September 5, 2008

Around the Consortium: C3 Connections Around the Web

Continuing with some catch-up news from over the summer, I wanted to point toward a few interesting articles and posts that highlighted the Consortium's work and the work of our graduate students and alum.

First, we're honored to have Prof. Mark Deuze at Indiana University using the Consortium's blog as part of the material for his course this fall, entitled "Media Organizations." In addition to highlighting Henry Jenkins' work, he includes links to this blog as one of the resources for students to follow what's happening in the industry, according to his recent post about the class. I am elated that Mark has found a classroom use for the public side of the what the Consortium is doing, and I'd love to hear from his students in comments here along the way.

Meanwhile, while Consortium graduate student researcher Xiaochang Li was away from MIT this summer, she was busy at work for Brooklyn-based Big Spaceship. She even had a chance to write a few thought pieces for Spaceship's blog over the summer that might be of interest to C3 readers. See her posts "The 'Twebinar' Experience: Connectivity Versus Conversation", "Pirate's Dilemma: The Movie?", "Halo Kid the New Starwars Kid?", and Everything Old Is New Again: Transmedia Goes Traditional".

A couple of particularly relevant pieces Xiaochang wrote for Big Spaceship included her piece entitled "Is This a Conversation We Want To Be Having?".

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: C3 Connections Around the Web" »

September 3, 2008

C3's Joshua Green Speaking at Inverge on Friday

C3's Joshua Green will be speaking this Friday, Sept. 05, at the Inverge Interactive Convergence Conference in Portland, Oregon. His presentation, entitled "Restructure Time? Two Years in Convergence Culture," will focus on the two years since the publication of Henry Jenkins' book that this Consortium launched around. During Green's time with the Consortium over the past two years, he has helped direct and push our thinking about "what comes next?"

Inverge is an annual conference from IndePlay. See more here. See more information on Joshua's appearance last year from the invergence blog and here at the C3 blog.

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September 2, 2008

Around the Consortium: Catching Up with the C3 Community

After light posting throughout the summer here on the Consortium's blog, we're going to be returning to daily posting once again now that a new academic year is upon us. The core C3 team will be organizing a new year of academic projects, and preparing for the big Futures of Entertainment 3 conference I posted the reminder about on Friday.

Although I'm no longer at MIT and participating in the core team's work, I look forward to returning to blogging on at least a weekly basis here at C3. To start that off, I wanted to draw your attention to some books, projects, thought pieces, and other projects the broader Consortium community has been working on over the summer, despite the gaps of silence here. Over the next few days, I'll be posting a few updates highlighting these projects.

To start off with, here are a few summer blog entries of note:

Another Member of the C3 Community Weighs in on Twitter. The "Twebinar" earlier this summer generated reactions from C3 Graduate Student Researcher Xiaochang Li, and I wrote a piece on Twitter here. Now, Geoffrey Long is the latest to weigh in. He writes:

Granted, one of the charming elements of businesses like The Minnesota Press on Twitter is the idea that there's an actual warm body writing those tweets out there somewhere; Twitter is such a still-indie enterprise that it still conveys, to me at least, a sense of personal connection with those whom I'm following. However, given the number of spam follow notifications I receive, I'm not sure that will stay that way much longer. It's this hat trick of corporate tweeting, a primed space for a tiered Pro package and the emergence of Twitter as a spam delivery system that makes me suspect that Twitter is right at the tipping point of some form of major reinvention.

See more here.

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July 31, 2008

Interview with Communispace about C3 and the Industry

Before I left my position as project manager for the Consortium, I was fortunate enough to have a chance to correspond with the folks at Communispace about some of the Consortium's research and perspective on the current media landscape.

For those who don't know of Communispace, they are a company based in the Boston area that creates private, invitation-only communities that allow brands to converse directly with a small group of targeted people, who take part in an ongoing community that Communispace maintains. I've written about Communispace before here, and Judy Walklet represented the company in a discussion at our spring retreat.

As part of the interview, I said:

"I think it's crucial for businesses to understand that the world doesn't operate in what we call in media studies a "technological determinist" mindset. Avoiding significant engagement in today's digital world is increasingly dangerous for many businesses' survival, but just as perilous, or maybe more so, is the "gee whiz fever"--the disease which causes companies to believe they are smart and innovative if they try every new technology that comes along, without putting substantial thought into the strategy and purpose behind those digital decisions and offerings.

We're looking to return the favor soon with Manila Austin from Communispace. I conducted an interview with her awhile back that I'm hoping to post soon here on the C3 site. They're a company helping to lead the dialogue about what community really means, considering that it's a term that's thrown around a lot these days, especially by "Web 2.0" companies.

Sam Ford is a research affiliate with the Consortium and Director of Customer Insights with Peppercom. He also writes for PepperDigital.

July 30, 2008

A Few Recent Posts on PepperDigital

Sorry for the radio silence on my part as I have settled into this new position at Peppercom as "Director of Customer Insights" and my new relationship with C3 as a research affiliate. I hope to be back to posting a couple of times a week from this point forward.

To start with, there were a couple of recent pieces I have written over on the PepperDigital blog that I thought might be of interest to Consortium blog readers:

A Model for Better Understanding Communities Online. "That's not to vilify segmentation. It's no more a help to say every audience member is unique than it is to say the audience is all the same--neither produce a model that's feasible for effective mass communication. It just means there's a need for a more nuanced way to understand the different types of online audience members."

More Chatter about Canada's Brand and Media's Role. "As Canadian media such as these two shows continue to gain notoriety south of the border and across the globe, one has to think there are definite benefits to the Canadian brand, differentiating the Canadian experience and Canadian society through distinctly Canadian television shows."

No Virtual Handshakes: Remember That the "Virtual" Doesn't Exist Outside the "Real" World. "So I wanted to remind everyone that, in all our enthusiasm about digital technologies, let's never fall into the trap of thinking about the 'virtual world' as something disconnected from everything else. After all, these are technological tools that still connect us in our everyday life, not a way that we can somehow transcend living."

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June 13, 2008

Around the Consortium: Personalization, Emotion in Politics, Soaps, and Digital

To start with, C3 Alum Ilya Vedrashko has a recent post about sites morphing to the cognitive style of each visitor, over on his Advertising Lab site. See more here.

Meanwhile, C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken writes about the prioritization of emotion in U.S. politics at the moment, and how separated this is from previous measurements of leadership.

I also wanted to give a quick link to this podcast with the team at Daytime Confidential. I was honored to be invited on for a call and appreciated having the chance to discuss my research and perspective on soap operas today, the class at MIT, other soaps projects I'm working on at the moment, and how this links to my work with the Consortium. Thanks also to Fred Smith for the plug.

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May 28, 2008

Around the Consortium: ICA, IMR, and Online Music Promotion

A few notes this afternoon from around the Consortium:

First of all, several folks involved in the Consortium--including Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins, Research Manager Joshua Green, and a variety of our consulting researchers--spent the past several days in Montreal for the International Communication Association's annual conference. I was in the process of moving (more on that later) and didn't get to attend, but C3 Consulting Researcher Jonathan Gray has a wonderful short thought piece here, comparing the time he spent at the conference to some of the Consortium's event and praising the values of "paper-less" academic conferencing.

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In Memory of Erlene Zierke

We at the Consortium were deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of Erlene Zierke. We had the pleasure of getting to know Erlene through our relationship with Turner Broadcasting, where she put much energy into launching and developing Super Deluxe.

Some blog readers might have had the chance to meet Erlene at ROFLCon or the first Futures of Entertainment conference here at MIT--and, believe me, you would likely remember Erlene if you ever had the chance to meet her.

Her enthusiasm was unmatched, and she was always offering creative and unique perspective for those of us who had the chance to work with her here at MIT.

Our thoughts are with Erlene's many friends and family. She was an extraordinary individual, and I personally consider it a great privilege to have had the chance to get to know her during her all-too-brief time with us.

The Future of TV and Public Academic Work

Another piece I've been meaning to direct C3 readers toward was a piece including some comments from C3 alum Geoffrey Long from earlier this month. The story, called Is the future of TV on the Web?, looks at the promises, questions, and tensions of online video.

Awhile back, I was interviewed for a few minutes by a reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education about the potential promise of a social networking site for youth basketball, organized by the NCAA and the NBA.

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Links of the Day: A Few Interesting Random Recent Sites and Stories

One of my tasks for the day has been to clean out the bookmarks I've not yet gone through. To make it a more productive exercise, I thought I'd share a few of them through the blog as well, not just to show how eclectic my own archiving interests are and the types of links people forward to me but likewise to pass along stuff that might be of interest to C3 readers as well.

First, there's this link for the Jack Myers Future of Media discussion from earlier this month. This entry looks at a conversation from a variety of speakers, with the mix including a former Coca-Cola exec and reps from Aegis North America, someone from Colgate Palmolive, blip.tv, and Worldwide Biggies.

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Youth and Civic Engagement

Last month, the Program in Comparative Media Studies hosted an MIT Communications Forum entitled "Youth and Civic Engagement."

The official event description asked, "The current generation of young citizens is growing up in an age of unprecedented access to information. Will this change their understanding of democracy? What factors will shape their involvement in the political process?"

The forum featured three speakers with expertise on engaging young people in more active citizenship from various perspectives and backgrounds and was co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, a collaboration between CMS and the MIT Media Lab.

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May 20, 2008

On Valuing Labor and Creativity in Industry and Academia

As part of my continued posts on some of the projects and papers I've found out about as late, I wanted to include some note after spending some time reading Vicki Mayer's latest work on reality casting. Vicki sent me the shorter paper her Console-ing Passions presentation was based on. (And, Vicki, if you read this, I haven't forgotten my promise to get back to you once I've read the full chapter.) But, in the process of reading through her notes on looking at the workload of those who do reality casting, a few interesting things came to mind.

First is one of the main argument Vicki is making in the piece, which is that much of the important work of casting agents come in the relationship building that is part of the job, precisely the type of work that is not given direct value in the system, even as it is the reason the system functions the way in does.

In other words, much of the job of casting doesn't happen at official events or in the office, yet this work is not valued. These people often spend more time "on the job" in ways that aren't financially compensated for, because the media industries don't often appropriately value the labor that goes into this type of work. Vicki looks at how this relates to biases against feminine disourses, often more tied to relationship-building and community-building, and how this might explain why many of the people she encountered in casting roles were women or gay men.

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Around the Consortium: Advertising, Identity, and Ethnic Television

To start our look around the Consortium this afternoon, I wanted to point toward an intriguing piece from C3 Alum Ilya Vedrashko over at his Advertising Lab site about bookmarkable advertising. He starts:

People bookmark ads. They circle ads with red markers, cut them out, paste them on the fridge, carry them inside wallets, give ads away, put ads on the walls. Given the opportunity and a good reason, people archive, manage and retrieve ads. Naturally, it is in advertisers' best interests to encourage this behavior because bookmarking gives the ad another chance to do its job, which is why we often see the dotted "cut here" lines around ads.

Meanwhile, C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken was just featured in Canada's The Globe and Mail, promoting his new book Transformations and sharing his thoughts on identity in a "convergence culture." Grant says:

You know, Erving Goffman, Canada's great gift to sociology, used to talk about consumer goods as an identikit - the process by which we would buy a number of consumer goods to outfit our present identity. And if it's the case that that identity is multiplying so we have many identities, several selves, then it makes sense for people to be buying several identikits. In fact about a year ago I did a project for a client on storage in the home. The striking thing about homes is that they are bursting at the seams as people accumulate. ... So I found myself in attics and garages looking at colour-coded plastic containers that contained all the things a house would need to outfit itself appropriately for the season. That too was a kind of multiple identity at play.

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Reminder: Consortium Hiring Research Director

I wanted to start out my list of updates this morning by giving a quick reminder to all our blog readers that the Consortium has started the hiring process for a new position with the title of "Research Director," who will work in conjunction with C3 principal investigators Henry Jenkins and William Uricchio and the various members of the Consortium to help guide both internal and external research for the group.

As many readers may know, the Consortium writes internal white papers, publishes a weekly internal newsletter, hosts an annual internal Consortium retreat, and collaborates with partner companies who pay an annual fee to be members in our Consortium, while we likewise run this blog, host the Futures of Entertainment conference each November, and engage with various audiences about our research through publications, conferences, talking with journalists, etc.

