The Digitization of the Water Cooler Conversation

Conversations had by the office water cooler are traditionally focused on pop-culture, light subjects and are essentially just small-talk. In the past, a traditional office setting would lend itself to such conversations around the water cooler, but due to new medias this is rapidly changing. In his book Convergence Culture author Henry Jenkins discusses where old medias and new medias collide. He postulates, that at some level. this convergence can be seen at the office watering hole; Jenkins further attributes this to the transformation from individualistic to communal modes of reception and uses the first reality television show Survivor as an example. The water cooler can  be seen as a place to gather a collective intelligence – and Pierre Levy (as discussed by Jenkins) argues that this is seen on the internet as well.  “…people harness their individual expertise toward shared goals and objectives: no one knows everything, everyone knows something…” Jenkins continues and explains that the success of a virtual community is based on the participation and ability for the members to collect and synthesize their individual knowledge. Remember that Jenkins is discussing all of this through the lens of Survivor spoiling chat rooms. So, how is this like the water cooler? Think about the perpetuation of a story; it is easy for one thing to lead to another and for assumptions to be made based on information coming together. Every individual at the water cooler seems to have slightly different information, either from a different perspective or it’s new information all together. Not only has the internet mimicked this but it also deepened and expedited it, making the process of a story developing possibly as fast and concise as a one hundred forty characters. It makes sense, then, to state that the office water cooler and the internet are heavily intertwined. The digitization of the water cooler conversation is the online chat room, quick knowledge and generally the internet; the perpetuation of the internet, tweeted media and social networks is its inevitable discussion at the office water cooler.

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