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Updated Final Draft Proposal

November 29, 2010


The US Census Bureau (2006) headlined that, “nearly half our lives are spent with TV, Radio, Internet, Newspapers.” In addition, a plethora of advancements in technology continues to intensify this relationship, making our connection to technology pervasive, fundamental, and ubiquitous.  In particular, Generation Y is one population that is known for its intense relationship to technology (Howe & Strauss, 2000). The population is the largest group to-date, with birthdates ranging from approximately 1974-2003 (American Demographics, 2001; Alloway & Dalley-Trim, 2009).  Social media Optimization (2008) call this group, “the first online native population.”   The postmodern world of technology influences and shapes this particular population in multiple ways.  However, when Generation Y is discussed it is generally talking about affluent white heterosexual middle class young men and women.  According to standpoint theory, young men and women from this social location will have a different “standpoint” than others from a different social location, such as a young man or woman who self-identifies as non-white or bi/multiracial, low SES, and hetero/bi/homosexual. Furthermore, because of the historical socio-cultural political context of these ascribed multiple social locations and their positioning in the contemporary global world these individuals will experience power differently and to different degrees. 

Problem Statement/Research Questions:

I propose young men and women who come from marginalized groups within the larger population of Generation Y are part of a movement towards the reformation and re-conceptualization of social theory within education. Specifically, I propose these marginal groups are part of a larger movement to immantize and playlist theory—to make it meaningful, intimate, playful and personal, which could potentially be a way to re-arrange or disrupt dominant regimes of truth and “order of things” (Foucault, cite year). The purpose of this paper is to address Generation Y’s incoming presence onto the scene of education with the following questions:  How might up-and-coming scholars, in particular, marginalized scholars, affect the field of higher education?  How have the lines of technology redrawn the lines of learning and the dissemination of knowledge in relation to the field of higher education and social theory?  How do these Gen Yers from marginal locations render theory in their contemporary world?

Review of the Literature

The following section targets one position within the ecology of communication (Horst & Miller, 2006).  I focus on this particular positioning as it becomes an “access point” for this paper’s focus to follow.

Baudrillard discusses the dissolve of previous boundaries stating, “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody.  It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself” (1998, p. 166).  He emphasizes “to simulate is not simply to feign…simulation threatens the difference between “true” and “false”, between “real” and “imaginary”” (1998, p. 167).  The meaningful way in which the public interacts, communicates, forms and maintains relationships, is dominated by contemporary forms of technology, creating a hyperreality which needs less face-to-face interaction time. Virtuality thus becomes the center stage to which reality is the main act, producing a techno- hyperrealism that goes beyond postmodernity into something else

Lessig claims technology is, “change[ing] us.  They [digital businesses] change how we think about access to culture.  They change what we take for granted” (2008, p. 43).  For example, community and identity are two arenas which become dramatically altered within this emerging context.  Identity, which is intimately linked through the membership (or non-membership) to any one community, finds itself tightly interwoven in the fabric of the virtual, directing and constructing communities that no longer have to be physical or geographical.  Individuals can be found simultaneously participating in and identifying with multiple groups, in multiplicity.  Anonymity, through the Net, offers a space in which individuals curiously explore “other” realms of being, which may or may not be the socially accepted norm within their physical/geographical community.    Moreover, virtuality poses a unique opportunity for the individual to compose, de-compose, and re-compose identity and community in ways that can be playfully “re-mixed,” and re-arranged.  People form intimate relationships with each other and with immaterial objects through this participation.   Relationships can be lost or gained, and value is re-defined.  Active participation through virtuality contributes to the re-writing and re-conceptualizing of reality.  It normalizes and naturalizes how one carries about her/his day, it re-arranges schedules and priorities, and it further obscures any lines of what is real and what is not. (Lessig, 2008)