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May 15, 2008

C3 Spring Retreat: Wrap-Up

Finally, our afternoon last Friday at the C3 Spring Retreat was spent discussing how academia and industry might work together and putting that discussion into action through a series of breakout discussions built around topics of particular interest to some of those working with the Consortium: advertising and marketing, audience measurement and metrics, participatory culture, global media flow, and gaming.

The discussion started with a conversation led by a panel of C3 Consulting Researchers. I moderated the conversation, joined by Lee Harrington, Grant McCracken, Jason Mittell, and Kevin Sandler. Each talked about their own research and how it intersects with industry, and we had a conversation across the room about what academia has to offer to media industries companies, what type of insight they would like to have from media industries companies in return, and both the potentials and the difficulties in work between academia and industry, taking into account the differences in the approach and interests of each type of research.

This moved into a series of individual discussions that I think reached the pinnacle of what an event like this retreat can accomplish, fostering conversations across this industry/academia threshold. As I've said to many people in the past, it's what I found most energizing about Futures of Entertainment both of the past two years, and it's what I think an organization like C3 can help foster.

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Notes on Thursday's Events at the C3 Spring Retreat

We're amidst several updates today, after a hiatus from blogging due to our annual C3 Spring Retreat and our continued work on a series of internal white papers within the Consortium, which we presented as part of the event last Thursday and Friday. As many regular readers might know, we have spent the past year working specifically on gaining a better understanding of video sharing sites like YouTube, the type of content that appears there, and how these sites work as potential places for promotion. We've also been exploring the "viral" media concept that has become part of our entertainment landscape.

In addition to the various blog posts we've written about these issues here on the C3 blog this past academic year, we've been working on three white papers that are due to be shared internally at the end of the academic year. We spent the first day of the retreat previewing and discussing that work with our corporate partners (see our partners listed on the left side of the page, along with Fidelity Investments) and our consulting researchers.

The event kicked off with an introduction from C3 Principal Investigator and Co-Director of the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, William Uricchio, who talked about how the work we do here in the Convergence Culture Consortium plugs into the history of media theory at MIT. William and Henry have been doing research on that connection for some time now, in light of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Institute.

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C3 Work in 2007-2008: 10 Most Popular Posts (RSS Feed)

In my previous post, I highlighted what was the 10 post popular posts on our blog from the previous academic year. Looking at RSS feed data from Feedburner, I wanted to likewise highlight what was the 10 most popular posts from the past academic year through our feed.

The two most popular posts were also one of our Top 10 posts in terms of page views, and--as you will see--most of the most popular topics through our feed dealt with the Futures of Entertainment event.

FoE2: Advertising and Convergence Culture. This post recaps some of the comments from the participants in last November's Futures of Entertainment 2 panel on Advertising and Convergence Culture, featuring Mike Rubenstein, Bill Fox, Faris Yakob, Tina Wells, and Baba Shetty.

FoE2: Opening Remarks. C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins and C3 Research Director Joshua Green open Futures of Entertainment 2 with a discussion on the future of television, interactivity, engagement, and fan labor.

Looking Back at FoE: Not the Real World Anymore. The last panel at the first Futures of Entertainment featured John Lester from Linden Labs, Ron Meiners from Mplayer.com, and Todd Cunningham and Eric Gruber from MTV Networks, talking about virtual worlds.

Hey! Nielsen--Whats the Metric? C3 Graduate Student Researcher Eleanor Baird looks at Nielsen's newest attempts to take into account engagement and fan activities as part of their measurement, through the development of an online community looking at these issues.

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C3 Work in 2007-2008: 10 Most Popular Posts (Page Visits)

As we near the end of the academic year, I thought readers might be interested in seeing what the Top 10 most popular posts have been over the previous nine months or so. First, according to page views through Google Analytics, our Top 10 posts have been:

Hustling 2.0: Soulja Boy and the Crank Dat Phenomenon. C3 graduate researcher Xiaochang Li looks at the rise of Soulja Boy and the energy the artist has created on YouTube with the latest dance phenomenon, complete with the Program in Comparative Media Studies' own attempt to "crank that."

"Meet me at my crib...": Reading the official "Crank That" video. C3 graduate researcher Xiaochang Li provides a reading of the text of the "Crank That" video from a "convergence culture" perspective.

Porn 2.0. Henry Jenkins provides a post from his blog that looks at the historical and current place pornography has in media transition.

Kentucky Weatherman Controversy Raises Issues About Privacy, Copyright, Context, and Information Traces. Sam Ford looks at the fallout after a weatherman who he grew up watching having controversial outtakes released online, and what issues this situation raises.

Surplus Audiences, ATWT, and the Luke/Noah Kiss. As the World Turns had a milestone moment last September--the first "serious" kiss between gay male characters in American daytime. Sam Ford asks how producers of the show can use the kiss' popularity on YouTube, and in online gay communities?

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May 2, 2008

Consortium Hiring Research Director

As we move into the final phase of our work for the third academic year for the Consortium and go through the process of finishing out many of our internal research projects over the summer, there are some changes taking place for the Consortium, as we prepare for new students to come in and some of our roles to shift. As part of that, we are looking to hire a new person with the position title of "research director" for the Consortium.

We figured the best way to circulate word about the job is to reach out to some of the folks who follow the Consortium's work regularly. Please feel free to forward the link along to anyone you know who fits the qualifications and might be interested in working with a project like C3.

The full job description is in the full entry link below, as well as a link to the page at MIT to submit an application.

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Who Do You Think I Am?: My Life as a Cartoon Character

I shared this over on my blog recently but thought Consortium blog readers would enjoy it as well.

Shortly after South by Southwest, I got a note from Rafi Santo from Global Kids calling my attention to the fact that my likeness had become a cartoon character, thanks to a new site called Bitstrips, which has used the festival to broaden its public visibility. Bitstrips is a site which supports the production and distribution of user-generated web comics. More recently, reader Jordon Himelfarb, a Canadian journalist wrote to tell me that the Henry Jenkins character had been deployed more than 95 times. I am one of a small selection of icons supposed to represent "famous figures", including Steve Jobs, Moby, and Doogie Howser. (The narrow range of options here suggests how deeply embedded this project has been in geek culture to date.)

As someone who is interested in the ways images get appropriate and transformed over time, not to mention a notorious ego-maniac, I was very interested to see what uses were being made of this iconic representation of me. For what it's worth, I think I am funnier in real life than in the comics.

It is clear that the first few uses were from people who attended South by Southwest and were somewhat familiar with who I am and what kinds of things I am apt to say or do.

bitstrips 1.png

bitstrips 2.png

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April 28, 2008

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 22, 2008

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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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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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 9, 2008

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.

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April 6, 2008

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" »

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

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" »

March 30, 2008

SCMS: Amanda Lotz, Max Dawson, and Laurie Ouelette

One of the most enjoyable full panels I attended at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia earlier this month looked at the construction of television from a variety of angles. I was fortunate enough to know the work of each of the panelists, several of whom I met at the Unboxing Television event at MIT last November.

The panel began with Laurie Ouelette, who looked at ABC's public service initiative encouraging volunteerism amongst its viewers and establishing the network as a site of extended community serving the public good through bringing citizens together outside the constraints of government to be pro-active consumer/citizens. She looked in particular at how these public service initiatives not only existed as a campaign through the Web site and during commercial breaks on the network but also how these initiatives showed up on a variety of shows, including a storyline on ABC Daytime's All My Children, in which the characters on the show volunteered for Pine Valley's Habitat for Humanity and the projects on Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

Continue reading "SCMS: Amanda Lotz, Max Dawson, and Laurie Ouelette" »

Around the Consortium: Dr. Pepper, The Tolchuks, PSFK, Etc.

Amidst a flurry of updates on the blog this weekend, I wanted to point toward a variety of interesting posts from around the Consortium, in addition to the podcasts and other events mentioned in Henry and my posts earlier today. First off, I will be finishing up my notes from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia earlier this month and beginning to post some of my notes from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference I attended last weekend in San Francisco. I look forward to any thoughts readers might have who were at either of those events or who weren't able to make it but are interested in the presentations I refer to here.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Dr. Pepper, The Tolchuks, PSFK, Etc." »

Spring MIT Communications Forum Events

As Henry Jenkins posted in his list of links earlier today, there have been a lot of events happening around the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT that have been keeping us busy lately. Among those are two MIT Communications Forum we featured here on the Consortium blog that are now available for podcast.

The first of those events was a conversation with John Romano, a longtime television writer and producer who has worked on shows such as Hill Street Blues, Party of Five, and Monk, as well as a variety of films.

Continue reading "Spring MIT Communications Forum Events" »

"Viral Media: Hows and Whys" Podcast Available

As Henry Jenkins mentioned briefly in his post earlier today, the podcast from the colloquium event hosted by the Convergence Culture Consortium back in February is now available online. That event, entitled "Viral Media--Hows and Whys," featured C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf hosting Mike Rubenstein from The Barbarian Group, who was one of our guest speakers at Futures of Entertainment 2, and Fanista's Natalie Lent, a Harvard alum who I first met at FoE2.

The podcast is available here.

Continue reading ""Viral Media: Hows and Whys" Podcast Available" »

Links, Links, and More Links

I have been pulled in so many directions lately that I've been having trouble finding time to blog about everything that has been happening. So consider this post as a chance to catch up on some materials which may be of interest to my regular readers.

A few weeks ago, I joined my CMS colleague Beth Coleman for a conversation about virtual worlds, hosted by the MIT Club of Boston and webcast to alumni around the country. You may recall that Coleman and I were two participants in a three way conversation with Clay Shirky about virtual worlds a while back. Coleman is in the process of writing Hello Avatar!, which is intended as a primer about virtual worlds. She regularly writes about such topics over at her Project Good Luck Blog.

Continue reading "Links, Links, and More Links" »

March 27, 2008

New Consulting Researchers and Postdoctoral Researcher

The Consortium is proud to welcome six new consulting researchers and a postdoctoral researcher to the team. Find out more about them inside, or on our "People" page.

Continue reading "New Consulting Researchers and Postdoctoral Researcher" »

March 19, 2008

Jonathan Gray's Notes from SCMS

New C3 Consulting Researcher Jonathan Gray, who is a professor at Fordham University and--among other things--posts regularly on The Extratextuals. Since I couldn't take notes on all of the panels at the SCMS conference last week, he offered to put together some of his notes from the event to post there. I wanted to include his introduction here and then link to his post over on The Extratextuals.

This past weekend marked the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia. This SCMS also marked the beginning of my time as a consulting researcher for the Convergence Culture Consortium, based out of MIT. I've been chatting with the C3'ers for a while now, and was truly honored to be invited on board (incidentally, Ivan already has his C3 Brownie Badge, and Derek Johnson's a consulting researcher now too, so The Extratextuals are now Completely C3-Compatible, or "C5").

I'm still not exactly sure what is entailed, but it meant I got a free breakfast at SCMS, so it's already looking good. Sam Ford, one of C3's several superhuman forces and one of the nicer folks in the business, asked me to write up some comments on SCMS, in the aim of perhaps sharing these with other C3'ers. Well, he paid for my eggs benedict, so I will deliver.

Continue reading "Jonathan Gray's Notes from SCMS" »

March 14, 2008

C3 in the News: MIT Communications Forum and PR News Webinar

As we mentioned previously, all of our Consortium's management and a variety of our consulting researchers presented at the SCMS conference in Philadelphia last weekend. We are going to be including some notes on several of those presentations in the next few days.

C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio participated in a MIT Communications Forum with Eggo Müller, and Roberta Pearson this past Thursday which will be available in audio and video form shortly.

The audio from last week's Prime Time in Transition MIT Communications Forum featuring MIT's David Thorburn and television writer and producer John Romano is available here.

Meanwhile, I had the honor of being invited to participate in a Webinar for PR News this past week, sponsored by Peppercom, a company I have consulted with in the past, separate from the Consortium's work.

The Webinar last Tuesday was entitled Building and Managing Your Company's Reputation Online.

Continue reading "C3 in the News: MIT Communications Forum and PR News Webinar" »

My Response to the "1, 2, 3 Challenge"

Considering our interest in the past few months in the history of ideas such as "viral marketing" and mimetics, I thought I'd take Henry Jenkins up on his spread of what he is calls the "1, 2, 3 Meme." According to Henry, from his post earlier this week:

Here's how it works:

  • Look up page 123 in the nearest book

  • Look for the fifth sentence

  • Then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.

