Happy New Year to everyone involved in the
Convergence Culture Consortium! We've got plenty of projects going here
with the C3 team. With YouTube coding ongoing and projects on viral
media continuing, we are spending MIT's Independent Activities Period
in January working on a variety of projects.
We also have several resources recently made
available on the back end of the C3 site.
First of all, there are a variety of resources now
available under the "Podcasts" button on the C3 page. On the public
side, we have put all our audio and video from Futures of Entertainment
and Futures of Entertainment 2 on the site, as well as a variety of CMS
Colloquia and Communications Forum audio podcasts that we thought would
be of particular interest to those involved with the Consortium,
including members of NBC's Heroes writing team, B. Joseph Pine
II, Andrew Slack of The HP Alliance, World Wrestling Entertainment's
Jim Ross, soap opera writer Kay Alden, Alan Moore of Communities
Dominate Brands, Jesper Juul of the Centre for Computer Game
Research Copenhagen, Scott Donaton of Ad Age, selected panels
from CMS' Media in Transition 5, and a panel with C3 Principal
Investigators Henry Jenkins and William Uricchio, along with Wealth
of Networks author Yochai Benkler, on the future of newspapers.
The partners-only section includes the video from
the Convergence 2006: There Is No Box partners retreat, featuring
comments from a variety of speakers including Jenkins and Uricchio, C3
Research Manager Joshua Green, and C3 Consulting Researchers and Alum
Robert V. Kozinets, Shenja van der Graaf, Grant McCracken, David Edery,
Ilya Vedrashko, and Chris Weaver. We hope to have the audio up from the
2007 C3 retreat, Collaboration 2.0, in the coming weeks.
We also have included on the backend of our site
the "Social Networks in Advertising and Marketing" report from Ivan
Askwith and Eleanor Baird. It is available from the "Resources" section
on the back end of our site. We ran a preview of the piece, including
some "Dos and Don'ts" for brands using social networks, in the Closing
Note of the 30 November 2007 C3 Weekly Update.
We have updated the newsletter archive on the
backend of the site, and remember that there are also copies of several
other studies available there, including my pieces on World Wrestling
Entertainment as a transmedia business model and my study of the modes
of engagement among pro wrestling fans, MIT undergraduate Matthew
Cohen's piece comparing girl gamers to political lobby groups, Shenja
van der Graaf and David B. Nieborg's piece "The Mod Industries," from The
European Journal of Cultural Studies, Ivan Askwith's
"Deconstructing The Lost Experience," Geoffrey Long's piece on the Wii,
and Ilya Vedrashko's "Creating the Future of Advertising," as well as
copies of all four 2007 C3 graduate researchers' Master's theses.
Don't hesitate to let me know if you need login
information to access these materials.
Note that, as mentioned on the blog, the MIT
Program in Comparative Media Studies Research Fair will be taking place
on Feb. 28. For more information, look here.
We'd love to have some of you there!
This Week's Newsletter
This week's C3 Weekly Update features an Opening
Note from Grant
McCracken's blog. Grant writes about the desire for an increasing
amount of information online, and corresponding sleuthing behaviors.
The piece serves as a preview for Grant's blog, where he writes
regularly about culture and marketing.
The Closing Note from Geoffrey Long previews his
own personal journal, Tip
of the Quill, where he provides a wide variety of content. This
piece looks at speculation about the newest technology rollouts from
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue
Opening Note: Grant McCracken Writes on Orphan
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: Geoffrey Long on Macworld 2008
Orphan objects: New Markets, New
Here's what I got from my sister for Christmas. It's her
best gift ever.
I know it looks like an 25 year old prescription
bottle. That's because it is. It was issued on December 20, 1979 by Dr.
Allman through Folkestad's Pharmacy in Lincoln City, Oregon. It
contained Tranxene, an anxiety medicine.
