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Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Serendipity.  According to Wikipedia, the word was voted one of the most difficult words to translate, but it means a pleasant surprise or a happy accident.  So, you might say that this course, Literacy in the New Media, and specifically all of the work culminating in this last assignment to update and re-focus my blog, was serendipitous.  It was a pleasant surprise to see my blog transform from one focused on school work, to one focused on my life's work.  A natural evolution prodded along by the work that I've done over these last several month.  And it was also a happy accident that just as I finished updating the look and feel of my blog, I noticed that I had just surpassed my 1000th page view.  Now, I know that that a goodly number of those page views were my own, but I'll take the landmark as serendipitous just the same.  A bit of a signpost on the path that my education has taken signifying a bit of a fork in the road.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,

Thursday, March 21, 2013


The countdown has begun.  Well, a number of countdowns, really.  All happening simultaneously.  The first is the countdown to the end of this course that I have been engaged with, Literacy in the New Media.  The second is the countdown to graduation.  Having successfully passed this course, I will have satisfied the requirements for graduating with a degree in adult education.  And finally, the countdown is on toward the end of this blog as I (and others who have read it along the way with more than a passing interest) have come to know it.  The blog started out as an experiment in critical reflection and then morphed into a tool for ongoing reflection upon my learning and a place to post some of my work and other extraneous thoughts to finally playing out as an exercise in produsage, a “merging of … producer and consumer in an interactive environment” (Bird, 2011, p. 502).

In the remaining weeks of this final course, we have been tasked to reflect upon our experiences within the course, utilizing all that the World Wide Web has to offer in terms of the opportunity to contribute to the digitized cultural landscape, and consider whether or not we are encouraged to continue our produsage.  We have been asked what ‘intimations of deprival’, or what feelings do we have, if any, that something will be missing in society, as we move toward an increase in produsage.  Put another way, as interactivity replaces passivity, in the words of Sterne (2012) what will be the cost, what will be lost? 

I have to admit, I was born and raised in the television-era.  Passive consumption of media was king.  I grew up with 2 channels that changed to 5  when I came of age and we got cable (well 6 channels if you considered public TV a channel back then…we certainly didn’t).   That consumption ramped up when more channels were added via a VCR that had the digital capacity to reach numbers beyond the 13 on our TV’s dial.  I still recall the dark days between getting cable and getting a VCR when the dial on our 19” Magnasonic became stipped after repeated attempts to change from channel 6 to 10 with the lightening twist of the wrist.  Many months were spent trying to tune the TV with a pair of vicegrips.  Those of you over the age of 40 will be able to conjure up the image, I’m sure.  But, I digress.  The point is that my consumption was entirely passive. 

In the words of Lunenfeld (2007) “television doesn’t improve so much as metastasize, spreading out from the den, to multiple incarnations in every member of the family’s bedrooms, into our cars, onto our PDAs, and into ultra-bright “outdoor models,” recently reserved for the ultrarich but soon to be in every backyard space near you” (p. 8).  Well, we didn’t have a television in every room in our house growing up.  And I don’t have that many TV’s now, much less one in my yard, these many years later.  But his point is well taken.  The television acts as an entrancer, a penatrator of consciousness lulling you into a passive consumer state, drinking it all in with little effort.  Contrast this to the age of interactive computer technology: “Contemporary media beg for and sometimes demand active participation. They ask their users to intertwine them with as many parts of their lives as possible. It is not just so-called social media (a misnomer if there ever was one—since all media are by definition social). Magazines and newspapers implore us to write back and explore on multiple platforms. TV shows ask us to go online and participate in discussions and games, books get their own Facebook pages where readers are asked to “like” them, software companies put together “street teams” of users willing to promote them in a manner analogous to what concert promoters used to do” (Sterne, 2012).

So am I more willing and eager to go forth and engage as a produser in this brave new world of interactive media?  And do I have any concerns about what we are losing as we move from passive to interactive engagement?  The answers are no and, relatedly, no.  I work at interactive produsage all day long already.  It is integrated in how I make my living and how I continue to grow my career to ensure that I can continue to make a living in the future.  I have to interact with the digital world because it is both a source of information and a place to share and grow.  I am committed to lifelong learning.  Long ago, I learned that buying into that concept was really the only way to ensure some sort of stability in my life.  The World Wide Web is the place where much of that lifelong learning can take place.  So, I am not willing and eager to go forth and interact even more than I do now.  The truth is that I like to take a break from that interaction from time to time.  I think that most people do.  They are interested in simply sitting back and just consuming.  And I don’t think that there will ever be a time when that balance between produsage supersedes consumption. 

 Lunenfeld (2007) speaks about consumption and produsage in terms of uploading and downloading.  Consumption is downloading and interacting and contributing to cultural content is uploading.  He speaks about the symbiotic relationship between the two: “to claim that downloading is inherently harmful and uploading innately positive would be nonsense. The two syndromes are complementary, but to function in an evolved mode, they should be balanced. The watchwords are to be mindful in the consumption of culture, or downloading, and meaningful in the production of it, or uploading” (p.11).  I couldn’t agree more.  In the days ahead, my blog will undoubtedly change as I try to strike a new balance in my own produsage in the face of completing this course and my degree. 

