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Philly’s Digital Immigration

Examining educational programs which promote digital and media literacy for Philadelphia’s students to improve their city.


Sarah Palin was the first female governor of Alaska and was the vice presidential running mate for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.  She represents a long list of conservative values- she opposes same sex marriage, supports the teaching of creationism in schools and is a supporter of Israel. Palin also heavily endorses the Tea Party movement in the U.S. She has published two books, Going Rogue and America By Heart, and has started her own political action committee, Sarah Palin PAC. She has been the object of intense media and liberal scrutiny and is either hated or loved by most Americans.

This is a typical representation of Sarah Palin.  It is the photograph from the front of her book titled
Going Rogue
.  The author of this photograph probably consists of members of her campaign.  They selected this picture because they felt like it was the most appropriate representation of Sarah Palin for the cover of her book.  This cover photo depicts her as an average person.  She is wearing a red jacket that represents her connection with the Republican Party.  The jacket also grabs the viewer’s attention because it is the most noticeable part of the entire photograph.  Also the picture looks like it was taken near her home in Alaska.  This shows that she is the typical small town American who can connect with the people.  There is a small American flag pin on her jacket that shows that she is patriotic. 

This critical picture of 2008 vice presidentially candidate and former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin was posted to a Freak show Photoshop contest on the website of The image represents Palin’s rugged outdoorswomen nature and as an open proponent to the 2nd Amendment which she has represented in many speeches to the public. The image also alludes to her best-selling book, Going Rogue, as the play on her image in this critical picture of her appearing like Rambo as a gun toting rogue, and seems to poke fun at her outdoorsy, hunting image she proudly demonstrations to the public. The picture uses a fairly provocative image to catch audience’s attention. It balances Palin’s femininity as a woman which could appeal to some men and blends it with that of a gun-loving mercenary that the Alaskan wilderness requires and is revered. On a political level some conservatives could find this image offensive whereas others could see the humor. Feminists probably would not appreciate degrading image of a woman. This picture appeals to the youth, online culture of today as Photoshop has become a means to create and share content. The image omits Palin’s values or messages as a political leader and only dramatizes public interpretation of some a couple things pop-culture chose to associate with her.


After reading “The Digital Natives Debate” and “What Students Don’t Know” in comparison with my experiences of technology and information literacy skills, I must say that my understanding in accessing sources is overestimated. Attending Catholic institutions through elementary and high school have proven to be not much of an advantage. My schools, both located in the debilitated Olney section of North Philadelphia, lacked adequate technology and other luxuries that many private schools enjoy and most public schools lack. I cannot recall any instruction to my high school’s library or practice in proper search methods and utilizing the librarian’s knowledge, nor was their improvement in technology. Computer labs were plagued with obsolete modules and all but two Smart Boards. Entering Temple I was presented with a gift as in a Summer Bridge course was introduced to helpful librarians and the many databases that inquiry millions of text within Paley’s stacks. However, I found myself isolated by a great shadow of knowledge which a university casts. Thus becomes a dilemma that I am certain many students such as myself face; college is intimidating. Librarians try understanding why students are not asking for help and knowing what kind of help they need. It is most likely because we are afraid as we wish to be treated as equal scholars, but that is not the case. The magnitude of the Diamond Catalog is terrifying as I have difficulty in narrowing my search and become victim to a problem the “What Students Don’t Know” article points out, “students would be so discouraged they would change their research topic to something more amenable to a simple search.” I am guilty of

So easy a caveman can do it.

dropping topics, but we must also look into the classroom. Walking into a college classroom is itself intimidating as you are faced with giants of education and seated amongst brilliant minds, especially when in a lecture hall. I have come to find in many of my lecture-base classes teachers have little interaction with students, aside from a handful of standouts. For example, I approached a professor with a question about a project, immediately he looked at me with distain as to say, “How dare I bring this substandard matter to him and how could I not know what I was supposed to do about it!” So he directed it to the teaching assistant which some professors do. No disrespect to teachers’ assistants as they are sufficiently knowledgeable and helpful and earned their place in the classroom, however they can only do so much. It is understandable as college students, teachers are to expect us to be sufficient in finding solutions to our own questions without holding someone’s hand, but unfortunately “seem to assume that students would pick up how to do library research, or that a one-shot instruction session would have been enough” ( Perhaps we as college students are overestimated, and some do require a little extra as no two students are alike. Until there is equality throughout the American Education System professors, TAs and librarians should maybe more considerate. “Today’s college students might have grown up with the language of the information age, but they do not necessarily know the grammar” ( My generation are not ‘digital natives’, far from it. We are merely immigrants becoming accustomed to a new world that has proven to be much larger and more complex than we would like to admit.


