The culture of the Web

Today we covered some of the basics of Web 2.0—how the tools of the internet have changed, and why that’s significant for the creation and circulation of media content (of all kinds, not just journalism).

On Thursday we complete the circle with a discussion of how these tools get bound up in a particular cultural ethic—in other words, a “digital culture.” We find this in two pieces I’d like you to read: the first chapters of “Convergence Culture” by Henry Jenkins and “Media Work” by Mark Deuze (in that order). I’ve put both PDFs on Blackboard for you.

You can catch Jenkins discussing more of his work here, or visit his blog. For Deuze, check out his blog, read this interview, or watch a clip of Deuze discussing his research:

As you read Jenkins, I’d like you to ask: What does the blending of production and consumption, of professional and amateur, through the digitization of media and the tensions that creates … well, what does it all mean, exactly? What does it mean for media industries at large? Journalism in particular?

As you read Deuze, think: What is the present and future of working in/with the media? How does work, play, and “life” get mixed together in today’s world, and what are the implications of this change?

Deuze 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. And … bear in mind that I’d like you to be analytical—that you should approach this with the eye of a critic, forming an opinion about what you’ve read and using evidence from the reading to illustrate your point. Sharp thinking.

Questions? Just let me know…

18 Responses to “The culture of the Web”

  1. 1 donniehogan January 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    While reading Jenkins’ “Convergence Culture” I realized that what he termed the “black box fallacy” is something I dreamed of and thought eventually might happen. Like Jenkins, in my living room I have a Nintendo Wii, on top of an XBOX360, on top of a digital TV box, on top of audio receiver, on top of a DVD player, next to a wireless router, etc., all underneath my TV. Why can’t everything be in one black box? It’s complicated. It seems like the more converged we become, the more diverse our tools become as well. Same with the web, we have all these cool sites that link us together and make things easier, but I have so many accounts that sometimes it’s hard to remember all of my user names and passwords.
    Deuze’s piece “liquid life, work, and media” I can especially relate to because my father graduated college, got a job, worked his way up the corporate ladder at the same job, and retired before 50. His path might be impossible today, especially in the media. Media jobs are scary, unpredictable and definitely not 9-5 jobs. But they are also new, innovating and exciting. Going back to the previously discussed desert/jungle metaphor, today’s media is a jungle in every sense of the word. It’s new, exciting, beautiful and powerful. But it’s also extremely competitive, unpredictable and journalism’s case, not always monetarily rewarding.

  2. 2 emilywatkins January 27, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Media convergence has greatly impacted the way I view the future of journalism and has changed the way I complete various tasks on a day-to-day basis. Jenkins says convergence represents a cultural shift as “consumers seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content.” In the past few years, I’ve noticed a great difference in the way I consume media. I’m constantly multi-tasking, whether I’m writing a blog or working on a project, I’m always listening to music, constantly checking my e-mail and surfing the web simultaneously. As people are becoming more in tune with the capabilities that current technology provides, I think digital media’s functions will be shifted by new technologies.

  3. 3 Doug Luippold January 27, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    The blending of consumption and production indicates that media is a dynamic forum, as we discussed in class. It is no longer an isolated sender, similar to a play, where one side sends a message that the other side receives. Media is now like a conversation, in which each player must be keenly aware of the other’s trends and tendencies.

    Media companies at large are going to need to compete for business. Most media companies have been spoiled with relatively sparse competition compared to other businesses. They will now need to differentiate themselves to stand out. Similarly, journalists will need to have an even greater hand on the pulse of their customers, in order to determine what type of news consumers want, and in what format they want it.

    The section of the Deuze article about how working has become the default activity resonated with me. Case in point, I am doing this assignment, what one would consider my occupation, at night in my apartment, at a time when most would expect me to be enjoying leisure activities. The trend is definitely going toward a maximization of work.

