IAFOR Publications Executive Editor: Joseph Haldane The International Academic Forum
IAFOR Keynote Series Thomas G Endres Director, School of Communication Professor of Communication Studies University of Northern Colorado, USA
Editor: Melissa Choi Assistant Editor: Mai Hasuno
Published by The International Academic Forum (IAFOR), Japan IAFOR Publications. Sakae 1-16-26-201, Naka-ward, Aichi, Japan 460-0008 Executive Editor, IAFOR Publications: Joseph Haldane Photo provided by John Jankow, The Kress, USA IAFOR Keynote Series Summer 2013 IAFOR Publications ÂŠ Copyright 2013 ISSN: 2187-4905 (Online) http://iafor.org/keynotes.html
MediAsia 2012 / FilmAsia 2012 The Asian Conference on Media and Mass Communications The Asian Conference on Film and Documentary Osaka, Japan Keynote Address, November 3 2012 Dr Thomas G Endres
INTRO A couple of months ago, I was hiking on Baldy Mountain just outside of Breckenridge, Colorado. At 11,234 feet (more than 3,400 meters) above sea level, I reached an old sawmill. I stopped for a rest and took a picture of the mill with my cell phone. Here I was, near the top of the world. Close to the altitude where airplane pilots require oxygen or pressurized cabins. And, because I had satellite reception, I posted the picture immediately to Facebook. As I was hiking back down the mountain, I could hear my phone beep and buzz as friends commented on and liked the picture. We hear about and read about how social networking and the internet has changed the way we share information, but it doesn’t really hit home until you are standing alone on top of a mountain while simultaneously – and virtually –being surrounded by others. I can only imagine that my experience was a small fraction of what was experienced by Felix Baumgartner on October 14, as he stood on that small platform 24 miles (over 38 kilometers) above the surface of the earth. While his speed of sound leap from space was fascinating enough, what makes it truly amazing is that – even without network coverage – 40 television stations in 50 countries carried the live feed. More amazing yet is that most people, myself included, watched the event live on the internet. At its peak, it’s estimated that there were 8 million simultaneous viewers watching worldwide on YouTube. Whether viewed from the top of a mountain, or from a space capsule in orbit, the world of media and forms of mass communications are changing, daily, by leaps and bounds. THESIS My talk for today is titled “Media and Mass Communication Education: A School’s Eye-View”. As I look at the conference program, I see that this audience is comprised of individuals from at least seventy-five institutions in almost thirty countries. I cannot presume for a second that your college or university is like mine. But hopefully I can find some common touchstones and experiences to talk about today. What I’ve seen over the past three decades is that, no matter where you go in higher education, there are always challenges, budget cuts, competition for resources, ever-changing expectations, and the constant need to define and defend oneself and one’s discipline to students, colleagues, upper administration, and stakeholders. To that end, today I would like to touch upon some of the challenges faced by media-related programs in higher-education – characterized by the words explosion, implosion, and illusion – and then provide three suggestions and some stories from my leadership experiences that may provide useful as you face similar challenges at your home institutions.
CHALLENGES Explosion Let’s start by looking at those challenges. At this conference in 2010, Gary Swanson was the keynote speaker, and he opened his remarks by sharing Neil Postmann’s view that the future was upon us and overtaking us. Gary argued, as does Postmann, that we are not moving into an Orwellian 1984 future where governments are the culprit in squelching the human spirit and the flow of knowledge. Rather, we risk the future of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where we willingly turn over our books and our brains to the opiate of the masses – in this case, the internet and – in particular – participatory and social media. It is not surprising that the explosion of Social Media usage is one of the three main themes of this year’s conference. The conference planners state it best in their opening definition: Over the past decade social media has infused itself in the lives of every young person in the developed world today. The types of social media that we use are ever growing, evolving and changing. The way we communicate has also changed dramatically - moving further away from face-to-face communication in exchange for an almost-perpetual need for text messaging, checking Facebook accounts, and instant communication via smart phones. Clearly, this is a significant variable impacting our ability to educate future journalists and mass communicators. And, while it seems to have taken a lot of educators by surprise, we should have seen it coming.
