Thomas Apperley

Suomeksi (tulossa)

The gap widens between young people’s digital skills, participation in digital spaces and the school curriculum

Playful and social media have altered creativity, knowledge and learning. In his research at Tampere University, Thomas Apperley is seeing the benefits and costs of these transformations being distributed unevenly. It is important to be able to prepare future generations for rapidly changing knowledge environments, Apperley says.

Thomas Apperley is a writer, researcher and teacher who works on the societal impacts of playful and social media. His research at Tampere University is focused on understanding how playful and social media impacts our experiences of everyday life and how they change our perspectives on wider societal issues.

– The goal of my research is to better understand how digital technologies transform creativity and knowledge. These transformations have both benefits and costs to society, and currently they are being distributed unevenly, Apperley explains.

Playful and social media provide new ways of learning and re-evaluating current knowledge

Playful and social media can both extend and constrain how and what people learn. Examining videogames and mobile phone use challenge what literacy is, what it means to be creative and what is at stake in being included in digital environments.

– For example, digital game players in the developing world create social learning environments using available digital tools to share information on games. They acquire skills that are relevant also outside of gaming through participating in these communities, Apperley says.

– People are using digital games like Civilization to reimagine the past by playfully recontextualizing their existing knowledge to develop different perspectives on history. Through this, players may come to re-evaluate their prior knowledge.

The school curriculum is not keeping up with the development of complex digital skills

In his research, Apperley is seeing a widening gap between young peoples’ development of complex digital skills and knowledge through play activities and their integration into school curriculums.

– How children use playground and other public play spaces where digitally enabled forms of play and integrated with physical play activities has changed, Apperley says.

– I also see growth in the everyday use of avatars in digital platforms. This growth is built on an understanding of avatars developed through play in digital spaces.

Apperley’s research opens new perspectives on everyday technologies, both hardware (like mobile phones, Nokia NGage, Nintendo Switch) and software, apps and games (like Dark Souls, Facebook, Netflix, OnlyFans and Twitch). These technologies are often taken for granted but used all the time. Instead of modern technologies, they should be seen as tools that people use to understand and navigate the world. As such they can show us different things about how knowledge in the digital area is developed and constrained.

Keywords: software development, digital games, social media, Tampere University, Tampere Institute for Advanced Study (Tampere IAS)