    I thought Deuze description of media workers was also interesting. I never really thought about how older journalists worked for the same institution their entire careers. I have always assumed I would work for several different groups throughout my life. Similarly, I enjoyed his explanation about the prevalence of diverse backgrounds and how a career in today’s media often spans jobs in journalism, public relations, and a myriad of other media positions.

  4. 4 Jordyn Davenport January 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I felt one key point from both of these articles is that we are using media all of the time for almost every aspect of our lives. We are living through media. We use it when we work, play, socialize, and learn. We consume it, create it, share it, and edit it. And many times we do several of these things at one time. We listen to music while we research on the internet and e-mail friends and family. In order to accomplish all of these things we know that we must use media wisely, we know what sites to go to in order to get or provide information we actually care about. The larger the media sphere gets the more we are able to personalize our media habits.
    One reason people don’t read as many news articles is that they aren’t relevant enough for people to want to spend time on them. Most news sites are dominated by the headline stories, the stories that have the greatest chance of impacting the greatest number of people. This means they are usually about major economic issues or large scale political dealings. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who don’t care to keep up with these issues. News is not one size fits all. Not everyone wants to read about the same thing and perhaps more importantly, not everyone wants to do the same thing with news. Some people still just want to read it. Others want to provide feedback, some want to actually contribute to the news gathering process, and some want to share it. Almost every other company has realized that it’s not only necessary to develop a two-way relationship with consumers but that it is also relatively simple thanks to the internet. Consumers want a say in how their products are made, delivered, maintained, etc, and news is ultimately still a product.

  5. 5 Amber Genuske January 28, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Henry Jenkin’s “Convergence Culture” raises some important questions and concerns about how the continuance of convergence effects various aspects of culture and the media — are there new “opportunities for expression?” What about “participatory culture?” What will happen to “big media?” Do we really have answers to these questions yet? My main concern is what is this infinite convergence culture going to do to journalism — will the core values be lost?

    He brings up an interesting aspect that I forget to consider, “Delivery systems are simply and only technologies; media are also cultural systems. Delivery technologies come and go all the time, but media persist as layers within an ever more complicated information and entertainment stratum.” I often get caught up in the emergence of digital media because I am consumed with it and forget that there is an actual convergence, an evolution and not a complete revolution.

    One of the more interesting topics in Mark Deuze’s “Media Work” is based off of Robert Putnam’s idea of individuals losing a sense of community in an ever-growing world. This seems like such a conundrum but it is true. With the growth of the digital world, people think they don’t need the real world.

    His concept of the merging of work and life to make a “workstyle” is all too familiar with me — but I like it that way. Work is what I do and what I have always enjoyed, whether it be school or writing for some publication. Work, play and life have always been intertwined for me to some extent. I am interested to see what people have to say about the implications of this, because it seems beneficial to me.

  6. 6 Hannah January 28, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Media convergence and the idea of the “black box” Jenkins mentioned is a topic that the field of journalism has a very hard time wrapping its collective mind around. We have so much technology! Do we really need all these tools that can all do everything? Our lives are filled with “black boxes;” should the media cater to each of them, or should the media pick something and stick with it?

    Deuze brings up a good point when he mentions that we’re less connected with a group mentality as a whole, preferring to be our own person and pursue our own goals and dreams without taking into account the aspirations of a group as a whole, and yet we’re connected to so many subgroups like online communities and Facebook friend lists. Deuze also mentions that citizenship has turned into people just caring about issues that affect them directly rather than as a collective whole. He blames this on technological connectivity as well, and I must agree.

    There’s a recurring theme of being much more connected than in the past, but it’s somewhat artificial.

    I don’t know how much longer it will last, honestly. Sure, it’s exciting to have countless outlets for connecting with people and gathering information, but someday people are going to become completely overwhelmed and start wondering what happened to real relationships, real quality time and real simplicity in their lives. It may not come for a while, but what happens then?

