captioning, instant transcript capabilities, and people who care enough to make it happen. The content can not only be accessed in multiple ways, but also in multiple languages, thanks to individuals who dedicate their time and talents to spread of information. One of the best features of this ‘new media’ is its cost— usually free.
Again, Howard Rheingold (2012) adds a comprehensive description here:
Mass collaboration has transformed not online the way people use the Internet but also how information is found (Google’s PageRank), knowledge is aggregated (Wikipedia), science is conducted (citizen science), software is created (social production of the free Linux operating system and Firefox, the second most popular Web browser), computing power is harnessed for research (distributed computation), people are entertained (massive multiplayer online games), problems are solved (collective intelligence), news is gathered (citizen journalism), disaster relief is delivered (crisis mapping and emergent collective response), communities are formed (virtual communities), and commercial products are designed and tested (crowdsourcing). (p. 148)
‘New media’ is not just affecting the virtual space. Recently, new advances in technology have made knowledge more open and easily sharable. Technology has also helped to enhance many of our public and cultural spaces and has helped to make them more accessible, such as The Natural History Museum of London which created two virtual worlds in 2007 for their “Ice Station Antarctica exhibition” (Cook, Reynolds, & Speight, 2010, p. 171) as described by Jos Boys (2010) in Creative Differences: Deconstructing the Conceptual Learning Spaces of Higher Education and Museums.
Because of the Internet, the world is a more connected place. Virtual connections have empowered people on many levels. Information is no longer solely for the privileged, it is for everyone. With access to the Web, an individual can learn, discuss with other viewers, and create for the enjoyment of others. The interaction between individuals is usually because of the common interest in the content, regardless of status, origin, or gender.
So far we have discussed ‘new media’ as a resource, but an argument can be made that ‘new media’ creates new ‘rifts’, as well. In many ways, ‘new media’ is multiple mediums within a medium. The various platforms inside of ‘new media’ offer methods of accessing content and communicating. We can apply issues Patricia Collins (20005) raised, here. Collins spoke of “safe spaces” Black women would create to share their thoughts and scholarship (Collins, 2000, p. 101). Do social media platforms not also provide “safe spaces”? Instead of simply leveraging these platforms to get information ‘out there’, one could create a group or network for these communications to reach. This would be the equivalent of an in-person “safe space”.
Inequalities within our society and social institutions still exist. Thus, marginalized groups must seek out alternate venues for their expression. Just as in the past, individuals today can exploit ‘the rift’ in order to express themselves. Just as some people have found themselves voiceless, another group of marginalized people have also found themselves seeking alternatives to our traditional education system. This group can also use ‘the rift’ as a way to move beyond the current system that confines them in order to gain access to knowledge. ‘New media’, however, may be making it easier for both groups to exploit ‘the rift’ and gain access to expression and education.
‘New Media’s Effect on Self-Education
With what has been said about ‘new media’ so far, it is easy to see its possibility in helping those who have found themselves without access to quality education. As individuals like Patricia Collins (2000) have expressed, higher education, in particular, has been an unwelcoming, closed space to marginalized groups. Because of income, status, and lack of opportunities, marginalized groups have been restricted from opportunities that can help them improve their quality of life. Thanks to ‘new media’, that fact is beginning to change. Across the nation, an education revolution has begun. From ‘ivy league’ scholars to dynamic high school teachers, selfless people across the world are giving up a little bit of their time to help others. Some higher education institutions, like Yale, have even offered their support by setting up YouTube channels (Schmoyer , 2012) to curate instructor videos and promote scholarship. Other institutions, like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), are encouraging their instructors to put their course content up online. Still, there are institutions, such as Stanford University, that are supporting endeavors by instructors to run massive online courses (Pappano, 2012), available to anyone around the world for free. The benefits of this type of open, sharable, and innovative time in education are boundless. Individuals who take up the offer to become students of this ‘new media’ have access to our era’s most brilliant minds and a network filled with diverse cultures, disciplines, and experiences.
