Pedagogy of Difference 2.0
: Introducing Interactive Documentary in the context of Critical Media Literacy

  • Danai Mikelli

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The rise of digital interactive technology in recent years has been accompanied by claims about the democratic promise of interactivity, placing emphasis on the empowering potential it holds for users. This research set out to explore the implications of introducing the tool of interactive documentary in a series of Critical Media Literacy interventions with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The rapidly evolving field of Interactive Documentary has been theorised as a new learning system, offering contemporary ways to engage with the representation of reality. Interactive Documentary could be seen as the ideal platform for addressing the purposes of Critical Media Literacy, such as foregrounding a democratic pedagogy, due to its potential to create “spaces in which individuals can speak for themselves” (Nash 2014a: 51). This thesis provides empirical evidence of the challenges of delivering the benefits of interactivity in a complex lived environment and offers a critique of some of the assumptions of the theoretical discourse of Critical Media Literacy, namely promoting student voice and empowerment.

A qualitative multi-method approach was adopted for conducting this research. The methodology of Participatory Action Research (PAR) was used as the overarching framework for data collection, as this was in line with the theoretical underpinnings of this research, and provided the practical means guiding the series of Interactive Documentary workshops, which served as distinct cycles of action and reflection. I combined PAR with Visual Research Methods throughout conducting fieldwork and I deployed Discourse Analysis for analysing the data. This research was also influenced by Ethnography, in terms of foregrounding reflexivity and observing groups of young participants with an emphasis on their values and perspectives.

The findings of this study contribute to a reconfiguration of a ‘Pedagogy of Difference’, a concept often found in Critical Pedagogy literature, which denotes “teaching for and about difference” (Luke 1994: 38, italics in original) in terms of gender, class, ability, race, ethnicity, religion and nationality. In reconfiguring this concept, I present a “Pedagogy of Difference 2.0” for teaching and learning with interactive documentaries and outline the technological, relational, experiential and discursive dimensions which would sustain this new approach to pedagogy. Pedagogy of Difference 2.0 embraces 11 the limitations of interactivity on young people’s media production and does not take young people’s familiarity with the technology for granted. It foregrounds the notion of engagement, taking into account the challenges that emerged from engaging participants in Critical Media Literacy interventions. This approach to pedagogy also acknowledges the development of positive relationships between educators and learners and among learners, thus encouraging a sense of empowerment through forging new social relationships. In this regard, Pedagogy of Difference 2.0 acknowledges the contextual nature of teaching and learning, moving beyond the often abstract discourse of Critical Pedagogy.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorShaun Hides (Supervisor), Matthew Hawkins (Supervisor) & Katherine Wimpenny (Supervisor)

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