Understanding Participatory Culture: An Early and Useful Discussion in Linguistics Using Podcasts

Participatory culture is a term not often used in everyday conversation. Yet, it plays an integral part in human interaction. Especially in the work place. To define it and describe the purpose and use of it is another matter. You have to understand it enough to explain how it can be helpful in any setting. We are often encouraged to participate in group projects through out school but we are not taught why it is important to our learning. We aren’t often taught how to go about it. Sometimes we don’t understand the best ways of using it outside of technology. Technology can help in participatory culture and has since the invention of Morse code or the radio. Though these technologies still exist, they have not been widely used in an academic setting. Not are they often used for the general public.

Earlier this semester, we were given a prompt to post on our discussion board. One week was about participatory culture. A reading assignment was given about the topic that we were to respond to analytically. I, of course, like to infuse any experience I have or personal thoughts to help with getting my thoughts across to others. I find it helpful in the discussion. Adding to the topic of participation in action. I will link the journal we were assigned to here and then continue with what my response was.

The journal was Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While we were only assigned to read pages 3-11, I read the entire journal. Then went back and re-read the pages assigned.

The journal covered the study of how technology can be used with academic learning. To better improve the engagement of students in the classroom and to improve the learning environment. Though the journal covered a variety of technologies in learning, we read and discussed podcasts/audio used in learning. The purpose of the reading and response assignment was to find the value in creating a podcast by sharing our work with our classmates and discussing how we could improve our project to be turned in at the end of the semester. We would give insight into many parts of the process, from the topic and questions asked in an interview to the episode title. The skill of collaboration and participatory culture is a skill taught early on in an academic career and made to be invaluable to a linguistics major. Or any other major for the matter that has a high potential of relying on communication with others.

Questions Asked for Response

What ideas stood out to you?

Was anything new or a helpful reminder?

Reflect on why this reading would be assigned in a college-level writing course.

What do you think I wanted you to take away from the reading?

How does it connect to the work we will be doing over the term? 

What does “participatory” mean? What about “culture”?

What does this have to do with the course outcome on perception?

How does perception impact the rhetorical situation?

How does this reading relate to the assignments?


I have had an interesting, though not uncommon, experience with participatory culture. In school growing up, teachers often do group assignments. It is supposed to encourage students to build team skills. Such as how to communicate and or bounce ideas off each other. Though in my experience, I was usually the odd one out. I did the work on my own because I was bullied a lot and considered not intelligent. The teacher always noticed this. I did many projects by myself. It would be bad enough to not be given credit in a group project, much less be pushed aside from participating in one. The group participation situation changed in high school. The article reminded me that there are skills worth learning through participation.

Having this assigned at the college-level only emphasizes the need for these skills. After all, the world runs on participation. We, as a species, communicate. We can’t always do things on our own. Though we may have to work on a podcast, not all podcasts are completed alone. Many have teams or multiple hosts. They have to work together. They learn from each other and can each add something to the overall project.

Participatory is the act of taking part in something with others as a group. You must be active about it, whether it be verbal or physical or both. Culture is the customs of a group of peoples. Which can include how we act, speak, dress, and sometimes how we interact. Regarding this course outcome on perception, participatory culture would be how we will be interacting with our community to create a podcast. We will need to look for information from others either verbally or in written form to create a dialogue and tell others who may not know about it. Or maybe they do. Either way, it gets their interest in interacting with you to give critique or additional information. Since we are all part of a community, our perception will impact the situation in that we may have a changing view of our community throughout the project.

We will need to collect information about our topic and to be able to reliably source the material so that listeners know you not only did your research but where to get more information. They can comment and give their views on the topic. The podcast becomes a participatory situation.

Results of Interacting with Classmates

In university, I have found interaction with classmates to be less stressful with getting feedback on projects. I have worked on a few group projects that went far better than they had when I was younger. This project helped in that I knew my topic was of interest. I was told that the questions I had for my interview were well thought out. The title of my podcast was given a go, according to classmates. I wanted to get the attention of the audience with a slightly altered phrase from a movie title. I had also had a list of puns for titles that classmates had liked. We all agreed with the first idea for a title because it gave a good idea of the topic that would be covered. I found the participation helpful. In light of how technology made this possible, I grew up not using a lot of it since it was not yet available. Technology allowed me to share my ideas across a distance. The project allowed me to initiate participation via a podcast. A format of content similar to the radio but easier to interact with. Less time waiting for a phone line to open up when radio started to use call-ins. The interactions are more immediate.

I also got to know more of what to expect when it came to the script of a podcast and annotated bibliographies. These two elements of the podcast were also participatory. Had they not been, I would have less of an idea of what to do and if I did it in a manner that allowed for the best communication possible. Thus, showing how participatory culture is vital in creating as well as in communications of all variety.

My semester project is still in the works, but I will link it here when it is ready.