Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Week 2 Reading: Convergence Culture, Chapter 6: Photoshop for Democracy

(1) How has the Internet and new media changed culture and institutions in general?

There were several examples that Jenkins mentioned, saying “entrenched institutions are taking their models from grassroots fan communities, reinventing themselves for an era of media convergence and collective intelligence” (Jenkins, 2006).  He cited multiple examples of this, including the “U.S. Military developing a massive multiplayer game to facilitate better communications between service people and civilians, Coca Cola entering the entertainment industry to create a stronger emotional engagement with their brands and educators embracing informal pedagogy within fan communities as a model for developing literacy skills” (Jenkins, 2006).  I think that the early years of the 21st Century showed the true power of the Internet during the 2004 election.  Between the 60’s and the 90’s, image was everything in politics.  Politicians were able to harness the power of television as a way of conveying a controlled image of themselves to the voting public.  As technology increased and rapidly changed, you could see a shift in what the audience thought was important and relevant.  No longer was it about image, but about the immediacy of something and being able to evoke action in real time.  Jenkins used a quote from Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s campaign manager, that sums up this broad generalization perfectly: “While TV was a medium that rendered us dumb, disengaged and disconnected, the Internet makes us smarter, more involved and better informed” (Jenkins, 2006).   Now, I don’t completely agree with either statement fully.  There are certain elements in television that hold solid, relevant and educational grounds, including: Sesame Street, the Discovery Channel and TLC.  You could also list any one of a thousand shows that are on the opposite end of that spectrum, including about every piece of reality garbage that floods today’s airwaves.  The same could be said for the Internet.  For every positive contribution to society that the Internet makes, there is a negative aspect that counters it.  The Internet, just as much as television, is a double edged sword.  Both have changed cultures and institutions, but the intent and focus of each action in these mediums decides how the actions are relevant in today’s society and if they hold any positive merit.

(2) How has the Internet and new media changed education?

Never before has so much information been available to both students and educators.  The Internet has changed the way in which students can learn and research topics almost overnight.  A perfect example of this is how students look up information for a report.  Think back to when you were a child (this might date some of us).  I remember going to a physical library, paging through old index cards (that smelled of old books and desperation) and trying to find different books for my report.  After locating said books, I would then lug them home to my house where I would sit in front of my Commodore 64 and print out my 5-page report on a dot matrix printer.  This whole process would take sometimes days, depending on my amount of attention at any given moment.  Now, if you contrast this same task to today’s student, the same result can be achieved in about a quarter of the time thanks to the Internet.  Students can access any tome of information from around the world and incorporate it into their summation of any subject.  No longer are students limited by physical location of libraries and institutions of learning.  A child in the remotest area of South America now has the same access to the same information that a student in New York City has.  The same can also be said of instructors.  Thanks to the ideas of collaboration and convergence, teachers can share ideas, lesson plans and experiences virtually throughout the world, helping hone their skills and helping them become more relevant to today’s student.  Below are some videos that I think best sum up my answers (all are pulled from YouTube):

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Publishing.

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