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October 19, 2009 |

For the past year or so, I’ve been working with David Theo Goldberg at the University of California Humanities Research Institute in planning for and establishing a new research hub in digital media and learning. This is part of the work of the MacArthur Foundation in supporting research and field-building in this area. Starting this fall, we’ve been kicking off a new range of activities meant to support communication and collaboration. One centerpiece of our efforts is an annual conference that we are organizing, the first of which will be convened in San Diego February 18-20. The theme is “Diversifying Participation” and Henry Jenkins will be chairing. I will be part of the conference committee, together with David Goldberg, Heather Horst, Jabari Mahiri, and Holly Willis.

One of the problems with a new and highly interdisciplinary field is that there are few conferences and journals that really cater to our specific areas of interest. The MacArthur Foundation helped start the International Journal of Learning and Media to address this gap. The conference is the next step in this field-building effort.

The deadline for session proposals is approaching quickly — October 30! Please consider submitting something and joining us for the event. I am confident that we will look back at this inaugural year of the event as the start of something memorable. There is a wiki for session organizing and more details below.



February 18 – 20, 2010

Cal IT2
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, California

We are pleased to announce the first Digital Media and Learning Conference, an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation. The conference is meant to be an inclusive, international and annual gathering of scholars and practitioners in the field, focused on fostering interdisciplinary and participatory dialog and linking theory, empirical study, policy, and practice.

For this inaugural year, the theme will be “Diversifying Participation”. Henry Jenkins is the Chair of the Digital Media and Learning Conference and our Keynote Speakers will be Sonia Livingstone and S. Craig Watkins.

We invite submissions for session proposals that speak to the conference theme as well as to the field of digital media and learning more broadly. Those wishing to present work should look to propose or participate in a panel topic (see submission process outlined below).


A growing body of research has identified how young people’s digital media use is tied to basic social and cultural competencies needed for full participation in contemporary society. We continue to develop an understanding of the impact of these experiences on learning, civic engagement, professional development, and ethical comprehension of the digital world.

Yet research has also suggested that young people’s forms of participation with new media are incredibly diverse, and that risks, opportunities, and competencies are spread unevenly across the social and cultural landscape. Young people have differential access to online experiences, practices, and tools and this has a consequence in their developing sense of their own identities and their place in the world. In some cases, different forms of participation and access correspond with familiar cultural and social divides. In other cases, however, new media have introduced novel and unexpected kinds of social differences, subcultures, and identities.

It is far too simple to talk about this in terms of binaries such as “information haves and have nots” or “digital divides”. There are many different kinds of obstacles to full participation, many different degrees of access to information, technologies, and online communities, and many different ways of processing those experiences. Participatory cultures surrounding digital media are characterized by a diversity that does not track automatically to high and low access or more or less sophisticated use. Rather, multiple forms of expertise, connoisseurship, identity, and practice are proliferating in online worlds, with complicated relationships to pre-existing categories such as socioeconomic status, gender, nationality, race, or ethnicity.

We encourage sessions that describe, document, and critically analyze different forms of participation and how they relate to various forms of social and cultural capital. We are interested in accounts of the challenges and obstacles which block or inhibit engagement to different forms of online participation. We also encourage session proposals that engage with successful intervention strategies and pedagogical processes enabling once marginalized groups to more fully exploit the opportunities for learning with digital media. Conversely, we are interested in hearing more about how marginal and subcultural communities find diverse uses of new and emerging technologies, pushing them in new directions and navigating a complicated relationship with “mainstream” forms of participation. Specifically, we seek to understand the following:

* What can research on more diverse communities contribute to our understanding of the learning ecologies surrounding new media?
* What are the technologies, practices, economic, and cultural divides that lead to segregation, “gated” information communities, and differential access?
* When and how do diversity and differentiation in participation promote social and cultural benefits and opportunities, and when do they create schisms that are less equitable or productive?
* What strategies have proven successful at broadening opportunities for participation, overcoming the many different kinds of segregation or exclusion which impact the online world, and empowering more diverse presences throughout cyberspace?
* Are there things occurring on the margins of the existing digital culture that might valuably be incorporated into more mainstream practices?

In addition to these questions directly addressing the conference theme, we welcome submissions that address innovative new directions in research and practice relating to digital media and participatory learning.


Submissions should be in the form of full session proposals. Proposed sessions may range from 1 to 2 hours in length and may include traditional paper presentations, hands-on workshops, design critiques, demos, pecha kucha, or roundtable discussions. We welcome and encourage submissions of innovative formats, but request that the proposals come in the form of session proposals rather than individual papers or presentations.

The goal of the event is to foster dialog and build connections. To that end, sessions should have at least three to four presenters and/or discussants. Session organizers should reserve substantial amounts of time for open discussion and exchange.

We have established an open wiki for potential participants to engage in session organizing. The wiki can be used to call for contributions to a briefly outlined session topic, to seek out partners to develop a topic together, to brainstorm about co-presenters, and any other functions potential participants find valuable. The wiki can be accessed at:

Session organizers should submit proposals that consist of a title and a 200-word abstract (including proposed presentation topics and formats and the speakers and/or discussants). In addition, names and contact details for the session organizers and participants will be required. The submission system is available here

Each individual will be limited to participation on no more than two panels at the conference. Participants will be expected to fund their own travel and accommodation. Registration for the conference will be free.

Conference Website:

Conference Wiki:

Conference Submission System:

Conference Committee: Henry Jenkins, David Theo Goldberg, Heather Horst, Mimi Ito, Jabari Mahiri and Holly Willis

Submission System Available: September 30, 2009
Deadline for Submissions: October 30, 2009
Notification of Acceptance: November 30, 2009
Registration System Opens: December 15, 2009
Conference Program Announced: December 15, 2009
Registration Deadline: February 1, 2010
Evening Reception: February 18, 2010

Digital Media and Learning Research Hub
UC Humanities Research Institute
University of California, Irvine