Volume 10, 2018


The Changing Landscape of Literacies: Big Data and Algorithms

Victoria Carrington


This paper begins with a young British woman – Sophie - and her interpretation of the customized advertising and news she encounters on the social networking and search platforms she accesses via her mobile phone. The paper adopts Sophie as a provocation for identifying and thinking through a range of issues that arise from these new contextual landscapes. To unpack Sophie’s perceptions and experiences, the paper turns to a framing discussion of the impact and reach of data in contemporary culture and the discourses that have grown up around it. The paper then turns to the challenges posed by this new economic and cultural landscape for the ways in which we approach identity, text and being an effective literate citizen-worker.


‘I Didn’t Tell You Sooner Because I Didn’t Know How to Handle it Myself’. Developing a Virtual Reality Program to Support HIV-Status Disclosure Decisions

Kathryn E. Muessig, Kelly A. Knudtson, Karina Soni, Margo Adams Larsen, David Traum, Willa Dong, Donaldson F. Conserve, Anton Leuski, Ron Artstein, & Lisa B. HightowWeidman


HIV status disclosure is associated with increased social support and protective behaviors against HIV transmission. Yet disclosure poses significant challenges in the face of persistent societal stigma. Few interventions focus on decision-making, self-efficacy, and communication skills to support disclosing HIV status to an intimate partner. Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies offer powerful tools to address this gap. Informed by Social Cognitive Theory, we created the Tough Talks VR program for HIV-positive young men who have sex with men (YMSM) to practice status disclosure safely and confidentially. Fifty-eight YMSM (ages 18 – 30, 88% HIV-positive) contributed 132 disclosure dialogues to develop the prototype through focus groups, usability testing, and a technical pilot. The prototype includes three disclosure scenarios (neutral, sympathetic, and negative response) and a database of 125 virtual character utterances. Participants select a VR scenario and realistic virtual character with whom to practice. In a pilot test of the fully automated neutral response scenario, the AI system responded appropriately to 71% of participant utterances. Most pilot study participants agreed Tough Talks was easy to use (9/11) and that they would like to use the system frequently (9/11). Tough Talks demonstrates that VR can be used to practice HIV status disclosure and lessons learned from program development offer insights for the use of AI systems for other areas of health and education.

Exploring how playing Pokémon shapes identity

Danielle Herro, Juan Li, Allyson Davis


This qualitative case study describes how playing Pokémon affected the lives of two adults who self-identify as life-long Pokémon players. Our research provides an understanding of how Pokémon influenced their self-concept and identity and offers insight into why they continue playing. Data collection included questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, follow-up questions and artifacts. Using a priori codes we identified four main themes: early support, socialization, media production and competition and then crystallized the themes to develop case narratives telling our participants’ stories. The case demonstrates that while the players share many commonalities in their early gaming habits, they also had some marked differences in how Pokémon shaped their self-concept and identity in regards to socialization practices and different types of status within the game community, which impacts the reasons they continue to play. Results from this study extend prior research on the value of playing games towards shaping identity


‘The internet is all around us’: How children come to understand the Internet.

Tiana Murray & Rachel Buchanan


While children are living more of their lives online, little is known about what they understand about the implications of their online participation. Here we report on the Best Footprint Forward project which explored how children come to understand the internet. Thirty-three children (ranging in age from 10 to 12 years old) from three primary schools in regional Australia participated in focus groups and created a work sample depicting the internet. Analysis of the focus group transcripts and work samples revealed that while the children’s understanding of the internet was not technical, their knowledge was developed through the social activities that they engaged in online, and influenced by the interactions they have in their ‘real life’ with parents, teachers and friends. The children in the study demonstrated an ambivalence about the internet; they regularly went online for a variety of purposes but these positive experiences were tempered by concerns and fears. This research presents a nuanced perspective of children’s knowledge of the internet; by rejecting the notion that children are naïve, passive consumers of digital culture, analysis of their understanding reveals it to be balanced and sophisticated.

Commenting across difference: Youth Dialogue in an intercultural virtual exchange program

Alyssa Kreikemeier & Carrie James


The promise of online dialogue for building cosmopolitan sensibilities in youth has driven the rise of educational programs that leverage digital media for intercultural virtual exchange. While a growing body of research documents the role digital media play in young people’s lives, relatively few studies have examined how young people dialogue in diverse online spaces and what they learn as a result. We present findings from an exploratory qualitative-dominant mixed-methods study of how youth in one online program dialogued with their peers. Our dataset included online posts and comment threads, survey data, and selected interviews. Three themes emerged from our analysis: evidence of youth identity exploration, signs of global competence and cosmopolitanism, and enhanced digital communication skills. This study suggests that intercultural virtual exchange programs offer valuable opportunities for youth in these areas, yet also cautions of risks. We discuss the study’s limitations, further research questions, and implications with an emphasis on specific supports and design features needed to meet the promise such online experiences offer for dialogue across difference.