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.
The presentation seems to have gone over well, with much note-scribbing from the audience and a number of very compelling questions during the Q&A. It was particularly useful to hear the tangible, logistical concerns of actual production in our transitional media landscape. One question that struck me in particular was whether or not trying to cater to a "spreadable" environment would be more difficult than traditional marketing routes. It sounds so similar to the ever-circling question of what the value of fans really is, and if engaging them is worth the effort. But I would here suggest we reframe the question: not what can be gained by engaging communities, but given the how quickly established these once-emergent social practices of the Spreadable environment are becoming, what will be lost if we fail to make the transition? Or, to put it another way, spreadability cannot be viewed as a simply a tactic, but as a general characteristic for the changing media environment.
The conference overall was great, and it was fantastic to chat with Lance Weiler about his takes on transmedia and spreadability. (He will be also speaking at FOE this year). It was also great to get feedback from and hear the questions and concerns of the attendants, many of whom as independent filmmakers are very explicitly working in that very complex, ambiguous intersection of gift economy and commodity culture that categorizes the negotiation between (problematic) binary of the "art world" and "commercial production."
As a brief final note, as I've started attending more and more of these conferences, a somewhat disarming pattern has been emerging in the gender, race and, to a lesser extent, age make-up of both panelists and attendees. I say this not as a criticism of conference organizers (and especially not of the people behind DIY DAYS, who are fantastic). Rather, I think this is more symptomatic of a larger trend the in web 2.0 environment where the celebration of affordances and community too often comes from an explicit disappearance of (visible) difference online, resulting in a presumption of sameness. These issues cropped up at the last Media in Transition conference and caused visible agitation at Roflcon last year. In looking through a pamphlet for a recent conference that Henry Jenkins keynoted, we couldn't help but notice the saturation of white, male faces, and it was hard to overlook the fact that Ana and I were the only non-white, non-male panelists at DIY DAYS. And the question of representation is very much on our mind as be pull together panels for FOE3 this year. Again, I mean this not as a condemnation of conference organization practice. This is not an individual, but a structural problem, and something to consider as we continue to negotiate these new media spaces.