After participating in Air-B-N-Me, it allowed me an opportunity to reflect on how it was a microcosm of my experience with digital media as a whole. It was daunting at first, fun and creative once I got into it and yet included some technical obstacles that frustrated me and left me wondering if it was all worth the effort. The opportunity to “participate” in digital media with my colleagues and with others was fun, although it still seemed like less of a free-flowing give-and-take and more of a bulletin board type of opportunity. I don’t think that was the original vision of the project so I’ll give the creators the benefit of the doubt, but I believe that the creativity exhibited by both the creators and participants made the project worthwhile. As I pointed out above, I think it provided a lens into what’s good and bad about my online experiences thus far. It also showed me that the possibility of exploring new ways to use digital media to share online space in a creative way that expands our ideas about reality and community makes the whole thing worthwhile.
Going back to the beginning of the class, we focused on our responsibility to participate in the world of digital media and how the line has become blurred between our “real” lives and our digital lives. This is a tough lesson for a guy like me to learn because I feel strongly that there are simply parts of our lives that should remain unplugged. However, even during the time I’ve been in this class, I’ve found myself dragged (sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly) into the online world more and more (spending more time on my phone, more time tweeting, on Facebook, etc.). Is this good or bad? I still tend to see my kids spending time online and my reflexive response is that they should shut it off and go find a friend to play with outside. However, this class has helped me realize that their online lives are in some ways equally substantial and consequential as their lives in the real world. I am trying not to disparage the lessons they can learn by participating in online communities, while simultaneously trying to take more steps to immerse myself in that world. At the beginning of this class, I wrote in my second blog (This is Collaboration?) that I was appalled at the idea that someone could take the skills they learned in World of Warcraft and parlay that into a job at MIT. The problem I had was seeing how the skills earned by manipulating online communities were so different or more important than the skills used to navigate disputes and problems in the real world. Several months later, I feel like I can look back and have a better understanding of the particular difficulties inherent in building your online profile and communicating therein. Understanding how to communicate without being misunderstood, how to communicate to a large group of people in remote locations and how to keep abreast of the sheer volume of communications in an online space are daunting and unique challenges.
The presentation that I created helped me see more clearly the connection between what I do as a journalist and the participation of people all over the world. Up until now, I still saw UGC (user generated content) as something of a unique aspect of my business – something that overlaps with my job only every once in a while. But I see now that journalism is being transformed as we speak by people providing content and analysis and participating in the way news is not only created but communicated and understood across online spaces. We in the news are no longer even the match that lights the spark, but one match of many. And while we play a role in how news is communicated and understood by the masses we may no longer be the primary conduit of that message or the key to how it is framed. Finally, I’ll mention the technical problems that I encountered along the way. Creating my presentation, joining Instagram and participating in the Air-B-N-Me brought me face-to-face with a number of challenges in actually getting programs to work the way they were supposed to. In many ways I felt like my son as he tried to figure out what file to take pictures from or how to rename them – something totally unrelated to the task he was trying to accomplish (although he didn’t know it). I feel like some of this stuff should be intuitive and it’s not, some is needlessly complicated for the sake of aesthetics and some simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s my old brain trying to comprehend something new, but I don’t think so. I think there are times when people who are in charge of bridging the gap between new media and the new generation sometimes forget about us in the generation that came before. Give us a break – we are trying to get on board as well.