Social and Participatory Media In 2003, Howard Rheingold coined the term smart mobs; a phrase used to describe the throngs of people he saw moving about and looking at – not talking into - their cell phones. In discussing smart mobs, Rheingold wonders about the impact of texting, internet nodes, and online auctions on daily human interaction. He states that: (T)he result is an infrastructure that makes certain kinds of human actions possible that were never possible before: The killer apps of tomorrow’s infocom industry won’t be hardware devices or software programs but social practices. The most far-reaching changes will come, as they often do, from the kinds of relationships, enterprises, communities and markets that the infrastructure makes possible. From an education standpoint, we are not just talking about technology, or a skill set. We are talking about a fundamental shift in the way human beings process and share information. When it comes to news, we have moved from “Stop the Press” to “Press the Status”. It is not just the news, however, but all information that is impacted. Verbal. Nonverbal. Linguistic. Paralinguistic. Visual. Instrumental. Emotive. Social. Interpersonal. Cultural. And the list goes on. There’s no way I could actually capture the complexity of social and participatory media in a single talk, but allow me to simply highlight a few recent statistics and findings: A March 2010 report from the Pew Research Center, titled Understanding the participatory news consumer, found that 92% of Americans use multiple platforms, e.g. TV, internet, newspapers, radio, to get their news. Two years ago, television was still in the lead as the primary source, with the internet a close second.
Ivan Kylko and Michael McCluskey cited this Pew data in their August 2012 Communication Theory article titled Media Effects in an Era of Rapid Technological Transformation: A Case of User-Generated Content and Political Participation. They concluded, not surprisingly, that User-Generated Content, or UGC, is a growing trend. 25% of internet users in North America have commented on a news story or a blog post; 11% have tagged online content, 9% have contributed an article, picture, or video to a site. They suggest that a mix of attributes including greater customizability and community orientation lead to greater political participation. Now, on the surface, greater political participation seems like a good thing. But I’ll tell you what it’s been like in the United States for the past year as we move into this week’s presidential election. It has become a nightmare of narrowcast phone calls, angry blogs, divisive Facebook posts, and scathing political satire. Participatory media contributes to the impression that our country is divided into red states and blue states with uncompromising and irresolvable partisan differences. The process has become both disheartening and exhausting. For me, the most pleasant diversion in the political campaign came the night that actor Clint Eastwood spoke at the Republican National Convention. As a shtick, Eastwood decided to speak to an empty chair as if it were an invisible President Obama. His delivery was unfocused and uncomfortable, like a crotchety old man telling the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. Both parties agreed that it was not a good strategy. Within minutes, my Facebook account was filled with stinging commentary. Within hours, there were memes and other cartoons posted making fun of the aging actor. By the next morning, the fad of “Eastwooding” was born, referring to the act of scolding an empty chair. And it’s not just the political arena that’s impacted. Commerce is hugely affected by social media. According to an October 16 2012 marketing blog titled Webbiquity, 30% of the world’s entire population is now online, with social networking as the most popular and time consuming activity. Users spend 22% of their time engaging on social media channels. What does that mean in terms of overall numbers? • It means that more than 250 million tweets and 800 million Facebook status updates are now published every single day. • It means that 20% of all pageviews on the web are on Facebook. More than 500 million people log in to Facebook each day, and they collectively post 3.2 billion likes and comments. • It means that two new users join LinkedIn every second, and that YouTube is the third-mostvisited site on the web, with two billion views per day. • As a result, 90% of marketers now use social networks in their marketing efforts, and 90% of companies with 100 or more employees use social media in their marketing mix. We have to prepare ourselves, and our students, for that kind of information and entertainment martketplace. Implosion Ironically, even as news, politics, and commerce literally explode with the growth of social media, related technologies are simultaneously imploding – causing a reduction, or collapse, or vacuum within the information system. Eli Pariser, in his 2011 book The Filter Bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think, discusses the consequences of the change which occurred on Dec. 4, 2009, when Google search engines became personalized. Not everyone realizes that, if we sit side by side using our personal computers or laptops and type in the same search string….like weather patterns or Justin Bieber…that our results will not be the same. The search engine looks at internet filters, such as
