Participatory Media Literacy

The first thing we may think of when we think of participatory media is social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Participatory media can also include blogs, forums, and playing video games with other players online. People are using these platforms to either share our story, express our opinions, or collaborating to complete a quest. We call this participatory culture.

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experiences is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created) (Jenkins, 2009, p. 3).

It has become easier for us to contribute to society. News sites have allowed us to comment on articles. Message boards have enabled us to be a part of a community that shares a common interest. Creating video allowed us to share our thoughts in the form of pictures and sounds instead of text on a screen or paper. People are sharing and contributing information to the world. Students have the ability to learn from people around the world. They also have the ability to create change in society by creating content such as How-To videos or setting up a message board for like-minded people to safely share their feelings. However, participatory culture comes with some concerns.

Henry Jenkins addresses three concerns in participatory culture

  • The Participation Gap – The unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.
  • The Transparency Problem – The challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.
  • The Ethics Challenge – The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants. (Jenkins, 2009, p. 3).


Everyone opinion matters. Unfortunately, not everyone can participate due to lack of resources. Those that can participate may only do it share their life and others to change the world. There are others that have an agenda. It becomes important for people, especially young students, to be able to dissect the agenda. We need to answer questions such as “Who is the target audience?” and “Why is this being addressed?” Celebrities, news agencies, politicians, and those that are verified on social media agenda-based participation carry more weight due to their status. Their status can become a form of persuasion and manipulation. By having this power, their opinions become facts to their followers.

When students don’t distinguish among journalism, satire, or comedy, and commentary, they can easily become misinformed. (Scheibe, 2012, p. 126)

While social and economic status plays a role in influencing society, it should not change our opinion. For educators and non-educators, we need to understand the culture, the challenges in participatory culture, learning to read media, and how to become a better user in the online world.


How do we teach students how to be active and well-informed contributors and participants in media?

How do we filter valuable information from bias?


Bridging the Generational Gap in Volunteerism by Developing Generation-Based Volunteer Management Practices [Image]. (2014). Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Building the Field of Digital and Media Learning. Retrieved from

Patient Participation Group (PPG) [Image]. (2016). Retrieved from

Scheibe, C. L., & Rogow, F. (2012). The teacher’s guide to media literacy : critical thinking in a multimedia world. Retrieved from

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