Here is a new book that I definitely will neither read nor buy. Henry Jenkins, professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, has just written a book entitled Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York University Press). This is the what Mr Jenkins identifies as the "key" passage from the book's introduction:
Reduced to its most core elements, this book is about the relationship between three concepts – media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence....By convergence, I mean the flow of contentacross multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes, depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about. In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers' bedrooms. It is shaped by the desires of media conglomerates to expand their empires across multiple platforms and by the desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want....
Can anyone tell me what this really means? All I really got from Mr Jenkins' thoroughly muddy (and muddily thorough) paragraph is that consumers, like birds, have "migratory behaviour" (ie: they go from one thing to another) and that "convergence" is a word that indicates broad technological, industrial, cultural and social change. I don't see much here about the "collision" of old or new media. Nor do I see much intelligence, collective or otherwise. The only clear thing here is confusion. It's a crowd of words chasing a coherent idea.
If Mr Jenkins thinks this paragraph will seduce us into buy his book, then I dread to think what the rest of the text is like. He'd be better off putting it all up on his new blog. Then, at least, people won't have to pay for it.
Mr Jenkins is not alone in publishing turgid work about digital media. I made the expensive ($40) mistake of buying Yale Law professor's Yochai Benkler's much hyped The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Even the titles of Mr Benkler's chapters are incomprehensible for a non academic audience. His penultimate chapter, for example, is entitled "The Battle over the Institutional Ecology of the Digital Environment." This chapter occurs on page 383 of the text and anyone who manages to get beyond page 50 must either be one of Mr Benkler's students or Deborah Schrag, his wife, who, in his introduction, he identifies as his "tag-team partner."
The sad thing is that Mr Jenkins and Mr Benkler are gentlemen who lecture at MIT and Yale. I dread to think what they are teaching their students about lucidity and clarity. I urge them both to read Orwell's essay "Politics and English Language." Clarity, chaps, is everything. Thoroughness is for the (migratory) birds. I urge you to be brief. If you can't explain your idea in a few words, then it's not much of an idea. Read, for example, Nietzsche on thoroughness (The Gay Science, # 231):
"Thorough -- Those slow in knowledge suppose that slowness belongs to knowledge."