C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the C3 Weekly Update.

Current Research

Projects are forging ahead here at the Convergence Culture Consortium. We are in the process of intensive study of the wealth of data produced by our recent YouTube content analysis, with a wide variety of categories coded for thousands of videos. Our plan is to give some updates of that work once a detailed higher-level analysis of the data is complete through the Weekly Update and otherwise prepare that study for a white paper submitted to the Consortium's partners later this spring, as well as a presentation of some of our findings at the Consortium retreat in May. We look forward to your feedback on the work as it comes through.

Similarly, the viral media projects our students are working on early this spring will propose particular ways of understanding viral marketing, viral distribution, and viral aesthetics. These individual projects will provide the groundwork for a more comprehensive white paper that we will be releasing this spring, and their work will be presented both in future C3 Weekly Updates and at the partners' retreat in May. Our plan is to look at common understandings of the "viral media" phenomenon, what this biological analogy means for understanding the social spread of media content, and the limitations of that metaphor, all in relation to our ongoing effort to better understand what we have been discussing as the shift from "sticky" to "spreadable" media forms.

February Events

In relation to that viral media work, please note on the "Upcoming" calendar the Consortium event taking place this Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring C3 Consulting Researcher and Berkman Center fellow at neighboring Harvard University Shenja van der Graaf, who will be joined by MIT Futures of Entertainment 2 panelist Mike Rubenstein and Fanscape's Natalie Lent. We hope that those of you who will be here in the Boston area on Thursday will be able to join us for this general discussion of viral media and the planned reception afterward. For those of you who will be unable to join us in person, please note that the colloquium event will be made available as an audio podcast.

Also, again remember in particular that next Thursday, Feb. 28, is our Program in Comparative Media Studies Research Fair, which will include not just the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium but the other five research groups affiliated with CMS: The Center for Future Civic Media, The Education Arcade, The HyperStudio Laboratory for Digital Humanities, Project New Media Literacies, and The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.

For those of you who are interested in knowing more about not only what the Consortium does but our academic program as a whole, we'd love to have you stop by.

Partners Retreat

We will have more details forthcoming on our Consortium Retreat on Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09, here on MIT's campus shortly, but we hope that a variety of representatives from each of our corporate partners will be able to join us. We wanted to give you plenty of advanced notice to put that event on your calendars.

This two-day retreat is used to present many of the most significant findings from our research over the past several months, bring in some interesting projects from our consulting researchers and others interested in this space, and ultimately build our discussion toward where the Consortium's research is heading as we begin planning for the 2008-2009 academic year.

During the retreat, on Thursday night, we'll be having our final colloquium event for the Program in Comparative Media Studies, which partners and consulting researchers are encouraged to attend. The event, which will take place from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., features Lev Manovich.

Manovich is the author of the 2005 MIT Press book Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database, as well as the 2001 MIT Press book The Language of New Media. The latter book is hailed as "the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan.

Manovich is a professor in the Visual Arts Department of the University of California-San Diego, a director of the Software Studies Initiative at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (CALIT2), and a visiting research professor at Goldsmith College in London and the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

We'd love to have our consulting researchers as possible here for the retreat, as well as representatives from all of our partner companies. If you are interested in attending or have any questions regarding details about the retreat, please contact me directly at The event is only open to those who are currently affiliated with C3 or one of its partner companies.

This Week's C3 Weekly Update

This week's newsletter features the fifth in C3 Director Henry Jenkins' six-part series on user-generated content, parody, and the current U.S. presidential election.

This work will act as an update of Henry's work in Convergence Culture, the book that is C3's namesake. It will appear as a new chapter in the paperback version of the book, as well as in an upcoming anthology edited by Jonathan Gray.

The Closing Note this week is a continuation of C3 Consulting Researcher Stefan Werning's series launched last week, focusing on programmable technologies in business contexts.

And, as usual, we include links to the latest blog posts from the Consortium's site. This week's blog posts include pieces from myself and our team of graduate student researchers, as well as C3 Director Henry Jenkins.

