Digital convergence. What the heck is that? I thought this was about Making A Murderer! Hopefully, I got your attention so I could share an not very sexy thing that’s been happening in media right under our noses. Media, plural of medium: an intervening agency, means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished. In most cases, this a form of communication; analog in the beginning–paper, radio, telegraph, television, and now digital–information compressed into binary 1s and 0s to be used electronically. Convergence, the merging of distinct technologies into a unified whole.
Lame-stream media, gotcha media, liberal media, conservative media….no matter the descriptors, the subject is the same. Media, whether on paper, through radio and television signals or via the internet and social media, has seen a massive shift in how messages are given and received and how that message is then interpreted and passed on.
This convergence of digital media (digital convergence) started long before social media became the method of communication as we know it, and to illustrate this, I will use something that has currently permeated our pop culture, questioned our values and tested our media literacy: Making A Murderer. The Netflix docu-series, focuses on a wrongfully accused man that is later exonerated but then convicted of a later crime. What interested me more than the miscarriage of justice was the way in which this story was reported or, rather, presented to the public. Over the 10 episodes of this series, you can take note of the the change in media from 1985 when there was minimal convergence, through to the 90s when an online presence for news outlets became the new real-time news source. These website versions of formerly analog media sources became more interactive with the addition of “comment sections” to every story published online. With comment sections came the sharing of personal opinions and values and how the story was wrong or right regardless of the sharer’s credentials to that story.
This brings us to media in today’s world. Making A Murderer, a story that started 31 years ago has now become a part of our pop culture. Now with the release of the Netflix series, this story has touched almost every form of communication at our disposal. In it’s most recent incarnation, it is being shared via online streaming. Consumers are sharing the fact that they have watched it on social media sites, analyzing the ins and outs of the case, a petition started calling for the convicted to be released or re-tried began online, one petition called for the President to pardon both convicts. Did I mention this Netflix movie was released on Dec. 18, 2015? The petition to pardon was published two days later? What could have happened had this convergence in media happened 31 years ago?
As I mentioned early on, we often hear about the lame-stream media or the liberal media or any other expletive media. What often gets missed today, is just how much power each of us consumers have at our fingertips. Imagine if today’s journalists were able to affect things like policy or government in the same way consumers were able to start a conversation about justice reform and receive a statement from the White House. Imagine if every consumer treated everything they read or saw in the media with the same analysis they treated Making A Murderer?
What do you use that power for? What information do you spend your time on?