From Sticky To Spreadable: The Antidote to "Viral Marketing" and the Broadcast Mentality
About a month ago, I announced a free webinar about spreadability featuring USC's Henry Jenkins, C3's Joshua Green, and CMS alum Sam Ford. Below, I've provided a video and audio recording of the webinar presentation, produced by Sam Ford. If you didn't get the chance to attend the talk, or would like the chance to review it, please enjoy the embedded video below!
* How do you understand and measure success in social media?
* How do you create content that audiences not only pay attention to, but want to share with others?
* Do you really want to make a video "go viral"?
* How does the language you use to describe social media campaigns impact the end result?
Based on years of researching how and why people spread news, popular culture, and marketing content online through the Convergence Culture Consortium for the past several years, our speakers are currently working on a book entitled Spreadable Media. This Webinar will look at what "spreadable media" means, why the concept of "stickiness" is inadequate for measuring success for brands and content producers online and ultimately why marketers and producers should spend more time creating "spreadable material" for audiences than trying to perfect "viral marketing." In this one-hour session, the speakers will share the ideas and strategy behind "spreadable media" and a variety of examples of best--and worst--practices online for both B2B and B2C campaigns.
Free Webinar (Friday 6 November 2009) - Moving from "Sticky" to "Spreadable": The Antidote to "Viral Marketing" and the Broadcast Mentality
Although news has been out for a while now, we'd like to remind everyone that on Friday 6 November (from noon to 1:00 pm), the Convergence Culture Consortium will co-host a webinar with Peppercom on the subject of spreadable media, featuring USC's Henry Jenkins, C3's Joshua Green, and Peppercom's Sam Ford (moderated by Peppercom's co-founder, Steve Cody). Registration is free!
Moving from "Sticky" to "Spreadable": The Antidote to "Viral Marketing" and the Broadcast Mentality
Based on years of researching how and why people spread news, popular culture, and marketing content online through the Convergence Culture Consortium for the past several years , our speakers are currently working on a book entitled Spreadable Media. This Webinar will look at what "spreadable media" means, why the concept of "stickiness" is inadequate for measuring success for brands and content producers online and ultimately why marketers and producers should spend more time creating "spreadable material" for audiences than trying to perfect "viral marketing." In this one-hour session, the speakers will share the ideas and strategy behind "spreadable media" and a variety of examples of best--and worst--practices online for both B2B and B2C campaigns.
This panel will address:
-- The concept of "stickiness" and why it cannot solely be used as a way to measure success online;
-- How and why viral marketing does not accurately describe how content spreads online;
-- Why a "broadcast mentality" does not work in a social media space;
-- The strategy companies should undertake when creating material for audiences to potentially spread online;
-- Companies that have learned difficult lessons and/or gotten the idea of "spreadable media" right;
-- Trends in popular culture/entertainment one which brands should keep a close eye;
-- How "spreadable media" might apply to B2B audiences.
If It Doesn't Spread, It's Dead (Part One): Media Viruses and Memes
Over the next few posts, I am going to be serializing a white paper which was developed last year by the Convergence Culture Consortium on the topic of Spreadable media. This report was drafted by Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li, and Ana Domb Krauskopf With Joshua Green. Our research was funded by the members of the Convergence Culture Consortium, including GSDM Advertising, MTV Networks, and Turner Broadcasting. The series will be cross-posted at my blog, Confessions of an Aca-Fan, as well.
I was able to share some of the key insights from this research during my opening remarks at the Futures of Entertainment conference last fall, where they have sparked considerable discussion within the branded entertainment sector. We are hoping that sharing this work in progress with you will spark further debate, allowing us to tap the collective intelligence of our readers. Green, Sam Ford, and I are developing this research into a book, which will further map how information circulates across the emerging media landscape.
Introduction: Media Viruses and Memes
Use of the terms "viral" and "memes" by those in the marketing, advertising and media industries may be creating more confusion than clarity. Both these terms rely on a biological metaphor to explain the way media content moves through cultures, a metaphor that confuses the actual power relations between producers, properties, brands, and consumers. Definitions of 'viral' media suffer from being both too limiting and too all-encompassing. The term has 'viral' has been used to describe so many related but ultimately distinct practices -- ranging from Word-of-Mouth marketing to video mash-ups and remixes posted to YouTube -- that just what counts as viral is unclear. It is invoked in discussions about buzz marketing and building brand recognition while also popping up in discussions about guerilla marketing, exploiting social networks, and mobilizing consumers and distributors. Needless, the concept of viral distribution is useful for understanding the emergence of a spreadable media landscape. Ultimately, however, viral media is a flawed way to think about distributing content through informal or adhoc networks of consumers.
Talking about memes and viral media places an emphasis on the replication of the original idea, which fails to consider the everyday reality of communication -- that ideas get transformed, repurposed, or distorted as they pass from hand to hand, a process which has been accelerated as we move into network culture. Arguably, those ideas which survive are those which can be most easily appropriated and reworked by a range of different communities. In focusing on the involuntary transmission of ideas by unaware consumers, these models allow advertisers and media producers to hold onto an inflated sense of their own power to shape the communication process, even as unruly behavior by consumers becomes a source of great anxiety within the media industry. A close look at particular examples of Internet "memes" or "viruses" highlight the ways they have mutated as they have traveled through an increasingly participatory culture.
Given these limitations, we are proposing an alternative model which we think better accounts for how and why media content circulates at the present time, the idea of spreadable media. A spreadable model emphasizes the activity of consumers -- or what Grant McCracken calls "multipliers" -- in shaping the circulation of media content, often expanding potential meanings and opening up brands to unanticipated new markets. Rather than emphasizing the direct replication of "memes," a spreadable model assumes that the repurposing and transformation of media content adds value, allowing media content to be localized to diverse contexts of use. This notion of spreadability is intended as a contrast to older models of stickiness which emphasize centralized control over distribution and attempts to maintain 'purity' of message.
In this section, we will explore the roots of the concept of viral media, looking at the concept of the "media viruses" and its ties to the theory of the "meme." The reliance on a potent biological metaphor to describe the process of communication reflects a particular set of assumptions about the power relations between producers, texts, and consumers which may obscure the realities these terms seek to explain. The metaphor of "infection" reduces consumers to the involuntary "hosts" of media viruses, while holding onto the idea that media producers can design "killer" texts which can ensure circulation by being injected directly into the cultural "bloodstream." While attractive, such a notion doesn't reflect the complexity of cultural and communicative processes. A continued dependency on terms based in biological phenomena dramatically limits our ability to adequately describe media circulation as a complex system of social, technological, textual, and economic practices and relations.
In the following, we will outline the limits of these two analogies as part of making the case for the importance of adopting a new model for thinking about the grassroots circulation of content in the current media landscape. In the end, we are going to propose that these concepts be retired in favor of a new framework -- Spreadable Media.
Consider what happened when a group of advertising executives sat down to discuss the concept of viral media, a conversation which demonstrates the confusion about what viral media might be, about what it is good for, and why it's worth thinking about. One panelist began by suggesting viral media referred to situations "where the marketing messaging was powerful enough that it spread through the population like a virus," a suggestion the properties of viral media lie in the message itself, or perhaps in those who crafted that message. The second, on the other hand, described viral media in terms of the activity of consumers: "Anything you think is cool enough to send to your friends, that's viral." Later in the same exchange, he suggested "Viral, just by definition, is something that gets passed around by people."
