After the finish of my final paper and the conclusion of my final class discussion for the first summer session of 2007… something stuck. My first session summer class focused on MEDIA: Overseas Conversations (IV), a media literacy conference held in New York City. The conference was an informative one, but the most captivating component of the conference came at the very end.
Douglas Rushkoff, a published academic, delivered the concluding address for the convention. His speech talked about American culture always being a step behind, technologically speaking. Rushkoff referenced reading as the initial communication technology adopted by humanity. Soon thereafter, writing became the popular technology. However, by the time writing became the popular medium, reading was taught as a central societal cog. I know, it doesn’t make much sense to me either, but apparently people could read documents without a problem despite not knowing how to write themselves.
Think about it, if you didn’t know how to grip a pencil, or inked feather as it were, would writing be easy for you? Of course not! It would be about as easy as typing on a keyboard without knowing how consonants and vowels join together to create words. Without these words, how would one ever be able to form sentences? Nonetheless, this continues today, as programming is the novel and central medium, yet writing continues to be taught in our schools. This isn’t to say that writing is a useless medium… it is however mentioned to prove a point.
Programming has founded the modern day Internet. The Internet has founded social networks, messaging programs, and the entire consideration of a global village that we’ve all become accustomed to. This brings us back to Rushkoff, who has declared modern communication media undergoing a Renaissance. This renaissance is the result of interactivity on the Internet via editing programs. Consider the sophisticated editing software available to people today. If the final episode of The Sopranos bothered you that much… you could change it. Seriously, what’s stopping you? Why aren’t you doing it right now?
The extinction of absolutes that Rushkoff talks about has much to do with the death of television culture. The generation of humans who grew up watching television as an integral part of their society has past. Sure, TV provides a nice escape, but today’s generation doesn’t like being told what to do. The fundamentalism that Rushkoff discusses is the fixed-narratives inherent within television. Keeping with The Sopranos example, the fixed narrative of David Chase requires that viewers accept the final five minutes of the series. However, today’s narrative allows for bloggers to document not only what they think happened, but truly did happen!
This doesn’t stop with bloggers though, look to the YouTube culture that has grown uncontrollably over the past year and a half. Users can film their own version of what happened after the screen went black within the last seconds of the final shots of the series. Say, for instance, that I think Tony somehow got out of the restaurant alive and incorporated the use of “The Sopranos” video game on PS2 to act the scene out. That would definitely offer a conclusion for fans of “media content” despite the “grammar” of the content differentiating from the HBO series’ own.
This is the beauty of modern day communication. People actually care about what others have to say about issues holding weight in modern culture—even if it’s as non-sensical as the series finale of The Sopranos. Rushkoff’s ultimate point is that absolutes are dead. Nothing is absolute as long as the modern culture is accustomed to challenging the “norms” identified by mainstream culture. If I want to create my own final episode for a favorite series like The Sopranos or the like, I can! In fact, what I am writing right now is not even absolute. Someone can post a comment at the bottem of the screen right now arguing what I have written in such a way that it discredits everything I have just said. Sure, a part of me would be offended, but that’s completely in line with what I’ve been writing about for the last few minutes.
To conclude, challenge everything! Nothing you see is an absolute! Accepting any aspect of society as an absolute is settling for what you’re told is correct. This settling is the passivisity that has classified the modern generation as hopeless, and uncaring. Only challenging any and all will break the bonds that fundamentalists believe they have over colloquial culture.