April 28, 2008

Lynn Liccardo on P&G and Listening to Consumers

Regular reader and commenter on the Consortium blog, Lynn Liccardo, recently wrote me regarding some comments from Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley she found interesting, especially considering our common interest in P&G's two soap operas. Lynn served as a member of my Master's thesis committee here at MIT and is contributing a piece to the collection on soaps I'm co-editing with Consortium consulting reserachers Abigail Derecho and Lee Harrington. Also, see Lynn's recent piece Henry Jenkins shared here.

From Lynn:

As I watched Charlie Rose's interview with A. G. Lafley, P&G's CEO, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to hear anything about P&G's two long-running soap operas, As the World Turns and Guiding Light, and indeed, I did not. But what I did hear has enormous and immediate relevance for the current sorry state of these two shows.

I was immediately struck by several "ironies," as Sam Ford described the situation I relayed to him. I, however, think we're way beyond irony here - well on our way to cognitive dissonance. When Lafley talked about his experience as a supply officer in the Navy, running a PO on a military base in Japan, and described complaints as "these little clues you can use to improve your product...you should treasure complaints," I immediately thought of Alina Adams, who clearly wasn't copied on the "we should treasure complaints" memo.

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Console-ing Passions: Abigail Derecho on Filipino Viewer Protests

Unfortunately, the only other person affiliated with the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium presenting at this year's Console-ing Passions conference was scheduled to present at the same time as the workshop I participated in. Abigail Derecho--whose work can be found at her Minority Fandom blog--is one of our C3 Consulting Researchers (bio here), and she and I are currently co-editing a collection of essays on the U.S. soap opera with fellow C3 Consulting Researcher Lee Harrington.

Gail participated in a panel called "'Most Wired' in a Globalized Arena: Asian Americans, Asia, and New Media," with a presentation called "Performing Transnational Anti-Fandom: Filipinos Protesting The Daily Show and Desperate Housewives Online.

Gail's presentation started with two incidents on U.S. television last fall that drew a digitally mobilized protest from Filipinos, with The Daily Show making a joke about an icon of The Philippines--Corazon Aquino--and Desperate Housewives making a joke about Filipino medical degrees being worth less than U.S. degrees. While the Desperate Housewives reference seemed to draw the greater ire (not surprising, considering The Daily Show comment was positioned as more tongue-in-cheek alongside similar insults to Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir), both garnered specific media attention outside The Philippines, in part because of the prominence of digital tools in the process.

Gail breaks the situation down and looks at the history of U.S. cultural products in Filipino culture, alongside political and economic links between the two countries, to better understand the cultural tensions that made these two jokes so politically charged for some Filipino viewers.

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Console-ing Passions: Heather Hendershot, Abortion, House, and BSG

One of the panels I was only able to catch part of at this year's Console-ing Passions dealt with the critically acclaimed Sci Fi series Battlestar Galactica. Since I came in only at the end of the panel, I went in afterward in hopes to get caught up on some of the presentation. I was particularly interested in hearing more about the work of Heather Hendershot, one of the presenters in the session.

Heather and I first had the chance to meet when she came up to MIT last November to attend our MIT Futures of Entertainment 2 conference and to participate in Unboxing Television, a gathering of television studies scholars for a small retreat-like session to discuss the current state and future of TV studies and share our current work with one another. I'd long been interested in Heather's work on Christian media and representations of U.S. protestant religion, so the work she presented at Console-ing Passions was particularly fascinating for me.

Luckily, Heather had a copy of the draft of her paper she had with her for the presentation, and I had a chance to read it on my flight back to Boston. Her presentation was entitled "'You Have Your Pound of Flesh': Religion, Battlestar Galactica, and Television's Sacred/Secular Fetuses." Turns out, Heather's work here was on looking at modern representations of abortion in not only BSG but likewise the popular FOX series House. Her work further focuses on BSG as an innovative show in part because of the nuanced way in tackles issues of religious difference and the politicizing of religious beliefs.

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Console-ing Passions: Fan Studies Workshop

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference. My role in the conference was to participate in a workshop to reflect upon how to build off of the series of discussions about gender amongst those participated in fan studies last summer on Henry Jenkins' blog and on LiveJournal.

Each of the five panelists for the workshop began the session by talking about some of our individual research and how we might build that research from an awareness of issues raised in that discussion last summer, which brought together 44 fan studies academics and a variety of other interested commenters to talk about gender divides in academia and in the fan cultures we study.

I posted the short paper I presented at Console-ing Passions here on the blog last week, and each of us involved in the workshop posted our papers to the LiveJournal Fandebate site that hosted the academic dialogue last year.

The workshop was entitled "Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old." In addition to my provocation--entilted "Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps"--Bob Rehak presented "Boys, Blueprints, and Boundaries;" Julie Levin Russo presented "The L Word: Labors of Love;" Suzanne Scott presented "From Filk to Wrock: Performane, Professionalism, and Power in Harry Potter Wizard Rock;" and Louisa Stein presented "Vidding as Cultural Narrative."

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Console-ing Passions 2008

In the previous three posts, I included the text of a short thought piece or provocation for my workshop at this past weekend's Console-ing Passions conference in Santa Barbara. I'll blame my lack of updates since last Thursday on an intriguing conference and unfortunately one for me that happened as much around the conference as necessarily at it.

To start with, Console-ing Passions was held at UC-Santa Barbara's campus, while the conference hotel was on the ocean--a great detail, but one that made getting back and forth very difficult, especially if you didn't want to pay about $50 for a one-way cab fare. I didn't have the foresight to rent a car, so I ended up bumming rides, since I had a penchant for missing the once-a-day shuttle to and from the conference.

What's worse, some of the most relevant TV studies presentations to my work was scheduled directly against our workshop. However, I've been lucky enough to have some others share their work with me directly, and I'm going to be including updates on that work in a series of forthcoming posts. And, other than those couple of scheduling issues, the conference was great. Any of the shortcomings of a conference not put on by a slick "conference operation" were also empowered by the energy the organizers infused into the event.

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April 24, 2008

Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (3 of 3)

Perhaps even more frustrated, then, are soap opera fans. Soap opera producers sell the 18-49 female demographic more broadly, and the 18-34 female demographic in particular, to advertisers. Further, since soap operas primarily only exist as a daily television show, there are few economic forces counterbalancing the pervading "logic" of the target demographic, thus leading "the powers that be" (or "the idiots in charge," as soap opera fans more often refer to them) to constantly try to develop stories, and feature characters most prominently, that they believe will play well to the target demo. Since soap opera ratings have been falling steadily for the past 15-20 years, soaps have responded by trying to even more expressly target the target demo. However, the problem with that logic is that it directly defies the transgenerational nature of the narrative itself.