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 C3 Weekly Update, at


In This Issue

Editor's Note

Opening Note: Henry Jenkins on the CNN/YouTube Debates, Part V

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: Stefan Werning on Programmable Technologies in Business Contexts, Part II


Thursday, Feb. 21, 5-7 p.m.
Viral Media: Hows and Whys
Featuring Mike Rubenstein. Natalie Lent, and Shenja van der Graaf: Bldg. 2, Rm. 105
Co-sponsored by the Convergence Culture Consortium

Thursday, Feb. 28, 5-7 p.m.
CMS Research Fair 2008
Featuring CMS Research Groups, including the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium: TSMC Lobby and Bldg. 32, Rm. 155, Stata Center

Thursday, March 06-Sunday, March 09
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Philadelphia
Featuring the following presentations:
Understanding Vast Narratives and Immersive Story Worlds by C3 Project Manager Sam Ford
Bond in Bondage: Ratings Creep, Violence, and Casino Royale by C3 Consulting Researcher Kevin Sandler
The Public Sphere in a "Hybrid Media Ecology": YouTube, Network Television, and Presidential Politics by C3 Director Henry Jenkins
Architectures of Participation: Wiki Fandom and the Case of LostPedia by C3 Consulting Researcher Jason Mittell
The People Formerly Known As: What Happens to the Audience When We're All "Users"? by C3 Research Manager Joshua Green
Framing Motion: Early Cinema's Conservative Method's of Display by C3 Consulting Researcher Ted Hovet
Scholarly Writing in the Digital Age workshop featuring C3 Consulting Researcher Jason Mittell
The Future of Television Studies workshop chaired by C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio
Location Matters: Spatial Logics of Bollywood-Dotcom Convergence by C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar

Thursday, March 06, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Prime Time in Transition
Featuring Howard Gordon, Barbara Hall, and John Romano: Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building, MIT Media Lab

Saturday, March 08, 2-3 p.m.
South by Southwest Interactive Opening Remarks
Featuring C3 Director Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson, Austin, TX

Thursday, March 13, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Global TV
Featuring Eggo Müller, Roberta Pearson, and William Uricchio: Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building, MIT Media Lab

Friday, March 21, 10-11:30 a.m.
Valuing Fans Outside the Target Demographic: Soap Opera Fans and Proselytizing
C3 Project Manager Sam Ford's presentation as part of the soap opera area of the National Popular Culture Association Conference, San Francisco

Thursday, April 10, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Our World Digitized: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Featuring Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein: Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building, MIT Media Lab
Co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media

Thursday, April 24, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Youth and Civic Engagement
Featuring Lance Bennett, Ian V. Rowe: Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building, MIT Media Lab
Co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media

Thurs., April 24, to Sat., April 26
Console-ing Passions 2008 Conference
C3 Project Manager Sam Ford will be participating in a panel. Details forthcoming.

Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09
C3's Spring Retreat

Thursday, May 22, to Monday, May 26
Communicating for Social Impact, Conference of the Interntional Communication Association
C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will make two presentations at this Montreal event. Details forthcoming.

Opening Note

Why Mitt Romney Won't Debate a Snowman, Part V: Parody as Pedagogy

The fifth part of this six-part series from C3 Director Henry Jenkins looks at some of the broader implications of the use of parody in analyzing the political process, surrounding the 2008 Presidential Election in the U.S. This series gives C3 Weekly Update viewers an advance version of Jenkins' latest essay, which will be featured as an additional chapter for the paperback edition of Convergence Culture and as part of a forthcoming book from Jonathan Gray, who was one of the speakers at the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference. The previous four pieces in this series have ran in prior Opening Notes.

We can not reduce the complexity of this hybrid media ecology I've been writing about to simple distinctions between top-down and bottom-up, professional and amateur, insider or outsider, old and new media, Astroturf and grassroots, or even "serious fun" and "barely political."

Grassroots and mainstream media might pursue parallel interests, even as they act autonomously. Consider, for example, a video which TechPresident identifies as one of the top "voter-generated videos" of 2007. The video starts with a clip of Joseph Biden joking during one debate appearance that every sentence Rudolph Giuliani utters includes "a noun, a verb, and 9/11," and follows with a database of clips showing the former New York Mayor referencing 9/11. The video was produced and distributed by Talking Points Memo, one of the most widely read progressive political blogs. In many ways, all the parody does is amplify Biden's own political message, supporting his claims that Giuliani was exploiting a national tragedy for his own political gains.

