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Social Motivation and Learning

Hey you guys, I know you guys are busy and hectic with all the midterm grading, but I just wanted to present an original hypothesis/theoretical framework of mine regarding affinity spaces and participatory culture. I’ll give you the long and the short of it so that you can read as little or much as you choose. I definitely value your feedback and am just curious what you think of this. If you think it is valid, it may very well change the way we understand affinity spaces, participatory culture and education.
So the short of it is this. My theory/hypothesis is that our short term and long term learning interests/motivations/passions are usually linked to using learning as a tool to gain social status in a group. In this context we can understand affinity spaces and participatory culture in a new way. The reason these spaces might be better learning environments is because learning in these environment directly relates to social status in the group. This can be easily exemplified by just looking at any affinity space.  In Wow, knowing beta talk is directly related to status, the same with knowing spell sequences etc. In say Apolyton, your ability to be intellectual and master civ classes is directly related to your status in that particular group.
So the long of it (and perhaps maybe it will make everything a little bit more clear) I’ll start by noting how I mean this in the broader context. First I want to explain how I thought about this hypothesis/framework in the first place. First I use facebook as a place to talk about things I am learning, and in a way I think it is this link to the social world that makes me so passionate about learning (I will get to how it makes me passionate about it later). I think I do this in a subtle implicit way to gain social status. I notice that my statuses are almost inevitably linked to trying to gain acceptance and social standing. I often post about my workouts (showing I adhere to the cultural values of athleticism and good looking values) I try to be funny (another positive trait that often relates to higher social status), and most often I try to prove I am intelligent. It is not like I am consciously thinking that I am doing these things, but rather upon evaluation I think that is ultimately what I am trying to do. I post intellectual things because I find them witty and interesting, but also because I am trying to assert my intelligence as a way to gain social status.
So I first starting thinking about this theory because a while ago a girl (my major is sociology, hers is psychology)told me how sociology is convoluted and a b.s. study that isn’t empirically valuable and has no practical application. I didn’t say much at the time to be polite, but since then I have been subconsciously (and semi consciously) trying to prove to her that sociology is a credible field. When reading my intersectionality book (intersectionality is basically a really abstract women’s study’s field) I came across this passage “Psychologists generally aim for simplified models, often ‘controlling for’ membership in categories other than one of interest by holding them constant in statistical analysis. Such approaches tend to overlook the complex processes that create and maintain social categories” (Bonilla-Silva 1997) I read it intently, taking in every word. I highlighted it thinking “I’m going to post this quote on facebook later” why? So that I could assert my own intelligence to gain social status and prove myself over and to this girl.
I think we all do this on subconscious levels. Almost everything we say and do is related to social status and having it, maintaining it or gaining it. Whether it is the way we dress, the way we act, or the things we say. I think that this is very applicable to affinity spaces. We always talk about how affinity spaces are these great places where people care about collaborative learning, but we never ask why. Why do people in these affinity spaces care so much about learning, what’s it to them? I know we have kind of touched on that it is interest driven learning, and I think that that argument is valid, however I think it is just one of the multiple variables that play into why affinity spaces are so powerful. In affinity spaces the specialized learning that takes place (like leveling a wow character) is directly related to their social status in their group. The more they learn, the higher they are regarded. Same in participatory culture. Hell this is even the same in researchers. A huge motivation in doing and performing research, is not just to understand the world, but to put it to whoever disagrees with you. Let’s be honest, when we find out our research (like Constance’s research on game literacy) say proves that games are places of literacy, a huge motivation is to put it to people who are so negative about games. Some of it is just to understand more about the topic, but A LOT of it (I would argue) is motivated by asserting your status/intelligence/education/knowledge over another person or set of people. Most of the reason I post things on face book is not just to educate people, but to stick it to someone in particular or a group of people. (For instance I post a lot of stuff on facebook about the public identity of the welfare queen to stick it to people who think welfare recipients should be drug tested)
With that being said, If this hypothesis is valid (and that is a big if) then why is it that learning in schools is not as socially valuable as learning in affinity spaces? Why doesn’t specialized knowledge on World War II have the same implication for social status as knowing how to be a good tank in WoW? Is it a distrust in the institution (this could go especially for people of different racial backgrounds), is it because the learning is forced (maybe going to some psychological principles here), or is it something else? It seems in school that learning has just the opposite effect; learning is negatively correlated to  social status among peers, while it is positively correlated to social status among faculty, but the students have to want to gain that social status among faculty, and if they distrust the institution, or don’t feel they are taken seriously, they aren’t very likely to want that. Anyways I am just rambling on about possible ideas  and I don’t have any clear goals or conclusions so I will just arbitrarily stop here.
Hope you find this at least semi-interesting, please tell me what you think. J
I also want to assert here that we are always negotiating social acceptance in one group versus another, I think that this theory can be used to describe why students in one on one conversations with teachers can be completely different animals than students with teachers and peers together. In the former, their only thing to consider is their acceptance by their teacher, however in the latter they need to negotiate the importance of being socially accepted by their teacher (by being smart and knowing the material) or by their peers (by not caring about the subject). And often (but not always) the social acceptance by their peers takes priority and the behavior is reflected accordingly. 


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