Oct 13, 2009

"Nothing new under the sun" and yet...

Deuze deals with the "Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries" in his article. Having a whole book of articles on Creative Industries assigned for a different class, I was able to appreciate this text in a whole new light. However, it was something simple that stuck with me.

In his concluding discourse, he admits his reasoning "requires partly letting go of some well-established, deep-rooted and arguably valid assumptions about the impact that a mass media-centric culture has had on us." (p.464) These would be the assumptions that mass communications has been obsessing over for the last century, ever since the sudden society-wide propagation of certain philosophies. Nazism horrified us, communism scared us - and we began making attempts to counteract potent forces with the machinations of 'strategic communication.' Surely the one with the biggest, widest, deepest speaker wins.

Yet, we have all noted that this overlooks the role of the individual, the local. In the presence of mass and global, it is far too easy to overlook the small particles that make those two up. Has society always been defined by the top-down? For centuries, the answer has been yes - and thus culture has been defined as the artistic creations and endeavors of the court or nobility or elite. Deuze admits that intense collaboration and exchange is not new, but he only uses examples from high culture. Only belatedly have we recognized that the 'bottom' has had its own culture, its own rituals, beliefs and practices.

But in the case of mass occurences, the generalizations based on tradition - how did they come to pass? In the face of limited or nonexistant written communication, mass loses some of its coherence. Culture, values, practices were transmitted by relationships, word-of-mouth between insiders (parents, elders, friends, innovators) and outsiders (visitors, travelors to capitals or other regions). Thus, culture was both alive and living (growing) in a local, individual context. If change occured slowly, it was most likely simply because there was a lack of outside sources to even suggest the idea.

It was only the creation of mass literate societies that turned culture into a product of education, newspapers, and government policy. And somehow this shift of cultural definers, or more appropriately mediators, went to the institutions' heads. These mediators have never controlled culture, but only served as primary 'suggestors' of culture. The local and individual of course maintained their presence, simply using these outside sources as complements.

And now we are returning to this idea of local and individual influence, realizing that these factors have not been lost in the 'global' revolution. Deuze remarks on the 'end of the persuader-as-manipulator', (p.463), without acknowledging that the very concept of such was flawed even as it was imagined. People and localities have always been in a flexible constant flux of enforcing or resisting, or even both in different ways, power schemas. The idea of a personal information space is merely the externalization of inner workings of someone's mind. We take in media and always tend to remember some parts, discard others, read, skim or skip - the only thing that's changed is our sheer forced exposure. And yet there are people among us who don't own TVs, don't use social networks, take in media only very selectively. Yet these are always glossed over by the idea of the 'mass' or 'majority'. (The whole argument: what is the norm?) Now those muttering, partial resistors have a more visible, transparent voice that can broadcast natural responses on a global scale.

It seems now that global sources and contacts have joined individual and local contacts in the 'work' of building identity, community. If we are now networked individuals, surely we have always been, but now on a much more visible and global scale. The commercial media world is treated with far more skepticism and distrust (we are not fish, we swallow all parts of the bait), thus leading to this new avenue where commercial interests want to be our 'buddy.' Shall they succeed? Can producers and consumers merge into such a level that they truly are a community? 'A new humanity'? (Though sad in that it deals only with consumerism.) Perhaps we shall move into a new era where ideas of elite are qualified - and the center merges with the periphery. (But granted who the 'mass voices' belong to, it won't be anytime soon.)

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