I am off to London to attend the Fifth Anniversary Conference of Media@lse, which is the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics.

I’ll be presenting a paper that is part of ongoing dissertation research. It’s called Peer pedagogy in an interest-driven community: The practices and problems of online tutorials. I co-authored the paper with Becky Herr-Stephenson who has been a colleague of mine on the Digital Youth project for the past three years (and a current collaborator on the MacArthur Foundation’s efforts to create a Digital Media and Learning Networked Studio).

Here is the abstract of the paper:

While many have celebrated youth participation in online activities as an empowering opportunity for socialization, creative expression, and learning, how this participation plays out in practice is not well understood. In this paper, we consider the ways in which peers teach and learn through the creation and posting of tutorials within a self-described online community of artists and media producers. We describe the practices associated with the production of tutorials in terms of genres of participation, modes of engagement with new media. Within the genres of participation framework, creating tutorials can be seen as a way to earn reputation and demonstrate expertise within the alternative status economy of a specific interest-driven community. However, we also show that tutorials can be a source of tension between participants in such a community, as members may view tutorials and their relationships to learning and improving one’s craft in contradictory ways.

The talk that I am going to give on Monday will mainly cover the second half of the paper–the point about tensions over the value of tutorials. While it seems that tutorials on deviantART are generally fairly popular and valuable to members of the site, it was interesting to hear that not everyone feels that way. We are still trying to figure out what it all means. Therefore the paper is still a work-in-progress in many ways and we welcome any feedback.