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Media in (Continuing, Accelerating?) Transition

We're now in the last plenary here at MiT5 - a summary session drawing together the many threads of research and practice explored at this conference. Suzanne de Castell is the first contributor to this panel, and she notes the increasing fluidity of previously more solid cultural forms. We have moved beyond text as our primary mode of representation in multiple ways, and have left behind the cultural logics of print; this is challenging especially for the educational environment. Remix, in particular, with its various aspects of plagiarism, reappropriation, adaptation, and inspiration, is a particularly important issue for education to address; we must move far beyond cut'n'paste in our embrace of remix approaches, and education is going to be instrumental in this context. We must also pay particular attention to what is being held on to, and what is being left behind - Suzanne notes that much of the input into what are seen as valuable remix projects is still highly gendered and canonical, ignoring a significant number of other sources. The concept of remix itself must be adjusted by looking at the remixing practices and approaches in cultures other than the male-dominated Anglo 'high' culture. Knowledge is always situated, always accountable to its communities, and always under ongoing construction.

José van Dijck, whom I've chatted with on and off during the last few days as our papers spoke to one another quite closely, follows on. She notes the sense of the dawn of a new era which was notable throughout the conference - the feeling of an emergence of a Generation C, of free culture. At the same time, it is also important to recognise that there remains a strong divide between what took place here at the conference, and the lived experience of the majority of the American and world population. Generation C remains a small minority, and may well still exist on the back of an entirely different, material, consumer culture and is subsidised by it. 'C' continues to stand also for consumption, commodification, and control, and this should not be forgotten.

Similarly, our sense of excitement here is not all that different from the sense of excitement felt for example during the summer of love in the late 60s (the buzz of Generation B - the baby boomers); there was a similar feeling of collectivism and the ability to change power relations. If we have learnt anything from 1968, then it must be how this sense of excitement and sharing can be quickly taken over by legal and illegal commercial interests from drug dealers to media industries. The language of co-creation and produsage (José is here specifically mentioning the panel John Banks, Jean Burgess, and I were on yesterday) is also being taken up very quickly today by marketing journals and sites like - we must reflect more on the appropriation of user-led creativity in commercialism, and on the blurring of the lines between the two. We need more sophisticated and inclusive models of collectivism, and José is suggesting the development of a new and more holistic 'theory 2.0' framework to address such issues.

Fred Turner is up next, and he also notes the need to connect further with historical precedents. Much work here was connected to arguments around collective literary authorship, struggles around copyright and participation (especially in an American legal context), cultural change through increased participation, and educational change in the context of participatory culture. But it is also important to look at histories of corporate transformation - not only are producer/audience relations changing, but also corporate/consumer relations more generally -, as well as to address questions of military culture: games, for example, are often closely related to such culture where they are based on the aim of achieving mastery (especially in using simulated weapons). Further, questions around democratic and political life, beyond the role of the mass media, also need to be addressed, as do questions of race: online participants often continue to perform racial styles which are significantly hardened, and this needs to be broken up further. We need more theories of how networks connect to institutions beyond the media corporations; we also need more techniques and theories on how to identify which aspects of the past matter in influencing our present-day trajectories.

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