New book!!

 

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Soon to be released from Cambridge University Press: Young People and the Future of News, written by me and Regina Marchi of Rutgers University. Here’s the back jacket copy:

Young People and the Future of News traces the practices that are evolving as young people come to see news increasingly as something shared via social networks and social media rather than produced and circulated solely by professional news organizations. The book introduces the concept of connective journalism, clarifying the role of creating and sharing stories online as a key precursor to collective and connective political action. At the center of the story are high school students from low-income minority and immigrant communities who often feel underserved or misrepresented by mainstream media but express a strong interest in politics and their communities. Drawing on in-depth field work in three major urban areas over the course of ten years, Young People and the Future of News sheds light on how young people share news that they think others should know about, express solidarity, and bring into being new publics and counter-publics.

Short description

Examining contemporary youth media practices of proto-political and political communication and activism, this book will be of interest to college instructors and their students, scholars of media and democracy, youth workers, parents, media activists, and community activists.

Ordering information from Cambridge University Press

Upcoming speaking engagements:

Penn State’s 25th Symposium on Family Issues: Monday, October 23 (Lynn)

Association of Internet Researchers, Tartu Estonia, October (Lynn)

National Communication Association, Dallas TX: November 16-19 (Regina)

University of Haifa (pending 2018)

Lund University (pending 2018)

International Communication Association, Prague, May 2018

 

 

 

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Trump & the Legend of Davy Crockett

 

Mike Fink.  Ever heard of him?  How about Davy Crockett? You’re probably familiar with him. March 2016 marked the 180th anniversary of The Alamo, the moment in which Crockett the man died and Crockett the legend began.

Trump’s been compared with Crockett a few times already this election season, mostly for his coonskin cap-like feather cut (see BureacracyBuster’s Blog, The Daily Kos, and rhymes of history for other examples).

But Mike Fink’s story is also relevant, and not only because he was a sidekick in the 1950s Disney version of the Crockett legend.

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Fink was legendary as a keelboatman on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at the beginning of the 19th century who had moved on to water transit after gaining notoriety as a marksman for his work scouting and shooting native Americans in the battles around Fort Pitt. Standing 6’3” and weighing 180 pounds, Fink was notorious both for playing practical jokes and for his willingness to fight anyone who wasn’t amused. Fink’s flair for self-aggrandizement is evident in his claim that he could “out-run, out-hop, throw-down, drag out, and lick any man in the country” (Here’s a similar if updated claim from Trump). Typical of the frontiersman storytelling tradition of the American southwest, the targets of Fink’s humor tended to be people of color and others deemed weak or vulnerable. When he didn’t like the looks of a heel on one African American man, he shot it off, and explained to the judge that he’d done the man a favor, as now the victim’s descendants would be able to wear “the neatest kind of boot.” Another story describes Fink as disliking the look of one native American’s scalp-lock. He shot that off, too. When the man tried to retaliate, so the story goes, Fink killed him and his tribesmen. “A laugh a minute,” as historian Stephen Whitfield drily observed of Fink’s vulgar and callous approach to his antics and his storytelling about them.

Crockett (1786- 1836), also at least as much showman as hunter on the frontier, shared a similar approach to humor at the expense of people of color. Like Fink, he also fought against native Americans in the early 1800s in his home state of Tennessee. Crockett, who claimed he was “half horse, half alligator” and could “fight like the devil,” once said that he could “swallow” an African American man “whole without choking – if you butter his head and pin his ears back” (he didn’t use the phrase African American in his description).

We’re all familiar with Trump’s bombast, but what’s been intriguing is the way that people who are new to the Trump table are getting many opportunities to say what they like about him, and that is, for some, serving as a challenge to what those in the mainstream of politics and the press have said about him. He’s a “fighter” and “he says the right things as far as business,“ supporters told U.S. News and World Report. His lack of verbal finesse is part of his appeal, as “he’s going to tell us exactly the way it is without all that legalese,” another supporter said. And if the news and popular culture don’t seem supportive, that’s fine, for as another noted, “I like the way he just takes the press and beats them about the head.” These kinds of statements imply that there is an openness to recasting Trump the billionaire as a hard-scrabble everyman, romanticizing his propensity for the fight and shrugging that untruthful statements are merely showmanship, such as his claim that 27% (rather than the actual less than 1%) of the world’s Muslims are “really very militant about going after things.” If he can be repackaged as not really meaning those hyperbolic statements, perhaps he can be found more palatable among a larger American audience than he now has. And that, of course, would be a grave concern. It’s only March now, but the Trump legend could still be rewritten in time for the long summer months in the lead up to the general election. And why does that matter? For some insights, let’s return to the legends of Davy Crockett and Mike Fink, and why it is that you may not know Mike Fink at all – and why your impression of Davy Crockett may be quite different than the man I introduced above.