previous searches, to extrapolate what you might want to see. It creates what’s known as a “YouLoop,” where public opinion becomes less relevant. When I first started learning media theory in college, a few concepts cropped up that warned me about the power of media. For example, I was warned by scholars such as McCombs and Shaw about Agenda Setting Theory, in which the media did not tell me what to think, but rather, by emphasizing certain items as more salient than others, it told me what to think about. These algorhythms in Google seem worse, since it is now only me telling me what is salient. Similarly, I was taught about Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence, where a vocal majority opinion could eventually intimidate me into silencing my own voice. With a YouLoop, the majority opinion is mine, which puts me on an insidious path of conforming to a tighter and tighter manifestation of my own viewpoint. Shifting gears somewhat, another technology that is potentially imploding upon itself and creating a vacuum for our film advocates in here, is the move away from film itself and toward DCP, or Digital Cinema Package. In an effort to reduce costs and raise profits, Hollywood is leading the charge of converting all blockbuster films to a digital format that can be mailed on a hard drive, rather than distributed in large, bulky cans. It is tolling the death knell for 35mm film, and potentially taking with it a large number of art houses, indie theaters, and film programs. Currently, in my hometown of Greeley, CO, a local independent theater called the Kress is in the middle of a one-month fund-raising campaign to purchase $80,000 USD worth of digital projection equipment in order to stay in business. They have less than two weeks left in their campaign drive, and have thus far raised $47,000. If they do not succeed, they expect to close their doors sometime in 2013, when they can no longer obtain first run films. Yes, we can still shoot on film. Or we can use lower cost digital alternatives to work around the DCP standards, or simply air our films on Amazon.com or YouTube. But the challenge to produce an independent film or documentary that has a chance of distribution in the larger markets will continue to grow. Where does higher education fit in? This is the first year of the FilmAsia component of this conference. At what point does technology dictate that it become the annual DCPAsia conference instead? Illusion Before I move on and talk about my suggestions, I’d like to take a step back and mention another older and more ubiquitous challenge in the form of an illusion facing media-related education today. In their 2004 book Boxing Plato’s Shadow, Michael Dues and Mary Brown trace the challenges facing the discipline of Communication (in which I would include mass communication) back to the days of Aristotle and the development of rhetoric, which he defined as the available means of persuasion. Dues and Brown argue that there are three reasons our message-centric disciplines face continual struggle as being perceived as a legitimate academic pursuit. One, though our focus on human message exchange has always been central, our area of study has shifted and the name has changed. Are we Rhetoric? Communication? Speech? Media Studies? Mass Comm? Journalism? Language Arts? By comparison, the disciplines of History, Philosophy, and English (from which many of our programs took flight) have remained unchanged. Two, we look at a process that cuts across many other disciplines. One scholar has defined “communication” as the discipline of refugees. We have no central theory. Again, we all look at message exchange, but we do so by borrowing from psychology, sociology, anthropology, literary criticism, and
disciplines across both the humanities and social sciences. On my home campus, Film Studies is the property of the English department, and photojournalism is taught by the College of Art & Design. The third reason our discipline struggles to gain respect is due to the existence of the dark-side of communication. We can use messages – face-to-face, online, in film - to deceive one another and to bring about negative effects. One need only consider the tragic byproducts of the film Innocence of Muslims to see this in action. This anti-Islam film, which I admit to watching just to see what the controversy is about, is horrible at all levels. Not only is it horrible in terms of its hateful and culturally insensitive message, it is also truly horrible in its production value. My friends and I made better quality movies using wind-up cameras with standard eight black and white silent film when I was in junior high. Regardless, the movie exemplifies the dark side of our discipline and, even though we are not responsible for its production, we are aligned with it because it happens to be a mediated message. In addition to these three reasons Dues and Brown provide another sterling insight into why we struggle as a field, and it culminates in the title of their book: Boxing Plato’s Shadow. It starts in ancient Greece with Socrates, the philosopher who believed that capital T truth could be educed (literally “drawn out”; where we get the word education) via a method of questioning we now call the Socratic Method. His most influential follower was Plato, who believed truth was fixed and could be known only to trained and discerning philosophers. At the same time, Athens was moving toward democracy and developing a legal system. A group known as the sophists supported teaching persuasion and debate skills. Plato viewed these ideas as harmful; as putting delivery over substance. His belief that those who are trained in effective information dissemination are in fact charlatans remains to this day. Dues says that defending oneself against the bad reputation Plato gave us feels like shadow boxing; fighting an ephemeral image on a wall that you can never really touch. We are still boxing Plato’s shadow when we hear about “mere rhetoric” or when arguments are referred to as “sophistry.” When even journalists tell us that the media cannot be trusted, we are trying to overcome a stereotype twenty-four centuries in the making. With these challenges, then, of the explosion of social media, the implosion of narrowed technologies, and the illusion fostered by Plato’s shadow, we struggle with the question: How do we teach the next generation?