I decided to look at the books that I've been carrying around in my bag, and give three examples from the books I've looked at most recently as well.

Continue reading "My Response to the "1, 2, 3 Challenge"" »

March 12, 2008

If You Saw My Talk at South By Southwest...

On Saturday, Steven Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good for You) and I delivered the opening remarks at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. I originally posted this over on my blog, but I know many C3 readers are interested in conferences like SXSW, so I wanted to share this here as well.

Conference organizers told me that we were heard by around 2000 people, including those in the large auditorium and in various overflow rooms. So, I've got to figure that a certain percentage of those people are going to be visiting this blog for the first time in the next week so I am pulling together a guide to where they can read more about some of the topics we discussed. For the rest of you, you might want to check out this very elaborate chart which was "live drawn" during our discussion and which does a reasonably good job of mapping out some of the core topics.

For those of you who want to learn more about the New Media Literacies, you might want to check out the white paper my team wrote for the MacArthur Foundation which identifies 11 core skills and cultural competencies which we think young people need to acquire to become full participants in this emerging media culture. The MacArthur network has generated a series of books on key topics surrounding digital media and learning which can be downloaded for free.

If you'd like to read more about the politics of fear and the ways it blinds us to what's really going on as young people engage with media, you should consider this blog post and this document which danah boyd and I co-authored in response to the push to regulate school and library access to social network software.

Continue reading "If You Saw My Talk at South By Southwest..." »

March 10, 2008

Controlling to Protect?

As a 29-year-old with no kids, I might not be the best qualified person to talk about parental controls on computers: I'm not by any means a "digital native," (not that anyone really is), nor am I a parent, so I can only imagine the concerns and difficulty of bringing up a child in this networked world.

But, a couple of days ago, I read 12 Tools to Keep Kids Safe Online on PC Magazine, and it made me think of the issues of control (and safety) that participatory culture and new technologies have brought to the fore. Although this issue has been discussed at length in, around, and outside the Consortium, it is yet to be close to resolved.

Continue reading "Controlling to Protect?" »

March 9, 2008

Around the Consortium: SCMS, Comments, No Meanings, and Facebook

I've just gotten back from a fabulous trip to Philadelphia for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. I had the pleasure of speaking as part of the event and will post a full report of the panel I presented on, as well as my notes from a variety of other panels I had the privilege to attend. All I talked with everyone about, however, is the guilt I felt at the number of great panels I DIDN'T get to attend. With an event like SCMS that has so many stellar scholars on the agenda, it seems that every panel choice, lunch break, or coffee came at the exclusion of something interesting.

Perhaps best of all was the fact that a variety of C3 Consulting Researchers were there presenting some of their latest research, and most of us even got the chance to get together, share a breakfast, and talk about the type of research the Consortium is doing moving forward. Included in that breakfast was four of the Consortium's six newest consulting researchers. We'll be sure to run a post in the near future introducing you to those new folks.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: SCMS, Comments, No Meanings, and Facebook" »

The Dreaded 1,2,3 Challenge

I posted this on my blog earlier this week and wanted to share it with the Consortium readers as well, since I know the C3 team has been doing some thinking about memes of late.

The other night, I had dinner with a group of colleagues from the MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. Amongst them was Tom Levinson, sometimes producer for Nova, author of three published books on science and culture (Einstein in Berlin: Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science; and Ice Time: Climate Science and Life on Earth) with a fourth (about Isaac Newton) on the way, and a relative newcomer to the world of blogging.

His newly launched blog, The Inverse Square Blog, is full of interesting information and arguments centering around the presentation of science within the public sphere. Check out, for example, his response to the Obama "Yes We Can" video and to the topic of viral marketing, which crops up with some frequency here these days.

This morning, I awoke to find that Tom Levinson has tagged me on what is being described as the "1, 2, 3" Meme.

Continue reading "The Dreaded 1,2,3 Challenge" »

February 29, 2008

Links for Those Who Attended My Tampa Talk

On Monday, I spoke in Tampa at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Tech Forum. My central topic was on the ways that the new media landscape was enabling the emergence of new kinds of public intellectuals. I promised folks in the audience that I would provide them with links to some of the examples which I cited. I already posted this over on my blog, but I thought the resources would be of interest to C3 readers as well.

Continue reading "Links for Those Who Attended My Tampa Talk" »

February 24, 2008

Around the Consortium: GDC, His Girl Friday, and the Advertising Lab

Wrapping up a weekend of updates for the Consortium blog, I wanted to look around C3 to a number of interesting posts from some of our C3 Consulting Researchers.

This week, I wanted to point to David Edery's recent work presented at the Game Developers Conference, Jason Mittell's piece on His Girl Friday and early television in the public domain, and a variety of stories that Ilya Vedrashko has provided of late on his Advertising Lab site.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: GDC, His Girl Friday, and the Advertising Lab" »

February 21, 2008

From Bleak House to Random House

Last week, I found out from an unlikely source that Random House will begin selling individual chapters of some of their books online. I stumbled upon this bit of news at SpringboardMedia, a blog that belongs to Brian Newman the executive director of Renew Media, a long standing not-for-profit that fosters the production of independent media art.

So why was Mr. Newman so interested in this development?

Well, he considers that filmmakers should learn from Random House's example.

Continue reading "From Bleak House to Random House" »

February 18, 2008

Around the Consortium: In Media Res, Massless Communication, and User-Generated Branding

First off, an extremely interesting project that some of you may not know about: In Media Res, in addition to being the title of the newsletter for the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, is also the title of a Media Commons project, located here.

Each day, a media scholar uploads a video between 30 seconds and 3 minutes in length and includes as well a 100-150 word response to it. According to the site, "The goal is to promote an online dialogue amongst media scholars and the public about contemporary media scholarship through clips chosen for either their typicality or atypicality in demonstrating narrative strategies, genre formulations, aesthetic choices, representational practices, institutional approaches, fan engagements, etc."

I recently participated in the project for the first time, posting a video entitled "Cactus Jack and the Moral Justification of Great Wrestling Heels." If you have a chance to watch the video, I encourage you to contact me or leave a comment there if you have any thoughts.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: In Media Res, Massless Communication, and User-Generated Branding" »

February 14, 2008

More Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference

At the Console-ing Passions conference in April I wrote about in my previous post, I am participating in a workshop from 10:30 a.m. until noon on Friday, entitled "Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old."

My presentation is entitled, "Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps." The workshop is chaired by Bob Rehak from Swarthmore College, who is presenting on "Boys, Blueprints, and Boundaries: Star Trek's Hardware Fandom." The workshop also includes Julie Levin Russo from Brown University, who has a presentation entitled "Labors of Love: Who Charts The L Word?" Louisa Stein from San Diego State University will present "Videogames, Fan Creativity, and Gendered Authorship: Complicating Dichotomies," while Suzanne Scott from the University of Southern California presents "From Filk to Wrock: Performance, Professionalism, and Power in Harry Potter Wizard."

Continue reading "More Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference" »

Some Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some information about intriguing panels at a couple of academic conferences I will be speaking at in March: the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (see here and here) and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference (see here and here).

The preliminary program is now available for a third conference I'm speaking at this spring, called Console-ing Passions. The conference's tagline is "an international conference on television, audio, video, new media & feminism." This year's event is being held at the University of California-Santa Barbara, from Thursday, April 24, to Saturday, April 26.

Continue reading "Some Notes on the Upcoming Console-ing Passions Conference" »

February 10, 2008

Around the Consortium: FoE2, Firebrand, Bollywood, and Jason Mittell

I wanted to finish off the weekend by pointing out a few interesting pieces of writing taking place around the Consortium recently.

First, I wanted to direct everyone's attention to this recap of the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference from C3 partner MTV Networks' Greg Weinstein, appearing on the FanTrust site.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: FoE2, Firebrand, Bollywood, and Jason Mittell" »

February 4, 2008

Around the Consortium: IAP Class, Ad Impressions, Indian Radio, Community Managers, and the NATPE

It's Monday morning, and we're getting ready to launch our spring classes here at MIT. I wanted to start out the new week with a look at some of the most interesting pieces being written on blogs affiliated with the Consortium.

First, now that C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken and C3 Research Manager Joshua Green have finished their course on qualitative research methods for the Independent Activities Period here at MIT, Grant has shared a few pieces of insight he received from the course and from his time here in Boston. Grant provides some insights from a couple of his students who I've had the pleasure of interacting with, Jason Haas who works here in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and John Deighton from Harvard Business School, regarding Mr. Rogers and a sneaker store in Boston.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: IAP Class, Ad Impressions, Indian Radio, Community Managers, and the NATPE" »

January 31, 2008

On Wikipedia and Ironic Statements: Another Apropos Analogy

Another anecdote I've been sharing increasingly with others--apologies to those readers who've heard me share this in private conversation--is a conversation I had while doing some research as a graduate student with an executive for a media production company. At the time, I was doing research into the history of the company's brand, and I had searched far and wide for information on when their production company's brand had launched.

The production company has a weak corporate presence online, and the only place I could find anyone venture an explanation for when the current name had been used was Wikipedia. While I find the collective intelligence that Wikipedia offers incredibly useful, I also realize that there are all sorts of gaps in knowledge cobbled together by users, so I wanted to seek out confirmation from an "official source" who I felt was in a much better position to clarify this fact, as opposed to the anonymous. I was particularly afraid that this company's Wikipedia page may not have been as heavily edited as more hot-button pages, so it stood a greater chance of being wrong.

I asked the company representative who had asked to be the point-person for all my inquiries while I was doing research, to which that person replied, "I would not rely on Wikipedia for academic research."

Continue reading "On Wikipedia and Ironic Statements: Another Apropos Analogy" »

Airline Restrictions: An Analogy for Lack of Transparency

One buzzword making its rounds at the moment is "transparency," and it's one that I find myself using increasingly, no matter my aversion to adopting terms. In an era of Web 2.0 technologies, I find increasingly--as I wrote about earlier this month--that there are too many people who haven't gotten Web 1.0 correctly, either.

As Steve Cody and I wrote about recently, many companies are making a variety of costly gaffes online, and part of the reason is that the same principles regarding open communication and transparency still apply.

Recently, when I was preparing for a flight to New York City, these problems became apparent. I was going for an overnight trip, so I was in need of a variety of belongings to cart along with me, but not enough to pack checked baggage.

Continue reading "Airline Restrictions: An Analogy for Lack of Transparency" »

January 28, 2008

Looking at the National PCA/ACA Conference: Interesting Presentations (2 of 2)

For me, Friday at the PCA/ACA conference will see me give most of my day to discussing the current state of soap operas, in a series of three panels.

Starting at 8:30 a.m., the Soap Opera I panel--entitled "Families, Fantasy, and Values: Shaping Soap Operas and Telenovelas"--will feature four presentations. Barbara Irwin from Canisius College chairs the panel. Mary Devine from Marblehead, Mass., will be presenting on "Dynasties on All My Children." Jeffrey Lubang from De La Salle University Dasmarinas in The Philippines presents, "Commodifying Culture: Telenovelas as Cultural Commodity and Social Fantasy," looking at Mexican, Taiwanese, and Korean telenovaelas in Philippene Television History. I'll be ready to discuss MariMar with him. Melixa Abad-Izquierdo from SUNY at Stony Brook will be presenting "Cinderella, Indians and Aspirations to Modernity: Mexican Telenovelas 1958-1973." Finally, the University of Buffalo's Marsha Ducey will present As the World Turns: "Indecency" in American Soap Operas."

Continue reading "Looking at the National PCA/ACA Conference: Interesting Presentations (2 of 2)" »

Looking at the National PCA/ACA Conference: Interesting Presentations (1 of 2)

In the past couple of posts, I wrote in preview of the SCMS conference that I'll be presenting at in March. Later that month, I'm also going to be traveling to the annual national joint conference of the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association, which takes place this year in San Francisco.

I am one of only two people affiliated with the Convergence Culture Consortium participating in a panel at the conference, joined by C3 Consulting Researcher Ted Hovet from Western Kentucky University.