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Crockett’s good ol’ frontier-style storytelling of bullying got downplayed when Disney cleaned up his image for their 1950’s tv program. But the first step toward Crockett’s makeover came about with the performance of James Kirke Paulding’s 1831 play The Lion of the West which, along with journalists’ tall tales, were transforming Crockett into what was arguably the first mythical folk hero of the American West. Later in the 19th century, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows further cemented the image of the Indian-fighting, independently-minded buckskin clad sharpshooter of the frontier as positive and even kid-friendly. But Crockett the folk hero took a distinctive turn with Fess Parker’s 1954 portrayal of Crockett in the Disneyland series that was later made into two feature films aired frequently in the 1950s and 1960s. Gone were the bigoted, cruel, and racist remarks played for laughs, and in their place was a Crockett who was courageous, fair and kind. It was with this Crockett that Disney struck gold in merchandising sales, having established the largest children’s television product tie-in craze up until that point in history.

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Some debated the positive portrayal of Crockett in the Disney series and questioned the program’s historical accuracy, but there is little doubt that the show found widespread support and cemented Crockett as America’s most legendary frontiersman.

Crockett’s image, as well as Fink’s, was not without its critics even in their own day. It was Mark Twain who first famously put this kind of humor into a critical frame, satirically warning the readers of Huckleberry Finn (1885) that those “attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”  Twain wrote of these frontiersmen that they had “a vulgar mind, a puerile wit, a cruel disposition – and the spirit of treachery,” according to historian Whitfield. Much like the unwanted con artists who tagged along with and were finally tricked by Tom and Huck.

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Now, what does this have to do with Trump? It depends. With 24/7 media, it may be difficult for Trump’s supporters to cobble together a shiny new image of Trump as a man of courage and kindness in the manner that Crockett’s image was transformed over a century and a half.

But I’d like to encourage us to keep a sharp shootin’ eye out, just in case. We could see the emergence of a Disneyfied, G-rated version of the uncouth, speaks-his-mind and takes-no-prisoners hero that is currently laying claim to the hearts and minds of many a wild American.  I’d look for this turn starting in about early summer if not earlier. And we may need many witty ripostes on par with Mark Twain in order to present a different and plausible critique

Otherwise, as campaign organizers are no doubt starting to realize, Trump’s legacy is bound to be closer to that of the forgettable Mike Fink than of Davy Crockett.

 

 

 

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Upcoming talks

March 23, 2016: College of William & Mary: Schmidt Lecture on Society & Technology

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Save these Dates!

Important events for the Estlow Center:

October 30 & 31, 2014:
Andrew Rosenthal, Editorial Page Editor, New York Times

November 5, 2014:
Smart Publishing: Newspapers Learn to Adapt and Coexist in the Digital Age, with Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, Managing Editor, Washington Post and Eli Saslow, Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Gates Concert Hall
2344 E. Iliff Avenue

January 23, 2014:
50 Years Since Selma: Why Your Voice Still Matters
Estlow Luncheon and Anvil of Freedom Award Speaker

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Fall 2014 Speaking Engagements

Wednesday, October 8: “The Parent App,” Families First Colorado

Thursday, October 9: “Career Success after High School Journalism,” Colorado J-Days, Colorado State University

Friday, November 7: Digital Ethics Symposium, Loyola University (Chicago)

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2014 Travel Plans

Visiting Fellow, Digital Ethnography Research Center, RMIT (Melbourne, Australia)

Mar 11: “Parenting in a Digital Age” Public Presentation, RMIT, 3 PM

Mar 18: All-day workshop on writing & ethnographic methods, RMIT (w/Heather Horst)