I have found anecdotally that almost all longtime soap opera fans began their relationship with the text of these shows through relationships with other fans. Often, this has been a transgenerational relationship. A grandmother, a mother, an uncle, or a babysitter watched soaps regularly, and the fan grew up with these same soap operas on. Thus, it is the longtime characters that have remained the glue holding them to the show, and it is the relationships built around the show--or the memories of these relationships, for loved ones who have passed away--that keeps them watching today. For more on this appeal, see Lee Harrington and Denise Brothers-McPhail's latest project on aging in soaps, as well as some of the work from Barbara Irwin and Mary Cassata at Project Daytime.

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Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (2 of 3)

In the case of pro wrestling, the WWE's popular television shows--Monday Night Raw, ECW, and Friday Night Smackdown target a young adult male and teenage audience.

Advertisers expect this audience, and the shows position their texts to presumably appeal to heterosexual U.S. young men in particular, despite the fact that some estimates have WWE audiences at 30 percent to 40 percent female, the average age of the WWE's fan base is older than the target demographic, and WWE's international popularity often helps bolster flagging enthusiasm in this country.

This economic marginalization can lead to great creativity among pro wrestling fans excluded from the debate--see scholarship, for instance, about how Latino-American children interpret the WWE narrative from Ellen Seiter, Sue Clerc and Catherine Salmon's work on pro wrestling slash, and Brian Pronger's writing about pro wrestling from the standpoint of a gay spectator.

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Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (1 of 3)

I came to the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture dialogue on LiveJournal and Henry Jenkins' blog from both ends of the producer/consumer scholarship binaries often posed in the discussion. On the one hand, I work for a group called the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, which converses with media corporations to look at the intersection between media producers and audiences. On the other, my primary areas of research interest have come from studying the ways in which fans reappropriate media texts in their own performances and discussions, often in ways that run counter to the interests, or at least irrelevant of the interests, of bottom-line driven corporate endeavors.

I also felt some kinship to both sides of the gender divisions being discussed in the debate. On the one hand, my work on professional wrestling occupies a place between sports fandom and media fandom--two worlds that have strangely been separated in academic discourse, as Kimberly Schimmel, Lee Harrington, and Denise Bielby have researched recently. Pro wrestling has often been criticized as "hypermasculine," while my other research interest--soap operas--has often been derided and ghettoized in popular culture in many ways because of its rich history of primarily female authorship, a feminine narrative perspective, and a largely female fan base. For me--as a lifelong fan of both professional wrestling and soaps--I saw great connections between the two, connections I have written about as dealing with the immersiveness of the narrative worlds of both texts.

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The Appropriation of Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones is back, well, he probable never left, but right now he's generating much buzz with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which will be in theaters on May 22. But as old and new fans get ready to enjoy the latest installment of this 27 year-old saga, Xiaochang Li, my colleague here at C3 reminded me of one of the greatest Indiana Jones fan stories that is as current today as when it was produced.

In 1982, after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, three 12 year-olds set on a mission that would last all of their teenage years: a shot-by-shot reenactment of the first Indiana Jones movie. Seven years and $5000 later, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb finished their movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.

J.D. Lasica's book Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation retells the boys' adventure in a lively and intelligent manner. 'In the teenagers' version of Raiders, the actors grow older in the span of a few minutes. Voices deepen. Chris sprouts chin whiskers and grows six inches. He gets his first-ever kiss by a girl, captured onscreen.' he describes, but later on he also gets at the heart of why this is still a tremendously current story: the tension between creativity, collaboration and current applications of copyright law.

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April 23, 2008

Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (4 of 4)

This is the final part of my interview with the organizers of ROFLCon.

I have spoken before with Kevin Driscoll, one of the organizers, about how it is a very specialized niche group that is being heavily represented. Can you speak a little to that? Do you see Roflcon as addressing a set of groups?

Christina Xu: This has been one of the most problematic things to me about planning the conference. At some point in the conference, I looked back and sort of realized that we were representing SUCH a niche-y group: almost all white, almost all male, almost all fitting in the "geek" subculture. This is weird for me because I'm not even white or male, but in the context of "internet culture" it didn't even occur to me that this demographic may not be representative for such a long time. But I guess it's not that weird, because this was the culture I sort of grew up on--it's the one I know the most about and identify the most with. So I think we did a really good job of covering all corners of that internet, but that's definitely not the internet that everyone is on.

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Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (3 of 4)

This is the third part of my interview with the organizers of ROFLCon.

What about the people? What is it like trying to organize an academic conference around a largely non-academic list of panelists that may not have a lot of experience doing public (non-virtual) speaking? What were some unique considerations you had to take into account?

DIana Kimball: I think a lot of our guests were surprised to even be invited. There's still this holy grail of "real-world legitimacy"; even if you've gotten millions of views on YouTube, there's always this dream of being plucked out of a crowd and given a shot at something "real." I guess that's one of the main questions of this conference, and one of its main goals: what is "real" in an internet age?

Natalie Bau: Particularly with our keynote speakers, we tried to identify people who would do well with public speaking. Luckily, because so many of our keynotes are so invested in the internet, there are usually youtube videos which we can check out. I think we did have some questions about charisma early on. Over all though, I think we found people whose popularity on the internet really suggests that people want to hear what they will have to say.

Early on, we sort of just sent out a lot of emails asking people to come and we got over all, this really positive response from the community. However, a couple of people did ignore us - Jeph Jacques from questionable content comes to mind. A few months later, when we really started getting press people started asking us to be allowed to come instead. Its amazing how much reputation on the internet matters.

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Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (2 of 4)

This is the second part of my interview with the organizers of ROFLCon.

Why do you think something like ROFLCon is necessary? Are there gaps in the current discourse around online/digital cultures that you hope to fill?

Christina Xu: I mean, these days my personal goal has shifted to not failing out of school...but otherwise no =P Often times I can be found raising a cautionary voice in the conference because I'm always really afraid that the convention/conference balance will be broken and we'll get too academic-y. I really don't want to alienate the internet community we're trying to give a voice to. If anything, my involvement with the conference planning has only emphasized that more.

But basically, yeah: internet culture is interesting in that a large number of the people involved in its creation are highly educated and really well-spoken, but no one had really asked their opinions on why this Internet thing got as crazy as it did. Also, we really wanted to meet Goatse in real life....sort of.

