Media work and digital culture

For Thursday, you’re going to read the introductory chapter to Mark Deuze’s book “Media Work” (see the PDF on the Blackboard site). I encourage you to visit his blog, read this interview, and watch a clip of Deuze discussing his research:

The critical contribution that Deuze provides is helping us answer the question: What is it like to work in the media?

It’s the right time to consider this question now as we shift from looking at media convergence and participatory culture from a macro perspective, to examining the particular challenges facing journalism and media work in the digital age.

Deuze introduces us to some postmodern theorizing on digital life, and lays out the emerging landscape for what it means to live, work, and play in our mediated milieu. He’s operating at a high level, mostly in the conceptual realm, but this chapter provides some interesting clues for the future—for the changing nature of journalism and the day-to-day work you’ll do in the media.

As he writes in the preface: “The aim of the book is not only to prepare media students to become competent media practitioners, but to also enable students to become competent citizens in a media-saturated ‘hyper-reality,’ where meaningful distinctions between public and private life, work time and non-work time, local and global, or lived and mediated reality are fading.”

In other words, knowing how to function in this digital culture is going to be essential going forward—whether or not you plan to work in the media industries. The key takeaway here is that we need to understand what it means to have “cultural competency” in this digital culture. Do news organizations have that kind of cultural capital? Why or why not?

A few additional questions to get you thinking, on both readings:

—What is convergence culture? What is digital culture? Are we talking about the same thing, or not?

—What does it mean to develop relationships with media? Where does the “real” end and the virtual begin?

—What is the emerging “workstyle” for the digital media worker, and how do you feel about it?

—What does it mean to be connected and have a sense of community in today’s media experience?

All in all, think of how digital media and culture are changing (or not) your own life and the future of our field. I look forward to your responses for Thursday (remember, by Wednesday at 8 p.m.)

[By the way, you might like his take on tailoring education for (your) digital generation, here and here.]

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16 Responses to “Media work and digital culture”


  1. 1 Samantha Borger September 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    The first paragraph of the section titled “Informational Hypercapitalism” describes the way that journalists need to be thinking about their jobs. With the digital age and Web 2.0 becoming more and more vital to the survival of news organizations, the pressure is on for them to converge and adapt. From what I’ve heard, a lot of senior employees believe that the younger, newer employees should be responsible for learning new technology and that they can remain static in their positions doing the same as always. This simply isn’t true…the new employees are going to have an edge on them and will replace the senior employees, not supplement them.
    I think the emerging workstyle for the digital employee will mean, as Deuze talked about, creating a “portfolio worklife” where you move from job to job based on where your creativity and skills are needed at the time. I think this could be efficient for creating many different projects, but at the same time I also believe there is something to be said to having loyalty to the company you work for and having a desire to move up in hierarchy over time.
    The topic of community and connections interested me as well. I have heard over the past couple years about a book called “Bowling Alone,” by Robert D. Putnam, which describes the decline of communities in America. When one can always be connected to others through digital devices, there is less of a need to physically be with each other. While Putnam argues that our sense of community and thus democracy is breaking down, Deuze brings up the idea that more and more communities are actually forming and including more people from around the world.

  2. 2 Leigh. September 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I like Deuze’s comment in his interview about how this new era of media “challenges a fundamental element of their [journalists’] professional identity, which generally is built on the very notion that there is an attentive audience somewhere.”

    I think it’s very true that today, simply being able to transmit information isn’t enough for a journalist. This is a testament to Deuze’s argument in his book about how journalists are continually motile and being involved in multiple projects at once, rather than being attached to one publication, as was the norm in the past. However, this movement is coming out of necessity: journalists now have to keep finding things that will warrant an audience, things that mandate a “journalist” versus any other citizen with a twitter account or personal blog.

    I think this is why, in many ways, the longer forms of journalism found in places like The New Yorker or Harper’s Magazine remain “prestigious” — it’s an area (one of the few left) where citizen journalists are less able to intrude.

  3. 3 billbowmanut September 9, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I thought that the reading and video were interesting, if a bit depressing. Deuze did not make me excited to enter a career in media to say the least. He outlined many aspects of the new society and culture that we live in. He was very thorough in his examination of the different aspects.