The ready access of digital search tools and online archives makes it trivial for small scale operators, like the bloggers, to scan through vast amounts of news footage and assemble clips to illustrate their ideas in a matter of a few days. Such tactical raids on digital archives – for both serious and satirical purposes – will become commonplace during the 2008 political season – originating from campaign staffers and politically motivated bloggers alike.

Often, these playful tactics get described in terms of the needs to adopt new rhetorical practices to reach the so-called "digital natives," a generation of young people who have grown up in a world where the affordances of participatory media technologies have been commonplace.

Researchers debate whether these young people are, in fact, politically engaged since their civic lives take very different forms from those of previous generation. W. Lance Bennett contrasts two different framings of this data in his essay "Changing Citizenship in a Digital Age" as part of his 2008 MIT Press book Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth:

The engaged youth paradigm implicitly emphasizes generational changes in social identity that have resulted in the growing importance of peer networks and online communities [ . . . ] This paradigm emphasizes the empowerment of youth as expressive individuals and symbolically frees young people to make their own creative choices [ . . . ] As a result, the engaged youth paradigm opens the door to a new spectrum of civic actions in online arenas from MySpace to World of Warcraft."

He might have added YouTube.

Bennett continues, "By contrast, the disengaged youth paradigm may acknowledge the rise of more autonomous forms of public engagement such as consumer politics, or the occasional protest in MySpace, while keeping the focus on the generational decline in connections to government (e.g., voting patterns) and general civic involvement (e.g., following public affairs in the news) as threats to the health of the democracy."

The activist deployment of parody videos can be understood as an attempt to negotiate between these two perspectives. It starts with a recognition that young people have come to see YouTube as supporting individual and collective expression and that they often feel excluded by the policy wonk language of traditional politics and the inside the beltway focus of much campaign news coverage.

Parody offers an alternative language through which policy debates and campaign pitches might be framed, one that, as Stephen Duncombe (author of Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy) suggests, models itself on popular culture but responds to different ethical and political imperatives.

The often "politically incorrect" style of Internet parody flies in the face of the language and assumptions by which previous generations debated public policy. Such videos may not look like 'politics as usual' yet their goals are no different in many cases from traditional political advertising: the people who produced and circulated these videos want to motivate young voters to participate in the electoral process. Such a model sees internet parodies as springboards for larger conversations – whether through blogs and discussion forums online or face to face between people gathered around a water cooler.

These parody videos bring the issues down to a human scale, depicting Bush as an incompetent reality show contestant, Romney as someone whose afraid to go man to man with a snowman, Giuliani as obsessed with 9/11, or Edwards as a narcissist with fluffy hair. Duncombe has argued that news comedy shows, such as The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, foster a kind of civic literacy, teaching viewers to ask skeptical questions about core political values and the rhetorical process that embody them:

In doing this they hold out the possibility of something else, that is, they create an opening for a discussion on what sort of a political process wouldn't be a joke. In doing this they're setting the stage for a very democratic sort of dialogue: one that asks questions rather than simply asserts the definitive truth.

We might connect Duncombe's argument back to Wealth of Networks author Yochai Benkler's larger claim that living within a more participatory culture changes how we understand our place in the world, even if we never chose to actively participate. Yet, there is also the risk, as Duncombe points out, that such parody "can, just as easily, lead into a resigned acceptance that all politics are just a joke and the best we can hope for it to get a good laugh out of it all."

Here, skepticism gives way to cynicism. Nothing insures that a politics based in parody will foster one and not the other.

Next week, in the Opening Note, Jenkins provides the conclusion of this six-part series.

Henry Jenkins is the chief faculty investigator for the Convergence Culture Consortium and is Director of the Comparative Media Studies program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities at MIT. His blog is available here.

Glancing at the C3 Blog, Online Music Distribution, and Cross-Platform Promotion. Sam Ford writes about the new CBS-owned ad-supported online music distribution system and the buzz, the promise, and the limitations of the service.

Bickering between Dunkin' Donuts and Its Franchises. Sam Ford writes about unrest between the chain and franchises, the challenges of brand extensions, and similarities with network/affilate tensions.

Light Bulbs and Eye Drops: FNL Fan Care Packages for NBC. Sam Ford writes about two other fan campaigns that call for other items to be sent to NBC to rally for keeping Friday Night Lights on the air.