The Digital Youth Network is a program that interests me as it was presented in a way that provokes interest in learning, specifically areas which the student wants to learn. What the one student, Malcolm of the Digital Youth Network said struck me how everyone sees various symbols and texts and interprets them, but he wants to have a say to what his generation is exposed. “Texts are continuously created by authors and involve the coordination from different types of labor” (Hobbs 1998: 21). It demands a use and understanding of multimedia technology in collaboration with other students as they are not just taking in a message but becoming the authors of the messages they share with their peers. A moment in the video that really stood out is when James Gee said, “Digital media is changing the ecology of reading and writing rather than destroying it.” It was a refreshing look at what I questioned as a possible threat to education where in actuality is using different practices that are much more engaging and producing different text. Some problems this new approach to learning may have is with the traditional standard of education in the US. How will the testing and textbook industry try to either adapt or denounce this “new learning”. Some will find it hard to imagine their kids not learning the same facts from a teacher that they did. Our culture of learning has been limited throughout the 20th Century by policing ourselves and our children and discouraging innovative ways of learning because they may not be valued while they actually could be valuable to children in their life. The only negative I can see this new approach may have is that some people learn differently or may not be fond of this style and therefore left out of the equation and left behind. On the other hand these skills learned and acquired are essential for the 21st Century. We should be preparing the 21st Century Student for a 21st Century World. One thing omitted from the video which interested me was how the kids got into these schools and programs and also who were directly involved in their funding and conception.


To someone who is not familiar with the proclaimed, “Old Spice Guy” (Isaiah Mustafa), other than the production company and ad-agency an author may be unclear; however, the product is being presented to us from the beginning. Also the company’s watermark can be seen in the bottom left-hand corner. The ad reiterates the same message using rhetorical questions and inferences made by the character that women want a “real man.” Your man can be as macho or smooth as the Old Spice Guy by using Old Spice. It is clearly to sell the product and brand but also entertain.

In about half a minute the character asks a series of questions to which he replies rapidly with obvious answers. While he bombards the viewer’s ears with Q and A he catches our eyes by continuously changing from set to set in comical fashion by performing irrelevant tasks to the purpose of the product. It is a shock and awe approach to grab the audience’s attention in a very short amount of time to where they cannot and should not miss a single second of the utter hilarity of this madness. It’s almost unforgettable as to whose product it is, and to make sure you have not forgotten it ends with Old Spice’s trademark jingle.

The commercial takes a point of view from a woman and what they may or should want in their man. A man should have bravado, be romantic and rugged to satisfy their woman. Part of looking good is smelling good, and this obsession of beauty is valued and seen throughout American culture.

Someone amongst the target audience, late teens to early twenties male may find it entertaining. Likewise their female counterpart, and may even want their man to smell like the Old Spice Guy. Older generations, who grew up with the brand, may or may not understand the humor or find it childish and blow off its message.

The message leaves out the product almost entirely other than its image. We don’t know how much it costs, where to find it or even the scent.


In his paper, “What is Literacy?” James Paul Gee (1986) provides a complicated definition as to what he believes literacy to be. First he explains the importance of societal networks we have developed to share knowledge which he calls discourses.  Gee goes on to say, “Literacy is control of secondary uses of language (i.e. uses of language in secondary discourses)” (Gee, 1&6).  Secondary discourses or secondary institutions could describe school, the workplace, political party or religious communities. Here we interact with people who necessarily do not share the same amount of interest or knowledge as they are not exposed to similar experiences. Our experiences within these secondary discourses test our literacy we obtained through the primary discourse. This primary discourse is a familial network that could consist of family or close friends who impact our social identity from youth. According to Gee, we cannot become literate without knowledge, and he establishes a distinction of how we obtain knowledge; acquisition and learning. Gee argues, “Acquisition is good for performance; learning is good for meta-level knowledge” (Gee, 5). Acquired knowledge is understood by nearly all, and not conscious, but learned knowledge is explicit and conscious. Learned knowledge is the understanding of understanding; through this deep level of understanding we remain relevant within our own circles of discourse.