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Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (1 of 4)

As many of you already know, on April 25th and 26th, MIT will be hosting ROFLcon, a convention/conference hybrid about internet memes and online popularity: what it is, how it work, and what it can do. Even in the growing tradition of events that are functionally both fan conventions and academic conferences (and the argument might be made that academic conferences are their own form of fan convention anyway), I doubt that there has ever been anything, for better or worse, quite like ROFLcon. The guests are a mix of academics, advocates, artists, and other people that don't fit neatly into any of those categories who did stuff that somehow made them famous on the internet. The panel topic range from civic media to meme infrastructure to advertising and marketing (I'll be moderating that panel, for those who plan to be in attendance). There is an entire panel devoted just to LOLcats, as well as a number of unmoderated talks, screenings, and presentations, including our very own Joshua Green's analysis of participatory systems and YouTube, and fellow CMSer Kevin Driscoll presenting on department favorite, Soulja Boy. Not to mention, with Brawndo as one of the sponsors, we will all be uncomfortably energetic.

Given the unique nature of the event, its guestlist, and its history, I managed to get a few of its insanely overworked organizers -- Christina Xu, Natalie Bau, Diana Kimball, Dean Jansen, and Rachel Popkin -- to take some time out from watching YouTube videos to answer some questions.

Give me an origin myth! Tell me how ROFLcon began: when you sat down and decided to put all of this together, what were you hoping to accomplish? What was the impetus for organizing something structured like this around internet memes? Why did each of you choose to get involved?

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"It's Just a Trailer"

Is all publicity good publicity? This is the question on that is probably tormenting the members of Outsider Productions who launched a stealth viral campaign to promote their film A Beautiful Day.

The horror short was scheduled to debut at the Bare Bones International Film Festival in Muskogee, Oklahoma and, as a way to promote their film, the producers decided to put up a video on YouTube warning the people of Muskogee that "... the end is coming. The wicked of this world will be separated from the chosen. I will not be on your doorstep to convince you of this. You either see or you do not see."

When Outsider Productions realized that the clip was becoming increasingly popular, they added a screen that clarified, "This is in no way a threat to do harm on anyone. This is a lame attempt at publicity for a movie." However, they quickly decided to pull it from the web.

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April 22, 2008

Localization in a Web 2.0 World

Last month, I read an article in The New York Times from Brad Stone, looking at a "Risk-esque" game created for Ivy League schools called GoCrossCampus. The game, called GXC, is called by their site "a team-based locally social online sport that revolves around your connections, location and interests. The game is billed as "a massively multiplayer game built on your social networks.

This local angle to digital culture is what I've been writing about for some time now and one of my greatest interests in the potential of new technologies. This post is not really about this Ivy League game per say but rather how social networking sites and initiatives like this are proving just how localized the global adoption of online technologies can be.

In a Web 2.0 world, global really is local. Many of the earliest, most utopian writings about the Web were about how people could transcend the boundaries of where they are from, their local community, in an effort to reach out to others like them. In other words, we could defy geographical boundaries and make new connections, based not on proximity but on genuine compatibility. Online fan communities, matchmaking sites, and a plethora of other social gatherings are built on this principle.

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Faris Yakob on Futures of Entertainment; Marlena on Soaps Class

Yesterday was Patriots Day here in Boston, so I'm in the midst of a flurry of updates this morning, as you may be able to tell. As part of this, I wanted to point toward a couple of recent references to the Consortium, our blog, and our work here at MIT.

First off, I have been meaning for some time to direct everyone's attention to this piece written by Naked Communications' Faris Yakob, from the first vresion of The Next Issue, which lists itself as "16 loose-leaf pages of opinion, news and views on the Next Issues facing the communications and design industries."

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Transparency and the Public Eye: Wal-Mart's Shank Controversy

First off, since the following post is about reputation, I wanted to share with everyone the resulting white paper from the recent PR News Webinar I participated in with Peppercom. The paper is entitled "D=BC²: Are You a Digital Einstein?" See more here.

Sometimes, you can't help but wonder what companies are thinking. But here's a rule of thumb that I think might help anyone out in their decision-making process. If it's the type of move that you don't want the public to know about, then don't make it. Transparency is crucial.

Take, for instance, all the blogosphere discussion regarding Wal-Mart from earlier this month. For those who haven't heard the story, a Wal-Mart employee suffered serious brain damage after being hit by a truck in her van several years ago. She eventually won a settlement with the trucking company, but Wal-Mart decided to sue her in order to recoup medical expenses that had been paid out for her injury. As if this didn't seem suspect enough, it was complicated by the fact that the amount Wal-Mart was asking for was more than the amount the woman received, after lawyer fees. Ultimately, Wal-Mart took the funds remaining in the woman's trust, which amounted to approximately $277,000.

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Soap Opera-Branded Casual Games

As many of you may have read in this post here on the blog earlier in the month, I'm teaching a course this semester on the history and current state of the U.S. soap opera genre, using As the World Turns as a case study. As I continue research on that field, and particularly how one of television's oldest genres may transform itself in interesting ways in a digital age, I'm always interested in hearing of new initiatives being launched.

For instance, see this post from December 2006 on the SOAPnet Fantasy Soap League, the idea being to mimic the success of fantasy football by having fans play games based around some of the stereotypes in the genre. I guess it's a chance for those of us not terribly interested in sports to nevertheless participate in something similar that, in part, measures our knowledge of a media property while also encouraging us to watch the current product. I know I participated in pro wrestling fantasy leagues once upon a time that incorporated some elements from this approach, and it reminds me as well of the Fantasy Television League that some C3-affiliated folks have taken part in.

But, in following soap operas for more than two years here on the Consortium blog, I'm always interested to see how these initiatives launch in the U.S. daytime serial drama industry, which is what attracted my attention to this post from Adrants back in March.

In an effort to further build their brand, Soap Opera Digest has launched casual games surrounding the soap operas, available here. The choices include a jigsaw puzzle of the cover of SOD, a variety of word-based games, solitaire, and other variations on classic casual games.

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Children as Storytellers: The Making of TikaTok (Part Two)

I recently shared with you an interview with CMS alum Neal Grigsby and MIT Media Lab alum Orit Zuckerman, two of the key players in a new startup company, TikaTok, which is working to encourage children to create their own books and share them with other young readers. In this followup post, also cross-posted from my blog, we get a bit more personal as the two share their sense of how their MIT education contributed to their current projects.

Your site also seems to promote opportunities for collaboration between young authors and illustrators. Is this a way of introducing young people to the world of collective intelligence?

Neal: It certainly is, and although it was always on our road map to add this feature, necessity made us move it up the schedule. Our users demanded it. Drawing, and getting an illustration up on the site, can be a creative and technical challenge for many. The team went back and forth for a very long time about the possibility of providing a digital drawing tool before finally coming to the conclusion that it was a bad idea for several reasons. But if you could use the illustrations that other kids had already provided and pledged to the community, if only until a time that your own drawings would be ready, it would really help.

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April 21, 2008

Children as Storytellers: The Making of TikaTok (Part One)

Considering the interests the Consortium has in issues such as participatory culture and innovative distribution platforms, I thought they might be interested in the first part of an interview I just ran over on my blog. I will share the second part here on the C3 blog shortly as well.

