Convergence culture in action – helping us to teach, to learn and (for some) to earn

Electric Guitars for sale by Malcolm Espinosa http://www.flickr.com/photos/8392120@N03/506089920/ (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Electric Guitars for sale by Malcolm Espinosa (Flickr Image) CC BY-NC 2.0

Jenkins (2006) identified what he termed “convergence culture” – referring to a relationship between media convergence, participatory culture and collective intelligence. In this post I will be looking at a number of instances variously identifying, applying and being inspired by these ideas. The purpose of this post therefore is to bring together a few divergent examples of how this “convergence culture” is operating and in some cases can bring fresh inspiration to teachers and students alike.

A movie is not enough anymore

In a recent piece on “The Conversation” Isaacs (2013)discusses the rise of “convergence entertainment” where creative outputs take on the features of other platforms to create a richer user experience. He gives an example of the cinematic qualities of the recently released Beyond Two Souls video game. Isaacs notes the evolution of gaming platforms to a much richer visual and  narrative media experience, incorporating high profile talent, potentially can take this to new levels. While he expresses some artistic concerns about gaming’s ability to deliver really transformative media experiences in the same way as cinema, what I found most interesting about the piece was the deliberate, high end marketing agenda that operates in making these decisions. This merging of media features could be seen as an extension of what Jenkins (2006) describes as bottom-up influences. While it is important to remember that business decisions are made based on what consumers are willing to pay for rather than what may be in their best interests, the demand by consumers to extend their interactions with characters and narratives beyond a single media platform certainly seems to be there. I hope though that this merging does not mean the end of traditional media experiences for those who prefer them.

Using students’ existing pastimes to deepen understanding of traditional music and texts

Tobias (2013) urges music teachers to look to how their students are engaging with music outside the classroom to inform and extend what occurs within lessons. This call is to music teachers to incorporate opportunities for students to reinterpret traditional works or create new ones based on how they already interact with music. In the case of reinterpreting traditional pieces Tobias (2013) makes the point that students would need to really think about and come to understandings of the old in order to create the new. What I found particularly interesting about this article was that it is enthusiastic about embracing new tools and ways of thinking while at the same time placing pedagogy at the centre of the process. The ideas explored of using music in ways to explain and reflect current thoughts of existing narratives, both musical and textual and incorporating the need to make these products available beyond the classroom really reflect the core notion of education. To take existing knowledge, to interrogate it for meaning and substance, to interpret, relate and apply that meaning to a broader or different context and be willing to express that view clearly for a wider audience are for me, the point of the whole exercise.

Pop culture for science learning and inspiration

Kukusawadia (2013) writes about how science-fiction can be used as a backdrop to science education. He gives examples of Tara Smith using zombies to explain viruses and others determining whether the physics really works for Batman to glide and land safely using his cape. He also notes that as science is really about the nature of life itself, more philosophical discussions can also occur. This type of thinking is incredibly useful for teachers in thinking about how to engage creatively with students. Science-fiction, as Kukusawadia (2013) notes often quickly becomes Science Fact in a short space of time. I cannot help but think this is most likely to occur when people put their science skills together with an “anything may be possible” mindset. Maybe the reason I carry a mobile and can videoconference with friends overseas is because someone clever thought about Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone or George Jetson being berated by his boss via a screen at his desk and decided to see if they could make it happen.

Isaacs, B., (2013). Two Souls, one body: the rise of convergence entertainment. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/two-souls-one-body-the-rise-of-convergence-entertainment-19207

Jenkins, H., (2006, June 19). Welcome to convergence culture [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html

Kukusawada, A., (2013, April 19).  Battlestar Pedagogica: Using Science Fiction to Teach Science [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.plos.org/scied/2013/04/29/battlestar-pedagogica-using-science-fiction-to-teach-science/

Tobias, E.S., (2013). Toward Convergence: Adapting music education to contemporary society and participatory culture. Music Educators Journal, 99(4), 29-36. doi: 10.1177/0027432113483318

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