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[bb] Henry Jenkins

MIT’s Henry Jenkins (Convergence Culture ) opens the Beyond Broadcast conference. Henry asks what the line is that connects participatory culture and participatory democracy.

Henry begins with the always-delightful chain that led a parody site’s photos of “Ernie is Evil ” (the Muppet) to be included in genuine, pro-Bin Laden posters. Henry points out that our current images of democracy recycle previous images, such as Mr. Smith in Washington, Rockwell paintings, etc. He shows captures of an avatars’ protest march in a game space in China, an anti-Bush music video, Flickr images of the London bombing, American Idol voting (and “Vote for the Worst” as an anti-corporate Idol site), and the Moonite lite-brite (which he says is becoming a symbol for the young for a regime that’s “frightened of its own shadow,” is unaware of pop culture, and unable to respond to threats). Are these the new images of politics, Henry asks. The left, he says, uses the same images as the media does when talking about media reform. We talk about conformity, being narcotized, being turned into idiots and fools…as if we are victims of media. “The media reform movement is self-defeating the moment it holds mass media in contempt.” He is going to propose a way of conceiving media reform.

He cites Stephen Duncombe’ s vision [but my computer stopped working so I have no notes :( ]

What should politics look like? Henry points to a purple map of the US that shows states as a mix of red and blue depending on the proportion of Reps and Dems. This is not a partisan issue, he says. First, he says, we need free speech. We need to fight how copyright is being used by government and business as a “pincer move” squeezing participatory clture. We also have to “guarantee that everyone has access to participate,” he says. We need to look at non-political sites where we come together, e.g., we could have used Survivor as an opportunity to talk about race, or 24 to have a dialogue about torture. We should mobilize fans without condeming the fantasies they embrace. We need to look critically at astroturf but also see it as a sign that participatory clture matters. He ends by looking at AskANinja’s rant on the Net neutrality movement.

Q: My high school blocks all social networking.
A: Our schools are turning off sutdents’ best access to information. It’s a mass deskilling…

[Great talk. I’m left wondering more particularly about how the democratizing of media affects democracy, i.e., the very point of the conference.]

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