October 8, 2007
Around the Consortium: Fan Studies, Geeks, and Nielsen

It's a holiday here at MIT, so our C3 team is still scattered enjoying a long weekend, or else getting caught up on work. In the midst of the updates I've been doing this weekend on Futures of Entertainment 2, among other things, I wanted to note some of the most interesting work that has been occurring around the Consortium over the past week.

First, the Gender and Fan Studies discussion over at Henry Jenkins' blog continues, with the eighteenth round featuring Julie Levin Russo and Hector Postigo. The conversation, which covers issues such as labor, value, capitalism, the work of Tiziana Terranova, as well as "technology and control" and "ownership and desire," is available here and here. Those who are concerned with some of these issues might also be interested in the fan labor panel at our upcoming FoE2.

There's a fascinating few articles about geek culture, as well as media fandom, around the Consortium as well. First, from our partners over at GSD&M Idea City, there's a great post on their Idea City blog from Rad Tollett on geek culture and particularly about the xkcd comic. He demonstrates a recent event, spawned by the comic, which gave notice of a gathering of geeks in quite an unconventional way:

True geeks immediately noticed coordinates in the banner at the bottom-left frame: 42.39561 -71.13057 2007 09 23 14 38 00

Interpreted, these are coordinates to a small park in North Cambridge, MA, on September 23, 2007, at 2:38 PM.

The xkcd forum lit up.  People starting talking about what these coordinates meant. It was soon understood that this would be a gathering of massive, geek proportions. People started making plans.

In the ends, hundreds showed up, and Rad even includes pictures. Surely, he knew that writing about an event that took place here in Cambridge and which plays on geek culture would get the attention of GSD&M Idea City's friends up here at MIT.

Meanwhile, over at Brandthroposophy, Rob Kozinets posts a great chart on media fandom, brought to his attention by Andrew Feldstein, who I had the pleasure of getting to know at Media in Transition 5 here at MIT earlier this spring. Kozinets writes about these hierarchies and divisions, concluding, "Hierarchization as the key to community building? Absolutely. Invidious comparison? Yup. It's the human condition. But I wonder about the human level ramifications of all these separations. What does it feel like to be on the wrong side of these community relations?"

Finally, since you know that we have a great interest in the continuous redefining of the Nielsen ratings, I wanted to point the way toward The Extratextuals, where C3 alum Ivan Askwith posts. Jonathan Gray builds on some of our analysis on Nielsen changes by writing about many of the problems with the sample size, as well as his reservations about the new Hey! Nielsen service that Eleanor Baird wrote about here on the C3 blog recently. He also writes about the increase of local people meters. He writes:

While this may sound less of a big deal, LPMs instead of viewing diaries means an end to sweeps weeks, which are all about the diaries. Currently, Nielsen mails out the diaries to thousands more viewers than those in Nielsen's national sample, in order to set local advertising rates. As most television viewers are no doubt aware, sweeps weeks mean all sorts of ploys and games to artificially inflate a show's audience. On sitcoms and dramas, this means deaths, weddings, guests, and so forth. On news, it often means even more grisly news, six part series on the history of the bikini, and other heightened forms of infotainment. So what would television be like without the sweeps?