Information Literacy Awareness Month

23 10 2009

“None of us really knows how to live in this era of media convergence, collective intelligence, and participatory culture. . . we should not assume that someone possesses media literacy if they can consume but not express themselves.”

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture (2006.)

We are living in a time of enlightenment.  In our present time, media is being put into the hands of the people in the most democratic fashion we have seen possibly ever in modern history.  Larry Lessig refers to this as the, “revitalization of the read write culture,” which exists in stark juxtaposition to the “read only culture.”  In the “read write culture” participants are encouraged through a democratic processes to engage, create, and share their world with a global community.  Henry Jenkins expresses these ideals as well.  No wonder then that in this birth of the information age, the most forward thinking leaders of the world are turning to literacy, in both the old and new forms, as the tool of exploration.  We are growing in ways that no one can predict where we are headed.  However, it is clear that the old ways will not suffice and that as world citizens we all have a unique responsibility to get on board this train. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama proclaimed October 2009 as Information Literacy Awareness Month.  Backed by clear research into the most progressive forms of education, Obama is calling on the citizens, the schools, and the business’ of our country to join the growing wave of information.  In his proclamation Obama declares, “Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation.” This is the “read write culture” of today.  No doubt that other enlightened Americans would also agree.  Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Richard Price, 1789, said,  “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”  Jefferson also stated, “An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.”  We hold these truths to be more applicable to in our world today than ever before.  Today alone there was over 9,000 hours of YouTube material uploaded, according to figures run by Michael Wesh.  Hence, information is growing massively all the time, and as our access to this information likewise expands, we must engage in this process as responsible citizens living in a democratic time.

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“And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government or information to the people. This last is the most certain and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

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Can’t make them passive, can only make them pirates.

16 10 2009

“-they’ve been there before — but they aren’t going to stop creating.”

-Henery Jenkins

“Corporations have a right to keep copyright but they have an interest in releasing it.”

-Henry Jenkins

Convergence culture has no better friend than George Lucas.  Think the relationship of convergence media was good only for pop culture.  Fair use and collaborators are continuing to sell the Lucas trademark Star Wars films in ways that Lucas nor his high paid Hollywood allies ever dreamed.  In return, the fans have gained a generation worth of myths and tales (Jenkins, 2006).  This is a culture where everyone wins.  New and emerging artist take their stab at telling their own tales using the Lucas fantasy.  These new editors and filmmakers, armed with tools like Youtube and today’s wide range of cameras and editing software, now participate with an audience, engaged and interactive.  These are today’s storytellers communicating in creative voice to spread previous fantasies and myths of heroes and villains.  These new films push the original ideas into a new realm of interaction and engagement.  Communities of filmmakers learn from watching each other and furthering their own skills.

DJ’s have understood this since the 70’s when they started sampling beats, scratching records, and using vocals tracks to create what is hip-hop.  The original mash up culture may in fact be hip-hop.  The very nature of the DJ, MC, Break Dancers and graffiti artwork all feed off each other in a participatory fashion.  These elements started in the underground and drove quickly to the top.  Bringing with it, hip-hop inspired millions world wide, gave a voice to people of all types, and made billions of dollars in music sales, concerts, fashion, and film.   Even though people thought hip-hop would be a quick fad, it is here to stay 30 years later.  Suppose we criminalize hip-hop.   Would it go quietly back underground?

If societies are to progress, freedom has to be guarded.  The mind develops a memory of the tales of our time.  Once the tales begin to guide us, they cannot leave the psyche.  In the same way, though copyright exists to protect investment and self-preservation, it should not exist to limit the tales we tell or the way in which we tell them.  Nor will it ever be able to stop the new media entrepreneurs from building on solid foundations.  Collaborators will not be prohibited.   Literacy is advancing.  The forms in which our stories exist are being reinvented everyday.  There are no new stories, only new ways of telling them.  The people are speaking and speaking to audiences like never before.  The evolution of democracy is happening.  Billy Joel put it best, “We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning, since the world’s been turning.”


Jenkins, Henry.  2006.  Convergence Culture.  New York.  New York University Press.

Converging Culutures; Are we there yet?

4 10 2009

Converging cultures… Is this a new age way of describing the Melting Pot mentality of American immigration?  Or is this some way of describing a news broadcast being built by a teenager on a camera phone and sharing it with the world through an online medium?  Or is this talking about a culture that is due to arise but isn’t quite here yet?  Or has it arrived?  Or is this something bigger?

The reality is that converging cultures are everywhere.  Converging cultures include an integrated view of all of the afore-mentioned questions.  And the reality is that most of us have no idea where this convergence may take us or what the rules for this may be but we are on our way.

Most of us are wrapped up n this convergence concurrently and possibly unconsciously.  If you have ever used YouTube to catch up on the latest water cooler discussion you are participating.  If you have a cd player, an iPod, or cable music programming, you are participating.  If you have ever sent a text message or photo message to a friend you are using convergence culture.  What convergence culture really means is that our idea of independent media realms today is a blend of past independent fields mixing together to create a new sense of reality.  No longer do we talk about information coming to us from the news, be it T.V., radio, or newspaper.  Now we talk about our news coming to us via podcasts, blogs, and the most popular T.V. channel, YouTube, which isn’t actually a channel at all or a T.V. device.  When our worlds collide and the boundaries lift…convergence culture is here.

Business’ have started to recognize this shift.  Look at the focus of movie producers to add bonus features to their dvd’s, their release of video games to take the story further than the on screen performance, and simply the cell phone as a music player, film, sound and recording device, in addition to accessing the internet, and text messaging.  If you are wondering how the former news industries are responding to this shift, take a look at the new New York Times.  In this The Atlantic monthly article, “End Times” we get a glimpse of the new reality that business’ marketers are facing.

Will the New York Times face a slow death like many of the nation’s other newspapers or will they emerge to re-define this convergence.  See what Marc Anderssen says about the print version of the times.

Possibly the most exciting aspect of this new approach to media, resides in the way we can now actively engage the media as producers of media.  Our home films are now the latest upload ready for the world to relive our family vacations with us.  We can even write our own material that will be read by millions.  It is this grassroots aspect of the new media convergence that is captivating more and more participants.  Just think about what MTV did to music in the 80’s and what YouTube is doing to T.V. today.

This response is in reference to:

Jenkins, Henry.  2006.  Convergence Culture.  New York.  New York University Press.

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