Crowdfunding in the Classroom



image via TechCrunch/Shutterstock


I’ve been struggling for a while now to incorporate a meaningful, interesting segment on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing into one of my social media theory classes. So far, those efforts have resulted in middling explorations of Trinbagonian Kickstarter projects and reiteration of the “social media empowers audiences” theme. It’s a topic I was beginning to dread covering, but this semester, I have an opportunity to add a lot more substance to my illustrations.

Within the space of a week, two projects I helped fund have borne fruit that I’ll be using in the classroom. The first was designer Sergio Toporek’s Beware of Images documentary, which I pitched in for as a fan of his media-focused Facebook page.

I haven’t watched the entire film yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far, despite my wariness of Topo’s somewhat alarmist media effects perspective. At the very least, it should provide a lot of discussion material for my critical analysis class, where my students are always eager to identify hidden nefariousness in everyday media fare.

I’m particularly looking forward to using The Gaming Historian‘s video on the formation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in a class on media regulations. My students and I have had lively discussions on Hollywood’s Hays Code, and one class even went on a half-hour tangent about the Comics Code Authority, but I’ve always wanted to really get into the guts of the Mortal Kombat/Night Trap controversy that spawned a new ratings system for the video game industry.

I started backing The Gaming Historian (Norman Caruso) on Patreon about a year ago. My interest in the preservation of video games and the documentation of the medium’s history goes beyond just nostalgia; the idea of lost films, movies which simply can never be seen again because all copies have deteriorated, were destroyed, or simply can’t be located, is genuinely unsettling to me. Norman excels at what he does, and he deserves support.

Social media empowers the audience. It empowers creators. It’s new media, but traditional financial realities still apply. I value what people like Caruso and Toporek produce, and I understand why they (and I) can’t rely on traditional models of funding and advertising to produce their work. I think that work should exist, and I want to experience it myself, so, along with many others, I put a few dollars behind it. The internet, my classes, and the wider mediascape, are better off due to crowdfunding.


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