October 29, 2008

The DRM Divide: DECE and Wal-Mart

The C3 team has been looking closely at how media spread in our current digital landscape, so it's only fitting to examine mechanisms that prohibit media from spreading, namely digital rights management (DRM). Tech blogs have been buzzing in the past month about the announcement of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), an organization of content, hardware, and software providers who have promised to unveil a universal digital rights management system at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Reuters reports that the DECE consortium is comprised of NBC Universal, Fox, Warner Brothers, Sony, Paramount Pictures, Microsoft, Philips, Toshiba, Cisco, Best Buy, Comcast and Verisign. Apple and Disney are notably missing, but that's most likely because DECE wants a piece of iTunes' mammoth market share.

This "ecosystem" would allow people to watch video from any DECE producer on any DECE device. For example, consumers will ostensibly be able to transfer NBC Universal TV shows from a Comcast Toshiba DVR to a Microsoft Zune. The proposed model would also allow users to keep purchases in a cloud-based "digital rights locker" and make unlimited disc copies of any media they buy. DECE seems to make sharing and inter-operability easier than with Apple's iTunes, which allows DRM-protected media to be used on only five unique devices.

But the kinds of sharing DECE allows are not exactly productive for creating spreadable media. In the end, DECE still relies on DRM and consequently (probably) still prohibits some valuable opportunities for consumer engagement. Though no announcements have been made, it stands to reason that this DRM will function like any other DRM: it will bar user-generated appropriations of content and it will prohibit sharing protected content in social networks. Of course, DRM can usually be broken, but that kind of piracy is exactly what DECE is trying to prevent.

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October 27, 2008

Yochai Benkler, Sabrina Calouri and David Glanzer confirmed for FoE3

As we roll on towards November's big event (US Election notwithstanding), we are pleased to confirm three new speakers for Futures of Entertainment 3.

Sabrina Calouri, of Director, Marketing and Promotions of HBO online will be joining our panel on social media. David Glanzer, Director Marketing and Public Relations for Comic-Con International will join our discussion about the future of the comics industry.

Finally, Yochai Benkler, Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School and the author of The Wealth of Networks will participate in a one-on-one conversation with Henry Jenkins (MIT) about the nature of value and the future of the media landscape.

We're tweaking the schedule and confirming final speakers as we get ready for November 21. The full rundown on the third Futures of Entertainment conference can be found here, including registration details.

October 24, 2008

Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part II)

The way governments are involved in the promotion of national film industries in Ibero-America, as opposed to the US's market driven strategy, set the tone for the First Ibero-American Culture Conference. The conference was organized by the Mexican government with support from the Spanish government and Ibermedia, the Ibero-American film fund. The objective of this meeting was not quite clear, but the attendee list was impressive. Everybody was there, from intellectuals like Nestor García Canclini and Carlos Monsivais to filmmakers like Antonio Banderas and Lucrecia Martel, as well as policy makers from all over the region. What IFP lacked in global awareness, Mexico had in abundance. Cultural policy integration and co-productions were some of the main issues being discussed.

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October 23, 2008

Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part I)

We seem to be in an indie cinema kick over at C3 (see posts here , here and here); can't say I'm one to complain. With the appropriation of emerging technologies and an increasingly participatory audience, independent film is uniquely positioned to ask itself hard questions and come up with innovative answers. It's no wonder that in studying convergence culture we'd be inclined to look towards that field.

For me this past month has been unusually filled with conferences, first the Independent Feature Project Conference in New York, then I headed south to Mexico for the First Ibero-American Culture Conference (dedicated to film), and at last I arrived in Cambridge just in time to present our spreadability research over at DIY DAYS Boston with Xiaochang. I took these events to listen and think about the evolving film distribution landscape.

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October 21, 2008

Speaker Update - Futures of Entertainment 3

Just a quick note to say that yesterday we received the unfortunate news that due to some unavoidable scheduling issues that have arisen, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, creator of The Middleman, will no longer be able to join us at Futures of Entertainment 3 in November.

We're confirming final speakers for the conference and will update you all as they come in.

October 20, 2008

Rounding Up DIY DAYS Boston

As the C3 research on Spreadable Media moves forward from the somewhat abstract, but nonetheless foundational work of our white paper from this summer, we are entering into conversation with people across both industry and academia to explore how these theories of spreadability function across industries and national boundaries.

