January 19, 2007
The Convergence Manifesto I: Convergence--The Buzzword

This is the first part of a piece that originally appeared in the 01 September 2006 edition of the Convergence Culture Consortium's Weekly Update, an internal newsletter for affiliated researchers and corporate members of C3.

The word convergence is getting a lot of buzz. In fact, since I am a researcher for the Convergence Culture Consortium and the primary operator of its blog, I guess I am capitalizing on that buzz quite a bit myself, so this is no criticism of the convergence buzzword. We took our name from the book by the director of our research group, Henry Jenkins, entitled Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.

All of us working within C3 wholeheartedly believe that, with the advent of new media forms and the potential for cross-platform and transmedia storytelling, that we truly are in a drastically altered media environment that both users and content producers are still plumbing and mapping out.

But there are plenty of naysayers, plenty of people who dismiss any discussion of convergence as just buying into something that is irrelevant, or else greatly exaggerated. And I understand why. For some, convergence seems to be technological determinism, driven by powerful conglomerates who seek to squeeze more blood from their viewers/listeners/readers. In other words, these cynical critics see convergence as a force imposed on the masses by corporations looking to increase bottom lines, usually by stepping all over their own employees in the process.

And those stories are fueled by DRM blocks that do not allow viewers to watch content when they want and where they want, copyright infringement notices sent to fans that admonish them for posting videos to YouTube or maintaining a fan site with logos or photographs from the show, and the lobbying from the writers guilds claiming that television writers are being given an increasing workload with no compensation.

These are issues that I've written about extensively here at the C3 weblog. Critics want to view convergence as a capitalist creation intended to make the rich richer while stepping all over users and abusing employees. And there is a degree of that corporate greed in today's media, although that is not an exemplar of what convergence culture is.