Network Media Creative Critical Essay
Network literacy is not merely knowing about this, it is doing it. It is in this doing that we can understand that literacy is an applied knowing, or if you prefer a knowing through doing.… It is being comfortable with change and flow as the day to day conditions of knowledge production and dissemination, and recognising that all of this may change, and appear differently in six months. What underlies such change, however, are the principles of distributed content production and sharing, folksonomies, trust networks and having access to skills that let you collate and build with these varieties of content and knowledge….. Network literacy means recognising that there are no longer canonical sources and having the skills to find what it is you think you want, of being able to judge it, and then of being able to incorporate this, in turn, into your knowledge flows. Finally, networked literacies are marked by your participation as a peer in these flows and networks — you contribute to them and in turn can share what others provide.
Miles, Adrian. “Network Literacy: The New Path to Knowledge.” Screen Education Autumn.45 (2007): 24–30.
Network literacy is the future for all media makers, no matter the background or context to our careers. Working in the media isn’t just about being a cameraman or a radio presenter anymore; the industry is rapidly shifting towards multi-platform production and multi-skilled personnel in every role. To refute a dire need to grasp the concepts of network literacy would be to sabotage one’s future in the media. Technology is developing and changing at such a rate we could have never predicted just a few years ago. We must incorporate digital sharing, creating, collaborating and learning in to our professional lives if we hope to be a part of the change.
The definitions of media and its practicalities have moulded towards online connectivity in light of rapid technological development in the last decade or so. When we think of television, for example, not only is it just about the actual show that airs once a week. Television shows now function largely around audience activity online, whether it be the freedom to catch up on the show at their own time, audience polls, discussion boards, etc etc. We have the freedom to engage with the world, not just the television set in our living rooms. A similar notion applies to learning nowadays too; gone are the times of having to refer to a physical book or an encyclopaedia in a library that you have to purposely travel to for the purpose of seeking information. Online learning has become so predominant that we can now even get a degree through education via laptop screens rather than actually attending an institution. We have technology and information at our fingertips through our smartphones, tablets, laptops and even gaming consoles and televisions. It’s not surprising that companies and corporations are beginning to realise the full potential of this connectivity around the world, with campaigns such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge using this notion to raise over $1.5 million simply through the power of social media.
Despite all of this freedom to communicate, interact and engage with the media and people worldwide, it’s all done in such a rigid manner that I find to be bizarre and confusing. Majority of internet users fear the possibilities and the powers of the internet, and therefore often conduct themselves in a professional manner in order to refrain from damaging theirs or anybody else’s integrity. Even in using social media and blogging platforms, parents, teachers, friends and even complete strangers have told me I must act professionally and consider my actions. But why is this? Why does the internet have this power over us? Before I had a laptop and a blog, I had a journal where I could write as freely and as personally as I pleased. Print writing gave me a freedom and a choice, but writing online is intimidating and has the power to determine my future as a media maker. Why is this? Why can’t peers, tutors, lecturers and future employers read anything that I chose to put online, as ridiculous or as personal as it may be?
Network Media has taught me to question everything I do online. For the most part I feel this questioning most often applies to my use of social media, or lack thereof. Often in symposiums and tutorials my educators have reiterated what I’ve already heard a thousand times before: act responsibly and professionally on any online platform. Yet this message seems to have come with a unique spin that leaves me wanting only to repel this notion. My generation seems to have a desperate need to document their entire lives’ online, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some form of blog. I seemed to have missed the memo on this, or forgotten to get on the bandwagon. It seems unnatural to say the least. Or perhaps it’s the constant drilling in of ‘think about what you do on the internet’ from everyone around me over the course my youth that hit me a lot harder than my counterparts. Not only do I refrain from posting content potentially deemed immature and damaging to my future as a media professional, but I refrain from posting anything at all. Whilst that might be considered counterintuitive to everything we’ve learnt in this course, personally I’d rather have people judge me on my actual physical self and the way I present myself in person rather than something I may have posted on social media ten years ago. I’m fully aware this is somewhat ignorant and goes against all the concepts of network literacy, and I’m trying to coerce myself into being a bit more active online, but it’s difficult to break past the fear of everything I post potentially damaging my future.
