C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

Welcome to the first issue of our long-awaited HTML newsletter. We're still ironing out all the bugs, so please let us know if there are any glitches along the way. If you would like to report a glitch or make a suggestion, it would be great if you could let us know what program you're using to read the newsletter.

Research is moving forward here at the Consortium on viral media, and we continue to move ahead with our work on YouTube. For the readers of our Weekly Update at Fidelity Investments, we hope you were able to attend, or watch, Henry Jenkins' presentation there last week. We look forward to seeing many of you here in a few weeks for MIT Futures of Entertainment 2. For those who have registered, please be sure to get in touch with us if you have any questions while planning your trip here. If you are interested in attending but have not registered yet, please contact me directly as soon as you can, or visit the conference registration page.

Since All Hallows Eve is upon us, I've been seeing some strange ghosts and goblins hanging around Harvard Square. The spirit has infected a couple of C3's Consulting Researchers as well, who have provided some quite topical pieces for this week's Update. The Opening Note features a thought piece from Dr. Stacy Wood from the University of South Carolina, who questions how the immersiveness of the avatar in virtual worlds might eventually impact the appeal of dressing up in Halloween costumes for adults.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ted Hovet provides a Closing Note on the Halloween film franchise. Hovet is a professor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., where filmmaker John Carpenter is from. With providing a piece for the Weekly Update in mind, he recently asked his students to talk about their own reactions to the film, based on its local ties and its impact on their lives. He provides selections of student responses here, as well as some additional material.

As usual, the newsletter this week features all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog. Also, please let me know as usual if you are having any trouble receiving the newsletter. If you have any questions or comments or would like to request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford, Editor of the Weekly Update, at


In This Issue

Editor's Note

Opening Note: Stacy L. Wood on Virtual Worlds and Halloween Costumes

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: Ted Hovet on Local and Global Ties to the Halloween Movie Franchise

Opening Note

The Death of Dress-Up?

I've always been a theme party aficionado. Over the years I've been to many parties that involve dress-up and--looking back at some of my costume choices--I'd hate to be overly introspective about the alter egos I chose to assume. A female business professor who tends to gravitate to costumes with a high va-va-voom factor is probably a clear (and embarrassing) textbook example of...well, my psychology colleagues.

Halloween, despite its religious origins, has come to mean one thing for many Americans--costumes. Sure, kids get costumes and candy, but the adult experience of Halloween is usual a party where attendees are supposed to dress up as something scary or sexy or silly or politically relevant or clever or whatever. Choosing a costume can be a difficult experience for many people because it is 1) identity-relevant and 2) socially observed. In other words, your disguise for the evening informs other people about your inner self. And, ironically, a disguise is also your chance to escape your self-identity for an evening and play with another identity--often one that is quite unlike your day-to-day guise. This is a tough choice paradox that is usually demonstrated in the surprising angst and difficulty of smart and decisive adults to do a little thing like choose a costume for a party. (A, it's too common and isn't creative enough. But the cape is alluring and you would get to "pretend bite" other peoples' necks all might be a fun way to be a bit more powerful and flirtatious than usual...)

The concept of playing with different identities can also lead people into the realm of stereotyping and social bias. A costume is an inherently superficial way to experience another persona and this thin slice approach can lead to trouble. In a recent paper in Qualitative Sociology (2007), Meuller, Dirks, and Picca study how college students explore racial identity issues in the Halloween costume venue and find that the students often end up with an unrealistic and insensitive parody of another's identity that does more to exacerbate latent racism than to dispel it. One evening and one outfit is clearly not a true way to engage in an authentic alternative identity.

I wonder if online alter-worlds may eventually undermine the Halloween costume tradition for adults. Why spend one evening being a monster, a diva, a warrior, or a celebrity, when in an online environment, you can live as any of these beings? You can work, explore, make friends, build a house, and delve into an alternative identity in a way that seems much more authentic. Glossy, "managed" authenticity! (I've written a paper with Randy Rose on the emerging allure of managed authenticity in entertainment in the Journal of Consumer Research, 2005).

Perhaps we will see a decline in the number of Halloween costume parties or the costuming effort that adults spend because their need to escape the mundane everyday self already has its outlet in Second Life. The human need to play with identity outside the constraints of everyday life is no longer only socially planned and normatively acceptable on October 31st. And, of course, costumes fit better on virtual bodies...

Stacy L. Wood is a consulting researcher with the Convergence Culture Consortium and the Moore Research Fellow and Association Professor of Marketing at the University of South Carolina. Her research focuses on how consumers react and adapt to change, individuals' processing of new product information, drivers of individual innovativeness, and consumers' emotional reactions to new innovations, media, trends, and rituals.

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Exploring "Cine Latino" (2 of 2). C3 grdauate researcher Ana Domb provides some analysis of the current state of Latin-American filmmaking: "As a Latin-American spectator, I feel very frustrated when I see Spanish-speaking actors being forced to talk to one another in English with very heavy accents. Of course I understand the marketing implications that these choices entail, but I can't help but feel put off by the lack of respect and verisimilitude."