And as part of the effort to drill down from the broad-stroke theory of the paper, Ana and I recently presented a streamlined version of the Spreadability work specially-tailored to independent film marketing and distribution at DIY Days Boston. I was unable to stay for the whole conference, but it seemed very much like the independent film community is engaged with many of the same concerns of large media corporations: how to attract audiences, how to provide the value they want, what that value might be, and what value they would see in return.

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Registration open for Futures of Entertainment 3

As of this morning, registration is officially open for the third Futures of Entertainment conference, November 21 and 22, here at MIT.

For those of you who haven't attended Futures of Entertainment before, the conference is organized around panel discussions, bringing academics and industry thought leaders together to dig into the topics at hand. You can check out the panels from the 2007 event here. This year's conference will cover topics including understanding the reconfiguring site of media value, uncovering, working with and understanding audiences, global distribution flows in light of the Internet and migratory audiences, the convergence taking place in the comics industry, franchising, extensions and world-building, as well as the challenges of bringing the academy and industry together.

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October 17, 2008

Looking a Gift Economy in the Mouth: Michael Moore's SLACKER UPRISING

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Michael Moore with the subject "'Slacker Uprising' Now Belongs to You (Down/Load, Rise/Up!)." I've spent my first month with the Consortium examining the principles of spreadable media with a special focus on internet distribution of TV and film, so I was more than a little excited to see that Moore made his latest film, Slacker Uprising available to download for free without advertising.

Moore's email goes on to espouse some of the most important tenets of spreadable media--gifting and sharing: "[Slacker Uprising] is available for free as a gift from me to all of you. And you have my permission to share it or show it in any way you see fit." This seems like quite a boon for spreadable media, especially considering the film is available in a variety of formats including streaming video, iTunes download, Amazon VoD, and even BitTorrent.

The film itself is a joint venture between Moore's production company, Dog Eat Dog Films; independent internet TV site, blip.tv; and Robert Greenwald's activist film site, Brave New Films. Slacker Uprising chronicles Moore's 62-city tour to get out the vote before the 2004 presidential election. While Moore's efforts in this campaign are certainly noble, Slacker Uprising has none of Moore's signature liberal message hidden beneath man-on-the-street folksiness. This film meanders through long segments of Moore and various celebrities taking the stage before stadiums of screaming fans; I doubt it has the power to change anyone's mind about politics, but that's not Moore's aim.

Continue reading "Looking a Gift Economy in the Mouth: Michael Moore's SLACKER UPRISING" »

October 16, 2008

Radiohead's IN RAINBOWS: by the Numbers

Here's some juicy news concerning last year's "pay what you want" experiment from Radiohead: according to Rolling Stone and musically.com, Radiohead's publisher Warner Chappell confirmed yesterday that "Radiohead made more money before In Rainbows was physically released than they made in total on the previous album Hail To the Thief".

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October 9, 2008

Announcing: Futures of Entertainment 3

Ths site for C3's annual conference, the Futures of Entertainment, now in its third year, is now live.

Registration information will be soon to follow, and be sure to check in for updates to speaker lists as we start to finalize our panels in the upcoming weeks. This year promises to be exciting and provocative, as we push our themes of convergence and media spreadability onto the global stage, while not losing sight of central C3 issues such as transmedia storytelling and audience value.

To get an idea of what the Futures of Entertainment conference is like, check out last year's site and listen or view the podcasts.

More to come!

Metafun for Metaplayers

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Bruce Sterling's keynote lecture at the 2008 Austin Game Developers' Conference. (I was there co-presenting a video game adaptation workshop with Matthew Weise, a comrade-in-arms of mine at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.) Sterling was, as ever, utterly brilliant; given my previous exposures to Sterling at SXSW conferences in the past, I was expecting to be entertained. What I hadn't expected was for Sterling to give his entire lecture as a piece of performance art.

Bruce Sterling at AGDC

Thanks to the inestimable Raph Koster, we have a mostly complete transcript of Sterling's presentation, which opened thus:

Hello, thanks for having me into your event today, and thanks for that intro. Though there is a problem with that: I am not Bruce Sterling. He couldn't make it. He sent me instead.

The reason he couldn't make it is that in 2043, Bruce is 89. Dr. Sterling is too frail to get into a time machine to talk to game devs, so he called on me to do it. I am one of his grad students. I volunteered, sort of, to journey back in time using some of our new technical methods. It wasn't exactly easy, but I am here and fully briefed.

