Came up with an idea today to go back and refine an issue of Internet literacy I obsessed over earlier but didn’t know how to position in the field. Some work has been done on children’s understanding of genre and intended audience of television shows. It develops in stages, with children first being able to identify cartoons, Sesame Street, the news and a few other genres, then developing more complex genre schemas. In general, though, kids are pretty sophisticated in their understanding of genres. They are also good at identifying target audiences, as in “this is for kids” and “this is for adults.” So as far as their understanding of the intended audience goes, they’re pretty sharp.
But what about their understanding of themselves as a community of watchers? Who else do they think is watching the shows that they do? Do they think, “Everyone watches SpongeBob,” “all kids watch SpongeBob but no adults do,” or “some kids watch SpongeBob and some don’t”? How do they specify to and among themselves the identities and social roles of watchers of various shows? And then, does this television understanding interact with or impact their understanding of the audience of Internet sites?
It’s a weird way to work — I feel like I developed all these questions earlier on and only now am I coming across a vocabulary and a literature I can draw on to make these questions acceptable to the larger academic community. (And heaven knows I have my own weird conceptions of who’s in that community!) The really annoying thing is I’m still feeling so lost in the overwhelming sea of literature I’m being forced to drink that I don’t have a moment to go back and read what I’ve been absorbing into my earlier questions. It was a complete accident that I thought of this at all.