Exploring "Cine Latino" (1 of 2). C3 graduate researcher Ana Domb provides a recap of a recent panel at the Boston Latino International Film Festival: "Latin filmmakers here seem to be expected to constantly address their Latin identity or their womanhood. Overcoming these stereotypes is crucial to the growth of a truly creative industry and to the development of authentic authors that can approach their subjects in novel and engaging ways."

Copyright Crackdown: Coalitions, Aggregation, and Audiences (2 of 2). C3 graduate researcher Eleanor Baird provides some analysis and recommendations based on the many copyright issues surrounding online video that have arisen as of late: "I would argue that the currency of the television industry is not airtime, but time and attention of specific audience demos, and some of those are very satisfied with the product (the programming) but not satisfied with the service."

Copyright Crackdown: Coalitions, Aggregation, and Audiences (1 of 2). C3 graduate researcher Eleanor Baird provides the first in a two-part series looking at all that's been happening in the world of online video: "These events, although not totally unexpected, may have long-term implications for audiences in how we access television content online, and signal a need for some changes in how media companies relate to their audiences."

Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover (4 of 4). The final part of this interview with the Electric Sheep team's Second Life experience for CSI:NY focuses on the use of the OnRez platform and what they hope will be the takeaway from the experience: "This is not a niche industry or a niche technology. With creativity and hard work and expertise, it is possible to launch this type of crossover, and we are hoping that the CSI:NY Virtual Experience will begin to demonstrate that companies can use virtual worlds in ways that appeal to a larger audience."


Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover (3 of 4). The third part of this series looks at Electric Sheep Company's involvement in this event: "The Second Life experience is feeding off the television show. It's unclear at this point whether or not what happens in the virtual world will feed back or influence what happens on the show in the February 2008 sequel, but that will be determined by the producers at CBS."

Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover (2 of 4). The second part of this series begins an interview with Daniel Krueger and Damon Taylor from the Electric Sheep Company, who produced the experience in Second Life.

Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover (1 of 4). In the first part of this series, Sam Ford lays the background of the crime investigation show's crossover with Second Life.

Branded Services: The Way of the Future? Sam Ford writes about providing services for branding purposes: "Thinking of services as marketing helps answer the question of what consumers get back out of advertising."

Be Somebody: ClipStar, and the Myth of Internet Celebrity. C3 graduate researcher Xiaochang Li writes about the video sharing site, which promises to give users the chance to build their own celebrity. "What sets ClipStar apart, however, is not just the competition, but the way it explicitly links online networking to monetary gain, assigning value to internet notoriety."

Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Dumbledore. Recent work by consulting researchers at the Consortium this past week includes several new pieces from Robert V. Kozinets in his continuing series on consumption studies, while Jason Mittell writes about what the revelation of Dumbledore being gay means for the fan community. Finally, Alicia "Kestrell" Verlager and James Nadeu participate in the Gender and Fan Studies conversation on Henry Jenkins' blog.

Something Doesn't Add Up: Debating Page Views. Sam Ford writes about recent debates about how to count page views: "I often say that the danger in numbers is that quantitative data is often even more subjective than contextualized qualitative data, yet Western thought automatically prioritizes numbers as somehow more scientific and objective, in ways that can be detrimental to truly understanding a phenomenon."

Follow the Blog

Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.

Closing Note

John Carpenter's Halloween Comes Home: Local Fans, Global Fandom
John Carpenter and Friend
Famed filmmaker John Carpenter with Western Kentucky University senior broadcasting student Jon Peacock, during a visit to the campus he once called home.

Daniel Paxton, Junior English major at Western Kentucky University, recently wrote an essay on his long involvement with John Carpenter's Halloween.

Every Halloween, Carpenter lures me into the suburb of Haddonfield, Illinois. I curl up on the couch while the sun begins to set outside my window. No popcorn necessary, because though I've seen the film enough times to have memorized it, any movement or noise could result in a shower of kernels. I get so lost between the rambling diatribes of Dr. Loomis and wondering if Michael runs when the camera isn't watching him (I mean how else does someone who walks that slow always get one step ahead?) that I don't notice the sun has set, no lights are on and I'm alone in the house; usually around the time Michael is found to be missing after falling from the second floor balcony. Is he in my neighborhood? My house? I walk to the light switch in fear that the pale Shatner mask will be staring at me through my window.