In scanning through the panels, a variety of speakers I know caught my eye, and I thought I'd pass these presentations along to the blog readership as well, in case some of you are coming to the PCA meeting as well. If you are, please drop me a line at samford@mit.edu, and let me know of particular panels that you think might be of interest to the blog readers as a whole, since our comments section is currently down. I thought I'd include some presentations of interest from the first couple of days in this post, and I'll put some from Friday and Saturday up later today.

Continue reading "Looking at the National PCA/ACA Conference: Interesting Presentations (1 of 2)" »

January 27, 2008

Interesting Presentations at SCMS Conference

In the previous post, I wrote about presentations at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference from C3 staff and consulting researchers. Now, for a few other presentations that caught my eye from this conference, which will be March 6-9 in Philadelphia.

From 2 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Mary Jeanne Wilson from the University of Southern California is making a presentation entitled "'Just the Good Parts': Fan Manipulation of the Soap Opera Narrative Structure through Elimination and Compilation of Storylines," as part of the panel "Storytelling: Narrative in Film and Television." Wilson is a contributor to the forthcoming collection on the current state and future of soap operas that I am co-editing.

Continue reading "Interesting Presentations at SCMS Conference" »

C3-Related Presentations at SCMS Conference

For those of you on the academic side of the aisle among the C3 blog readership, I thought you might be interested to know that there will be a variety of C3 staff and consulting researchers presenting at this year's conference for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, which will take place March 06-March 09 in Philadelphia, Penn. I was looking through the program of events and marking the times that members of the Consortium's official community would be speaking, and I thought I might share that information with others as well. (Thanks to Julie Levin Russo for the idea.)

SCMS is probably the one academic conference that draws the most C3-affiliated folks together, as well as many other academics who are interested in many of the same types of research as the Consortium. In a subsequent post, I may include some of the other presentations that caught my eye. Here, however, are the panels at SCMS which involve those affiliated with the Consortium.

Continue reading "C3-Related Presentations at SCMS Conference" »

January 25, 2008

One Year Ago on the Consortium Blog...

In January 2007, during the Independent Activities Period, there were three major strains of discussion here on the C3 blog. The first was about the emergence in 2006 and going into 2007 of various Web 2.0 initiatives. This included social networking and video sharing sites in particular. See our posts on the prevalence of social networking, legislation regarding social networks, and ambivalence toward social networks and big media's move toward using social networks.

Continue reading "One Year Ago on the Consortium Blog..." »

Two Years Ago on the Consortium Blog...

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

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

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

Continue reading "Two Years Ago on the Consortium Blog..." »

January 24, 2008

Around the Consortium: Qualitative Research, Commercial Avoidance, Games, and TV

As always, there's a variety of interesting pieces popping up around the blogosphere by those associated with the Convergence Culture Consortium. This week, we'll be looking at qualitative research, commercial avoidance, trial games, time-shifting television, and 24's connection with the current political scene.

First of all, as C3 Research Manager Joshua Green and Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken teach their course on qualitative research here at MIT for our Independent Activities Period, Grant has been providing some of the resources for the class to his blog readers as well. Grant shares some of his thoughts here and here.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Qualitative Research, Commercial Avoidance, Games, and TV" »

January 23, 2008

C3 in the News: Soulja Boy, Soaps, and Friday Night Lights

Back for a round of updates this afternoon and evening, starting with a look at a few pieces in the press that we thought might be of interest to C3 blog readers.

Most prominently, Xiaochang Li's pieces from the fall semester here on the Soulja Boy (entitled Hustling 2.0 and Meet Me at My Crib) has been referenced or featured in a couple of places of late.

Continue reading "C3 in the News: Soulja Boy, Soaps, and Friday Night Lights" »

January 16, 2008

McCracken and Green's Qualitative Research Course at MIT

Grant McCracken wrote a note recently over on his blog about the workshop he and Joshua Green are teaching at MIT on qualitative research. I thought this would be of interest ton Consortium readers as well, both because of the topic and because the course is being taught by C3's research manager and one of our consulting researchers.

The course runs for the next 3 weeks and students present their findings January 31st. Grant will be posting observations from the course over the next few weeks on his blog.

Continue reading "McCracken and Green's Qualitative Research Course at MIT" »

Around the Consortium: Web 1.0, 2007 in Review, and The Playboy Professor

I wanted to start off this week's update from "Around the Consortium" by pointing toward a blurb that appeared on C3 Alum Ilya Vedrashko's Advertising Lab site back last month. This is directing people toward Jakob Nielsen's piece on some of the dangers of the Web 2.0 mentality. It's not that Jakob is against Web 2.0, per say, but rather the way that they are implemented.

In particular, Jakob feels (correctly, I believe) that too many people get the "get me one of those" mentalities that Stacey Lynn Schulman talked about at Futures of Entertainment 2, wherein they think very little about why they need some aspect to their site but rather that they should because it's the trendy thing to do. I believe very much in social connectivity on the Web, but not just for the sake of doing it. I think back to the conversation I had with the journalist who said she had put a camera in the newsroom as an example of convergence, as if that is inherently a good idea and little to no thought needed to be put into what comes next and what purpose that camera would serve to covering stories more comprehensively.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Web 1.0, 2007 in Review, and The Playboy Professor" »

January 9, 2008

Around the Consortium: FoE2, Ad Ubiquity, Tech News, Politics, and Social Issues

I wanted to start with a few stories and blog posts that are happening around the Convergence Culture Consortium this week.

First, Kevin Driscoll, a Comparative Media Studies graduate student here at MIT working with the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, ties some of the marketing rhetoric he heard from some industry folks at Futures of Entertainment 2 to the work of Lawrence Lessig.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: FoE2, Ad Ubiquity, Tech News, Politics, and Social Issues" »

Updates on Stories: Soulja Boy, Radiohead, LinkedIn, Christianity, and Quarterlife

Now that we're in a new year, and with so many stories slipping by us during the time of our conference and the ensuing onslaught of holidays, I wanted to give some updates on stories we've run in the past that have had new developments over the past couple of months.

Since many of the daily hits to the C3 blog continue to come from people seeking further information on the Soulja Boy phenomenon (see Xiaochang Li's posts on the issue here and here), I thought you might be interested in Andy Hunter's post about the Family Guy Soulja Boy reference. Andy, who used to work for C3 partner GSD&M Idea City, has blogged here in the past (look here).

Continue reading "Updates on Stories: Soulja Boy, Radiohead, LinkedIn, Christianity, and Quarterlife" »

January 3, 2008

Around the Consortium: The Digital Race, FoE2, Soaps, and IAP

It's a new year, and the C3 team is back on the ground to start off 2008 with several new changes. You may have seen that the site was down for some of the holiday break, as we were in the process of changing server space and hopefully eliminating some of the load time problems readers have informed us about in the past few months.

Our team is hard at work on its YouTube and viral media projects for what MIT calls the "Independent Activities Period," or IAP, in which students at the Institute spend time working on independent projects, taking short classes, and partaking in other projects outside of the normal class schedule, which resumes at the beginning of February. In the meantime, I wanted to point out to the blog readers a few interesting stories and publications from and about the Consortium regarding the digital race, FoE2, soap operas, and qualitative research.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: The Digital Race, FoE2, Soaps, and IAP" »

December 14, 2007

Happy Holidays from the C3 Team

The C3 team is going to be taking a little time off for blogging throug the holiday season. Don't expect to see much in the way of new content here until the beginning of 2008, as we wrap up a few research projects and enjoy the holiday season.

We wanted to take this opportunity, however, to say thanks to everyone reading our blog for a stimulating and produtive year for the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog. We've appreciated all the feedback and support and hope that what we've provided here has, in the very least, provoked some interesting thoughts and discussion.

There are several new posts from the past few days for you to take a look at, and we'll be back in a couple of weeks with our usual schedule of 12 or so updates per week.

In the meantime, all of us here in the Consortium wish everyone happy holidays!

Holiday Viewing

With the WGA strike looking like it will push through into January, I wanted to draw your attention to a few bits of content available online that might serve as a stop-gap through the holiday season if reality programming and christmas specials aren't to your taste.

First, this seems a good juncture to point you once again to the podcasts from this year's Futures of Entertainment conference are starting to go up on the FoE2 site. Audio and video of the panels are being uploaded progressively, and we'll make another announcement when the entire set is available.

The second thing worth drawing your attention to is that footage from the recent Portland convergence conference is available on YouTube. Below is the first part of my presentation that opened the conference, titled "More than Bringing Bits Together: Convergence Culture and New Media Logics". This presentation provides a working through of some of the concepts discussed in Convergence Culture, touching on some of the work we've been doing here at the Consortium and presenting some of the arguments Henry and I make in our forthcoming chapter in Alisa Perren and Jennifer Holt's Media Industries: History, Theory and Methods book. Parts two and three are below the jump as is an interview with Mark Deuze about agency culture and media work.

Part 1

Continue reading "Holiday Viewing" »

Around the Consortium: The Press and Consulting Researchers

There have been a few interesting publications and bits of news related to the Convergence Culture Consortium of late that I thought might be of interest for you.

First, Meio & Mensagem in Brazil ran a two-page recap of Futures of Entertainment 2, by Mauricio Mota. A PDF of the write-up is available here. Mauricio actually spent a few days with us both before and after the conference, and it was great to hear his perspective on what this age of "convergence culture" means for the media industries in Brazil.

Also, I thought C3 readers might be interested in this story I was interviewed for by Tom Vandyck on the Amazon Kindle for De Morgen in Belgium.

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December 13, 2007

Che in Cambridge

About a week ago at a Cambridge pub, I met a guy in his mid-thirties. Five minutes into the conversation, he announced he was a communist. OK. Ten minutes and one beer later, he decided to prove his commitment to the cause opening his coat to reveal his oh-so-red Che Guevara T-shirt. Gasp! Awkward at best, but it did get me thinking about Che, the reappropriation and decontextualization of his image, and his paradoxical status as a pop icon.

There is a schism between Che the man and Che the image. The "image" I am referring to is the photograph taken by Alberto Diaz Gutierrez "Korda" in 1960 that has appeared on revolutionary posters, pop art, advertisements and, most prominently, T-shirts.

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Reconsidering Digital Immigrants

I have written here in the past about my growing discomfort with the phrase, "digital natives" -- which like all metaphors helps us to see some aspects of the world clearly while masking others.

Like many of you, I first encountered these metaphors in the work of Marc Prensky and saw them as a powerful new way of thinking about generational differences that were creating an impass in debates about media literacy education. Prensky laid out these metaphors in a 2001 essay for On the Horizon which has been widely read and cited.

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December 8, 2007

Five Things About the Convergence Culture Consortium

I have gotten tagged a couple of times over the past year to share things on the blog that readers might not know about me or "secrets to success," first from the savvy Nancy Baym back in April and now from Kare Anderson, who is a force of nature herself.

Since this isn't a personal blog, I figure the better approach would be to share a little about the nature of our work at the Consortium. Below is five notes about the nature of our research group and the work we do.

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November 15, 2007

Around the Consortium: FoE2, Free Game Types, and Gender and Fan Studies

We are on the eve of our second Futures of Entertainment event here at MIT, co-sponsored by the Consortium and Comparative Media Studies, the program in which we are housed in. We're going to be doing a lot of blogging from the scene, and the blog will become dedicated to featuring that content over the next few days, so I thought it might be good to do a round-up of some interesting posts by people around the Consortium in the meantime.

First, Grant McCracken made an interesting post from earlier this evening on the train ride into MIT for the event. Grant, who is a consulting researcher for our group, shares some musing that might get us thinking about some "comparative media" issues from a genre standpoint:

Fr the moment, some things still travel in packs. The Diderot effect still applies. Some categorical distinctions are still relatively inviolate. Our intuition tells us so.

This is one of the challenges that will confront us at the The Futures of Entertainment Conference.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: FoE2, Free Game Types, and Gender and Fan Studies" »

November 7, 2007

Comics as Civic Media and Other Matters...

I posted this over at my blog earlier this week but thought I would include it here as well. Sam Ford wrote about The Center for Future Civic Media and Abhimanyu Das' post about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund earlier this month, so I thought I would share my note about his post as well, along with some other relevant information to issues focused on here at C3 about an international story involving the U.S. getting more play on YouTube than in the mainstream press and a call for papers from Mark Deuze, who will be speaking at next weekend's Futures of Entertainment 2, focusing on the subject of the panel he is slated to be on: fan labor.