    I thought the most important point he made was summarized in saying, “The individual can thus be seen as the sole reference point for any and all decisions to be made regarding one’s life – and living this life now relies on our ability to work.” This seems to be especially true concerning media work, since our skills are mostly abstract (as opposed to a doctor or lawyer).

    He went on to talk about the society that we live in and how it allows this, saying “the worker of today must become an enterprise of her own: perfectly adept at managing herself.” I thought this was exemplified with personal twitters and branding ourselves that we are engaged in.

    Deuze also touched on our interaction with media, saying “Today we live in what can be called an “age of universal comparison”: by simply switching on the television, surfing the Web or scanning the pages of magazines in a supermarket we are exposed to a bewildering array of different lifestyles,
    choices, options and challenges.” This interaction has led us to be less satisfied with our lives I believe. On the other hand, it has also led to a sense of community. That sense of community is more temporal and shallow than in the past however.

  4. 4 timgarlitz September 9, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    One quote that stood out to me and that I thought was somewhat puzzling was, “People cannot simply rely on parents, priests, professionals, or presidents for truth anymore – they have to go out and construct their own narrative, to come
    up with ‘biographical solutions of systemic contradictions.’” I am wondering whether or not this could be construed as an undermining of democracy in favor of a world where everyone existed in their own “individual autocracy.” Despite the increase of individualism pervading all aspects of life, society relies on the foundation of its institutions and leaders in order for people to function in a socialized manner. His next quote expounds on this topic a little further: “Beck envisions a new type of cosmopolitan democracy, where people as individuals all over the world will have a more or less equal say in world affairs.” However, part of being a democratic society is trusting and allowing our elected leaders to speak on our behalf, since in many cases, an ill-informed or passive citizenry could hinder the functioning of a democratic society.

    In many ways, many modern journalists in the blogosphere have reflected this new individualistic attitude. However, despite journalists’ increasing non-reliance on traditional societal institutions, journalists cannot cut themselves off from these societal norms completely. While the journalists’ first duty is toward the citizens of the state and their coverage should reflect the “watchdog” attitude towards the government, journalists should not come to a point where they dismiss the importance of these institutions entirely. Being able to learn from new methods and technologies while also understanding them in the context and structure of the past will be an important balancing act in the years to come for most journalists.

  5. 5 austintries5 September 9, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I thought the most interesting part of the reading and interview was the concept that Mark Deuze introduced talking about the relationship between working in the media to the gaming industry. By encouraging their consumers to develop games and manufacture games from the tools they are given they are hoping to increase their market share. This could be a unique and interesting way to view citizen journalism or multimedia by allowing people to begin developing skills in telling a story in the best possible medium. Whether print, photo or video, they all require the same way of looking for what the story is.

    When he talks about journalists learning from advertisers or gamers learning from television producers, I think it just reiterates his point in the reading about being dynamic in work and always willing to continue to learn and grow. He discuses individualism and how important it is to motivate one’s self and to learn as much about everything that you can. This is especially true for journalism because of how quickly the profession is changing. New employees are responsible to get ahead of others in terms of media knowledge and experience and however depressing and pessimistic Deuze sounds; we have to begin to think this way if we ever want to fully understand the mediamorphesis.

    The reading also discussed digital devices and I still believe the most important of these is the cell phone because of how much it engrosses our life and perpetuates the individualism even more. The other day, I saw a girl nearly walk in front of a bus on 21st street because she was looking at her iPhone. They take consumers away from reality and I believe they will continue to impact the business of media in the coming years.

  6. 6 Lonny.A September 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I completely agree with the part when he states that because many parts of the industry are choosing to casualize labor, a large part of the company’s workforce today consists of underpaid, insecure, low-status, short-term jobs…. Especially in the fashion magazine arena where hundreds of unpaid interns are taking on the jobs of the laid off editors only to eventually become editors who can barely afford to pay rent.
    Deuze says that in place of lifelong full time employment there are continuous job searching and always having to be preparing for potential future jobs. Although it seems like a bad thing, but because that is essentially what I’ve been taught to do while growing up, I’ve never thought of it being a bad thing. I can venture into different industries and develop a variety of skills as opposed to furthering skills pertained to just one company.
    Our new world is exactly what Dueze says, permanent change. As technology evolves, so do we. Not just my generation, but my parent’s generation.

