I reviewed this book for the International Journal of Communication. The link is HERE.
“convergence culture” = “where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.” (2)
“I want to describe some of the ways that convergence thinking is reshaping American popular culture and, in particular, the ways it is impacting the relationship between media audiences, producers and content. . . . to help ordinary people grasp . . . to help industry leaders and policy makers” (12)
“Old media are not being displaced. Rather, their functions and status are shifted by the introduction of new technologies. . . . black box fallacy” (14)
“Convergence involves both a change in the way media is produced and a change in the way media is consumed.” (16) what about gray area?
“Producers who fail to make their peace with this new participatory culture will face declining goodwill and diminished revenues” (24) not much support for this claim
CH 1 – survivor spoilers
Commodity culture >> knowledge culture
“spoiling is empowering in the literal sense in that it helps participants to understand how they may deploy the new kinds of power that are emerging from participation within knowledge communities” (29). Spoiling = power
“spoiling is an adversarial process – a contest between the fans and the producers, one group trying to get their hands on the knowledge the other is trying to protect.” (43)
expert vs. collective intelligence
spoilers >> critical distance (ergo, democratization of critical ability/power)
“the interests of producers and consumers are not the same. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they conflict.” (58) good quote
MESSAGE: spoiling is a game which allows consumers to flex their newfound collective muscles vis-à-vis producers, and allows producers to integrate their audiences’ expectations and behaviors into the creative process. Outcome is unclear.
CH 2 – American idol
“‘affective economics’ . . . blur the line between entertainment content and brand messages.” (20)
reality tv = “the first killer application of media convergence” (59)
“affective economics represents an attempt to catch up with work in cultural studies over the last several decades on fan communities and viewer commitments” (62). In other words, the media industry is scrambling to catch up with JENKINS as a matter of life and death
“Here’s the paradox: to be desired by the networks is to have your tastes commodified. On the one hand, to be commodified expands a group’s cultural visibility.” (62) Nichification cuts both ways
“this emerging discourse of affective economics has both positive and negative implications” (63) again, HJ seems on the fence as to where his audience and allegiances lie.
“American Idol offers up a fantasy of empowerment” (64)
“The television industry is increasingly focusing on understanding consumers who have a prolonged relationship and active engagement with media content” (67)
“advertisers are increasingly realizing that they may be better advised investing their dollars behind shows that have a high favorability than shows tat have high ratings” (76) didn’t save arrested development.
“Consumption communities” (80)
“Some [viewers] are turned off by this hypercommercialism, but for others, recognizing marketplace interventions has become part of the ‘game’” (88) democratized critique, transparent marketing
“product placements might be a double-edged sword – on the one hand, higher consumer awareness and, on the other, higher consumer scrutiny.” (90) double-edged sword
“audiences have a long way to go if they are going to exploit the points of entry that affective economics offers them for collective action and grassroots criticism of corporate conduct.” (92) collective criticism = desired outcome for consumers
MESSAGE: new forms of marketing require that the industry pay attention to the selfsame ignored fan communities that Jenkins has been touting for all these years. But the victory is bittersweet, because their elevation to visibility entails the threat of deadening commodification. HJ holds out the possibility of a win-win scenario, but doesn’t spell out how it would work.
CH 3 – matrix
“transmedia storytelling” (20) = convergent narrative
“This transmedia impulse is at the heart of what I am calling convergence culture.” (129)
“The Matrix is entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium” (95)
“In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best – so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels and comics, its world might be explored through game play or experienced as an amusement park attraction. . . . the economic logic of a horizontally integrated entertainment industry” (96) yet, strangely, no mention of uncle walt, the originator of this idea.
“The Matrix was a flawed experiment” (97)
“The Wachowskis wanted to wind the story of The Matrix across all of these media and have it all add up to one compelling whole.” (101) but the notion of a singular or complete work is problematic in convergence culture.
“The new Hollywood demands that we keep our eyes on the road at all times, and that we do research before we arrive at the theater.” (104) Agreed, but does this democratize or stratify? Addresses this only once: “As information spreads from the film into other media, it creates inequalities of participation within the franchise.” (115).
“soon, licensing will give way to what industry insiders are calling ‘co-creation.’” (105) zero support for this claim. Sounds kind of naïve. How would this fill the revenue gap created by the loss of licensing.
“So far, the most successful transmedia franchises have emerged when a single creator or creative unit maintains control.” (106). True. So what does this say about participation?
“two competing forces: the corporate convergence promoted by media industries, and the grassroots convergence promoted by fan communities and immigrant populations.” (109-110). This makes it clear that ‘convergence’ does not imply a convergence of interest between social groups or industry and community.
“More and more, storytelling has become the art of world building.” (114)
“Filmgoers educated on nonlinear media like video games were expecting a different kind of entertainment experience.” (119).
For The Matrix, “the value arises here from the process of looking for meaning . . . and not purely from the intentionality of the Wachowski brothers.” (122) excellent point.
“There has to be a breaking point beyond which franchises cannot be stretched, subplots can’t be added, secondary characters can’t be identified, and references can’t be fully realized. We just don’t know where it is yet.” (127) didn’t james joyce identify that breaking point?
