Pop Cosmopolitanism

March 16, 2010

Vidding Kung Fu Panda in China

From time to time, I use this space to showcase the global dimensions of the kinds of participatory culture which so often concern us here. When I first started to write about fan culture, for example, the circuit along which fan produced works traveled did not extend much beyond the borders of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and perhaps Australia. American fans knew little about fan culture in other parts of the world and indeed, there was often speculation about why fandom was such a distinctly American phenomenon.

Now, fans online connect with others all over the world, often responding in real time to the same texts, conspiring to spread compelling media content from one culture to the other, and we are seeing a corresponding globalization of fan studies. Yet, some countries remain largely outside of field of view, because of language barriers, cultural differences, political policies, and alternative tech platforms.

Consequently, most of us know very little about how fan production practices have spread to China -- which is too often described in terms of its piracy of American content and too little discussed in terms of its creative repurposing of that content to reflect their own cultural interests. So, I am really excited over these next two installments to share some glimpses into fan culture in China -- specifically focusing on the vidding community there (but also discussing other forms of fan participation.)

These two posts were created by Lifang He, an Annenberg student who took my transmedia entertainment class in the fall and who is doing an independent study with me this term to expand her understanding of the concept of participatory culture. Here, she talks about how Kung Fu Panda got read in relation to the economic crisis in China, and next time, she will tackle the array of different fan responses to Avatar.

Continue reading "Vidding Kung Fu Panda in China" »

April 10, 2009

Dramafever.com full interview (part 2)

Here then is part 2 of a multipart full interview transcript with Seung Bak and Suk Park, the founders of the Asian Media streaming site Dramafever. In this section, Seung and Suk talk about surprising audience demographics that reveal that the audience for Korean dramas might be more broad and more diverse in the US than previously imagined by the Broadcast networks.

Part 1 of the interview was posted last week. Keep an eye out for more of the interview in coming weeks as I get around to transcribing the recording.

And again, for an introduction to this case check here and a summary of the key points of the interview can be found here.

Continue reading "Dramafever.com full interview (part 2)" »

November 23, 2008

FOE3 Liveblog: Session 7 - Global Flows, Global Deals

So we finished out FOE by trying to push some of the key themes of the conference into a global context, with panelists Nancy Baym (Personal Connections in a Digital Age), Robert Ferrari (Vice President of Business Development, Turbine Inc.) and MaurĂ­cio Mota (Director of Strategy and Business Development, New Content Brazil).

The panel was moderated by C3 Reseacher Xiaochang Li (that would be me, for those of you playing at home) and Liveblogging was done by Harvard undergraduate Christina Xu.

Introduction of Panelists:

  • Nancy Baym: I study fans on the internet. I come at it from an interpersonal relationship and community building angle. I'm more interested in music fans than the narrative music, and how they relate to other fans in relation to pop culture material. I'm especially focused on Swedish/Scandinavian music flowing out of Swedish borders.
  • Bob Ferrari: VP of Business development, Turbine Inc. Looking at the online gaming side of the business. Turbine is a studio, 350+, based in Boston with a small office on the West Coast, that focuses on social (MMO) gaming. We build these deep dynamic worlds around brands (LoTR, D&D) and bring in hundreds of thousands of players into these live worlds and allow them to play & socialize. What I've been doing is driving it not just domestically, but also bringing them to other countries (Russia, starting South America, China/Hong Kong, Korea).
  • Mauricio Mota: Director of Strategy and Business Development, New Content. Pioneer company on branded content, leading the process of bringing transmedia storytelling to Brazil. Managing all of Unilever's 29 brands.

Videos by Mauricio and Bob (embedded to the C3 blog here

Continue reading "FOE3 Liveblog: Session 7 - Global Flows, Global Deals" »

October 9, 2008

Announcing: Futures of Entertainment 3

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

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

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

More to come!

