To say the Interactive Media class was valuable to us would be an understatement. I consider our generation of students to basically be the first generation that grew up with access to the Internet beginning at early childhood (ages 8-10 when the Internet first really came on the scene.) Thus, a class based on studying social activity on the Internet as well as expanding our own interactivity was incredibly relative. This is not to say we did not benefit immensely from an older generation of "digital immigrants" made up of established communications professors and media ecologists. Over the course of establishing a new persona on the Internet we linked what we experienced to the ideas of communication and technology expressed in Communication and Cyberspace: Social Interaction In An Electronic EnvironmentIn our class's bible as we refer to it, the relationship between new media and society is closely examined through the writings of such professors as Lance Strate, Ron L. Jacobson, Stephanie B. Gibson, John M. Phelan, Paul Levinson, Sue Barnes, Neil Postman, etc. Each author examines different media outlets and their purpose for society along with some fears and possible dilemmas each could be associated with.
It seems that as the Internet becomes more and more polished in today's world it is encompassing all of the myriad of media that came before it. Clearly, the Internet will inevitably bring forth all of the concerns that were expressed about media before it. This was evident at the outset of the course when Professor Strate's first assignment was to begin a MySpace page. Almost all of the class preferred other social-networking sites such as Facebook to MySpace and gave Prof. Strate some grief right from the beginning. The fear with MySpace was that it was almost too personal and would instantly make us more intimately connected with the online society. Most of us connected MySpace solely with spammers, online marketing agencies, bad musicians, and creeps. Yet we created a profile hesitantly to see what the class would be all about. Looking back I feel that our fears before joining a new social network have equated to the best parts about this particular site. The fact that people are not afraid to cross borders and reach out to new and interesting people allows all of us to join extended networks made up of people we do not know in the real world, instead of just communicating with our own friends and family via a site like Facebook.
Every reading took us along the path of technology, from the telegraph, trains, and a postal system to radio, television and the Internet, every new media was examined with respect to society. In order to follow along with what the readings were teaching us we attempted the best we could to describe the message through our own online social interactions and other external sources. For example we took what Sue Barnes and Herbert Zettl wrote about virtual reality and the digital self and applied them to social networking (the idea of having friends and relationships that are solely online-based) in addition to Halo 3. The fact that a video game that came out right at the beginning of the course could all of a sudden be pertinent class information was the very nature of what we were learning. The simulated battle scenes with other online players along with constant communication and flaming all coincide with what these authors teach us about virtual reality. In addition we were able to use the ideas expressed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in two consecutive South Park episodes to further understand what Neil Kleinman, Eric A. Zimmer, and Christopher D. Hunter teach us about intellectual property, copyright, and Internet dependancy.
I had studied the work of Marshall McLuhan before taking this Interactive media class however I would be lying if I said I could have understood it as well beforehand. To study Interactive Media in the manner we did gives new meaning to McLuhan's phrase, "The Medium Is The Message." That is to say that we were not learning from the content discussed which often consisted of random YouTube videos, meaningless tweeds, South Park, video games, Pat Garrity, etc. On the other hand it was the medium in which we communicated our ideas to the rest of society thorugh online profiles and groups, and our own videos and blogs that truly drove the course. Neil Postman questions us in his epilogue, "Cyberspace, Shmyberspace", the true purpose of the Internet and humanity's need for this. The simple answer would be to say that it represents McLuhan's idea of the "global village" far more than any technology before it. In today's complex world that is in need of political and social communication without bouandaries, the Internet truly allows us to interact with people we never would have been able to before. Thus, uniting the world more and more each day as a "global village".
As the summer nears I feel the best part of this class is that it is only just begun. During the course of the semester we have started online personas and lives that may continue on into the future without end. This class is still closely connected on MySpace, Twitter and within this blog, so we can continue to learn from each other, maybe even more so, when we are not meeting in a classroom once a week. Our interactions online will now have new meaning as we further expand our networks without the guidance of Professor Strate. How well we stay in touch and continue to understand Interactive Media will be a testament to what this course has taught us. See you in cyberspace. 1