Beyond Broadcast: is this public media?

I’m at the Beyond Broadcast conference in Washington, DC, convened by American University’s Center for Social Media. It’s good to see a lot of old and new friends and the continuation of some projects I worked on when I was at the Center for Social Media. The question on the table is how new kinds of digital maps can help a public form — in the Deweyan sense. Pat Aufderheide started off the meeting with a great synopsis of what public media is — not just (or even only) media funded by the public, but media that helps a public find itself, connect, and be effective.

The presentations and videos this mornings so far show how powerful and innovative new uses of media are, how they provide new content and perspectives for journalistic practice. I worry that the innovations begin to be seen as ends in themselves, rather than as means for helping a public form in the Deweyan sense. There’s a profusion of content with a great deal of democratic potential, but the next step has to be how to help people connect. What are the spaces and ways in which that can happen? Can Second Life be that space? Can participatory media be the ways? I think these are steps but we’re still far short of finding ways for connecting.