  7. 7 Katherine Robinson September 9, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I have to agree with the comment from Billbowmanut, Deuze didn’t make me excited about media. He was very critical about social media for our generation. We can’t help that today’s world is completely connected as opposed to our parents generation. A lot of his information about the new digital culture was insightful.

    I did find that this chapter had a lot of confusing ideas especially when he gave examples of how the internet has made us “connected but isolated” (16). But I found the key issues in The Consumer and Citizen, the most interesting. He says that the values of consumers tend to be a little on the shallow side. Deuze says, “consequences of unbridled consumerism…such as a worldwide widening gap between the extremely rich and permanent poor, excesses of waste produced by a “throwaway” society” (27-28). Reading that section made me think about how the digital culture is starting to become the king of all media. As days go by, citizen journalists are on a raise, sometimes reporting factual information but a lot of the times just having unnecessary life-casting moments.

  8. 8 Tiffany Tso September 9, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    It was interesting to read about all of the statistics Deuze came across in his research. Primarily, the information he had about about the increasing ‘breakdown’ of the family equation with the building of ‘workstyle’ and one’s individualization. It was also interesting to read about one of those semi-playful dichotomies of individualization growing along with the globalization of media. It’s funny how those things usually work, right?

    I thought that the best way to delve into this sort of topic, honestly, is personally. What does this growing, expanding media do to me? What does the growing importance of my work do to the rest of my life? Especially applicable to me, how will my work in the media “have no boundaries”…? The reason why I felt this analysis is best done on a personal scale is because Deuze seems to have already given us a lot of the ‘big picture,’ statistics and numbers and ideologies of the masses, but how this all applies to one person or a smaller breadth may be more telling.

    I do find that the expansion and globalization of the media makes more opportunity for the individualization of self. I can feel it in my day-to-day activity. I see this ability of people in my generation, of my social statue, (on the same networking sites as me), doing the same thing as well. Everybody has their ‘selves’ developed more than they would in a world without this technology. To answer the question about the connection between work and family, I can definitely attest to that. Deuze wrote that the entire family equation has not broken down, but has changed to be more tech-savvy. I see this in my e-mails to my father in Taiwan or my mother back at home. I see this, also, in my Facebook chats or G-mail chats with my older sister back at home, and my text messaging to my younger sister. However, my willingness to start my own family in the FAR, FAR future seems to complement his finding about the breaking down of the family. I think of my worklife as much more important than a future family. I see myself remaining single and continuing working for as long as I can. I see my success in my field as primary, and a personal life as secondary. If my work can supplement my personal life – great, but how can starting a family supplement my work life?

    Interesting question. It probably can’t.

  9. 9 msherfield September 9, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    To me, much of this reading provides the big picture “why” to the things we have been reading about convergence and the emergence of Web 2.0, etc. Through his ability to chart our current state of extreme fluctuation back through the years and to the human existence (in the Western world at least) in general instead of just the media world, Deuze provides a very insightful if depressing view of where we are and where we are going.
    Not surprisingly, it all relates to the individual. As he says several times in the first section of the chapter, our world now revolves around the individual: “The individual can thus be seen as the sole reference point for any and all decisions to be made regarding one’s life – and living this life now relies on our ability to work.”
    Basically, the paradigm has shifted. Basic ideas that we built our lives around like working 9 to 5, picking up and reading a newspaper and getting home to watch one of five channels on TV no longer exist, or at least are not as prevalent.
    Instead, we have almighty choice and expression. More and more people are getting the chance to live life in the way that suits them, working the hours they want, reading only the blogs they want and wrapping it all up in their blog posts and tweets.
    As Deuze says, we are all at once connected to the world at every waking instant, yet at the same time separated from it by a computer screen.
    Meanwhile, his views of media in particular are depressing and exciting at the same time. We are to be nomads of sorts, moving from job to job, project to project, traded like a commodity. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but like every thing else around us, it’s all changing and will keep doing so for the (un)foreseeable future.

  10. 10 jwhitcomb September 9, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I found it interesting how Deuze centralized his ideas around our newfound cultural individuality but also stressed its ability to connect and create highly personalized communities. This concept doesn’t entirely make sense realistically or theoretically, however this is exactly what I think has happened with social media and the Internet. Just look at the relationships people hold with one another today and you can see this idea come into play.

