Last fall I studied abroad in Italy. During semester break I traveled solo to Spain, France, the Italian Alps, and Switzerland. It was the greatest learning experience of my life. It was a tremendous challenge to research and organize the trip. It helped me to develop my critical thinking abilities because I had to create an itinerary, and every piece of the puzzle had to fit: each connecting flight, train, bus, hotel and hostel reservation—all within a tactfully balanced budget.
I talked with people who had visited the places I was going, and inquired what their experience had been. Where did they stay? What did they do? How much did it cost? Getting feedback from other’s experiences was a great way for me to decide my own route of action.
Though, the best way to learn how to judge quality was to have the experience myself.
The longer I spent in a destination, the better I could judge the quality of the resources offered by that location.
My growth during my adventure was incomparable and exponential. My skills—organization, planning, communication, punctuality, responsibility, and awareness—progressed. Most of all, my confidence grew. Just as Davidson explains, students “can propel themselves to all kinds of learning as long as there is a payoff…in the sense of self-confidence and competence. Learning…is…an earned conviction that, faced with a challenge ahead…You can count on your ability to learn…It is about knowing that, when tested by the most grueling challenges ahead, you have the capacity to learn what is required to succeed” (85).
Now, when I fear anything—an upcoming test, a new bus route, a new dance class—I remind myself of my trip. I crossed international borders and explored unknown cultures without knowing the native languages, and found a way to survive, connect, and communicate. Now, I know I can do anything.
I learned from my experience that getting an “A” on a test is not the most important measure of my success. Rather, I agree with Davidson when she says, “Instead of testing for the best answer to discrete questions, we need to measure ability to make connections, to synthesize, collaborate, network, mange projects, solve problems, and respond to constantly changing technologies…” (127). Learning experiences go beyond the classroom, and we should encourage that expansion—to synchronize our classroom lessons with reality.
Yes, technology did play a role in the research for my trip, but I did not depend on technology while I was traveling. I journeyed without a cell phone or computer.
For our boss-project, let’s set our goal high. We should create a video project that impacts others, at a global level. With the technology we have (and a group full of creative, caring individuals), why not? We should brainstorm and decide on the topic of the project collaboratively.
Blog #1: Beyond Borders
Back in 2001, two years before Cathy Davidson and the Duke University engaged in the experiment to transform the iPod into an academic device, my 6th grade chemistry teacher Ms. Gierisch introduced us to a whole new world of collaborative working and collective knowledge called the World Wide Web.
At a time when most of us were still used to the squeaky tones and noises of a 56k modem and in the rest of the school it seemed as the internet had never even been invented Ms. Gierisch showed us a new, exploratory way of learning – learning through searching, surfing and browsing the Web. She didn’t believe in putting the information, the solution for a problem right in front of us. She knew that the standardized education method of reading through our textbooks page after page and her lecturing us to death would only bore us and we wouldn’t really learn anything. She made learning a challenge, a game where we would have to search for a solution and had to make up our own mind on how to get there, since the Web does not prescribe a clear and linear pathway through the content as opposed to a textbook.
By that she captured our attention and awoke our curiosity about all the information and knowledge waiting out there to be found by us students. As Davidson remarks “It [our brain] is engaged in a different way, when we ourselves are making the connections when we’re browsing from one to another link that interests us and draws our attention.” (p.70)
For her it was always about finding a challenge that would inspire us and help us to believe in our ability to learn something new. She showed us a way of learning that went well beyond the chemistry classroom. By exposing us to the World Wide Web with its infinite amount of information she also fostered our critical thinking and evaluation skills. She showed us the importance of understanding what is credible and evaluating what is or isn’t good information and how to use it, in a digital age where information comes unsorted.
I think an appropriate boss-level challenge for this class is going to be the video-essay where everything we’ll learn during the quarter “will be put into an important, practical application in the world” (p. 129) that could help others to inform themselves about the relationship between media and culture. We will apply our learning in a collaborative setting and carry our knowledge further into the world.
This article was extremely interesting to read. I was surprised to find out some details about how Apple’s technology was being used in the academic setting of Duke University. Elements such as iTunes U and podcasting didn’t even exist prior to this “iPod experiment,” and now they have become such an integral part of our everyday lives. I was so excited to read that Duke did not fold under the public criticism of using an “entertainment” device to promote learning in the University. They essentially pioneered the idea of “crowdsourcing.” I use my Apple mobile devices everyday in classes. Even reading this article, I downloaded the PDF to iBooks on my iPad. This technology, though widely criticized by many, has endless possibilities for transforming the education system.
