It is hard to remember the days when consumption of information was passive. Anything that is worth anyone’s attention today are expected to be openly discussed, dissected, re-interpreted and remixed with other bits of other things. The commoditization of computing power, accessibility to user-friendly tools, 24 hours connectivity and the ability to narrow-cast to specific audience have made participatory user experiences the way of information consumption in the 20th century.
Jenkins’ book discusses the signs and implication of this new movement. A great deal of focus on was placed on phenomenons in entertainment where most of the information convergence has taken place – Dedicated fans of TV Show ‘Lost’ systematically gathered and analyzed information online and on-location (using satellite images) to predict outcomes of the contestants. The Wachowski brothers planted entries in their ‘Matrix’ trilogy and scaled the story across comic books, animations and an online game to bring transmedia storytelling to a new height. In the cases of Harry Potter and the Star Wars, fans and movie studios play tug-of-war over the boundaries of core stories and fan fictions.
While these phenomenons help to illustrate the possibilities and issues faced by regular consumers, grass-root contributors, creators and distributors of media, Jenkins also pointed us to the ramification of convergence of media in a much larger context.
First of all, this and future generations can no longer maintain engaged with one-way distribution of information that is typical of the traditional mass media, politics and religion. Institutions that are behind those outlet have no choice but to adapt. Secondly, with all information dissected and re-tuned for niche groups, the Internet induces self-selected mental myopia. Like Charles Eames said, “Beyond the age of information, is the age of choices”. We no longer need accept differing opinions. We can choose what we want to listen and tune out the rest. Last but not least, in culture of convergence, skills to rally peer support, gather information from unrelated sources and deliberate with others are critical to success. Our education system must tool our children with these skills so they can remain competitive in the future.