The gift is a puzzle. My sister is saying, "What
happened here? Who was this guy?" And it's a good challenge because
there are lots of particulars. The patient, the doctor, the pharmacy,
the place and the time are all specified. My sister found something
tagged with enough information to make historical detective work
possible...but not easy. My sister sent me a message in a bottle,
someone else's message...in a prescription bottle.
She is responding to my new hobby. A couple of summers
ago, I had found a passport for a German beautician called Erna
Schonwald. Using the internet as my new historical decoder ring I was
able to access the Ellis Island website, a publication of the East
Point Oysters Company in Washington, the Seattle phone book for 1923,
historical details on the Cobb Medical Building built in Seattle in
1910, and the 1930 census.
As a result, I was able to determine that Erma arrived
in the US in 1923, sponsored by her brother Phillippe, a physician, who
had arrived the year before with wife, children and servant in tow.
Erna went to live in Seattle where she worked for her brother as a book
keeper, and lived with a woman called Ariston Schwertner. I posted
these results and actually made contact with one of Erna's descendants.
(I am still waiting for her to take receipt of Erna's passport.)
I think I know what happened. My sister was at a garage
sale or a yard sale. She found the prescription bottle in a pile of
junk, and thought, "this will drive him crazy." So far so good.
What's changed? The internet makes each of us an amateur
sleuth. There are lots of resources out there. The fact that I could
find a Seattle phone book from the 1920s on line struck me as
absolutely miraculous. But there is no reason why every phone book for
every year for every city shouldn't be available eventually. The
resources are going to get steadily better. And this means small
efforts at sleuthing will bring ever greater results. And that means
that the internet will begin to satisfy the satisfaction threshhold of
more and more people. And that means that many more people will
participate. And that will incent even more people to digitize phone
books, and perhaps even create a sleuthing market of the kind that has
sprung up around genealogy.
That change makes for another change. A whole set of
objects should suddenly return to scrutability, as it were. Erna's
passport that is something any good historian should have been able to
make speak. But with internet research instruments at our disposal, a
vast set of objects will be capable of speech. Passports, prescription
bottles, books with plates in them, school scribblers, wallets, purses
(assuming some identifiers), cell phones with data still inside,
computers (assuming the same), clothing with names sewn in,
automobiles, houses. There's a lot out there.
And what happens then? People would begin to restore
historical details to objects, and in some cases restore the objects to
owners or the ancestors of owners. They could give them to museums. Or
they could build magnificent personal collections that attract interest
from other collectors, the historical community, and the museum world.
Or, we can imagine a "catch and release" program, that
encourages me to document my prescription bottle, tag it with the
information I discover about it, and then return it to the year sale
circuit. There is something like this already in the form of
Geocaching, where objects are being tagged with GPS coordinates. I like
the idea of a garage sale in which some of the objects come with data
A market will surely form, both a market for information
that makes tagging orphan easier and a market for objects themselves.
Surely the better tagged an object is, the more valuable it becomes. We
can imagine a big piece of the eBay market raising on this tide. And a
culture, too. We are on the verge of many more objects and many more
people entering the curatorial world. (Or perhaps I have that the wrong
Naturally, this raises questions of privacy. The
prescription bottle I got from my sister was once filled with an
anxiety medication. Which tells us volumes about the person to whom it
was prescribed. I have blocked out his name, because, well, maybe he
doesn't want all the world to know he was suffering anxiety in the late
1970s. (Though, I think it's fair to say we all were. I carried a brown
paper bag with me everywhere I went.) Are we entitled to retrospective
privacy? Tough one.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. "What I did on my summer
vacation (or, "May I have your passport, please?")" This Blog Sits at
the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. August 22, 2006. here.
McCracken, Grant. 2003. "Tag, We're it." This Blog Sits
at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. January 05, 2003. here.
Grant McCracken is a
consulting researcher for C3 and
the author of various books on brand management and cultural
consumption. He holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the
University of Chicago and has been a senior lecturer at the Harvard
Business School, in addition to director of the Institute of
Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. He is also currently
an adjunct professor at McGill University and a corporate consultant on
brand management. His blog is located at http://www.cultureby.com/trilogy/.