“Criticism may have once been a meeting of two minds – the critic and the author – but now there are multiple authors and multiple critics.” (128).
“Our schools are not teaching what is means to live and work in such knowledge communities, but popular culture may be doing so.” (129) pop >> media literacy
MESSAGE: transmedia storytelling = convergent narrative. The aesthetic principles are still being worked out. The upside is that it makes use of knowledge communities, provides media literacy and (maybe) it makes sense from an industry structure and economic standpoint. The downside is, maybe it widens the participation gap, because it requires a more active, wired audience than passive storytelling. Also, the convergence of media does not suggest a convergence of interest – there’s still the question of who’s in charge, for both financial and creative reasons.
CH 4 – star wars
“the current moment of media change is reaffirming the right of everyday people to actively contribute to their culture.” (132)
“interactivity” = consumer feedback (133)
“participation” = consumer control
- doesn’t look into gray area. This is one way in which he fails to elaborate a full theory of convergence culture.
Industry response to cc: prohibitionists vs. collaborationists (134)
“The story of American arts in the twentieth century might be told in terms of the displacement of folk culture by mass media.” (135) and “popular culture is what happens as mass culture gets pulled back into folk culture” (136) basic HJ theory
“The Web has made visible these hidden compromises that enabled participatory culture and commercial culture to coexist throughout much of the twentieth century.” (137)
“Star Wars is, in many ways, the prime example of media convergence at work.” (145) “The availability of these various ancillary products has encouraged these filmmakers, since childhood, to construct their own fantasies within the Star Wars universe.” (146)
“fan works can no longer be understood as simply a derivative of mainstream materials but must be understood as themselves open to appropriation and reworking by the media industries” (148) reciprocal appropriation fan << >> industry. But what’s new about this? Always a dynamic between margins and mainstream.
“we see the copyright regimes of mass culture being applied to the folk culture process” (154). Yes, but WHY? Doesn’t get into bigger picture. It’s not simply a misunderstanding.
Piracy = promotion.
“Having felt that power, fans and other subcultural groups are not going to return to docility and invisibility.” (158)
“the games companies have been able to convince their consumers to generate a significant amount of free labor by treating game design as an extension of the game-play experience.” (165) important. Economics benefits of fan production for industry.
“Once you put creative tools in the hands of everyday people, there’s no telling what they are going to make with them – and that’s a large part of the fun.” (166)
“the studios are going to have to accept (and actively promote) some basic distinctions: between commercial competition and amateur appropriation, between for-profit use and the barter economy of the Web, between creative repurposing and piracy.” (167) rare prescriptive – sounds like one of the bullets from his on-site ppt presentation.
MESSAGE: cc is a rekindling of folk cultural practice, enabled by newly accessible media production and distribution tech. Result is a symbiotic relationship between pro and amateur production. Industry is split between preventing and exploiting this shift. Fans seem less torn, at least according to HJ. Solution = creative commons approach to IP.
CH 5 – harry potter
“Indeed, we have suggested that it is the interplay – and tension – between the top-down force of corporate convergence an the bottom-up force of grassroots convergence that is driving many of the changes we are observing in the media landscape.” (169) top-down vs. bottom-up
“The Potter wars are at heart a struggle over what rights we have to read and write about core cultural myths – that is, a struggle over literacy.” (170) “a struggle over competing notions of media literacy and how it should be taught” (171)
skills kids need to be “full participants in convergence culture” (176):
- to pool knowledge
- to share and compare value systems
- to make connections across scattered info
- to express interpretations and critique using folk culture
- to circulate creations via internet
“Authorship has an almost sacred aura in a world where there are limited opportunities to circulate your ideas to a larger public. As we expand access to mass distribution via the Web, our understanding of what it means to be an author – and what kinds of authority should be ascribed to authors – necessarily shifts.” (179) excellent point, which I make in my dissertation as well. But he makes no effort to pinpoint the locus of that shift, other than a reinvestigation of “communal” and “folk” cultural traditions
“one should think about their appropriations as a kind of apprenticeship” (182) interesting point, but it also demotes remix to a secondary level of expression.
“Schools are still locked into a model of autonomous learning that contrasts sharply with the kinds of learning that are needed as students are entering the new knowledge cultures.” (183)
points out failure of .orgs to defend fanfic. HJ is at his most passionate and persuasive when returning to his home territory of fan fiction.
“current copyright law simply doesn’t have a category for dealing with amateur creative expression.” (189)
advocates revamp of IP in a negotiated fashion
“conservative critics seem to be taking aim at the very concept of transmedia storytelling” (193) his advocacy and partisanship are peeking through
“If the anti-Harry Potter Christians want to protect children from any exposure to those dangerous books, the discernment movement focuses on the agency of consumers to appropriate and transform media content.” (204)
MESSAGE: fan communities around harry potter are an excellent example of self-organized media literacy education. Therefore, the battles over HP are a reflection of a larger battle over what the role of fans should be in the new media ecology. Schools aren’t up to it. Remix is like classical apprenticeship (doesn’t mention caveats). Traditional political lines don’t make sense here – orgs are lame, and some Christians see the remix light. Advocates creative commons approach to revamping IP law, with the participation of both industry and fan culture.