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November 4, 2007

Around the Consortium: Kinset, Netnography, Globe and Mail, and Podcasts

As I wrap up a run of weekend posts for the Consortium, I wanted to point the way to a few interesting pieces that have been written around the Consortium in the past week.

First, I mentioned earlier this week that I spent some time over at Hill/Holliday with Ilya Vedrashko this past week. On Ilya's blog, The Advertising Lab, he wrote last week about Kinset, a company which provides 3D storefronts for online retailers, trying to create a virtual version of real-world shopping. He points out that shelves are filled with search results.

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Jesus 2.0: Christianity in Cyberspace

One aspect of media convergence that fascinates me is the crossroads between "convergence and conversion," the ways in which religious communities find interesting new ways to use the Internet to provide explicitly Christian venues to build community, share videos and music, and consume media content. A recent Forbes piece by Andy Greenberg looks at some of these initiatives, including Godtube, Mypraize, and MyChurch, among others, in what one person calls "Jesus 2.0." In pointing to this piece, I wanted to look back at some of my own writing about "Jesus 2.0" over the past couple of years here on the C3 blog.

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The Black Nerd: A Stereotype to Break Stereotypes?

No one knows about nerd culture quite like MIT, right? After all, as legendary WWE play-by-play announcer put it so succinctly when he visited the Program in Comparative Media Studies last spring to speak to my class on pro wrestling and in a colloquium, we're supposed to be a school full of math nerds.

That mentality has given us all sorts of references in popular culture, from Beauty and the Geek to The Big Bang Theory to Weird Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy", as I wrote about last October. This was perhaps best captured for a generation by Revenge of the Nerds and its subsequent sequels.

But Raafi Rivero at Desedo Films recently provided an interesting account of the ways in which the black nerd was an important part of our culture yet not particularly well marketed to, in favor of the stereotypes most generally associated with hip-hop culture. We're a culture that trades on stereotypes, to be sure, but Rivero's piece emphasizes that there are many types of archetypes to play on, and black culture is sprinkled with plenty of "black nerds."

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October 30, 2007

Growing Up in the 1930s: How Media Changes Our Relations to the Past

I like to tell people that I grew up in the 1930s and 1940s.

Stop! Before you update my Wikipedia entry, please note that I am speaking metaphorically and not literally. Despite my gray beard and despite how I feel on some Monday mornings, I'm not really that old! I was born in 1958! But a number of things happened in my mid-childhood which utterly fixated my fantasy life on the mid-20th century.

For one thing, when my grandmother died, I was helping my parents go through her old house and we found a trunk in her basement crammed with 1940s Life magazines (along with a range of other publications of the era). As a kid, I would spend hours going through the magazines, looking with fascination at pictures of Jitterbug contests, reading articles about the Blitzkrieg, or most interestingly, looking at old advertisements and wondering what archaic candybars had tasted like. The magazine covered everything -- from the most important political and military events of the era to the most mundane aspects of everyday life and taught me to see social and cultural history as the essential backdrop against which to make sense of the big events that dominate our history classes. I would grill everyone older than myself about the world of their childhood, trying to find out what it was really like to live in the past.

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October 28, 2007

Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, WGA Strike, Lost

As the weekend draws to a close, I wanted to point the way to a few interesting conversations that have been taking place of late around the Convergence Culture Consortium. For those who follow our work through the blog, C3 is made up of a core team here at MIT comprised of myself and research manager Joshua Green, in conjunction with Henry Jenkins, and a team of four graduate students, all of whom post here on the blog. In addition, we have a variety of consulting researchers who provide work through our internal weekly newsletter and who act as "guiding lights," so to speak, on our thinking along the way.

As usual, I like to point to some of the public work those folks have been doing, for those who have regular blogs. For a complete list of our consulting researchers, look here. We will be bringing more updates to this page soon, including putting up the student bios for each of our grad student researchers.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, WGA Strike, Lost" »

October 22, 2007

Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Dumbledore

After a couple of updates to get us started this morning, I wanted to followup with a look around the Consortium at the work some of our consulting researchers have been doing. Today, I wanted to point the way toward the latest round of gender and fan studies discussion on Henry Jenkins' blog, the latest consumption studies pieces from Rob Kozinets, and Jason Mittell's writing about his response to Dumbledore's being shoved out of the closet by J.K. Rowling.

The 20th round of the Gender and Fan Studies conversation on Henry's blog features two 2006 graduates of the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, James Nadeu and Alicia "Kestrell" Verlager. Kestrell, an institution around MIT, writes about being a lifelong fan but a newcomer to fan studies, while James writes about his own focus on queer cinema and visual art, including comic books. Their conversation is available here and here.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Dumbledore" »

October 21, 2007

Porn 2.0

I am a regular listener and sometimes guest on NPR's On the Media, which does a great job of covering new developments in news and civic media. One recent segment, featuring an interview with Regina Lynn, the sex and technology correspondent for Wired.com, caught my attention.

The segment started with the oft-repeated claims that pornographers might be regarded as lead users of any new communications technologies, being among the first to test its capacities as they attempt to construct a new interface with consumers. We might add that pornography is at the center of the controversy surrounding any new media as the public adjusts to the larger shifts in the ways an emerging medium shapes our relations to time and space or transforms the borders between public and private.

The Medium Is the Message?

Indeed, I have long used pornography as an example to explain Marshall McLuhan's famous line, "the medium is the message," suggesting that the evolution of pornography can show us how different media can change our relationship to the same (very) basic content.

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October 17, 2007

Punathambekar on Showtheme!, Askwith in Slate, and the McCracken/Anderson Debate

I know I just did a roundup of some of the interesting discussions surrounding the Convergence Culture Consortium, but I have to double back around and point you all toward a few new conversations that have caught my eye this week. With the somewhat heated discussion that has occurred over on Grant McCracken's blog with Chris Anderson, coupled with C3 alum Ivan Askwith's latest appearance in Slate, there's been plenty to cover.

First, though, from C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar: a great piece detailing one of the earliest examples of the convergence of film and television in Bombay cinema.

Continue reading "Punathambekar on Showtheme!, Askwith in Slate, and the McCracken/Anderson Debate" »

October 16, 2007

Around the Consortium: Monetizing Third-Party Content, Vanity Zip Codes, and Gender and Fan Studies

I wanted to start out Tuesday morning by linking to a few relevant pieces of work in the blogosphere surrounding C3, from our network of consulting researchers.

First off, David Edery ,who used to work here at C3 and who remains involved in the Consortium, has an interesting discussion up on his Game Tycoon blog. David wrote a note to point out one place he thinks Microsoft is missing the ability to fully tap a niche market interested in their Flight Simulator.

Co-worker Kim Pallister wrote a followup, in friendly manner, calling David's take "ignorant," writing, "Like with other closed vertical markets - not only would MS not have been able to develop this range of product extensions had they chosen to do it themselves, they most likely could not even have conceived of them all."

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Monetizing Third-Party Content, Vanity Zip Codes, and Gender and Fan Studies" »

October 14, 2007

If You Attended the Forrester Consumer Forum...

I wrote about this on my blog earlier this weekend, but I wanted to post this note on the C3 blog as well. I spoke on Friday to the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago and promised the crowd that I would use my blog to provide some links for further reading on some of the topics I presented. For those of you who follow the C3 blog regularly, I thought these links might be of interest here as well.

First, let me provide a pointer to our upcoming Futures of Entertainment conference. This event is run with a talk show format and is designed to bring together cutting edge thinking from across many different media sectors. Many of the issues I raised in my remarks -- including the discussion of how to value fan contributions or how to build communities around media properties -- will be discussed in depth at this event.

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October 8, 2007

Around the Consortium: Fan Studies, Geeks, and Nielsen

It's a holiday here at MIT, so our C3 team is still scattered enjoying a long weekend, or else getting caught up on work. In the midst of the updates I've been doing this weekend on Futures of Entertainment 2, among other things, I wanted to note some of the most interesting work that has been occurring around the Consortium over the past week.

First, the Gender and Fan Studies discussion over at Henry Jenkins' blog continues, with the eighteenth round featuring Julie Levin Russo and Hector Postigo. The conversation, which covers issues such as labor, value, capitalism, the work of Tiziana Terranova, as well as "technology and control" and "ownership and desire," is available here and here. Those who are concerned with some of these issues might also be interested in the fan labor panel at our upcoming FoE2.

Continue reading "Around the Consortium: Fan Studies, Geeks, and Nielsen" »

October 2, 2007

Around C3: Askwith at the Producer's Guild and Interesting Writing from Consulting Researchers

Early this morning, I wanted to catch up on the C3 blog by directing readers' attention toward some interesting work that's been done by some C3 alum and consulting researchers recently.

C3 alum Ivan Askwith appeared on a panel about transmedia storytelling at the Producers Guild of America last Wednesday. Askwith, who now works for Big Spaceship, participated in a discussion called "Creating Blockbuster Worlds: Transmedia Development & Production," along with Starlight Runner's Jeff Gomez (who will be here for Futures of Entertainment 2); Kenneth N. Swezey from Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams, & Sheppard LLP; and Jeremy Kagan from Publicis Modem. For more information, see Askwith's blog, The Extratextuals.

Continue reading "Around C3: Askwith at the Producer's Guild and Interesting Writing from Consulting Researchers" »

September 24, 2007

Aswin Punathambekar's BollySpace 2.0

Another C3 Consulting Researcher who is establishing his own branded place in the blogosphere is Dr. Aswin Punathambekar. For those who are within the Consortium and who receive our C3 Weekly Update on a regular basis, you have read some of Aswin's work in the past. He often writes about examples from Bollywood and film culture, in relation to a lot of the activities we define here as "convergence culture."

Aswin's blog, called BollySpace 2.0, relaunched recently to detail his thoughts about the media industries in South Asia. Aswin's international perspective often ties into what we write about as "pop cosmopolitanism," but deals as well with new media forms of distribution, the activities of fan communities, transmedia storytelling, and all the other issues we write about here at C3 on a regular basis.

Continue reading "Aswin Punathambekar's BollySpace 2.0" »

Work around the Consortium: Local Marketing, Fan Studies, Scorn, and Consumption Studies

Things have been busy here at the Consortium, making plans for the upcoming Futures of Entertainment conference in November that we are hosting and the upcoming project we have here within the Consortium about YouTube. In the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to point you all toward some of the most interesting content that has been published around the Consortium in the past few days.

First off, from our corporate partners over at GSD&M Idea City down in Austin coms a piece demonstrating what GSD&M does well on their blog: finding inspiration from local examples. Today, Rad Tollett writes about the branding and marketing of local pizza shops the Austin Onion and Home Slice. Rad sums up, "Whereas Austin Onion targets party kids by becoming the party-pizza-parlor, Home Slice targets progressive families by establishing their own family traditions. And is 'target' even the right word? Call it purpose, call it attraction, call it branding...whatever it is, it works." In true GSD&M form, they seem to find a lot of intriguing ideas based on the creativity around Austin and the surrounding area, and I think there's a lot of valuable insight about targeting consumers, understanding those consumers, and providing an experience for them is demonstrated through this look at the local.

Continue reading "Work around the Consortium: Local Marketing, Fan Studies, Scorn, and Consumption Studies" »

September 16, 2007

A New C3-Related Blog: The Extratextuals

We're in the process of adding a blog roll here at the Consortium's site, primarily to highlight all of our alum, partners, and consulting researchers who have interesting blogs of their own. I link to relevant stories from them from time-to-time, but a recent C3 graduate now launching a blog of his own might have quite a few stories that will be of interest to C3 readers.

Ivan Askwith, who was until recently a graduate student researcher here, has just launched a new blog with Jonathan Gray, an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in NYC, and Derek Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in media in cultural studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison's Communication Arts Department. Askwith is a creative strategist at Big Spaceship in NYC, and he's going to be speaking on a panel at the Producer's Guild of America seminar on Sept. 26 called "Creating Blockbuster Worlds: Transmedia Development and Production." The blog is called The Extratextuals.

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September 13, 2007

Catching Up: Net Neutrality, Online Video Ads, and Nielsen

In my efforts to play a little catchup tonight with a week that has largely gotten away from me, I wanted to catch up on a few developments on stories the Consortium has followed quite regularly here on the blog.