A SCHOOL’S-EYE VIEW From here we move to the second half of my presentation; what I’m calling a School’s Eye View of media and mass communication education. Our School To help contextualize my thoughts, I’d like to take just a moment and tell you a little bit about our school at the University of Northern Colorado. We are a state-funded institution located in a rural region approximately one hour north of Denver, Colorado. We were founded in 1889 as the state normal school, that is, the place where future educators received their teaching licenses. We have just over 12,000 students; 10,000 undergraduates and about 2,500 graduate students. I am director of the School of Communication, which houses the Communication Studies and the Journalism & Mass Communications programs. Our school has 17 full-time faculty, two staff, one work study student, a handful of adjuncts, and seven graduate teaching or research assistants. Taken together, our school has anywhere from 800-900 majors, minors, pre-majors, and grad students. We are one of
the larger degree producing programs on campus; approximately one of every 12 graduates from UNC is a graduate of our school. So, we’re not the Annenberg School of Communication, but we do all right. Due to the poor economy, money has been extremely tight on our campus. We had a pay freeze for four straight years, are just slowly coming out of a technology freeze, and we are still in a hiring freeze. That might sound like things are pretty bad, but I think I can say with confidence that, in our particular unit, things are really pretty good. I compare our experience to that of our state’s highest funded flagship institution down the road, the University of Colorado at Boulder. Their once popular journalism school was largely eliminated, reallocated, and reorganized over the past five years. The J School had its own Advisory Board who, instead of being advocates, went before the university’s board of regents and recommended that the school be shut down. Michael McDevitt and Shannon Sindorf tried to explain how this happened in their summer 2012 article in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator titled How to Kill a Journalism School: The Digital Sublime in the Discourse of Discontinuance. Briefly, they concluded that the mythology of technology, which I addressed in the first half of my presentation, scared them into thinking that journalism education was irrelevant. Think about that -The journalism advisory board believed that information technology was so unmanageable that it no longer made sense to teach students how to manage it. In our country, we call that throwing out the baby with the bathwater. So how, in the midst of such tumultuous times, does our school remain strong? What follows are three suggestions I offer based on my own experiences. Again, our institutions are so diverse that I cannot begin to predict or address what’s going on at each school. But hopefully some of my ideas will resonate with you and offer some help at either a personal or professional level.
SUGGESTIONS #1: Embrace Our Past and Our Future The first suggestion I have for mass communication education is that we need to embrace both our media past and our future. By the past, yes, I mean that we still need to teach the history and impact courses - but I also mean something even more than that. When I teach media theory to my students I first tell them stories about how media has changed just in my lifetime. There’s a reason I do this. Bear with me a few minutes while I stroll down memory lane. For some of you, this will be familiar territory. For the young’uns in the crowd, it might feel like ancient history. Let’s start with phones. Most of my students have touch screen smart phones. When I tell them I grew up on a party line, where multiple neighbors shared the same landline phone number, they looked at me like I’m an alien. I explain that, when I was their age, all phones were landlines. If you wanted to talk to someone, you had to be at your house or in a phone booth. And the person you wanted to talk to had to be at home. Until I was in high school, nobody even owned an answering machine. I remember when they first came out; we used to be offended if an answering machine picked up. How impersonal. Then we became offended if they didn’t have an answering machine so you could leave a message. How unthoughtful.
