June 25, 2007
BBC'S Sam Smith and the Notion of "Fragvergence"

I don't know if it will become a bona fide buzzword, but C3 Affiliated Faculty Grant McCracken sent me an e-mail recently recommending the site Fragvergence, a Blogger site started by Sam Smith (head of future media research for the BBC) that just presents a presentation he made at the Market Research Society and a note that the MRS had nominated his paper in their best New Thinking category.

Smith's presentation focuses on his use of the word fragvergence to emphasize that what is meant by the term convergence does not actually mean the convergence of services into one "black box" (see Henry Jenkins' writing about "The Black Box Fallacy" in Convergence Culture) but rather into many devices, and he provides a diagram depicting how messy technological convergence has become.

While the majority of our work in C3, and posts on this site, focus on the social and cultural implications of convergence, particularly in relation to the ways in which consumers relate to each other and to producers, we nonetheless do regularly focus on and feature news about technological changes, and Smith's research is well worth a read in that regard.

He says, "Not one product but thousands of products, launching faster and faster, having shorter lifespans, with more and more functionality, overlapping massively with other products. Not convergence alone, but convergence with massive device fragmentation - fragvergence."

However, he also writes about the divergence of cultural uses of these technologies as well, pointing out that--as devices become more and more multifunctional, people may own the same gadget but have completely different uses for it.

His focus on the implications for media researchers are how to measure "different" media forms separately in an age of media convergence; how one can find solutions to being able to plan for the future in an age where change is happening so rapidly; and how can the industry work together to cover an increasingly fragmented audience.

I think the arguments contained here are quite relevant to a number of questions we've been asking here at C3 for a long time, and I'd just like to direct all those interested in these sorts of questions to Sam Smith's piece.

The questions related to measurement issues and technological convergence are important to the industry that we cover here and the questions we ask about the implications these industry shifts have on the lives of the consumers and fans of media properties, brands, and new technologies.