Exploring millennial popular culture: Multilingual adolescents' literacy and identity work in online spaces
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The purpose of this virtual ethnographic case study was to examine literate and social practices of adolescent females from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds who are participating in Korean popular culture (K-Pop) online fan site called Soompi.com. I was particularly interested to learn how new technologies and popular culture provide young English language learners (ELLs) with opportunities to develop their English language and literacy skills. This study was guided by three research questions: (1) What multimodal literacy practices are these female multilingual adolescents engaged with as they author fanfiction in Soompi.com? (2) What kinds of social relationships and identities do they construct through participating in the site? (3) What implications can be drawn for educators and researchers who are working with multilingual, especially ELL youth? Over a two-year period, I collected multiple sources of data adopting virtual ethnographic methods, including online interviews, online observations, collecting artifacts, which were both textual and multimodal. The data were analyzed through various approaches including inductive analysis, discourse analysis, and multimodal microanalysis to closely examine what kinds of literacy practices are embedded in the virtual spaces and what resources are available in the spaces that help the youth to develop literacy and social identities. Findings revealed that these youth belong to an affinity participatory space where they make global social connections and engage in peer-to-peer learning and teaching, collaborative support, and sharing their own popular media creations with other fans of K-Pop. Moreover, these youth integrate multiple forms of modes, media and languages to create and remix their work in purposeful ways, challenging the traditional print-based monolingual literacy. They also enact multiple social identities adopting various social roles (e.g., author, producer, and reader) available on the site. Based on these aspects of the youth's digital literacy practices, this study suggests some ways that language and literacy teachers can use to better meet students' needs and to make their classrooms motivating and interactive learning communities.