November 21, 2008
FOE3 Liveblog: Opening Remarks

We're Liveblogging (with slight time delay) FOE again this year, to tide everyone over until the podcasts come out.

First up are Opening Remarks by Henry Jenkins, with a welcome from Jason Schupbach, Creative Economy Industry Director for the MA Governor's office.

Thanks to CMS grad student Flourish Klink for liveblogging this panel.

9.15 Jason Schupbach

From the Governor's office, Creative Economy Industry Director for the
state - first ever in the US. People don't usually know there are 76
video game companies (producers of LOTROnline, Rock Band, & Bioshock!)
in Massachusetts - "we want Massachusetts to be the home of the future
of entertainment!"

9.17 Henry Jenkins

Welcome! "Let's lay out a road map to some of the directions our
culture is taking."
Henry appropriated all of the images in his presentation from other
context; sometimes he has marked them up - all under fair use guide
lines - in order to give snapshots of the world of media right now.

"If it doesn't spread, it's dead!"
Amazed I was, it made such sense / and it was at so little expense! /
No press release, no ad campaign / those days are gone, / the rules
have changed!

"Have the rules changed? What are the new principles we might use to
make sense of the new media environment we now operate in?"

Quilt he found that's titled "Convergence" - seems to depict a logic,
pattern, way of organizing our lives, not just a magical set of links
between technologies. He's talking about convergence as a cultural

Convergence is a cultural rather than a technological process. We now
live in a world where every story, image, sound, idea, brand, and
relationship will play itself out across all possible media

The convergence is in our heads, not necessarily in tech devices.

In a networked society, people are increasingly forming knowledge
communities to pool information and work together to solve problems
they could not confront individually. We call that collective
Image: org chart for the Resistance in the Matrix movies.

A bunch of fans used their collective intelligence to create this!

We are seeing the emergence of a new form of participatory culture (a
contemporary version of folk culture) as consumers take media in their
own hands, reworking its content to serve their personal and
collective interests.
Image: Red vs. Blue: Out of Mind

It's both correct that media is concentrated and gatekeepers are being
shattered: there is folk culture ...

The question is, now that we've embraced convergence culture, where do
we go? We've already embraced it. Companies are using it. Where do we
go beyond convergence culture?

Slide image: If you aren't here to change the world, please turn
around and leave.

We often talk about this in terms of Web 2.0. - Web 2.0 is like the
"New South" as a real powerful label to change the image of the
industry. After the .com bust, had to rebrand as Web 2.0 - folks met
in San Francisco...

Slide image: tag cloud around Web 2.0: convergence, remixability,
open APIs, participation, usability, wikis, folksonomy,
standardization, economy, web standards, microformats, design, AJAX,
simplicity, social software...

Increasing wariness on the consumer side: consumers asked to
contribute user generated content to companies that are making money.
"We produce all the content, they make all the money" has come into
question as savvy consumers realize that we operate for different
motives than commercial entities.

Slide image: Organization for Transformative Works "I am not your
user-generated content," "I R Ceased N Desisted"

OTW is forming in order to respond to corporations

Myth of viral media
Slide image: "INSTANT VIRAL MEDIA" "Viral media cash: make money with
If you could just figure out viral media, the myth goes, you can make
money... but this is incredibly wrong-headed!

On the consumer side, the idea of infectious memes is equally
wrongheaded. It's interesting that these terms are both drawn from
biology. This debate about viral media vs. memes is a huge question
about what's in store.

At first people thought "why would you just want to watch home movies
all day?" Well, people do want to watch commercial media but now it's
mixed up with consumer-created, amateur-generated content - this is
not like Napster.

We're also looking at hybrid spaces where differently motivated groups
are operating side by side - in places like Second Life and YouTube:
Governmental, educational, corporate, consumer, activist, etc.

We were also told "why would anyone want to watch television on a computer?" Ha!

And lest we think this is just teenagers and MIT students, he's been
traveling the country for months and audiences of age 50-60 plus all
saw the Sarah Palin/Tina Fey sketches on their computers - not a fixed
relationship between technology and generation.

"Invitational strategies" Sharon Marie Ross - teen dramas, etc model
within the text new ways of living in participatory culture - American
Idol demands participation but also things like Gossip Girl show the
characters behaving that way.

