SWSWi: Opening Remarks

Opening Remarks

The opening remarks are from Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson. It was run as a sort of Johnson interviewing Jenkins conversation. Johnson began by asking if this was the dumbest generation.

They got right into a discussion of the concept of intelligence and how we deal with this idea in terms of skills, information processing and intelligence in this age of new media. In today’s world, we interact collaboratively and through play, but students are not tested this way.

Johnson asked Jenkins if he ever reacted to new technology with “That’s just stupid.” This is how I first felt about Twitter. But Jenkins said that he didn’t do that. He looked at it to see why people were engaged in it. Why were they doing it.

They talked about The Wire, Lost, and Heroes. The audience favored Lost, but Jenkins pointed out that a lot of Lost happens outside the box, meaning online. There’s a compelling community around Lost and may represent where TV is heading. Jenkins said that he’s amazed by the fan community and the intellectual capability that they show when spending time doing things like discussing TV shows online. He compared it to the lack of creativity and challenge that they face on the job. He sees these new kinds of engagement as a way to express creativity and perform complex tasks that people don’t find in jobs or politics.

Jenkins talked about the social networks that arose around Harry Potter. Bands, social networks, full length novels by pre-teens, political activism and more. These are skills developed around the concept of Harry Potter in a new media world. The impact isn’t the book, it’s what young people did with the book.

The conversation moved to politics and how interactive media has changed politics. Jenkins said Obama’s use of “we” in “yes we can” appeals to young people as something they understand as a part of the way social networks operate. He looks at Obama’s platform like a stub on Wikipedia that we will flesh out together.

Civic engagement came up next. Jenkins described a new kind of civic connection developing through online social games. We now carry our networks with us wherever we go as an online social network. Towns, cities, infrastructures need to figure out how to build social networks for local social goals. Johnson talked about local bloggers who exist in a zone uncovered by traditional media. He worked on a company called Outside In to take advantage of that and provide tools to connect people to other people right around them.

The discussion and the questions after were really interesting. If you aren’t already familiar with these two men, follow the links at the beginning of the post and get to know them. Brilliant and fascinating ideas.

More photos on Flickr.

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