As the discussion continued, it became clearer and clearer that viral media, like art and pornography, lies in the eye of the beholder. No one knew for sure why any given message "turned viral," though there was lots of talk about "designing the DNA" of viral properties and being "organic" to the communities through which messages circulated. To some degree, it seemed the strength of a viral message depends on "how easy is it to pass", suggesting viralness has something to do with the technical properties of the medium, yet quickly we were also told that it had to do with whether the message fit into the ongoing conversations of the community: "If you're getting a ton of negative comments, maybe you're not talking about it in the right place."
By the end of the exchange, no one could sort out what was meant by "viral media" or what metrics should be deployed to measure its success. This kind of definitional fuzziness makes it increasingly difficult to approach the process analytically. Without certainty about what set of practices the term refers to, it is impossible to attempt to understand how and why such practices work.
As already noted, the reliance on a biological metaphor to explain the way communication takes place -- through practices of 'infection' -- represents the first dificulty with the notion of viral media. The attraction of the infection metaphor is two-fold:
It reduces consumers, often the most unpredictable variable in the sender-message-receiver frame, to involuntary "hosts" of media viruses;
While holding onto the idea that media producers can design "killer" texts which can ensure circulation by being injected directly into the cultural "bloodstream."
Douglas Rushkoff's 1994 book Media Virus may not have invented the term "viral media", but his ideas eloquently describe the way these texts are popularly held to behave. The media virus, Rushkoff argues, is a Trojan horse, that surreptitiously brings messages into our homes -- messages can be encoded into a form people are compelled to pass along and share, allowing the embedded meanings, buried inside like DNA, to "infect" and spread, like a pathogen. There is an implicit and often explicit proposition that this spread of ideas and messages can occur not only without the user's consent, but perhaps actively against it, requiring that people be duped into passing a hidden agenda while circulating compelling content. Douglas Rushkoff insists he is not using the term "as a metaphor. These media events are not like viruses. They are viruses . . . (such as) the common cold, and perhaps even AIDS" (Rushkoff, 9, emphasis his).
Media viruses spread through the datasphere the same way biological ones spread through the body or a community. But instead of traveling along an organic circulatory system, a media virus travels through the networks of the mediaspace. The "protein shell" of a media virus might be an event, invention, technology, system of thought, musical riff, visual image, scientific theory, sex scandal, clothing style or even a pop hero -- as long as it can catch our attention. Any one of these media virus shells will search out the receptive nooks and crannies in popular culture and stick on anywhere it is noticed. Once attached, the virus injects its more hidden agendas into the datastream in the form of ideological code -- not genes, but a conceptual equivalent we now call "memes" (Rushkoff, p.9-10).
The "hidden agenda" and "embedded meanings" Rushkoff mentions are the brand messages buried at the heart of viral videos, the promotional elements in videos featuring Mentos exploding out of soda bottles, or Gorillas playing the drumline of In the Air Tonight . The media virus proposition is that these marketing messages -- messages consumers may normally avoid, approach skeptically, or disregard altogether -- are hidden by the "protein shell" of compelling media properties. Nestled within interesting bits of content, these messages are snuck into the heads of consumers, or wilfully passed between them.
These messages, Rushkoff and others suggest, constitute "memes", conceived by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 as a sort of cultural version of the gene. Dawkins was looking for a way to explain cultural evolution, imagining it as a biological system. What genes are to genetics, he suggested, memes would be to culture. Like the gene, the meme is driven to self-create, and is possessed of three important characteristics:
Fidelity -- memes have the ability to retain their informational content as they pass from mind to mind;
Fecundity -- memes possess the power to induce copies of themselves;
Longevity -- memes that survive longer have a better chance of being copied.
The meme, then, is "a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds" (Brodie, 1996, p. 32). They are the ideas at the center of virally spread events, some coherent, self-replicating idea which moves from person-to-person, from mind-to-mind, duplicating itself as it goes.
Language seems to 'evolve' by non-genetic means and at a rate which is orders of magnitude faster than genetic evolution. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation (Dawkins, 1976, p.189).
Dawkins remained vague about the granularity of this concept, seeing it as an all-purpose unit which could explain everything from politics to fashion. Each of these fields are comprised of good ideas, good ideas which, in order to survive, attach themselves to media virii -- funny, catchy, compelling bits of content -- as a vehicle to infect new minds with copies of themselves.
We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep on humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban Legends. Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information. (Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash, 1992, p.399)
Though imagined long before the rise of the Internet and the Web, the idea of the meme has been widely embraced as a way of talking about the rapid dispersion of informationn and the widespread circulation of concepts which characterize the digital era. It has been a particularly attractive way to think about the rise of Internet fads like the LOLcats or Soulja Boy, fads considered seemingly trivial or meangingless. The content which circulates in such a fashion is seen as simplistic, fragmentary, and essentially meaningless, though it may shape our beliefs and actions in significant ways. Wired magazine (Miller, 2007) recently summed it up as a culture of "media snacks":
We now devour our pop culture the same way we enjoy candy and chips - in conveniently packaged bite-size nuggets made to be munched easily with increased frequency and maximum speed. This is snack culture - and boy, is it tasty (not to mention addictive).
This description of snacks implies that they are without nutritional value, trivial or meaningless aspect of our culture, a time waste. And if this meaningless content is self-replicating then consumers are "irrational," and unable to escape their infection. Yet these models -- the idea of the meme and the media virus, of self-replicating ideas hidden in attractive, catchy content we are helpless to resist -- is a problematic way to understand cultural practices. We want to suggest that these materials travel through the web because they are meaningful to the people who spread them. At the most fundamental level, such an approach misunderstands the way content spreads, which is namely, through the active practices of people. As such, we would like to suggest:
That "memes" do not self-replicate;
That people are not "susceptible" to this viral media;
That viral media and Internet memes are not nutritionally bereft, meaningless 'snacks'.
The Problem of Agency
Central to the difficulties of both the meme and the media virus models is a particular confusion about the role people play in passing along media content. From the start, memetics has suffered from a confusion about the nature of agency. Unlike genetic features, culture is not in any meaningful sense self-replicating -- it relies on people to propel, develop and sustain it. The term 'culture' originates from metaphors of agriculture: the analogy was of cultivating the human mind much as one cultivates the land. Culture thus represents the assertion of human will and agency upon nature. As such, cultures are not something that happen to us, cultures are something we collectively create. Certainly any individual can be influenced by the culture which surrounds them, by the fashion, media, speech and ideas that fill their daily life, but individuals make their own contributions to their cultures through the choices which they make. The language of memetics, however, strips aside the concept of human agency.
