September 30, 2007

A Guide to Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites are changing the way we interact with our peers. The National School Board Association and Grunwald Associates LLC released a recent study about how "teens and tweens are creating content and connections online." They reported that 96% of students with Internet access use social networking technologies.

While it may seem that Social Networking Sites (SNS) seem to be vulnerable to the next new site, we can't deny that MySpace and are here to stay.

What are the characteristics of a good SNS? What are some of the key differences between them? How are the good sites holding the interest of its users?

I thought the best way to answer these questions was to create profiles for three popular sites, Friendster, Facebook and MySpace. I wrote a mock user profile from the position that I was the actual site I was writing the profile for.

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September 29, 2007

Hey! Nielsen--What's the Metric?

Nielsen, the media rating giant, recently launched, a site where anyone with an internet connection can set up a profile and comment on TV, movies, web sites, personalities and music. What makes this different from the millions of fan sites and blogs already online is that - it's well, Nielsen, a name that carries a fair bit of clout - but also that it's using data from its other properties,, and to develop the Hey! Nielsen Score which, according to the website, is "a real-time indicator of a topic's impact, influence, and value". Rather than deliver a single number and ranking, I will argue that the site's purpose is ultimately less obvious and more strategic.

The concept itself isn't exactly new. The company has had a product called BuzzMetrics for at least a year now, a measurement tool that gauges reactions in user-generated media to specific products. There are products with similar aims on the market from other companies as well.

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September 28, 2007

Gender and Fan Culture (Round Seventeen, Part Two): Melissa Click and Joshua Green

MC: How do we proceed in fan studies--what do we agree belongs in this category, and what should be left out? There seems to be an agreement (if only a reluctant one) among folks in this discussion on the idea that the category "fan" should be broadened. Concern has been expressed, however, that if we make it too broad, it will lose its meaning. Could we begin to try to nail it down by suggesting the ways "audience" and "fans" might be different?

JG: I'm really interested in this question as I think complicating the term "fan", and its use, can help us to start to understand how ideas about the audience itself is being transformed by the participatory moment that has arisen. This discussion has offered up a good range of ways to account for fandom that run the gamut from structures of feeling to productive consumption via a spectrum of viewing intensity (and the comments even offered up "fanatic" at one point). Theoretically pragmatic personally, I drew a lot from Anne Kustritz and Derek Johnson's deconstruction of fans as an object of study that can be generalized about, challenging the notion of the fan as necessarily determined by community, socialization, productivity, consumption, engagement, or outsider status. Their ultimate conclusion seemed to be that the fan as an object of study needs to be understood as a multiplicitous social construction and contextualized within historical and cultural specificity. That said, they also draw upon the notion of the fan as a sort of cultural logic used to describe particular categories of consumption for the purposes of patrolling 'normal' behavior. This is a classic position for the fan, historically positioned as atypical or anomalous in ways that permit the delimitation of acceptable media consumption and engagement habits. In the current moment, however, where non-fan audiences (apologies for the clunky language) are bring increasingly described if not constructed through discourses of production, the fan seems to have been drawn back in somewhat from the edge. As the television industry, especially, attempts to make sense of the impact of inviting viewers to participate, losing control over the contexts of consumption, and realigns itself in an environment that seems likely to privilege multiple separate opportunities to view content, certain elements of the fandom look very tantalizing as models of audience practice worth encouraging. Of course, this is not unproblematic, and the industry seems mostly interested in promoting the depth of engagement and what I would characterize as the structures of feeling of fan engagement and hopefully not having to deal with the politics of ownership and production that emerge from fandom. But the fan as a model of a passionate consumer, a loyal consumer, a willing participant, a word-of-mouth marketer (or what Sam Ford regularly refers to as a proselytizer), an active participant in expansive storyworlds, and even a producer of additional textual elements (whatever sanctioned or tolerated form they might take), seems to be having an impact on the model of 'regular' audienceship, particularly as the behaviors once considered anomalous (such as archiving content, to pick up on Derek's own example) are wrapped into revenue models or normalized through cultural practice.
MC: I should confess (in case it's not yet obvious) that I'm in agreement with the folks who keep saying that they think there's something useful in studying audience members who do not behave as fans have typically been defined--as communal producers of materials that "rewrite" media texts. I support this perspective because it speaks to my experiences as a fan--and I find it useful in terms of understanding the activity I have seen in my study of Martha Stewart fans.

Continue reading "Gender and Fan Culture (Round Seventeen, Part Two): Melissa Click and Joshua Green" »

September 27, 2007

Gender and Fan Culture (Round Seventeen, Part One): Melissa Click and Joshua Green

This is part of the Gender and Fan Studies series that is running over on Henry Jenkins' blog.

MC: Hi, I'm Melissa Click and I'm completing my dissertation on Martha Stewart fans (at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst), teaching at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and am just catching up on my sleep after the wonderfully overwhelming experience of having my first child. Having one foot in the East Coast and the other foot in the Mid-West, being in the midst of completing my Ph.D. while developing my professional identity as a scholar, and trying to figure out how to balance my work life and newly changed homelife, means that I'm still catching up on my TV viewing (I heart Tivo), I don't usually blog, and I'm a bit more behind on academic reading than I'd prefer.

As a scholar writing about Martha Stewart fans, I have argued that the women and men I interviewed were not simply audience members, they are fans (and anti-fans, for that matter). However, the types of fandom they demonstrated were different than many of the types of fandom discussed here: they didn't write Martha fan-fic, create Martha fan-vids, etc. My interest in their fandom overlapped with my own interest in/repulsion by Stewart's texts, and my allegiance with their behaviors as fans--my expressions of fandom mirror the behaviors gendered "masculine" in this discussion.

