Communities in the Age of New Media

By Sean Devlin (@sdevlin7)

In this past week’s class, we received a great lecture from Dr. Lisbeth Berbary.  Her research and work has some valuable lessons we can apply to our communities.

I found her methodology and subject matter really interesting; by studying students in Greek life at a large southern university, she explored a community that isn’t often looked at with an academic gaze.

Despite the fact that Dr. Berbary approaches her work with the lens of an academic (which I also hope to do upon graduation from CUNY), there’s quite a bit to be gleaned as journalists from the way she looks at her studies.  Sometimes the best way to get to know the community you’re working with is to just be there.  By this, I mean being present at community events and functions, and generally serving as an advocate for these groups.  But in this week’s readings and last week’s discussions, I came across a really interesting point.  What if these communities aren’t physically there?  What if they’re online?

With the rise of the internet, these “virtual communities” are all over.  My favorite example of this is Reddit.  If you’re not familiar with Reddit, go give it a spin.  There’s a sub-reddit thread for quite honestly everything you can think of.  It enables groups of people who share common goals and interests to connect with one another and have discussions about the subjects they’re passionate about.

In Henry Jenkins’ “Convergence Culture,” we get a really great in depth look at how these new technologies are changing the way we associate with one another.  He had a great quote that really resonated with me, on how despite the fact that “media technologies have expanded the range of available delivery channels, enabled consumers to recirculate content in powerful new ways…there has been an alarming concentration of ownership of commercial mainstream media.”

Every one of us has the capability to reach an audience or become a part of a community with the devices in our pockets; it’s the tactics we use that set us apart as journalists.


  • Does your community have an online meeting place?  How have they used new media to communicate?