When our son was three years old, we began the practice of having him compose stories for us before bed. We traded off nights. Some nights we'd read him a story. Some nights he would make up a story which we typed out on the computer for him, word for word, without changes. Sometimes he would take a few friendly prods to get moving but we were very careful to preserve the structure and details of his imagination. We would print out the stories and have him draw pictures to illustrate them. We would then photocopy the whole and send them to his grandparents on birthdays and other major holidays as a time capsule of his creative life.

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April 17, 2008

I Like It When Smart People Agree with Me...

I don't know about you, but it always makes me good to see someone else I think is really smart say something I agree with. It's a little inward validation, a positive external review validating what you think. At worst, it can lead to an echo chamber, or else a validation for shutting out ideas. See, for instance, C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken's post about a conversation we had back in the fall and the danger of scorn.

But we also surround ourselves with like-minded people for a reason. I pointed out in my previous post how the Consortium contains an interesting variety of perspectives, opinions, and interests, but I'm also sure there are some common sentiments, worldviews, and idiosyncrasies that bond many of us together.

I saw one of those eloquently explained in a post from C3 alum Ilya Vedrashko's Advertising Lab. Ilya writes about his distant relationship with Twitter. I agree. Being at MIT and in a group researching where the media industries are headed, people sometimes expect you to use every new program or way of communicating that comes along. It's not that I don't find value in Twitter theoretically, it's that I don't find value for me.

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Around the Consortium: Jayhawks Fans, Sarah Marshall, and Filipino "Thriller"

As I've noted in the past, we have a slew of interesting people associated with the Convergence Culture Consortium. There is our core team here, our alum, and all sorts of great C3 Consulting Researchers, most of whom are located at academic institutions around the country, and internationally.

You can also find many of their blogs linked from our page here. As I did earlier today, I like to point out some of the most C3-relevant work these folks have been doing on their own blogs of late. After all, one of the best ways I have to keep abreast of the latest happening around the media industries is through the work of these folks, and what I like most is the diversity of viewpoints within a particular field of study that an environment like the Consortium offers.

As I scroll through the work on the 12 blogs we link to, perhaps the most surprising discovery is that I rarely, if ever, see the same story covered...so I not only get to learn about what's happening in stories I normally care about, I also get to find out what's happening in areas normally outside my radar.

Take, for instance, this post from C3 Consulting Researcher Nancy Baym. Still within her purview of fan studies, Nancy covers the reaction of her university's KU Jayhawks, celebrating their Final Four victory. She writes, "The internet is great for information pooling and network building, and it does alright at collective emotion, but there is simply no substitute for sharing physical space with other people feeling the same thing. It builds, it magnifies, it takes on a life of its own. It allows people to TOUCH. This is why fans will always create opportunities for collective face-to-face experience."

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Around the Consortium: Grant McCracken on Chipchase, FX, and Baseball

As part of a round of updates today, I also wanted to point toward some of the work other folks are doing around the Consortium. In particular, I wanted to direct your attention to a great round of updates from C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken. I'd fallen behind on keeping up with Grant amidst a lot of travel of late, so I've had the chance to catch up on many of Grant's observations at once this afternoon, and I found his latest three posts particularly apropos for the issues we cover here on the Consortium's blog.

He writes about Nokia's Jan Chipchase, who he calls "the hardest working man in anthropology, traveling almost constantly on behalf of Nokia, doing more fieldwork in a quarter than most anthropologist manage in a year." Grant writes about a recent New York Times Magazine piece covering Jan's work.

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MIT Art Work-Out: John Bell and the Celtics' Lucky

In addition to my presentation on the history of professional wrestling in the U.S. as part of the Art Work-Out Lecture Series event on "The Theater of Sport," I was joined at the event by John Bell, a professor here at MIT who is also known as a puppeteer, as well as an historian of puppet theater. He is author of such books as Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History and the forthcoming American Puppet Modernism.

I had heard about John's work, but I had never gotten the chance to meet him. John introduced and interviewed Damon Lee Blust, famed for his impressive dunks at Boston basketball games in recent years in his role as Lucky, mascot of the Celtics. Lucky is the only "human mascot," with no large outfit, allowing him to perform more athletic feats.

Turns out, building off my talk about pro wrestling as "sports entertainment," and prepared completely independent from my presentation, John and Damon talked about the work of a mascot also as sports entertainment.

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MIT Art Work-Out: Pro Wrestling--Sport as Theater

Earlier this week, I was honored to be invited to take part in the Art Work-Out Lecture Series sponsored by the MIT Visual Arts Program, in conjunction with the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER), for an event called "The Theater of Sport."

The lecture was offered as part of Wendy Jacob's Introduction to Visual Arts class and Andrea Frank's Introduction to Photography and Related Media class. Thanks to Jennifer Tren, Sofia Ponte, and Kate James for their work in setting this up. (By the way, you can still see Kate's insights on the world of professional wrestling archived from her participation in my Spring 2007 course on U.S. pro wrestling here at MIT on our class blog.)

My portion of the Art Work-Out event was entitled "Pro Wrestling--Sport as Theater." This talk was based on a lecture I gave for the MIT List Visual Arts Center back in May 2007, entitled "America's Fascination with Pro Wrestling."

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April 16, 2008

Dates Set for Consortium's Futures of Entertainment 3

This year's Futures of Entertainment conference the Consortium holds every November at MIT is set for Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22. The event will be held this year in the Wong Auditorium in the Tang Center here at MIT.

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Our World Digitized: Henry Jenkins, Yochai Benkler, and Cass Sunstein

As we've mentioned a few times on the blog lately, the Program in Comparative Media Studies featured the latest version of the MIT Communications Forum last week, an event particularly of potential interest to Consortium readers.

C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins moderated a conversation between University of Chicago law and political science professor Cass Sunstein and Yochai Benkler of Harvard University's Berkman Center, in an event called "Our World Digitized: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly."

Sustein is the author of Republic.com 2.0 and Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, while Benkler wrote The Wealth of Networks.

According to the abstract:

Much discussion of our impending digital future is insular and without nuance.  Skeptics talk mainly among themselves, while utopians and optimists also keep company mainly within their own tribal cultures.  Today's forum challenges this unhelpful division, staging a conversation between two of our country's most thoughtful and influential writers on the promise and the perils of the Internet Age.

The audiocast of the event is already available here, and video will be available soon.

Continue reading "Our World Digitized: Henry Jenkins, Yochai Benkler, and Cass Sunstein" »

April 15, 2008

C3 Internal Retreat May 8-9 and Past Retreats

We are in the process of preparing some of our internal research for the end-of-the-year retreat we host here in the Consortium at the end of every spring semester. Our first retreat event, called "There Is No Box," was held in April 2006. For more on that event, look here. I blogged about the first day of the event here and the second day here and here.