JG: Hello all, my name is Joshua Green. I'm a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT where I also run the Convergence Culture Consortium. At the Consortium we do a lot of work about the changing patterns of relationships between media producers - big and small, professional and amateur - media content and various audience formulations. We work with some "big media" companies (though not exclusively) to come to understand the changing environment in which their content circulates and the changing logics of the media space when you factor in participatory culture and the changing constitution of the audience experience.

Before I transplanted from Australia to the States, I was working on the recent history Australian television, particularly looking at the way the Australian television system resolved the presence of international, and specifically American, programming with discourses of nationalism. My (I suppose still recently completed) dissertation looked at the way Dawson's Creek was nationalized by industrial promotional strategies and received by a range of Australian viewers. I'm currently really, very interested in the ways we can understand the constitution and composition of television audiences as they're imagined more and more as media producers, or at least, as the role of media production is increasingly prescribed for those we used to understand as audiences.

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Union Strike in Second Life

A lot of discussion focused on Second Life of late has been about the overhype--how the economic and cultural implications of late have exaggerated the impact that this space is having. I, however, take the same approach that Henry Jenkins has at times, noting that Second Life is interesting inasmuch as it is a testing ground for interesting behaviors. In short, it's an interesting place to study, even if it is not necessarily a major piece of the economic puzzle for the mainstream.

The latest example of interesting things happening in Second Life? See this post from Wagner James Au, who reports from Second Life, about labor union protests spilling over from the first life into this world. Workers who are part of the RSU Italian labor union are in a struggle with IBM, and the picketing and other protest behaviors have made their way into the virtual world.

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Nielsen Pledges to Triple Sample Size by 2011

It was an announcement we knew was in the works, but Nielsen has made public that it will be tripling the size of its ratings sample by that mythic year, 2011, in which the media industry is hanging all its hopes. (I say this because every projection I come across extends a forecast out to 2011.)

The announcement, made earlier this week, has seen Nielsen proclaim that their numbers will be much more precise now, since they will be based on 37,000 homes and 100,000 people, rather than the current 12,000 homes and 35,000 people that Nielsen says it uses today.

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Coastal Dreams the Lastest Online Video Series

Among all the discussion about the television shows launching this season is a whole other series of programming launching this fall as well: new online series.

In the past couple of weeks, I have written about new online series like Crescent Heights, sponsored by Tide, and Quarterlife, the online television series from the creators of thirtysomething and My So-Called Life.

Now, there has been some buzz about another new online series, launched from NBC, called Coastal Dreams. According to the series' site, Coastal Dreams "is a new online-only drama featuring two young women living, working and playing in the scenic seaside town of Pacific Shores."

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September 26, 2007

The "Cluttered" TV Screen in the Context of Screen History

A recent article in the New York Times reports on the concern about snipes, bugs, and crawls that increasingly appear on TV screens and the degree to which they compete for attention with "primary" content

At stake is the industry's effort to shape the expectations of viewers and to test their tolerance of multiple areas of content on a single screen. At what point does promotion become distraction, and at what point does distraction generate backlash? How many different points of content can exist comfortably on the same screen? How effective is multiple layers of content in generating attention?

A historical consideration of screen entertainment can help sort out some of the issues at stake. As this article emphasizes, the first and most obvious comparison of the cluttered TV screen is to a newer medium, that of the computer. This implies, of course, that TV is attempting, perhaps a bit desperately and clumsily, to catch up to a newer and slicker way to display content on a screen. However a more productive comparison might be to older media, especially those that thrived before the dominance of the screen.

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The Fall Season Approaches: Pimp Your New Favorites

Last Fall, I asked readers of my blog to "pimp their favorite television show," and we had a truly inspiring set of responses. Indeed, I discovered Supernatural through a groundswell of responses I received there, and it has emerged as one of my very favorite programs and belatedly, this summer, I finally have started to catch up with Battlestar Galactica (I'm now half way through Season 2), another series which was a favorite among readers of my blog.

Since this topic is of interest to the Convergence Culture Consortium as well, and since Sam Ford wrote about the Extratextuals recently, I thought I would cross-post this entry to the C3 blog as well.

This year, I want to start the process earlier. Many of us are checking out the new fall line-up which is starting in earnest this week. So I thought I'd invite you to share with other blog readers your impressions of the new series, over at my site or here.

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Discovery/Starcom Study Finds HD Ads Sigificantly More Successful

A new study that's been making its rounds finds that high-definition advertising content, at this stage, is a much more successful way to reach audiences.

The study, which was conducted in correlation with the upfront deal struck between the Discovery HD Theater channel and Starcom USA, found a lot of interesting points: that recall of brands was three times higher for HD users as compared to those watching commercials in standard-definition; that advertising was considered more enjoyable in HD; and that the "intent-to-purchase" was 55 percent higher comparing high-definition ads to standard-definition ads. The study looked at SD and HD viewers of Discovery programming and their ad recall rates.

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September 24, 2007

A New Home for UGC Creators

There is a new player in the UGC field: The User-Generated Content Database (ugcDb), which expects to become the "Who's Who" of the UGC world. As the name hints, this site has a pretty similar structure to that of, with the distinction that they focus on the content creators and the community around them. Although they're still in beta, ugcDb already has close to 1,000 creator profiles.

In a time when mainstream media and advertising are constantly trying to find a way to take advantage of the passion behind UGC, and when many amateur creators are hoping to use UGC as a stepping-stone toward a more profitable production model, creating a clear-cut definition of UGC is not an easy thing.