 “Going virtual” as cited by Baralou and Shephard (2009), have major implications for everyone.  The literal manifestation of the fluid arrangement of signs and symbols within a cultural context are more evident than ever. Several popular culture examples are erected; such as Myspace, Facebook, and the Net’s general composition of online communities which force users to assume an identity made out of virtual signs and symbols that are coded/re-coded/decoded and processed through the relationship between user and viewer.  The digital era imposes and presents itself as an opportunity to “re-mix” identity. It forces one to see and acknowledge the contradictions and interruptions that were so blindly passed over in the past.  It awakens dissonance and reveals the contentious shadows that follow one’s reason. (Lessig, 2008) Furthermore, one can argue identity becomes so inexorably entangled within this emerging condition that reality ceases to be examinable without the exploration of these elements. The superfluity of the techno-virtual realm exponentially increases access to popular culture, making its prominence felt everywhere to some degree. In the implosion, Lash and Lury define the event as the consequence.  No longer does one need to conceptualize subject-object, as two separate distinctions; it then becomes irrelevant.  Relevancy lay in the relationship between the two, the immanent experience, the event made up of “multimodal experience” (2007, p. 15).  It is the persistent and intense branding of everything and nothing virtual, where one’s experiences are “indexed” and colored with degrees of intensity.  Hyperreality, simulation, and virtuality via popular culture are elements that continue to define virtual identity construction. Differentiation between lives a priori sans virtuality is no longer conceivable or practical; the human experience is now enveloped and interwoven with these simulations and hyperrealisms making them appear normal and feel natural. 

Virtuality reveals modernity’s relentless attempt to conceal the simulacrum’s message—“the simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none.  The simulacrum is true” (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 1).  It challenges the grand narrative of absolute certainties with the ironic and paradoxical notion the only thing infallible is the fallacies in which it stands upon, “stability is not natural” (Derrida, 1996, p. 84 as cited in Hall and Birchall, 2006, p. 172). The field of subjectivity and the myriad of “necessary fictions”, make up, and are in fact, the only fact—although, are not equal in its density of influence or power.  The implosion emphasizes and reveals the relationship to the oxymoron: certainty can only be understood in degrees of uncertainty; reality is only as real as one’s senses tell her, and all experiences are both real and illusory.  A degree of playful seriousness is mandatory, producing and adrenalizing the heart and essence of virtuality and immanence. 

Interruption re-humanizes the dehumanizing state of academics, and invigorates one, on his/her endless odyssey, to dance on life’s tensions with a placid satisfaction.  As Hall abdicates, “It is an extremely difficult road, not resolving the tensions between those two requirements, but living with them” (1992, as cited in The Cultural Studies Reader, 2007, p. 39). This space allows the individual to acknowledge the shared capacities of the profane and the seemingly divine, absolves the mundanities of everyday-ness, the battleground (or playground) of struggling and competing subjectivities, while de-throning the anamorphic and stifling effects of objectivity.  It is one’s active “wrestling with the angels” (p. 37). This is far from indifference; this is a space where passion of interpretation and subjectivity are alive and thriving. And once again, one is found back at the site of implosion (or never have left) observing and experiencing fear and/or delight in the mundane everyday.

Generation Y and Education:


With the prevalent use of technology demonstrated by the staggering statistics and constant anecdotal evidence found in the everyday lives of generation Y, researchers and educators should find it as no surprise that there is growing unrest among this current and diverse generation. There is a call for reformation in the classroom. Research and education face a current crisis with Generation Y’s emergence into academia.   

Hall and Birchall discuss a generation of scholars who are neither entirely necessarily comprised of Generation Y, nor necessarily excluded to this generation, and state that scholars who are affecting the field of education today, “do not have a common approach or methodology. […] If anything, what’s different about this ‘generation’ is that it is not recognizable as a school, but is rather more mobile” (2006, p. 5).  The members of this particular generation have grown accustomed to and prefer this approach of participation and integration, deeming it convenient, mobile, accessible, and necessaryIn other words, this era works through degrees of intensity, “immanently, in the arteries of society” (Lash & Lury, 2006, p. 13). 

Generation wh/Y must we do this?:

Specifically in the field of education, the backlash of No Child Left Behind, which is arguably part of a larger condition of Hardt and Negri’s, Empire, further fuels the voices that challenge conventional models of learning and pedagogical practices.  The weight and significance given towards standardized testing, is one recent example of the Imperial policy tactics dictated for educators, who are to impart a standards-based curriculum that does not steer from the content.  Ultimately, standards-based education curriculum carries with it the assumption that universalization is not only doable but right.  This universalization perpetuates modernity’s globalized illusion of a New World Order, which ceases to take into account the diversity and contextual differences between populations. This universalism also deems the “nature” of things as inevitable and excludes the historical realms that shaped its condition to begin with.

