Spry Memorial Lecture 2006

For people who believe that a democratic society needs media for public knowledge and action, this is an intoxicating moment. Never has the public had so many opportunities to meet up online, vlog their issues and watchdog the news. For commercial broadcasters, who are watching old business models melt away and are watching their viewers morph into co-creators, this is a terrifying moment.

For public broadcasters, this is a time of terrifying opportunity. The challenge is figuring out how to tap into participatory media practices for public life.

Public broadcasting began as the best possible way to use modern media to facilitate public knowledge and action. Then, the alternatives were painfully apparent: U.S.-style commercial broadcasting, Soviet-style state broadcasting, or the Canadian and British model of state-run public broadcasting. Now, cutting-edge media hold the potential for the public to serve and find itself. Does that mean the public no longer needs public broadcasting? Or does it mean that tomorrow’s public media will have more and different capabilities than ever before?

In this lecture, Dr Patricia Aufderheide explores the latest thinking about collaborative, participatory media for public life, and showcases the latest examples of ways public broadcasters and other actors are taking up the challenge to facilitate and make participatory media for public life.

Patricia Aufderheide

Dr. Patricia Aufderheide is a professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C., and the director of the Center for Social Media there.

She is the author of Documentary: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, forthcoming), The Daily Planet: A Critic on the Capitalist Culture Beat (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), and of Communications Policy in the Public Interest: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Guilford Press, 1999). She has been a Fulbright and John Simon Guggenheim fellow and has served as a juror at the Sundance Film Festival among others.

Aufderheide is a prolific cultural journalist, policy analyst, and editor on media and society and has received numerous journalism and scholarly awards. She is the recipient of the 2006 Preservation and Scholarship Award from the International Documentary Association.

Aufderheide currently serves on the board of directors of the Independent Television Service, which produces innovative television programming for underserved audiences under the umbrella of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She also serves on the film advisory board of the National Gallery of Art and on the editorial boards of a variety of publications, including Communication Law and Policy and In These Times newspaper. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Minnesota.