Chapter 6 (The Convergence Culture of Campaigning)

redvsblue. (n.d.) Source: http://www.miller-mccune.com. Retrieved on July 17, 2008

redvsblue. (n.d.) Source: http://www.miller-mccune.com. Retrieved on July 17, 2008

Henry Jenkins is very hopeful that the convergence culture will make politics more accessible to all of us, thereby “democratizing” it so that it is part of our everyday lives. The new trend indicates that our politicians haven’t turned their noses up to the notion either. Jenkins rightfully points out Howard Dean’s success at mobilizing his supporters via the internet (specifically meetup.com). He also points out to specific examples of this “democratizing” taking place, citing Dan Rather’s erogenous report that Bush had used family privilege to avoid serving in Vietnam (which we all know he did, as all of the rich do, but anyway. . .). Unfortunately, the Dan (as he is referred to in Bernard Goldberg’s Bias which is a great read by the way) relied on forged documents to build his case, which was immediately exposed by the conservative blogosphere. Curiously, Jenkins never uses Dan Rather’s name, instead opting to blame “CBS” for the problem. Anyone who has indeed read Bias knows that Dan Rather basically ran CBS at that time, so I find the omission curious. Anyway . . .

The “Old Media” was forced to cooperate under the new set of rules introduced by the convergence culture. The new set of rules was basically this: If you lie, we will expose you. And we can assume that in return the old guard will feel obliged to do the same. Which begs the question: What if they both lie? Jenkins warns against assuming that the internet is the great truth detector in the sea of “Old Media” lies. He also warns against believing that everyone now has the ability to access all human knowledge right at their fingertips, the main problem being that human knowledge is just that. Human.

That is to say “not Divine”, which is to say, flawed. Humans operate with filters in their brains, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. If a human wrote it, I can assure you that there is a spin behind it. Yes that applies to all of my posts. I would claim to be un-human to say that I can write anything without a spin. No one can. This is why Jenkins can easily make the observation that the new media immediately takes the opportunity to spin things as soon as it gets posted. The refreshing thing is that most in this arena unabashedly admit it, but not everybody. I don’t really consume media that isn’t honest about it’s angle whether old or new. Let me know where you stand, and then I’ll listen to what you have to say.

Unfortunately, the new media is often times no better at discerning the truth than Dan Rather was. While the “conservative” new media heartily criticized the Dan for his obvious bias against Bush, they pushed different biases on the rest of us. I’m sure you witnessed all of the ruckus about how Sadaam was going to bomb all of us if we didn’t act immediatley. If you missed that, then check the home page of the Drudge Report when you get done reading this post. You can see all of it unfold again in textbook fashion with Iran.

Jenkins is right. When online, most only associate with and move in the circles of those who think just like themselves. It’s an incestuous relationship that is bad for all of us, no matter what our political ideologies are. I post on your blog and you post on mine because we agree with each other. They all tell the same lies because they want to believe them and so does everybody else they know. If they are so-called conservatives, they rabidly defend Bush because he claims to be against abortion, and supposedly loves God. I’ve never seen so much damage done to a nation by somebody who was both a conservative and God-lover. In reality we can say for certain that Bush was not conservative. I won’t dare to judge a man’s belief in God but I will this: Even Satan believes in God and I don’t think it is doing him much good. The real tragedy in all of this is that “conservative Christians” kept Bush in office for eight years. Solus Deus Judicabit

On the other side of the coin we have the left-leaning side of the new media who constantly kept their audience in a state of angst because Bush was . . . well, Bush. It didn’t seem to matter that he appointed pro affirmative action, pro-abortion, anti-gun attorney general. It didn’t matter that Bush approved a bill that allowed minors to have abortions without consent from parents. It didn’t matter that Bush gave the UN unfettered access to our military. They just hated Bush. Here is a president that literally vetoed five bills. Five. The man let Teddy Kennedy write the education bill. I could go on about this for pages. I mean, what more does the left want? It’s just mind-boggling.

The point is, the internet offers little promise in rectifying political ignorance, as Jenkins seems to hope it will. People are willingly ignorant. There’s nothing we can do to change it. On a more optimistic note, the internet is allowing those who truly want to find the truth the opportunity to seek it out, and the convergence culture can go a long way in helping us all determine what is indeed truth and what isn’t. We can pool our knowledge collectively and arrive at it.

Sources:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

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The 4th Screen Video

Here is a video that my professor asked us to watch for our Media Asset Creation Class. I just finished watching it, so am still “marinating” on it (as my good friend, bass player John Turner would say about music that he hasn’t learned for my show yet).

