January 25, 2008
Two Years Ago on the Consortium Blog...

It's hard to believe that the Convergence Culture Consortium has now passed its second year of existence. As the ideas that led into Henry Jenkins' 2006 book Convergence Culture have become increasingly accepted and understood by the media industries, media scholars, and media audiences, I thought it might be interesting to return to the IAPs of years past to look at what major concerns the Consortium was confronting and discussing at the time.

For those who haven't been a part of MIT culture, the IAP time in January stands for Independent Activities Period, when our students here are back on campus but not yet in the classroom. Traditionally, this has provided an opportunity for the Consortium to push research projects into a new phase and plan activities for the spring semester.

Looking back at our first year, when our research group was in its infancy, it appears that our greatest focuses--at least in the insights that appeared on the blog--dealt with participatory culture and cross-platform distribution.

In terms of participatory culture, in January 2006, we were covering issues that ranged from the celebratory to the macabre, covering issues like films using the Internet for activism, grassroots journalism, fan fiction, and insurgents in Iraq using video to spread their messages. With 2006 becoming the year of user-generated content and social networking rising up in marketing budgets, it seems that participatory culture has become an important issue for companies, even while they haven't figured out quite how to harness the passion and interest of the public, or how to understand social engagement around media texts in any monetary sense, or even whether companies always should. Today, Xiaochang Li writs about these issues on the C3 blog regularly (see here, here, and here), and these audiences remain a particular concern of my research as well. (See here, here, and here for posts in the past couple of weeks.)

On the cross-platform distribution front, we wrote about eBooks, wikis, toys, iTunes for TV, podcasting for television shows, and Stephen Soderbergh's Bubble, which came out in theaters, on cable, and in video stores simultaneously. Many of these offerings and methods of distribution have become more accepted in the past two years, even as the industries are still grasping with how to best leverage or understand online video and audio in relation to traditional media distribution formats.

For C3, this concern with distribution models has continued through the C3 blog to the current day, perhaps most heavily with the contributions of graduate student researcher Ana Domb, who has written about Radiohead's distribution experiment, as well as Grooveshark and Amie Street in recent months. See also Eleanor Baird's pieces about digital distribution and network branding here and here.

In the next post, we'll look at issues at the forefront of C3's online discussions a year ago.shark