October 8, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2008

Conflicting Images of WWE's The Great Khali from U.S. and Indian Cultural Perspectives

Awhile back, former C3 manager Parmesh Shahani sent me a link to an interesting post about World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestler The Great Khali. Khali, from India, was brought into the WWE because of his abnormal size and was put into the "monster" role that pro wrestling has long cultivated, the scary and intimidating behemoth that other wrestlers fear because of their brute strength.

Khali was put into a variety of big matches and even had a run as the heavyweight champion of Smackdown , but this was all complicated by the fact that--even though Khali was an attention-getter with his abnormal size--his size were a detriment in the athleticism of his wrestling performances. In fact, dedicated wrestling fans in the U.S. regularly dreaded his matches, because of the feeling that he had less wrestling ability than almost any other wrestler on the roster.

Many wrestling fans have long resented the fact that less talented performers are brought in and often given big "pushes" as marquee wrestlers because of the visual impressiveness of their size, especially when they take up main event spots that lead to lower-quality pay-per-view wrestling matches and cause more talented athletes to be positioned lower on the card. It's the tension between trying to create dynamics to attract less involved fans and satisfying the most dedicated ones.

But this post, from EditIndia, emphasizes that there are often multiple audiences watching products, especially for a bland as global as the WWE, which has found increasing success in pushing its franchise into media markets across the globe.

Continue reading "Conflicting Images of WWE's The Great Khali from U.S. and Indian Cultural Perspectives" »

February 4, 2008

YouTube and Non-English Media Content

As we have written about several times here on the C3 blog of late, we've been immersed in a study of YouTube for the past several months that involved going through and coding a variety of details about hundreds of videos on the site. As part of our ongoing effort to provide some very preliminary sketches on some of the interesting data or trends we've found, I wanted to write a bit about some of the more interesting series that appear to have a strong following online.

Binbir Gece. Several times, I ran into posted videos of a Turkish video series called Binbir Gece. It appears these videos became popular after an individual user started splitting individual episodes into pieces short enough to be posted on the video sharing site, from a handful of individuals, none of whom seem to be officially affiliated with the site. A search for the series on YouTube reveals about 2,500 videos in all, These videos appear to generate a significant amount of discussion in the comments section, revealing a community of Turkish-speakers on YouTube that might not be apparent at first glance.

Continue reading "YouTube and Non-English Media Content" »

January 25, 2008

Field Notes from Shanghai: China's Digital Mavens

I wanted to provide an update from my post earlier this week with some more notes about my recent trip to Shanghai. For more posts on the trip, see my blog.

As I was getting ready for the trip, I stumbled onto a recently released study, produced by IAC and JWT, which compared the centrality of digital media in the life of teens in the United States and China. I used these statistics in my talk at the conference to suggest the importance of fostering new media literacies and ethics among Chinese youth. Here are some of the report's findings:

  • Almost five times as many Chinese as American respondents said they have a parallel life online (61 percent vs. 13 percent).

  • More than twice as many Chinese respondents agreed that "I have experimented with how I present myself online" (69 percent vs. 28 percent of Americans).

  • More than half the Chinese sample (51 percent) said they have adopted a completely different persona in some of their online interactions, compared with only 17 percent of Americans.

  • Fewer than a third of Americans (30 percent) said the Internet helps their social life, but more than three-quarters of Chinese respondents (77 percent) agreed that "The Internet helps me make friends."

  • Chinese respondents were also more likely than Americans to say they have expressed personal opinions or written about themselves online (72 percent vs. 56 percent). And they have expressed themselves more strongly online than they generally do in person (52 percent vs. 43 percent of Americans).

  • Chinese respondents were almost twice as likely as Americans to agree that it's good to be able to express honest opinions anonymously online (79 percent vs. 42 percent) and to agree that online they are free to do and say things they would not do or say offline (73 percent vs. 32 percent).

Continue reading "Field Notes from Shanghai: China's Digital Mavens" »

January 8, 2008

Live Action Anime? Only at MIT!

I originally posted this entry on my blog last month. While my blog remains inactive during our transition to a new server, I wanted to cross-post this over at C3 now that the Consortium blog is back up and running.


