Elon Interactive Media master’s candidates receive degrees
Surrounded by family, friends and Elon faculty and staff, 26 students in the Interactive Media Class of 2013 celebrated the completion of the program during a ceremony May 23.
Inside all of us, there is a terrible fight going on between two wolves: one is evil; the other is good. The one that will win and determine a person’s success, depends on the wolf one feeds.
While the story was an illustration taken from a legend commonly attributed to the Cherokee Indians, the lesson is one Lee Rainie P'03, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, shared with the Interactive Media Class of 2013 during their graduation ceremony in Whitley Auditorium Thursday night.
With a dose of humor and unassuming wisdom, Rainie, whom School of Communications Dean Paul Parsons introduced as “a curiosity expert,” encouraged the graduates “to verify information and disseminate truth.”
Pointing to two stories published in The Onion, a satirical online newspaper, dealing with the Internet and how people interact with the information found there, Rainie said the two big problems the Internet faces are bad information and bad social encounters.
The first problem lies in the immense volume of information the Internet provides. This is a problem not new to society. When the printing press was first introduced in the 15th century, Rainie said, it was seen as a source of information overload that allowed “charlatans abundant new chances to promote folklore quackery, alchemy and witchcraft.”
In the end, however, there were many incentives to find ways to test and verify information and discern and spread truth. As a result of those changes, he said, came “the Reformation, the enlightenment, the scientific method and the scientific revolution. Not too shabby.”
To continue in that path, he said, students needed to feed the wolf that produces “enlightenment, that separates fact from fiction, knowledge from spin and helpful stuff from harmful stuff.”
To solve the second problem, those bad online encounters fueled by selfishness, hate and bigotry, he encouraged the graduates to feed the wolf that enriches what sociologists call bonding social capital—connections that deepen existing social friendships—and bridging social capital—connections that bring diversity and newness.
He urged them to engage in activities that go beyond the fulfillment of personal goals and seek to serve others, something the graduating class has already mastered as part of their studies.
“You have reached the end of the Elon version of the real world,” Reinie said, referring to the intense 10-month program that required students to spend countless hours in a room working with each other creating websites and developing projects for nonprofits in places as far as Cuba and Portugal. “And you still look amazing,” he added jokingly.
“My charge to you is to solve both of those problems by using the skills you’ve learned here,” he said. “... Your job is to repair the Internet.”
The graduates felt prepared for the challenge.
“The program is super intense but incredibly worth it,” said Rachel Brent, who has already landed a job as a social media marketing specialist for a company in Winston-Salem. “It’s the best thing and hardest thing you’d do.”
A 2011 advertising and new media graduate from the University of Georgia, Brent said the program was not only the reason she was accepted into her new position but it also fully prepared her for the challenges ahead.
Alan Buck enrolled in the program to expand his professional career. A news videographer for more than a decade, he first returned to school to get an undergraduate media studies degree in 2010 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After becoming a freelancer, he realized he needed to fine tune in his newly acquired skills even more.
While the program was particularly intense for him—his daughter, Taylor, was 10 months old when he started the program—he, too, said it was worth it.
“I would do it again, I wouldn’t think twice. In this day and age, you need to stand out,” he said. “You can apply the skills learned here in any discipline.”
Ashley Deese agreed. The former cheerleader and biology major from Methodist University enrolled in the program hoping to expand her science communication skills. She was not disappointed. She said interactive media is en excellent tool to help people visualize science. Now that she’s completed the program, she hopes to develop science documentaries.
Iris Maslow, a communication media graduate from North Carolina State University who gave the student address during the graduation ceremony, said the program allowed the students to learn their strengths as leaders, work as a team and be professional in all circumstances.
“I’m surrounded by classmates and faculty who challenge and inspire me,” she said. “The [members of the] iMedia Class of 2013 are truly bulletproof.”