A Clear Example of Postmodern Media Participation

DISCLAIMER: I know I’m getting up there in age, but there’s still enough bark in me to yap when something chafes my understanding of media and postmodernism. This is a story about media, postmodernism, volleyball, and why we shouldn’t hesitate to participate in all of it. I apologize for burying the lede, but I have to tee this up for those not familiar with my work.

To review, Western Civilization has had two major disruptions to previous cultures, thereby changing its entire thrust. In Premodern times, the cultural mantra was “I believe, therefore I understand.” The Roman church was the most powerful institution, and they held on until the creation of moveable type. Since the Bible was closely-guarded by the Priests, Gutenberg’s printing of the Bible was viewed as heresy by the church. However, individuality was on its inevitable rise, because people could read the Bible for themselves and discover that the church had nefarious reasons for hiding the text. When John Wycliffe published the first common English language version of the text, he said, “This book shall make possible government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The church dug up his bones after his death and burned them in a Paris ceremony.

The printing of books brought the Academy back to prominence, along with a new mantra for the culture: “I think and reason, therefore I understand.” This brought about the Modern era and the culture drifted to logic and what I call “The Management Culture,” one that was led by commonly-embraced varieties of one-potato, two-potato, three-potato, four thinking. Follow the rules, and you’ll succeed. This era hosted the industrial revolution and incredible advancements in health, science, manufacturing, education, and beyond. It also produced the “Greatest Generation”, those who fought World War Two and won. Then came the baby boomers and the rebellion against all this, for it was pretty clear that the only ones who truly benefitted from Modernism were those at the top of life’s pyramid.

The boomers brought us the personal computer and the internet, and suddenly everybody was connected to everybody else. The WWW was brand new in cultural thinking, but most people still cling to Modernity in the same way the church objected to Gutenberg and Wycliffe. In a world where everyone is connected — what Jay Rosen called “The Great Horizontal” — we’ve now created a new method of communicating. The top can still talk to the bottom (mass marketing), and the bottom can still talk to the top (although through the top’s filters). What’s different today is that the bottom can talk to the rest of the bottom, and that is changing things forever.

So, we’re now in the era of Postmodernism, where the mantra Is now: “I participate, therefore I understand.” We have to figure some things out, but the bottom is perfectly capable of running things through less selfish means than the modernist culture employed. We all will participate, but new thinking is coming about very slowly. And, this sets the stage for my little story.

In the world of girls’ and women’s volleyball — one that’s exploding unawares — there is a publication known as PrepVolleyball.com that requires the participation of those in the sport. It’s one of the key media companies involved in the massive growth of girls volleyball, because they provide rankings, lists, tournament summaries, and much more, all with the intent of providing a single location where volleyball at the club and prep levels can be centered. There are other specific websites that also provide great services, but PrepVolleyball.com is attempting to get their arms completely around youngsters involvement in the sport. Volleyball is not only the biggest participatory sport for young girls in the U.S., but it’s also the fastest-growing.

So, here’s what I need to tell you. PrepVolleyball is a media company that requires the coöperation of everybody participating in the sport. I complained about how there are zero players from Alabama involved in their rankings and lists, and it’s because the schools and clubs here are governed by people who cannot see the handwriting on the wall. Hence, no athletes from Alabama are displayed in what is an extremely useful tool for coaches and administrators during the recruiting process and beyond. Here’s a little of what James Pompeo from the publication told me:

“If Alabama wants more representation there are a few things that need to occur. The first, is that when we open submission for awards, commitments, seasonal updates, and more…. Players, parents, and coaches need to participate. If we have no submissions, there can be no recognition. For instance, we repeatedly sent out emails, free articles, and social media posts about our upcoming Academic All-Americans list, and we received ONE submission from Alabama. No subscription was needed to nominate a player.

Secondly, and this is most likely out of both of our control, teams from Alabama have to compete with the best of the best, that is in the OPEN divisions. Otherwise they can’t be seen or written about. We only have so many eyes and ears. So, we can’t be everywhere. That’s why it’s important that teams compete at the National level. That’s where we operate the most.

If those things happen, then Alabama will be recognized, represented, and celebrated.”

I’ve contacted so many people about this that I’m really making a pest of myself, but here’s the point. One of those groups that I contacted was the Southern Regional Volleyball Association, who immediately washed their hands of responsibility by taking a Modernist position on media. Here is the key line from an email from the Commissioner, William Kenyon:

“It would be on PrepVolleyball.com to market their services and raise awareness of their product in Alabama.”

No, no, no! A thousand times no. This is the old way of thinking, and who’s to argue with the logic? However, today’s culture demands that the coaches, players, and parents of volleyball players in Alabama simply need to coöperate and participate with the media company. In this sense, the participators in the sport can write their own headlines by becoming partners with PrepVolleyball.com, just like those people from the “markets” that do coöperate.

What Mr. Kenyon doesn’t realize is that they, too, ARE a part of PrepVolleyball.com, media partners in creating and maintaining the universe that belongs to them. There is tremendous power in the bottom assuming responsibility for themselves, and PrepVolleyball.com should be rewarded for their efforts to manage and maintain the site. Postmodern institutions will all function this way sooner or later. It’s the essence of The Great Horizontal.

I believe this is a great illustration of the times we’re going through. Everybody is a media company today. Citizen involvement with the press is at an all-time high, and citizen journalism itself is blossoming in a great many places, youTube being chief among them. Imagine an influencer waiting for publications to contact them. It’s just astonishing to me.

And, I won’t give up.

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