OUR INCREASINGLY CONVERGENT CULTURE

It’s incredibly exciting, yet somewhat unnerving, living in a world where so many different aspects of our lives have converged with technological advancement and there’s no reason to believe here’s where it stops.

As a millennial studying Interactive Media and Design in the twenty-first century, technology is an integral aspect of my day to day life. My laptop goes wherever I go, and it has become like my Leatherman for tackling life. This device, along with its even more convenient little sidekick the iPhone, has become an indispensable all-in-one for knowledge obtainment, entertainment, artistic expression, seeking services, and telecommunication. It’s incredibly exciting, yet somewhat unnerving, living in a world where so many different aspects of our lives have converged with technological advancement and there’s no reason to believe here’s where it stops.

Convergence is a word that can be used to describe this phenomenon, as well as the impacts it has had and continues to have on our culture. With such a broad and ambiguous term at our fingertips, let us first look to what the academics have to say so we can establish some common ground and an understanding of the word in this context.
 
Geach (2009) supplies a broad perspective by simply stating that it’s “the coming together of different technologies which have distinct functions to create one medium which performs each divergent function,” and Flew (2014) gives us a little more detail by explaining it as “the interlinking of computing and IT, communications networks, media content enabled by the internet and digital media technologies, and the convergent products, services and activities that have emerged as a result.” Finally, it is Henry Jenkins’ definition that exemplifies the concept the best for the purpose of this piece. Jenkins (2006) defines convergence as, “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted.”
 
In this Convergence Culture, as Jenkins calls it, media is no longer produced or distributed the way it used to be. Our technoculture has given everyone with an internet connection a voice, and the opportunity to communicate despite being incredible distances apart. These days, the news is no longer broadcasted by large companies on the television or radio and consumers are no longer confined to only being able to watch their favourite show at a particular time.
“In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms.” (Jenkins, 2006)
 
It has brought everything together yet made standing out a difficult task. With smartphones filled to the infinite brim with information and entertainment in technicolour, focus has become a rare occurrence. As an interactive media designer, it’s important for me to consider convergence so I can create digital media capable of capturing the attention of an audience with thumbs trained to scroll.
 
Truth be told, there’s more to it. Geach (2009) made a very important comment when stating that, “while convergence has created opportunities for the industry it has also created threats in that the same technology is also being used to infringe the copyright of content producers on a far greater scale. ”  With content traversing across the internet, a strong user-generated community and an active participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006), us artists need to take some additional precautions when it comes to protecting our creations from plagiarism as well as being knowledgeable about copyright, so we don’t steal from others. Knowing the legalities involved in content sharing and creating is of utmost importance. Thankfully, Creative Commons is a thing.
 
Convergence can be intimidating to many industries as it’s such a disruptive force, but with disruption comes the potential for positive change. Who could forget when Apple first released “just another MP3 player” and the iPod kicked off the company’s journey to revolutionising the way the world interacts with technology and media. Just like Apple has done, digital media convergence has transformed many other existing industries in exciting ways whilst enabling “entirely new forms of media to emerge” (Flew, 2014). One of the most impactful is live streaming, which has empowered internet users to showcase their talents and become creators of mass entertainment (Epstein, 2007). As a multi-disciplinary creative, live streaming could be a fantastic way to promote myself and my work by interacting with others in a way that could potentially have a far deeper impact than still imagery and words could achieve. Having a personality on top of creative skills will hopefully be something that can help me stand out in my career amongst our convergence culture.
As a young woman striving to make a career in the wonderful digital world, what I see as being more important than being up to date with the latest social media or entertainment platform is the ability to adapt to the constant changes our Brave New World brings us. I think the best way to do this is to hone our skills, educate ourselves to make the most of the situation, and avoid fearing the unknown. As digital convergence is an inevitable development for our technoculture, there’s no choice but to adapt and embrace it.
 
This includes making some time to be free from screens and constant stimuli! To draw on paper with a pencil, to read a real book and to remember what it’s like to be with your thoughts. The accessibility and connection of the creative culture in this day and age is magnificent, however in this realm where everything can be found in one place,
 
we may need to find a way to streamline our lives in one way or another… to filter out what doesn’t matter to us in order to make some room for what does.
 
Let me know what comes to mind when you think of the implications of living in our increasingly convergent culture in the comments. If you enjoyed the blog, why not subscribe so you can be notified when something new is posted? I would love if you if wanted to hang around for some great discussions!
 
Until next time,
Olivia Meredith.

 

 
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REFERENCES
Flew, T. (2014). New Media: An Introduction (4th Ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Geach, N. (2009). The future of copyright in the age of convergence: Is a new approach needed for the new media world?. International Review Of Law, Computers & Technology, 23(1-2), 131-142. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13600860902742588
Jenkins, H. (2006). Welcome to Convergence Culture. Retrieved 2 February 2018, from http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html
 
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ADDITIONAL READING
Bröring, S., & Leker, J. (2007). Industry Convergence and Its Implications for the Front End of Innovation: A Problem of Absorptive Capacity. Creativity and Innovation Management,16(2), 165-175.
Department of Communication (2012). The Convergence Review: Executive Summary. Canberra: The Australian Government.
Jin, Dal Yong, & ProQuest. (2016). Mobile Gaming in Asia : Politics, Culture and Emerging Technologies. (Mobile Communication in Asia: Local Insights, Global Implications). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
Lawson-Borders, G. (2006). Media organizations and convergence case studies of media convergence pioneers(Routledge Communication Series). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
 
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Note: All images were sourced from http://www.pexels.com, meaning they are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.