Review: Convergence Culture–Where Old and New Media Collide

5 Star, Culture, DVD - Light, Information Society, Media
Convergence Culture
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Focused on Media, Art, Culture, Less So on Social Networks, May 10, 2008

Henry Jenkins

I come late to this book, published in 2006. I do not regret it. It is a bit too focused on media, art, and “culture” for me, but I cannot penalize the author for being a master of arcane tid-bits. This book is a collection of previously published articles reworked into a book–for me, that is a good thing, as I do not cover the sources that originally carried the pieces.

The book comes recommended by Howard Rheingold and Bruce Sterling, two of the originals, so that alone should encourage anyone interested in this area to take this book very seriously.

Although the author focuses on “participatory culture” the emphasis is this book is on the CULTURE part, not the social networks, integral consciousness, appreciative inquiry, co-intelligence, and so on as I have learned from my Eco-Topia colleauges.

The author himself speaks early on about the book speaking to three concepts:

+ Media convergence
+ Participatory culture
+ Collective intelligence

He gets an A for the first, a B for the second, and a C for the third.

I don’t consider myself qualified to be critical of this book, so here are the tid-bits that grabbed me:

+ Paradigm shift is not about communications among individuals but rather about their *being* in *being* with one another (from one to many and one to one to many to many)

+ Author credits Ithiel de Sola Pool (1983) with seeing the transitions that were coming

+ Convergence changes relationships and logics

+ The biggest convergence may be the sharp total confrontation between top down attempts to keep control, and bottom up demands to wrest control

+ Media right now is being excessively influenced by the wealthy that can afford the trinkets (look for my 1993 rant to INTERVAL on “God, Man, and Informaiton: Comments to Interval” for the other side of the story)

+ Public getting harder to “impress” (see my review of The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business

+ Emotions and feelings of connection matter more–the author writes of an “affective economy”

+ Producers are finding they must agree to co-creation (this media or cultural trend has a counterpart in the business world, see the Business Week cover story of 20 June 2005 on “The Power of Us”)

+ Media industry is split between the prohibitionists and the collaborationists, and I am most fascinated to see mobile telephone companies in the latter category. If I had to place a bet on Nokia versus Google, I would go with Nokia.

+ In discussing the presidency, the author observes that what is changing is not the political parties, which we all know are Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, but rather the communications and cultural norms. The author cites Joe Trippi’s excellent The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything.

+ Other authors prominently cited several times include Pierre Levy, Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace (Helix Books) and Cass Sunstein, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge.

+ Citing another author (always with credit) I am engaged by the concept of “adhocracies” as the opposite of bureaucracies.

+ Digital enclaves are becoming counter-productive, allowing nesting rather than engagement (at least among the one billion rich), need to get out and cross those cultural divides.

Four books within my ten book limit that cover material this book does not:
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People

A book just published that includes Yochai Benkler and 54 other Collective Intelligence gurus, none of them less Howard Rheingold in this book:
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

I am glad I got and read this book. It is clearly very learned in the media convergence and media-mind aspect, but it is not at all as versed as I was expecting in the nuts and bolts of participatory networking, appreciative inquiry, deliberative democracy, integral consciousness, world brain, etcetera, nor is it all oriented toward large scale problem solving with collective intelligence.

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