CH 6 – 2004 presidential campaign
“this whole book has been about ‘serious fun’” (207)
“entrenched institutions are taking their models from grassroots fan communities, reinventing themselves for an era of media convergence and collective intelligence.” (208).
“popular culture influenced the way that the campaigns courted their voters – but more importantly, it shaped how the public processed and acted upon political discourse.” (208)
talks about photoshopped images, but no mention of Stalinist photographic manipulation.
Dean’s campaign: “where the politics of television gave way to the politics of the Internet” (210)
In this chapter, HJ is a little more skeptical of the gee-whiz, because he uses Trippi as a strawman evangelist
“Broadcasting provides the common culture, and the Web offers more localized channels for responding to that culture” (211) symbiosis between mass and convergent media – how is this different than hebdige on subcultures?
“the blogging community is ‘spoiling’ the American government.” (215) bringback.
“we can see the logic of convergence politics at play here: the effort to use grassroots media to mobilize and mainstream media to publicize.” (220) echoes digital margin/mainstream split
“What changes, however, is the degree to which amateurs are able to insert their images and thoughts into the political process – and in at least some cases, these images can circulate broadly and reach a larger public” (222) yes.
“The Daily Show . . . demands an active and alert viewer to shift through the distinctions between fact and fantasy.” (227) daily show >> new paradigm of skeptical consumption. But old question here, going back to adorno: can media compel critical or uncritical engagement?
“one way that popular culture can enable a more engaged citizenry is by allowing people to play with power on a microlevel, to exert control over imaginary worlds.” (228) yes, but please connect the dots. How does this translate into actual civic practice?
“We should be concerned about what happens to free speech in a corporate-controlled environment” (231)
“When will we be able to participate within the democratic process with the same ease that we have come to participate in the imaginary realms constructed through popular culture?” “The next step is to think of democratic citizenship as a lifestyle” (234) maybe he’s grasping at straws here.
“Popular culture allows us to entertain alternative framings in part because the stakes are lower . . . Our willingness to step outside ideological enclaves may be greatest when we are talking about what kind of person Harry Potter is going to grow up to be or what kind of world will emerge as the machines and humans learn to work together in The Matrix.” (238)
“we may be able to talk across our differences if we find commonalities through our fantasies. That is in the end another reason why popular culture matters politically – because it doesn’t seem to be about politics at all.” (239)
MESSAGE: 2004 elections suggested influence of convergence culture on both citizens and candidates. Realm of new possibilities, but HJ isn’t utopian (he has trippi for that). Just as margin/mainstream require one another in pop culture, blogs and power structures require one another for politics. (is it blogs vs. msm, or blogs vs. gov’t? this isn’t clear). Pop culture influences the way people think about the world, and thus the range of political possibilities they can imagine. Cultural change is a precursor to political change because the stakes are lower.
“Convergence does not depend on any specific delivery mechanism. Rather, convergence represents a paradigm shift – a move from medium-specific content toward content that flows across multiple media channels, toward the increased interdependence of communications systems, toward multiple ways of accessing media content, and toward ever more complex relations between top-down corporate media and bottom-up participatory culture.” (243) thesis statement
“We are in a critical moment of transition during which old rules are open to change and companies may be forced to renegotiate their relationship to consumers.” (243)
“Rather than talking about personal media, perhaps we should be talking about communal media” (245)
“Just as studying fan culture helped us to understand the innovations that occur on the fringes of the media industry, we may also want to look at the structures of fan communities as showing us new ways of thinking about citizenship and collaboration.” (246) BIG THESIS
“That is why it is so important to fight against the corporate copyright regime, to argue against censorship and moral panic that would pathologize these emerging forms of participation, to publicize the best practices of these online communities, to expand access and participation to groups that are otherwise being left behind, and to promote forms of media literacy education that help all children to develop the skills needed to become full participants in their culture.” (248) ADVOCACY THESIS
“A politics of confrontation must give way to one focused on tactical collaboration.” (250)
“Concentrated power is apt to remain concentrated. But we will see adhocracy principles applied to more and more different kinds of projects” (256-7). Yes, but what about sabotage?
“participation becomes an important political right.” (257). Yes. Why isn’t there more of this in the book?
“The ideal of the informed citizen is breaking down because there is simply too much for any individual to know. The idea of monitorial citizenship depends on developing new skills in collaboration and a new ethic of knowledge sharing that will allow us to deliberate together.” (259). ok
“One of the ways we can shape the future of media culture is by resisting such disempowering approaches to media literacy education. We need to rethink the goals of media education so that young people can come to think of themselves as cultural producers and participants and not simply as consumers, critical or otherwise.” (259). Call to rethink media literacy
MESSAGE: rules redrawn. Negotiation. Resurgence of communal culture. Political implications. Key prescriptions = advocacy. Not sure how his corporate readers would react. Focus on negotiation, but doesn’t jive with hardline advocacy. Convergence will save us all. We just need to help it happen.