The reference to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was so accurate in my mind! It is entirely true that the school system has changed very little in the last couple hundred years. Why shouldn’t it change, though? What is wrong with using these technological advancements? It is inspiring to think that a lot of applications on today’s iPods came from the ideas of those students at Duke in 2003. I think that educational institutions should continue to use the creative and unorthodox thinking of their students to create great applications, programs and class curriculum to adjust to our dynamic, changing culture.
This discovery-based learning experiment was a genius way to get students to look beyond the “marketed” use of the iPod to the full potential of this iconic device. The image went beyond the dancing silhouettes on a billboard to a powerful recording device in lecture halls. How much easier is it to record a lecture and play it back than it is to try and catch every important detail in writing in a Biology lecture.
I’d be interested to see how more experiments like this one can be conducted as new technology emerges. I feel that pulling from our student body resource to achieve breakthroughs in educational practices is an excellent way to engage students and inspire us to think outside of the “academic box.”
A film I saw over break that I enjoyed was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. I saw this movie in the theater and I did not see many trailers for it during commercials. But I watched it because I have been a fan for a while. In the movie, there are no examples of technological, economic, or cultural convergence examples; however, the movie itself serves as an example in the three areas. For technological convergence, this movie is a strong example and is also a popular one. Originally Harry Potter began as a novel series but a few years later, they were made into films. The convergence here is the novel (print) being adapted into a movie (digital media). Since this series began as novels, it already had a fan base. When the films were created, it became appealing to a wider range of people. As a result, it became a cultural phenomenon that lead the series to become a pop icon.
Harry Potter was created in Britain but it is now known world wide, indicating the cultural convergence. The films and novels have been translated in multiple languages to conform to other countries. Additionally, the three main actors/actress have become pop icons from the films. Just by looking at a picture of them, together or alone, they are instantly recognized and are typically associated with Harry Potter.
The company who produces the movies is Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., this group represents the economic convergence because they have many subsidiary companies. Some of these subsidiary companies include Time Warner, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, New Line Cinema, TheWB.com, and DC Comics. They also own half of The CW Television Network. Given that Warner Bros. Entertainment has many subsidiary companies they are able to utilize them to promote up and coming movies, which in this case is Harry Potter. Through Interactive Media, Warner Bros. Entertainment was able to create Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4. With the past couple of Harry Potter movies, The CW Television Network offered their viewers an exclusive clip from the movie.
During the break I saw the film Black Swan. It was terrifying, to say the least, but it did not fit the conventional horror movie mold. Labeled a psychological thriller, it definitely lived up to its name. It kept me continuously intrigued and scared, leaving me with new fears. It was also a box office hit, earning a new top record for production company, Fox Searchlight. This is partly due to Fox Searchlight’s valiant advertising effort. They employed technological convergence to promote Black Swan.
In keeping up with other companies, Fox Searchlight has Twitter and Facebook accounts, features in popular magazines, and a new iPhone application. The magazine, Entertainment Weekly, has published two January issues, one with James Franco and one with Natalie Portman. Both are actors in Fox Searchlight’s biggest hits of the year. If standing in the grocery checkout line, staring at James and Natalie isn’t enough of a draw to purchase the magazine and see the movies, Twitter also advertises it. Fox Searchlight’s Twitter account has posed a challenge to its’ followers—to buy both the James Franco and Natalie Portman editions. Twitter is also encouraging audiences to see Black Swan multiple times. One post, from December 20th says, “A lot of you guys are seeing Black Swan multiple times in theaters…and that’s totally awesome.” This type of informal post also serves as a thank you to devoted fans. Fans feel like they are appreciated by a Hollywood-powerhouse, such as Fox Searchlight.
Fox Searchlight’s interactive website gives exclusive information about its movies, as well as sneak previews. Each page has a different scene from Black Swan that plays immediately when opening the site. The website has hyperlinks that lead to soundtrack downloads and photo galleries from Black Swan. The book Converging Media suggests that the use of such hyperlinks make it easier for people to purchase products and view the information that they find most interesting (p. 11).
However, the iPhone app is what really pushed Fox Searchlight into technological success. The application makes searching for movie times, tickets, and inside information about Fox Searchlight readily available at anytime. By downloading this app, the user gets the latest news as well as “special access to free screenings.” This transforms Fox searchlight from being an ordinary production company into an exclusive club. By using the most successful movie in its history as the face of new technology, Fox Searchlight is employing convergence to create a broader market and availability to audiences.
The Intangible Asset: Hollywood
While the world is running to our movie stars, they’re running away from our financial systems. What gives?