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Aswin Punathambekar's BollySpace 2.0

Another C3 Consulting Researcher who is establishing his own branded place in the blogosphere is Dr. Aswin Punathambekar. For those who are within the Consortium and who receive our C3 Weekly Update on a regular basis, you have read some of Aswin's work in the past. He often writes about examples from Bollywood and film culture, in relation to a lot of the activities we define here as "convergence culture."

Aswin's blog, called BollySpace 2.0, relaunched recently to detail his thoughts about the media industries in South Asia. Aswin's international perspective often ties into what we write about as "pop cosmopolitanism," but deals as well with new media forms of distribution, the activities of fan communities, transmedia storytelling, and all the other issues we write about here at C3 on a regular basis.

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Work around the Consortium: Local Marketing, Fan Studies, Scorn, and Consumption Studies

Things have been busy here at the Consortium, making plans for the upcoming Futures of Entertainment conference in November that we are hosting and the upcoming project we have here within the Consortium about YouTube. In the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to point you all toward some of the most interesting content that has been published around the Consortium in the past few days.

First off, from our corporate partners over at GSD&M Idea City down in Austin coms a piece demonstrating what GSD&M does well on their blog: finding inspiration from local examples. Today, Rad Tollett writes about the branding and marketing of local pizza shops the Austin Onion and Home Slice. Rad sums up, "Whereas Austin Onion targets party kids by becoming the party-pizza-parlor, Home Slice targets progressive families by establishing their own family traditions. And is 'target' even the right word? Call it purpose, call it attraction, call it branding...whatever it is, it works." In true GSD&M form, they seem to find a lot of intriguing ideas based on the creativity around Austin and the surrounding area, and I think there's a lot of valuable insight about targeting consumers, understanding those consumers, and providing an experience for them is demonstrated through this look at the local.

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September 21, 2007

The Odd Couple: Digital Distribution and Network Television Branding, Together at Last? (2 of 2)

Digital distribution and network television branding may seem like strange bedfellows, but a recent announcement by NBC suggests to me that they might be a better match than expected.

Betting on Business Models - Will It Work?

Is the new NBC strategy a viable model? Parts of it definitely are, but there are some hurdles to jump first.

One that stands out to me is the pay to download model. More and more, media companies are shying away from paid online content, The New York Times recently joining their ranks. Granted, a TV show is more expensive to produce than a newspaper article, but that should not be the rationale for charging consumers a fee, much less setting the price. When the marginal cost of letting one more person see the show is basically zero and it's very easily available elsewhere (albeit often illegally) for free, next to a lot of other content audiences want to see that doesn't belong to NBC, and not tied to a cool device like the iPod, pricing content is a slippery slope.

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The Odd Couple: Digital Distribution and Network Television Branding, Together at Last? (1 of 2)

Digital distribution and network television branding may seem like strange bedfellows, but a recent announcement by NBC suggests to me that they might be a better match than expected.

Eliminating the Middleman and Branding by Association

On Wednesday, the network announced a new service called NBC Direct, which would enable users to download free,copies of prime time content to their PCs. The files would "expire" in a week.

The service would be ad-supported, with an "unskippable" commercial running before each "chapter" of the program, although no sponsors or advertising partnerships have yet been named, according to MediaPost.

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New Tide-Sponsored Online/Mobile Video Series

The latest news coming out about an online series ties into writing we've been doing here at the Convergence Culture Consortium about online video, branded entertainment, and soap operas. Procter & Gamble's Tide brand will be the sponsor of a new broadband series through GoTV Networks, a 10-parter called Crescent Heights.

The series, written by Mike Martineau of Rescue Me fame (see this post relating to Jason Mittell's writing about the FX series and how he feels it serves as a hypermasculine soap opera), will be available not just through Tide's Web site but also through mobile providers as well.

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Kentucky Weatherman Controversy Raises Issues About Privacy, Copyright, Context, and Information Traces

An event that got a lot of people talking over the past few weeks back in Kentucky, and elsewhere, have--for some people--brought up the somewhat unsavory side of online video, user-generated content, and issues of privacy and context. The weatherman and morning television personality for a local news station in Kentucky, WBKO-13, had a short video clip released of him, off-the-air, waiting for a segment on breast milk donors.

Chris Allen, the news personality, was standing at a screen, juxtaposed against a quite large illustration of the female figure, with the figure's breast next to him. Allen, in an attempt at humor toward his fellow colleagues, started feigning that he was suckling at the breast of the figure, and then reached out to do a grab, complete with "honk, honk" noises.

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September 19, 2007

New York TImes Opens Archives--for Ad Revenue

An interesting piece of self-reflection from The New York Times yesterday. For those of you who are interested in the newspaper business, or just interested readers of The Times, you may have already seen that the site has decided to release most of its archives from behind the pay wall.

I'm intrigued anytime a newspaper decides to report on itself, but this piece, by journalist Richard Perez-Pena, is particularly open about the business rationale behind the decision. Rather than try to hide behind the facade of a good-hearted wish to make the archive open to the masses of students, researchers, and interested citizens, the article highlights the real reason: making the archives available openly is simply more profitable for the Times than keeping them as gated content in a pay-per-view model.

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Take the DS Out to the Ballgame

A future look at an innovative marketing approach for fans is being tested this year at Seattle's Safeco Field.

The Nintendo DS is going to change the way we attend sporting events and participate as a fan.

The deal was struck as part of Nintendo of America's majority ownership of the Seattle Mariners, but it shows the ways in which technologies can be used for a variety of purposes, in this case using a Nintendo device not just for video games, but as an audience participant of live sporting games as well.