Then I tell my students what it was like to go away to college, often in another city. You rarely talked to your parents because long-distance phone calls were expensive. Like many students, I had a once-aweek, ten-minute phone call with family. You never called friends. Why do I tell this to my students? Because I want them to try and understand how important letter-writing was in those days. The written word mattered. Penmanship and grammar mattered. I also want them to imagine what it was like waiting for information. They get frustrated today if someone doesn’t reply to a text within two minutes. Imagine waiting two weeks to get a return letter. When that letter arrived, with the written word, it was like magic. Then turn to television. These days, my wife and I sit next to each other on the couch and try to watch TV. We get about 200 channels, and have another 500 or so TV episodes or movies we could call up on-demand. Sadly, we often conclude that there is nothing to watch. Once we land on something, we sit there, each of us with an Android phone in one hand and a tablet (I have a Samsung Galaxy, she has an iPad) in the other. And we look at screens. My students understand what that is like. What they can’t wrap their minds around is that, when I was young, we had only three stations (if we were lucky and had good reception) on our one black and white television. There were no remote controls; if you wanted to change the channel you got up and walked across the room. There were no premium channels or Tivo’s or pre-recorded anythings. But when I went to school the next day, I knew that everybody I would talk to had watched the same thing that I did the night before. On Monday, we all knew the punchlines from that weekend’s Saturday Night Live. Television created conversation and community, not fragmentation. In my mind and memory, the medium almost lived up to its potential. But the biggest difference, for me, is movies. Today’s students have an untold number of movies at their disposal: at multi-plex movie theaters, from rental kiosks like RedBox, available for purchase in clearance bins at WalMart or Best Buy, available for purchase online in hard copy or streaming through Amazon.com, Crackle, Hulu, Xfinity, Netflix, and more. So I tell them what it was like to live in a town with a single screen theater. Before the days of movie channels or VCRs or DVD players. I ask them to imagine what movie watching was like when, as far as you knew, you would never see this movie again in your life. In the 70’s, when I first saw movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, and the original Star Wars, it was an unparalleled experience. I would go to those movies every night; sometimes multiple times each night, so I could burn the images into my mind. I then return from memory lane, but hopefully with those lessons intact….that media forms brought magic, connectedness, community, and memories in ways that we now sometimes take for granted. The past shows us the potential of our future. With that, however, we must step into that future. And some folks in higher education are reluctant to do so. Miglena Sternadori and Jeremy Littau published an interesting article in the April 2012 Journal of Media Education. Their long title - “With a little help from my friends: motivations and patterns of social media use and their influence on perceptions of teaching possibilities” – led to a very simple finding. They found that younger teachers using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, felt it was a useful tool that increased their credibility with students and was cutting edge. In contrast, older teachers found it pandering to students, too risky with uncontrolled content, and better served by university tools such as Blackboard and WebCT. The biggest distinction between these groups, however, was actual use. The older generation was spouting these negative consequences without actually having used the technologies. The more faculty actually used social media and related tools, the more positive their reaction. Others agree we need to step boldly into the future, but suggest we don’t need academic programs anymore to help us do it. Howard Finberg, Director of Partnerships and Alliances at the Poynter
Institute, at a June 2012 keynote address at the European Journalism Centre in the Netherlands, predicted “an evolution and uncoupling between the value of journalism education and a journalism degree.” He argued primarily and correctly, that journalism in the market place is often under-valued, and that today’s journalists often lack the skills necessary to be successful in the industry. And he shared the result of the survey he conducted with almost two thousand professionals and professors asking how vital a journalism degree was to understanding the value of journalism and equipping students with needed skills. He found that +95% of academics felt the degree was very to extremely important, while only 56 to 59% of professionals felt the same way. From this he suggests this uncoupling of education and a degree; encouraging future journalists to get their training online via innovative platforms such as earning certificates or digital badges. Arguing that getting training in journalism needs to be easier, he concludes, “Journalism education cannot teach its way to the future”. As a teacher, I would disagree, and say that – while our journalism education needs some overhaul and updating – we are still the single, best, and most valid way to produce future journalists. TEACHING our way into the future is the only way to do it. Because “anybody” can be an armchair journalist, I believe that puts more responsibility on us in higher education to properly train the ones who want to be the professionals. In order to do so most effectively, we move to my second suggestion – mass communications’ need to assert its own disciplinary integrity.