Processes of cultural adaptation are more complex than the notion of meme circulation makes out. Indeed, theories for understanding cultural uptake must consider two factors not closely considered by memetics: human choice and the medium through which these ideas are circulated. Dawkins writes not about how "people acquire ideas" but about how "ideas acquire people." Every day humans create and circulate many more ideas than are actually likely to gain any deep traction within a culture. Over time, only a much smaller number of phrases, concepts, images, or stories survive. This winnowing down of cultural options is the product not of the strength of particular ideas but of many, many individual choices as people decide what ideas to reference, which to share with each other, decisions based on a range of different agendas and interests far beyond how compelling individual ideas may be. Few of the ideas get transmitted in anything like their original form: humans adapt, transform, rework them on the fly in response to a range of different local circumstances and personal needs. Stripping aside the human motives and choices that shape this process reveals little about the spread of these concepts.
By the same token, ideas circulate differently in and through different media. Some media allow for the more or less direct transmission of these ideas in something close to their original form -- as when a video gets replayed many times -- while others necessarily encourage much more rapid transformations -- as occurs when we play a game of "telephone" and each person passing along a message changes it in some way. So, it makes little sense to talk about "memes" as an all-purpose unit of thought without regard to the medium and processes of cultural transmission being described. Indeed, discussing the emergence of Internet memes, education researchers Michael Knobel and Colin Lankshear (2007) suggest Dawkins' notion of memetic 'fidelity' needs to be done away with altogether. Defining the Internet meme as the rapid uptake and spread of a particular idea, presented as a written text, image, language, "'move' or some unit of cultural "stuff", Knobel and Lankshear suggest adaptation is central to the propogation of memes:
Many of the online memes in this study were not passed on entirely 'intact' in that the meme 'vehicle' was changed, modified, mixed with other referential and expressive resources, and regularly given idiosyncratic spins by participants...A concept like 'replicability' therefore needs to include remixing as an important practice associated with many successful online memes, where remixing includes modifying, bricolaging, splicing, reordering, superimposing, etc., original and other images, sounds, films, music, talk, and so on. (Knobel and Lankshear, 2007, p.208-209)
Their argument is particularly revealing as a way to think about just what comprises the object at the heart of the Internet meme. The recent "LOLcat" Internet meme, built so heavily upon remixing and appropriation, is a good case study to illustrate the role of remixing in Internet memes. "LOLcats" are pictures of animals, most commonly cats, with digitally superimposed text for humorous effect. Officially referred to as "image macros," the pictures often feature "LOLspeak", a type of broken English that enhances the amusing tone of the juxtaposition. On websites such as icanhascheezburger.com, users are invited to upload their own "LOLcats" which are then shared throughout the web.
Over time, different contributors have stretched the "LOLcat" idea in many different directions which would not have been anticipated by the original posters -- including a whole strand of images centering around Walruses and buckets, the use of "LOLspeak" to translate religious texts (LOLbible) or represent complex theoretical arguments, the use of similar image macros to engage with Emo culture, philosophy (loltheorists), and dogs (LOLdogs, see: ihasahotdog.com).
So just what is the "meme" at the centre of this Internet meme? What is the idea that is replicated? More than the content of the pictures, the "meme" at the heart of this Internet phenomenon is the structure of the picture itself --the juxtaposition, broken English, and particularly the use of irreverent humor. Given the meme lies in the structure, however -- how to throw the pot rather than the pot itself -- then the very viability of the meme is dependent on the ability for the idea to be adapted in a variety of different ways. In this sense, then, it is somewhat hard to see how contained within this structure is a "message" waiting to occupy unsuspecting minds.
The re-use, remixing and adaptation of the LOLcat idea instead suggest that the spread and replication of this form of cultural production is not due to the especially compelling nature of the LOLcat idea but the fact it can be used to make meaning. A similar situation can be seen in the case of the "Crank Dat" song by Soulja Boy, which some have described as one of the most succesful Internet memes of 2007. Soulja Boy, originally an obscure amateur performer in Atlanta, produced a music video for his first song "Crank Dat", which he uploaded to video sharing sites such as YouTube. Soulja Boy then encouraged his fans to appropriate, remix, and reperform the song, spreading it through social networks, YouTube, and the blogosphere, in the hopes of gaining greater visibility for himself and his music.
Along the way, Crank Dat got performed countless times by very different communities -- from white suburban kids to black ballet dancers, from football teams to MIT graduate students. The video was used as the basis for "mash up" videos featuring characters as diverse as Winnie the Pooh and Dora the Explorer. People added their own steps, lyrics, themes, and images to the videos they made. As the song circulated, Soulja Boy's reputation grew -- he scored a record contract, and emerged as a top recording artist. -- in part as a consequence of his understanding of the mechanisms by which cultural content circulates within a participatory culture.
The success of "Crank Dat" cannot be explained as the slavish emulation of the dance by fans, as the self-replication of a "compelling" idea. Rather, "Crank Dat" spread the way dance crazes have always spread - through the processes of learning and adaptation by which people learn to dance. As CMS student Kevin Driscoll discusses, watching others dance to learn steps and refining these steps so they express local experience or variation are crucial to dance itself. Similarly, the adaptation of the LOLcat form to different situations -- theory, puppies, politicians -- constitute processes of meaning making, as people use tools at their disposal to explain the world around them.
Next Time: We will compare and contrast "stickiness" and "spreadability" as competing paradigms shaping the practices of web 2.0.
Brodie, Richard (1996). Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme, Seattle: Integral Press
Dawkins, Richard (1976). The Selfish Gene, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Knobel, Michele & Lankshear, Colin (2007). New Literacies: Everyday Practices &
Classroom Learning. Open University Press
McCracken, Grant (2005a). "'Consumers' or 'Multipliers': A New Language for
Marketing?," This Blog Sits At the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics,
FOE3 Liveblog: Session 6 - Intersection of Academy and Industry
The sixth panel of FOE put together a number of academics and industry specialists to talk over how the two areas could be mutually beneficial to one another. The panel was moderated by C3 alum Sam Ford and liveblogging provided by CMS graduate student Lan Le.
Amanda Lotz, The Television Will be Revolutionized (NYU Press), University of Michigan.
She was trained in a text-based manner that was probably typical of media studies. She now looks into how texts are made, investigating the gaps in our understanding of TV history, the norms of production, and TV's role in US culture. While not strictly ethnographic, her work is informed by industry interviews and observing how industry talks to itself. She did not feel the previous theories were adequate in addressing the granularity of industrial case studies. But what can we say about media industries?
John Caldwell, Production Culture (Duke University Press), UCLA.
He has a background in production and film. He works in film, TV, labor, and ethnographic work in Los Angeles. The last few days has made him feel like a dinosaur, even though he writes about the same subjects -- but on the side of the workers and not the marketing. He feels that branding is merely the crust of a much larger space, and focuses on the "below the line" workers in this industry whose stories are not often seen. He has always advocated the integration of production and theory, but realized eventually that there's a lot of antipathy between the two sides. Distributed creativity occurs in professional workforces, not just in fan bases. There's a real contention about who is authorized to talk about the industry. Often failed academics will be most angry at the study of industry. We are dealing with the construction of two things: industry and academics. There are a multiplicity of industries, not a monolith. They are only willing to work together so long as the money keeps flowing. Academics are themselves not comfortable with acknowledge themselves as a construction.
Grant McCracken, Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture (Indiana University Press).
He sees himself as an anthropologist of contemporary culture. He splits his time between academic and industrial consulting work. The dual identity is rough, which points to issues of integration.
Peter Kim, Dachis Corporation.