Priceless. You should definitely swing by Koster's site and read the whole thing, even though it can't compete with the sheer ludicrousness of Sterling Dr. Sterling's unnamed grad student whipping a cheap kitchen towel out of a bag and introducing it as his computer.

Bruce Sterling at AGDC

"So my PC is like a towel," not-Sterling said. "Cheap and old and the dullest thing in the world, I have always had one. '2008, computer pioneers, they still think computers are exciting! They don't get that computers in 2043 are like bricks, forks, toothbrushes, towels.' I researched that subject, and yeah, for an old fashioned audience, a mid-21st century computer is cool. So here it is: General Electric personal mediators, very stable, five years old. No full functionality in 2008 because we don't have the cloud here yet. It tapped into something called Windows Vista when it got here and gave up, gone all limp, nothing left on here but this frozen screensaver pattern." Which, of course, was the pattern on the towel. Like I said, priceless.

What really left me howling, however, was when not-Sterling all but name-dropped C3.

Continue reading "Metafun for Metaplayers" »

October 8, 2008

Kpop goes global: notes from the SM Global Auditions (part 1)

Since much of C3's research this year, as well as my individual work, seeks to examine how the principles of cultural convergence and media spreadability play out on a global scale, it was with great enthusiasm that I set out to do ethnographic fieldwork at this year's SM Global Auditions in New York (Flushing, Queens, to be exact).

SM Entertainment is one of the biggest and most elite talent stables in Korea and, thanks to growing prominence of "the Korean Wave," across much of Asia. Known for their pop music talent, in particular well-groomed and intensely professional girl groups and boybands with up to over a dozen members per group. Their strategy, like many successful talent agencies throughout Asia, is to recruit extremely young, usually pre-teens and teenagers, and then put their recruits through extensive training and often, not insignificant amounts of plastic surgery, before choosing the most promising ones to "debut," or launch officially, as "idols." Once most of these "trainees" debut, the press accepts them directly as celebrities, and fans are often carried over based on the SM Entertainment name, as opposed to the group's individual talents.

Their Global Auditions, according to SM's website, are an effort to discover talent that can "stand on the stages of Asia and the world." Despite the name, the auditions were only held in the US and Canada, in 8 major cities, like New York, SF, LA, and Toronto, that are known to be centers of the East Asian diaspora. News of the auditions were spread online, via blogs, message boards, and SM's own website. SM also made recruitment videos featuring all their biggest acts, which got uploaded onto Youtube, Veoh, Dailymotion, Crunchyroll, and a number of video-sharing sites. These circulated mostly amongst fans of the groups, acting both as recruitment and promotional footage for SM Entertainment, but it also ensured that a significant portion of the people at the auditions were fans, rather than people seeking to seriously pursue entertainment careers.

As such, the auditions were an interesting site in which certain tensions between concepts of global and national, fan and "professional" surfaced. This first part will discuss the tensions of national origin and "global" media reach, while part 2 will deal with the auditions as simultaneously a site of professional development, but also fan participation.

Continue reading "Kpop goes global: notes from the SM Global Auditions (part 1)" »

October 1, 2008

Around the Consortium: Looking Forward to FoE3 and Introducing Sheila Seles and Dan Pereira

Apologies to everyone for our blogging downtime – we've been running around settling into the new semester as well as getting acquainted with new consortium researchers and staff. We're already gearing up for FoE3 in November and are working to put together what promises to be an engaging and provacative series of panels around bringing together the themes from last year – media spreadability, audiences and value, social media, distribution – with our new projects heading into the new school year around an increasingly global view of media convergence and flow. Topics for this year's panels include global distribution systems and the challenges of moving content across borders, transmedia and world building, comics and commerce, social media and spreadability, and renewed discussion on how and why to measure audience value.

We should be up to our regularly scheduled blogging within the next week but in the meantime, for anyone who doesn't already know, I'm delighted to introduce our new graduate researcher, Sheila Seles, and our new research manager, Dan Pereira. Sheila is joining the Consortium after working with C3 consulting researcher Jason Mittell at Middlebury College. Her current research interests include television and the creative industries and the intersection of fan culture and activism. Dan comes to us with 15 years of experience with academic affiliations, management consulting, high tech entrepreneurial ventures and independent media projects. Please look forward to contributions from both of them in the near future!

In other Consortium news, fellow Researcher Ana Domb and I will be presenting work on the spreadable media environment and independent film distribution at DIY Days Boston on Saturday, October 4th.

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