A brave new world: Theory to practice in participatory culture and music learning and teaching

Contemporary Issues, curriculum, music education, pedagogy, publicationsNo Comments

You Are Here:, curriculum, music education, pedagogy, publicationsA brave new world: Theory to practice in participatory culture and music learning and teaching

Waldron, J., Mantie, R., Partti, H., & Tobias, E. S. (2017). A brave new world: Theory to practice in participatory culture and music learning and teaching. Music Education Research, 1-16. doi:10.1080/14613808.2017.1339027

***A brave new world: Theory to practice in participatory culture and music learning and teaching is available for free for a limited time. (If you would like to read the article but do not have institutional access after the free version is no longer available contact me via the comment section or via email.)

It was an absolute pleasure to co-author A brave new world: Theory to practice in participatory culture and music learning and teaching with Janice Waldron, Heidi Partti, and Roger Mantie. The article (now available online) builds on our collaborative presentation at RIME 9. 

Here’s the abstract:

The four perspectives in this paper were first presented as an interactive research/workshop symposium at RIME 9. The purpose of the symposium was to connect new media scholar Henry Jenkins’s theory of ‘participatory culture’ (1992, 2006, 2009) to possible practices of ‘participatory culture’ in diverse music teaching and learning contexts. We ask: If participatory culture exists in music learning contexts – what is it? What are its dimensions? What does participatory culture look like and mean in other music cultures and different contexts/‘places’ (e.g. online, offline, and convergent settings)? Who can and who can’t participate? How might this idea cause us to re-think some of our practices?

Each of us provides a different perspective moving from the general to the specific to the philosophical addressing aspects of participatory culture as it relates to possibilities and challenges for music learning and teaching. 

My perspective is Perspective One and lays out some frameworks related to participatory culture and then considers three overarching ways that participatory culture might inform and inspire aspects of music learning and teaching:

    1. Expanding musical practices we address in music education
    2. Providing entry points for artistic inquiry and engaging with existing music
    3. Informing pedagogy and curriculum

Throughout this part of the article I refer to how music educators might address the varied expressions, affiliations, circulations, and collaborative problem solving that occur in participatory culture in the context of music learning and teaching. 

Perspective Two by Heidi Partti addresses participatory culture in the context of creative music-making in and out of school and the potential for helping learners develop cosmopolitan musicianship. Heidi draws on research from Finland to demonstrate how creative music making in school settings can support participatory music education and provides some helpful ways of thinking about educators’ roles in such contexts.

Perspective Three by Janice Waldron focuses on Irish traditional music (irTrad) and participatory culture, providing some excellent concrete examples of how irTrad involves participatory music making and participatory culture. Focusing on these traditions outside of school settings provides music educators much to think about in terms of how this musical practice and its participatory ethic could inform what takes place in music programs.

Perspective Four by Roger Mantie provides a philosophical look at potential relationships between participatory culture and music education. Roger addresses tensions among how music educators’ own education along with expectations or traditions of formal music programs may be obstacles to aspects of participatory culture addressed throughout the article. He also challenges music educators to consider the connections (and potential disconnects) between what takes place in music programs and the degree to which or ways that people do music throughout their lives.

Together, the article’s perspectives, introduction, and final thoughts invite music educators and others to consider the challenges and possibilities of music learning and teaching that is participatory and supports young people being musical throughout their lives.

Hopefully, it raises questions and helps people approach relationships among participatory culture in a way that is nuanced and meaningful. I think that all of us involved in the article continue to have many questions and look forward to the ensuing and related dialogue. 

Participatory Culture and Music Learning and Teaching

If you are looking for some additional starting points to explore connections and relationships between participatory culture and music learning and teaching, each of us has a number of related written chapters/articles. (Links to books contain affiliate links)

Some of my related work includes: 

O’Leary, J., & Tobias, E. S. (2017). Sonic participatory cultures within, through, and around video games. In R. Mantie & G. D. Smith (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of music making and leisure (pp. 541-564). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Tobias, E. S. (2015). Participatory and digital cultures in practice: Perspectives and possibilities in a graduate music course. International Journal of Community Music, 8(1), 7-26. doi:10.1386/ijcm.8.1.7_1

Tobias, E. S. (2014). 21st century musicianship through digital media and participatory culture. In M. Kaschub and J. Smith (Eds.), Promising practices in 21st century music teacher education. Oxford: Oxford University Press (pp. 205-226)

Tobias, E. S. (2013). Toward convergence: Adapting music education to contemporary society and participatory culture. Music Educators Journal, 99(4), 29–36. doi:10.1177/0027432113483318

Tobias, E. S., VanKlompenberg, A., & Reid, C. (2015). Reflecting on changes in practice through integrating participatory culture in our classrooms. Mountain Lake Reader: Conversations On the Study and Practice of Music Teaching, 6, 94-110.

Also peruse some of:

Heidi Partti’s related work

Janice Waldron’s related work 

Roger Mantie’s related work

You might also be interested in looking at Vol 8 No. 1 International Journal of Community Music 2015 with a special focus on participatory culture and music that Janice Waldron edited.

Check out several chapters that address aspects of participatory culture or participatory music making in Roger Mantie’s and Gareth Dylan Smith’s co-edited Oxford Handbook of Music Making and Leisure

Also consider taking a look at Thomas Turino’s book, Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation , which many music educators draw upon in relation to participatory music making.

Participatory Culture and Media Studies

I also suggest delving into some of the foundational work on participatory culture in media studies:

The following two excellent books by Henry Jenkins provide a strong foundation in themes related to participatory culture:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. NY: New York Uinversity Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, bloggers, and gamers: Exploring participatory culture. New York: NY: New York University Press.

Look at Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century, which was many music educators’ entry point into a framework of participatory culture.

You might also want to read through Henry Jenkins’s website and fabulous blog Confessions of an Aca-Fan

For diverse perspectives on participatory culture see Delwiche, A., & Henderson, J. J. (Eds.). (2013). The participatory cultures handbook. New York, NY: Routledge.



About the author:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *