Communicative 2.0: Video Games and Digital Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom

Ravi Purushotma

Ravi Purushotma

I explore two core concepts in today’s youth entertainment culture that will increasingly become central in future attempts to design affordable foreign language learning materials that hope to bridge the chasm between education and foreign popular culture. In the process, I outline a series of example applications that apply these concepts to developing rich foreign language materials—starting with more experimental/long-term approaches such as using video game modding techniques to make language learning friendly video games and ending with more concrete, ready-to-go, applications like extending open source content management applications. The first concept I look at is that of “Remix culture.” In short, Remix culture describes the way in which youth culture today more visibly orients itself around creating media by extracting component pieces from other people’s media creations, then connecting them together to form something new. In the video game world this phenomena is more specifically termed ‘modding.’ In this process, amateur fans take a professional commercial game title and then modify it in creative ways that the original designers may not have considered. Outside of video games, we see terms like “web 2.0” used to describe technologies that allow website viewers to play a role in authoring additions to the sites they are reading, or “mashups” where users use programming interfaces to rapidly create web content by mashing together pieces from different sources. The second emerging concept critical for curricular designers to follow is that of transmedia storytelling. Traditionally, one might assume a model in which distinct media forms are used to serve distinct cultural practices: television or novels tell stories, video games are for play, blogs for socializing and textbooks for learning. While initially this may have been the case, as each of the media forms above have evolved, they have expanded to cover multiple other cultural practices, often by extending across other media forms. By following the evolution of the interactions between these various media forms and activities within entertainment industries, we can find valuable insight when forecasting their possible interactions in the education industry.

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