3000 Individual Talk Panel EF:Digital Media and the Challenge of Expanding Freedoms Around the World

06/12/2015 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
El Capitan B

12401 Individual Talk EF:Laughing Through Change: Egyptian and Arab Youth Online Subversive Humor
Organizer: Yomna Elsayed

Constrained by their authoritarian ruling regimes and cultural traditions of respect for authority, Arab youth seek to find ways for subversive self expression and public will formation in the non-heavily supervised, somewhat, safe spaces of humor in online videos and social media. Though Arab spring revolutions came at the price of a tightening state grip on students and young adults for fear of dissent, they nonetheless, provided a crystallization — though short-lived– of what was once considered pure imagination. Now that state crackdowns have intensified especially in the wake of the latest military coup, young adults are exploring other means for self expression at the contours of social change, and the subversive murky borders between jokes and insults, seriousness and frivolity. This study argues that there is a cultural symbiosis between paternal and political authority which complicates the Arab youth’s attempts at political change making their task both a social and a political one. It seeks to explore ways in which Arab youth carve out a space for self expression, identity formation, and ultimately social change amid an unwelcoming complex social and political conflict, and how digital media affordances work to facilitate or possibly constraint their participation. The study employs a qualitative thematic analysis of online video productions, and social media discourse of Internet Arab comedians and/or opinion leaders. Findings indicate that the young adults’ emphasis on change targets deeply ingrained social issues within the context of contemporary political events, subverting both the political and social status quo of the Arab world.

12591 Individual Talk EF: Global social media equality: China’s social media sphere and freedom beyond firewalls
Organizer: Zoey (Xuezhao) Wang

Citizens worldwide have been more and more aware of the importance of equality within digital space. Even though the concept of using digital and social media as part of civic engagement to improve the equality in our societies, there are still basic but major issues like inequality of digital access remains in a global scale. For instance, China holds a particularly controversial position in the debate of online equality and freedom of speech (expression). On the one hand, major social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are banned in China, which limits Chinese citizens’ open and active communication with people from other countries. On the other hand, various fast-growing Chinese local social media have played important roles among Chinese “netizens” domestically. However, people from other countries may have confusions or misunderstandings on some conditions.

As globalization expands, we call for more progressive improvement on enhancing digital freedom and online equality cross boarders. In this short talk, I will briefly present the current digital isolation between China and the world and the efforts that netizens both in and outside of China online have made to change the situation. I then will conduct a discussion with my audiences on what could we do to educate our student to cope with the emerging crisis of the digital inequality on a global scale. In Despite of the cultural divide, what are the opportunities that online creators and educators and utilize to push this movement forward.

12752 Individual Talk EF:Anything HE Can Do, I Can Do Better – Girls as Game Designers (LAST MINUTE CANCELLATION)
Organizer: Erica Holan Lucci

This short talk seeks to address the question posed within the conference call in regards to the inequities associated with females interest in fields typically dominated by males. Given the recent controversy surrounding #Gamergate and female game designers’ rights in a professional arena predominantly populated by males, what better time than to explore, nay, HIGHLIGHT, how the up-and-coming generation of female gamers/game designers becomes exposed to, interact with, and thrive within the gamer subculture.

More specifically, my recent work with students ages 7-12 via a videogame design/coding club held after school hours enlightened my perspective on the attitudes females have about gaming and the design aspect of learning in this learning context. The creation of this club was based solely on my personal interest in teaching students how to create their own videogames utilizing the program GameStar Mechanic. My initial foray into this realm began last Spring (2014) with a group of fifteen 4th-6th grade students. By the end of our eight weeks together, the troop had whittled to a mere ten students, with a female majority of the coterie remaining. A second round of more advanced game design (utilizing the program Scratch) was offered this Fall (2014) semester. Eight students signed up, four males and four females. All eight students remained in the program for the entire eight week period it was offered. Informal chats with both my male and female protégés led the groundwork for more substantial research queries I have in relation to the female game/r/designer subculture and how these students represent the future possibilities for the field.

In short, my goal for this 10-minute research review is to discuss my anecdotal experiences with other like-minded scholars interested in broadening the breadth and scope of studies focused on the up-and-coming female gamer generation while simultaneously looking for more in-depth approaches to research females who want equal footing on the “playing field” (pun intended 😉

12647 Promoting Civic Engagement and Social Interaction through Online Spaces in Non-Democratic Environments: Transforming the Approach and Practices of Iranian Educators in Schools
Organizers: Maryam Alemi, Maryam Abolfazli

The Online School for Civic Education (Afrooz School for Civic Education) is intended to give Iranian teachers and educators inside the country the opportunity to reflect, experiment, and create classroom experiences aimed at teaching their students how to think rather than what to think. This online program was created in 2011 by a group of Iranian diaspora working for Eurasia Foundation, a NGO based in Washington D.C.

Afrooz School was developed to provide Iranian teachers and educators with an alternative to existing top- down, ideological, and teacher-centered civic education inside Iran. The Online School’s approach is to give teachers an opportunity to reflect on and practice democratic concepts of citizenship and civic engagement through dialogue and participation in a series of online forum discussions, chat sessions, and other online activities in the Persian language. Afrooz Online School was built upon the belief that education can and should be used as a vehicle for social transformation. As Tikly and Barrett (2011) argue, education can foster key capabilities such as creativity, self-growth, self-awareness, leadership, empathy and compassion among individuals, communities and thus society in general. In this paper, we examine case studies from Afrooz Online School to demonstrate that online spaces can be used as a means to practice such skills and to overcome obstacles to equality, visibility, and inclusion of marginalized groups. Therefore we argue that online spaces provide opportunities for individuals –and in this particular case to teachers- to practice and value forms of democratic engagement and skills that are aimed at creating a more equitable society, as Richard Schaul described it as “practice of freedom.”

In this presentation, we introduce online pedagogical model encouraged by Afrooz Online School or by teachers on-line that promotes civic engagement, mutual trust and inclusion. The case studies provided in this presentation illustrate different perspective on how online spaces can contribute to progressive social change in closed and non-democratic settings such as Iran where teachers as citizens do not have a space to practice democratic citizenship. We argue that online platforms are opportunities to encourage teachers to think and move beyond their classrooms and thus engage in critical praxis that foster social change and transformation. The online environment provides teachers with experiential training in democratic civic education despite and within the context of the existing civic education paradigm in Iran, which defines citizenship in terms of devotion to religious ideology. We argue that online platforms are opportunities for teachers to experience inclusive and equitable environments that encourage and equip them to engage in critical praxis that foster social change and transformation.

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