First, there is network neutrality. The latest comes from the Justice Department, which has written to the Federal Communications Commission with official comments opposing net neutrality. While, at the time Ira Teinowitz wrote her piece for TelevisionWeek, the FCC had received almost 28,000 comments on the issue, most of which supported net neutrality being upheld, the Justice Department said that neutrality "could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet." The comments have sparked some controversy, and it's not yet clear whether the pressure from the Justice Department will have a significant effect on the FCC's decision-making process.

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C3 Community: Jason Mittell on Canon and Tenure, Edery on Violence, Kozinets on Britney

Starting a large round of updates after a hectic week, I wanted to point the way tonight toward a variety of interesting pieces that has been published around the C3 community. There's been plenty of intellectual energy flowing across the Consortium's Consulting Researchers and Alum, so I wanted to point my way toward a few of the highlights from their recent writing.

A couple of pieces that really jumped out at me came from Jason Mittell's Just TV. Jason writes about the recently published list of the best 100 television shows of all-time, according to Time (look here). Jason muses about the use of these lists at all. The AFI's Top 100 Films in 1996 can be debated for its authenticity and credibility, but the truth is that it greatly influenced a generation of movie viewers as to what the "canon" would be. I know that I, along with a generation of my friends, waded through movie history with that list as a guide.

What is the purpose of such a canon?

Continue reading "C3 Community: Jason Mittell on Canon and Tenure, Edery on Violence, Kozinets on Britney" »

How We Make Media Theory at MIT...

I originally posted this piece earlier this week on my blog. This piece examines the perspective that has driven research and theory on the media at MIT and helps to explain our focus on applied humanities, a guiding principle at the heart of what the Convergence Culture Consortium does.

In getting ready to teach our graduate prosem on Media Theory and Methods, I have been rereading some passages from Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. This term, I am trying something different with the class, beginning with an extended examination of the role of theory and media production in the history of MIT as a way of helping our entering CMS students think about the place of our program within this institutional history. Turner's book is an ideal introduction to this topic in part because he has so much to say specifically about MIT but also because he speaks to the roles of both formal institutions and informal networks in shaping the production and dispersion of media theory.

Turner's book is a study of the ways what he calls "network forums" have shaped our current interpretation of digital technologies. In particular, he is interested in how Stewart Brand, his primary subject, "began to migrate from one intellectual community to another and, in the process, to knit together formerly separate intellectual and social networks."

Continue reading "How We Make Media Theory at MIT..." »

September 7, 2007

Welcoming a New C3 Team

We just finished our first week of meeting and getting to know our new team of graduate students here at the Convergence Culture Consortium, and I wanted to take a few minutes tonight to share information about them with the larger community of C3 readers.

As you all know, Geoffrey Long, Ivan Askwith, and Alec Austin have now moved on to their new jobs. Geoff is now communications director for the Program in Comparative Media Studies, while Ivan Askwith works for Big Spaceship and Alec Austin just took a job with EA in Los Angeles.

Eleanor Baird, a student with the MIT Sloan School of Management, remains a part of the C3 team, and she is joined by three new and exciting graduate students in the Program in Comparative Media Studies: Ana Domb Krauskopf, Xiaochang Li, and Lauren Silberman. As part of their duties with C3, the three of them will begin blogging on a weekly basis here on the C3 blog, so we look forward to bringing their perspectives into the Consortium.

Continue reading "Welcoming a New C3 Team" »

September 6, 2007

Catching Up on C3 Stories: Micropayments, YouTube, and the Digital Deadline

There have also been a variety of stories floating around of late that are of direct interest to issues we write about regularly or have covered in the past here on the C3 blog. I thought I might also point out some quick updates to those stories.

First, Dan Mitchell had an interesting piece in the New York Times about the current state of micropayments, pointing out how "closed loop" micropayment systems like iTunes have been most successful and looking at issues of how systems like AdSense are based on the concept of micropayments. Thanks to Lynn Liccardo for bringing the article to my attention.

For those of you who may have followed our coverage here on the blog for a while now, you'll know that we spent quite a bit of time discussing these issues in our earlier days. Look, for instance, at this post from C3 Alum Alec Austin in December 2005, looking at Xbox Live Arcade's use of "Microsoft Points." He wrote, "Microsoft Points may well be the first step towards a viable and widespread micropayment system, as imagined by Scott McCloud."

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C3 Team: New Students, Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Collective Intelligence

We're having a busy week launching a new academic year here in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. Since we haven't had any new updates since Monday, I wanted to point out a few interesting things going on around the larger Convergence Culture Consortium community this week.

First of all, we have three new and enterprising graduate students joining our research team: Ana Domb Krauskopf, Xiaochang Li, and Lauren Silberman. We will introduce each of these three students with a note both about their backgrounds and the issues they are most interested in over the next few days here on the C3 blog.

Continue reading "C3 Team: New Students, Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Collective Intelligence" »

September 3, 2007

Looking Back at C3 Work--Interviews and Other Series

My final post today will look at some of the more extended work of others here at the C3 blog over the past year, as well as interviews with some interesting folks doing work of interest to the Convergence Culture Consortium. As we wrap up this look at the Consortium's work in the blog over the past year in preview of a new academic year here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, I wanted to highlight some series worth looking back at.

Here at the blog, we have completed four series of interviews over the summer. Look back at interviews with:

Bruce Leichtman, a researcher on media consumer behaviors and the adoption of new technologies, took part in a four-part interview with C3. (part one part two part three part four)

Continue reading "Looking Back at C3 Work--Interviews and Other Series" »

Looking Back at C3 Work--Series by Sam Ford

I wanted to finish up my Labor Day posts here on the C3 blog highlighting some of the C3 team's work from the past academic year by looking at some of the multi-part series, interviews, and other longer pieces of writing that have appeared here in the past year. In this post, I'm going to note some of the series I have published in the past year, followed by another post detailing some of the series from others on the C3 team, as well as various interviews with interesting personalities we have published in the past few months.

First, I want to note some essays I have published based on my thesis work, which has focused on soap operas. Back in May, some work from my thesis appeared on Henry Jenkins' blog, and I also published it here on the C3 blog. (part one and part two) This research focuses on worlds which facilitates vast narratives, the kind that has so much official content that it requires the collective intelligence of a fan community to fully make sense of. The case studies here are of soap operas, pro wrestling, and comic books.

Continue reading "Looking Back at C3 Work--Series by Sam Ford" »

Looking Back at C3 Work--Summer 2007

My final post today looking at some overall posts from the past academic year as we embark on a new year here at MIT with a new team of graduate students on board for the Convergence Culture Consortium focuses on some of the C3 work published here on the blog this summer. As many of you who are familiar with our work know, we both do proprietary research that is shared internally within the Consortium before it is published otherwise but also view the blog and other outreach programs, such as the Futures of Entertainment conference, as a way to engage on a larger basis with the many people who are interested in these questions.

With that in mind, here are a few more posts from the summer. I will follow this up later today with a couple of posts highlighting some essays and interviews we have run here on the C3 blog in the past year as well.

Personal Questions of Social Interaction and Etiquette Raised by Online Networks Sam Ford provides a series of incidents from his personal online social network maintenance that shows new ways in which these sites are raising questions and situations in personal relationships that would not have come up before.

Go Ahead...Google Yourself Sam Ford brings up not only the C3 analyst but a news anchor, a porn star, and a sex offender.  What other versions of you do you now have to contend with?

Continue reading "Looking Back at C3 Work--Summer 2007" »

Looking Back at C3 Work--Spring 2007

To follow up on my post from earlier today, I wanted to point out a few more interesting posts from the C3 blog, these all coming from the first part of 2007, through spring semester.

(Not) Interesting Brand Communities? Fans of the Quotidian Fan communities exist for brands from Pringles and Pillsbury to a MySpace group for Windex.

These Fans Will Follow You...Through Rain and Sleet and Snow and... While cycling teams and stamp collecting might explain some of the goodwill, what can we make of fan expressions expressly dedicated to the mail carrier?

Is Serial Programming a Format or a Genre? Slippery Language in the Popular Press A recent New York Times article calls this fall's serial programming both, but the "failure" of serial programming could, in many ways, be a confusion of form and content.

Continue reading "Looking Back at C3 Work--Spring 2007" »

Looking Back at C3 Work--Fall 2006

In honor of Labor Day, and the start of a new academic year her at MIT when classes begin later this week, I thought it might be good today to point to some of the work that has been written here on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog here in the past year.

In this post, I wanted to highlight some of posts from the 2006 fall semester here on the C3 blog that might still be of interest to some of our readers, especially those who might not have been reading at this time last year.

Can People Steal the Word? Christianity and the File-Sharing Debate Should Christian artists be worried about copyright management and cuts in their income or rather should they rejoice at the word getting spread to that many more people? Is it a sin to pass along Christian content for free or rather the obligation of Christian listeners/viewers?

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September 2, 2007

The Latest from the C3 Team: Gender and Fan Studies, Digital Television, and Social Networks

In the midst of Labor Day Weekend, and since the blogosphere is a little more silent this weekend in the midst of a holiday, I wanted to go back and point out some recent work that has been published on the blogs of some of our Consulting Researchers. This include links to the latest discussion from Henry Jenkins' blog, a section from a forthcoming book by Jason Mittell, and the latest from our friends at GSD&M Idea City.

Continue reading "The Latest from the C3 Team: Gender and Fan Studies, Digital Television, and Social Networks" »

August 27, 2007

C3 Team's Look at Fan Studies, Spock, Peer-to-Peer Ads, Consumption Studies

It's Monday afternoon, and I wanted to start our round of posts this week by pointing the way toward some work that some of our Consulting Researchers have been doing of late.

Over at Henry Jenkins' blog, there have been some posts of interest. First, Aswin Punathambekar, one of our Consulting Researchers, recently did a round with Nancy Baym (whose work at Online Fandom we have referenced here on the blog on many different occasions), in the ongoing Gender and Fan Studies conversation that has been occurring throughout the summer. To see the two rounds of their discussion, look here and here.

Continue reading "C3 Team's Look at Fan Studies, Spock, Peer-to-Peer Ads, Consumption Studies" »

August 23, 2007

Gender Biases in the Political Blogosphere?

Is there a male bias in the blogosphere? Many people would say that, when looking at political blogs in particular, that question would be akin to wondering whether there is any evidence of global warming or not.

There was an interesting Boston Globe commentary that my thesis advisor Lynn Liccardo sent to me earlier this month, about how the vast majority of political bloggers--especially the prominent ones--were male. She was interested in knowing what Henry and I thought, if we had seen the article, since so much of our work deals on participatory culture and the way that new technologies are changing dynamics.

But I think these are very real issues to discuss. The piece, by Ellen Goodman, posits a variety of possibilities: that males interested in politics have entrenched networks that help them get more visibility, more gigs in the traditional media, etc.

Continue reading "Gender Biases in the Political Blogosphere?" »

August 16, 2007

C3 Team: DRM, Hypermasculine Soaps, and Gender and Fan Studies

In addition to all that we've been covering here on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog, there have been some interesting pieces written recently on the blogs of some of our consulting researchers as well that I'd like to point the way toward.

First is a recent post from C3 Consulting Researcher Rob Kozinets, over at Brandthroposophy, his blog on "marketing, media, and technoculture." In a post entitled What Does DRM Really Stand For? Whack-a-Mole!, Kozinets thinks back to a conversation with an executive from the music industry in a class he taught back in 1999, talking about early MP3 players, and his own conversations with students over the years about file sharing and digital rights management, for both music and movies. He concludes that "entertainment companies haven't even come close to getting it. When they do, they'll learn to work with the trends and not against them. That's going to be an interesting day."

Continue reading "C3 Team: DRM, Hypermasculine Soaps, and Gender and Fan Studies" »

August 15, 2007

C3 Updates: Flash Gordon, ATWT Inturn, and Ten Day Take

Hope the C3 readers got something valuable out of the interview with Parry Aftab. It's Wednesday morning now, and I wanted to update everyone on a few extensions of issues we've been following here at the C3 blog over the past year.

1.) Flash Gordon. I first wrote about Flash Gordon in a post from January on fan communities based on historical comic strips, such as Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon, as well as the historical Yellow Kid of much older fame. Some fans wrote in response to me, questioning whether Tracy and Gordon could really be considered historical properties, and the scope of this changed when I learned through Warren Ellis' blog that Sci Fi was planning on making a television movie featuring Gordon.