He feels that he represents industry, working for Razorfish in Cambridge. He began working for General Electric at age 18 in the Audit Staff, proceeding to move through many industry positions and companies. His work at Puma was in corporate digital branding.
QUESTIONS FROM Sam
Sam: What is the value of the flow of information between industry and academia? What does each side need to give and recieve to make this a valuable exchange?
MIT Futures of Entertainment 3 is now just a little more than a week away. For those who have not yet registered and who are interested in coming, registration information is available here, and the full program is available here.
I'm honored to be invited by those organizing the conference this year to moderate a discussion on the intersection of academia and the industry, and I'm fortunate to be joined by some intriguing panelists. From the academic world, John Caldwell from UCLA and Amanda Lotz from the University of Michigan (one of the Consortium's consulting researchers) will take part. Grant McCracken, another of C3's consulting researchers, will also join in. Grant is an independent academic, regularly publishing academic books, as well as a consultant.
They will be joined by Peter Kim from the Dachis Corporation.
Peter is part of the founding team at Dachis Corporation, a stealth mode startup focusing on social technology. Earlier, Peter was a senior analyst at Forrester Research focusing on social computing and customer-centric marketing. His professional experience also includes positions as head of global digital marketing for PUMA AG, strategy network at Razorfish and research analyst at Coopers & Lybrand. Peter has served as a keynote, moderator, and panelist at public events including the Advertising Research Foundation, American Marketing Association, and Direct Marketing Association. He has also been widely quoted on social technologies and marketing by the press, including CBS Evening News, CNBC, CNN, NPR, The Economist, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Peter holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. He currently resides in Boston and blogs here.
I'm looking forward to seeing several of you at FoE3 next week and hope many of the folks who joined us over the past two years will be back in Boston next weekend!
Sam Ford is a research affiliate with the Consortium and Director of Customer Insights with Peppercom. He also writes for PepperDigital.
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.
On Soap Operas and "Strategic Forgetting and Remembering"
C3 Consulting Researcher Jason Mittell spent some time in June a little out of his element, presenting at a conference in Madison, Wisconsin, for The Society for Cognitive Study of the Moving Image. Jason gives an outsider's perspective on the work being done in the field of cognitive film studies, as well as the slides from his own work, on his blog, Just TV.
His presentation was entitled "Previously On: Prime Time Serials & the Poetics of Memory," addressing questions of how American television storytelling has shifted in the past two decades and issues of "historical poetics." His slides bring up some intriguing points, one of which deals with how the longtime complex and serialized storytelling nature of daytime serial dramas (soap operas) intersect with primetime dramas. Jason and I have discussed these issues through the blogosphere in the past (Look here and here.)
Back in that prior post, I wrote about some discussion that broke out in the comments section of Jason's blog.
I said regarding redundancy in soaps that:
But people outside the genre often greatly overstate the amount of redundancy in soaps, I think. Reader StinkyLuLu makes this point, writing, "My basic feeling is that what you call redundancy is actually a pivotal soap pleasure--revisiting key moments from the recent and distant past--not unlike the narrative data mining you describe in contemporary prime time serial drama." I'd like to develop that thought a little further.
At their worst, soaps are recap-laden. I've seen Days of Our Lives have episodes a few years ago, for instance, that seemed more flashback to earlier in the week than current. That's not good soap, and we have to distinguish between good and bad practices in the genre. However, with five episodes a week and little in terms of reruns, the redundancy is necessary. That's why REaction is so important in soaps. The redundancy becomes a central part of the story. It matters not as much that X happens as it does seeing how everyone in town responds to finding out about X. In that case, the plot is a driver for character-driven stories. Anyone who missed X will find out about it during various scenes retelling and reaction to parts of it, but that retelling process IS the show; it's about interpersonal relationships, not the what. (By the way, my guess is that some of the fans who fast-forward are also some of the ones who archive; fans often pick out particular characters or stories they follow on a show that they actively consume, even while skipping others...)
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.
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.
Since several people have e-mailed me of late to inquire again about the dates of this year's Futures of Entertainment 3 conference, I wanted to remind everyone of the information here through the blog. Be sure to make your travel plans soon! More information about guest speakers, panel topics, and specific times will be forthcoming soon.
As has been the case in previous years, the event is scheduled the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year, that will be Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22.
This year's event will be held in the Wong Auditorium in the Tang Center here at MIT, which will be a larger venue than the conference room that housed the first two iterations of this event.
Many of you who follow the C3 blog regularly might also be interested in next year's Media in Transition 6 conference. MiT6, subtitled "Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission," will be held on MIT's campus from April 24-26, 2009. The call for papers was recently released, and researchers are accepted both from traditional academic positions, as well as independent researchers, industry voices, and anyone else interested in participating.
See information on the last iteration of the Media in Transition conference, MiT5, on the C3 blog here.
The call for papers is inside, and the conference Web site is here.
Abstracts of no more than 500 words or full papers should be sent to Brad Seawell at email@example.com no later than Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. We will evaluate abstracts and full papers on a rolling basis and early submission is highly encouraged. All submissions should be sent as attachments in a Word format. Submitted material will be subject to editing by conference organizers.
Email is preferred, but submissions can be mailed to:
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Please include a biographical statement of no more than 100 words. If your paper is accepted, this statement will be used on the conference Web site.
Please monitor the conference Web site at for registration information, travel information and conference updates.
Abstracts will be accepted on a rolling basis until Jan. 9, 2009.
The full text of your paper must be submitted no later than Friday, April 17. Conference papers will be posted to the conference Web site.
i wanted to give a quick link today to another couple of pieces I wrote or collaborated on recently that I thought might interest some Consortium blog readers. First, Peppercom co-founder Steve Cody and I recently ran a piece in BusinessWeek entitled "The Fireside Chat Vs. the Podcast".
The piece looks at how FDR's use of the radio for more personal communication to the citizenry revolutionized the way national government spoke to the country in the 1930s and how the Internet has introduced myriad new opportunities that the government has taken little advantage of so far. In our editorial, we look at the current economic downturn, ways in which the Internet would allow the government and corporations alike to more efficiently communicate with the public about their decisions, and the general need for more transparency in national government decision-making.
But what happens once one of these candidates is elected to office? What would be the modern equivalent of the fireside chat? How can tools like LinkedIn and YouTube be used to provide a more transparent government? [ . . . ]
The White House today continues the weekly radio addresses pioneered by FDR and offers regular press briefings, weekly e-mail updates, and occasional Presidential press conferences. However, the information conveyed here lacks in both depth and accessibility when compared to the information supporters are inundated with by Presidential campaigns.
Perhaps the most promising title on the White House's official site--"White House Interactive"--leads to a question-and-answer section, with the most "recent" question dated Mar. 26, 2007. The question: "George W. Bush is what number as President of the U.S.?" Talk about useless information.
I'd love to hear any feedback you might have about the piece, either here or over on the BusinessWeek site.
Sam Ford is a research affiliate with the Consortium and Director of Customer Insights with Peppercom. He also writes for PepperDigital.
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.
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."
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.
As many regular C3 blog readers know, I spend quite a bit of my research time focusing on soap opera related projects. At the moment, I'm working with C3 Consulting Researchers C. Lee Harrington and Abigail Derecho on a collection looking at this pivotal moment in the history of one of U.S. television's oldest genres.