Go Long, Peacock: FNL Fans Beef Up Offensive Line. Sam Ford writes about a fan movement sending mini-footballs to NBC in order to rally for the continued life of the small-town drama.

More Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference. Sam Ford provides more information from the Console-ing Passions conference, including information about the workshop he will be speaking in at the conference on Friday, April 25.

Some Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference. Sam Ford writes about some of the panels of particular interest to him at the April 2008 Console-ing Passions conference he is speaking at in Santa Barbara, Calif.

From YouTube to WeTube... C3 Director Henry Jenkins writes about the 24/7 DIY Video Summit he participated in and links to conference video.


Honeydripper: The Challenges of Self-Distribution. C3 graduate student researcher Ana Domb writes about the distribution model surrounding this independent film and what might be learned from the efforts of John Sayles and company.

Ending the WGA Strike. C3 graduate student researcher Xiaochang Li provides some notes on news coming out of the resolution of the writers strike and particularly what this means for the development of new media surrounding media and entertainment properties.

Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future? (2 of 2). In the concluding part of this series, C3 graduate student researcher Eleanor Baird looks at the role technological change, cable companies, advertisers, and audiences might play in deciding the prevalence of streaming video.

Pulling Out the Crystal Ball: Is Streaming the Way of the Future (1 of 2). C3 graduate student researcher Eleanor Baird provides her thoughts on streaming video and the role of content creators in deciding the prevalence of this distribution form in this first installment of a two-part piece.

Around the Consortium: FoE2, Firebrand, Bollywood, and Jason Mittell. MTVN's Greg Weinstein gives a recap of the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference here at C3, while consulting researcher Jason Mittell is featured in a personality profile in a Vermont newspaper and other C3 alum and consulting researchers have published interesting blog posts.

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

Economic Codes: Some Thoughts on the Impact of Programmable Technologies in Business Contexts, Part II of III:
Program Code Logic in the Critical Chain

The first part of this series ran in the Closing Note of last week's C3 Weekly Update.

One increasingly popular model of project management which is being implemented in numerous major companies from General Electric to Nintendo of Europe is the notion of Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) advocated by Eliyahu Goldratt on the basis of his Theory of Constraints (TOC). Most basally, CCPM attempts to streamline projects by eliminating intermediary deadlines, abolishing multi-tasking to prevent negative associated side affects such as adaptation times to switch between tasks or 'social loafing' (Ringelmann effect) and inserting various types of buffers to protect planning goals.

Individual employees are thus supposed to finish one task after the other without being required to report regularly or meet in-between deadlines; the 'critical chain' thereby ties together all steps required to reach a given goal by having employees move in and out of the chain depending on the relevance of their task for the superordinate goal. While this project management paradigm appears only applicable with quantifiable tasks (or 'numerically expressible' according to Lev Manovich) in the first place, it arguably reflects the move from procedural to object-oriented programming (OOP), focusing less on routines and sub-routines than on semi-autonomous 'objects.'

Other CCPM elements like resource dependencies back this assumption, envisioning a company as a multithreading 'processing unit' that the TOC can be 'run on' as software. This 'technical' reading of economic organization is simultaneously reflected in program code rhetoric employed in CCPM textbooks; the key concept of "protecting" the critical chain with "buffers" is but one obvious example. The plausibility of this rhetoric draws mainly from the fact that computer programs have implicitly become a perceived epitome of organizational clarity and efficacy, not only in economic contexts but also e.g. in warfare as I elaborated in my dissertation. Ironically, the ergonomics of a well-run company itself previously, most notably in the 1980s, used to occupy this role model function for warfare.

For instance, Noam Chomsky repeatedly quoted contemporary (even left-wing liberal) politicians like Michael Kinsley arguing that the US intervention against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua was officially and, to a degree, publicly considered a "sensible policy" since it allegedly complied with the logic of "cost-benefit analysis." The consequently popular analogy of a succesful military as business or company has been influential on decision-making processes and even conceptually 'prepared' notions like private military contractors; with the pervasive use of programmable technologies in both areas, this interplay of role models has become more bidirectional with e.g. the popularity of maneuver warfare as a retrofitted model of business organization evident in the work of Pech and Durden in their 2003 Management Decision piece "Manoeuvre Warfare: A New Military Paradigm for Business Decision Making," and Clemons and Santamaria's 2002 piece, "Maneuver Welfare: Can Modern Military Strategy Lead You to Victory?" in the April 2002 edition of Harvard Business Review. Just as Benedict Anderson explains how 'media technologies' like maps and census historically shaped forms of governance, the use of programmable media technologies can be expected to shape the style of 'governance' in media businesses as will be demonstrated in the concluding case study.