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April 11, 2008

Video: the Flickring Image

Something is afoot in the land of online imagery.

My Twitter account has come to serve as the CNN crawler to my RSS feeds' feature stories and interviews: little bits and snippets of news with tinyurl pointers to the latest events. As I scrolled through my account this morning, I saw that at 5:31 PM yesterday, Derek Powazek tweeted "Are you resistant to change? Join the EVERYTHING NEW IS BAD army! http://www.flickr.com/groups/changeresistance/", which was my first clue that something was up. I thought Derek was just being snarky, so I didn't take the bait -- but at 5:57, Matt Howie followed suit with "Man, just when you think nothing can top Livejournal user drama, Flickr "no video" people go and redefine the term 'user drama'". The topic died down for a while (evidence that my circle, now in our mid-twenties to mid-thirties, are getting more interested in things like cooking and kids than teh Intarwebs in the evenings), but then at 1:01 AM EST my photographer friend Rannie Turingan tweeted "What do you think of Video on Flickr? http://tinyurl.com/5qdqqw". Molly Wright Steenson's tweet "all your base are belong to Flickr Video" was the next on the topic at 11:07, followed by my "Holy crap Flickr Video" at 11:15 and Kevin Smokler's "Flickr video kicked my kitten..." at 11:24. Right now the blogosphere is discovering something new and, like a bunch of curious kittens (thanks, Kevin) we're poking it, prodding it and figuring out what we think of it.

A lot of the reaction so far has been negative, as Derek's tweet seems to have foreshadowed. (This isn't surprising; Derek's wife Heather Champ Powazek works at Flickr, so both Derek and Heather are sitting at ground zero for this one -- in fact, Heather posted a video on the official Flickr blog called 'Video on Flickr' that served as an official teaser for the feature on April 8.) Ryan Gantz posted an interesting Obama-meets-Anti-Flickr-Video mash-up image titled 'leave flickr alone', which is only one image in the pools We Say NO to Videos on Flickr (25,239 members), NO VIDEO ON FLICKR!!! (10,544 members) and We say NO to Videos on Flickr UNCENSORED! (27 members). It's the last one that's particularly interesting; aside from the fact that yes, you do have to click through Flickr's safety screen to get to it (Flickr's CYA clause for NSFW images), it's the only one of the three to have a number of actual videos appearing on its initial page. In fact, six of the thirty images on the pool's initial page point to videos, all of whom seem to be illustrating the point that – shocker! – adding video to Flickr opens the door to questionable content. Actually clicking on them, though, shows that the content isn't that questionable – the first one, a short video called 'Genesis in Reverse' by a user called Claudia Veja is straight out of art school, featuring what appears to be a naked woman wandering through a city, but the film is shot in such a way that it shows no 'questionable' body parts aside from some ankle and some collarbone. The second, Easter Photowalk 2008' by ♥ shhexycorin ♥, is a hyperaccelerated autobio piece with the most questionable bit being a guy trying to kick a pigeon or two. PETA might be annoyed, but they'd be hard pressed to file charges. The third, Genesis in reverse part 2', also by Claudia Veja, is a continuation of the first that is somewhat sexier (featuring a risque outfit, a cigarette and, later, some cross-gendered makeup) but still isn't what I'd deem NSFW. The others? A dog getting peanut butter off his nose, a cat drinking from a toilet and a dog named Gilligan running at double-speed around a yard.

Titillating stuff, that. So what's going on here?

Continue reading "Video: the Flickring Image" »

April 10, 2008

Espaço Cubo: Creating New Centers from the Margins

One of my first posts on this blog was on DocTV an Ibero-American documentary coproduction program that was first initiated in Brazil. One of the reasons that I continue to admire that project is that it addresses all the needs in the value chain in a constructive and inclusive manner, working with artists and both the public and private sector. Now, through a class on public art with Antoni Muntadas at MIT in conjunction with the São Paulo University, I was able to finally visit Brazil and discovered a country that is bustling with creativity and drive.

There, the musician and producer Benjamim Taubkin let me know about a grassroots project that shares those same laudable characteristics with DocTV, but, instead of being generated from the country's center, it was brewed by group of young social scientists in Cuiabá in the Mato Grosso province. It's called Espaço Cubo, and it has grown from an experiment into a full-fledged movement.

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Viral Video and Cadbury's "Trucks"

Last weekend, Cadbury launched the "sequel" to its hugely successful "Gorilla" dairy milk advert. The original "Gorilla," launched in August 2007, features a man in a life-like Gorilla costume drumming passionately to the Phil Collins hit "In the Air Tonight" and consequently spawned numerous mash-ups, remixes, and spoofs. The ad got roughly 7 million youtube views and launched 70 community groups on facebook, according to the Telegraph UK, and went a long way in restoring Cadbury's reputation after the Salmonella controversy in 2006.

The sequel, "Trucks," which hopes to garner similar viral success, features pimped-out luggage trucks drag racing down airport runways set to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." The design of the trucks is great -- they look like an 1980s version of what cars in the future should look like (brightly-hued and somewhat demented and in complete defiance of any consideration for aerodynamics) -- and the lighting is lovely, but one has to wonder if it'll live up to its considerably less elaborate predecessor.

So far, the comments on blogs and youtube postings have been significantly more mixed than the "Gorilla" video, some criticizing the song choice, but most of the criticism suggests that it simply isn't as good as the original. Part of this might be attributed to the fact that "Trucks" is visually and narratively more complex than "Gorilla," which may work against it as viral content. "Gorilla" worked largely because it was so straight-forward in its delightful absurdity: it's a Gorilla drumming, and the surprise and pleasure of the ad comes simply from the strangeness of the juxtaposition of two unexpected elements. On the whole, it's has elements of parody and nostalgia and gestures to some pop culture clichés that might lead to deeper levels of reading, but those are an added bonus and work as easily as cultural touchstones to help keep the surreal content within the bounds of comprehension as they would as access points for deeper consideration. "Gorilla" works without a lot of work on the part of the viewer, but it also leaves its message broad and generous enough allow for an active engagement in creating meaning if the viewer so chooses.

Continue reading "Viral Video and Cadbury's "Trucks"" »

When "Music" Is Not about Music (2 of 2)

In the first part of this post I referred mostly to the case of Starbucks' Hear Music. This idea of selling something else through music, sometimes very good music, reminded me of the case of another label, Putumayo. Founded by Dan Storper in 1993, Putumayo World Music's motto is "guaranteed to make you feel good" and their purpose to introduce "people to the music of the world's cultures." In April of 2007, Storper commented to The New York Post that, in those same five years when the music industry had officially entered a period of crisis that caused so much anguish to the majors, his company increased its sales by an average of 10 percent annually.