I’m really not a Luddite at heart, I swear it. Still, I wonder where all of this technology is taking us. Many, while conceding that technology has had a tremendously positive benefit to all of us, have noticed the deleterious effect that technological advancements have had on the human race. None have put it so succinctly as Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death, which should be required reading for all Seniors in high school and was one of the several reasons I decided to get rid of my TV (I’m not a Luddite though).

Postman blames technology, more than anything else, for people leaving their front porches and retreating to their fenced in backyards. The front porch represents communal living. Talking to people as they walk by. Building relationships with our neighbors. The backyard represents a heightened sense of individuality. A retreat from community into a self-focused vacuum. As the video above illuminates for us, TV happens to us in isolation, unlike the cinema. Sure TV has given us more fodder to toss out for conversation with those in our community, workplace, church, etc. Whereas we used to talk about little more than the weather, now we can talk about little more than the weather and [substitute your TV show of choice here]. But does anyone else get tired of talking about TV shows all the time? Isn’t there anything deeper?

A sad realization for my wife and I has been that, as non-partakers of the TV culture, we have little to add to public discourse. It’s like being shunned by 99% of society. I sit in the teachers lounge at school to eat my lunch . . .

“Did you see Lost last night?”

“No I didn’t,” I say. “Was it good”

“Heck yeah! What were you watching?”

“I wasn’t really watching anything, I guess.”

“Oh man, you should really watch it next week. It’s good.”

“Well, I don’t have a TV.”

[cue crickets]

“Good for you,” they lie.

Why is it that every person who knows my secret tells me I’m smart for not having a TV, but yet I’m the only one I know without one?

Every morning (seriously now, EVERY morning), my students come into my classroom to hang out before school starts. Without fail they talk about what they watched on TV last night. They don’t really talk to me about it because (after confirming with my wife that I was indeed telling the truth) they have gotten over the shock of me not having a TV. I often marvel that my students know more about the problems happening in far-off Africa than they do about the problems in their own town, county, or state for that matter. By “know” I guess I mean “are aware of” because, thanks to TV, none of my students (or coworkers) really understand the factors that have led to AIDS plaguing most of Africa. As Neil Postman points out,

“Television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information – misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.”

So here we are with the 4th screen. The iconic symbol of Web 2.0, if you will. Is it reversing the effects of the 3rd screen? In some ways, I think the answer is yes. Now I have the ability to bring real news into my computer instead of watching the drivel coming from any and all of the networks. The downside to this is that while I download real news, some are now downloading the drivel. So sad. We live in a world where the “tweet” of a teenager can spark a revolution. The “tweets” of an oppressed people can alert the world of voting fraud. How beautiful! We have democratized the news, and for that I say “Bravo.” The unfortunate thing is that to read those tweets, I have to momentarily ignore those sitting next to me on the train. To keep up with all of my friends blogs and facebook posts I have to take time from other things. It’s true that the 4th screen is making us feel more connected. But connected ≠ community.  I have a great online community, but who among them will come to water my flowers when I go out of town?  How about collect my mail, or invite me over for dinner, or watch out for my daughter when she’s old enough to run around the neighborhood?  We still need to develop relationships with those in our physical community.  If the 4th screen isn’t helping us do that, then I’m hoping the 5th screen will.

Sources

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

Postman, N. (1985). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Penguin Books.

Chapter 3 (What was the Matrix?)

Apparently, it was the best example we’ve seen yet of transmedia storytelling. This according to Henry Jenkins in chapter three, entitled Searching for the Origami Unicorn. Here I must pause to admit that it has been more than a decade since I saw Blade Runner, and back then, in my young and tender years, the movie made no sense to me whatsoever. Thus, when Jenkins references Neil Young talking about an origami unicorn, it didn’t make sense to me either.

That being said, I did get the basic point behind the reference which was to illustrate “additive comprehension.” This is the way that directors shape and mold the way viewers perceive the film. One “origami unicorn” can change the entire way a film is perceived. Remember the way you felt when you discovered that Bruce Willis was really a dead person for most of Sixth Sense? That knowledge changed the way that you viewed the movie the second time around. An origami unicorn is such a moment, only more subtle. It may be a prop that a character uses, or it may be the way a director chooses to construct a shot in the film, but it is something that drastically changes the way an audience member interprets the film.

Going back to The Matrix, Jenkins details the ways in which the Wachowski brothers used many forms of media to tell the whole story. They utilized film, animated shorts, comic books, and video games. Jenkins explains that to really understand The Matrix, one needed to have pursed the story line through each one of these mediums, to which my response was “What the Heck?!?”

I, though a latecomer, was totally blown away by the first film installment when I watched it with some friends on DVD. After viewing the second film at a pre-opening day midnight screening, which raised an almost infinite amount of additional questions, I could not wait for Revolutions to hit the theaters. I again waited in line to see the third installment at midnight before opening day and left feeling like a hollow shell of the man I had been before seeing it. I had no answers, only more questions. My main question to those who were with me was, “Are we sure that thy aren’t coming out with a fourth one? I mean this one didn’t answer any of our questions . . .”

