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June 15, 2007

New cultural divide?

by Steven J. Tepper

Sandow's post -- "The New World" - is very provocative and, I think, correct on most issues. He celebrates the critical, engaged, and inventive young people who are blogging on the IMDB movie Web site and the teens in Jenkins and Bertozzi's chapter who find and create their own forms of art. But he is also right that we do not yet have the data and research to know how pervasive this "critical" engagement is, nor how pervasive the negative consequences are that Schwartz speculates about in his chapter about the paradox of choice. The best data we have comes from the Pew study of teen media creators, which demonstrates that a majority of teens are posting, remixing and creating content online. My concern, and the concern of many in the book, is that the type of critical engagement that Sandow celebrates may not be evenly distributed across the population. I suspect that for many Americans, Schwartz's cautions might be appropriate - we know that the majority of Americans buy their music at the big box retailers - Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy; many still watch network television in spite of the availability of hundreds of cable channels; and still others are tuned into Clear Channel radio stations that have very narrow playlists. I think the purpose of the book is not to try to come up with yet another argument to justify the arts; but rather to examine how policy can and should respond to the potentially transformative changes in our midst. We can stand by and do nothing and have faith that enterprising kids will figure it out. Many will. But, can we be more deliberate about ensuring that the type of participatory culture described in the book is available to every citizen?

Posted by stepper at June 15, 2007 5:58 AM


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