Social media provides a new means of updates and photojournalism never before seen in the age of print literacy. Natural disasters are documented through the camera lenses of smartphones, every day citizens can break news through a status update and organisations can use media sharing services to spread videos to the world. This is perhaps best exemplified by extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) using YouTube and Twitter to share propaganda, recruit members and bring light to their activities. Clever employment of popular hashtags, widely used social media platforms and invading forums are some of the most notable actions of ISIS who are rapidly developing and spreading because of these means. Regardless of the many varying opinions on this group and what they do, it’s difficult to deny they have a solid grasp on network literacy and have used their thorough understanding of online connectivity and interactivity to promote themselves. My own understanding of this issue comes from social media again, through Twitter and Facebook I am able to keep up to date with all the latest breaking news and what’s happening around the world. My interactions with the internet media sources absolutely dominate that of print media – I haven’t held nor read a physical newspaper in months.
Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen discuss the future of social media, technology and the internet in their book ‘The New Digital Age’. They suggest and hypothesise that print media be entirely wiped out, replaced by technology so advanced and so liberating to its users that scientists in today’s technology landscape haven’t even begun to plan or construct. The following video discusses many of the issues our future faces with technology and the possibilities they may bring. It’s impossible to predict just how users and audiences will interact with media in the future, but it’s a terrifying thought that it may have the power to completely change and revolutionise all that we know today.
The future for media makers no matter the sectors we choose to work in, is inevitably going to be dependent on online networking, global connectivity and being multi skilled in order to succeed. This isn’t just the case for media students at universities around the world, even professionals with established careers in the industry must prepare for an unpredictable and rapidly changing media landscape. Personally I believe that social media will continue to boom to unprecedented levels – right now we could never predict how this sector will continue to dominate society in five or ten years. It isn’t just the issue that the internet provides a means of connecting us to anyone and everyone around the globe, rather it allows us to form tight and concise connections with the exact person we may be looking for. Before the internet and social media gave us this power, networking was merely a case of finding someone via your already established connections with people who in turn may be linked to the person you’re trying to find. This is discussed and theorised in the week 8 reading, explaining the kind of impact and accessibility we gain from being able to network online. Media makers have the power to change society; audiences and users are heavily invested in all kinds of media products and behave accordingly. By interacting with audiences we can shape the future of the media to satisfy their likes and needs. Similarly we have the power to produce fair and accurate products, whether it be unbiassed and realistic representative news, or films and televisions that actually represent a dynamic and multicultural society as opposed to the common casts of caucasian heterosexual characters seen too often in today’s media, or websites and applications that continue to benefit us in such a way never possible by the limitations of print media. Should we be scared of the future? Should we be scared by the unpredictability of the expanding freedom and power of the internet? Some may argue that yes, we should fear the unruly behaviour and liberation that the internet may provide to users. As stated by Alexander Galloway in the week 11 reading, “It is common for contemporary critics to describe the Internet as an unpredictable mass of data”. But I don’t believe that such unpredictability is to be feared, rather perhaps we should embrace it and learn to use it to our advantage. These are exciting times full of opportunity, not only for those studying to or already working in the media industry but for everyone around the world with access to the future of the media.
Network literacy is a matter of action that we must all learn and begin to make more and more as technology changes. As print media slowly but surely loses its place as the online world dominates, this concept of network literacy and comprehending all things internet-based as we once did for all things print, will become second nature. Social activity and online enterprise is a must for media makers, a concept I’m slowly coming to terms with despite all my instincts telling me otherwise. Through such actions we have the freedom to create and collaborate on a scale never before seen.
Word count: 1650
Barabási, Albert-László, 2002, The New Science of Networks, Perseus, Cambridge MA
Galloway, Alexander R, 2006, “Introduction” in Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentrilization, The MIT Press, pp. 8