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September 18, 2007

Grooveshark and Amie Street: Two Interesting Business Models for Music Distribution

Worldwide physical CD sales are taking yet another dip. Online stores are hardening the competition and being forced to come up with more creative strategies to entice the ever-so-elusive consumer. Meanwhile, certain artists consider profit from recorded music marginal and focus on concerts and other tour-related revenue streams.

It's in this tricky landscape that newcomer digital music stores Grooveshark and Amie Street plan to make their mark. Both companies exploit and reward the fans' loyalties toward their groups and take advantage of the social networking model.

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The C3 Team's Talk with Joe Pine (2 of 2)

The second part of our discussion yesterday with Joe Pine focused on his work with Gillmore on authenticity, which is part of a forthcoming book of his.

This discussion began with Pine describing the three aspects of a product that make people determine it to be inauthentic: the first would be in terms of popularity, in that products often become less authentic as they become more mainstream or taking into account mainstream interests; the second would be in terms of machine, as the lack of human crafting usually causes people to view a product as less authentic; and, finally, there is the aspect of money, in which the more lucrative a product is or the more the creation is perceived to be driven by profit, the less authentic it is.

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The C3 Team's Talk with Joe Pine (1 of 2)

Joe Pine of experience economy fame joined the C3 team and a few other interested folks for a discussion of his work yesterday afternoon, prior to his planned colloquium yesterday evening, for which the podcast will be available in the coming weeks. (Update: The podcast is now available here.)

C3 has encountered Joe's work on the experience economy in the past, although many of the arguments made there have become part of the ways in which may in the media industry think. On the other hand, Joe pointed out that, often, the problem was that the idea gets implemented in quite opposite ways in which it was intended.

For the next couple of posts, I thought I would share some observations based on our conversation yesterday, with this post focusing on our discussion of the experience economy, and the next one focusing on our discussion of authenticity, a subject which Pine and Gillmore are about to release a book on.

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September 17, 2007

Privacy and Information Ownership: The Rapleaf Controversy

The past few weeks, I've been following the controversy around Rapleaf, a company that got some attention in early 2006 as an expanded, more powerful version of Ebay's feedback system, which would allow people to build and look up the "reputations" of other by entering an email address. Profiles on Rapleaf can include everything from your age to your political affiliations to what books you want to buy, as well as testimonials from people who have done business with you (though it's unclear how Rapleaf verifies that these testimonials are legitimate). In short, Rapleaf billed itself as a way to find out what you were getting into before entering a business transaction.

That proposition quickly became rather ironic once controversy surrounding the company started picking up speed in late August 2007, when some bloggers received email notifications from Rapleaf informing them that they had been searched.
While some of the backlash was directed at the "spam" factor of receiving annoying email invitations to Rapleaf, the most vocal outrage was over the potential invasion of privacy.

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September 16, 2007

Streaming Cinema: Contemplating Hollywood and the New VOD

If the stories about Apple's recent talks with Hollywood studios around providing streaming video "rentals" are accurate, the industry seems to be taking another step toward models of temporary access over ownership of digital film. Does this signal an end (or abatement) of the digital distribution-related fears of the film industry? Will digital video-on-demand become a widespread reality, given the recent series of deals and acquisitions?

Beyond the much ballyhooed need to "do something" in digital distribution channels, particularly in streaming movies over the internet lately, it's already proven to be a profitable way to make money on films post-theatrical release. According to the Wall Street Journal, the DVD sale market is worth about $16B, but it is in decline. Meanwhile, margins on cable VOD are 60-70%, compared to 15-20% on video store rentals. If one assumes that going through iTunes carries a similar per unit cost, likewise without the unease about unauthorized copying, it seems like a very worthwhile route.

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A New C3-Related Blog: The Extratextuals

We're in the process of adding a blog roll here at the Consortium's site, primarily to highlight all of our alum, partners, and consulting researchers who have interesting blogs of their own. I link to relevant stories from them from time-to-time, but a recent C3 graduate now launching a blog of his own might have quite a few stories that will be of interest to C3 readers.

Ivan Askwith, who was until recently a graduate student researcher here, has just launched a new blog with Jonathan Gray, an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in NYC, and Derek Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in media in cultural studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison's Communication Arts Department. Askwith is a creative strategist at Big Spaceship in NYC, and he's going to be speaking on a panel at the Producer's Guild of America seminar on Sept. 26 called "Creating Blockbuster Worlds: Transmedia Development and Production." The blog is called The Extratextuals.

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Recent Study Focuses on Swedish Viewing Behaviors

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Pontus Bergdahi, the CEO of Swedish television measurement company MMS. Pontus, a regular reader of the C3 blog, wrote to say that his company had produced a study that might be of interest to our focus here at the Consortium. Unfortunately, the 100-pp. study is not available in English, but I got a chance to look through a summary of the findings, which revealed a few interesting trends.

For instance, the study emphasized above all else that viewers today are watching more television than ever, but it is complicated by the fact that there are a variety of new channels in which they are viewing. In a media environment which values views equally, without bias to which platform they are viewed on, the television industry is stronger than ever, then. As examples like the CBS/Jericho situation reveal, however, the system is not equipped to deal with views on video-on-demand, DVRs, online streaming, downloading or other sources equally, meaning that a viewer really does "count more" when watching on television at the regular time, than they do otherwise...Well, let me amend that: as long as they have a Nielsen box, that is.

