Fostering Industry and Academic Partnerships

Jackie Marsh and Dylan Yamada-Rice

Arguably, there has never been a more important time to foster industry- academia research in the field of children’s digital and media practices that now. Fast-changing developments in technology have led to significant changes in young children’s lives, and it is hard to keep up with some of these transformations. One way of ensuring that we do keep up-to-date in our knowledge and subsequent actions is to exchange knowledge across sectors, and across disciplines. This was one of the key reasons for setting up the COST Action DigiLitEY, as our network engages actively with industry partners.

What kinds of industry-academia collaboration are required to address some of the key questions that we face in the area of children and digital media? We would suggest that the three main kinds of collaboration are as follows:

(a) Engaging in joint research projects. Some of the ‘wicked problems’ and challenging issues we face in contemporary society can only be understood by engaging in interdisciplinary, inter-sector research in which each partner brings their own understanding and expertise to the subject. Take, for example, the question of how young children can develop an understanding of what the risks and opportunities of online life are. Researchers can approach the topic from their disciplinary bases, but if we are to understand fully what kinds of risks children take as they engage in online practices, then industry information about how their services are used is invaluable. Such collaborative research projects are not easy, as they take time to develop, but the kinds of knowledge produced can then be important for both industry and academia (see the Technology and Play project as an example of this). David Kleeman, Senior Vice-President of Global trends for Dubit, offers his views on some of the key findings of this project at Huffington Post.

(b) Engaging in discussion on key issues. If there is not time to undertake collaborative research, then at least taking the time to talk to each other can bridge understanding across industry and academic domains. For example, it is clear that virtual reality is a growing area of interest for children and families, and therefore DigiLitEY recently teamed up with an industry partner, Dubit, in order to organise a seminar which gave academic and industry participants time to talk about the emerging issues in this area. This valuable knowledge exchange opportunity enabled new insights to emerge, which can inform future collaboration on this topic (the Think Tank report will be published on the DigiLitEY website in due course). Even if it is not possible to plan joint seminars, then at least attending the conferences of a different sector to your own can extend industry-academic knowledge.

(c) Engaging in joint writing. There are numerous opportunities for industry and academic partners to collaborate, communicate and engage with each other through writing. Blog posts offer one such opportunity, as this contribution demonstrates. Twitter can foster inter-sector discussion, which, through the use of hashtags, can be made very specific to particular topics. Finally, joint books written by academic and industry partners can be highly illuminative, offering both sectors time and space to deliberate on issues at length. A good example of this is a book edited by Dylan and Eve Stirling, Visual Methods with Children and Young People: Academics and Visual Industries in Dialogue, in which insights from academic experts and established professionals from visual industries enabled an in-depth exploration of a range of issues from visual ethics to children’s interaction with place.

These provide just a few examples of the way in which industry and academic partnerships can be developed in order to enhance joint understanding of young children’s digital literacy and multimodal practices. In order to offer further guidance to both industry and academic colleagues, we have written a short booklet which includes a number of ‘tips’ on collaborative working. And if you have further tips to offer, please use the comments function of the blog to share them!
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