  7. 7 Will Anderson January 28, 2010 at 1:35 am

    I’ll start with Jenkins since I read that first and liked it better. I think the relationship between consumer and producer has been much more two-way, even in old media, that he assumes, but Monsieur Jenkins is right that it is quickly becoming much moreso an interactive conversation. He also espouses the idea that no one’s knowledge can be total and complete, that truth is relative; it reminds me of the sociological mindfulness discussed in my intro to sociology class and how diversity leads to progression. This leads me to Jenkins next point:the paradigm shift towards convergence culture in media. In a very clever literary twist, Jenkins describes 2003’s New Orleans Media Experience with the same principles he outlines in his overview of media convergence— the companies have to share and interact to survive, they have to turn to the public for help and they have to collaborate outside their industries to generate fresh ideas.

    In exposing the black box fallacy, Jenkins bets against some of technology’s market leaders, including Apple (see: Wednesday’s announcements of the iPad). But he makes a good point. I think you have to consider that one of the reasons media are in disarray is because of the INCREASE in the number of ways consumers access their content.

    Deuze is much more academic in his style of writing and use of in-text citations, but he still makes good points about the evolving labor market and how is if affected by not only technology (which is WE’VE focused on) but also politics and cultural shifts. I especially like his classification of new media users as “self-aware,” and what this means about the digital community— it’s identity is truly based on an understanding of your place in the grand connectivity of things and how every individual has a place in Web 2.0 (since users generate a majority of the content). Deuze also offers some practical tips for the “worker of today” that could very well read as a “how to get hired” list for graduating journalism majors: be self-motivated and managed, be adaptable, learn new skills whenever you have the chance and step outside your comfort zone.

    Also, for the record, telecocooning is an extremely terrifying example of new media slang and joins “mojo” (mobile journalist) in the lexicon from this class that I will try to never use.

    Will out.

  8. 8 Kyle Carpenter January 28, 2010 at 1:44 am

    I know Bill Gates once said something that reminded me of the unified black box. He mentioned that he wanted his X-Box to be the centerpiece of the living room and the focal point of the family. He wanted it to go beyond gaming, movie watching, or the norms of gaming consoles, he wanted living room domination.

    That hasn’t happened, but as you can stream movies, access Facebook etc., play games, all from your XBox, it’s hard to say we’re not closer. I think if Jenkins were to write this book today, he may have something different to say about the little black box fallacy. For example, cell phones today are really the poster-child for convergence. He says “many of my MIT students are lugging around multiple black boxes—their laptops, their cells, their iPods, their Game Boys, their BlackBerrys, you name it.” On my iphone, I have all the capabilities of a laptop in 2003, I’ve even seen people taking notes on it before. It obviously has the Ipod and enough games (free I might add) to keep me entertained in the hours I have to waste.

    But having time to waste isn’t necessarily the lifestyle of the 21st century person. As Deuze says, we’re merging our work and our life into one timespace, creating the workstyle. I think this will probably have a positive benefit, at least from the viewpoint of maximizing work output, but it leads to people who are exhausted, taking a laptop on vacation, never escaping the cycle – and could possibly have some negative long-term effects.

  9. 9 John Lee January 28, 2010 at 1:58 am

    This concept of ‘convergence culture’ introduced to us by Jenkins is exactly the discussion generated from the previous readings. I think Jenkins says it best when he writes that “convergence refers to a process, not an endpoint.” Too many times people have believed that the digital revolution would oust the established institutions of news gathering and news publication. Jenkins’ definition of this convergence culture, “where old and news media collide” summarizes well the state of today’s society. Despite “collision”, the challenge as I see it today lies in figuring out the complexities of how to utilize the best of both worlds efficiently and productively.

    Another well-argued point by Jenkins is that what changes throughout history are the delivery technologies, the 8-track, the Beta tape, CDs, mp3s, etc, NOT the media. Media merely evolves and conforms to the everchanging delivery technologies. “Each old medium was forced to coexist with the emerging media.” I think that sentence summarizes it best in the challenge that lies ahead for us as a convergence culture.