Daniel's eloquent description of his ritual viewing and of the thin line between the fictional world of Michael Myers and his own expresses classic elements of fandom. Jacob Shoaf, who graduated from WKU in 2007, shows budding acafan credentials in his analysis of what makes Halloween important as a film:

Part of the film's effectiveness is in the way it uses its camera. The opening sequence of the film is a point-of-view shot from the perspective of young Michael Myers in what is meant to seem like a single, unbroken take when Myers slays his sister Judith. Carpenter continues to return to the POV shot from the perspective of both killer and victim throughout the film. My personal favorite perspective-skew comes when the camera observes Laurie Strode approach the door to the Myers house. When she turns to walk away, the original shot is then accompanied by a deep-breathing sound effect which implies that the shot is a Myers POV. Then one second later, The Shape (as Michael Myers is known while his mask is on) emerges from the right side of the frame transforming a POV from the perspective of a sociopath to that of an omniscient narrator. It creates unease in the viewer by briefly making them question their identity (not to mention making them voyeurs of a voyeur). And it all takes place in approximately three seconds. This caliber of technical prowess combined with a simple but terrifying story creates an enduring horror classic which will continue to frighten future generations.

While discussing the legacy of with WKU film students, I raised the question of whether the local connection to the film's origins adds anything to their fandom. John Carpenter grew up right on the WKU campus (where his father taught music) and attended classes here. He gave the keynote address at our spring 2007 commencement, which is one of the places where senior Broadcasting major Jon Peacock met him:

I myself feel a unique connection with this film as I not only currently reside in Bowling Green, Kentucky (the same small town that Carpenter hails from), but I have had the privilege of meeting John Carpenter twice. On the multiple occasions I have heard Carpenter talk about his classic film, it seems to me that it was a film very close to his heart. From the names of the streets to the idea of a small town ghost story come true, Halloween is a reflection of a part of Carpenter's life. I myself, like the thousands of fans across the world, will always remember what it was like to see Halloween for the first time. As I have grown older I have come to appreciate the true nature of what makes this film resonate with audiences almost thirty years after it's initial release--it is a film that we can all project ourselves into. We all know a Lori Strode, we all know of a ghost story that happened in our town, and we can all grasp the horror of watching the town ghost story coming true.

Senior English major Jeremy Richey combines several of these elements, from the local to the global:

Laurie Strode and Michael Myers grew up right down the street from me, or that is at least how it felt growing up in Kentucky after the release of Halloween. While the strength of Jamie Lee Curtis and the calm exterior of Carpenter's knife wielding psychopath seduced many kids all over the country, only kids in Kentucky would recognize the significance of many of the town and street names Carpenter populated his film with. Living in Kentucky added another dimension to Halloween that people anywhere else could not experience.

I knew about John Carpenter from a very young age. My mother had actually had a class with him at Western Kentucky University in the sixties. He was the classic local kid who had made it, but beyond that he was someone who never forgot his past or what it had meant to him. Even though it is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Halloween is populated with reference to Kentucky. Names like Smiths Grove and Russellville gave, and continue to give, viewers an inside track to the creative genesis of John Carpenter. Indeed when I saw him speak at W.K.U this past year, Carpenter admitted that much of his work was powered by his adolescent memories of living in Bowling Green. Still, any number of films might contain references to a particular place special to the director, so what is it about Halloween that continues to captivate people all over the world? Why has the character of Michael Myers become so absolutely iconic? I would argue he has become as recognizable to film fans as a Han Solo or a James Bond. Some might scoff but there is a worldwide legion of fans devoted to this strange representation of evil, and his image pops up in nearly all forms of popular culture. Michael Myers has replaced many of the fairy tales kids living before 1978 grew up with; in short John Carpenter gave the boogeyman a face. The other aspect that resonates so strongly in Halloween is Jamie Lee Curtis herself. While rarely mentioned as one of the great film characters, Curtis' Laurie Strode is one of the first really strong female role models a lot of us discovered growing up. Horror is often maligned for its depiction of women as weak and as victims, and Laurie Strode is neither. As played by Curtis, and written by Carpenter, Strode is a fiercely intelligent and strong woman. She was not only the perfect woman for many adolescents to have their first crush on, but also the right one.

Halloween maintains all of its power thirty years after its release. Carpenter's masterful directorial style and perfect casting continues to resonate with film fans all over the world. Here in Kentucky, the film has become a part of our local mythology. It remains a sharp reminder of many of our childhood fears, and continues to inform many of our adult lives.

To promote these local connections, the Convention and Visitor's Bureau in Bowling Green is now offering Michael Myers tours that cover specific locations associated with Carpenter and his films. In an article promoting the tour, the local newspaper has listed the specific sites.

The Convention and Visitor's Bureau reports that local media has covered the tour extensively and hopes that interest will grow, especially next year, with the thirtieth anniversary of the film's release. The responses by WKU students suggest that promoting local tie-ins to texts with a strong fan following has some potential, especially if that added "dimension" that Jeremy mentions is exploited.

Yet all of the responses refer to a global appeal for Halloween as well, indicating that fans of texts in the popular media identify strongly with a much larger community.

Ted Hovet is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Film Studies at Western Kentucky University. He teaches classes on American studies, film theory, the history of narrative film, and composition and has published on early film exhibition, pedagogy, and film adaptation. His current research focuses on the ways in which various media create "lines of display" that distinguish the content from the context and the introduction of new technologies into educational settings.

The Fine Print

Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium.


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