Ap 1- 4: U of Queensland (w/Zala Volcic, Mark Andrejevic)

Ap 10 – 11: U of Sydney (Gerard Goggin & Fiona Martin, host)

Ap 18 – June 30: Visiting Professor, U of Copenhagen, Dept of Cognition and Communication

Ap 28 & 29: Master Lecture, “Parenting in a Digital Age,” Odense

May 13: Sodertorn U, Stockholm, Sweden (Jenny Sunden & Mia Lovheim, hosts)

May 18 -20: PhD seminar (w/Stig Hjarvard), U of Copenhagen

May 27: Presentation/workshop (w/Jenny Sunden, Mia Lovheim), Sodertorn U, Stockholm

June 6 – 13: PhD seminar (w/Gitte Stald, Annette Markham, Kirsten Frandsen, Stine Liv Johansen), U of Aarhus

August 4 – 8: International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture Conference, Canterbury, UK (Presentation: “The Politics of Empathy”)

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News on The Parent App

I spoke about my book The Parent App: Understanding Families in a Digital Age on:
<a href=”http://www.wnyc.org/people/lynn-clark/”&gt;
The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC</a>

<a href=”http://wpr.org/webcasting/audioarchives_display.cfm?Code=jca&amp;StartRow=1&amp;keyword=smart+phones&amp;highlight=on&amp;x=0&amp;y=0″>The Joy Cardin Show, Wisconsin Public Radio</a>

Report on parent use of technologies for monitoring their children, <a href=”http://m.npr.org/news/Technology/165485240″>NPR news story with Jennifer Ludden</a>

Review in the December 2012 issue of Publisher’s Weekly (savvy!):

 The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age
Lynn Schofield Clark. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-989961-6
“Sociologist Clark (Religion, Media and the Marketplace), a media, film, and journalism studies professor at the University of Denver, is also the mother of a preteen and teen. In this book she studies how the Internet and digital and mobile media are reshaping the American family. With more than 10 years of research under her belt, Clark offers interviews and case studies with parents and children from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds as the core of her text. She observes that while parents across the board voice concern about the risks that the Internet, social media, mobile phones, and so forth present for their children, they also realize that parenting in the digital age requires involvement and mediation. In upper-income families, Clark finds, parents keep kids busy with after school enrichment activities, and encourage them to use media to enrich their education and self-development. Lower-income families, she observes, use media to foster family ties and generate respect. Although the digital world is an indisputable and increasingly indispensable part of children’s lives, it is also an arena, she argues, that widens the gap between classes. Clark provides a detailed, savvy, and scholarly view of how families are handling both the risks and benefits of the digital age. (Dec.)

Review in the 2/1 issue of Library Journal below.  I love it – the book offers a “cogent set of recommendations!” – and “will be of interest to both scholars and parents!”

Clark, Lynn Schofield. The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age. Oxford Univ. 2012. 320p. illus. bibliog. index. notes. ISBN 9780199899616. $29.95;
ebk. ISBN 9780199986804. SOC SCI
 
Media critic Clark (dir., Estlow International Ctr. for Journalism & New Media, Univ. of Denver; From Angels to Aliens) suggests ways to enable parents to negotiate their children’s engagement with the Internet, social media, and mobile technology. Over 11 years, Clark and her research team conducted extensive interviews with dozens of families of different economic means in urban, suburban, and rural areas of the United States to learn about the impact of digital media on family life. Most of the book comprises an intriguing analytical narrative developed from the interviews. Clark finds that, generally, middle- and upper-middle-class parents respond to media use in terms of its utility for their children’s self-expression and advancement, while parents with lower incomes prioritize the ways media use reinforces family closeness and mutual respect. VERDICT Clark notes that while new technology has brought significant change, including constant connectedness and a persistent trail of information, it has not changed the basics of teen development or heightened the dangers facing children. She concludes with a cogent set of recommendations—some at the family level and some at the policy level—addressing parenting behavior, inequitable access to technology, and the problems of a consumption-oriented society. Clark’s treatment reflects her dual role as researcher and mother and will be of interest to both scholars and parents.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

There is also a review in DU Today’s magazine

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