So I'm interested to keep seeing references to the soap opera popping up in the news, notably in the columns of New York Times television critic Gina Bellafante.
I first wrote last month about my frustrations with Bellafante's tone when writing about Luke and Noah from As the World Turns fame. Rather than knocking aspects of the storytelling that she felt was poor, the article indicated that aspects of the story were scripted poorly because this was a soap opera, and there's simply no way for these shows to do anything else.
Well, good friend Lynn Liccardo contacted me recently to share this, Bellafante's latest piece. On the one hand, I was elated. Here was a glowing review of the magic of Friday Night Lights, a show whose merits I've emphasized here time and time again (and see more from Xiaochang Li here). On the other, the story included this line: "The obviousness of his looks -- soap-opera hair, soap-opera smile, soap-opera skin -- is incongruous with the refined style of his performance."
Looking at the Convergence Culture Consortium with a Critical Eye
Being part of the team that helped launch what became the Convergence Culture Consortium and being at the center of the group's work for the past few years, I am interested in how C3's work is situated at an intersection amongst fandom, media companies and brands, and the academy. I feel that positioning is what energizes the group's work, but it can likewise lead to skepticism and scrutiny, especially as the perspective here on the blog and elsewhere balances positions that are sometimes oppositional or more often of little interest to one another.
Some industry folks who attend C3 events or read this blog might find it "a little too academic for them," while some academics might find it "a little too corporate." Likewise, C3 may see itself as advocating the interests of the audience to corporate partners, but that doesn't mean there can't (or shouldn't) be skepticism from fans and scholars alike as to what such a dialogue means, what's left out of the conversation, etc. After all, this is media studies: while cynicism is often unhelpful, where would we be without a healthy dose of skepticism?
I've written in the past about criticisms of the Consortium that I felt were somewhat off-base (look here and in the comments here for more). As the Consortium's PI Henry Jenkins often does over on his blog, I've attempted to describe the philosophy and approach our group takes toward talking with industry and other constituencies (such as here).
But the most thorough and thought-provoking critique (and by that I don't mean critical in the pejorative but rather as reasoned and thought-out) of the Consortium's position I've seen came recently from cryptoxin on LiveJournal. Anyone interested in these issues should read cryptoxin's post and the intelligent debate that follows it.
Changes Around C3: My New Position and Consortium Summer Schedule
With the academic year winding up here at MIT and graduation upon us, I wanted to give everyone a few updates regarding what's going to be happening with the Consortium.
As we posted here on the blog, we are in the process of hiring a new research director, and we will have an announcement about who that is once the decision has been made here on the blog.
Last week was the end of my duration as the Consortium's project manager. I have now gone to work for PR firm Peppercom as Director of Customer Insights (see more at PRWeek and Bulldog Reporter, as well as Firm Voice and The Holmes Report--subscription-only, so I can't link to it. I co-authored some pieces with Peppercom founder Steve Cody in the past, including writing some thoughts pieces available from The Christian Science Monitor, PR News, and Bulldog Reporter, if you're interested in knowing more about what a Director of Customer Insights might think or do...(I'm still trying to figure that out myself.)
However, I will remain an official research affiliate with the Consortium and can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. That also means that, while I won't be writing here quite as often, I still plan to post a couple of times a week here on the Consortium blog, so don't think C3 is suddenly going to run out of posts on soaps or the WWE.
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.
Soap Fans Looking for a New Home: The General Hospital Nomads
Who owns the media property? Is it the copyright holder? Or is it the audience, the group that makes that product popular? These are questions at the core in tension between media producers and media audiences and at stake in discussions about relationships between producers or consumers or what consumer "can do" with texts out of the ausipices or interests of the producers.
A reader forwarded me some threads from the official ABC Daytime boards for General Hospital, where fans are upset about the way they are treated and the technical attributes of their board as opposed to message boards for ABC primetime shows. Rather than just complain, though, they have taken to invading the boards of other spaces in order to make their problems and presence more well known.
See this thread, in which fans are organizing 5 minute invasions of various other boards.
That didn't go over as well with the Lost fans, but attention has been directed instead toward the official board for Notes from the Underbelly, a cancelled ABC show that still has an active board, and a board that some GH fans feel are better than what they've been given.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interesting Soaps Links: Liccardo, Bibel, and Muslim Representation on ATWT
I wanted to start out a full round of post-Memorial Day blog entries today with highlights of a couple of things worth seeing from around the Web. For this post, a few interesting soap opera related posts:
First, see the new blog from Sara Bibel. Sara is a friend of mine who I had the pleasure of meeting through my thesis work on soaps. She was formerly a writer for The Young and the Restless. She used to work with Kay Alden, one of the members of my thesis committee and a current writer for The Bold and the Beautiful, and it has been a pleasure getting to know Sara through some e-mail correspondence over the past year. Now, it's even better, since her thoughts--bolstered by some experience writing in the genre--are freely available online, through Fancast.
Culture Wars and Cultural Hierarchies: New York Times on ATWT's Nuke
Lynn Liccardo suggested to Lee Harrington, Gail Derecho, and me that one of us should respond to the recent article in The New York Timesby Gina Bellafante about the soap opera and specifically the popularity of the Luke and Noah couple on As the World Turns, because of the work we are doing on putting together a contemporary anthology of work on U.S. soap operas. Unfortunately, the article had to run right as I was moving into a new apartment, just the worst time to try to organize my thoughts, especially in a way that limited them to 150 words.
Instead, now that most of my furniture is in order and most of the boxes are unpacked, I wanted to return to Bellafante's article last week. First of all, as is no surprise, the article is beautifully written and a great bit of publicity for soap operas, which remain culturally ignored by most mainstream arts and entertainment publications. Scholars I know, including myself, would argue that there's a combination of cultural biases, geographic and economic stereotypes, and gender discrepancies that would explain why soap operas aren't covered as "entertainment" by publications that cover most else, just as one of my other areas of interest--pro wrestling--is ignored by Entertainment Weekly and The New Yorker alike. Rather, both get relegated to their own ghettoized press, separate and certainly not equal.
In reading Bellafante's piece, I'm reminded of Victoria Johnson's work on Friday Night Lights, in which she pointed out how critics had to justify and qualify why they liked the show and distance themselves from the stereotypes inherent with being a viewer or, God forbid, a fan. Johnson's best example came from a New Yorker review, I believe it was, in which the author had to explain that she started watching the show when an artist in Manhattan at a museum told her she should watch FNL, overcoding almost to extremes the situation in which she decided to watch the show and playing off the cultural stereotypes of what a show about football in a small West Texas town would be like.
See also this piece from yesterday about my lunch in which a fellow professional seemed somewhat taken aback about my enthusiasm about the creativity and potential for artistry in pro wrestling and soaps.
I have written some in the past about the continued development of the Luke Snyder coming out storyline on As the World Turns, a story which has engaged new viewers to that portion of the soap opera audience and attracted some mainstream attention due to ongoing controversies about the way the show has handled the gay storyline and resistance from conservative groups. The story started with Luke's coming out, complete with an online transmedia extension in which fans could read Luke's blog.