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The Disney Channel: Educating Children for a Transmediated World

The Disney Channel has provided an interesting case study throughout cable television history. From its early launch on cable in 1983, to its switch from a premium cable channel to a basic cable channel, to its continued reinventions and rebranding with each new generation of viewers, the outline provides yet another interesting form of study into one of the most important players in the entertainment and media industries, not just in the United States, but around the world.

In Disney TV, J.P. Telotte examines the history of Disney on television, particularly focusing on Walt Disney's early television shows and their relationship to the theme park. The book was required reading in Henry Jenkins' class on the media industries that I took back in 2005, and I found it to be a great model for an intense, narrowly focused, and concise take on a media company.

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September 14, 2007

C3's Balance between Industry and the Academy: The Consortium in the Press

We mentioned this in our C3 Weekly Update that we sent out within the Consortium this week, but I wanted to draw the attention of the larger C3 community toward an interesting piece in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education, focusing on the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, and Dr. Henry Jenkins in particular. The piece, here, is one of the most detailed pieces that have been written on Henry, and there's some focus on C3 in particular as part of the piece.

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SIGGART: Trying to Emphasize the Importance of Nimble UGC Campaigns

Last month, we got an e-mail from The Gold Group about an interesting project they had completed on behalf of SIGG Switzerland, which is an aluminum bottle manufacturer with its US offices based in Stamford, Conn., who are concerned about building their brand as being eco-conscious. The company solicited user-generated ideas, "crowdsourcing" a new design for their bottles. Based on the study, Gold wants to emphasize that the "wisdom of crowds" can generate interesting results, no matter which buzzword you use. The winning bottle design was produced and sold by the company.

A report that Jeff Greene, Executive Director of Client Services for the Gold Group, wrote, focused on the question, "Do social media outreach effects really produce word of mouth engagement? And, if they do, what are the most effective components of social media that should be incorporated into a campaign?"

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Gamekillers and Branded Entertainment

Yesterday, I was walking into the lobby of Five Cambridge Center, where the Convergence Culture Consortium offices are located, when a newspaper on the front desk caught my eye. Now, the subscription to this Wall Street Journal was for one of my neighbors on another floor of the center, so I could only glance at the headline, but it involved two things of interest to me: our partner, MTV, and deodorant.

Of course, I guess deodorant is of the interest of many of the C3 readers, but I am particularly interested because of my fascination with the history of product placement, and particularly with the history of soaps and everyday items as product placement. Considering my interest in soap operas, I often emphasize the fact that this was a whole genre (or format, depending on your perspective) which was set up under the notion of product integration or branded entertainment, two phrases that have become quite the buzzwords for the industry.

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Quarterlife and the Rise of the Online Video Series

What will be the impact of Quarterlife on the future of online video? It's hard to say, but one thing is for certain: the evolution of online video series continue to move forward. In short, the creators of My So-Called Life and thirtysomething, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, are releasing a new television series on the Web, through MySpace. The show, which will debut on Nov. 11 and run for 18 weeks, with two new eight-minute episodes a week, will focus on a group of characters in their 20s.

Daisy Whitney at TelevisionWeek points out that this news is particularly relevant coming after the announcement from Warner Bros. Television Group for the production of 23 new series produced for online video, all short-form content. The business model will be through ad revenue sharing with MySpace.

The background for the show? It was originally a pilot for ABC, which was ultimately not picked up.

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Jonathan's Story: Guiding Light's New Transmedia Project

A story that's been getting some press in the American daytime drama industry of late is over at Guiding Light, where the character Jonathan Randall returned for a short stint recently after having faked his death, along with his daughter's, in order to escape the domineering figure of Alan Spaulding, his daughter's great-grandfather.

A short-stint return of a popular character is always big news in daytime, but it's not particularly novel. What is perhaps more interesting is his return is yet another chance for daytime to experiment with the novel, quite literally, as Procter & Gamble Productions is promoting a book tie-in with Jonathan's return, with the upcoming release of Jonathan's Story through Simon and Schuster. See this post from A.C. Powers at The Soap Dispenser for more, and look here for more information on the character.

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September 13, 2007

Catching Up: Net Neutrality, Online Video Ads, and Nielsen

In my efforts to play a little catchup tonight with a week that has largely gotten away from me, I wanted to catch up on a few developments on stories the Consortium has followed quite regularly here on the blog.

First, there is network neutrality. The latest comes from the Justice Department, which has written to the Federal Communications Commission with official comments opposing net neutrality. While, at the time Ira Teinowitz wrote her piece for TelevisionWeek, the FCC had received almost 28,000 comments on the issue, most of which supported net neutrality being upheld, the Justice Department said that neutrality "could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet." The comments have sparked some controversy, and it's not yet clear whether the pressure from the Justice Department will have a significant effect on the FCC's decision-making process.

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C3 Community: Jason Mittell on Canon and Tenure, Edery on Violence, Kozinets on Britney

Starting a large round of updates after a hectic week, I wanted to point the way tonight toward a variety of interesting pieces that has been published around the C3 community. There's been plenty of intellectual energy flowing across the Consortium's Consulting Researchers and Alum, so I wanted to point my way toward a few of the highlights from their recent writing.

A couple of pieces that really jumped out at me came from Jason Mittell's Just TV. Jason writes about the recently published list of the best 100 television shows of all-time, according to Time (look here). Jason muses about the use of these lists at all. The AFI's Top 100 Films in 1996 can be debated for its authenticity and credibility, but the truth is that it greatly influenced a generation of movie viewers as to what the "canon" would be. I know that I, along with a generation of my friends, waded through movie history with that list as a guide.

What is the purpose of such a canon?

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How We Make Media Theory at MIT...