And as that happens, things like ComiCon become incredibly important -
not just male fanboys but also women!!

Industry struggling with maps of engagement, "participation trees,"
"participation triangles," etc. Struggling with brand communities in
the advertising world - All of this becomes part of an industry
preoccupation with understanding the principles and practices of
convergence culture.

One could argue that one of the key issues of the Writer's Strike was
transmedia content! This has really come of age. "This was yet another
example of the settling-in process that's been taking place around the
logic of convergence."

"We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass
hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep on humming
all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban legends.
Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matter how smart we get, there is
always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for
self-replicating information." - Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Slide image: "I discovered the cure for viral media" t-shirt

The idea is that there is nothing rational about viral media -
unthinking people carry on - this is a broadcast paradigm that claims
that power rests in the hands of the producers. But this is wrong!
Everything we've seen so far shows that consumers have both agency and
agenda that determines their willingness to spread content.

Viral media as a model traps us completely. It shuts us down from
asking these same questions.

Meme comes out of genetic theory and shares these problems -
"self-propagating ideas" etc. But we do think about these things.

"People don't engage with each other to engage viruses; people
exchange viruses as an excuse to engage with each other." Douglas

Shenja Van Der Graaf "The main feature of viral marketing is that it
heavily depends on interconnected peers. Viral marketing is inherently

Even lolcats are actually creative. "Oh hai, I'm in ur mediaz
explainin ur LOL" - Lolcats, Loltheorists, people use this "virus" to
explain their world, etc.

So we're moving to "spreadable" not "sticky" media - it doesn't pin
you down; you spread it around. And this is about social - gift
ideas. How do gift economies + money economies come together to shape
our modern culture?

"A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it;
we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us."
Lewis Hyde

Value vs. Worth. You probably wouldn't give money for a dead rat - by
in large, it isn't an object of economic exchange. But if your cat
gives you a dead rat - that's worth something! It's a social thing.

"Unlike the sale of a commodity, the giving of a gift tends ot
establish a relationship between the parties involved. Furthermore,
when gifts circulate with n a group, their commerce leaves a series of
interconnected relationships in its wake, and a kind of decentralized
cohesiveness emerges." Lewis Hyde

When we give a gift, it isn't because we want to say "I spent a lot of
money on you" typically. It's because we want to say "you are worth
it." But buying something from a store doesn't have any of that

In a gift economy, status, prestige or esteem take the place of cash
remuneration as the primary drivers of cultural production and social
transaction. - Lewis Hyde

Antiques Roadshow is clearly about value vs. worth - people sometimes
willingly swap worth for value "it was grandma's, but it's worth 2
mil, let me cash out!" and sometimes

Value for value: capitalism knows this very well, and it's
complicated, but we know a lot about it.

Worth for worth: we also know about this. We exchange gifts, sometimes
in a complex social context - but we're all familiar with this too.
This is "it's the thought that counts" moment. The first thing you do
is strip the price tag off the gift - symbolically an important thing.

But you don't put a catalog in a gift! That's gauche advertising. And
viral advertising is basically this: "here's free media, give it into
your friends as a gift, also it includes advertising!"

Value to worth: "Let me share my favorite songs with the entire
internet!" This is where piracy lives.

Worth to value: this is what happens when something produced in the
gift economy is turned into a commodity. This is where things like the
fanlib controversy live.

"The men and women in the crowd were informed by the belief that they
were defending traditional rights and customs; and in general, that
they were supported by the wider belief of the community." Thomson

Over the last 10-15 years trust has withered between producers and
consumers. As we can see there is a struggle over words -
interpretations of the moral economy, bids for legitimacy. "How can
you say I shouldn't share music? The point of music is that we share
it!" vs. "You're stealing it and giving it away, I made the value in

Another struggle is the notion of "free labor." Can you call what we
do as participants of Web 2.0 "labor"?

Ex: last week the new Star Trek trailer appeared in theatres and a
pirated version immediately showed up on the web, unauthorized, but
got a huge amount of hits. The unauthorizedness of it may have made
the attention towards it even greater. But this is about losing
control - it was followed by the "official" version.

One problem with our economic model is that we understand circulation
as depreciation rather than appreciation - we say it decreases value.
But this isn't true!