From the beginning, there was a broader audience who started watching the soap specifically through Luke's scenes, as I wrote about back in June 2006. That energy grew significantly when Luke eventually met and had his first gay relationship, with Noah Mayer. For instance, back in August, considerable attention was given to the first kiss between the couple (see here).
Then, there was no kissing for quite a while, and the show started getting protests, not from conservative groups but rather from online fans who were impatient to see the couple kiss again. First, there was the scene under the mistletoe at Christmas, in which the couple looked to be about to kiss, only to have the cameras pan out. Then, there was Valentine's Day, when Luke and Noah were the only couple featured on the episode not to lock lips.
One of my greatest frustrations from Console-ing Passions was that my workshop was scheduled directly against some of the panels most directly relevant to my interests. Now, this is not meant as an attack on the conference planners; I'm keenly aware that there's just no way to avoid this when you're launching a media studies and fandom conference, but it was hard knowing that, next door, there were four interesting research presentations occurring while I was boring audiences with all my blabbing.
Ironically, while I was talking about soap opera audiences outside the target demographic and the ways in which those audiences are devalued in the commodification of audiences, Elana Levine was in the next room, talking about how the masculinization of television in recent years has further devalued more "ephemeral" programming, such as U.S. soaps. Elana was kind enough to forward her research my way, and I found her approach--to look at the increasingly masculine rhetoric surrounding the removal of the television from the domestic and the increasing focus on the technology of television as we move into a flat-panel, digital world--a fresh way to understand how television has begun to overcome many of the cultural biases that have long existed against the products that are broadcast on television and provided through cable.
Foremost, I find it interesting that Elana's compelling argument that television has become increasingly masculinized in rhetoric through emphasis on technology and the escape of domestic spaces exists alongside the growing trend for primetime television to adopt many of the storytelling tactics of daytime soaps. For instance, I was talking with Ivan Askwith about some of the rhetoric surrounding Lost, marveling at the existence of such a large ensemble cast and purporting that there's never been such a large ensemble cast on television. That is, of course, except for the soap operas that have been an hour in length since the mid-1970s and which have featured hundreds, even thousands, of characters in several decades on the air, many of which still have the potential to come and go fluently from the show.
Supernatural and Looking at Fanvids as Media Texts
One of the current shows of focus for understanding fandom within fan studies is Supernatural on The CW. When I go to academic conferences, I probably don't hear about it quite as often as Lost, but it ranks high up on the list (and usually comes from a different set of media scholars). In particular, it is the active fan creation around the show that has driven such scholarly interest in Supernatural along the way, particularly in terms of fanvids.
I've written about one of the fan organizations that has done interesting work around Supernatural in a different context; see my interview last September with the founders of Fandom Rocks, a fan organization built around Supernatural that raises funds for non-profits.
But I spent part of the afternoon reading an interesting piece from Louisa Stein based on her recent Console-ing Passions presentation on fanvids about Supernatural, and I wanted to post a few notes on that work while it's fresh on my mind.
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.
Soap Operas, Relative Realism, and Implicit Contracts
Just yesterday, I was out to lunch with someone when the subject of soap operas came up. This person vaguely knew that I have done a fair amount of writing about soap operas and their audience, so we started to discuss the nature of soaps, pro wrestling, and the other media content that I study.
It didn't take long for the importance of cultural taste hierarchies to get established, as my lunch partner made it clear she had never watched soap operas much herself. She felt the need to clarify after she had told a third person briefly involved in the conversation that they could download their soaps for free and podcast them for the commute to work. "Don't ask me how I know these things, because I don't watch those shows, but I do."
And I believe her. She doesn't watch them. These shows are just pervasive enough in our culture that even those who feel they've safely distanced themselves from "low culture" media texts are often more implicit than they want to be. This person is a media industries professional, who has worked and lived in the New York City area for some time now, and she wanted to be clear, even when talking to a soap opera fan and someone who not only is a fan of soaps but also studies soaps and their viewers, that she doesn't watch.
During the lunch, the difference between East Coast and West Coast soaps came up. I pointed out to her that East Coast soaps often have a different feel, because of the number of stage actors who appear in them. She said that she knew many stage actors worked in soaps for the steady pay, to fund their lifestyle on the stage. I agreed that it was sometimes the case and then posited that soaps often have quite good actors involved.
Lovers and Haters: But What About Ambivalence in Fan Communities?
One of the fan studies scholars I had the pleasure of meeting in person for the first time at Console-ing Passions 2008 in Santa Barbara was Alexis Lothian. I bwecame familiar with Alexis through her many insightful comments in and around the Gender and Fan Studies converastion that I referenced in my previous post, and her presentation at Console-ing Passions was informed in many ways from that conversation.
In short, Alexis posits that we've gotten pretty good at talking about fan enthusiasm in fan studies, as well as the importance of hate, but we haven't developed a significant discourse as of yet for talking as well about fan ambivalence.
Alexis writes that C3 Consulting Researcher Jonathan Gray "recently insisted on the importance of viewers' hate for media productions; but fans' more ambivalent affects toward their objects are rarely foregrounded in academic analysis. When questions not only of taste but also of racism, sexism and homophobia get involved, the textual and discursive spheres active fans build around and from their objects become very complex."
Over the next several posts, I'm going to revisit some of my traveling around the conference circuit in March and April and share some of the other interesting research projects and papers I had forwarded to me. Many of these will be from the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference in Santa Barbara I've written about on the blog in a few previous posts.
As I mentioned, I participated in a workshop that acted as a postmortem for the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture or Fandebate discussion that took place on Live Journal and on Henry Jenkins' blog last year.
On that topic, I saw a recent post from Kristina Busse, one of the central figures in helping to drive that discussion between male and female fan scholars about the state of the field and gender divides in fan communities and fan studies, that I thought might be of interest to blog readers who follow fan studies issues in particular.
Kristina is one of the founders of the Transformative Works and Cultures journal that I am on the editorial board for.
Another note this early afternoon that I wanted to pass along to blog readers. Since my wrap-up on the C3 Spring Retreat last week, C3 Consulting Researcher Robert V. Kozinets wrote a blog entry detailing some of his experiences from the event.
A number of great people from major corporations were involved this year, including people from Fidelity Investments, Yahoo!, MTV/Viacom, and Turner Broadcasting. Industry speakers included Brian Haven from Keith Clarkson from Xenophile Media, Matt Wolf from Double Twenty Productions, Forrester Research, and Judy Walklet from Communispace. And for me, it was a thrill to meet a who's who of fan community researchers--people who were absolutely fundamental to my thesis work and who built the universe of fan studies. These included Nancy Baym, Lee Harrington, Jonathan Gray, and Jason Mittell. I also had the opportunity this year and in the past to meet some excellent new scholars in the area, whose work is sure to open up many exciting new avenues of opportunity and insight. This people include Kevin Sandler, Derek Johnson, Gail Derecho, Aswin Panathambekar, Geoff Long, Sam Ford, and Ivan Askwith. And of course it was genuine pleasure to see my friend the esteemed marketing anthropologist and consumer culture icon, Grant McCracken, whose contributions are always elegantly-phrased and thoroughly thought-provoking.
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.