I originally posted this piece earlier this week on my blog. This piece examines the perspective that has driven research and theory on the media at MIT and helps to explain our focus on applied humanities, a guiding principle at the heart of what the Convergence Culture Consortium does.

In getting ready to teach our graduate prosem on Media Theory and Methods, I have been rereading some passages from Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. This term, I am trying something different with the class, beginning with an extended examination of the role of theory and media production in the history of MIT as a way of helping our entering CMS students think about the place of our program within this institutional history. Turner's book is an ideal introduction to this topic in part because he has so much to say specifically about MIT but also because he speaks to the roles of both formal institutions and informal networks in shaping the production and dispersion of media theory.

Turner's book is a study of the ways what he calls "network forums" have shaped our current interpretation of digital technologies. In particular, he is interested in how Stewart Brand, his primary subject, "began to migrate from one intellectual community to another and, in the process, to knit together formerly separate intellectual and social networks."

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September 9, 2007

An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (4 of 4)

This is the final part of a four-part interview with the creators of a fan-led grassroots movement to raise money for charities within the Supernatural fan community. I have been publishing my e-mail discussion with three organizers for the group: Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.

Sam: What has been the impact of using various social networking sites to help spread the word of Fandom Rocks?

Dana: Utilizing as many networking sites as we are familiar with has been important because we know each site has a subsection of the viewing audience. Some people participate in more than one site, but often there is a specific site you spend more time at than others. We wanted to make sure we were reaching as many Supernatural fans as possible. However, we know it is also important to reach fans away from networking sites - potential fans on other forums and especially offline. We have plenty of work ahead of us to reach new fans. Recently, a fan on the CW Lounge forum responded to my post that she hadn't heard of Fandom Rocks before that moment, despite my posting there three times prior. This showed me we still needed to work hard at spreading the news of Fandom Rocks if we were missing fans who participated regularly at the network's Web site.

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An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (3 of 4)

This is the third part of a four-part interview with the organizers of Fandom Rocks, a fan organized grassroots initiative within the Supernatural fan community which sponsors a variety of charities. This interview is conducted with three organizers for the group, Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.

Sam: What activities have you all engaged with so far?

Dana: We just completed our first campaign. Just over $2,000 was raised via fan donations and Cafe Press purchases. I traveled to Lawrence to visit the community shelter and give them our donation in person. While there, I also visited the soup kitchen across the street where shelter guests often receive their meals if the shelter is not serving. I also visited the humane society anticipating they would be one of the charities fans chose for the next campaign.

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An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (2 of 4)

This is the second part of an interview with Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney, the three creators of Fandom Rocks, a fan-led organization from the Supernatural fan community dedicated to raising money for charities.

Sam: Why Supernatural? What is it about this show and this fandom in particular that encourages this type of initiative?

Dana: I think Supernatural falls into that category of show where it has an extremely loyal fan following, but it is on a lesser-known network with an imminent threat of cancellation. Fans want to keep their show, but they also want other people to learn about it and enjoy it as much as they do. Starting campaigns for charity accomplishes the goal of making more potential viewers aware of Supernatural, and it has the added benefit of making a difference in the world. It shows the "offline" world that online communities are formed by caring, intelligent individuals, much like themselves.

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An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (1 of 4)

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Dana Stodgel, representing an interesting group called "Fandom Rocks," which Stodgel described as "a fan-created initiative to support charities and raise interest in the CW show Supernatural." She thought that the work they were doing might be of interest to the type of issues we look into here at the Convergence Culture Consortium.

As I examined the work of Fandom Rocks further through their Web site, I thought that the best approach might just be to do a multi-part interview with the organizers of Fandom Rocks here on the C3 blog, to get a better idea of the work they do, what motivates them, and how the activities a group like Fandom Rocks participate in can be understood in relation to the show, the network, the fan community, and the charities they work with.

This interview is conducted with Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.

Sam: What are each of your backgrounds, both in relation to the fan community, the network, and the pro-social purpose of Fandom Rocks?

Dana: I am a fairly quiet member of the fan community, contributing mostly to discussions with fellow fans on LiveJournal and some graphics. I do not have any connection to the CW network. As for the pro-social purpose of Fandom Rocks, I have been involved in other fandom charity events and participated as a volunteer and fundraiser for organizations offline as well, so it was another opportunity to give back.

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September 8, 2007

IBM Internet Survey Finds Respondents Spend a Lot of Time Online

Language can be an interesting thing. And an important one when you are talking about issues like consumer adoption. You know that we're interested in these issues at C3, and that I am a proponent for looking and preparing for the future. But I also believe a healthy dose of realism is good as well, and the hyperbole and overhype has saturated our discussion of technological point to the degree that even the most culturally savvy border on mild forms of technological determinism when they aren't careful.

Related to all of this, I was reading an IBM press release recently that touted the decline of television as the primary media device in the home, boasting that "the global findings overwhelmingly suggest personal Internet time rivals TV time."

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September 7, 2007

Welcoming a New C3 Team

We just finished our first week of meeting and getting to know our new team of graduate students here at the Convergence Culture Consortium, and I wanted to take a few minutes tonight to share information about them with the larger community of C3 readers.

As you all know, Geoffrey Long, Ivan Askwith, and Alec Austin have now moved on to their new jobs. Geoff is now communications director for the Program in Comparative Media Studies, while Ivan Askwith works for Big Spaceship and Alec Austin just took a job with EA in Los Angeles.

