Thursday, April 17, 2008

A little bit of everything...

Jenkins raises several legitimate points concerning media culture and its imminent revolution. In today's world, information is power. Jenkins recognizes this and describes skills which may become beneficial to possess in the upcoming generation.

While I do believe that having these skills derived from this new "media culture" is important in defining an individual's ability to adapt and succeed in future times, I criticize the several possibly misunderstood concepts in which he has based his opinions. Jenkins makes quite a stretch when he suggests that exposure to Sim City brought about Blake Ross' journey to success. Perhaps it is true that Sim City is what initially introduced young Blake to the world of media, but I find it far fetched to believe that it would guarantee his future rise to success. I believe video games can only serve as catalysts, making those who are unaware, aware of the resources around them, they cannot serve as a handicapped to an individual's future success. Instead, I would venture that most likely Blake posses other skills in his repertoire beyond the ability to manage healthy communities in an artificial world, such as time management, leadership, vision, etc, that explain his actions and success in his chosen niche. Therefore it is ludicrous to equate an individual's potential success to the exposure of a game such as Sim City.

In particular, his misleading reference to Firefox bugs me. Blake Ross did not invent the idea of online collaboration, nor did he coin the term of open source. Rather, he rode on the coat tails of what already existed, and took a practiced theory and improved upon it. Furthermore, he didn't even write the code. He took the code released by Netscape before AOL's acquisition, modified it with the help others, and released it to the world. The code which goes into Firefox is coded by many programmers all across the world-- anyone who takes a little time to prove themselves to the community, can provide bug fixes, updates, features, and even core functionality to the browser. Jenkins misunderstands this concept and leads his readers to believe that Firefox was an creation by young Blake Ross. I think it would have been more accurate to describe Blake Ross as one of the lead developers and founder of the Mozilla Firefox project and to have coincidentally also enjoyed the game Sim City in his younger years. Despite this inaccuracy, Jenkins main point is not lost. This example alone is a testament to the potential of large-scale Collaborative Problem-Solving-- what Jenkins describes is but one aspect of "participatory culture".
I find myself identifying most with "Collaborative Problem-Solving". I use an operating system on my system called "Ubuntu", a Debian derivative of Linux which is perhaps one of the best examples of online collaboration. While I am not a direct participant (such as a developer or project manager), I am an end-user. I provide bug reports, feedback, and will occasionally assist others in problem solving issues I have experience with and found solutions to.
Not only are there positive social ramifications involved with the collaboration between individuals, good things come out of those collaborations. Some of the best software available today is derived from these social triages that Jenkins describes: examples are the previously addressed Firefox, it's e-mail counterpart Thunderbird, the alternative to MSOffice OpenOffice, and of course Linux. I believe that this sort of media collaboration is important in its lessons in teaching real life skills of "working together" and teamwork. It certainly would look impressive on a resume at the very least.
On a separate note, I also find myself identifying with the Expressions aspect Jenkins identifies. I own a deviant art account, and will occasionally upload my art there. While it isn't extensive, nor do I have a large fanbase and hits on the site, it fulfills its duties as a quiet sanctuary for me to dump my work. (I am a media creator :D). Additionally, I am also a member of As the website name probably reveals, it is a large archive for fan written works anywhere spanning from common TV shows, the popular books. I don't actually write anything, but I am a beta reader and reviewer.
Jenkins mentions that schools should teach these skills and cultivate a learning environment which facilitates learning in these areas. I believe he has a valid concern. Media cultures are rapidly expanding their scope and individuals such as you and me are commanding more leverage when it comes to voice and influence over others. Not so long ago, there were a series of questions for the presidential debate that took place on youtube. Users sent in questions and the selected individuals in turn had their questions presented to the nominees. In Japan, an internet forum known as 2ch has gained a significant amount of influence, rivaling those of conventional media. Danah Boyd also hints at this socio/political smorgeshboard of wealth when she mentions how My Space was bought out by News Corporation (Think Fox News). It can be seen that media culture is (already?) heading in a direction that will soon become a prominent influence in our society.

-Jenkins Article, Media Creator Questions

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