Cafe Witness

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Broadcasting to an Audience of... None?

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Yesterday, I was invited to speak about Something to Be Desired (the web series I produce) at Point Park University. One of their broadcasting classes likes to invite local media creators to chat with the students during an informal luncheon, and help them understand what "working in the field" is really like. Since they thought STBD was a good example of a web success story, I was happy to share what I know (and admit what I don't).

The students were friendly and inquisitive, and lobbed several tough questions (beyond the obligatory "how do you make money" and "why are you still in Pittsburgh?"). I and STBD actor Will Guffey (Leo) gave them all the information we could, bored them with endless anecdotes about our "process," and did our best to demonstrate that our six year-old web media series is just as viable a communications option as... well, as a paying job...

Interestingly, when I asked the students what web TV shows they currently watch, or what podcasts they listen to, they told us they watch very little -- mostly existing TV shows that they didn't have time to watch during the week. None of them subscribed to any shows, and they didn't download them to watch on a mobile device, either -- even though several of them had video-enabled iPods.

Then one of the students asked if either of us blog, and then she asked why ANYONE would blog, or why anyone would take bloggers seriously. Admittedly, this is not an easily-answered question, especially in light of chicanery like the (false) CNN iReports of Steve Jobs's heart attack. But, more importantly, even asking this question proves that journalism and broadcast students (or their professors) are highly suspicious of "new" media -- and why shouldn't they be?

So... if the future broadcasters of America aren't watching web media... who is?

And... if web media is not being taught as a viable option in most broadcasting classes... why?

(I think I know, and it has to do with "credibility," "economy" and "job security." What are YOUR thoughts?)

Photo by digitalvisions.

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  • Having been a part of higher education for most of my professional career, I can honestly say that from an educator's standpoint that the only way that New/Social media will make it as a viable, "legitimate" subject matter is if there are individuals who pioneer it into the Academic community. Right now, it "lacks Academic credibility," but that doesn't mean it isn't credible... just that those in the ivory tower refuse to recognize it until PhD's are written, articles are published, and debates go back and forth between academics who convince universities to give them grants for researching the subject.

    I faced the same issue when applying for my PhD in Literature and Film. There were a handful of people working on it in the entire world, and only 8 universities in the US had people qualified to lead me to anything I didn't already have access to, or know. When you are a part of a pioneering movement, if you don't try and justify your "field" to those who have the ability to disseminate it (aka old media and academics), then you run the risk of burning out. Even a 5 year flash in the pan is still a flash in the pan. I taught in the media and communications department of a local (very well respected) college for a few semesters, and podcasting, blogging, vlogging, and micro-blogging weren't even on their radar--and these are the professors who are supposed to be researching innovations in their field. They had to be convinced that Social networking was something valuable to even think about on their down time (I'm not even sure they were ever convinced, to be honest).

    I was just having this conversation last night, strangely enough, and I'm thinking about writing a few articles for publication submission in academic journals about New Media and its impact. I would encourage others who are passionate about the topic to do the same. New Media is changing the idea of culture, learning, communication and intellectual property. There's no reason not to lead the "legitimization" charge, because after all, that's where the future funding may have to come from.


    By Blogger D.M. Papuga, at 11:35 AM  

  • Or, on the other hand, we could ignore the academics and let them figure it out on their own.

    The only thing that's more annoying than a person (or a group) catering to the establishment in an effort to obtain "legitimacy" is when a counterculture / insurgent / pioneering movement does so, thereby negating the very need for its own existence.

    Tell you what: let the academics stay in their ivory towers and believe they understand what makes the world go 'round. I'll be busy doing the work that keeps it turning.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 12:40 AM  

  • Proof of legitimacy is provided by your computer system having the right authentication data when it connects to the Microsoft mothership. If it doesn’t, you will be offered an opportunity to turn in your computer contraband, and to either purchase legitimate Windows software at half-price, or for free.

    By Blogger buddy, at 9:16 AM  

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