Amidst all the flurry of late spring here in the academic world, we just wanted to post to the blog to reiterate that our Futures of Entertainment 3 event will be coming up again this November. As has been the case in previous years, the event is scheduled the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving.
This year, that will be Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22.
We are happy to announce that this year's event will be held in the Wong Auditorium in the Tang Center here at MIT, a larger venue from our first two events that we hope will even better accommodate the type of conversation we've sought to have at this event in previous years.
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.
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.
C3 Spring Retreat Discussion on Audience/Community
Our second panel discussion at the C3 Spring Retreat in our Friday session focused on the topic of media audiences and the worth of looking at media audiences as a community and as social beings. Moderating the panel was new C3 Consulting Researcher Nancy Baym, who previously wrote a book about U.S. soap opera fan communities online and who now works on "bandom."
The panel was launched by some thoughts from C3 Consulting Researcher Robert V. Kozinets, whose work has focused on the correlation between fan communities built around media content and "brand communities." In short, Kozinets has built his career researching community online and the intersection between community and consumerism.
Also joining the panel from the academic side was C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar, whose angle on the panel in part looked at the multiple communities that might develop around media content in a global context.
These three C3-affiliated academics were joined by two folks from the industry side, Brian Haven from Forrester Research and Judy Walklet from Communispace.
Friday's session at the C3 Spring Retreat featured a series of panels and breakout discussions amongst our consulting researchers, invited guests, and representatives from our partner companies. We mentioned back at MIT Futures of Entertainment 2 that we wanted to design that event to be a public place for industry and academic minds to come together and collaborate and brainstorm together. On a smaller scale, with those officially involved in the Consortium, we see our retreat as a chance to foster the same type of innovation and conversation among our partner companies, the academics we work with, and our core team here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies.
This got started on Friday morning with a conversation featuring C3 Consulting Researcher Jonathan Gray moderating a panel on transmedia, an issue C3 has been interested in since our launch at the beginning of 2006. Joining Jon was two more of our newest consulting researchers, Abigail Derecho and Derek Johnson, drawing on their respective work on fans and franchises to look at the phenomenon of transmedia. From the industry end, we invited two guests who are doing innovative work as transmedia practitioners: Keith Clarkson from Xenophile Media and Matt Wolf from Double Twenty Productions.
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.
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.
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."
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?
This Thursday evening, the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, in conjunction with the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, will be hosting a public event entitled "Potentials of YouTube."
This event is the public portion of our C3 Spring Retreat, with many of our consulting researchers and representatives from our corporate partners in attendance.
Since the Consortium has been spending significant time researching YouTube in the past year, we will feature two short presentations and subsequent discussion about the potential uses and significance of YouTube as a site for cultural performance, vernacular creativity, and evolving business practice.
C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will introduce the discussion, and presenting will be Nate Greenslit, a postdoctoral scholar in MIT's Program on Emerging Technologies, and Kevin Driscoll, a graduate student in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT.
In my final piece this afternoon regarding product placement, I wanted to provide some excerpts from my research on the subject of acceptable and unacceptable placement. This project started as my Master's thesis work (see original submitted version here--today is the one year anniversary of my thesis defens...ahem...consultation), and I have continued editing the manuscript, eyeing eventual publication. Let me know if you have any thoughts, queries, or disagreements.
Product Placement in As the World Turns
In my manuscript chapter entitled "Not So Nice 'n Easy," I wrote about an example from As the World Turns, in which a longtime character, Margo Hughes, notices gray in her hair. Hughes, one of the senior officers of the local police station, talks to her mother-in-law about it at the police station and gets a recommendation to use Nice 'n Easy, which she does. Later, in the same episode, we hear how satisfied she is with the results...
While there was some attempt to use the Nice 'n Easy product integration for humor, viewers and columnists did not find the disruptive audio references to the hair product amusing in the least.
Product Placement: C3's Work on Implicit Contracts and Reverse Placement
I think product placement and good television can co-exist in cases where the product doesn't get in the way of the text. It should be a utility to further the story, first and foremost, or to add realism to the drama, not a way to insert commercials into the text. If it provides some of the latter, great for business, but the $$$ deal can't be put first, at least if companies don't want to annoy their audiences.
However, as I wrote about in my thesis work, the worst that can happen is visual combined with reference, unless it is done in an ironic way (and that only works in rare form, so marketers don't think you can just pull an out by being funny with the brand and then laughing all the way to the bank).
C3 Alum Alec Austin did a significant amount of work while he was here looking into the history of product placement and what makes product placement look particularly good or bad. For one of the internal studies for the Consortium, entitled Selling Creatively: Product Placement in the New Media Landscape, Alec writes about the long history of product placement in American television, the problem with industry and critics alike pretending as if product placement is new considering its central place on radio and in early television (i.e. the Texaco men, the origin of "soap operas," etc.), and the need for a more nuanced way to understand what successful product placement would look like.
In trying to catch up on my reading this week, I noticed that C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken continues his look at product placement done poorly over at FX, this time writing about a conversation about buying a GMC as part of the dialogue of the show.
Grant first writes about a character in The Riches driving a GMC car, noting that GMC both appears throughout the show and is advertised at several points during commercial breaks. He says, "I don't like product placement, as I have argued here, but as long as we TIVO through the ads this is perhaps forgivable."
However, it is the insertion of a pitch about the GMC into dialogue that becomes the blatant offender here. Grant writes:
Holy ****. This may very well be the most egregious example of commercial interference ever registered in our culture. Recall that my original objection to FX was that they put an ad for one of their shows in the corner of the screen for the duration of an episode. I thought this was a little much. But to put a sales pitch in the middle of the dramatic action, and to reduce a dramatic genius like Minnie Driver to a product pitcher, this is insufferable.
Grant ends with a call to action, wondering how the audience can discourage such blatant pitching in the middle of a show and questioning what commercial force might be held responsible for such a deal.
Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture
The final C3-related publication I want to highlight this afternoon is the recent release of Grant McCracken's latest book, Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture. The book, from Indiana University Press, has a May 2008 release date and is already available through Amazon.
According to the official description:
Self reinvention has become a preoccupation of contemporary culture. In the last decade, Hollywood made a 500-million-dollar bet on this idea with movies such as Multiplicity, Fight Club, eXistenZ, and Catch Me If You Can. Self reinvention marks the careers of Madonna, Ani DiFranco, Martha Stewart, and Robin Williams. The Nike ads of LeBron James, the experiments of New Age spirituality, the mores of contemporary teen culture, and the obsession with "extreme makeovers" are all examples of our culture's fixation with change. In a time marked by plenitude, transformation is one of the few things these parties have in common.
Another recent book from a Convergence Culture Consortium consulting researcher that might be of interest to a variety of the blog readers is Amanda Lotz' The Television Will Be Revolutionized, from NYU Press. According to the official description:
After occupying a central space in American living rooms for the past fifty years, is television, as we've known it, dead? The capabilities and features of that simple box have been so radically redefined that it's now nearly unrecognizable. Today, viewers with digital video recorders such as TiVo may elect to circumvent scheduling constraints and commercials. Owners of iPods and other portable viewing devices are able to download the latest episodes of their favorite shows and watch them whenever and wherever they want. Still others rent television shows on DVD, or download them through legal and illegal sources online. But these changes have not been hastening the demise of the medium. They are revolutionizing it.