    As for the writings of Deuze, he is definitely very aware of the seismic developments in the corporate world today. Perhaps this paranoia of job security and pressure to constantly adapt and learn new skills to remain employed has brought about an attitude of unwillingness to be loyal to any corporate or

    Deuze also notes that “people around the world have started to withdraw from participating in social institutions such as political parties, religious institutions…” This shift towards individualization has embarrassingly created an atmosphere of a selfish attitude, where people only participate in activities not because of any membership but only if they want to, in the same way a child would participate in anything. This saddens me because America is one of the few nations around the world where the concept of community is being lost quickly.

  10. 10 victorialeece January 28, 2010 at 2:06 am

    To me, a digital culture and a convergence culture are not the same thing. A digital culture describes a world completely reliant upon the latest technologies created. A convergence culture, on the other hand, leaves room in its definition to include a wide array of things people can be interested in. The consumer is allowed to enjoy his or her Sunday paper delivered by the mailman and still read the news online two hours later in a convergence culture. The idea of a digital culture is one where a newspaper would be completely abandoned, a point we have not yet reached.

    Jenkins explains the idea of a convergence culture in clear points. He recognized that the consumer is on the “hunt,” and will combine and utilize different media to achieve what they want. There is no magical box to give a person everything they need, but that does not stop producers from creating new things nor from consumers wanting them.

    After reading the chapter from Deuze, I realized that combining work and my life is necessary and made possible by a convergence culture. Although my mind does enjoy linear patterns, I also feel that the internet has changed that mindset. I can check my email for school/work, read a blog, watch a television show all on the same screen, at the same time.

  11. 11 Ryan Murphy January 28, 2010 at 2:12 am

    There were a couple things that stood out to me while reading these pieces, so I’ll just hit a few.

    The general concept of the digital media “workstyle” also resonated with me, like a few of my fellow students. I believe what you see more and more of is the blending of living life and actively being in journalism mode. A good example can be found with some prominent bloggers of today, in particular site such as and For their editors and writers, it is like there is no real 9 to 5 concept. I follow both of their RSS feeds, and it seems like every night, at some random hour, you will find one or two more posts that sneak out at a time most of us would consider personal and removed from the workplace. For them, committing to a focus on technology and how it can be used essentially demands for them to always be prepared for any breaking news that makes them stand out from the other twenty blogs that emulate their style. The catch? They enjoy doing it, and I can relate to and appreciate the feeling that comes from being on top of things.

    This is just another example of how reporting today does not operate like it has in the past. Although I am sure there was some clever editor or writer that at some point gave an inspirational shout, “The news never sleeps!” but we have definitely reached the point where it really is true. Journalists in today’s instant gratification society know that being first is sometimes even better than having the better written story, and the hunt for that gratification increasingly requires that we never completely step away the workbench.

    And just to comment on the other article – Jenkins makes a very good observation on the state of media. The concept that old media is not changing, just the particular tool of the times we use to consume it is, almost sounds contradictory to the constant promises of doom and despair we hear about media consumption today. For example, people aren’t going to just stop consuming television, but they are going to have a say in how they do it (Hulu, Home Theater Media Centers), whether the producers like it or not. And just like music with file sharing (The cow stampede analogy is appropriate; if the industry had such a good understanding of how file sharing was ruining the system, why did they ever think it was something they could just snub out? File sharing didn’t open a gate, it shattered the levee. You cannot just plug that back up.), news media needs to understand the consumer, not just bluntly tell him or her how they will be getting news from now on. (And they better like it!)

