Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's My Web and I'll Post if I Want To!

Much of my reading, research, and writing in recent years has been in the areas of social networking and the whole Web 2.0 concept. I find myself intrigued by the Internet in ways that I have been intrigued by the medium of radio in the past (yes...I'm a radio geek.). The incredibly fast pace of technology makes it difficult to keep up with what is going on with advances in Internet applications, but I find myself riveted. I am less interested in the actualy technological side of things (HTML, RSS, Java, yadda yadda yadda) and more interested in how these applications all function together on the Internet in a way that impacts our culture. I'm interested in the synergy between content creators, content providers (there is a difference!) and content users...and how those three kind of get muddied together.

As a result of this fascination, I've been reading a lot of books, articles, etc. by Henry Jenkins, the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, and perhaps the leading thinker in the area of digital media technology. His book Convergence Culture is probably one of the most important books on media technology in decades, and some have referred to him as the 21st Century's Marshall McLuhan. While Jenkins' name may not become a household cultural reference in the manner of McLuhan (Jenkins doesn't seem to seek out the limelight), I think it is an apt description. For anyone interested in the future of media technology, particularly in relation to understanding the interplay between technology and culture, Jenkins and his blog are must reads. Other important books by Jenkins include The Wow Climax and Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers.

Much of Jenkins work centers around the participatory nature of digital communications, where the lines are blurred between content creation and content usage, as well as some rather interesting discussions on media convergence and cross-platform content. Jenkins does a good treatment of this in relation to the classic example of cross-platform media: The Matrix series. If you thought The Matrix was merely a series of movies, you are mistaken. From the beginning, The Matrix was branded as a cross-platform phenomenon involving graphic novels, cartoons, video games, and the Internet...all with the participation of a larg number of writers and content creators. People were encouraged to play around in the world of The Matrix. At the other end of the spectrum is the tight controls that were placed on the world of Harry Potter. While fans wanted to enter that world and create their own Potter stories, the publisher and author stepped in to protect their money-making entity. Smart corporations, marketers, web creators, and anyone creating anything for any form of consumption would be wise to read Jenkins and embrace the technology, rather than hold it at arm's length. Not that J.K. Rowling and the young Mr. Potter are suffering from poor cash flow, mind you. But the Potter experience could have been even better if they had taken a different approach to their fans and embraced the potential of participatory culture.

Finally, as someone interested in the intersection of faith and culture, Jenkins has written a number of items on the way people of faith, and particularly Evangelicals, have approached the issues of convergence and media technology. I don't know where Jenkins stands in his own personal faith journey, but he has some interesting insights into the collision of faith and technology. On that note, I'm very interested in listening in on a seminar being held at MIT tomorrow on Evangelicals and the Media. It will be available for listening and viewing following the event. Just wish I could be up in Boston to participate live, however I guess it is only fitting that I experience it in the digital realm.

And if you are wondering where I am going with all this, there is a point beyond that which I've already stated. As a fan of music I'm very interested in how this whole convergence, cross-platform, media technology and culture thing plays out for the music industry and the artists who are creating music. So...I'll be writing a little bit about that in some future blogs.

And, in the very near future I'll be giving this blog a face-lift and changing some things around. And don't worry, there will still be plenty of music talk.

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