Jenkins made this comment in a recent post in the context of media education:
“We are going to need to reconfigure knowledge to reflect profound shifts in the realities of living in a transmedia and networked culture.” (Jenkins 2011)
The reconfiguration of knowledge, or the re-assessment of what can be known, why, from whom, where and by what means, is no longer the preserve of academic experts. Most members of a democratic networked society, young and old, can now have a voice through the use of social media and other channels and it is the purpose of qualitative social research to examine the resultant highly visible ‘mess’, or otherwise, of public production and consumption. One way of unravelling the mess would be to deploy measured, self-reflexive ethnography, mindful of its sociological and anthropological roots, yet ready to grasp contradiction and anomaly; an approach which is resistant to essentialism and homogenization. That said, findings using this method must still be met with: “epistemological suspicion” (Gray, 2003: 176, drawing on Back); the more conviction with which a researcher makes a truth claim, the more acknowledged their “partially positioned” (Gray, 2003: 183) perspective must be.
As an educator with professional new media experience, one could be forgiven for anticipating a certain bias in my account; on the other hand, the outcomes I present are informed by years of varied local and international EFL (English as a Foreign Language) experience, management and training in the corporate sector and freelance web design work. I believe that EFL elicitation techniques in particular have much to offer not only mainstream and creative media teaching practice but also ethnographic research methods in terms of productive interview strategies and enhanced group dynamics. To varying degrees and in various contexts, my role has been to facilitate the articulation of meaning as relevant to the learner or user, be it the development of a brand, a new or latent language, an untapped competence or dormant sensitivities. Buckingham describes the importance of social context in learning and evaluation thus:
“Skills cannot be taught in any lasting way if they are not set in the context of the students’ attempts to communicate meaning” (2003:132)