Music from the Wine Lands (2006) is a prototypical Putumayo album that comprises all of the characteristics described above. It contains a "a full-bodied selection of songs from the world's leading wine-producing regions" aimed at the "music lover and the wine drinker in everyone." The cover is set in a time-ambiguous villa in an idealized bucolic Europe. The album includes music from France, Spain, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Greece, Portugal, Italy, and the U.S, ranging many different genres. Their common denominator is that they come from countries that produce wine.

Continue reading "When "Music" Is Not about Music (2 of 2)" »

When "Music" Is Not about Music (1 of 2)

A few weeks ago, The New York Times published an article on the Starbucks' music label Hear Music where they contend that the latte mogul is watering down their musical supply. Worse even, the article suggests that, "despite adopting a broader musical approach, Starbucks on average sells only two CDs a store each day at company-owned shops, according to people briefed on its business. Starbucks disputed that figure but declined to provide a different one."

This mainstream approach, successful or not, apparently goes counter to their original focus on undiscovered music. After all, it was Hear Music that put Madelein Peyroux's Careless Love on the map. As an alternative retailer, Starbucks is a dream, but since the label is the coffee shop franchise itself, my sense is that they are not about selling music, but rather about selling some sort of commoditized authenticity, status and most of all, the Starbucks brand. This gives them permission to create a catalogue that appeals to a target as wide as those who are willing to pay $3.50 for a cappuccino, and incredibly enough, that's a large chunk of people. This has meant that Hear Music now offers Simon & Garfunkel and James Brown, a far cry from undiscovered artists.

Continue reading "When "Music" Is Not about Music (1 of 2)" »

April 9, 2008

NCAA/NBA Social Network for Youth Basketball

I was contacted by a reporter on Monday with The Chronicle of Higher Education about a decision from the NCAA to work with the NBA to develop a company to help cultivate the organization of youth basketball in the U.S. Prior to the request, I hadn't heard about the announcement, but there was particular interest in the Comparative Media Studies/Convergence Culture Consortium perspective because of the centrality of social networking at the center of the initiative.

I had a 10 or 15 minute conversation with a reporter who was contributing to the article, Catherine Rampell, in which we talked about the positives and negatives of such a decision, particularly how this approach has much promise but also plenty of potential stumbling blocks. You can see the full article here.

My appearance comes in the article's conclusion, in which they propose that reaction is mixed. As evidence of the mixed reaction, Brad Wolverton picks out mine as a positive response to the decision, saying "A project like this really catches my eye," and noting I thought it had "much potential," while Eric J. Anctil was quoted as saying that it's hard to get kids to "do what you want them to do" and that this "sounds like a good idea to people who are in their 40s and don't know what kids like."

Being a journalist myself, I know how the construction of articles goes, and perhaps it set Eric and I up as being on two opposite sides of the article, myself the CMS optimist and Eric the cynic. But, and perhaps Eric would agree with me, I'm both optimist AND cynic when it comes to announcements like this.

Continue reading "NCAA/NBA Social Network for Youth Basketball" »

A Criti-Fan Who's Yearning for the World as It Was

I ran this on my site this morning, and considering the tie-in to Sam's work here through the Consortium blog, I wanted to cross-post it here as well.

One of the more unorthodox policy decisions we've made at the Comparative Media
Studies Program is to allow students to include non-academics as outside readers on their thesis committees where they can demonstrate that the person has relevent experience and expertise. This has opened to door to bringing alternative kinds of knowledge into the thesis process. When Sam Ford, who now runs the blog here for the Convergence Culture Consortium, wrote a thesis about soap operas and convergence, I ended up sitting on a committee which included both a veteran soap opera writer Kay Alden (The Young and the Restless, now writing for The Bold and the Beautiful) and a long time soap fan who had written for Soap Opera Weekly, Lynn Liccardo. Needless to say, it was a fascinating discussion -- one which allowed Sam to test his ideas against real world feedback from within both the industry and the fan community. As one of the non-soaps people in the room (along with William Uricchio), I learned a great deal from listening to both of
our visiting experts.

This term, Sam Ford has been teaching a course through our program on soap opera and the blog for the course has attracted a range of outside participants, including, once again, Lynn Liccardo. I asked Lynn if I could share with you some thoughts she has about what has happened to the soap opera genre in recent years and why she is becoming increasingly frustrated with a genre which has been part of her life for decades.

by Lynn Liccardo

Over the past few weeks I've been checking in on the blog Sam Ford set up for his class on The American Soap Opera: here. The student comments touch on many of the issues that underlie the current, sorry state of the American Soap Opera. Of course, being only a few weeks into the course, and from what I can tell, relatively new soap viewers, they lack the contextual understanding to connect the dots.

They're watching As the World Turns, a show I've watched since it premiered in 1956, the year I started kindergarten. But they're watching and studying ATWT as it exists today; I'm watching the same show and yearning for the show it used to be.

Continue reading "A Criti-Fan Who's Yearning for the World as It Was" »

Why Academics Should Blog...

As Sam Ford noted in a post earlier this week, The Chronicle of Higher Education, this week, features excerpts from my remarks at their Technology Forum earlier this year. In the talk, I described some of the ways that our program has deployed new media technologies to expand its outreach to the public and I have suggested some of the benefits to academic programs in embracing the potentials which these technologies offer for us to extend our roles as public intellectuals. Since much of this deals with this blog, it seemed only appropriate to share it with my readers on my blog and here on the C3 blog as well.

In the week after September 11, 2001, the students, faculty members, and alumni of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program rallied forces to create a Web site called (http://re:constructions). It was designed to provoke public reflection on the media's role in shaping our responses to national tragedies. Over the course of an intense weekend, students produced films, identified quotations, wrote essays, and contacted friends and family around the world. When the site went live, we had generated more than 100 separate entries, including reports on media responses to the attacks in more than 30 countries.

Continue reading "Why Academics Should Blog..." »

PCA/ACA: Other Soap Opera Presentations

This year at the PCA/ACA conference, I presented work that originated from my Master's thesis project, which you can find more about here.

See also posts here and here on the subject.

Presenting on the panel alongside me were some other academics doing interesting research. Mary Cassata and Barbara Irwin, who are chief powers in organizing the soap opera area for the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference each year and who head up "Project Daytime," presented a project entitled "The American Soap Opera Genre at a Crossroads: An Analysis of Its Past, Present, and Future." Although, through my own lack of organizational skill, I neglected to take my copy of their essay back to my room with me even after they were nice enough to print out copies for everyone, I have reached out to Barb to get an electronic version and am expecting one shortly.

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PCA/ACA: Marsha Ducey on FCC Complaints; Other Soap Projects

One project that really caught my eye at this years soap opera area at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference in San Francisco was from Marsha Ducey at the State University of New York--Buffalo, whose project was entitled "As the World Turns: 'Indecency' in American Soap Operas."

