The aim of the TRANSLITERACY research project is to explore transmedia practices and learning strategies that are specific to the lifestyles of contemporary youth, and particularly to teenagers (from 12 to 18 years-old) in informal educational settings across a variety of sociocultural contexts. Specifically, the research focus is on teen-centred practices of play, sociality and creative production that are meaningful for teens themselves.
The ethnographic approach has been proven to be a reliable and well-established methodology for studies in education, youth, and digital and new media. Ethnography, as a qualitative methodology, is based on acknowledging the actor’s perspective and on the researcher’s ability to understand the actor’s values, sayings and doings by immersing themselves in the actor’s cultural world.
Especially inspiring for the research team was the notion of ‘short-term ethnography’, which involves intensive excursions into people’s lives, ‘which use more interventional as well as observational methods to create contexts through which to delve into questions that will reveal what matters to those people in the context of what the researcher is seeking to find out’ (Pink and Morgan, 2013:352). The short-term ethnography principles are suited to the project’s theoretical, methodological and empirical interest in focusing on what teens are doing with media in a comparative transnational study.
After testing the methodology in a public high school in Barcelona (September-November 2015), the research team produced a Kit for Field Researchers.
The fieldwork strategy was defined in five complementary steps: 1) Schools as the starting point for fieldwork, a secure way to obtain the informed consents of institutions, parents and teens; 2) An initial questionnaire to get to know the teens’ sociocultural backgrounds and media uses and perceptions; 3) Participatory workshops to explore in an immersive way teens’ transmedia practices and engage them in media production and gameplay; 4) In-depth interviews and media diaries to get to know teenagers’ doings and sayings with media, social networks and videogames; and 5) Online observation (netgraphy) of the teens’ favourite websites, celebrities, and online communities.
- The team approached teens in an opening session that included an explanation of the research aims and the informed consent signature. After that, those who signed were given a questionnaire to fill in if they wanted. The questionnaire was a way to introduce the research team and the research issues to the teens and engage them in the further phases of the study.
- The questionnaire was designed to produce descriptive data to map the demographics and sociocultural backgrounds of the participants, and to get an overview of the teens’ practices and perceptions regarding media use.
- Two participatory workshops were developed: one on storytelling and social media, and one on videogame cultures. The workshops lasted for two days and each session was two hours long. Three researchers participated in each workshop and took on different interchangeable roles: workshop coordination, supporting tasks, video recording and eventually taking pictures.
- The in-depth interviews were conceived as the next step after the workshops to gain a deep understanding of the teens’ skills and learning strategies in relation to videogames, social media and user-produced content. The interviews were conducted as an interactive conversation in front of a computer screen, or directly with their smartphones, so the researchers could learn about their practices. Researcher and explored together with the teen how they created and shared content, how they played videogames, etc. Teens was also encouraged to explain how they learned about a game, when and who taught or helped them to solve problems and how they shared and collaborated with others.
The media diary was a self-administered protocol to explore participants’ media routines throughout one week: the organisation of the time they dedicate to media; the media activities they usually do; differences between school days and weekends, etc.
The interviews and media diaries were understood as be part of the ethnographic process, as the interviewer and the interviewee had shared a collective meaningful experience before.
- The last step of the fieldwork toolkit was a phase of online observation that was carried out after the fieldwork in schools. The objective of this ‘netgraphy’ was to gain first-hand knowledge of the social networking sites that the teens referred to in the interviews and workshops. Although it does not imply online interaction, netgraphy maintains the ethnographic descriptive and epistemological approach. This last fieldwork activity follows a different logic to the others: if the questionnaire, the workshops and the interviews are artefacts to produce data, the netgraphy was designed to produce context.
For data analysis the team relied on he NVivo 11 Pro For Teams software for qualitative data analysis which is useful for organize, store and retrieve data in different sets of sources. According to qualitative methods, coding is an interpretive technique that both organises data and provides a means to introduce researchers’ interpretations into qualitative analysis procedures.
The first codification in NVivo followed descriptive criteria from the workshops, interview and media diaries content, creating ordered domains, subdomains and items in relation to the research questions. A first coding round was needed after all the national teams have finished their first codification of descriptive categories in order to keep moving towards more analytical categories that illuminate transmedia skills and informal learning strategies.
After identifying the transmedia skills and informal learning strategies, the research team will produce a series of scientific and educational outputs. Beyond creating a map of transmedia skills and informal learning strategies used by young boys and girls, the TRANSLITERACY team will produce an open Teacher’s Kit to retrieve and exploit in the classroom those transmedia skills developed outside formal learning environments.
More info about methodology: please check The Documents.