Continue reading "C3 Updates: Flash Gordon, ATWT Inturn, and Ten Day Take" »

July 17, 2007

How Much Have Industry Developments Changed in the Past Year?

While thinking today about how this issue between the Writer's Guild of America and television producers seems to have been stretching on for quite a while now, I began to realize that a lot of the issues I've been covering for the Consortium since we started our blog a little under two years ago, and especially since I've been the primary contributor to the blog since last summer have not changed that much.

So, while people talk sometimes about how fast change happens, it is important to realize that the falsity that nothing is ever going to change is often countered by an equally tall tale, that things are changing extremely quickly. The truth is that industry practices, corporate infrastructure, technological lagtime, and an endless variety of factors causes everything to move slowly.

I was told by an industry executive not too long ago that the upfronts this year didn't feel that much different, as if this person were somehow disappointed. I think that's how we all feel when we realize that the new environment feels only slightly removed from yesterday's...and that's because we as human beings can only move in steps. The first cars really did resemble horseless carriages, and the first mobile phones looked quite like landline phones. Change necessarily comes one step at a time.

That being the case, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the stories that were posted here on the blog during this same week last year. You'll see a few stories that have fallen by the wayside but a few more that could quite possibly be easily plugged into this week's headlines and still seem right at home.

Continue reading "How Much Have Industry Developments Changed in the Past Year?" »

July 12, 2007

A Look at Recent Writing from Affiliated C3 Thinkers

I wanted to point the way to some interesting posts from various Consulting Researchers with the Convergence Culture Consortium. A variety of our affiliated thinkers maintain regular blogs regarding their opinion of the latest developments in the media industries, and a wide variety of other subjects.

Henry Jenkins posted a piece on his blog last week emphasizing his own interest and respect with NBC's Heroes and his reading of a recent interview with Heroes executive producer Jesse Alexander, in which he brought up reading Jenkins' book Convergence Culture. Henry links his look at fan communities with Rob Kozinets' recent writing on wiki-media.

Jason Mittell writes about the contest among the different cities of Springfield across the country to claim The Simpsons and to host the premiere for the upcoming Simpsons Movie. The state Mittell calls home, Vermont, won the contest.

Continue reading "A Look at Recent Writing from Affiliated C3 Thinkers" »

New Industry Deals Demonstrate Shifting Media Landscape

I wanted to mention a few news stories that passed my eye over the past few days that I thought would be of particular interest to C3 researchers and readers, especially taking into account links between online initiatives and traditional television and print properties.

The news includes a new deal between TV Guide and Maven Networks for powering broadband video content for TV Guide's Web site, a cosmetic change for the brand of Court TV to the new truTV, Joost's deal with VH1 to show a sneak peek of the premiere of I Hate My 30s online first, and Bravo's deal struck to do its advertising deals minute-by-minute with Starcom USA.

TV Guide and Maven Networks. TV Guide's choice to hire the technology provider to power its broadband video on its Web site indicates an increased effort to make TV Guide a brand based on more than the print product it is most closely identified with, especially as paper guides have become all but obsolete. Find more at The Boston Business Journal.

Continue reading "New Industry Deals Demonstrate Shifting Media Landscape" »

July 2, 2007

Links for Monday, July 02

I wanted to do a quick roundup of some of the interesting stories that have caught my eye over the past week that I thought it might be of worth for interested C3 readers to take a look at.

1.) MySpaceTV. The new service, available here, is an upgrade of MySpace video with the idea of creating a forum for cross-platform distribution of professional content, including of course News Corp. content. The plan is for an international video platform with 15 countries and seven languages and an emphasis on customization. The company may be looking to compete with YouTube in relation to video views, but the focus seems to be much more on professional content for the MySpace platform. See more at Mashable.

2.) Lycos Further Integrates blinkx. Lycos has increased its relationship with video search engine blinkx so that the blinkx function will be fully functional on the Lycos MIX platform. Users can do a blinkx search within the platform. More from Minic Rivera at 901am.

3.) BBC YouTube Platform on thePlatform. BBC Global News will be working with Comcast's thePlatform, an online video technology, to help the network deliver its news through YouTube. The branded BBC Global News site on YouTube is promised to feature up to 30 news clips daily. See more from Daisy Whitney at TelevisionWeek.

Continue reading "Links for Monday, July 02" »

December 8, 2006

What Is a Media Educator?

Jason Mittell presents a strong case for an exploration of common ground, indeed for a more direct level of communication of any sort, among those of us involved in the Consortium through the newsletter and blog. Fair use strikes me as just the kind of issue that should generate a productive exchange.

However I wonder to what extent the lack of conversation on this and other topics (at least through this format--I have not yet been able to attend conferences where interaction seems much stronger) can be traced back to some misunderstanding or uncertainty about media education and scholarship itself.

Continue reading "What Is a Media Educator?" »

July 1, 2006

Web Comics and Network Culture

This blog, by Dr. Henry Jenkins, originally appeared on his blog:

I am participating in a very interesting conversation about digital storytelling, visual culture, and web 2.0 over at Morph, the blog of the Media Center, which describes itself as "a provocative, future-oriented, nonprofit think tank. In the dawning Digital Age, as media, technology and society converge at an accelerating pace in overlapping cycles of disruption, transition and change, and in all areas of human endeavor, The Media Center facilitates the process by gathering information and insights and conceiving context and meaning. We identify opportunity, provide narrative, stimulate new thinking and innovation, and agitate for dialog and action towards the creation of a better-informed society."

The Media Center has asked a fairly diverse group of media makers and thinkers to participate in a "slow conversation" to be conducted over the next month or so about creativity in the new media age. So far, the most interesting post has come from Daniel Meadows, currently a lecturer at Cardiff University in Wales, about work he has done with the British Broadcasting System to get digital stories by everyday people onto the air. He provides links to a great array of amateur media projects. I haven't spent as much time following these links as I would like but it's a great snapshot of the work being done in digital storytelling.

What follows are some excerpts from my own first post in the exchange which uses webcomics to explore some of the ideas in Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, a book I referenced here the other day.

Continue reading "Web Comics and Network Culture" »

June 26, 2006

Fashion Marketing and Theory

Fashion is worthy of considerable academic study and has been looked at by some of the most important philosophers of the past few centuries. That is the message of Daniel Leonhard Purdy's 2004 collection of essays The Rise of Fashion: A Reader. At least we've been clued into that for some time, as fashion is certainly not outside the scope of this blog, as indicated here and here.

The book presents essays from some of the greatest minds of philosophy and literature, including Voltaire, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Hegel, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For those interested in cultural studies, this book offers conclusive proof that there's nothing wrong with studying fashion because some of the greatest mind in Western thought have done the same thing.

This collection shows how views of fashion's role in society has shifted throughout time and how understanding the marketing of fashion is important for understanding a group of people. This collection moves beyond the restricte "I hate (insert brand name)" anti-commercialist rhetoric that surrounds many of the most popular teen clothing lines today and moves into legitimating a focus on fashion. Part of the disrespect to fashion has been that it has largely been considered a feminine concern and thus somehow considered less legitimate.

Thse views are shifting, and men's fashion is becoming the focus of study as well. And, books like Purdy's reader prove that further emphasis is being put on trying to understand what makes clothing and fashion connect with people's lives and their self-expressions.

In the latest Journal of Popular Culture, Patricia A. Cunningham of Ohio State University concludes her review of the book by recommending that not only academics but marketers could benefit by reading what some of the greatest minds in history wrote about fashion throughout the years. As anyone who studies history knows, the best way to understand the present and predict the future is often to study and understand the past. This reader provides an interesting historical perspective on the mprtance of fashion in society that might be worth taking a look at.

June 19, 2006

Studies of Teens on the 'Net

A new study released by Cornel University surmises that "teens take to the Internet like ants to a summer picnic."

This quote, from Science News Online's newest issue, is a sobering reminder that cyberspace provides unheralded communication opportunities (and marketing opportunities), but the effects of this communication can contain both an expanding world view and corresponding dangers. While Internet utopian fluff pieces celebrate the medium without fault, and watchdog attack groups go after the medium incessantly, this study emphasizes the neutrality of the medium and its capacity for both good and evil.

Those of us who study or are involved in the entertainment industry know that any medium--whether it be the written word, television, radio, or film--contains both the capacity for good as well as exploitative and lowest common denominator content. The Internet is much more complicated when you are talking about message boards and chat rooms, because you can't compare television shows and message boards, which is many-to-many communication.

Bruce Bower, who wrote the Science News piece, goes on to examine a Michigan State University study about the ways in which the Internet improves the reading skills of middle schoolers, and a Northwestern University study on leadership skill building among teens who form global Internet communities.

When we discuss teen audiences and the importance of using the Internet as a storytelling tool, it is important to realize how Internet has changed the lives of America's youth. And, while I blast pundits like L. Brent Bozell of the Parents Television Council for always leading the censorship march under the premise of "negative effects on children," we can't forget that there are always dangers involved when people are allowed to communicate, especially children. As parents, as educators, as content providers, and as citizens, we have some duty to take responsibility. While I don't think those restrictions should be imposed through censorship, it doesn't mean that we don't all have an ethical obligation as well. And, when we talk about expanding transmedia into participatory culture online, especially involving young people, we can't hide from some of the issues this brings up.

Again, the study is a fairly lengthy read for an online article but provides a lot of interesting context for online communities involving teens.

Thanks to Kestrell for passing this along.

April 28, 2006

Afternoon's Brainstorming at C3 Conference

We're currently wrapping up here at the C3 conference with a tremendous brainstorming session of our own research priorities as we look toward a second year of research for the Convergence Culture Consortium. Of course, the nature of that aspect of our work remains internal, but our thoughts are greatly influenced by an illuminating series of speakers this afternoon.

Joshua Green, a post-doc at CMS who will be taking over the position of research manager for the consortium in the coming year, looked at how American programming was marketed in his native Australia, particularly what did and did not work and why.

This was followed by a session looking at business opportunities in multiplayer game worlds featuring C3 business manager David Edery, Harvard Business Review's Paul Hemp, C3's Ilya Vedrashko, and Chris Weaver, a visiting professional and professor here at the Comparative Media Studies program and a faculty member with C3.

The nature of convergence culture and the current state of the media industry is in flux right now, and the type of engagement and discourse we have had here on the blog and within C3 is refreshing, considering how little time there is to stop and think about the implications of what is currently happening in the industry and the possibilties for the future.

While in this reflective mode, we would likewise like to see any feedback readers might have regarding our focuses here on this public face of the Convergence Culture Consortium. We are grateful for those of you who engage in our dialogue. Feel free to e-mail us or continue in our public dialogue on these issues as you are. In true "convergence culture" form, we want this site to be a forum of discussion, not just a top-down message from us to you but a true discourse.C

The Morning's Sessions Here at the C3 Conference

We are currently engaged in an in-depth discussion of teasing out particular issues of media convergence this morning and have just broken for lunch. And the morning's sessions has provided a lot of food for thought that people are mulling over while consuming their actual foodright now. Our four speakers this morning have provoked a lot of discussion, both from the academics gathered here today and the folks from Turner Broadcasting and GSD&M who are visiting today, as well as the C3 team.

We began the morning with a great discussion of Web 2.0 by Shenja van der Graaf. Shenja, an associated academic member of the Convergence Culture Consortium currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics, is examining the shift, both culturally and technically, in the way the Web is utilized and what it means for the current media climate.

Anthropologist Grant McCracken, another member of C3 and one of our most active off-campus asscoiated faculty members, engaged everyone in an in-depth discussion of the history of the concept of entertainment and its current fate today. His discussion merged his very conceptual analysis of the very idea of entertainment with a business-focused "where are we now?" question that turned into a great conversation with both the academic and industry communities in the room.

Recent MIT Media Lab graduate and new Comparative Media Studies post-doc Hugo Liu, who will be engaging in work with C3 in the future, made a fascinating presentation about using tools to filter, recommend, examine, and organize cultural and social preferences. Considering the endless amount of content online, the way these tools allow us or could allow us to navigate, interpret, and come to develop an undersatnding of what's going on is a rich area to think about as we move into an unparalleled age of information online, thinking back to Shenja's presentation earlier in the day.

