I’ve been asking around and have yet to learn who to credit with the wonderful observation that the Internet amplifies a continuum of behavior from competition to cooperation to collaboration to co-creation. Henry Jenkins’s newest blog post at the Center for Future Civic Media suggests that it’s time to add a fifth C to the continuum: civic engagement. Henry writes:
[C]itizen journalism is a transitional concept at best. Like the phrase, horseless carriage, it defines what is emerging in terms of legacy practices. Today, if I asked you to list ten things about your car, it is unlikely most of you would identify the fact that it is not pulled by horses, yet there was a time when the salience of this description was strong enough that it framed our understanding of what an auto was. . . . I see what citizens are building as more expansive than journalism. We are collectively creating a communications system to support our civic engagement. For the purposes of this argument, I am going to be calling this infrastructure the civic ecology.
Thinking about a civic ecology helps us to recognize that while journalists do important work in gathering and vetting the information we need to make appropriate decisions as citizens, they are only part of a larger system through which key ideas get exchanged and discussed. We understand this if we think about the classic coffee houses which [the German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen] Habermas saw as part of the ideal public sphere. The proprietors, we are told, stocked them with a range of publications – broadsides, pamphlets, newspapers, journals, and magazines – which are intended to provide resources for debate and discussion among the people who are gathered there on any given evening. We might think about the ways that the newspapers in colonial America were supplemented by a wide array of different kinds of political speech – from petitions, resolutions, and proclamations to various kinds of correspondence (both personal and collective), from speeches, parades, sermons, and songs to street corner gossip.
The Banyan Project has long thought in terms creating what we call relational journalism and see a result as civic potency for the reader/users who engage with and through Banyan. The term news ecology has become common; civic ecology trumps it. Thanks for the clarity, Henry.
And if you can point me to the originator of the four-C continuum, please leave a comment.