Hall and Birchall do not explicitly focus on Generation Y, yet their presence and forthcoming appearance onto the scene of academia appropriately coincides with their previously quoted statement.  Generation Y’s seemingly obligatory nature and relationship to technology allows the diaspora to flourish. Mobility defines the diaspora; the diaspora defines the current living context.   This raises important questions:  Where does that leave research and education?  How are scholars to use this information in relation to their own research and to their classrooms?  How can scholars incorporate this changing landscape into something helpful and useful for their students? What does this mean for scholars and people alike who are to explore the realms between agency and hegemony?  Where does one draw the line? While these question may not find resolve any time soon (if ever), they do offer the field of academia an opportunity to pause and question the direction in which education is to go. Generation Y’s appearance into the work world, their necessary fictions they bring with them may be annoying, but nonetheless, should be examined and acknowledged making the field re-think and re-search how it views the world in all its subjectivity, complexity, and tensions.

Generation wh/Y not?

The culmination of these elements: individualization, techno-virtual hyperreality, mobility and subjectivity in large, produce an immanentization affect that dramatically shifts how one knows, conceptualizes, theorizes, and thus, understands the world in which one lives.

Torres Garcia (dissertation, 2009) details her personal struggles in finding a theoretical framework that accurately satisfied the context of her study and reports:

 I found myself dancing to numerous rhythmic tones [regarding various theories].  These expressive and elegantly soaring notes were artistic but disconnected, pleasant but unfulfilling, relaxing yet discomforting.  I realized that these theoretical concepts individually do not bring justice to the experiences of Chicanas/Latinas in the Pacific Northwest, nor did they produced a rhythmically familiar and satisfying melody. (2009, p. 26)

Correspondingly, black feminist theory is made up of a pastiche of theoretical schools that “theoretically” contradict one another and do not ‘go’ or ‘fit’ together.  Yet, Collins manages to weave a fruitful and meaningful argument that acknowledges the complexities, contradictions, and tensions black women face and experience.  By acknowledging her positionality and creating her own theoretical framework grounded in experience, Collins validates her experiences and gives others, like Torres, who struggles to find a meaningful framework, permission to do the same. 

Currently, theory is suspended in the diaspora of global consequences.  Isolation, nomadic wandering, and displaced identities saturated in the virtual, as defined by Hardt and Negri, are the constant.  They are constant in the daily activities of production and being.  They define one’s being.  Theory must acknowledge this reality and respectfully and accurately position itself in a space where it itself can be productive and beneficial. Said’s notion of a “traveling theory reconsidered” (as cited in The Cultural Studies Reader, 2007, p. 252) is invigorated, and scholars can once again, return back to, the filaments of theoretical exploration. 

The disassembling and re-assembling of theory in different, possibly contradictory, and even inconsistent ways is vital for Generation Y, who ride the coattails of a former generation of scholars who emphasize the importance of the everyday.  Generation Y is deeply embedded into a customization and brand environment which forces them to break things down (which includes their experiences) piecemeal, and then re-configure what they can out of those pieces to inform their identity.  Subtle nuisances and smidgeons of degrees of difference become fundamental.  Despite the fact that outsiders of any one community may fail to recognize, understand, or feel the tension, participating members understand that these subtle difference are not subtle.


The Design: Methods and Procedures

This is a qualitative study with a mixed sampling set and collection of data.  The researcher will study alternative research articles within education that use social theory as a conceptual framework.  In addition, these articles will address issues of social justice within the realm of education.  My emphasis will be on comparing the researcher’s background, her/his age, ethnicity(ies), SES, and sexual orientation.  From this particular data, I will contact these authors and ask to interview them.  The interview will address issues of social theory and its use in the author’s work(s).  See below for interview questions.

Significance of Study:

Theory has always been a metaphorical, theoretical, deconstructed and reconstructed, virtual playlist. The immanentization of theory is the theoretical playlist; the parceling out and the weaving in of multiple retroperspective concepts into a setting that is contemporary and context specific.  The theoretical playlist is the amalgamation of various strands of differing theories, some of which may be contradictory; into a cohesive portraiture used to explain and illustrate understanding.    Emerging scholars are attempting to deconstruct theory in ways that may have traditional theorists gasping.  Yet, to this ‘new’ generation, one which is led by non Gen Yers, but is being taken up by incoming scholars who are of the Gen Y population, this type of deconstruction and re-construction seems completely plausible to their current experiences.

