evolving ecological media culture(s)


Week 3 – Social media, politics & the public sphere

So far in this course we have been mapping out three different approaches to understanding new media: a political economy approach, a cultural studies approach, and a media ecology approach. (The latter, so far, has been identified with the medium theory of Innis, McLuhan, and the “Toronto School” of communication studies. We will expand on that in weeks to come.)

Last week we began considering the political possibilities afforded by “media convergence,” in all its forms. This week we look closer at the relationship between politics and new media.

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Week 2: Media convergence

This week’s readings provide an overview of the many kinds of “media convergence” occurring with new/emergent/digital media. The Jenkins and Boler articles will be required reading; the latter begins our process of thinking about the political uses of new media, which we’ll focus on more next week.

(Note to non-UVM blog readers: Both the Jenkins and Boler chapters are freely available online; just do a pdf search for them. The Jenkins piece is also readable here.)

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Note: I’ve changed this post title from “Glossary” to “Scrapbook.” Since we didn’t get to the online posting of glossary items in our Jan. 22 class, we can keep this page for posting miscellaneous items that don’t fit into weekly themes or that come well after those theme discussions have occurred. If they’re more appropriate elsewhere (such as links that can be added to our “Links” list on the right), I will add them there later.

The original post read as follows:

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Note on reading materials

The readings for this class are being made available for students on Blackboard, an online course tool that is restricted to registered students and faculty at the University of Vermont.

For others, where readings are in the public domain, I will do my best to share them. Where they are not, I will make efforts to provide links to related materials. You are welcome to seek out PDFs floating around in the farther reaches of the internet (readers of my blog will know some places to seek them), but I won’t do that for you here.

Readers are also welcome to make suggestions or provide links to alternative readings in the comments section of any blog post.


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On Aaron Swartz & academic publishing

Here’s something I’m cross-posting from my own blog. It’s related to our conversations in class this past week.

A few days after Aaron Swartz’s suicide — in part triggered by the prospect of a 35-year prison sentence for making a big stash of scholarly journal articles available to the public for free (!) — it is appropriate to think about what is wrong with the state of academic publishing today.

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We live in a different world than did previous generations of humanity.  Billions of humans can access a vast ocean of information at their fingertips. Digital media have helped construct a sphere of thickly networked, hypermediate, and interactive communication links that span all levels of human society around the globe.

How do these new media environments affect and interact with the social and biophysical environments that preceded them, and that continue to undergird them?

The concept of “media ecology” is not new. From the medium theories of Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, and Neil Postman to the media ecologies of Felix Guattari, Matthew Fuller, Jussi Parikka, and others; from the “mental environmentalism” of Adbusters and other culture jammers to the “cultural environmentalism” of public domain defenders like James Boyle and Lawrence Lessig — understandings of media as ecologies and of ecology as mediated converge in many ways today.

We are beyond the old debates between the caffeinated cyberoptimism of the digerati and the anti-technology pessimism of the Heideggers, Elluls, and Zerzans. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t precariously poised over the abyss. Ecological calamity stares us in the face, and we need some kind of new “natural contract” with the planet, as philosopher Michel Serres has called for. How can digital media help us get there?

e2mc seeks to explore the relationships between media and ecologies: material, social, and perceptual ecologies within which mediations play an increasingly powerful, complex, and transformative role. It is devoted to the idea of “evolving ecological media culture”: an evolution of a media culture that is cognizant of its multiple ecological contours and connections.

e2mc begins as an experiment, a class exercise for ENVS 204 “Media Ecologies and Cultural Politics,” a senior undergraduate class at the University of Vermont. But it will not limit itself to traditional pedagogical constraints. Where it leads we will see. We invite any and all to share in the adventure.

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