Glancing at the C3 Blog
the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part II: The
Current State of Soaps. Sam Ford writes about the changes the soap
opera industry has made and the declining ratings since the pinnacle of
soaps' popularity decades ago.
the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part I:
Immersive Story Worlds. In the first part of this 8-part summary of
Sam Ford's thesis work on soaps in preparation for his course this
spring, Ford provides a review of his concept of immersive story
Ron Paul Candidacy and Facebook Controversy. Sam Ford writes about
the interesting following for presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul and
the recent controversy over ABC's and Facebook's (non)-treatment of
reaction to Paul on the social networking site during a live televised
Place of Social Reaction in Media Measurement. Sam Ford writes
about how "buzz" and social engagement and reaction around media
properties could/should be discussed in conjunction with other research
Continue Through Writers Strike. Sam Ford provides links about the
unique plight of daytime serial dramas during the writer's strike, as
the soap operas continue to go forward with stories from fi-core and
Live Events into a Transmedia Narrative. Sam Ford writes about the
WWE's attempt to create meaningful narrative extensions through its
regular non-televised touring shows and problems with continuity in the
the Consortium: FoE2, Ad Ubiquity, Tech News, Politics, and Social
Issues. Ilya Vedrashko questions the figure of 5,000 ad impressions
daily, while Geoffrey Long provides some tech news wrap-up and Robert
V. Kozinets writes about a political ad spoof questioning the theories
of Immanuel Kant.
on Stories: Soulja Boy, Radiohead, LinkedIn, Christianity, and Quarterlife.
Sam Ford provides some updates on stories that have been featured on
the Consortium's blog recently, linking to some
interested related content from Andy Hunter, Linda Ong, Bill Carter,
Mary Anne Simpson, and The McLean Bible Church.
Action Anime? Only at MIT!. C3 Research Manager Henry Jenkins
cross-posts a piece from his blog on an MIT live action anime
Research Fair Feb. 28. The Convergence Culture Consortium will be
participating in a research fair for the Program in Comparative Media
Studies here at MIT at the end of February.
the US Election. C3 Research Manager Joshua Green writes about the
Election '08 Political Dashboard from Yahoo! and the ECOresearch
Network's US Election 2008 Web Monitor, both of which monitor the
the Consortium: The Digital Race, FoE2, Soaps, and IAP. Sam Ford
co-authors a piece on Web 2.0 in 2007 for The Christian Science
Monitor and is teaching a class on soap operas in the spring, while
Joshua Green and Grant McCracken prepare a course on qualitative
research for MIT's Independent Activities Period.
Follow the Blog
Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
Something in the Air?
The Apple Intarwebs are all aflutter over a handful of
over at Ars Technica depicting the
first Macworld banners up at Moscone Center. Written across them in
Myriad Light is the phrase, "2008. There's something in the air."
Oooooooh. What could it be? What could it be? So
smart money's been on the following:
- New wireless networking tools. At CES, wireless
was all the rage. This has been going on for a while now, actually,
what with the widespread proliferation of high-speed wireless
networking equipment in a range of tasty flavors. 802.11g! 802.11n!
Yummy. However, Apple's AirPort line hasn't been refreshed in a little
while, and their tiny AirPort Express stations are reportedly out of
stock across the country. A safe bet would be a new type of AirPort
Express station with either higher speeds or additional content –
perhaps an AppleTV Express that is only a dumb streaming terminal from
your primary computer?
- New Apple subnotebook. This has been a
favorite for months – the existence of a superslim MacBook with no
optical drive and a hard drive consisting of only Flash memory,
possibly called the MacBook Thin, the MacBook Touch, or (now) the
MacBook Air has been bouncing around the rumor mills since 2006. Most
definitely, c'est possible.
