Mobility & Social Interaction in Teaching Media Literacy

The social justice app I am in the process of designing is intended to combat the effects that gender stereotypes in advertising have on children. In order to do this, my app will feature a community in which participants can learn how to teach media literacy to children, focusing on conversations about the use of gender stereotypes in children’s advertisements. As such, the design of my app will take advantage of mobility and social interaction, as both are crucial to the success and effectiveness of my app. To better understand how my design will utilize these aspects, I will be connecting my specific app ideas with the overarching theories presented in our class readings.

Kakihara & Sorensen argue that being mobile is no longer about people physically traveling, but rather, about the interaction they perform with each other in their social lives. Furthermore, they expand the concept of mobility by categorizing three different dimensions of human interaction: spatial, temporal, and contextual mobility (Kakihara & Sorensen 2001, p. 33).

First, spatial mobility deals with the mobility of objects, symbols, and space. For the purpose of my design, I will be focusing on the mobility of space. By this the authors mean that the internet has interconnected millions of people, thereby bringing forth “a virtual spatiality— a ‘virtual community’ or ‘cyber community’” (Kakihara & Sorensen 2001, p. 34). This is the exact intent of my social justice app— to create a community in which parents/teachers/caretakers/etc. can come together to learn and discuss with others how to teach media literacy to their children in order to address the issue of gender stereotypes. My app would act as a cyberspace in which people with similar interests and beliefs could come together and work towards a common goal, despite geographic location.

The second dimension of human interaction, temporal mobility, addresses the mobility of time. Kakihara & Sorensen argue that with the advent of the internet we can now do tasks simultaneously and “information and ideas…can be instantaneously transmitted and simultaneously accessed across the globe” (Kakihara & Sorensen 2001, p. 35). Through a community in my app, users will be able to find advice as well as post questions instantly, without having to wait for the presence or meetings of others.

Lastly, contextual mobility deals with “in what way” an action is performed. It is further characterized by two dimensions: unobtrusive vs. obtrusive and ephemeral vs. persistent. For my design, the app would be unobtrusive, not requiring any immediate action of the user, and persistent in that the actions of users (their questions and responses) would be available for a prolonged period of time. This unobtrusive and persistent app design can help to overcome obstacles present other places, such as face-to-face interaction and can “serve as a catalyst for mobilizing weakly tied social networks” (Kakihara & Sorensen 2001, p. 35).

Humphrey’s then provides us with three kinds of communicative practices to describe social interaction: connecting, coordinating, and cataloguing. First, connecting means “managing one’s social distance with others” (Humphreys 2012, p. 502). This will allow for anyone interested in the issue of gender stereotypes influence on children to come together and reduce their social distance from one another in order to work towards a common goal. By connecting through this app, there will be an “increased bounded solidarity” thereby strengthening the cause (Humphreys 2012, p. 502).

Second, coordinating relates to communicating with others in order to organize and come together physically and manage our outer space. The main feature of my design is not intended to use location. However, through this digital space, users will be able to share their location, should they chose to, and thereby coordinate outside of the app in order to come together. For instance, if users of the app decide to share their location and realize other users are in their physical community, they could possibly decide to meet in person and further discuss with one another ways in which they teach media literacy to their children.

Lastly, cataloguing manages metaspace or categorizes information. This practice is vital in my design, as it allows users to go back and look through previous communications. If, for instance, a parent asked a question regarding how to talk to their children about a gendered commercial and was then presented with this problem again at a later time, they could go back through the community forum and find their question along with the responses. Cataloguing also offers a way in which to better manage the data in my app by breaking questions into categories.

Though my app does not rely on the use of GPS or providing personal information, there are still some privacy concerns. I do not plan on my app requiring that certain personal information be provided. However, I do think it is a good option to allow users to create their own profiles and thereby produce whatever personal information they want. I also think it is a good idea to let users link their accounts to social media, as I have seen in many of the apps I use. This will allow users to create a community both within the app as well as outside of it while also giving the app and cause more exposure in their closer social circles.

Should the user decide to share their information as well as social media, they run the risk of being stalked via their online presence, as “stalking, watching, creeping, gazing or looking are characteristic of social media use” (Marwick 2012, p. 379). Sharing their personal information in conjunction with their location can also be dangerous, as it provides for stalking beyond the screen. The sharing of location can also be problematic in more general issues, such as tracking for unrelated purposes. For example, The Washington Post article by Brian Fung showed us that sharing location could result in unwanted entities (the police) being able to easily track location. Therefore, if a user chose to share their location or information, they run the risk of others seeing unwanted information or knowing where they are.

Despite the possible negative consequences, sharing information and social media can result in strengthening group and community relationships (Marwick 2012, p. 391). Furthermore, users that share their information within a community that is already strongly tied together with the same goals and beliefs allows the facilitation of  “meeting people, collaborating with them, gathering the wisdom of our crowd, and holding the powerful to public account” (Jarvis 2010 as cited in Marwick 2012, p. 391). Therefore, I do not see privacy issues as being a huge concern for community members, especially considering all sharing of information is optional and at the user’s discretion.

Since gender stereotypes in kid’s commercials is a common problem throughout the United States and other countries, I want to make my app as accessible as possible. In order to do this, I plan on using the “12 simple tips” provided by Soederquist to make my app more accessible. Many problems I noticed when testing other apps involved the read-back function and zooming capabilities. With this being the case, I plan on my app being coded correctly and “using  <anchor>s and <button>s for click events – which make it obvious to screen readers what is a clickable link” (Soederquist 2012, para. 6). I would also like to make my app capable of zooming in, as not all allow this. Since I am in design, I also plan on making the app design simple, easy to navigate, and easy to read. This will be particularly true in my use of icons, text, size, and colors, making it easy to read for those with visual impairments who have trouble reading small text as well as those who may be colorblind. Overall, I will follow the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as well as make any other changes that would allow my app to be accessible to as many people as possible.

In conclusion, my design is going to take advantage of mobility and social interaction in order to create a stronger social justice app. It will do this by allowing people to come together and create a “cyberspace” community in which they can communicate and further their interests in common goals and beliefs. Members of the community can interact with one another as they choose and have access to information instantly. Through this social interaction, they then strengthen the cause and work towards a solution. Though there are privacy concerns, the benefits of the app outweigh the negatives, all which can be avoided if the user does not want to share their information. Finally, the app will be designed so it is accessible to as many people as possible.

Works Cited

Fung, Brian. (2014, June 3). “How hard should it be for cops to track your location?” Washington Post.

Humphreys, Lee. (2012). “Connecting, Coordinating, Cataloguing: Communicative Practices on Mobile Social Networks,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56:4, 494-510.

Jarvis, Jeff. (2010). “Public Parts” from Buzzmachine..

Kakihara, Masao & Sorensen, Carsten. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 22(3), 33-37.

Marwick, Alice. (2012). “Public Domain: Surveillance in everyday life.” Surveillance & Society. 9(4): 378-393.

Soederquist. (2012). “Why mobile Web accessibility matters- best practices to make your mobile site accessible” from mobiForge.

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