What is media convergence

One of the new modules I’m teaching this semester is “Creative Media Analysis”, in which we explore the media convergence phenomenon and related cultures. Today I facilitated a “World Cafe” team activity where students collectively did a SWOT analysis on the changing media convergence landscape.

“World cafe” is a large group activity that is known for brainstorming and team building. It can provide a space for community/group conversations to emerge. Usually, some questions are framed in advance at different tables, and then participants will move between tables and meet new people where new perspectives are exchanged. This greatly enriches the possibility for new insights to emerge as they engage in ever-widening circles of thought.

I had four volunteers to run four “cafes” discussing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the current convergent culture. Here’s a summary of students’ thoughts:

Strengths:

– different platforms unit people and cultures worldwide
– access to anywhere from anywhere
– 24/7 immediate access to media
– more opportunities to make money
– more revenue for business or brands
– you can broaden your ideas across different platforms..
– explore content in various ways (including user generated content)
– everyone has an opportunity of being a content producer / citizen journalist.
– social media allows one to filter out news / personalise your news channels.
– news can be condensed so that you can read it quicker.
– interactive, participatory audiences
– niche audiences
– news on demand
– replay and watch as many times as you want

Weaknesses:

– choice fatigue (in terms of platforms and channels): too many choices can’t decide what platforms to use, and hard for audiences to ‘keep up’ with it all
– too complicated, confusing, overwhelming (YL: I guess students could be telling their feeling about the subject under study here)
– illegal downloads and piracy
– people lack of social skills (YL: perhaps students were referring to flamewars on social media or complaints sent to BBC’s Points of View)
– expensive and less cost-effective (YL: It’s an interesting point, especially when it’s raised as a weakness. Media convergence is usually adopted by media organisations as a strategy to plan their resources better, hence the 360-degree commissioning and programming. However, it could be expensive at the macro level including lying down the infrastructures (not just network cables, computers but also education and regulations. So indeed it could be an expensive business and in the short term perhaps not that cost-effective. However, there are many different kinds of values and currencies we can look at in this emerging world. In addition to economic values, we can also look at social values and public values. In addition to fiscal/monetary currencies, we can look at attention economy.)
– TV gets less ratings because there is other ways of accessing things.
– Less print and money lost for print industry
– Digital divide – some people have restricted access to technology therefore can’t participate in new media culture. (YL: The digital divide can be analysed from different angles: hardware (have or have-not); literacy (can or cannot). Some students for example point out that older people can’t cope, and not everyone is technology-savvy.)
– The market is too competitive. And ideas could be stolen in this highly competitive world.
– cost of keeping up with technology
– not all
– internet connection may fail
– content not interesting enough
– buffering
– time thief
– harder to reach a mass audience on one platform given the audience fragmentation
– copyright issues
– instant gratification
– Google Rage! (YL: My first encounter to this term. Feeling really LKK.)

Opportunities:

– employment – more jobs and different types of jobs (YL: Yes – vertical convergence requires a wide range of skillsets)
– networking
– franchise and merchandise
– more content
– interactivity
– 3D (YL: I guess this is about under-exploited or unexploited or emerging new technologies)
– different platforms
– peer production
– more people can voice and share opinions – “we media”
– self-made celebrity (YouTube “Stars” “Fame”)
– multiple platforms
– different audience groups

Threats:

– bullying
– technology failing
– technological determinism
– content being biased or lack of focus or lack of mediation
– difficult to keep up with all media platforms (for consumers as well as industry)
– Print could become obsolete due to online news becoming more popular
– Slander
– Copyright issues
– uncertainties
– competition between different channels
– dangerous to print industry (YL: But a risk can also be positive!)
– competition increasing
– law breaking (YL: guess they were referring to the hacking scandal)
– dependent on technology
– less new content, less innovative (excessively recycled)
– audience belive they can control the media when it is still chosen for them (YL: guess this is about gate-keeping and the tension between professionalism and amateurism)
– job losses

Really good contributions from everyone. It covers a lot of things we’ve discussed and instigates a lot more questions to be explore. Amid the computer-driven convergent trend where everything is vulnerable, transient and changing, I believe that the future of media should not be prescribed; instead, it should be defined and explored through actively engaging in a dialogue and constantly reflecting from what happened and what’s happening. And this belief is being embedded in my pedagogical activities.

I think we had lots of fun today. I also used the Crossword puzzle maker to create a “Media Convergence” crossword puzzle for the students to solve. Unfortunately, none of them got it all – no one claimed the prize. Will try again next week.

One thought on “What is media convergence

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