  12. 12 danicwilson January 28, 2010 at 2:56 am

    In the beginning of the Deuze reading, he goes into detail about the “self-sufficient” and self-contained individual worker, and the environment that caused and nurtures this kind of employee across the nation. Although I do agree that people might be more individualistic than previous years, partly due to technological innovations, I don’t buy into his isolation theory about the workplace. Perhaps this article is a little dated, but I think that right now, more than ever, being a team player is one of the most important qualities you can have when looking for and holding down a job. Yes, you do have to be self-motivated and able to work well alone, but in this economic climate it’s just as important who you can charm and how well adjusted you are in group situations.

    Both the Deuze and the Jenkins articles mention the concept of convergence with specific examples of mobile phones and their many uses and networks. I received an iPhone for Christmas, and can attest to most of what both authors say- I do have somewhat of an emotional attachment to my phone, it has become a part of my everyday routine, and it is surprising to me how little I use my laptop for these days.

    The “black box” theory was also very interesting to me. I always make fun of my boyfriend because he is a total technology junkie and has to have one of everything (a Wii, PS3, PSP, DS, Xbox 360, Apple TV, Netflix streaming to his 360 from his laptop…) and sometimes it seems like all of these devices do the same thing, but one company has a certain advantage over another, so until they can all combine to one system, a lot of people will have many black boxes. If there were one device that could do it all, I would certainly be interested, but it seems like that would be monopolistic. For instance if Time Warner were in charge of digital cable, DVD rentals, streaming shows, and game rentals… It doesn’t seem in the best interest of capitalism or competitive pricing to have an all in one system like that.

  13. 13 Kurt Mitschke January 28, 2010 at 3:48 am

    I also agree that a digital culture and convergence culture are not the same, and I believe that Jenkins does point that out. While the digital revolution was so concerned with finding a replacement for the old media, convergence culture deals with the interaction between technology/new media and old media and is searching for a balance between the two. As we attempt to figure out the modern roles of both old and new media, I believe that we will see old media “absorbed fully and completely into the orbit of the emerging technologies” as Jenkins writes. Convergence is not where we are going but how we get there— “it’s a process not an endpoint”—and also an evolution, constantly changing and adapting to our specific needs.

    I found the Deuze article very interesting when I compared the work environments from today to even a time just back as far as my parents. My dad sometimes brings up how simple times were, and by that he is mostly referring to the time before computers. But with the computer and technology came multi-tasking, and since technology is such an important part of our life it seems that we have applied multi-tasking to every aspect of our life. The complexity of our culture caused by technology and the sort of false community created by online places I feel is really damaging the community culture and sense of family created by a real community.

  14. 14 Yolande Yip January 28, 2010 at 4:07 am

    As Jenkins writes, with the dawning of “participatory culture,” media consumers are no longer content with this one-way flow of information. Roles are changing, and the lines between media consumer and media producer are blurring as they, “interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands.”

    Obviously, it’s nigh impossible to predict what lies at the end of the rainbow. We can only speculate.

    Keeping that in mind, a quote from Deuze was particularly striking. He says, “People cannot simply rely on parents, priests, professionals, or presidents for truth anymore – they have to go out and construct their own narrative…”

    When I think about this in terms of the speech by Berlin Johnson we read, I’m again struck by Berlin’s thoughts on citizen journalism. If the general public can no longer rely on professional journalists “for truth,” then some will go out and search for it and blog about it themselves.

    What does that mean for the professional journalism industry? We’ve all heard of the Pew Research Center’s survey on the public’s perception of the media in one class or another. It’s no secret that the public’s general feelings of journalists aren’t exactly ones full of trust. Which is why I think now is a perfect time to take advantage of these participatory and convergence cultures and the double-direction flow of information. If the industry establishes a rapport with their audience now, reading independent news blogs, cultivating relationships with readers, perhaps people will again be able to rely on and trust professional journalists.

    (And by the way, I didn’t realize I was typing in the wrong comment box earlier, so this post was originally published under the Shirky/Johnson/History of the Internet assignment. So you may want to go ahead and delete it. Sorry!)