    I also think by understanding this concept and understanding how relationships (and coincidentally families, jobs, the workplace, leisure, etc) have changed in our culture is ultimately the key to understanding how journalism will change (and is changing). Journalists will be required to adapt to a participatory culture whether it be disconnected and apathetic. Whereas in the past, journalists held a certain kind of power in culture, their role has now been diminished as well as that power they once held. I think the key here is for journalists to figure out how to connect with the passive Internet culture in a way that is engaging and captivating rather than trying to tell them what to think. I remember learning in my very first journalism course in university (waay back in 2006 :]) that “the news was news when we [journalists] say it is.” I think that idea has truly been outdated and replaced and the ‘we’ is no longer speaking about journalists but as our collective culture – every person is now the ‘we’ and every person gets to now decide the news. For journalists t be successful in new, digital media, they have to break away from the idea that they are the gatekeepers to the news. Anyone with an open browser is now a gatekeeper. Like I said before, I think journalists must connect with the emerging audience rather than deciding their thoughts for them in order to remain relevant and neccesary.

    I think the ’emerging workstyle’ for the digital media worker will simply involve applying many of our own generation’s cultural mores. I see many of Deuze’s ideas very much embedded in my ideas as a consumer already. I think our generation is well groomed to adapt to the ’emerging workstyle’ and new digital media based on the environment and culture we were raised in and are a part of now.

  11. 11 Adam Aldrete September 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Deuze writes about the new workplace and describes it as a short-term environment, a sediment echoed to my generation since at least high school. I find it interesting that American companies would continue to export jobs (especially labor-intensive one) in spite of the fact that many Americans proved that they were still willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work. Perhaps in the end, everything is still “just business.”
    Later on in the article, we read about how our society is “spending more and more time producing and…increasingly engaging in acts of consumption.” I find this idea very interesting. Certainly, as anyone who has shopped at Wal-Mart can attest, we go consume quite a bit. But where is this producing coming from? Americans are certainly not making the “throw-away” products we buy at Wal-mart. I believe it is on the Web that we are producing at an increasing level. The social networking sites we visit daily and the advertising revenue they bring in (except Twitter) are a testament to this. This reading was very good, and this increase in production online is what is fueling this convergence culture.
    The model of the game industry, in terms of consumers becoming creators, discussed on the video clip was very interesting. Although Journalism has lagged behind, I believe that we are catching up in a hurry. For example, CNN constantly uses blogs and twitter to get feedback from their audience. ESPN also recently created a show titled “The Pulse.” During this program, the two hosts offer up a number of questions and opinions, which fans vote and reply to via the web. Fans also assume the roles sports figures to ask the hosts questions. It’s an interesting show considering the high degree of viewer interaction compared with anything we’ve seen on TV thus far.

  12. 12 Cassandra H September 9, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I appreciate Deuze’s desire for bigger companies to value their great storytellers rather than building themselves up through facebook or twitter. Although those things are important, journalism was built on what we as journalism students have been learning through each of our classes about this line of work.

    Deuze spent a lot of the beginning of his book talking about the individual in the workplace and the responsibility one has over themselves in making sure that we can adapt and survive with the information age. As someone who came into college with in the print magazine track, I understood this very quickly and changed my track to multimedia. It seems essential for these things to process and to understand that this is the future of journalism, and as Deuze as well as Jenkins sees communities coming together.

    The culture of the new capitalism was the most interesting to me because that is what I feel is the best way for us to move forward to bigger innovation of journalism. This generation is much more prepared to let go of the old mass media idea of complete control. Pandora’s box has been opened and there is no going back. We need to look to the people as well as other industries to survive.

    In the interview, Deuze’s discussion of the gaming industry was really interesting as well. I feel like this generation will be more open to the merging of all the different media entities in order to put out the best product possible.

  13. 13 brandonfried September 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I tried to think about my own looming search for a career as graduation quickly approaches and while I’m of course completely unprepared, I honestly think I’m ready for anything that might get thrown at me.

    None of us know what to expect in a year or so, let alone 10 as Deuze is asked in his interview, but it can’t hurt to consider what he has to offer when trying to prepare for the job hunt. I completely agree with his point that the “key to surviving…is the ability to let go of one’s past and develop the confidence to accept fragmentation and permanent change”.

    So much more than my professional and academic career thus far has adopted this persona and, while I don’t know about anyone else, but fragmented really is the perfect way to describe my life right now.

