New Creativity Paradigms

Arts Learning in the Digital Age

by Kylie Peppler (Author)
©2014 Thesis XVI, 142 Pages


Commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, this book explores research indicating that youth are learning new ways to engage in the arts on their own time and according to their own interests. Digital technologies, such as production tools and social media, allow youth to create and share their art. Kylie Peppler urges educators and policy makers to take advantage of «arts learning opportunities» and imagine a school setting where young people are driven by their own interests, using tablets, computers, and other devices to produce visual arts, music composition, dance, and design. This book gives educators an understanding of what is happening with current digital technologies and the opportunities that exist to connect to youth practice, and raises questions about why we don’t use these opportunities more frequently.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Executive Summary
  • A Framework for Thinking About Interest-Driven Arts Learning
  • Media-Absorbed Teens and Interest-Driven Arts
  • Communities for Arts Learning—Virtual, Physical and Both
  • Adjusting Instruction to Teens’ Level of Interest
  • Challenges and Possibilities
  • Introduction: The Resounding Voice of Youth in A Digital Age
  • “A Place to Express Yourself”
  • A Rookie’s Industry Clout
  • From Video Games to Violin Lessons
  • Tw1tterBand
  • Challenges and Opportunities of Interest-Driven Arts Learning
  • A Doorway In
  • Scope of the Review
  • 1. The Importance of Arts Learning
  • Arts as a Means of Learning about the Self, the Group, and the Other Cultures
  • Arts and Learning about the Self
  • The Arts and Group Learning
  • The Arts and Cross-Cultural Learning
  • Learning What Matters
  • A Framework for Interest-Driven Arts Learning
  • Technical Practices
  • Critical Practices
  • Creative Practices
  • Ethical Practices
  • Summary
  • 2. How Are Youths Creatively Using Digital Technology?
  • Ownership and Use of Media
  • Teens as Content Creators
  • Conversations and Critique in Cyberspace
  • Social Network and Media-Sharing Tools
  • Social Learning Networks
  • Notes
  • 3. The New Digital Arts: Forms, Tools, and Practices
  • Old Forms Re-envisioned
  • Visual Arts
  • Comics and Manga
  • Digital Photography
  • Dance
  • Digital Music
  • Drama
  • Film, Video, and YouTube
  • Podcasting and Digital Radio
  • Animation
  • Machinima
  • Creative Writing
  • FanFiction
  • Digital Poetry & Spoken Word
  • Summary
  • 4. New Media Arts, The Do-It-Yourself Movement, and The Importance of Making
  • New Media Arts
  • Creative Coding
  • Video Game Design
  • DIY as an Artistic Practice
  • Does Making, Creating, and Performing Matter?
  • Notes
  • 5. Communities That Can Support Interest-Driven Arts Learning
  • Non-Formal Communities
  • Informal Communities
  • Virtual Communities
  • Grassroots Movements
  • Summary
  • 6. Inviting and Sustaining Participation in The Arts
  • Sustaining Interest in the Arts
  • Progression Pathways
  • New Strategies to Reach Youths Directly
  • 7. Challenges and Recommendations
  • Challenge 1: Conceptualizing Interest-Driven Arts Learning in New Media
  • What we can do now
  • Challenge 2: Changing Perceptions of Youths’ Interest-Driven Arts Activities
  • What we can do now
  • Challenge 3: Promoting Equity in Interest-Driven Arts Learning Opportunities
  • What we can do now
  • Challenge 4: Designing Interest-Driven Arts Learning Social Networks
  • What we can do now
  • Challenge 5: Inviting, Sustaining, and Supporting Participation in Arts Activities
  • What we can do now
  • Conclusions
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: Communities that support interest-driven digital arts learning
  • Appendix B: Apps that support interest-driven digital arts learning
  • Appendix C: Online platforms that support interest-driven digital arts learning
  • References
  • Series Index


This report wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of my students and staff. They helped organize the literature; uncover new communities, tools, and ideas; and aid in the initial outline and conceptualization of the field. I owe an immense amount of thanks to:

Michael Downton, for spearheading the literature review on the impact of new technologies on music learning as well as much of the work editing the final draft of the report. Diane Glosson, for providing reviews of manga, comics, animation, and interim deliverables. Rafi Santo, for uncovering the literature on virtual communities, fan fiction, and creative writing and also spearheading our reference organization in Mendeley throughout the process. Kate Shively, for spearheading the literature review on photography, visual arts, and museums, as well as maintaining the appendices and delivery schedule. Maria Solomou, for assisting with the literature review on video games, 3D virtual building and other areas featured in the report. Charlene Volk, for assisting wherever there was a need and spearheading the reviews on visual arts, theater, film, dance, video games, and machinima as well as assistance in other aspects of the report. Cagri Yildirim, for assisting with the literature reviews on media arts and grassroots organizing. Benjamin Zaitlen, for assisting with the dance and DIY literature reviews as well as helping to organize everything in the early stages.