When I heard several months ago that some of my MIT colleagues and students were helping to stage a performance of Live Action Anime, I knew I had to be there. I anticipated the experience with a kind of "only at MIT" amusement -- not sure what to expect but knowing that the results would be dazzling.

The performance, Madness at Mokuba, opened with a spectacular battle between two giant robots (see the image above) staged against the backdrop of projected anime images and accompanied by an awe-inspiring soundtrack of metallic clanks and engine sounds which instantly reminded me of my first experience watching RoboTech and Star Blazers several decades ago. I didn't know what live action would look like but as the performance continued, I was more and more impressed with the craft and research which went into this performance.

Continue reading "Live Action Anime? Only at MIT!" »

October 7, 2007

DOCTV IB: Documentary Production and Regional Public Policy

In March 2006, the Brazilian-lead project, DOCTV Iberoamerica, was launched. By creating a documentary filmmaking contest for all of Ibero-America, DOCTV planned to do some pretty extraordinary things: it would strengthen the public broadcasting system, empower each country allowing them to decide what content they wanted to produce, assure the distribution of local content throughout the region, trigger creative processes, promote an attractive model for regional advertisers, generate local and regional cultural public policy, and, in the medium term, be self-financed.

Continue reading "DOCTV IB: Documentary Production and Regional Public Policy" »

August 31, 2007

NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (2 of 2)

So, what's NBC to do, in light of what I wrote about earlier today?

The domestic and international markets are crowded with American programming, which is incredibly diverse. Even though NBC is the oldest American network, it did not enjoy a monopoly on American popular culture on television as the BBC did for many years, making an overall brand building exercise easier.

At the same time, NBC grew much more like the BBC, with interests in network TV and radio with a bigger and more general audience than Turner networks had, at least initially. As such, it is caught in an interesting situation: build out the overall brand, or concentrate on known "sub-brands" as it expands internationally.

Continue reading "NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (2 of 2)" »

NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (1 of 2)

Yesterday NBC Universal announced that it acquired Sparrowhawk Holdings, a global portfolio of cable television channels that will give NBCU a greater presence in markets in the US, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East with the Hallmark Channel.

Although the exact amount of money changing hands was not disclosed, one report put the figure around 175 million pounds, or just under $353 million. As you may have read in my post earlier this month about New Site, the joint venture between NBC and FOX to create a legal aggregator video streaming site for their content, Providence Equity Partners also has a 10% stake, worth about $100 million, in that project as well.

Why is this significant?

Continue reading "NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (1 of 2)" »

May 28, 2007

Concepts from the C3 Weblog

For the final post in wrapping up a look at the body of work the C3 team has aided me with in putting up here on the site, I wanted to point the way toward a few concepts that have been articulated publicly here on the Convergence Culture Consortium site through the blog in the past year to direct people to the posts explaining them in further detail, as well as terms or concepts from Henry Jenkins' work, and those of us at the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, that have made their way into our posts from time-to-time.

1.) Immersive Story Worlds. This is a concept that I developed in conjunction with my thesis work on looking at the current state and the future of the soap opera industry. The idea was to outline a category that explains narratives which are serial by nature, which have multiple creators, a sense of long-term continuity, a character backlog, contemporary ties to a deep history, and a sense of permanence. I included portions of my thesis outlining this concept--and how it relates to the Marvel and DC Comic Universes, the world of pro wrestling, and daytime serial dramas--here and here.

2.) Transmedia Storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is meant to indicate texts in which the story develops through multiple media platforms and in which new content in another platform is not simply a redistribution of the same content that has already appeared elsewhere. We have a whole category of posts about the topic here.

3.) Cross-Platform Distribution. As opposed to transmedia storytelling, cross-platform distribution is simply the reappearance of content from one platform in another, such as making broadcast television shows available in VOD, cable shows available on YouTube, etc. We also have a whole category of posts on this topic available here.

