February 18, 2009

The Return of “Public Media 2.0”

I got a whole lotta heck from my colleagues last year for attempting to coin, or at least advance, the phrase “Public Media 2.0,” as part of my Mesa Refuge writing residency. Basically, the “2.0” concept had/has been played out, they said …

Well, the fact is, the “2.0” suffix may be overused (for myself, I prefer the phrase “New Public Media,” which is pleasingly ambiguous and thus quite accommodating) but such numerology is a useful way of identifying generational shifts in technology and ideas … and I’m glad to say that the standard is now being advanced by American University’s Center for Social Media.

Indeed, the new AUCSM report, “Public Media 2.0,” puts its authors, Jessica Clark and Pat Aufderhide, among the few scholars actively investigating and advancing new ideas about what public media is, can and should be in the Internet era.

In particular, I’m intrigued by the fact that their new report sees the same tension I’ve observed between public broadcasting’s legacy top-down organizational model vs. the Internet’s innately grassroots/bottom-up nature.

I’ll have to read the piece more closely to comment any further, but, an initial look-over indicates that they’re continuing to advance the idea of an engaged public as fundamental to next steps for public media in general. Previously, they’ve also proposed that new public media must be organized by any number of interested citizens (“publics,” in their terminology) specifically to address issues and take action.

I don’t necessarily embrace that last part — in my book, merely engaging with non-commercial media as an observer/audiencemember is significantly participatory in our world of pushbutton politics and passive-consumerist media culture — but it’s an exciting report overall, and I look forward to delving further in.

Stay tuned, also, for updates on my own public-media research, including some postings of extensive interviews I did last year on the topic of “New Public Media” with Clark, Charles Lewis, Persephone Miel, Geneva Overholser and Ted Glasser.

And thanks to the AUCSM folks for advancing this important work!