As we were conducting our review, we had periodic email conversations, phone conferences and meetings with notable scholars in the field who were very generous with their time and shared some of their latest research with us, including: Brigid Barron, David Buckingham, Cathy Davidson, Drew Davidson, JoEllen Fisherkeller, David Theo Goldberg, Mike Hawkins, Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Mitchel Resnick, Connie Yowell, plus many others in the field. Thank you!

In addition, we hosted a workshop on the topic of Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age through the generous support of The Wallace ← ix | x → Foundation. This meeting was instrumental in our conceptualizations of the field, introduced us to new bodies of literature and ideas, and informed our recommendations. As a result, we would like to thank the following people for participating and guiding various aspects of our review process. Their thoughtful insights and recommendations are reflected throughout the thinking in this report but were particularly instrumental in the conceptions of virtual communities, on DIY efforts and arts learning, and many other aspects of the review. Their collective support for the project has been incredible: Donelle Blubaugh, Donna Cox, Dale Dougherty, Kerry Freedman, Steve Goodman, Erica Halverson, Michelle Knobel, Barry Joseph, Nishat Kurwa, Akili Lee, Dan Perkel, Kimberly Sheridan, and Eric Siegel.

Earlier drafts of this report were reviewed and discussed with Jonathan Plucker, Julian Sefton-Green and David Gauntlett. Their comments resulted in considerable changes to this document, which have sharpened the arguments and made it more intelligible to diverse audiences interested in the broader topic. We are immensely grateful for their guidance and feedback throughout the process. I would also like to thank my partner, Eric Lindsay, who is a relentless supporter, constructive critic, and thorough editor.

Several people who assisted with assembling the final version of this report deserve special recognition, including first and foremost, Pam Mendels and Lucas Held, for their poignant feedback on the second iteration of this document as well as their larger vision. Additionally, I would like to thank Holly Holland, who tirelessly edited several versions of this report to sharpen and broaden the arguments. In addition, I’m incredibly grateful to H.J. Cummins and Janis Watson, who assisted in compiling the references and the final copyedits of the report.

This review was commissioned with generous support from The Wallace Foundation. A special thanks again goes to Mitchel Resnick for putting the Foundation in contact with me for this opportunity. Lastly, I am incredibly grateful to the Director of Arts at the Foundation, Daniel Wind-ham, for his initial vision that precipitated this review as well as his insightful questions, thoughtful conversations, and assistance throughout the review process.


Traditionally in the United States, schools and after-school programs have played a prominent part in teaching young people about the arts. Arts education has been waning in K-12 public schools in recent times, however. This is especially true in low-income communities, where public schools have often cut back on arts instruction so they can devote limited public education dollars to subjects such as writing and math that are the focus of high-stakes stand- ardized tests.

When we look outside of school, however, we see a strikingly different landscape, one full of promise for engaging young people in artistic activity. What makes this landscape possible is an eagerness to explore that springs from youths’ own creative passions—what we call “interest-driven arts learning”—combined with the power of digital technology.

This report is a step in trying to understand the new territory. It gives a rundown of scholarship in the areas of arts and out-of-school-hours learning; offers a framework for thinking about interest-driven arts learning in a digital age; examines young people’s media consumption; provides a survey of youths’ creative endeavors online and elsewhere, along with a look at the proliferation of technologies that young people are using in the arts; and concludes with thoughts about challenges and possibilities for the future.

A Framework for Thinking About Interest-Driven Arts Learning

To date, much of what we know about arts learning comes from examinations of education in school. A widely cited study on the unique characteristics of arts learning is the “Studio Thinking Framework,” which describes and analyzes eight habits of mind cultivated in high-quality visual arts classes. There are likely similarities between what students gain in such formal settings and what they gain in interest-driven arts learning. However, applying what we know about classroom learning to interest-driven learning falls short because of their dissimilarities.

← xi | xii → Three differences are especially important. The first is that interest-driven art-making and performance, especially creations that employ digital technologies and refer heavily to popular media, are inherently inter-disciplinary, that is, they use more than one art form. The second is that young people produce self-directed arts projects solely because they want to; they are motivated not by what outsiders think or want, but by the young person’s own pride in the work and curiosity or passion for the medium. Interest-driven arts projects, then, may offer valuable insights about what makes youths engage and persist in arts activities. Third, interest-driven art-making is fueled to a large degree by the surge in new technologies, which have radically transformed the ability to collaborate, share and publish work, affecting the modes, genres, and ways of art-making today.


XVI, 142
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
social media computers music dance design Digital technology Production tool Social media Youth practice Creativity
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 142 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Kylie Peppler (Author)

Kylie Peppler is an assistant professor of Learning Sciences Program at Indiana University. An artist by training, she engages in research that focuses on the intersection of arts, media, new technologies, and informal learning. Peppler’s dissertation work on the study of the media-rich programming environment Scratch resulted in the book, The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities. Peppler has since collaborated with Leah Buechley, Yasmin Kafai, and Mike Eisenberg to study etextiles, which resulted in the forthcoming co-edited volume titled, Textile Messages: Dispatches from the World of E-Textiles and Education. Her current work on creativity, computation, and media arts in youth communities is supported by the National Science Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


Title: New Creativity Paradigms
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162 pages