Marsha's project looks at complaints filed against soap operas in particular with the Federal Communications Commission from 2004 through January 2008, with information provided through a Freedom of Information request. Marsha became interested in her projects in a post-nipple society, as she wondered what impact--if any--the controversy surrounding the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl would have on daytime television. She was also interested in the FCC issuing what had been the largest fine in history at the time for a show called Married in America, despite abysmal ratings and the fact that there were only about 25 complaints, stemming from a couple of form letters. She could not find any research on complaints filed for soaps and decided to investigate.

Continue reading "PCA/ACA: Marsha Ducey on FCC Complaints; Other Soap Projects" »

PCA/ACA: The Soap Opera Area and Suzanne Frentz

The soap opera area at the national joint conference for the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association in San Francisco this year was my main reason for attending. Since I did my thesis work on soaps and am currently co-editing an anthology on the current state of the U.S. soap opera (see more on my soaps projects here), I find it rewarding to go to a conference where I can talk with others who are working on soaps in particular.

This year was particularly rewarding, because part of the session was in tribute to an academic who I never had the opportunity to meet personally but who nevertheless had a significant impact on my project and the work of many soap opera scholars. That person was Suzanne Frentz, a longtime soap opera scholar who was the original chair of the soap opera area at the PCA/ACA.

Continue reading "PCA/ACA: The Soap Opera Area and Suzanne Frentz" »

April 6, 2008

PCA/ACA: Clayton Childress on Daytime Television and Pro-Anorexic Groups Online

I never actually got the chance to meet up with Clayton Childress at the National Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association joint annual conference in San Francisco last month. I became aware of Clayton's work because of a piece he and Denise Bielby are contributing to the anthology on soap operas I am co-editing with Gail Derecho and Lee Harrington. But we'd never met.

After several failed attempts, we eventually came to accept it wasn't going to happen in San Francisco. But I was lucky enough to have Clayton pass the two papers he presented at the PCA/ACA conference this year along. Apparently, he wasn't aware that you are only supposed to present one round of work at the conference, and he wa allowed to go forward with presenting both. I was also lucky to have him be agreeable to pass both projects along to me, since I wasn't able to attend his panels.

Clayton chaired a panel on meaning-making and Internet culture, presenting on "pro-anorexic journaling." He also presented on "Variations in Talk from Trash to Simulated Courtrooms," as part of a larger project looking at changes in daytime television. That project, Childress' thesis at the University of California-Santa Barbara, is entitled "Ordering the Court: Morality, Power and Play in Daytime Television." Childress is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology.

Continue reading "PCA/ACA: Clayton Childress on Daytime Television and Pro-Anorexic Groups Online" »

PCA/ACA: Louis Bosshart, Sports, and Celebrity Culture

One of my most intriguing PCA/ACA friendships struck up over a complete accident. My first year at the PCA, in San Antonio, we had a paper added to our panel at the last minute. Dr. Louis Bosshart, from Switzerland's University of Fribourg (or Freiburg in German), had missed his regular panel and joined a panel otherwise on pro wrestling to discuss his work on what television did and does to sports. I remember that he was intrigued by the fact that I had notes on one index card rather than reading a paper as many people do at these academic panels, and we struck up a conversation afterward.

The conversation turned into an e-mail exchange, and hopes at creating a collaborative project on looking further at how televising sports fundamentally changes the way the competition is structured. In particular, pro wrestling can be seen as an extreme of the importance of mediation in athletic demonstration, because pro wrestling has adapted itself for the spectator to the point it is no longer a competition at all, or at least not in the traditional sports sense. I soon moved to Boston for the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, and Louis came to town once and we discussed the project further, but it never got out of the "ideation" phase.

We used San Francisco as the opportunity to strike the conversation up again.

Continue reading "PCA/ACA: Louis Bosshart, Sports, and Celebrity Culture" »

PCA/ACA: Bryce McNeil and Shane Toepfer on Wrestling Morality and Fandom

There may be no session I was more disappointed in missing than Bryce McNeil's presentation on Wednesday afternoon with fellow Georgia State University scholar Shane Toepfer, entitled "'He's a Rattlesnake but He's One Tough S.O.B.': Establishing the Fluidity of Professional Wrestling Character Types." My interest in the subject's no secret: one only has to look at the course I taught on the subject last spring. (See more on the course from the class blog, the OpenCourseWare site for the class here at MIT, and Emily Sweeney's Boston Globe article on the class.)

Bryce and I first started corresponding based on his Master's thesis work on pro wrestling, looking at the rhetoric of WWE owner Vince McMahon in situations in which his company was in some form of public controversy. He ended up coming up here and spending some time with my class last spring, and we keep up, especially as we both have a continued research interest in the world of pro wrestling.

Bryce was nice enough to give me a copy of his and Shane's remarks, and we had corresponded a few times as they planned the paper. In short, their central proposition is that it has been a mistake to look at pro wrestling as "good vs. evil," but it is likewise a mistake to throw the "face/heel" dichotomy in pro wrestling out completely as well. Rather than wrestling characters "being" babyfaces or heels, in a static way, it's easier to understand actions as face or heel actions, thus acknowledging a greater degree of moral ambiguity not only in today's pro wrestling but arguably that has always existed.

Continue reading "PCA/ACA: Bryce McNeil and Shane Toepfer on Wrestling Morality and Fandom" »

PCA/ACA: Bob Lochte and Sue Clerc

No moment was quite as intriguing while in San Francisco for the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association joint annual national conference last month than the moment that two of my worlds collided. I knew going into the PCA/ACA that I would spend most of the day Friday in the soaps panels. I arrived Wednesday afternoon, and the conference ended on Saturday, so I wasn't sure what all I would be able to cram in. Instead, I just started lining up one-on-one meetings, to make up for the fact that I wouldn't be able to attend many of the panels I'd theoretically be interested in attending (especially since a good many of them fell on Friday against the soaps festivities).

I ended up trying to line up a variety of meetings, some more successful than others. For instance, I never was able to make plans with fellow Comparative Media Studies alum James Nadeau, despite various attempts, until we both realized we were still located in Boston and could just make plans to meet here when we got back. But, of course, there was just something special about being at the same conference together...it just wouldn't be the same. (We'll see if James and I can make good on our dinner plans before I declare complete defeat in that regard.)

But my coffee with Sue Clerc and Bob Lochte was the apex of my scheduling.

