OII SDP 2007 (XVI): Obama Girl Confronts the Future: New Media Literacies, Civic Engagement, and Participatory Culture

Leads: Henry Jenkins, Carrie Lambert-Beatty

What connections might we posit between the participatory culture which has grown up around popular media and the ideals of participatory democracy? In the last Presidential campaign, we saw the emergence of blogs, amateur film contests, and social networking software as significant resources for political activism and we saw signs that people were remixing media images for the purpose of creating their own political commentary. What seemed to be cutting edge practices four years ago are emerging as pervasive aspects of the current campaign season (witness the anti-Hillary “1984” advertisement, the Pro-Barrack “Obama Girl” video, and Hillary Clinton’s own spoof of The Sopranos, all circulated via YouTube in an election that is just getting started.) Similar tactics have emerged through the Save Our Internet campaign which was launched to promote Net Neutrality. How do such tactics mobilize our skills as fans, bloggers, and gamers as resources for promoting a more engaged citizenship? What does this suggest about the importance of protecting the rights of citizens to appropriate, parody, remix, and recirculate media content in an age of increases struggle over intellectual property? What might our educational institutions do to insure that young people acquire the social skills and cultural competencies needed to fully participate in these debates? How might we understand these trends in relation to a growing backlash against what writers like Andrew Keen are calling “the Cult of the Amateur”?

Activism, civic engagement will not be top-down organized but really grassroots and participatory, active (i.e. spectacles that work only if the people help create them). Low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.

Ideals of a Progressive Popular Culture

  • participatory
  • active
  • open ended
  • transparent
  • transformative

My reflections

  • The problem with popular media making politics become something suitable for “consumption” iis that the system gets subverted. In subversion, the supporter becomes the center of the spotlight and is no more supporter but the target. I.e. it is OK to have U2 sing Sunday Bloody Sunday (on anyone else doing such stuff) but it is absolutely unacceptable to have Mr. Bono speaking on behalf of Africa in a most illegitimate way.
  • See Bono, I Presume?, Africans to Bono: ‘For God’s sake please stop!’ and Bono versus Mwenda (all via Ethan Zuckerman‘s blog).


Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. (Chapter 6: Photoshop for Democracy). New York: New York University Press.

More info


SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2007) “OII SDP 2007 (XVI): Obama Girl Confronts the Future: New Media Literacies, Civic Engagement, and Participatory Culture” In ICTlogy, #46, July 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from https://ictlogy.net/review/?p=582

Previous post: OII SDP 2007 (XVII): Copyright 2010: The Future of Copyright

Next post: OII SDP 2007 (Break): Visit to the MIT Media Lab and One Laptop per Child Foundation

RSS feed RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Your comment:

About Me