Posted by: soniahs | June 27, 2010

AESS Conference: day 3

The final day of the AESS conference began with the session I chaired, about new media and environmental communication. Unfortunately, it was scheduled at 8 am, which contributed to low attendance. But we were still able to have an interesting discussion after the presentations. My focus was on framing environmental issues for websites of environmental groups- using language, links, images, and interactivity to create consistent (and ideally more effective) messages.

The other presenters focused on coopting the advertising format for environmental messaging, and how interactive technologies were used in protests by Peruvian natives to mobilize resistance to privatization of their land. Through these talks, there were a few threads that were similar. These included the ongoing problem of the “digital divide”, the necessity of personal trust in a fragmenting media landscape, and the difficulty of getting through communication “noise” without resorting to spectacle (or alternatively, by creating subversive messages that catch on).

Later in the day, these themes were echoed and expanded in another session I attended on educational applications of networked technologies. I found this session interesting because it gave me an applied perspective on the theory-driven discussions I’ve had in the T&T program. For example, one of the big ideas in online theory centers on a distinction between “digital natives” (the current generation, weaned on electronics) and “digital immigrants” (older folks, lurching unsteadily into the digital realm). The idea is the “digital natives” are 1) both more comfortable with online tools and 2) enjoy using them. In fact, even without considering the digital divide, these educators have found that this is not the case with many of their students. In fact, many of their students are not comfortable with higher-order networked communication, and mainly prefer to use tethered, prepackaged apps (or Facebook, which is a pretty closed environment). So this was a useful counter-perspective to the enthusiasm of some of my fellow T&T students 🙂

Overall, I did enjoy the conference- it was a useful experience and helped me connect with a group of people with different interests than those I usually converse with- which was a good change! I think some of the ideas and concerns even just with digital communication tools (e.g., information glut, breakdown of a culture of expertise, the risk of virtualizing the world) brought up here will be good food for thought in the upcoming weeks.

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