2013 in Review

Looking back, 2013 was a great year! My focus has been on my ethnographic research into adolescent literacy in online affinity spaces. Here are abstracts and links from my recent journal articles and book chapters.

Curwood, J.S. (2013). The Hunger Games: Literature, literacy, and online affinity spaces. Language Arts, 90(6), 417-427. [PDF]

This article examines adolescent literacy practices related to The Hunger Games, a young adult trilogy. By focusing on the interaction of social identities, discourses, and media paratexts within an online affinity space, this ethnographic study offers insight into how young adults engage with contemporary literature. Moreover, it contributes to our understanding of how they use technology as an integral part of social networking and meaning making. The article ends with recommendations related to the teaching of young adult literature and the integration of digital tools and online spaces into the curriculum.

Curwood, J.S., Magnifico, A.M., & Lammers, J.C. (2013). Writing in the wild: Writers’ motivation in fan-based affinity spaces. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(8), 677-685. [PDF]

In order to understand the culture of the physical, virtual, and blended spheres that adolescents inhabit, we build on Gee’s concept of affinity spaces. Drawing on our ethnographic research of adolescent literacies related to The Hunger Games novels, the Neopets online game, and The Sims videogames, this article explores the nature of interest-driven writing in these spaces. We argue that fan-based affinity spaces motivate young adults to write because they offer multiple modes of representation, diverse pathways to participation, and an authentic audience. As scholars and educators, we posit that these out-of-school spaces can offer youth new purposes, modes, and tools for their written work.

Curwood, J.S. (2013). Applying the design framework to technology professional development. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 29(3), 90-97. [PDF]

Building on contemporary research on teacher professional development, this study examined the practices of a technology-focused learning community at a high school in the United States. Over the course of a school year, classroom teachers and a university-based researcher participated in the learning community in order to investigate how technology can promote student achievement and engagement within the secondary English curriculum. This analysis used the design framework in order to identify key practices within the learning community, which included writing a mission statement, innovating with digital tools, engaging in critical discussion, and examining student work. Findings suggest that the design framework can offer a common discourse and visual representation to guide the design, implementation, and evaluation of professional development.

Curwood, J.S. (2013). Redefining normal: A critical analysis of (dis)ability in young adult literature. Children’s Literature in Education, 44(1), 15-28. [PDF]

This literary analysis examines constructions of normalcy and disability within contemporary young adult literature, including Jerk, California (Friesen, 2008), Marcelo in the Real World Stork, 2009), and Five Flavors of Dumb (John, 2010). As recent winners of the Schneider Family Book Award from the American Library Association, these novels offer complex and realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities. Drawing on critical discourse analysis, this paper explores how identity, agency, and power shape the novels’ plots and themes. The growing prevalence of characters with disabilities in young adult literature offers an opportunity for students to consider how disability is constructed in society and represented in literary works. By taking a critical approach to literary analysis, teachers can emphasize social justice within the English curriculum.

Curwood, J.S. (2013). Fan fiction, remix culture, and The Potter Games. In V.E. Frankel (Ed.), Teaching with Harry Potter (pp. 81-92). Jefferson, NC: McFarland. [PDF]

This chapter draws on my ethnographic research of adolescent literacy, online affinity spaces, and young adult literature. Affinity space ethnography is a powerful methodology that can shed light on the culture of physical, virtual, and blended spheres that adolescents inhabit. In particular, affinity space ethnography affords access to participants around the world, a readily available web-based historical record of the affinity space’s practices, and a way to trace adolescent literacy practices across sites, texts, and discourses. As part of an affinity space ethnography, I explored how youth, ages 11 to 17, in the United States, Canada, and Australia engaged with The Hunger Games. Cassie was one participant in the study, and this chapter analyzes her experience with writing fan fiction based on Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

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