Being irrelevant on the internet means you simply do not exist. As is mentioned by Dana Boyd in her article, “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites” with the creation of social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Friendster etc. we created what Gee would probably see as a tertiary discourse. A web of impersonal networks spun off the formal circles we have associated ourselves in. With this informal and faceless audience we present “ourselves” to spawn an accepted and promoted aspect of what Boyd calls “social voyeurism.”  She elaborates, “Many began participating because of the available social voyeurism and the opportunity to craft a personal representation in an increasingly popular online community” (Boyd, 2007: 4). This image is like a stage performance to present ourselves in a different way that maybe our primary and secondary discourses would not view appropriate, relevant or uncharacteristic of that group. By understanding the social protocols of networking sites we grow and alter our self image to what we wish others to see. This process, performance and adjustment is what Erving Goffman called Impression Management. “Through learning to make sense of others’ responses to our behavior, we can assess how well we have conveyed what we intended. We can then alter our performance accordingly” (Boyd, 2007: 11-12). This assessment into understanding ourselves and other peoples understanding of us we become literate and think about our relationships.

Like many other social networks, videogames also promote system thinking. In Gee’s “Good Video Games and Good Learning” article he tells us, “Games encourage players to think about relationships, not isolated events, facts, and skills” (Gee, 2005: 36). In previous work, Gee expressed that the best way to gain knowledge is to both, acquire and learn as it allows for a greater knowledge into social literacy as some acquired knowledge is essential into the greater meta-level knowledge learning provides us.


There has been much debate amongst educators from various platforms who have come down the podiums to address the way kids attain knowledge. At the forefront of the discussion are Jerome Bruner and David Olson. In their essay “Symbols and Texts as Tools of Intellect” Bruner and Olson present us with three ways which children, and even adults, learn. Currently, the transferring of knowledge is translated to words and texts. Teaching is symbolic and language based, and this lecture/listen method    is widely accepted because we believe the basic knowledge being transmitted is a suitable means of learning. Bruner as well as other scholars, namely John Dewey expresses concern with this school of thought  the  “relationship  between  experience  and  knowledge  reappears  in  the current attempts at  education reform, which emphasize the role of  process instead of  content, or  more specifically of activity, participation and experience instead of the acquisition of factual information” (Bruner,  1960; Living and Learning,  1968). Where teachers are failing is in the transferring of knowledge. The information they are seeing and hearing is not actually being received. Simply ‘covering a subject’ is acceptable to some in the education system.

Their second point was people obtain knowledge through activity. Bruner says, “Knowledge is always specified or mediated through some form of human activity,” or knowledge, but it also enables the opportunity to gain a skill. In this process we are not passively just accepting a one-tracked idea to what is the right or wrong answer. Gaining knowledge via activity allows the learning to decipher the importance of a message through the skills, whatever the knowledge maybe, provides. This more contemporary thought of teaching raises eyebrows and also questions to whether this style of learning is not only more beneficial to students but also practical in regards to what skills they develop.

Finally, Bruner presents us with symbolic activity. It is a means of teaching using various symbolic/visual forms of media as opposed to direct lecture or physical experiences. This process provides “instruction through language splitting knowledge from practical action.” The beauty about language Bruner sheds light to is useful and important in both areas of practical action and in basic understanding of a subject. Seemingly, symbolic activity presents itself as being the most practical way to allow children to obtain knowledge along with experience and have them make sense of its importance.

Personally, I found the second form, knowledge through activity, better suit me. I was at a time a Boy Scout in summer camp and required to take courses which would result in merit badges. Usually, if I was working on a merit badge outside of summer camp it found to be a very boring and tedious task as most of the knowledge is transferred though a book by a scout leader. Whereas, the summer presented itself to be an environment promoting hands-on learning and skill development. This style of learning helped me to learn how to shoot and edit film in the course required for Cinematography Merit Badge. I like many others am unsure to what methods are superior in servicing children with an education by transferring knowledge, and I believe a major issue is rooted in what our understanding and experiences with what knowledge is or could be considered to be. It looks as though we put ourselves into a revolving door which we cannot find a definitive exit.