Tag Archives: Digital democracy

Digital Media, Online Democracy, Participatory Culture, and Convergence….

In our final week of class we take a look back at the ideas surrounding digital media and discuss our thoughts on where it may go ten years into the future. Authors, Jenkins and Levinson, both active participants of new media, chose politics for their final chapters. It is fitting considering politics embeds itself into every aspect of our lives.   The term “Politics” has a very broad definition that also includes:

  • the total complex of relations between people living in society
  • relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view politics> <ethnicpolitics>

Therefore, any actions between people involve politics. With the surge of online interaction worldwide, a new era of virtual politics are being developed.  Rules, norms, and associations are being continually formed, reformed, broken down, and re-established.

America’s political parties have learned the power of the Internet and are using it to further their causes and get the word out to the masses.  Internet connectivity makes it easy to reach a large number of people. President Obama was on the forefront of social media’s power during his first run for office.

american-politics Soon, all political parties rallied to the effectiveness of online campaigning. While many tout the freedom of participation, the reality is a good segment of society is left out of the digital loop. That’s why old-fashioned campaigning is still alive and well.  Older Americans who vote, don’t follow politicians on Twitter, but they’ll go to a fundraiser or a rally.

Digital democracy is a catch-phrase that has a nice appeal, but we will face accessibility challenges in the future.  Mega-media corporations will continue to seek control of profits, content, and audiences. Costs will filter into previously free media. User information will be less valued as a commodity because every company will have the means to quickly and accurately track anyone they wish. New profit models will develop and we will again be encapsulating access to technology within the ability to afford it.

Levinson’s ideas of all “new new” media being free seems to be crumbling as larger corporations buy up platforms and begin squeezing profit models into the fray.  Jenkins extols the ability to participate, yet he knows access is not currently available to all. He is acutely aware that constraints of money, access, and technical knowledge create boundaries between the have and have-nots

Money still makes the world go around, my friends.


For those who are part of the online culture, participation is the name of the game.  Consumers become producers and interact collaboratively within the feedback loop. Currently this interaction is largely expected, but in ten years it will be considered a necessary component of online activity. Consumers will demand the option of contributing ideas, content, or both.

Harry Potter is a fine example of Fandom based participation


Jenkins explores the double-edged sword of participation and knowledge communities online.  He shows that no matter how advanced our technology is, humans still have their own reasons for using and sometimes abusing it.  Real life spills over into the internet and mixes with the new technology to create a hybrid reality.

Participatory culture and direct Democracy have blossomed online.  People who felt isolated, unheard, or powerless now have a platform and a voice online.  Both Levinson and Jenkins extol the virtues of escaping the confines of gatekeepers and authority figures. Sharing knowledge in collective groups enhances everyone’s ability to learn.

images (1)In ten years there will be more convergence in technology, but I don’t think we’ll see an ultimate black box…you know, one device that does everything.  We’re too hungry for technology that fits a variety of needs.  Face it – we like gadgets.  But who knows? Maybe cloud storage and wearable nano-technology clothing will make gadgets obsolete. All you’ll need is a pair of display glasses and voice commands to link up to anything.

Levinson’s spoke often on the ever-changing developments of our use and understanding of social media. Each platform has its life cycle where it emerges, peaks, levels off, and eventually becomes incorporated into something new.  He notes that nothing disappears, but is rather parted out and recycled just like all forms of media.

In ten years we will look back on these times and marvel at the speed of innovation.  I’m hoping the pendulum will have swung back a little to the center. Perhaps we will find a balance of living with technology in a way that enhances our lives rather than taking them over. Yeah….probably not.


“Virtual” will become an archaic term.  We will not differentiate between “real world” and “online” because they will become one. Communications will become even more truncated and non-linear as our attention spans decrease.  Memory requirements will wane. We’ve already become experts at locating information rather than remembering it.  Of course the same was said when books become common place, so there’s that.

New media is akin to the Wild West. It began as a free ranging, infinite space open to exploration by all. Ordinary citizens created their own worlds, niches, groups, and content platforms. But, just like the wild frontier, there are those who are determined to tame it and bend it to their will. Many traditional media producers were slow on the uptake, but now they have embraced the transition as inevitable.  The mega-media corporations will continue to buy up as many forms of the new media as they can while simultaneously trying to monetize it.  These corporations are about making money, not improving society.  Capitalism is alive and well on the Internet. Net neutrality may well become an archaic term over time as well.

Both authors conclude that while the future is any man’s guess, we will never completely return to traditional, one-way media.  The speed at which changes are occurring in our digital lives is astounding to us all.  What will unite — and divide us — is our ability or desire to participate in the converged culture.

I’ll be interested to see how feature-length movies and shows will evolve.  As attention spans move towards the span of the life cycle of the fruit fly, producers of movies will have their hands full creating enough short-burst content to keep the audiences captivated.  I’m envisioning audience participation with voting on how the movie will end. I envision it as a giant group video game with virtual reality goggles and such.


I believe we will be connected to technology with anything that has a power source.  Phones, cars, TVs, appliances, nooks, computers, wearable technology, and our houses.wearable

Someone will know where you are and what you’re doing at any given time.  Can you say Big Brother?  I know I sound pessimistic, but people will not have the option of getting out of being tracked EVERYWHERE. For whatever reason, generations who are born in the digital age, never give it a thought and don’t seem bothered by not having any privacy whatsoever. Why we capitulate to this so willingly is beyond me.

I believe we will be integrated with bio-technology that will scare anyone my age.  Through “Google glasses”, ear buds, smart watches, implants, and bio-generated displays, we will start becoming a part of our technology – literally.  I cannot help but think as we become more reliant on technology we become more comfortable with the idea that being human is not enough.  I hope I’m long gone before the technology realizes it doesn’t need us.