In particular, the direction of theoretical relevancy raised by Hall and Birchall’s discussion of the ‘new’ generation and their affect on the field of cultural studies, and I would add, education writ large (2006), is due to the growing number of scholars entering the field from non-traditional “academic” backgrounds.  Not only, are these scholars challenging previous social theoretical models, but they are tinkering and pushing the lines and seams of theory.  Ironically, it is the technological advancements of the current conditions streamlined with the growing inclusion of alternative resistant communities/cultures (i.e., indigenous, Queer, feminist, race theories) that, together, navigate and challenge previous conventional models of theory.   

The context of theory’s privileged place within education is at stake. Its power and relevancy lie in the expansion of how one configures, conceptualizes, utilizes and presents theory in alternative ways that fit the diverse conditions of today.  Moreover, the significance of how the field responds to this particular generation, who nonetheless, have grown up, been indoctrinated into, and have known nothing else other than the virtual playlist, will be of key importance in the direction education is to journey. Furthermore, generation Y brings along its own unique set of issues that confront technology’s ubiquitous presence, dealing with growing up in a neo-Capitalist/global society, and their personal struggles to find a working conceptual model which illuminates the diaspora associated with current social, political, and cultural conditions. Previous scholars’ from different generational eras, who have worked from the margins or outside the margins, can be seen as pioneers and important leaders who have foreshadowed and paved the way for Generation Y’s insistence on alternatives conceptual models of  theorizing (c.f., Collins, 1990; Foucault, 1994; Shiva, 2005; Prakash, cite year; Urietta, 2002; Hall 1990; Grande, cite year). 

For all its debatable glory and gloom, this is what I suggest the ‘new’ generation asks.  They want knowledge, information, and theory to be relevant to the context they have grown up in.  This context calls for creative and innovative explorations of experience and meaning-making, many of which falls outside the boundaries of traditional educational theories.  The significance of making connections from the ‘outside’, or bringing the ‘outside’, ‘inside’, is urgent.  The approach is where the contentions lay—the approach of utilization, interpretation, and presentation.  They want it to feel meaningful and immanent, or intimate with their experiences.  Immediate connections to the profane and ordinary are significant and fundamental.  In a world where they are constantly asked to participate; where they feel they are the other half to the relationship of their doings and undoings, they understand academia best in a setting which acknowledges their multiple contexts. Their intense relationship and interaction with their simulated environment changes the way in which they conceptualize the relationship between subject and object. 

For the most part, technology and alternative marginalized population groups are not thought of as concepts that go together, at least in a harmonious conceptualization.  There is an abundant amount of literature and studies that expose technology’s disastrous and devastating effects on vulnerable populations.  One cannot dispute that fact. In many respects, technology is a space in which much criticism can and should be generated and argued most vehemently against.   However, I am inclined to recognize technology’s prevalent and stubborn appearance.  I believe it is important to reconcile its unyielding, persistent presence.  One cannot criticize something away.  And because of this, it is important to find ways in which productive forces within the master’s house, so-to-speak, can use the momentum which was generated for it, against it, thereby attempting to subvert dominant and oppressive ideologies. As educators and researchers, it is in our best interest to acknowledge the increasing power Generation Y will continue to have on all of our lives.       

Donnison argues that teacher educators should be cautious about accepting and adopting popular discourses about the generation as a basis for the designing and developing millennial appropriate educational practices and pedagogy” (2007, p.1). And that, “Millennials have allowed others to determine who they are, what they believe and what they can become (p.8). Which furthers leads into her final quote: “It is only when the Millennials engage in the active co-construction of their own discourses that real empowerment will be possible” (p.9).  This is one millennial engaging in the construction of her discourse making. And furthermore, I contend that youth are challenging this notion that this generation passively accepts what others previously have told them.  Maybe the people in power just aren’t listening or recognizing youth’s attempts, which I would say speak loud and clear in terms of the lack of participation and connection to the material taught in classes. To ensure, it is not about ending theory; it is about making theory meaningful and relevant to the everyday lives of people; it is about making theory more immanent and experiential, an absolution from all the previous borders that did not/does not allow for intimacy or inclusion, which links humans together.  Immediate connections to the profane and ordinary are fundamental. The significance of becoming conscious to the connections of the outside as inside is urgent. The raw flesh exposes itself, immediately unearthing the ridiculous irony that defines humans’ being.  It is the immanent-izing of theory—the blurring of theory to one’s experiences and the turning out of all that is normal and natural only to display it for its complete unnaturalness and abnormalities.  It is the discovery that the everyday mundanities navigate the ideological machines which run human’s lives.  The immanentization of theory is about the self and its context.  The lines of separation are obscured; and the meeting space between the real and the non-real becomes a rich landscape for awesome possibilities and great dangers, making its potential an exciting arena to explore.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. allitravis permalink*
    November 29, 2010 11:38 am

