Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals

First Annual Digital Media and Learning Conference - Diversifying Participation
February 18 – 20, 2010

 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. The conference committee includes David Theo Goldberg, Heather Horst, Mimi Ito, Jabari Mahiri and Holly Willis.

The final date for receipt of session proposals was October 30, 2009. We are no longer accepting session or paper submissions.


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.