Which new media theorist, which you have read (either avidly and/or recently) would you want to read further? What ideas, concepts, books, and articles interest you most and why?
Hard questions. There have been many theorists I have read that deal with hypertext, identity on the Internet, narrative in cyberspace, virtual communities, participatory cultures, etc., to include Turkle, Murray, Moulthrop, Landow, Manovich, Heim, Joyce, Haraway, Rheingold, Jenkins, Bruns, Bolter, and Bolter & Grusin. It’s hard for me to pick one theorist because so many of them intrigue me, but if I have to pick one for this assignment, it’s Henry Jenkins.
I learned of Jenkins last year when I read his book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and became a definite fan when I began to learn more about Jenkins and his ideas through his various online outlets, such as his site, “Confessions of an Aca-Fan” and the site New Media Literacies: Learning in a Participatory Culture.
IDEAS, CONCEPTS, BOOKS & ARTICLES
A lot of my interests run alongside the ideas and concepts that Jenkins presents in his works.
One in particular is the relationship between producer and consumer within this new media culture. As we have talked about in class already, this technological shift in our culture has blurred the line between the producer and consumer, creating what Bruns calls a produser. The more we see users taking on producer roles, the more we need to understand the negotiation that must occur between the two and how this impacts the culture. Robert R. Johnson, in his book, User-Centered Technology, talks about the importance of the user in technology; he also shows us how the importance of the user has been diminished (perhaps has always been diminished?) because being the “creator” is what’s most important in most people’s minds. So, here we have this large (there are far more users than there are creators) marginalized group who now has a voice in this new media culture. This move affects traditional producers (how do I keep what’s “mine” in this new culture, how do I interact with these produsers in a meaningful way, etc.), users-now produsers (who am I now as a produser? what is my identity? how do I shape this identity for self and for others, etc.), and the culture at large. Jenkins talks about these things in his book, Convergence Culture.
Another idea that blends well with producer-consumer that Jenkins discusses is that of the boundary between text and reader, the boundary that actually is a blur now. I would probably throw “author” into the mix, too, whereas author and reader are separated by text and unlike the past, where text was created by the author for the reader, there is a two-way communication going on as readers are able to interact with text and to develop their own texts that are linked to the original material. Jenkins does a lot of work with fan cultures (particularly in his book Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Media Consumers in a Digital Age) in discussing this aspect.
Both of these ideas meld into one concept that much of Jenkins’ work comes back to: the participatory culture. Besides Convergence Culture, I have also read a white paper that Jenkins and others wrote through the MacArthur Foundation, “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century,” which discusses new media culture and the skills necessary to not only be literate in this culture but also participate within the culture.
My main research interest is the (re)construction of identity through virtual worlds and how these (re)constructions can facilitate better group communication. Participatory culture plays a major role in that. A person has to negotiate and renegotiate with herself in order to develop an identity that not only suits who she wants to be in a virtual world but also provides her opportunity to connect and communicate with others. And as she learns more about the virtual space and the groups that she associates herself with, that virtual identity, again, will go through continuous negotiations to construct the best identity for self and for group. With this identity, she will participate with others and she will create various things within her environment as well as use various things.
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