Continue reading "PCA/ACA: Bob Lochte and Sue Clerc" »

PCA/ACA: Michael Duffy and Regionally Digital Filmmaking

As most of the academic readers of this blog would likely agree, the intellectual curiosities of many media studies researchers far outweighs the time and resources one has to spend on writing and research projects, especially for those tenure-track academics who have courses, peer-reviewed publications, and a variety of institutional obligations to contend with. That's the great thing about a venue like a blog, though; it gives you the chance to briefly explore and think about issues that you might not have time to design a more rigorous project around.

Such was the case with my interest in regional cinema. In the summer of 2006, between my first and second year as a Master's student in the Program in Comparative Media Studies, I returned back to Kentucky to spend the summer working for several local weekly newspapers, in addition to continuing my work for the Consortium. In the process, I was assigned the task of covering a film being shot locally in Hartford, Ky., called Red Velvet Cake.

When I attended the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference last month, I had the chance to meet up with Michael Duffy, an emerging scholar whose dissertation reminded me of that interest.

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Notes from the PCA/ACA National Conference: An Introduction

Last month, I spent several days in San Francisco for the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association's annual joint national conference. The PCA/ACA conference is an interesting conference. First, it's greatest benefit and its greatest drawback is that it is huge. There's enough room for an array of topics, from television and film to literature to sports to more "off-the-beaten-path" subjects such as motorcycle studies, fat studies, gravemarker studies, and so on.

That means, first of all, a variety of sub-disciplines and interests can basically co-opt the conference as their own, make use of the conference as housing their mini-conference they could never organize on their own. For instance, the appeal for me to attend the event is that it is the only conference I know of that allows the room for those studying soap operas in particular to have their own area, to get together from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and share their work.

Another thing to keep in mind if ever attending the PCA/ACA national conference is that little, if anything, is turned away from the conference. This is not a closely guarded conference in terms of the subjects and presenters that are allowed to participate. That can of course have major drawbacks in terms of quality control for listeners, in that there's no guarantee attending a panel will mean that even a marginally interesting paper will be presented in some cases. But it's also liberating because of the diversity of voices that are included. There are a fair number of independent scholars who present at the PCA/ACA, for instance. And there are a number of first time presenters, not just graduate students but undergraduates as well. I find it a great remedy for many conference circuits which seem more like the established talking to one another.

Continue reading "Notes from the PCA/ACA National Conference: An Introduction" »

April 3, 2008

Around the Consortium: Recent Publications from Jenkins, Green, Punathambekar, and Ford

There have been some publications over the past week from around the Consortium that we thought might be of interest to the blog readership.

Earlier this week, C3 Director Henry Jenkins was featured in a new piece with The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "Public Intellectuals in the New-Media Landscape", while C3 Research Manager Joshua Green published "Where It Belongs: Positioning US dramas on Australian TV" for In Media Res.

Yesterday, C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar published "A Family Drama: Television and the fight for the national family" on In Media Res as well, while To Lead the Digital Revolution, PR Must First Educate the C-Suite" appeared on Bulldog Reporter's Daily Dog, a piece I co-wrote with Peppercom's Steve Cody.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Recent Publications from Jenkins, Green, Punathambekar, and Ford" »

April 2, 2008

MeioDigital Articles on the Consortium

The Consortium and events related to our work has received great coverage in Brazil of late, thanks to the work of Maurício Mota, who attended our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference back in November. The most recent edition of Brazil's MeioDigital magazine, from Meio & Mensagem, featured a total of 12 pages dedicated to the Consortium, FoE2, and a related story on Heroes, based in part on our hosting a couple of members of the Heroes team here at MIT last November.

The MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, its Futures of Entertainment 2 event, and the Program in Comparative Media Studies were all featured in an article entitled "Os Alquimistas Estão Chengando!," including insights from myself, C3 Research Manager Joshua Green, as well as a focus on Consortium director Henry Jenkins. Mota's article highlights of all of the Program in Comparative Media Studies' research groups and Henry's recent publications and blog. See the piece here.

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My MIT Course on U.S. Soap Operas

This semester at MIT, I'm teaching a course on the history of U.S. soap operas, based on the work I've published here on the blog over the past couple of years, my Master's thesis project, etc. The class includes a few MIT undergraduates and a Harvard undergraduate, as we look at the history of and contemporary state of the U.S. soap opera through reading and discussing the history of soap opera scholarship and soaps.

In particular, the class is following the soap opera As the World Turns, my longtime favorite, for the semester. None of the students were fans of U.S. soaps prior to the launching of the class, and none had seen ATWT prior to the class' beginning, save perhaps a few clips of gay couple Luke and Noah, through YouTube or other video sharing sites.

Continue reading "My MIT Course on U.S. Soap Operas" »

CMS Presents Wu Ming 1 Tonight

The Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, of which the Consortium is part, asked that I pass along word of an event coming up this evening here at MIT, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. in Building E51, Room 335. This event, entitled "Slightly More Than Expected from a Band of Novelists: On How and Why a Group of Writers Called Wu Ming Set to Disrupt Italian (nay, European) Literature and Popular Culture (and then Came to Boston to Brag About It)," features Wu Ming 1.

The event is sponsored by CMS, funded in part by a Director's Grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT. For more on the Wu Ming Foundation, look here.

The description of this event is below the fold...

Continue reading "CMS Presents Wu Ming 1 Tonight" »

SCMS: Henry Jenkins and Final Links

C3 Director Henry Jenkins made a presentation at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia based on his research on politics in the era of convergence culture, particularly looking at the 2008 presidential primary season in relation to the rising popularity and political uses of sites such as YouTube.

The basis of this presentation was a blog entry Jenkins wrote last fall, entitled "Answering Questions from a Snowman: The YouTube Debate and Its Aftermath." This project has led to a chapter completed for a forthcoming anthology, as well as the paperback version of Henry's book and the project that was this origin of this Consortium, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.

Continue reading "SCMS: Henry Jenkins and Final Links" »

SCMS: Victoria Johnson on Friday Night Lights

The television panel I wrote about in my previous post also included a presentation from Victoria Johnson, who discussed Friday Night Lights and the ways in which the show's promotion, and the difficulties the network has had in promoting the show, can be tied to tensions at the network in how to promote the show and tensions among critics on how the should should be received.

As many of you know (see here, here, and here, among others), FNL is a favorite show among a couple of us here in the Consortium, and I am particularly passionate about what many call "flyover country" and thus was particularly interested in Johnson's research about how the idea of a "quality television" show based on high school football in Texas presented a variety of challenges in how to promote and receive the show.

For the network, it was promoted at first alongside football shows and later as a show not really about football. On the reception side, Johnson presented quite a bit of evidence that critics who liked the show was troubled at liking it and continually felt the need to validate their enjoying the show. I'm hoping to discuss this more with Victoria in coming months and perhaps center more work on this topic in particular. But her SCMS presentation was among the most interesting I heard.

Continue reading "SCMS: Victoria Johnson on Friday Night Lights" »

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