Eleanor Baird, a student with the MIT Sloan School of Management, remains a part of the C3 team, and she is joined by three new and exciting graduate students in the Program in Comparative Media Studies: Ana Domb Krauskopf, Xiaochang Li, and Lauren Silberman. As part of their duties with C3, the three of them will begin blogging on a weekly basis here on the C3 blog, so we look forward to bringing their perspectives into the Consortium.

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Social Networks Eye Going "Public"

As we have mentioned a few times here on the blog, C3 has been been paying special attention to social networking sites in the past several months. That work has spilled over here on the blog in a variety of ways, looking both at the business models and deals struck around the business models for these sites, and perhaps even more interestingly, the types of behaviors that take place in these online communities.

For me, it is key to distinguish between Facebook the company and site, and Facebook the community of people, just as it is for MySpace, or even sites like YouTube. Especially when lawsuits and accusations start getting thrown around, precision of language matters, as squabbles between corporate parent entities often instead seem to be conversations that show disdain for the community of users who inhabit and empower these sites.

In my mind, it is crucial to realize that these sites mean nothing without the people on them, and that any discussion of the brand equity of a YouTube or MySpace has to be tempered with the realization that it is directly the users who provide that value and who control the continued vitality of these sites.

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September 6, 2007

Would You Hulu? New Site Gets a New Name, But the Old Brands Are Conspicuously Absent

Earlier this month, I wrote a series of posts about what was then titled "New Site," the joint NewsCorp/NBCU online video venture.

As of late last week, New Site's real name was announced: Hulu. "Why Hulu?" asked the President and CEO of Hulu in an open letter posted on the site. "Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself...strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we're building." Funnily enough, I've heard similar things said about network branding campaigns. What's going on?

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Catching Up on C3 Stories: Micropayments, YouTube, and the Digital Deadline

There have also been a variety of stories floating around of late that are of direct interest to issues we write about regularly or have covered in the past here on the C3 blog. I thought I might also point out some quick updates to those stories.

First, Dan Mitchell had an interesting piece in the New York Times about the current state of micropayments, pointing out how "closed loop" micropayment systems like iTunes have been most successful and looking at issues of how systems like AdSense are based on the concept of micropayments. Thanks to Lynn Liccardo for bringing the article to my attention.

For those of you who may have followed our coverage here on the blog for a while now, you'll know that we spent quite a bit of time discussing these issues in our earlier days. Look, for instance, at this post from C3 Alum Alec Austin in December 2005, looking at Xbox Live Arcade's use of "Microsoft Points." He wrote, "Microsoft Points may well be the first step towards a viable and widespread micropayment system, as imagined by Scott McCloud."

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C3 Team: New Students, Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Collective Intelligence

We're having a busy week launching a new academic year here in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. Since we haven't had any new updates since Monday, I wanted to point out a few interesting things going on around the larger Convergence Culture Consortium community this week.

First of all, we have three new and enterprising graduate students joining our research team: Ana Domb Krauskopf, Xiaochang Li, and Lauren Silberman. We will introduce each of these three students with a note both about their backgrounds and the issues they are most interested in over the next few days here on the C3 blog.

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September 3, 2007

Looking Back at C3 Work--Interviews and Other Series

My final post today will look at some of the more extended work of others here at the C3 blog over the past year, as well as interviews with some interesting folks doing work of interest to the Convergence Culture Consortium. As we wrap up this look at the Consortium's work in the blog over the past year in preview of a new academic year here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, I wanted to highlight some series worth looking back at.

Here at the blog, we have completed four series of interviews over the summer. Look back at interviews with:

Bruce Leichtman, a researcher on media consumer behaviors and the adoption of new technologies, took part in a four-part interview with C3. (part one part two part three part four)

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Looking Back at C3 Work--Series by Sam Ford

I wanted to finish up my Labor Day posts here on the C3 blog highlighting some of the C3 team's work from the past academic year by looking at some of the multi-part series, interviews, and other longer pieces of writing that have appeared here in the past year. In this post, I'm going to note some of the series I have published in the past year, followed by another post detailing some of the series from others on the C3 team, as well as various interviews with interesting personalities we have published in the past few months.

First, I want to note some essays I have published based on my thesis work, which has focused on soap operas. Back in May, some work from my thesis appeared on Henry Jenkins' blog, and I also published it here on the C3 blog. (part one and part two) This research focuses on worlds which facilitates vast narratives, the kind that has so much official content that it requires the collective intelligence of a fan community to fully make sense of. The case studies here are of soap operas, pro wrestling, and comic books.

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Looking Back at C3 Work--Summer 2007

My final post today looking at some overall posts from the past academic year as we embark on a new year here at MIT with a new team of graduate students on board for the Convergence Culture Consortium focuses on some of the C3 work published here on the blog this summer. As many of you who are familiar with our work know, we both do proprietary research that is shared internally within the Consortium before it is published otherwise but also view the blog and other outreach programs, such as the Futures of Entertainment conference, as a way to engage on a larger basis with the many people who are interested in these questions.

With that in mind, here are a few more posts from the summer. I will follow this up later today with a couple of posts highlighting some essays and interviews we have run here on the C3 blog in the past year as well.

Personal Questions of Social Interaction and Etiquette Raised by Online Networks Sam Ford provides a series of incidents from his personal online social network maintenance that shows new ways in which these sites are raising questions and situations in personal relationships that would not have come up before.

Go Ahead...Google Yourself Sam Ford brings up not only the C3 analyst but a news anchor, a porn star, and a sex offender.  What other versions of you do you now have to contend with?

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Looking Back at C3 Work--Spring 2007

To follow up on my post from earlier today, I wanted to point out a few more interesting posts from the C3 blog, these all coming from the first part of 2007, through spring semester.

