Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Digital Media Archetypes

Posted on | January 16, 2014 | No Comments

The digital world is competitive, but quite enticing for people looking to explore their capabilities to produce creative and imaginative content. Companies struggle in a competitive environment and it takes commitment and intensive skill sets to be successfully employed in the digital fields. One way to look at the requirements are in terms of some emerging digital archetypes – general job categories dealing with the requirements of working in media intensive organizations. The purpose of delineating these areas is to help people conceptualize the types of competences and skills towards which they should gravitate. Also to investigate some of the education opportunities that are available to train and certify a set of digital media-related skills.

By archetypes, I mean recognizable personality types that emerge from the systemic organization of activities and responsibilities in modern digital environments. Individuals look to situate themselves according to their interests and perceived skills and gravitate towards particular types of jobs. The word “archetype” is derived from ancient Greek. Its root words are archein, for “original” and typos, for “model, pattern, or type”. The modern meaning infers that similar characters, concepts or objects are seen to be copied, derived, or modeled from an original pattern. So the idea of archetypes here is a starting point for examining different digital media job categories.

Here is a list of six proposed digital media archetypes:

Business Management
Strategic Communication
Global Knowledge

The first three are fairly traditional. Technical skills involve computer programming, information management, and network administration skills. Design requires strong artistic and aesthetic sensibilities combined with animation and layout skills. This will often require the mastery of one or many applications like those in the Adobe Creative Suite. Business skills, as my friend Igor Shoifot, COO of argues, are crucial at all positions across the digital media sphere. Now a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, he stresses everyone in a startup needs to keep business goals in mind, even if they are not directly involved in sales activities.

I’m adding three new categories. The area of communication has been given renewed emphasis due to the network effects and viral capabilities of the Internet. New tactics and technologies have increased the importance of public relations, content marketing, blogging and micro-blogging, as well as social media management. This important approach is now often called strategic communications.

Another area is analytics – capturing value from the growing reservoirs of “big data” – structured and unstructured data that are available in proprietary and public stores of information. Mining this information from the web, processing it into usable data sets, and organizing it into meaningful stories and visualization schemas like infographics will continue to be highly valued skills into the foreseeable future.

Lastly, global knowledge is increasingly expected in work environments, especially those dealing with digital media and cultural industries that operate across ethnic, racial, and national borders. While this area is fluid due to rapid technological and political changes, knowledge of both regions and individual countries are relevant. The globalization of media and cultural industries is very much a process of adjusting to local languages, aesthetic tastes, business conditions, and local consumer preferences – not just mass distributing standardized content.

Work environments involving global media and cultural content environments require and utilize various combinations of design, technical, strategic communication, analytics, global knowledge, and business acumen. Most people may specialize in one or two areas of expertise; others may take on many, particularly in small organizations. Still others may take on leadership roles that require them to establish rapport with, and orchestrate people with different types of competences to accomplish different types of communicative and creative tasks.



AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is the Professor of Global Media at Hannam University in South Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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