It’s was with mixed feelings that I turned the final “page” in my Kindle edition of Spreadable Media this morning. Finishing any book gives me a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of “what’s next?” but I am sad that the experience of thoroughly enjoying the book and the interactions that I’ve had, particularly with Sam Ford, along the way is over. While the reading of the book is finished, my thinking about the concepts of and surrounding spreadable media, particularly as it relates to libraries, will continue. As the authors so rightly point out in the conclusion, we are in the midst of great change. Technology and business models will not settle any time soon and the ideas of intellectual property (a term carefully avoided throughout the text) and ownership will continue evolve.
The Conclusion wraps up the book nicely with a list of eight foci of spreadable media. While I will not list them here in their entirety, there are certain foci that resonated with me in my school librarian reading. The idea of “dispersed material” speaks clearly to the role of the library collection. While the intent of the summarizing paragraph is more toward media producers who, it is argued, need to create content that is “grabbable” and “quotable,” it seems that as we develop library collections we have the same concerns. Not only do we need to look for media that has these qualities, the collection itself has to be “grabbable” and “quotable.” We have to get unstuck from the days where the piles of books on the desk often made it easier to paraphrase than quote. While encouraging our students to actually digest the ideas that they come in contact with, they also need to be able to easily grab, quote, remix, and otherwise recontextualize the ideas that they find in their research. The collection needs to to be built with these uses in mind. (The irony being that I can’t seem to grab a quote from the Kindle edition of the book that I want to use in my next paragraph!)
I read the following quote on the concept of diversified experiences:
Audiences act as “multipliers” who attach new meaning to existing properties, as “appraisers” who evaluate the worth of different bids on our attention, as “lead users” who anticipate new markets for newly released content, as “retro users” who discover forgotten content which may still hold cultural and economic value, and as “pop cosmopolitans” who seek cultural difference and help to educate others about content they’ve discovered from other parts of the world. (297, Kindle Location 5188)
I can’t help but think that this is the role that librarians have traditionally played in society. With the rapid increase in the amount of information and number media objects, that role is more important than ever. It is our role to know, as much as is possible, what is out there and how it could be of use to our communities. We “appraise” all content that we come in contact with in an attempt to determine it’s value within our community while trying to anticipate new uses for content, new and old. In an educational setting it is especially important that cultural differences in media are sought and made available to the members of our communities.
The idea of motivating and facilitating sharing while addressing the ethical and legal aspects of that sharing is a particularly important role of the school library. In a time when the law is struggling to address changing business models and value systems, it is important that our students are, at the very least, given an opportunity to think about the ethics around information use, even if it is something that the teachers and school librarians are wrestling with themselves.
Spreadable Media was written with media producers and distributors in mind, I believe. I think that it has a lot to say to anyone who works with media, from consumers, to collectors, to creators. And as the book repeatedly points out, the lines are blurring between the roles we take on, most of us taking on multiple functions with the same text. While many of the examples are stories that many readers who are culturally aware will know, the contexts that they are put in bring to light interesting issues that encourage further thought about how media lives in our current world culture(s). I don’t think that the authors necessarily have the answers. I don’t think that providing answers was an intent of writing the book, but they have given much thought to the issues surrounding current trends in media creation, distribution and use and present engaging ideas and vocabulary to begin to address these issues.
This is the first time that I’ve engaged with a book by blogging as I have read. I found the experience allowed me to reflect on the ideas more thoroughly and to recontextualize to my own uses and experience. The opportunity to dialogue with Sam Ford as I went was icing on the cake. The added material that he encouraged me to engage in via the comments and through Tweets as I went added an extra layer of depth that I am truly appreciative of. I hope that that discussion continues.