    I really like your research proposal, I think it would be really interesting to see the results if it is actually done! Just a few comments…you say “young people”….could you specify the age further? My opinion of a “young” age might be very different from someone else. Also, in doing your research, are you only going to look at articles and talk to researchers? Would it be feasible/benefitial to actually talk to “Generation Yers” and kind of develop your own theory that ties in both other researcher’s work and your own first hand observations and discoveries?

  2. priyanka30 permalink*
    November 30, 2010 3:13 am

    Hi Mary,
    I agree with Alli – if this project could be done, it’d be fascinating to see what results are revealed. As for my feedback, you’ll have to bear with my relative lack of knowledge in this area, but based on what I read of your proposal, I am thinking the following:

    1. I found an interesting article at which might give you some added literature or at least another angle from which to approach your side.
    2. I vaguely recall reading a very interesting article about what the “new student” looked like in every generation, starting from the baby boomers to the millenial generation. I can’t quite remember the name of the author but s/he talked about use of technology and learning reformation within and outside the classroom. Maybe google can reveal some info? If I remember the author’s name, I’ll leave another comment on here.
    3. I believe the Journal of Interactive Media in Education would be a good place to hang out for this study. I am not sure if WSU subscribes to it, but definitely worth a shot.
    4. I know that concepts of PRAGMATISM, MATERIAL WELL BEING, and LOYALTY are common ones associated with Gen Y – may be bring in some of these and explore if/how they tie in with what you’re trying to do?

    That’s about it. Hope that was of some help! 🙂
    Good luck.

  3. kachristen permalink*
    November 30, 2010 6:55 am

    Mary, you have a lot of information here and many good thoughts. Your playlist idea is key to your argument and integrating the technological aspect more will help flesh this out. I can see you are still struggling with how to bring all this material together, your framework is broad and at times jumps around, I think mapping out this information ecology would help as would making your own argument more central and then drawing in the threads of specific theorists. I need to see more on Gen Y with some nuance within education to understand your research trajectory and your own claims.

    Here are some specific places to focus for improvement:

    1. assumption–postmodern world of technology–what does this mean?

    2. There is a leap from the intro to the problem statement–the linkage between your brief and broad intro and the problem is not clear. You jump to education and there was nothing about that and Gen Y in the intro. Slow down and unpack the issues in the intro without falling into sweeping generalizations.

    3. playlist theory is not defined when you first introduce it–it’s not self-evident so you need to take your reader step by step through what it is, what you mean by it, why it is a useful conceptualization etc.

    4. The first sentence in your lit review section says you target one position, but you don’t say what it is.

    5. Need more in your lit review section

    6. If you want to bring in folks like Hardt and Negri to connect to No Child Left behind you need more than a name drop, the linkage is not self-evident

    7. Your list of questions at the end of the Y/must we… section are good–and need to be addressed not just listed, these should be built on and made central to the paper project.

    8.Methodology–this is a good start, but what about the students? or is your sole focus on the educators? Isn’t there a relationship worth investigating…in fact with the given age range they are often both considered Gen Y.

    9. “Currently, theory is suspended in the diaspora of global consequences.”–Not sure what you mean by this…slow down, unpack.

    9. “theory” is a broad term and you give it agency…ie–theory must acknowledge…but theory can not do this only theorists can and you need to identify what you mean by this and who you are addressing and what body of theory.

    10. you get to the technology at the end but don’t incorporate the class readings or theories. Technology needs to be central to this discussion, particularly because Gen Y is defined by there use of various technologies and you leave unstated the linkages between this. It cannot be taken-for-granted that virtuality or remix etc are central to this group or to the ways in which they define, use and recreate/create theory in practice within an education setting.

  4. Mary permalink*
    November 30, 2010 9:02 am

    Thanks everyone. So helpful.

    Question. What do you think? Should I just focus on the technological aspect? And the information ecologies??? Maybe I need to cut this down and work on one section?? Just curious…

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