Jenkins, Dean Wilson kick off Beyond Broadcasting 2009 conference
Posted June 3, 2009
Dean Ernest J. Wilson III (pictured, below left, video here) and communication scholar Henry Jenkins (below right, video here) opened the fourth-annual Beyond Broadcast conference with observations about the importance of public media and the future of a participatory democracy enabled by technology. The conference runs through Friday and live Webcasts are available here.
"In the future that I imagine, publics won’t be so much served by media, but enabled by it," said Jenkins, who officially becomes a USC professor on July 1.
Jenkins said society doesn't necessarily need newspapers, but it does need journalism.
“For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases,” Jenkins said. “Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorships or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.”
He said the need for journalism is the same, but media — along with many other facets of today's world — have rapidly changed.
“When we shift our attention from ‘save newspapers’ to ‘save society,’ the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works,’” Jenkins said. “And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.”
He said technology has allowed anybody with Internet access today the chance to spread information faster than mainstream media could a decade ago. He used instant Internet sensations such as Susan Boyle of Britain's Got Talent as an example of millions of people worldwide watching something not ever available on their own televisions.
“Existing media structures are slow to respond to rapidly spreading content, often constructing barriers to grassroots circulation,” he said. "Susan Boyle was on Jay Leno a week later, which is a rapid response time for mass media — but incredibly slow."
Dean Wilson talked about the importance of this year's Beyond Broadcast, which has a theme of “Public Service Media from Local to Global. It focuses on best practices in participatory public service media from the hyper-local to the global. Speakers include luminaries from a wide range of disciplines and represent broad geographical and professional viewpoints on media.
"Frankly, this is kind of an odd conference that brings together two rather unlikely communities of practice: those interested in what used to be called public broadcasting, and the more geeky types interested in social media," Dean Wilson said. "These two unique groups have been coming together in the name of making public broadcasting/public media more open to the tremendous potentials of social media — and the social media more open to the democratic potentials they can contribute to the quality of public life — a more robust, engaged public media serving the public interest all around the world."
He said the goal of Beyond Broadcast is to try to understand and act more effectively on the intersections of the hyper-local, the hyper-global and the links between the local and global.
"So not only will we provoke conversations across professional communities of 'pubcasters' and social media mavens, but also among Africans, Asians, Europeans, South Americans and North Americans," he said.
Dean Wilson discussed four changes underway in the search for and provision of information in the public interest at this critical juncture in time: demographics; technology; dissatisfaction with the status quo in society; and the current crisis in the public media systems around the world.
"To make all these pieces fit together to produce information in the public interest requires the final factor: leadership," he said. "It is inspired, selfless leadership that emerges to transform the potential for positive change into actual reality. This is leadership that recognizes that a transformative moment is at hand. Whether in the U.S. or China or India or the E.U. at moments like this one, some individuals must exercise extraordinary individual initiative, some free will, to step up to the challenges and to make the possibility of a digital democracy a reality. I want to invite everyone here at the conference to exercise that kind of leadership."
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Dean Wilson's opening talk
Jenkins' keynote speech