So, getting back to our text, I again felt empty (and mad) when I realized that I could have gotten more answers. I could have had a deeper and broader understanding. It really would have been nice if the Wachowskis had taken the initiative in one (of their plethora) of interviews to say, “Hey y’all. If you don’t want to be pissed after watching Revolutions, it would probably be a good idea to go ahead and watch our animated shorts, read our comics and play all of the video games.” Better yet, they could have delineated the order in which we should have done these things. I doubt I was the only person in the world who thought that it was unfortunate that “they” were going to pimp out The Matrix franchise to turn out some cheap video games and comic books and animated shorts. If only I would have known . . .

The Wachowski brothers are geniuses. I don’t begrudge their story telling strategy at all. I admire it. I only wish I would have known. Jenkins touches on the fact that most fans aren’t ready for the transmedia experience (particularly movie critics, who I think were irrelevant 15 years ago anyway). He also mentions that many media houses are ill-prepared as well. Who leads first, the gamers or the filmmakers? The TV producers or the comic book writers? I agree with Jenkins when he indicates that certain players are better poised than others to pull the transmedia gig off. Warner Bros, who housed the entire Matrix franchise, owns half of the world, including every aspect of production needed to exceed even the Wachowski’s expectations. I would like to see somebody else come along and use every single tool at their command to accomplish this exciting way of storytelling, but I fear that 99% of consumers would find it too much to bear.

Sources:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

Reading Intro and Chapter 1

This week: Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins

iGottaGo by imagarth, http://www.joe-ks.com/archives_jan2007/iPottie.htm retrieved on 7/7/2009

iGottaGo by imagarth, http://www.joe-ks.com/archives_jan2007/iPottie.htm retrieved on 7/7/2009

I  have the intro and first three chapters under my belt. Right when I took a break from reading the intro, I came across this article on Reuters which speaks directly to the rock/hard place that our Media owners find themselves in. I almost get the impression that our moguls almost dislike the developments that convergence is bringing. While I do understand that the status quo is bringing profits, I keep thinking to myself that whichever media conglomerate figures out how to exploit these current trends first is destined for MAD money!

In Chapter 1, Jenkins spends time detailing so called “spoilers” who take it upon themselves to figure out the final results of various reality shows before the results are revealed on the program. I couldn’t help but wonder (as Jenkins does) what the world would look like if thousands of people were bent on uncovering government corruption instead of Survivor results. Jenkins cites the guru of cyberculture, Pierre Lévy, and his knowledge about collective intelligence. to explain how it is that thousands of people can coordinate their efforts to arrive at a correct answer.

From Jenkins’ description of the Survivor spoilers, it seems that those involved in the spoiling effort got an intense thrill from the whole process. I suspect it has as much to do with working in a team as it does finding the answers. Indeed, when a poster known as ChillOne figured out all of the answers, many were disappointed. ChillOne had robbed them of the true underlying joy of spoiling: teamwork.

Having just finished a 10 day trial run of World of Warcraft, the concept of being motivated not so much to achieve as much as to achieve as a team is still fresh in my mind. Teamwork makes the game infectious and multiplies the amount of satisfaction that I get from playing it. The challenge I now face is how to employ this as a teaching strategy. I need to create a problem that will force my choir, either as individual choirs or a collective one, to embrace this idea of collective intelligence. Something that no one choir member can solve on their own. Don’t get me wrong. My choirs already have a great sense of community, but for me it’s bigger than that. I believe that teamwork and collective problem solving will serve as intrinsic motivators for my students to achieve more than they ever dreamed.

So . . . any ideas?

Sources

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

Peter King usurps limits on congressional power

Official photo from Congressman King's website

Official photo from Congressman King's website

Recently Rep. Peter King (Republican, N.Y.) derided the media attention being given to the death and current affairs of Michael Jackson. King posted a youtube video in which he stated that

For the last, I don’t know how long now, this low-life Michael Jackson, his name, his face, his picture, is all over the newspapers, television, radio. That’s all we hear about is Michael Jackson. Let’s knock out this psycho-babble. This guy was a pervert, a child molestor, he was a pedophile, and to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what’s it say about us as a country?”

What a completely irresponsible politician.  Here is a question for you Rep. King:  What does it say about us as a country, (and you as a congressman) that a man can be acquitted of a crime, yet still be presumed guilty by the fools like you who run this country.  You are a disgrace.  Do you even realize that you are usurping the constitutional limits on congressional powers by contradicting the ruling of a Federal court?  You should be censured by your colleagues, and probably would be if any of them cared about the constitution any more than you do.