“Inside Job” narrated by Matt Damon was a film I saw several weeks ago at an Arts theatre on Broadway. I found it surprising that Matt Damon would take the time and energy to create and produce a documentary, abundant with facts and interviews exposing the Wall Street crash in 2008 and its global implications, but more so a documentary with such a political bias.
He marketed the film on the Internet and through interviews by claiming it as a “historical documentary” which truly broadcasts the global financial crisis… But never infers there is an obvious political agenda woven throughout the film’s seemingly benign credentials. The first scene is a beautiful landscape of Iceland, where simplicity equates to happiness and those who habituate the small country take pride in the culture and work ethic. Then, the capitalistic conglomerate banks appear on the scene and financial chaos ignites. But before the rabid bankers hungry for unrealistic returns, the audience sees how the banks literally manipulate academics into supporting these false reporting systems.
While their still remains arguments in Washington on how to approach large financial institutions, there is no doubt in any international mind that bankers took total advantage of the flexibility the free market system has embraced. That said, many believe that the debt DC has undertaken, and endorsed, whereas a happy-lending China can easily buy has thrown us into a spiral far more injurious than the economic collapse.
What Damon disregards in the documentary targeting and exploiting Wall Street is that the same argument could be turned around on Hollywood. He blames the loopholes, the middle class for buying into what Wall Street is selling, and the result? Job losses across the globe, utter chaos and some would say anarchy. Albeit the circumstances, which are transparent and easily calculated, Damon doesn’t dare look in the mirror at his own paycheck, or the “art” that this free market, first amendment country has provided to him and his fellow filmmakers. There is a convergence of government rights… the right to make films, the right to produce media.
So while Hollywood is capitalizing on the Adam Smith ideology that has shown proven failure in the banking world, the rest of the world is waiting to see the returns of many decades of bullets, cursing and sex…. Drama. Scientists at the same universities (Harvard, Stanford, Columbia) Damon condemns argue that his work in Hollywood has indeed exploited the minds of innocent civilians, suggesting through media something that the American dream is not.
Americans have bought into the Simpsons and US weekly, the reality shows and trash television that takes up hours and hours of time… Indian, China, Africa, South America… many nations which are fighting us for international market share, not only in exports, but pure intellectual property aren’t wasting their time eliciting in a fantasy land. Matt Damon makes $20 million a movie, if not more…. While by and large creating things that are in no way feasible? He fights for the second amendment to be removed, but readily uses guns in his action packed movies. Who are the predators? Which is worse, selling a house to someone who can’t afford it? Or influencing the minds of young children? Why bother pouring money into the education system, when Hollywood has already figured out how to capture the attention of American’s future generations.
While sure Damon donates a large percentage to charities, he still reaps those tax deductions… is he really someone who can jump up on a pedestal and tell America where NOT to put their money, but more importantly… their minds.
One of my favorite movies to watch in my free time is the dramatic suspense thriller, Miracle. The story of the underdog 1980 USA hockey team beating the Soviet Union had to be the biggest sports victory in the twentieth century. Within the two-hour movie, the producers and Writers crammed two years of events prior to the Olympic events and the game of the century as well, capturing all the key moments. Tensions fluxcuxuates as the story chronologically unfolds, making the audience engaged in every second of the film. This is a prime example of Technological convergence because the viewers saw a two and a half year process, condensed into a two-hour movie. Technology allowed the producers to cram every last detail they thought was vital, and without it, the movie would not be nearly as successful. Being a hockey player in high school, I know first hand that the sport can get ugly fast. Cuss worlds, along with vulgar slang, is something hockey players have to commonly practice during a game. When Walt Disney bought the rights to the movie, they had the intention that they wanted this movie to be seen by all audiences. Due to economic convergence, Walt Disney had to cut out the aspects of the game that were precarious so that everyone could see history being made, without any complaints. Over the last few decades, hockey seemed to reach a low for the first time in a while. Ticket sales declined as well as memorabilia sales, causing the national hockey league to plummet into a recession, suspending the 2004-2005 season. Hockey has always been considered one of the four major sports in America, but was waning in that respect. When Miracle hit the box office in the winter of 2004-2005, the movie was considered a must see. Not only did the hockey fans enjoy the movie, but also just regular people who had only seen or had never seen hockey were very surprised. This just shows how cultural convergence is illustrated because not only did people want to see a hockey game, but also they wanted to see something about their country. in watching this movie, more attention was turned to the NHL. the league started to make more money, and they had more viewers than ever. Miracle, once again, jump-started the sport of hockey again and there was more excitement behind the sport. Overall, that’s why I feel cultural convergence played a huge role in the ticket sales of the movie, and why it is considered one the of the best sports movies.