Finally, John Edward Campbell presented on his in-depth work of online gay communities and understanding these forums as a forum for political discourse. His work looks at how these sites bring to the forefront debates about free speech, concern for liability for sites hosting these debates, and the divide between consumer and citizen on online sites.

While the power of this week's retreat seems to be the intimate discussion we are having here while brainstorming as a team, and a lot of the content of those discussions aren't available for public consumption because much of the research we do is specific to the interests of our faculty and corporate partners, I feel that the general theme of these presentations and the discussion is very much open for public debate by all of you that follow this branch of C3. And, for those of you who are here at the conference who read this, feel free to comment on or complicate what I have taken away from the morning's presentations.

C3 Retreat's First Day

We had very productive conversations yesterday at the first day of our Convergence Culture Consortium (C3) conference/retreat for several of our associated faculty and representatives from some of our corporate partners as well. We've been talking about the nature of convergence culture and how it affects the media industry, fan communities, and those studying the media.

What's great about this environment, where distinguished academic minds from around the world come together with some of the most innovative thinkers in the media industry, is that a genuine dialogue bridging the gap between academics and the industry we are studying begins to take place. Sure, as Henry Jenkins pointed out in our introductory notes yesterday, business people have a language of their own, and academics often speak a language that seem to have little to do with English, but we have seen those linguistic obstructions to be hurdled throught the past day.

Henry's comments and William Uricchio's insights about historic media in transition, one of his areas of specialty that he has published on several times, set the stage for an illuminating panel that was open to Comparative Media Studies students, in addition to conference attendees, here at MIT last night. Since that session was open to the public--whereas the earlier sessions and all of today's sessions are private for our C3 team members, we can go into a little more detail about the nature of yeseterday evening's presentations.

Ian Condry, an anthropologist on the faculty here at MIT, joined Rob Kozinets, marketing professor at York University in Toronto, participated in a discussion with Henry Jenkins about some of the current meanings of convergence for both fan communities and brand communities. Both Ian and Rob are associated faculty with C3.

Ian's presentation looked at fan subtitling of anime that has not yet been marketed in the United States. Ian has been researching this community and the anime industry in general for several years.

Rob focused on the changing nature of looking at brands in the experience economy, tied to his in-depth research on Burning Man, the annual celebration of art and humanity that takes place out in the Nevada desert.

What was interesting was in seeing how attitudes in fan communities and brand communities, as presented by Ian and Rob, both converged and collided, and the discussion that ensued about how the existing media industry can learn from and make decisions based on these communities and activities.

Both Ian's and Rob's sites point to their related published research on these topics, but they started a vibrant discussion last night that has everything to do with what we blog about every week here on the C3 site, and we'd like to extend this discussion to our extended C3 family here on the site, if anyone has any thoughts on these issues...

Convergence in the Academic Realm

For those of you who follow this blog regularly from the academic world, you all know the struggles of interdisciplinary interests in academia. And for those of you from industry or from fan communities or just with a general curiosity, you can imagine how the idea of convergence at it is taking place in the media industry is in some ways being mirrored in the academic realm.

Where do you study media studies? Where do you study popular culture? Is it sociology, anthropology, literary studies, history, communication, broadcasting, etc.? At MIT, we have a department dedicated to interdisciplinary study related to the media--Comparative Media Studies. But, of course, we only have a handful of faculty that works full-time in our department and then a plethora of associated faculty in most of these other areas, who are officially parts of anthropology or literature departments.

On April 14, I was a member of a four member panel at the National Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in Atlanta, where we discussed these very problems, of how academia can reflect these changes and can adapt outdated molds of distinctive "disciplines" that never meet and that define themselves often by being "NOT" the other disciplines, with specialized argot and academic rules to keep boundaries clear.

My presentation was about "breaking those walls down," but...as people wonder with convergence, whether in the media industry or in journalism (both of which are talking about convergence endlessly), if we break those walls down, what do we have left?

Henry Jenkins, in his new book Convergence Culture, warns about what is called "The Black Box Fallacy," where people believe that everything will just become one. Journalists fear the "uberjournalist," that corporations are going to try to make one person do broadcast, print, Internet, etc. But these situations are not what convergence is, and the same is true of academia. Blurring distinctions doesn't mean that the anthropologist, the literary critic, or the historian doesn't exist. It just means that we will have a more open flow of communication.

We had about 25 or 30 people present for an hour and a half discussion, a great turnout for an academic panel. My colleagues from Western Kentucky University, Ted Hovet and Dale Rigby, and my wife Amanda Ford, all participated in the panel, and we discussed how academia needs to make these interdisciplinary links by reconceptualizing the way that the idea of "disciplines" work.

Does anyone have any thoughts about how this idea of "convergence" affects the academic world in terms of disciplinary boundaries?

March 31, 2006

Interesting Books on American Culture: Mark Twain, Madonna, and Jesus

While looking through the latest version of the American Culture Association's Journal of American Culture, I found reviews for a few good books that have just come out which might be useful for the work we're doing here at C3 or for people interested in related matters.

Tsuyoshi Ishihara published Mark Twain in Japan: The Cultural Reception of an American Icon in 2005. With all of our talk about a global international culture, influential Asian markets, and pop cosmopolitanism, it's sometimes easy to look only at film, television, and new media and not think back to what has traditionally been the most open cultural expression of ideas--the translation of literary texts. The well-known popular culture scholar Ray B. Browne provides a review that makes the book sound very applicable for those interested in understanding both the traditional and the contemporary problems with international markets and particularly American/Japanese cultural translations.

Another heavyweight in popular culture studies, Marshall Fishwick, provides an in-depth review of Karlene Faith's 2004 book Madonna: Bawdy and Soul. Faith's book looks at the way Madonna crafted her star image, both extrapolating from and breaking the molds of previous performers. She has been one of the most talked-about and studied modern musical performers, but there is much to learn about all her culutral metamorphoses, both for the student of popular culture as well as the marketer. For Madonna to remain relevant in American culture and to survive as a performer from generation to generation provides an effective case study for how a star image must adapt and change with the times.

But the master of an adaptable star image has to be Jesus Christ, which is the subject of Stephen Prothero's 2003 book American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. Jesus has become a relevant figure to all strands of Catholic and Protestant Christianity, as well as Judiasm, Hinduism, Buddhism, and a variety of other religions. I've said it before and will say it many times over--understanding the marketing power of Christianity and studying it throughout history may be the most powerful way to grasp an understanding of basic marketing principles as anything I've seen, and Kelly Baker's review of American Jesus indicates that this book provides an in-depth analysis at how the use of Jesus Christ as an image has changed throughout American history.

The three books might be worth a look at if you are interested in the issues they touch on, and The Journal of American Culture is always a great place to go to find some of the books academia has to offer on issues currently relevant to American culture and entertainment.

March 3, 2006

C3 Mourns Loss of Faithful Weblog Reader

The Convergence Culture Consortium would like to extend its sympathies to the family and friends of Larry Robinson, who passed away last Sunday. Robinson, an Owensboro, Ky., based CPA, and his wife Marianna have been dedicated readers of the C3 Weblog during the past few months and have even sent our entries to family and friends for further discussion. We are saddened by his death and wish Marianna and his family the best during this trying time.

February 20, 2006

Focus on the Family and The Dangers of MTV!

Maybe this is a little off-topic, but considering how focused we are on the entertainment industry and that it even involves one of our corporate partners in research here at C3, I just felt I had to write something, and this seems to be my best venue.

The topic is Dr. James C. Dobson, the brain behind "Focus on the Family."

For those of you who don't know, I write a weekly column in The Ohio County Times-News in Hartford, Ky., called "From Beaver Dam to Boston," which follows my travels from Kentucky, the place where I was born and raised (kudos to O Brother, of course), to MIT. Directly under my column every week is a column by Dr. Dobson, sponsored by the local Lawton Insurance. No one is willing to sponsor my column at this point, so I don't know what that means...

Dr. Dobson's column this particular week was about today's music lyrics leaving negative impressions. He shows how the contempt for parents in modern popular music reflects a dangerous shift in societal values and respect toward elders, evidenced by this unshakable bit of empirical evidence:

When Dr. Dobson was young, one of the most popular songs was Eddie Fisher's "Oh, My Papa," an ode to someone's deceased father and how good he treated his children. Then, in 1983, Suicidal Tendencies released "I Saw Your Mommy," which documents the narrator's watching someone's mommy bleeding to death.

Dr. Dobson's conclusion includes this: "My point is that the most popular music of our culture went from the inspiration of 'Oh, My Papa' to 'I Saw Your Mommy' in scarcely more than a generation."

Who is the cause of all this? Why, MTV, of course, which "promotes the worst stuff available." Good to know that, while some people fear that a 20-some-year-old MTV now part of a corporate conglomerate will lose its edge, Dobson finds that the network is producing "the worst stuff available." And Dr. Dobson finds that "many of the problems that plague this generation, form suicide to unwed pregnancy to murder, can be traced back to the venom dripped into its veins by the entertainment industry."

What's the point of sharing Dobson's words of wisdom in this particular forum? Possibly because I got a letter pointing out to me how are columns are adjacent to each other...perhaps because sharing just makes me feel better. But I am a strong proponent of free speech, and Dr. Dobson can feel more than privileged to share this view, and Lawton Insurance can feel more than privileged to pay for it. Of course, he may be equally appalled to know that his article runs next to someone studying pro wrestling and soap opera, in a media studies program at MIT and...gasp...partnering in research with his dreaded enemy.

But Dobson's point has two major morals for those of us interested in studying the entertainment industry and mass media in a little bit more of a nuanced approach. First, there are powerful voices like Dobson's out there always calling for censorship and for restrictions on freedom of speech, but we are currently blessed with many great entertainment venues taking a stand for shows that embrace a variety of viewpoints, from The Passion of the Christ to Brokeback Mountain to Dr. Phil to Sleeper Cell.

And, second, beware of taking evidence at face value. This semester, Henry Jenkins has assigned my class to read Darrell Huff's How to Lie with Statistics. Yet there are plenty of people who offer "irrefutable evidence" as weak or weaker than Dobson's "proof" at the change in the music industry in a generation and plenty of people who believe it without skepticism. I'm not trying to deny that Dobson may not have a small point somewhere in his tirade. But his argument is like trying to balance a Mack truck on a toothpick's worth of evidence, and there are plenty of people who accept it without a second look...

No matter who we are, on whatever side of issues related to the mass media and the entertainment industry, we need to take a more nuanced approach, explore the gray areas and always...always...be skeptical, lest the Dobsons of the world always pass themselves off as the gospel.

December 8, 2005

Hieararchy of blogging?

Lee Gomes has written an interesting commentary for Wednesday's Wall Street Journal that appeared on the front page of the Marketplace section.

In "Tech Blogs Produce New Elite to Help Track the Industry's Issues," Gomes asserts that the idea of a mass revolution of bloggers offsetting the top-down approach of traditional journalism is flawed because, as blogging becomes accepted, only a small number of bloggers appear to be followed widely as credible, so that the old elite are only replaced with a new elite.

Understanding the elitism in blogging communities is an interesting assertion but is important for understanding the social function of these communication technologies. Is it really fair to say that blogging only replaces one cultural elite with another?

Gomes writes that "the difference between the old media elite and the new blogging elite is that the latter gets redefined much more frequently. All it takes is attracting links from other bloggers."

Again, interesting to keep in mind as we here are creating our own blog and hoping for it to gain credibility. Why did we choose a blog? How is this blog positioning itself against other blogs that cover these various issues and technologies? And what stake do we have in competing with these other blogs?


December 4, 2005

Stanford on iTunes

CNET News had an article last month about Stanford's iTunes initiative. Basically, Stanford has made audio (described as "Stanford-related digital audio content" on the website) available for download through the iTunes music store.

To access Stanford on iTunes, you must go to the program website and follow the link on the main page (or click here).

I get the impression from the article and the Stanford website that the service is primarily intended for alumni, even though anyone can download the files from iTunes. I find this a puzzling decision - is there truly a strong demand from alumni for university lectures? I would like to see Stanford make the page accessible from the main iTunes Music Store, giving everyone a chance to listen in.

November 15, 2005


Just dropping a first post to inaugurate the new official blog for the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT. More to follow...

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