Bird, S. E. (2011). Are we all produsers now? Cultural Studies. 25 (4-5), pp. 502-516
Lunenfeld, P. (2007). History as Remix: How the Computer Became a Culture MachineRue Descartes no. 55: Philosophies entoilĂ©es. Online [PDF]
Sterne, J. (2012). What if Interactivity is the New Passivity? FlowTV. 15.10. Online

"Stacking Stones" image by Michelle Meiklejohn,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Participating in the narrative

This week we were asked to consider the opportunities that social media provides for citizen journalism or social activism. Specifically, we were asked if these new opportunities encouraged our participation; are we more apt to participate in social action or at least contribute to stories that are topical, if not important, to the development of our society. My answer to this question is, “I don’t think so”. The technology has certainly afforded me opportunity to join in and even initiate on occasion. But, while the technology is convenient and offers me many opportunities to engage in activism from the comfort of my flannels and favourite T, it doesn’t get me off the recliner. The very fact that these new opportunities exist, hasn’t encouraged my participation. Rather, circumstances have encouraged me to participate, to be socially active, to contribute to the narrative.

Bruns and Highfield (2012) suggest that citizen journalism is more often than not, news curation or a continual (re)framing of a story. “Commentary responds to existing, already published news and opinion; it collects, collates and combines these existing materials, contextualizes then and thereby points out new frames for their interpretation and analysis” (p. 6). My attempt at publishing a ‘story’ using Storify is a great example of this citizen journalism that Bruns and Highfield talk about. And, I suppose what I have been doing with my blog these past many months, responding to articles that I have read and reflected upon, is another example of citizen journalism, albeit less topical and for most of those outside (and some inside) the adult education realm, less interesting.

Bruns and Highfield present the argument that this type of journalism is ambient. Billions of producer-users are constantly watching as stories bust out of the cyber-gateway and develop, circulating among other producer-users who contribute commentary and links to other stories that provide verification of content or just another angle to view it from. But, if this type of participation in the development of the story is ambient does that mean that it is a watered-down version of true activism? Does the technology afford people the opportunity to participate but at the same time dumb-down our participation? And is the result an insipid bland version of a truly moving story? I tend to think that it is the exact opposite. While there is something to be said about a great investigative journalist, a truly gifted yarn-spinner, much of the journalism that I grew up reading was anything but. Rather, most of it was a tired attempt to get the facts down on paper to meet a deadline and fill a quota number of words or column inches.

Hermida (2012) suggests that journalists claim an ability to “interpret and represent reality. The practice of verification bestows journalistic communication with its credibility and believability” (p. 661). It’s this verification that some claim is missing from citizen journalism. However, verification is still there. It still exists. It’s just a collaborative and fluid approach to verification. As the story develops, from the moment that it is simply a tweeted experience to the moment that it is a feature-length documentary, the story is unfolding and being verified along the way, from the unvarnished truth to the polished truth. Verification, as Hermida suggests, has reverted back to a burden on the audience. Bruns and Highfield call this multiperspectivality.

I recall my time as a managing editor of my college newspaper. My job at the paper was a pretty sweet gig. In addition to having access to an Apple MacIntosh to complete my assignments for school (I hated booking time at the computer lab), I only really “worked” one night each week, balancing the books and managing a group of editors/writers (and eating pizza). I also had to write the occasional editorial. At that time, the mid-1990’s, newspapers were being bought up by huge multi-national corporations. It was feared that media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch would own the news and with that ownership they would have the power to dictate the stories that were told and how they were told. Call it uniperspectivality. Feeling inspired, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek editorial calming the fears of the student body; the student newspaper would remain student-owned and student-run. Their voice would still be heard.

One of the reasons for bringing you, the reader, down this little trip along my personal Memory Lane, is to make the point that the World Wide Web is really a place where millions of little student newspapers can exist alongside the multinational conglomerates. And the stories that they tell are no less compelling and often richer for the diversity. The other reason for telling you this story, is to bring me back to my assertion in the opening paragraph of this posting: circumstances encourage my participation rather than the technology and the opportunity that it affords to contribute to the narrative. Back in college, my participation in the narrative was circumstantial. If I had the time and felt compelled to write an editorial, I did. Now, the same circumstances draw me to participate.


Hermida, A. (2012). TWEETS AND TRUTH: Journalism as a discipline of collaborative verification. Journalism Practice. 6:5-6, p659-668.
Bruns, A. & T. Highfield. (2012). Blogs, Twitter, and breaking news: The produsage of citizen journalism. pre-publication draft on personal site []. Published in: Lind, R. A. ed. (2012). Produsing Theory in a Digital World: The Intersection of Audiences and Production. New York: Peter Lang. p15-32.

photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Check out my story

Just published an article on Storify. Take a peek and let me know what you think.