#2: Assert Disciplinary Integrity In 2006, Howard Rheingold of Smart Mob fame, delivered an online audio lecture titled The Pedagogy of Civic Participation. In it, he observed, like Finberg just did, that “Education – the means by which young people learn the skills necessary to succeed in their place and time – is diverging from schooling”. Much education, he said, is happening after school and on weekends as youth share digital SMS messages, podcasts, blogs, and the like. The problem, he points out, is that while a “willingness to learn new media by point-and-click exploration might come naturally to today's student cohort, there's nothing innate about knowing how to apply their skills to the processes of democracy”. Now, whether you call it democracy, or participatory citizenship, or social adeptness, or media literacy – the application of critical thinking skills in order to make sense of the fast paced digital environment – is something that needs to be taught. And so it remains our responsibility. This, of course, requires that we in higher education constantly update and upgrade not only our technology, such as bringing tablets and apps into our classrooms, but our mission and vision statements, curricula, our theories, our operational definitions and our world views. I’m very proud of my journalism faculty back in Northern Colorado. For the past decade, we have made ongoing efforts to modernize. Phrases like “convergent media” are the main topic of faculty meetings. We have updated our courses in media law and media ethics, and have added a new highly popular course – which Gary teaches – Visual Journalism in the New Media. As we move into this coming semester we will both (a) complete the full conversion to digital in our television studio, and (b) begin holding evening meetings after hours, in what will be a multi-year discussion – to collectively answer the
question, “What is Journalism?”. Our efforts to answer that latter question is probably more important to our success in educating future journalists than is all the digital equipment that we plan to install. If our academic programs will not ask these questions, who will? In defining our boundaries and establishing our disciplinary integrity, we become the banner bearer for the next generation of critically informed journalists. Not all programs are willing to do this, mainly due to time constraints. I’d like to quickly interject a concept I try, as a leader, to keep in mind called Pareto’s Principle, sometimes called the 80/20 rule or the principle of the vital few. Basically, it states that 80% of the value or effects within a group of items lies within just 20% of the cases or means within the items. For example, 80% of the dirt on your floor is on only 20% of the carpet, because you tend to walk the same patterns. 80% of the food you order in a restaurant comes from only 20% of the items on the menu, because you keep ordering the things you like. 80% of the laundry you wash is on only 20% of your clothes, because you regularly wear your favorite things. Thus, it’s okay to spend 80% of your time in mass communication meetings discussing only 20% of media topics – as long as you are discussing the important 20%... like civic participatory media. As you discuss, remember one of the indictments of Dues and Brown in Boxing Plato’s Shadow – that we lack the theoretical coherence found in other humanities and social sciences. While Lasswell’s 1948 formula of Who? Says what? In which channel? To whom? With what effect? - remains a great building block on which to problematize our definitions, we need to do more. I’m not suggesting that we all agree on a central or universal theoretical model. That would be impossible. But we must have the discussions. For example, I personally have been pleased with the Media Choice Model, or MCM, first proposed by Thorson and Duffy in 2006. It expands upon the largely accepted Uses & Gratifications model to look at predictive factors why individuals may select certain media. They start by looking at four basic communication needs. Not surprisingly, the first three are connectivity (our need to relate to others), information (our need for knowledge) and, with shades of Neil Postmann, our need for entertainment. To this they add shopping and consuming needs. What would a media theory be today that couldn’t account for amazon.com, Overstock, craigslist, woot, newegg, and ebay? Time doesn’t permit me to elaborate on MCM more, other than one observation that leads me to my next point. MCM authors have gone beyond looking at traditional news and entertainment media venues with their theory, and have adapted it to other genres such as science and health. Similarly, as we assert our disciplinary integrity, we must also seek to cultivate interdisciplinary connections. This isn’t the same messy overlap that Dues and Brown were talking about. This is purposeful and strategic cross-connections. As I’ve mentioned, our school is comprised of both a Journalism & Mass Communications program and a Communication Studies program. Our faculty find great value in collaborative efforts. For example, our Interpersonal Communication teacher also teaches journalism’s Television Criticism class. Our media law professor and our courtroom communication teacher regularly collaborate on research projects. Gary has traveled with communication faculty to South America to help photograph and document studies in family resiliency. I teach a graduate level course in popular culture where students deconstruct media messages in film, television, and music using dramatistic, feminist, Marxist, and other rhetorical perspectives. Whether it be connections with History, English, Political Science, Business, or Education, to name just a few – seek out interdisciplinary opportunities.