Continue reading "Concepts from the C3 Weblog" »

March 1, 2007

Hip-Hop Japan

For some time, I've been meaning to draw attention to the work of C3 Affiliated Faculty member Dr. Ian Condry, who published a book in the fall entitled Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Even though we've worked with Ian as part of C3, I actually read the book as part of a study on globalization in Dr. James L. Watson's globalization and culture class at Harvard.

Bringing this up is especially timely, considering the cover appears on the front page, in the left bottom corner, of today's Metro here in Boston. The article by Brian Coleman, featured on page 18, focuses on two of the artists discussed in Condry's ethnography of Japanese artists and the appropriation and cultural remixing of the hip-hop/rap genre by Japanese artists in the Tokyo clubs he visited. Those two artists, Miss Monday, and DJ Umedy, are going to be appearing at The Middle East Upstairs tonight, as part of the "Cool Japan" conference Ian is hosting here at MIT throughout the week and weekend.

Continue reading "Hip-Hop Japan" »

March 16, 2006

Japan in The Simpsons

Just a quick note this morning after reading through the latest edition of The Journal of Popular Culture. I found an intriguing article on recurring images of Japan in The Simpsons.

The essay, "Mister Sparkle Meets the Yakuza: Depictions of Japan in The Simpsons, written by Hugo Dobson from the University of Sheffield in England, provides an intriguing case study into some of the very aspects of pop cosmopolitanism my colleagues and I have mentioned here on this site before. The Simpsons actually seems very interested in depictions of international culture throughout its run, and its an international popular culture phenomenon.

For Dobson, this means that tracking the way Japan has been depicted throughout the run of the show has all sorts of implications, on images of Japan in America. Considering the influx of Japanese animation in America, how might this relationship to Japanese characters in American animation be compared?

Pop cosmopolitanism has multi-directional flow, both import and export, and these have implications that are not always directly economic, although everything is an economic factor it seems. Hugo Dobson, a self-admitted Simpsons fan and a scholar on Japanese culture, is interested in the cultural implications and accusations of racism in The Simpsons, but his insights have a wide variety of implications on pop cosmopolitanism (especially juxtaposed with all the articles several months ago about The Simpsons' launch into Arabic-speaking countries).

It's well worth a look if you're interested in these issues, and I would love to spark up some debate about the essay here, if anyone else has a chance to look it over.

February 6, 2006

Genre-Crossing and Pop Cosmopolitanism? Passions and Bollywood

Recently, the NBC soap Passions had a sequence that was done in Bollywood style. Passions is known as the fantasy soap, a show that is self-referential, a parody of sorts of some of soap opera's conventions, and the most popular soap amongst younger viewers, particularly teenagers. It revels in its excess, but it can hardly be lumped in the same boat as some of the cheesy-but-don't-openly-know-it soaps and more serious and well-acted soaps, like As the World Turns. (Is my bias showing again?)

I found the show to be a good example of what our fearless leader Henry Jenkins calls pop cosmopolitanism--(the link will take you to a splendid audio interview with Henry on Forbes about the concept). Basically, people are learning more about the world and being "cosmopolitans" today through popular culture--And what better example than a Bollywood-influenced sequence making its way into an American soap opera?

Bollywood and Passions is a perfect fit--They are both campy, celebratory of excess, and require the viewer to lower their expectations of realism. And, not surprisingly, the episode was a major success in that it garnered a lot of press for the show and a lot of feedback from the audience. NBC's daytime site has even devoted a section particularly about the Bollywood sequence. You can watch the Bollywood sequence, read reaction, backstage interviews, view photographs, etc.

Some of you all may remember a post I made a couple of months ago about a Passions episode that featured an animation sequence as well. At the time, I mentioned that the show is a great example of genre-mixing being very successful as well. By incorporating an international influence in this latest experiment, Passions is showing not only the value of mixing genres but also by mixing cultures in new and innovative ways.

If some of you all have the time, check out the Passions Bollywood site and let me know what you think...

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