(Not) Interesting Brand Communities? Fans of the Quotidian Fan communities exist for brands from Pringles and Pillsbury to a MySpace group for Windex.

These Fans Will Follow You...Through Rain and Sleet and Snow and... While cycling teams and stamp collecting might explain some of the goodwill, what can we make of fan expressions expressly dedicated to the mail carrier?

Is Serial Programming a Format or a Genre? Slippery Language in the Popular Press A recent New York Times article calls this fall's serial programming both, but the "failure" of serial programming could, in many ways, be a confusion of form and content.

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Looking Back at C3 Work--Fall 2006

In honor of Labor Day, and the start of a new academic year her at MIT when classes begin later this week, I thought it might be good today to point to some of the work that has been written here on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog here in the past year.

In this post, I wanted to highlight some of posts from the 2006 fall semester here on the C3 blog that might still be of interest to some of our readers, especially those who might not have been reading at this time last year.

Can People Steal the Word? Christianity and the File-Sharing Debate Should Christian artists be worried about copyright management and cuts in their income or rather should they rejoice at the word getting spread to that many more people? Is it a sin to pass along Christian content for free or rather the obligation of Christian listeners/viewers?

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September 2, 2007

The West Side: An Interview with the Creators, Part IV of IV

Here is the final part of the inteview with The West Side creators Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman that ran in our internal C3 Weekly Update newsletter last weekend. I am posting the interview sections here on the C3 blog a week after they run in our newsletter. You can see the first part of this interview here, the second part here, and the third part here.

JM: Zack mentioned that you decided you didn't want advertising - why not? I can think of a lot of reasons that might play into it, but I'm curious how it particularly shaped your plan. And given that, are you by default investing a ton of time and a bit of money into a project that cannot be "monetized" (to use an industry buzz word), at least initially?

ZL: We decided that we didn't want advertising for a few hard-to-explain reasons, but primarily because we wanted people to know we weren't making this for the money and that is a labor of love for both of us. So to answer your question, we are indeed sinking a ton of time and money into something that we're not trying to monetize. Whether it finds itself monetized in the end remains to be seen...

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The Latest from the C3 Team: Gender and Fan Studies, Digital Television, and Social Networks

In the midst of Labor Day Weekend, and since the blogosphere is a little more silent this weekend in the midst of a holiday, I wanted to go back and point out some recent work that has been published on the blogs of some of our Consulting Researchers. This include links to the latest discussion from Henry Jenkins' blog, a section from a forthcoming book by Jason Mittell, and the latest from our friends at GSD&M Idea City.

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September 1, 2007

Theses from C3 Alum (3 of 3): Ilya Vedrashko, Parmesh Shahani, and Aswin Punathambekar

In the previous two posts (here and here), I linked to the work of the four recent graduates of the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT who worked with the Convergence Culture Consortium. In this final post, I want to also link to the thesis work of our other alum, 2006 CMS graduate and former graduate student researcher for C3, Ilya Vedrashko. I also wanted to mention two other C3 affiliates who are CMS alum, former C3 manager Parmesh Shahani, who graduated from the program in 2005, and C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar, who graduated from the program in 2003.

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Theses from C3 Alum (2 of 3): Sam Ford and Geoffrey Long

Earlier today, I wrote about the recent promotion of the availability of the thesis projects from the Program in Comparative Media Studies being available through the CMS Web site here at MIT. Here, I am highlighting the thesis projects of C3 alum that are available in that archive. In this post, I have included the abstracts of both my project and Geoffrey Long's, in-depth case studies of media properties from Procter & Gamble's As the World Turns soap opera and the Jim Henson Company.

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Theses from C3 Alum (1 of 3): Ivan Askwith and Alec Austin

Recently, Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing wrote about the theses coming out of the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT. Doctorow linked to the CMS site, which includes all the theses written by CMS students this year.

That work includes the work of four alums of the Convergence Culture Consortium: myself, Ivan Askwith, Alec Austin, and Geoffrey Long. It can be found here.

As a result, I thought I would include information on the thesis projects of the those C3 alum, as well as others who have worked with the Consortium in the past. In this post, I'm going to include the abstract for the work of Ivan Askwith and Alec Austin.

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Two New Aca-Fen Blogs

The Blogging Bug seems to be taking root across the Aca-Fan universe. On my blog recently, I gave a shout out to two recently launched blogs, both created by participants in this summer's Gender and Fan Culture conversations, both dealing with topics which will be of interest to a fair cross section of my readers. I thought I would post them here on the C3 blog as well, since the topics of these blogs might be of interest to those who read this blog as well.

The first is Graphic Engine, which describes itself as a blog about "special effects, videogames, film and television." Graphic Engine reflects the ruminations and speculations of Bob Rehak, an assistant professor of film and media studies at Swarthmore College. I have known Rehak since he was a masters student at the University of North Carolina doing work on avatars, first person shooters, and psychoanalysis. He recently finished up a Ph.D in Communication and Culture at Indiana University, where his research centered around special effects. I had the pleasure of featuring some of his work on special effects, the Star Trek blueprints, and early fan culture as part of a panel I put together on Convergence and Science Fiction for last year's Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference. (This panel also featured Beth Coleman on Machinima and A Scatter Darkly; Geoffrey Long on transmedia storytelling, negative capability, and the Hensons; and Robert Kozinets on Star Trek fan cinema and branding cultures). We've long known that there was a male technically oriented fandom around Star Trek whose history parallels that of the female fanzine community; I touched on some aspects of this fan culture in my chapter on Star Trek at MIT in Science Fiction Audiences, but Rehak's work really takes us deep inside that world.

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