There is still more for individuals who wish to construct their own learning experience, or ‘personal learning plans’. This radical concept of ‘DIY U’ is helping individuals who are interested in certain topics to develop their own curriculum using MIT Opencourseware (Watters, 2011), create their own projects using a presentation tool such as SlideRocket, and document their learnings in a unique and sharable way like setting up a Google Site (Barrett, 2008) as an ‘ePortfolio’. An individual can submit this work for review and earn an ‘open badge’ that they can share with their network and potential employers.
While constructing a ‘personal learning plan’ may be out of the expertise range for some people, access to the content is not. Thanks to YouTube, people across our nation, where obesity is a problem, are finding out how to cook fresh food and workout (Chang, 2011). Thanks to LiveMocha, immigrants new to the United States can learn English for free with the help of others (Winkler, 2011). And thanks to Facebook pages like one from Parenting magazine (Parenting Magazine, 2012), parents can find answers to their questions before the doctor’s office opens. The common thread here is people helping people, which is really at the core of ‘new media’. The features of accessibility and community endorse ‘new media’s effect on self-education.
‘New Media’s Effect on Expression
Like those who have helped individuals discover education, countless tech savvy specialists have also dedicated their time to develop applications that help others to express themselves. Many of the world’s social media platforms were started out as recreational projects and many of these companies are committed to keeping their access free. One touching example of this commitment to free access is the development of an application called MyVoice (Brosnahan, 2012) that gives individuals with low muscle control the ability to speak through the application. In cases when individuals have had difficulty their entire life communicating their thoughts and feelings, this app gives them a method to express themselves.
This commitment to free and open platforms has also made it possible to expand one’s network. In 2011, citizen journalists took to their phones to document events and start revolution when Mohammed Bouazizi (Brosnahan, 2012), a vegetable cart vendor set himself on fire to protest being silenced by police when he complained about an unjust incident. The event was recorded by bystanders and sparked a revolution known as the Arab Spring Revolution. When it came to organizing the revolution, protesters turned to platforms that couldn’t be tamed (Abouzeid, 2011), such as Facebook and Twitter. Mohammed was voiceless, but by banning together, others expressed his frustration about the current government.
Regina Sirois was just the average writing mom before she decided to self-publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace (CreateSpaceBlogger, 2007). After trying to sell her story to various publishers with only rejections, she decided to self-publish her book using this easy online tool. Her book was downloaded over fourteen thousand times and she won a contract with Penguin/Viking publishing. Regina’s story is one that brings hope to authors everywhere. We used to live at a time when publishers determined what the public wanted. Now, authors can self-publish and let the public decide for themselves what they want.
Those who are voiceless can borrow ways in which individuals are using ‘new media’ to educate themselves in order to find a means to express themselves. There are many groups being liberated because of the advancements in technology over the past few decades. With all the positive contributions, however, there is still much to do to encourage this effort.
The Future of ‘New Media’
Although ‘new media’ has added to the many resources an individual can call on if they need to find a means through a ‘rift’, there is still much to be done to make sure it remains accessible and continues to expand its reach. One example includes the leverage of the World Wide Web to deliver ‘new media’ resources. Currently, over two billion (“Internet users,” 2011) people have access to the Internet around the world. In most cases, these are individuals who can afford it. We need to support and encourage free city-wide wireless movements, such as that being sponsored by Google Fiber, Google’s effort to deliver free wireless Internet access.
Similarly, we must continue our efforts to make devices that access the Internet more cost-effective. The most logical effort is ‘Smart Phones’ because of their portability. Over one billion people in the world own a ‘Smart Phone’, currently (Ramanathan, 2012). We need to continue to put them into the hands of individuals who would surely leverage their power to discover information and have their voices heard.
In conclusion, resourcefulness is a critical skill many can call on to have opportunities they would otherwise be limited from. Throughout history, resourcefulness has allowed the voiceless to express themselves. Similarly, resourcefulness has allowed the uneducated to educate themselves. Because of recent advances in technology and access, ‘new media’ is making it easier for the uneducated to access a wider variety of resources and for individuals to educate others. ‘New media’ can also make it easier for the voiceless to have a voice and to be heard by a larger population.
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