- Extended partnership with AT&T. Last
with AT&T for the iPhone connectivity might have only been the tip
of the iceberg, and the same might be said for the Starbucks iTunes
special stores (which, I might add, are taking way too dang long
to roll out if we still don't have it around MI freaking T). A
3G iPhone is pretty much a sure bet as well, as AT&T chief
executive Randall Stephenson pretty much confirmed
it back in November, but what if that hardware chipset was extended
to all MacBook portables? What if every MacBook came with the same
unlimited data plan for AT&T subscribers? Even if it's only the
subnotebook with that plan, that would be one pretty spiffy machine if
the bandwidth is high enough.
- Wireless movie rentals. The movie rentals
thing is said to
be a done deal as well, so if we take that as a given and add that to
the new Apple TV, renting movies wirelessly from your living room is
nifty, although Pay-Per-View has been doing this for years, so it's not
that nifty. Sure be a dang nice thing to have,
- Apple's own wireless network. Another rumor
has been that
Apple will turn its back on AT&T altogether and introduce its own
cellular network service, something that they'd been talking about
doing before but I don't see happening, or even being announced, until
after the upcoming FCC auction. Further modding this idea down is the
fact that as of the latest release Apple
wasn't even on the list of 266 applicants.
- Wireless monitor connections. Wireless monitor
would be cool, although it would probably require the addition of some
new wireless tech (802.11x?) with much hgher bandwidth. More likely is
the introduction of a wireless Apple tablet that controls your primary
Mac, or – again with the obvious – the addition of some type of Apple
Remote Desktop that allows you to remote-control your Mac from your
iPhone using some type of screen sharing. I'd be hosed in this setup,
since my iPhone screen real estate is a far cry from the three screens
I have wired up to my G5 at home, but still – definitely another
- Wireless iPod headphones. Better wireless
be sweet, and fairly doable – it's so easy to imagine white wireless
iPod headphones that Logitech
did it back in 2005, but a set straight from the mothership itself
would be pretty sweet. Added coolness would be a set of headphones that
used proximity sensors to determine which room they were in,
and fade in and out the volume of the source media depending on what
it's nearest. That way you could have the radio playing silently in one
room and the TV playing silently in another and have your smart
headphones determine the source as you're walking around. Hmmm. Even if
they don't introduce something like that, that sounds like it would be
a neat project...
All that said, the one thing, the absolute least
that I would love to see Apple announce that I've been kicking around
my own head for a while...
I'm going to jump out of my bullet-point format here
thoughts on this last one get lengthy, complete with quoted references
– but bear with me, as this possibility is really very cool.
Different geeks define the Cloud in different ways, but
notion of cloud computing, courtesy of
Cloud computing is a computing paradigm shift
computing is moved away from personal computers or an individual
application server to a "cloud" of computers. Users of
the cloud only need to be concerned with the computing service being
asked for, as the underlying details of how it is achieved are hidden.
This method of distributed computing is done through pooling all
computer resources together and being managed by software rather than a
The services being requested of a cloud are not
limited to using
web applications, but can also be IT management tasks such as
requesting of systems, a software stack or a specific web appliance.
This simplifies IT management as well as increases
system resources. IT administrators no longer need to install software
and manually setup all the systems, but instead they have management
software do this. Resources are used more efficiently as computers can
be consolidated to be used for more tasks. This ensures underutilized
systems do not sit idle.
The New York Times' John Markoff discussed cloud
in the Bits section back in August 2007 in a piece called "Why Can't We
Compute in the Cloud?" In it, he writes:
What's holding back
The arrival of increasing powerful and standardized
has made it possible to think about moving computing and data away from
the desktop and the portable PC and simply displaying the results of
computing that takes place in a centralized location and is then
transmitted via the Internet on the user's screen...
...For all the activity, however, one thing seems to
There have been almost no credible efforts to design
mobile computer hardware to match the wealth of Web software. There are
a number of efforts to design full-featured palm-sized computers
complete with small disk drives. And there are a smattering of efforts,
such as Zonbu, a maker of a subscription-based desktop computer, or the
odd smartphone "peripheral" that will shortly be
available from Palm, designed as a sleek ultra-portable Linux-based
laptop, but shackled it as an accessory for a Treo handheld.
