The Design Jam: A Media Literacy Intervention (Toronto)

TitleThe Design Jam: A Media Literacy Intervention (Toronto)
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Smith, K. L.
Affiliation (1st Author)PhD Candidate Faculty of Information & Graduate Fellow Knowledge Media Design Institute, University of Toronto
Section or WGMedia Education Research Section
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodeMERS1a
Slot Code (Keyword)MERS1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleIntegrative methodologies and research methods
Submission ID6137

Communication and information studies scholars sometimes create opportunities for students to learn about participatory media traditions within their classrooms.  In this paper, I present design jams as a potential media literacy curricular intervention.  Design jams are one to two day sessions where individuals interested in user experience design get together to solve problems (see  The design jam model is loosely connected to the Mozilla Foundation, an organization known for the Firefox web browser and for promoting openness and participation through the internet.  In this paper, I outline the origins of the design jam as well as the pedagogical and practical considerations of implementing a design jam as a learning activity within a communications or information studies post-secondary level course.  Design jams can be positive curricular additions for media literacy but instructors who are interested in implementing them should be prepared with an understanding of the epistemology of design and value-tradeoffs.   In the winter semester of 2012, I co-organized a design jam as part of a graduate level course at the Knowledge Media Design Institute in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto.  The course involved students from a variety of collaborating departmental units including: information, education, engineering, and computer science.  In implementing the design jam activity it was necessary for me to grapple with what Nigel Cross describes as “designerly ways of knowing.”  The epistemology of design is based on the values of practicality and ingenuity.  Assignments that were based around design values and methods were often unfamiliar to the students who came from a range of disciplines.  The values and practices of design needed to be introduced and fostered within the class.  For our design jam event we invited community members who were involved in design and this reinforced the learning opportunity for students to see how the values that inform design are put into practice. Design is an activity that inevitably involves value tradeoffs.  The loose connection of the design jam format to the Mozilla Foundation encourages the privileging of the values of openness. suggests that all outputs from a design jam should be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.  Post-secondary level instructors who are introducing design jams to their institutions should carefully consider the values that design activities introduce students to.  The design jam format can be connected to participatory media traditions, where dominant media structures are challenged.  Providing opportunities for students to become producers and not just consumers of interactive media provides at least a small opportunity to intervene towards shaping a more democratic communication landscape.

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