Instructor’s new book discusses new media

Trey Crumbie

Do you ever wonder about viral media? How and why certain concepts on the Internet (such as memes that populate several Facebook pages) spread quickly, while others gain little traction, if any at all? If so, “Spreadable Media” is a book you may want to consider picking up.

Sam Ford, an alumnus of WKU, co-authored the book, “Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture” with Henry Jenkins, a professor at the University of Southern California and Joshua Green. Green is with a digital strategy firm called Undercurrent.

Ford graduated from WKU in 2005 after obtaining four bachelor degrees in News/Editorial Journalism, Communication Studies, Mass Communication and English. He is currently teaching part-time at WKU as a Popular Cultures Studies instructor.

Ford said he was motivated to write the book after observing how people connect to media and other people around that media during his time as a student at WKU. During his graduate program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was able to officially research this interest.

“One of the main areas I started researching was new platforms of communication and how people were using them in new and interesting ways.” Ford said.

He said “Spreadable Media” observes the fact that we are living in an age where multimedia and the Internet change the way we observe and process information, as well as its thorough global reach. It also defines newly introduced jargon such as ‘Memes’ and ‘Web 2.0’ as well as drawing upon examples from contemporary culture in order to further educate its readers.

“There was a South Korean gentleman singing about the neighborhood he lived in called Gangnam,” Ford said. “And ‘Gangnam Style’ suddenly becomes an international hit and sensation.”

Ford said that in a world where people can easily share content, people have a chance to learn and engage in media more than they have in previous times.

Jenkins agreed with Ford.

“We are living through a period of profound and prolonged media change,” Jenkins said via email. “We’ve seen other moments equally transformative… but such moments have occurred only a few times in human history.”

Although “Spreadable Media” is an academic book, the message it communicates is highly relevant to college students.

“College students today have easy access to more information than any generation that has ever come before,” Ford said. “College students need to think through what it means to act as a citizen and as an audience member in a digital age like this.”

Ford said that in a world where media flows so freely, the impact — whether positive or negative — is heightened.

Although “Spreadable Media” educates its readers on the subject of viral media, Ford said it is by no means a complete manual due to the nature of the subject.

“We didn’t intend to write the book on an era of Spreadable Media,” Ford said. “But rather a book about it to get people thinking about it and hopefully become more aware of what it means.”