That said, nobody seems to be ready to really gamble
on the Web.
Is anyone else wondering why Palm got a mention here but
Me, what I'd like to see is a further extension of the
computing idea to incorporate the legions of iPhones, cell phones and
other devices using a SETI@home model of distributed computing –
although it'd be a hell of a battery drain and would, I think, require
a much-improved bandwidth scenario, imagine being able to do video
editing on your iPhone by distributing the processor load to the swarm
of unused mobile devices around you at any given time?
Or, similarly, imagine what would happen if Apple
distributed processing model by slapping high-powered processors into
their AirPort Express wi-fi stations so that the speed of your
computing experience was determined not by the number of processors in
your computer, but inside of your network? This isn't a
far-fetched notion at all – in fact, Apple has already been
using distributed computing technology in its own QMaster Services in
Compressor, one of the software packages included in the Final Cut
Suite since 2005. From Apple's own support
Compressor 2 can accelerate processing by
work to multiple computers. All you need is access to more than one
computer and Compressor 2 installed with either DVD Studio Pro 4 or
Final Cut Studio. In addition, Apple Qmaster Services needs to be
installed. Apple Qmaster Services can be installed via the Apple
QMaster Installer (go to the Custom Install window to install only
Services), which is provided with Final Cut Studio 1.0, DVD Studio Pro
Compressor 2 and its Apple Qmaster 2 distributed
handle all the work distribution and processing for you behind the
scenes. They subdivide the work for speed, route the work to the
computers with the most available computing power, and direct the
processing. For more information on distributed processing, open
Compressor and choose Help > Distributed Processing Setup.
The inclusion of these QMaster services at the system
enable distributed computing power to other applications as well – and
other companies might be just waiting to jump on this bandwagon. Adobe
CS3 Extended already plays
well with MATLAB 7.0+, which includes among its features support
for the MATLAB distributed computing engine. While the current model
requires full installs of the software on multiple computers, it's
likely only a matter of time before we elect to install new software
not on our computer, but on our entire computing environment –
and with the advent of data standards and systems like XML,
system-level integration might not require the installation of 'client'
apps onto multiple nodes at all. (Kind of a scary notion, actually –
it's extremely easy to imagine malware implementations at this level.)
But, oh, wait, it's already happening: ever since Mac OS
Panther, Apple's been working on a distributed processing system called
Apple's Xgrid technology makes it easy
to turn an
ad hoc group of Mac systems into a low-cost supercomputer. Leveraging
the power of Mac OS X Server, Xgrid is an ideal distributed computing
platform for individual researchers, specialized collaborators, and
Plus, Xgrid is already built to support Bonjour, Apple's
Since Xgrid is built into Mac OS X and Mac OS X
configuration is easy. Using Xgrid Admin (or the command line, if you
prefer), just designate one system as controller, then enable
additional systems to act as Xgrid agents. All agents use the
zero-configuration Bonjour technology to find the controller and bind
to it automatically -- no need to manually enter a slew of IP
So it looks like, software-wise, the pieces are all
pretty much in
place. This direction would only be accelerated by the transformations
of wi-fi extenders like the AirPort Express into small headless
computing cluster nodes – and while the iPhone's current 620MHz
ARM processor is pretty weak, in a generation or three, it's
entirely possible to imagine the scenario I describe above: all of us
walking around in a persistent, ever-operational, ever-present ad hoc
cloud of data-crunching, art-making and future-building processing
We're very rapidly entering the age of ubiquitous
computing, what my
SXSW friend Adam Greenfield
describes in his book Everyware
(which, by the way, is a steal at less than twenty bucks, one-click
now, operators are standing by). Some might argue that we're already
there – I count myself among them. If Steve Jobs happened to agree,
Tuesday's speech could be a very jaw-dropping experience indeed.
irregularly published column by writer, filmmaker, C3 alum and
Comparative Media Studies Communications Director Geoffrey Long
a member of the 2007 Master's class at CMS. For more of his work,
please visit http://www.geoffreylong.com