The following comments are a review-ish application of the concepts in James Paul Gee's 2010 New Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Area and "Worked Examples" as One Way Forward. I downloaded the e-book version for free for my Kindle here, and you can also find a free copy of the Google book here. My reading, commentary, and application are admittedly influenced by my academic connections to rhetorics (as in the RCID community at Clemson University,) and by my duties as a teacher of communications and digital literacies at Limestone College, but it seems that Gee's work encourages such interdisciplinary engagement. These comments will be part of the introduction for the presentation of the "Smartphone Museum as Exemplar" for teachers and scholars in venues such as the 2013 Popular Culture Association-American Culture Association Conference in Washington, D.C.
“How can we proceed in building this new area into something more integrated and coherent, especially in building collaboration?” Gee suggests that using prototypical cases as exemplars is “one way forward” in the emerging area(s) of digital literacies and new media studies.
Gee references the “old sense” of exemplars, and remediates those “worked examples” toward a new application in digital literacies. As for the old sense of worked examples, Gee says “In a worked example, and ‘expert’ takes a well-formed problem and publically displays for learners how that problem is approached, thought about, worked over and solved.” Indeed, this is how most learners and scholars are “brought into” disciplines, ranging from maths to sciences to rhetorics.
(Though Gee references Kuhn, he is not explicit in pointing out that, in this description, we see how disciplines establish an accepted “right way” to think – as Kuhn might say, a “ruling paradigm” of “normal science” is established and reified through what Feyerabend might label a “consistency condition.” And while such an establishment might be seen as problematic with regards to limiting exploration to whatever approaches the establishment approves, it does provide the set of heuristics that allow new contributors to join a conversation within an emerging area of study.)
Using the idea of exemplars as worked examples (in the old sense,) Gee proposes that in emerging areas, such as digital literacies, those involved in the field should put forth exemplars, even if “play exemplars,” for the engagement of scholar-students in the field. In this new sense of worked examples, scholars in the emerging field would “display publically their thinking about how and why they did what they did, and why it may serve as a guide for future work.” This suggested approach (worked examples in the new sense) is more democratic, and markedly so, than worked examples as used in established disciplines. In fact, Gee proposes that “we pretend to be experts in an area that, as of yet, has none.”
Gee’s remediation of the idea of worked examples does away with the idea of defending our exemplars and “winning” an academic argument. This remediated approach encourages the scholar to “lose” such academic arguments and “to see your proposed exemplar so worked over by the community that it would become fodder for collaboration.”
Though the composer-curators of the Smartphone Museum at Limestone are not part of Gee’s DML community centered at UC-Irvine, we do adopt with appreciation the democratizing approach of worked examples as a new way forward to opening discussion in areas of digital literacies, electronic pedagogies, and connected learning – and so we present our experimental installation as an exemplar for other scholar-teachers to discuss, critique, repurpose, remediate and use for their own work in the still emerging area(s) of digital literacies.