  15. 15 Sean Beherec January 28, 2010 at 4:30 am

    The idea of convergence, as it’s discussed in the Jenkins reading, is bizarre when you consider the history of journalism. Today, newspapers and online news organizations are struggling to “plug in” to their readership to understand their wants and needs, while also providing a quality product. More and more news organizations are looking for feedback on their content and going out of their way to provide “fluff” for online hits and allowing their readers to participate in the process by asking for content for new sections or broadcasts like CNN’s iReport. Convergence also allows news organizations to reach out to readers on multiple platforms, which Jenkins also touches on, especially with social media and the use of the internet.

    The Deuze reading raises interesting points in regards to what lives journalists will most likely have to lead in this age and onward. I think as time goes on, journalists will have to continue to be more flexible and be a “jack of all trades” as far as developing new skills. I think most serious journalists through history have been the kinds of people who would eat, sleep and breathe journalism, so the points he mentions about workstyle aren’t so much new as just needing to be modified to catch up with the times.

  16. 16 Patricia Rodriguez January 28, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Jenkin’s “Convergence Culture” introduced some new questions to me about what the future of media is going to look like. I really enjoyed the discussion of the “black box fallacy.” I think that that tends to be a common misconception about media convergence, that the future can only be a veritable universal remote for all the technologies in our lives, where they all combine and come from one machine. The idea that that many companies developing technologies with mp3, internet, and textual capabilities, for example, could synthesize and create something like a “black box” seems unrealistic. I would agree with Jenkins in that the competing technologies are not aligning with one another currently, each is vying for prominence and in some cases fighting for survival.
    Deuze’s piece about the individualism in the work environment today I also found insightful. I have definitely noticed the trend of job security and staying at one job until retirement falling off. I think this has both exciting and troublesome consequences for the average worker. I think this introduces a certain amount of creativity to the average media workers job as well. We are not longer just producers for a company, we are more responsible individually for the future of media.

  17. 17 katiemyung January 28, 2010 at 9:07 am

    As Jenkins’ writing, in the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. And this phenomenon depends heavily on consumers’ active participation. That certainly makes participatory culture which is different from old, passive media spectatorship.

    I agree his argument that for near future even now ordinary people can access the internet anywhere and rather than talking about media producers and consumers as occupying separate roles, they see them as participants who interact with each other. Of course, we might do not know about how new media technologies affects to journalism and how journalism might be changed.

    However, I think it might be go to good way because new media technologies have lowered production and distribution costs, expanded the range of available delivery channels, and enabled consumers to archive. One aspect in regard to participation of citizens through online makes possible journalists objective because they can get multiple thoughts about their article.

    Deuze also makes an argument about new media technology like Jenkins. He says society in a digital age has become increasingly organized around the various ways to organize and diversify the intertwined or networked processes of production and consumption. For example, twitter is the well-known social networking site, and people generate information and connect each other. Now just production also they consume other people’s information actively.
    Some people worry about new media technologies because they think it might attack traditional journalism. However, I think new media technologies can boost journalism because it has unpredictable potentiality.

  18. 18 hollymacrossin January 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    In Jenkin’s “Convergence Culture,” I think a very valid question is raised. Why hasn’t every piece of cool new technology combined into just one piece of cool technology by now? Obviously, it seems a little weird to think of but I feel like eventually something like that might happen. The “black box fallacy” was just something I had never really thought of before.
    Media convergence in general is also something I’ve noticed, after reading this article, holds true in my everyday life. There are so many new tools and gadgets to make my consumption of news and entertainment that much easier. I can do ten things at once it seems.
    I actually enjoyed Deuze’s article a lot. I agree with what he says about people being so concerned with themselves and losing a sense of community when it comes to citizenship issues. I’m not sure if it is because technology and connectivity or not but it’s something that it worth thinking about. His discussion on the workplace and it being a huge part of our lives also makes a lot of sense. It is true and his concept of “workstyle” sits well with what I envision for my future.

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