#3: Get Your Head on Straight My third and final main point suggestion for improving media education is to get your head on straight. If you haven’t heard this term before, it’s an idiomatic expression reminding us that we need to keep our thoughts focused and reasoned, avoiding unnecessary distractions and self-defeating perspectives. Basically, we need to have the right mental attitude in order to do justice to the future of media education. In my closing minutes, I’d like to share three brief attitudinal mindsets that I’ve attempted to integrate into my personal and professional decisions. The first is to Discern Within Your Givens. That is, make decisions realistically based upon the economic, governmental, institutional, political, and resource constraints you’ve been given. We must do the best with what we have. In 1955, Ilse Aichinger published a short story titled ‘The Bound Man’. It is a Kafka-esque like tale of a man who wakes up one morning to find that he has been robbed, and that his assailants have left him in the woods, tied in rope from head to foot. Rather that resign himself to his fate, he slowly figures out how to move within his bonds. He gets to his feet and, in time, gains his balance. In fact, he discovers a degree of balance and agility that he never knew he possessed. With practice, he learns to leap through the air with the grace of a dancer or an athlete. At one point, he is attacked by a wolf, and he uses his new found abilities to subdue the wolf. He realizes that, without his bonds, he most likely would have been killed. Our academic units are like that bound man. Our success comes from our ability to adapt to our limitations. It’s too easy to say, “we’re all tied up; we can’t do anything”. You don’t know what you can do until you push against the ropes. I’ve mentioned that my own school is facing tremendous budget cuts. Just this year I’ve had to put on hold a proposal for launching an online masters degree, and just last week I got the bad news that a new position we wanted to advertise was not approved. But rather than not even try, it’s important to figure out what you can accomplish. We may have a tight budget, but we just finished construction of two new faculty offices. We recently doubled the space we had for editing bays, and added to the space used for our student public relations club. We have not given up. A second suggestion I have for keeping your head on straight is to Stop Apologizing. Because of all the fast changes in media, as well as the ugly and sometimes deceptive practices that some media outlets use, we in academia tend to hang our head in shame in front of students and administrators, even for things that are not our fault. For example, I’ve served the last nine years on our campus’s Student Media Corporation Board which, among other things, oversees our student newspaper called the Mirror. When the Mirror’s contract with the university was originally written, before the days of the internet, it stipulated that the paper would be published three times a week. In these past few years, with diminished ad revenue for print combined with increased printing costs, the paper risked going broke. The general manager of the paper decided the best thing to do financially was to move to a once-a-week hard copy, with an ongoing and continually updated version of the paper available online. He was certain the university was going to cut their funding for being in breach of contract, and had us on the board advise him on how to inform university officials of this decision.
We literally had to tell him to stop apologizing as if he had done something wrong. As director of the school, I let him know how pleased I was that our students were getting this wonderful type of real world experience that would make them more marketable upon graduation. We’ve fostered this myth that somehow “journalism is dead” because newspapers are going out of business. But NEWS isn’t dead. That’s like saying the music industry is dead because they no longer produce cassette tapes. What we must do instead is take the high ground and establish why what we are doing is the best thing to do. As for our student paper, they made the transition this semester, and the results are fantastic. For example, the student body can follow the Saturday football game on Facebook and know the final score immediately rather than wait until a Monday morning print addition. This is nothing to apologize for. On a related note, we sometimes apologize for Plato’s Shadow, or for Amusing Ourselves to Death in Huxleyan fashion. Maybe it’s time to start taking the high ground there as well. Steven Johnson’s 2005 book, Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making us Smarter, does just that. While maybe not the best academic treatise, he does pose some interesting arguments on behalf of digital culture. One of these he labels the Sleeper Curve, named after Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, Sleeper, in which a man awakens from a cryogenic sleep in the year 2173 to find a future where deep fat, cream pies and hot fudge are good for you. While it’s probably not a good idea to name your theory after an indefensible premise from a 40 year old comedy, Johnson does provide data and examples showing that young people today exhibit enhanced cognitive facilities. These are brought about, he says, through the cognitive and physical dexterity skills required for video games, and the complex multiple plots in TV shows. He says the same is true of film, as he compares and contrasts the intellectual challenge of the original Star Wars trilogy to the more recent and more complex Lord of the Rings