Posted by: carebear | October 6, 2011

This Muggle is for Harry Potter

Much like our reason for enrolling in this program, the situations outlined in this week’s reading seem to all have something in common…the participants or collaborators are looking for more.  Whether it be in the creation of their own Star Wars movie, contribution to the affinity space of The Daily Prophet or the manipulation of information to make it more appealing for a political purpose…they are all looking for more in their work, in their writing, in their interaction with others…in their lives.  So where’s the line?

I was particularly interested in Chapter 5 and the effects the Harry Potter series has had on young people.  Mainly because I am a fanatic of Harry Potter myself, but also because it caused me to question the division between the physical world and the virtual world.  The children described in this chapter came across to me as brilliant, motivated and creative.  It was fascinating that at such a young age, children would be so immersed in writing and imagination.  I loved it!   While I still consider them brilliant, motivated and creative, I began to wonder if it was too much.  Jenkins writes about this virtual reality, specifically the Daily Prophet, as a place for them to escape and even address serious issues that they may be dealing with in their “real” lives with others that they can relate to virtually.  But is it too much of an escape?

Is addressing serious issues, such as the death of a parent, with one’s virtual peers really a way for children to face and accept these difficult challenges in their lives?  Does this really allow one to grow and “move on?”   Is this too much of a blurred sense of reality? What are the dangers of children, with this potential blurred sense of the physical and virtual worlds, interacting so intently in these environments?  Can we trust that they will be able to determine what is “real” and what isn’t?  When does it become dangerous?

In the final chapter, Jenkins discusses the communication of political issues in a way that everyone can understand and relate to them. The Engaged Youth Paradigm is fascinating in that this population is not able to participate in “real” civic engagement, but potentially excels at developing these skills through participatory cultures such as Alphaville. He discusses reaching an audience that doesn’t even have a “say,” but, ultimately are the future of our political system.  How much do we expose children to political issues?  It makes sense to me that this information should appeal to the masses, but should children be included?  Can they handle it?  I would argue “yes.”  Much like the Christian Counterculture, I think we should be engaging and equipping our children with the knowledge and skills they need to be active, participating members of society.  But, can we expect that all parents, educators, and influencers of our youth are well equipped for the task?

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