    I’ve got the tools to work anywhere – completely personifying the idea of a “digital nomad” to a tee and I manage to work on far too many projects at once (maybe I’ll end up being a freelancer – ha!) Like Jen pointed out, our generation is essentially being prepared for a future like this already and frequent job changes and management shifts shouldn’t be unfamiliar.

    Deuze’s suggestions for how to prepare in college sound idyllic in the interview but as a senior I think I’m just reading them with a nostalgic and slightly bitter air. The program at UT actually kind of did what he recommended but I just wish I had thought of what I was taking with his approach in mind. We’ve all got the business savvy, the writing skills and the ability to multitask like crazy – now let’s just hope it proves beneficial and when the first dozen opportunities don’t work out we don’t adopt the “yeah…so?” attitudes ourselves.

  14. 14 James September 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Whoa I got stressed just reading this, it was a lot to take in. In Convergence Culture we read how people are taking different forms of media and altering them into their own unique form through shared networks. I believe that Liquid Life, Work, Media has a similar concept but relates this blending more to individuals’ concept of living. The reason I became stressed reading this is because it makes me feel as if life is a constant rush for fitting in as much information into our human brains as possible. Dueze writes that contemporary society has given rise to an era of decentralized work, an era in which our work is constantly changing to keep up new ideas, new trends, new technology. In this new world of work individuals must constantly stay on top of current information, must quickly learn new skills needed for emerging tasks, and must always be on the look out for emerging jobs in the case that theirs is changed or eliminated.
    This constantly changing work landscape is both exciting and challenging. On the one hand, I am excited to feel that my work could constantly be evolving and offering me new areas to explore. But on the other hand I am worried that the demands to compete and succeed in this type of merged world would turn me into an overly stressed maniac who depressingly attempts to become the equivalent of a computer. What I mean is that such rapid change in the work place, the media, and our lives is a lot to take in. It will surely take a lot of time for us to understand how we will separate work from everything else as we move into the future.

  15. 15 Erin Harris September 9, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    The way my grandmother speaks of her father… he was invincible, and he knew everything. Whatever he told her to do, she did. The way I speak about my father… yes, he’s invincible, and yes, he knows everything. Yet whatever he tells me to do, I don’t necessarily do. And the generation below me seems to be continuing the trend. There’s been a revolution in family dynamics. Children are given more responsibility and with that, autonomy.

    The way my grandmother consumes news is rather passive. She turns on her TV or radio, watches and listens to the news, and broadcasts what she learns to us, her children. That’s how she was socialized to consume news because she wasn’t given much opportunity to create her own… (unless she worked for a news organization.) I, on the other hand, with the advent of the Internet, have the opportunity to create my own news content. I’m able to be a journalist on my own.

    This same trend is apparent in workplace. Generation Y is compelling businesses to change the way they operate or else companies would have to forgo young employees. Books are published regularly teaching older employers about how Gen Y’ers think and how to retain them in the workplace. For starters, Gen Y’ers are hard workers but like to work on their own schedule, and they are used to being recognized for all their work.

    In the words of Deuze, our generation is full of “consumers who at times refuse to behave like an audience and instead prefer to act as producers themselves.” Our generation is used to being heard and getting our way. We’re tech-savvy and want to share our ideas with others so we take every opportunity we can find.

  16. 16 Grant Derigo September 9, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I think that it is very interesting the way Dueze describes the changing state of work environment particularly the media environment. The widespread availability of the internet and the ability to connect people has opened the doors for many people to seek out the jobs that they want as opposed to only those with opportunities immediately available or laid out for them. As a result the competition has sky rocketed. Companies are not only able to outsource to cheaper foreign labor much easier, but because of the increased competition even very skilled, seasoned reporters and editors are accepting far less pay then before because they know that someone else would readily take their place.

    The average life of today’s journalist seems to not only consist of constantly keeping up with news, keeping up with sources, and keeping up with new technology, but keeping a steady line up of work for one to rely on. With so many “citizen journalists” about, even major stations like CNN are relying on free content to fill time. It seems like it is no longer the responsibility of media organizations to ensure quality of content, but now the responsibility of the individual. Journalists are having to distinguish themselves above everyday bloggers and tweeters by coming up with their own compelling content to shop around, or else the majors stations will simply have their anchor read and comment on the stations tweets and blog comments the way most major news stations do today.


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