I can’t get Ryan Seacrest out of my head.
He is ubiquitous; he is everywhere and seems to own everything. I turn on the radio, and there he is. I flip on prime-time and he is there. I ring in the new year watching him smile and nod at a variety of musicians and celebrities. Then I heard that he was pegged to cover the ‘social media’ angle of the Olympics for NBC’s 2012 coverage and it came together: Ryan Seacrest represents the new literacy.
I recently read an article on CNN by John D. Sutter entitled Welcome to the Twitter Olympics. In it, he discusses the important and questionable role that Twitter has played in the 2012 Olympic games. He cites a few staggering statistics. To wit: there were more tweets during a single day last week than in the entire Beijing Olympics. 3.5 million tweets mentioned the Olympics during its opening weekend in July.
Undoubtedly, these numbers represent a vast web of communication and an unprecedented level of interactivity. We have examples of athletes tweeting about sports announcers, fans tweeting to athletes, leaks of the opening ceremony, and even the controversial Rule #40, banning athletes from using social media to endorse companies other than official Olympic sponsors. A Swiss soccer player was recently thrown out of the Olympic games because of racist tweets after a loss. Even President Obama has connected with Michael Phelps and the Women’s Gymnastics Team to offer words of encouragement.
I’m sure many of these tweets are useless or even senseless. I know many are rude, insensitive, hurtful. However, they certainly are powerful. One cannot ignore the vast scope of interaction that is taking place. This is a foray into social networking and interactive media revolving around one of the biggest world-wide spectacles. It is taking place in a vacuum with few rules and unlimited potential. It is both beautiful and horrific.
This is my point: the new literacy is everywhere; it’s got fingers in every pie. It never sleeps. It will happily criticize, bully, inspire, or just nod its head an smile on new year’s eve. The new literacy is Ryan Seacrest.
Scared? What do you expect? This is new territory. This is a new medium. This is participatory. This is communication. The new literacy has the ability to organize protests, change politics, instigate mob mentality, and offer a podium for hate and fear. The power is there, for better or worse.
As teachers, our job is changing. We have a responsibility understand the implications of such a drastic shift as much for ourselves as for our students. Being stewards of the new literacy will involve questioning our own lessons and practice. It will involve sharing what we do. It will involve taking criticism and working in real time with a global authentic audience of peers. It will blur the lines between teacher and student. But one thing is for certain, in needs to happen, because I don’t think Ryan Seacrest is going anywhere.