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Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Rushkoff’

c3po r2d2It is certainly no coincidence that books on virtually the same topic by two of the leading contemporary writers on digital media and communications — Robert McChesney and Douglas Rushkoff — are released within a week of each other.  People Get Ready, by Robert McChesney and John Nichols, and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, by Douglas Rushkoff, both address the effects of digital technologies and media on national and world economies and possible consequences for a wide range of issues related to work and human interaction.  And how C3PO and R2D2 might not be your best pals after all.  At least if you have to work to get by (and are not simply funded by the Jedi interstellar trust fund).  You can also check out related earlier posts from mediateacher.net: New Business and Business as UsualMedia Business and Criminology, and VFX and the Art & Business of Moving Images.  

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Slide1Perhaps school started for you recently or you are in the first days of a new school year — here’s a reminder that I have posted earlier pieces for starting off the year, including ones that feature links to media literacy coursework slideshows with linked videos, activities, and other useful resources.

Generation LikeMeanwhile, I was recently reviewing trending topics and reference points for new media, and I laughed when I saw the opening video to Tyler Oakley‘s YouTube page in which he gushes about the wonderful year he’s had  and that PBS “did a documentary about me!”  I guess it says it all about “Generation Like” that he declares it’s a documentary just about him when Douglas Rushkoff and the FrontLine producers create a new, insightful piece about “how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media — and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers.”  As Alissa Quart adds, “today, coolness is … like you have to be constantly selling yourself, showing yourself and marketing yourself… Instead of turning your back to the audience or wearing sunglasses at night, you’re taking off those sunglasses and you’re smiling into the camera.  The currency now is one of constant approval and a constant hum of self-assertion…”  Get it, Tyler?

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5371v1076If you are looking to review media literacy analytical resources that might be useful for the upcoming school year, this hour-long Frontline piece from this past semester can provide useful perspectives on the generation in our classrooms today, christened “Generation Like” in the title to this PBS documentary.  Hosted by author and mediamaker Douglas Rushkoff who writes, “Generation Like explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media — and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers.”  Also take a look at my earlier post which includes a lesson plan created for the Frontline exposés Merchants of Cool and Digital Nation and may provide guidance or ideas for similar lessons with Generation Like.  

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dayofthedoctorThis year saw the landmark 50th anniversary of Dr. Who, the British science fiction show that has seen an astonishing resurgence of popularity during the past decade after being canceled for a decade and a half (with a TV-movie in the midst of the hiatus).  Recently, the show celebrated another notable achievement with the widest distribution simulcast in history to date (for “The Day of the Doctor”), combining the possibilities of various digital technologies (including rapid distribution to theaters and RealD-3D) along with the communal experience of projected moving images.

Back from when prime-time dramas were generally not serials but episodic narratives

Back from when prime-time dramas were generally not serials but episodic narratives

In the past two decades, another remarkable shift has taken place in relation to critical appreciation of fiction writing for movies on big screens and small: namely, that some of the most notable, well-crafted, and culturally and narratively significant storytelling taking place is happening through the medium of television.  Naturally, this is a long tale that can take many volumes to satisfactorily discuss, but it is widely acknowledged that building on earlier examples in genre-setting and -defying dramas such as Hill Street Blues to E.R. to The X-Filestelevision is clearly reaching new levels of character development and narrative complexity with such shows as The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones, among many other passionately followed and hotly debated series.  (Related, but very different, evolutions can be traced in the world of comedy.)


However, there has been something of a critical backlash amidst the high acclaim of many of these series: in numerous analyses, they have been compared to soap-opera.  For example, in Douglas Rushkoff‘s Present Shock (which I very highly recommend for media teachers – or any educators or parents for that matter),  he describes “soap-opera like series” such as The Sopranos and The Wire that feature “no drama, no insight,” as compared to storytelling featuring classical dramatic narrative.  I raise this topic because it relates directly to issues discussed in Moving Images: how do we describe storytelling values, narrative structures, and tone and style throughout media platforms?  In Chapter 5, Personal Expression and Studio ProductionI discuss the definition of serials and their impact on moviemaking practices throughout the 20th century, from the development of the star system to Saturday matinees to television shows.

the-wireHowever, when critics use terms like “soap opera” to describe shows, what do they really mean?  What do readers understand from the term soap opera?  Personally, I think that the interpretation of that description is as much about poor lighting, oddly stylized editing, static blocking, and heavy handed plots twists as it is about open-ended, endlessly spiraling narrative structure (or lack thereof).  Yet the term is consistently used solely for that last reason while it conjures up the poor qualities of all of those attributes ascribed to soap operas.  When investigating, analyzing, evaluating, and learning from new developments in narrative traditions in television series, it is important to distinguish: how do narrative structures evolve within and throughout episodes?  How can we distinguish between different methods and recognize distinctive qualities or values in particular series?  What are the particular lessons of shows like Lost (whose past/present structure was particularly rich in innovation for a few seasons) or Breaking Bad (whose characters arcs of Walt and Jesse are rich troves of investigation in both psychological and moral arenas, while its stylistic range remains relatively unexplored) or The Wire (justifiably lauded for its jaw-droppingly complex, and, yes, satisfyingly constructed character- and thematically-driven narratives that reached levels of classic tragedy in virtually every season) or many others that may be appropriate for either university or high school classrooms?  How do we understand and process the stories that we encounter, how can they create messages and meanings of value, how can they frustrate us with their weaknesses or do they lead us to enlightenment and inspiration?

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Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff, primarily known as the media theorist who has written some of the most important books on digital media and the Internet, and who coined phrases such as “viral media,” “digital native,” and “social currency,” has created some of the most interesting and thought-provoking materials for classroom lessons about contemporary media, including the documentaries The Merchants of Cool (which I have used many times in conjunction with my teaching with Moving Images) and Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier, and his most recent book Program or Be Programmed (this Laughing Squid blog page features videos and an excellent intro to the book).  Last summer, Rushkoff was a keynote speaker at the 2011 NAMLE conference in Philadelphia at which I presented a workshop on integrating media literacy and digital production in the classroom.  Rushkoff’s speech was engrossing and quite funny; moreover, I was impressed by his participation in the conference – he paid close attention to the people and events over the course of the weekend and was clearly connected to what others had to say and do.

A.D.D.: by Rushkoff and illustrator Goran Sudzuka

At the end of this month, a graphic novel he has written with illustrator Goran Sudzuka, A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division, is being released by Vertigo.  What a perfect concept for Rushkoff – a cyber-driven story composed of text and visuals about adolescent gamers who are being manipulated by a future society and must uncover the secret agendas and codes of their world!  Graphic novels continue to be one of the most dynamic media around – one of the nice surprises that as the world goes digital, drawing continues to make a comeback in innovation and inspiration – and the relationship between comics and moving images offers boundless potential for visual storytellers and learning scenarios.  There is an excellent interview with Rushkoff  about the book on his website.

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