trilogy. Johnson doesn’t apologize for media complexities; he credits them for our increased IQs. My third and final suggestion for getting your head on straight is the briefest, but perhaps most important, advice that I can give. Enjoy What you Do. We are talking a lot about challenges, changes, threats, responsibilities, and the like – but the bottom line is this – try to have some fun. I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career to have been allowed to study and engage in topics that are personally rewarding and just downright enjoyable. For example, as I was being introduced, you may have caught that I wrote a book about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. What you might not know is that the Sturgis rally, held every August in Sturgis, South Dakota, is the oldest and largest motorcycle rally on the planet. Each year, 500 to 750 thousand bikers from around the world make a pilgrimage to this small town in the north central United States. I actually received a grant in 2001 to take my Harley Davidson, and a backpack with a tape recorder and a digital camera, to live for a week out at the rally and interview a cross-section of participants. I spoke to members of outlaw gangs, motorcycling grandmothers, tough guy wanna-bes, city officials, and locals for their view of the rally, and my book of interviews and photographs was published in 2002. During my book tour, I found it interesting that most of the audience’s questions dealt with my subjects who were heavily tattooed. I have tattoos myself, and took that as motivation for my next ongoing research project. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing tattooed people across North America, and have given multiple presentations on the topic in the US and abroad, in addition to having a forthcoming book chapter on tattoos in families.
I enjoy what I do. And it’s not just because I ride a motorcycle and have tattoos. It’s because I believe in the power of story, and I believe that everybody deserves to have their story told. I’m just one person, and I can’t interview and photograph them all….but I got to these people…and that makes it worth it.
SUMMARY/CONCLUSION We’ve covered a lot in the last 50 minutes. Allow me a moment to just recap some highlights. Obviously, there are huge challenges facing media and mass communication education today. Among these are the explosion of technologies, particularly in the area of social and participatory media; conversely, the implosion of technologies caused by increasingly narrow software and hardware platforms; and the long-standing illusion that somehow we are doing something unfocused or unethical. My suggestions for dealing with these challenges, again, are to embrace our past and our future – keeping the lessons from a simpler time and translating them into our evolving education practices; asserting our disciplinary integrity as the banner bearer for media education, while simultaneously cultivating interdisciplinary opportunities; and, finally, getting our head on straight by discerning within our givens, stop apologizing for our discipline, and enjoying what we do. Hopefully you will be able to take some of the ideas I’ve shared today back to your respective institutions and countries. Just as I did from that mountaintop, I know I can’t wait to get back to my room and update my status on Facebook. Thank you for your attention, and enjoy the rest of your conference.
A communication generalist, Thomas G Endres' research and teaching focuses mainly in the areas of leadership, pedagogy, and popular culture. He is author and photographer of the book Sturgis Stories: Celebrating the People of the Worldâ€™s Largest Motorcycle Rally(Kirk House, 2002). He has published over 30 articles in journals and proceedings such as the Journal of Applied Communication Research, Communication Quarterly, Qua Communication Studies, and Popular Music and Society, and is author of numerous book chapters on popular culture topics ranging from an analysis of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to tattoos as family identifiers. A former intercollegiate national speech champion, Endres has delivered over 200 presentations, workshops and keynote addresses throughout the United States and internationally in countries including Spain, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. He presents at both academic conferences and corporate settings such as 3M, Honeywell, and Medtronic. Among his honors, Endres was named the 1994 Outstanding Advisor of the Year by Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication honor society; a 2000 Outstanding Individual by the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota; and a 2001 Outstanding Professor from the National Speakers Association. In 2005, Endres received the University of Northern Colorado's Academic Leadership Excellence award and and, in 2008, he received both the Rocky Mountain Communication Association's Award for Communication Excellence and the Service to the State Award from the National Communication Association's States Advisory Council. Currently Endres serves as president of the Association for Communication Administration, secretary of the National Communication Association's States Advisory Council, and is Communications officer for the Rocky Mountain Communication Association.
The keynote address was delivered at the Third Annual Asian Conference on Media and Mass Communication on November 3 2012 in Osaka, Japan.
iafor keynotes ISSN: 2187-4905 www.iafor.org
A School’s-Eye View Mediasia 2012 - Keynote Address Professor Thomas G Endres Director of the School of Communicaton University of Norther...