Accordingly, the TOC is described as a "toolkit," i.e. its non-mathematicized economic principles are labelled and considered as "tools" which implies their internal stability and reusability in compatible contexts much like modular program code is ideally reusable and quasi-organically 'evolves' over time (See here.). CCPM and TOC thus insert a layer of abstraction that conceptually separates work processes from planning; as 'middleware' like e.g. game engines or internal scripting languages such as LUA, CCPM and TOC introduce a common 'interface' and set of instructions that can ideally be reused in various work contexts to optimize processes. Similar to development middleware, however, they also produce a characteristically limited perspective on the task at hand; by establishing themeselves as an 'epistemological buffer' and these social technologies intrinsically plausible and conceal their basic assumptions similar e.g. to the underlying soft physics model being concealed as built-in 'bias' by implementing a physics engine.

The CCPM/TOC as middleware consist of a number of lower-level 'algorithms' such as 'reality trees,' 'obstacle trees' and 'conflict clouds'; analoguous to program code, these business tools take in specific 'data types' (i.e. data in a specifically pre-structured form), process the information and deliver output which in turn can be read as a variable or reprocessed by a complementary 'algorithm' as e.g. in the subsequent use of obstacle tree and conflict tree. These lower-level algorithms lend themselves to or are even dependent on visualization techniques similar to UML (Unified Modeling Language) which, themselves, are equally expressible as program code; 'reality trees' in that regard are largely congruent with UML state machine diagrams in that they represent a dynamic configuration of causal relations. These tools thus require the user to conceptualize a business within the formal imaginary of program code, i.e. within the constraints of what is expressible using the formal repertoire of UML diagrams.

These 'trees' are designed to be solved by removing 'branches' that represent interoffice problems and observing or rather cognitively 'simulating' the repercussions within the modeled system. Completing the circular argument, UML is increasingly being considered for business modelling purposes as e.g. in various essays by Eriksson and Penker, such as their 2000 book Business Modeling with UML: Business Patterns at Work. Their work demonstrates the plausibility of conceiving of a company or business process as a computer program. Even very specific properties of program code and OOP in particular such as recursivity are exhibited in this model, notably e.g. in the case of obstacle trees and reality trees being suggested as actual tools to tackle problems and remove branches in the tree itself; for instance, the logic of the reality tree is implicitly regarded as the common 'interface' provided by CCPM in business contexts (cf. above) and creating as well as sharing these trees as a common data structure is intended to be useful within the tree itself to remove problems by improving internal communication. This procedure is largely in accordance with the use of recursive algorithms/functions in programming, e.g. for basal techniques like describing Fibonacci sequences as in the following simple C function:

int fibonacci (int n)
{ if (n < 2)
            return 1;
            return fibonacci (n-2) + fibonacci (n-1);

To conclude this point, the 'installation' of CCPM/TOC as 'middleware' in a company has far-reaching consequences, ideally requiring every issue that needs to be solved (e.g. the acquisition of equipment) to be formulated 'compatible' within the infrastructure, i.e. e.g. 'processable' with an obstacle tree. Goldratt published his concept of CCPM both in economic papers and as a novelized version. Even this system of distribution can arguably be conceived of as quasi-algorithmic since the disparate positioning of those two very different text forms constitutes a system of interdependent 'discourse algorithms' (in a logical rather than linguistic sense where 'discourse' is parsed semantically or grammatically) which mutually reinforce each other and still continue to establish the ongoing popularity of the approach.

The conclusion of this series will run in the closing note of next week's C3 Weekly Update.

Stefan Werning works in the product analysis department of Nintendo of Europe, where he started in March 2007. He joined the Convergence Culture Consortium as a consulting researcher during his semester as a visitor of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT when he was a doctoral candidate and associate lecturer at the Asian Studies Center in Bonn, Germany. He writes on topics including e-learning solutions based on digital games and modeling terrorism in recent military policies to interactive media analysis.

The Fine Print

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


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