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Touching Mercury in Community Media: Identifying Multiple Literacy Learning Through Digital Arts Production

, University of Cincinnati, United States

University of Cincinnati . Awarded


Educational paradigm shifts call for 21st century learners to possess the knowledge, skills, abilities, values, and experiences associated with multiple forms of literacy in a participatory learning culture. Contemporary educational systems are slow to adapt. Outside of school, people have to be self-motivated and have access to resources in order to gain media production experiences. Community-based media centers join arts and culture with technology and computing while addressing issues of social justice, access equity, and public policy. These agencies function as community technology centers and can be complex organizations, existing in many forms, each with unique characteristics as well as fundamental commonalities. The goal of this study was to learn if and how community technology centers foster learning in multiple forms of literacy. Three forms of literacy were identified: technological, media, and critical. To move beyond the phenomenological approach to understanding teaching and learning practices, the objective was to develop an evaluation protocol that would capture the rich ecological context of the organization with qualitative indicators of the unique aspects of each center, as well as objective, measurable factors aspects common to all.

This study was conducted in two phases. Phase One was the creation of the protocol including indicators of multiple literacies, a site selection matrix, and a data collection guide. Phase Two was piloting of the evaluation protocol to develop a foundational case to be used for future comparisons. In Phase One, indicators of multiple literacy learning were devised relevant for 21st century learners. These indicators were aligned specifically with organizational, programmatic, and production activities within a community media arts center. The site selection instrument was developed as a means to pre-screen sites for the likelihood of multiple literacy learning experiences. The data collection guide was aligned with the ecological context taking a broad view of the organization, moving in closer to learn about various programs, then focusing on one production experience.

In Phase Two, a case study was created of Media Bridges, Cincinnati, Inc. through analysis of public data and internal reports, interviews with staff and youth participants, and observation of a weeklong production camp. Findings from the case study showed indications of multiple forms of literacy learning at the organizational, program, and production levels within the ecological context. The protocol captured an organization that demonstrated its mercurial nature as they pro-actively and purposefully shifted methods of operation during a time of crisis while striving to retain their commitment to the mission of providing the education, equipment, and environment for the public to express themselves through media.

Implications of this research include: an understanding of ecological contexts that foster multiple literacy learning and participatory culture; an exploration of learning systems designs outside of traditional educational structures; development of an evaluation protocol to systematically research community technology centers and media arts organizations as alternative educational venues; research-based knowledge to strengthen the voice of community media organizations as they contribute to educational and media policy; and movement toward access equity in education and the public discourse.


Arndt, A.E. Touching Mercury in Community Media: Identifying Multiple Literacy Learning Through Digital Arts Production. Ph.D. thesis, University of Cincinnati. Retrieved July 25, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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