Example of how this can work: Obama campaign speeds up circulation of
the image and makes sure that that image spreads everywhere. In civic
media there is a different system of value and worth that we can
examine. Obama, Huckabee is different from other candidates who were
not easily appropriated, like Hillary Clinton who used almost entirely
static media (ex: the Sopranos thing - there was tension around it
which prevented it from spreading.)

On the other hand, look at the economics around SNL: 70% increase in
viewership from the fall and yet the Tina Fey parodies were spreading
online, they just ended up drawing more eyes back to the network. And
at the same time, this brought people to pay attention to things like
the Katie Couric interview, which therefore also got increased

And as these things spread you can comment on it - 3AM girl in Clinton
commercial was an Obama supporter and was able to voice her
opinion/recontextualize it via YouTube.

Also, mashups: Obama and Biden as Batman and Robin, McCain as the
Penguin and Palin as Batwoman. Even more interestingly, videos mashed
up, McCain's "eh? Eh? EH?" as the sounds of the Penguin. This creates
new meaning and value through transformation!!

Slide image:
Shepherd Fairey "HOPE"
remixed version of John McCain: "NOPE"

Shepherd Fairey shows us that spreadability can exist in physical
forms: Obey Giant, Andre the Giant has a Posse, Barack Obama has a

How does this relate to the economics of the media industry? Think Dr
Horrible's Sing-Along Blog - recouped its cost within the first couple
weeks of its existence and spread to merchandising, etc. This is a
great example of how new technology can use but not exploit this gift

We can see this shift taking place through residual media. Ebay can
show us magic lanterns, etc. "Wimbledon Green," "Alias the Cat" -
these are both narratives rich and compelling about collector culture
around old goods and artifacts.

It used to be that a collector's worth was determined by hoarding but
now on YouTube we're seeing people dump really rare things out into
the public sphere - Henry's examples are based on the 1939 World's
Fair. Pool knowledge in YouTube, websites, Wikipedia, etc
re-generating wealth from materials that were once thought of as
debris. The real time capsule is all the stuff now floating in Ebay!

Retro branding: Remaking "Quake" and "Quisp" as gourmet cereals for
collectors! ("The vitamin powered sugary cereal for earthquake power"
and "the vitamin powered sugary cereal for QUAZY energy")

Book of "wacky packages" which came from sticks of bubble gum. They
were totally disposable when they were made, but over time people
discovered that the artist behind them was Art Spiegelman who has
enormous reputation today, now described as "birthplace of adbusting,"
so incentive to publish.

Or Chip Kidd's new book "Bat-Manga" - cheap disposable stories in
1960s on cruddy paper now republished as a book that's just come on
the market. The trash and debris of the past now with value.

We can see this take place in the global market itself - animé
community! Now major cultural export of Japan, thanks to fansubbing
etc - basically piracy.

Wrestling fans: newsletters and websites encouraged people to want to
see older materials, woke up the WWE to the value of its back catalog
which was once thought of as disposable but now takes on value.

After a decade of MegaMan being dead, it is now re-emerging as
potentially a very valuable brand thanks to fans keeping it alive.

This space also has helped the indie game movement expand because
smaller scale companies that would never get into say Walmart now can
use the web as a distribution site. Community generates buzz. Same in
music: Arctic Monkeys, Soulja Boy. Webcomic artists emerging from the
web. Independent film producers, think about Head Trauma.

What do we now know about the new consumer relations?

1.Consumers are not impregnated with media message; they select ones
that make sense to them.
2.They do not pass along static content; they transform the content to
serve their own needs
3.Content does not circulate in fixed borders but goes in new and
unexpected directions
4.Consumers do not merely consume; they recommend to their friends and so on!
5.They do not buy cultural goods - they buy into a cultural economy
which respects and rewards their participation

Because otherwise... if it doesn't spread, it's dead!

10.06 Q&A

Is any of your research going into what the value of this will be
for archival media?

The archive is becoming increasingly public. Many archivists want to
protect the material from the public rather than allowing it to
circulate - we're now seeing places explore what it means to put that
stuff out there. Archives are beginning to do their own DVD series,
which would not have seemed to have a market, but now people can be
educated to have interest in it.