A couple more book projects I wanted to point everyone toward from around the Consortium this week. C3 Consulting Researcher Kevin Sandler's 2007 book through Rutgers is The Naked Truth: Why Hollywood Doesn't Make X-Rated Movies.
According to the official description:
From parents and teachers to politicians and policymakers, there is a din of voices participating in the debate over how young people are affected by violence, strong language, and explicit sexual activity in films. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) responded to this concern in 1968 when it introduced a classification and rating system based on the now well-known labels: "G," "PG," PG-13," "R," and "X."
Is it possible any longer to "read" markets fast enough to respond to them? A world of discrete parts is now one interconnected web of ceaseless calculation and response. Marketing has become a thing of speed and turbulence, with all the players moving simultaneously.
Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World
While spending a little time this week pointing toward recent books from Convergence Culture Consortium members, I thought I'd also mention another book from the past year that might be of interest to C3 blog readers:
Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World: C3 Consulting Researchers Jonathan Gray and C. Lee Harrington are joined by co-editor Cornel Sandvoss in this 2007 volume about fandom.
According to the description:
We are all fans. Whether we log on to Web sites to scrutinize the latest plot turns in Lost, "stalk" our favorite celebrities on Gawker, attend gaming conventions, or simply wait with bated breath for the newest Harry Potter novel-each of us is a fan. Fandom extends beyond television and film to literature, opera, sports, and pop music, and encompasses both high and low culture.
Speaking of recent books from C3 Consulting Researchers, I thought C3 blog readers might be interested in knowing more about the latest book edited by C3 Consulting Researcher Robert V. Kozinets, along with Bernard Cova and Avi Shankar.
The book, entitled Consumer Tribtes, is a collection of essays on understanding consumption in social rather than individual terms.
Using a combination of multi-sited ethnography, textual analysis, historical documentation analysis, and memoir writing, the author provides macro and micro perspectives on what it means to be a gay man located in Gay Bombay at a particular point in time. Specifically, he explores what being gay means to members of Gay Bombay and how they negotiate locality and globalization, their sense of identity as well as a feeling of community within its online/offline world. On a broader level, he critically examines the formulation and reconfiguration of contemporary Indian gayness in the light of its emergent cultural, media, and political alliances.
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.
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.
A Followup from Lynn Liccardo on Listening to Consumers and P&G Soap Operas
In the previous post, I ran a piece from Lynn Liccardo, one of my thesis advisors and a longtime soap opera fan and critic, on how the P&G ethos is separated from their soap opera programming. I waned to run Lynn's followup piece this morning.
No matter what reformulations, new packaging and other improvements market research generates for existing products, the fundamental function of those products must remain recognizable to consumers. At the end of the day, people have to be able to wash their clothes with Tide's "new formula" and brush their teeth with the "new and improved" Crest. While our mothers and grandmothers used earlier versions of Tide and Crest, they certainly wouldn't have any trouble recognizing and using the current formulas.
But when it comes today's soap operas, what I see flashing by as I watch with my finger on ff I can barely recognize the shows I've been watching for over 50 years. Such has been the impact of market research on soap operas. (And I want to be clear that while I'm speaking here specifically about P&G, the negative impact of market research effects all soap operas, not just those produced by P&G.)
Regular reader and commenter on the Consortium blog, Lynn Liccardo, recently wrote me regarding some comments from Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley she found interesting, especially considering our common interest in P&G's two soap operas. Lynn served as a member of my Master's thesis committee here at MIT and is contributing a piece to the collection on soaps I'm co-editing with Consortium consulting reserachers Abigail Derecho and Lee Harrington. Also, see Lynn's recent piece Henry Jenkins shared here.
As I watched Charlie Rose's interview with A. G. Lafley, P&G's CEO, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to hear anything about P&G's two long-running soap operas, As the World Turns and Guiding Light, and indeed, I did not. But what I did hear has enormous and immediate relevance for the current sorry state of these two shows.
I was immediately struck by several "ironies," as Sam Ford described the situation I relayed to him. I, however, think we're way beyond irony here - well on our way to cognitive dissonance. When Lafley talked about his experience as a supply officer in the Navy, running a PO on a military base in Japan, and described complaints as "these little clues you can use to improve your product...you should treasure complaints," I immediately thought of Alina Adams, who clearly wasn't copied on the "we should treasure complaints" memo.
Console-ing Passions: Abigail Derecho on Filipino Viewer Protests
Unfortunately, the only other person affiliated with the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium presenting at this year's Console-ing Passions conference was scheduled to present at the same time as the workshop I participated in. Abigail Derecho--whose work can be found at her Minority Fandom blog--is one of our C3 Consulting Researchers (bio here), and she and I are currently co-editing a collection of essays on the U.S. soap opera with fellow C3 Consulting Researcher Lee Harrington.
Gail participated in a panel called "'Most Wired' in a Globalized Arena: Asian Americans, Asia, and New Media," with a presentation called "Performing Transnational Anti-Fandom: Filipinos Protesting The Daily Show and Desperate Housewives Online.
Gail's presentation started with two incidents on U.S. television last fall that drew a digitally mobilized protest from Filipinos, with The Daily Show making a joke about an icon of The Philippines--Corazon Aquino--and Desperate Housewives making a joke about Filipino medical degrees being worth less than U.S. degrees. While the Desperate Housewives reference seemed to draw the greater ire (not surprising, considering The Daily Show comment was positioned as more tongue-in-cheek alongside similar insults to Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir), both garnered specific media attention outside The Philippines, in part because of the prominence of digital tools in the process.
Gail breaks the situation down and looks at the history of U.S. cultural products in Filipino culture, alongside political and economic links between the two countries, to better understand the cultural tensions that made these two jokes so politically charged for some Filipino viewers.
Console-ing Passions: Heather Hendershot, Abortion, House, and BSG
One of the panels I was only able to catch part of at this year's Console-ing Passions dealt with the critically acclaimed Sci Fi series Battlestar Galactica. Since I came in only at the end of the panel, I went in afterward in hopes to get caught up on some of the presentation. I was particularly interested in hearing more about the work of Heather Hendershot, one of the presenters in the session.
Heather and I first had the chance to meet when she came up to MIT last November to attend our MIT Futures of Entertainment 2 conference and to participate in Unboxing Television, a gathering of television studies scholars for a small retreat-like session to discuss the current state and future of TV studies and share our current work with one another. I'd long been interested in Heather's work on Christian media and representations of U.S. protestant religion, so the work she presented at Console-ing Passions was particularly fascinating for me.
Luckily, Heather had a copy of the draft of her paper she had with her for the presentation, and I had a chance to read it on my flight back to Boston. Her presentation was entitled "'You Have Your Pound of Flesh': Religion, Battlestar Galactica, and Television's Sacred/Secular Fetuses." Turns out, Heather's work here was on looking at modern representations of abortion in not only BSG but likewise the popular FOX series House. Her work further focuses on BSG as an innovative show in part because of the nuanced way in tackles issues of religious difference and the politicizing of religious beliefs.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference. My role in the conference was to participate in a workshop to reflect upon how to build off of the series of discussions about gender amongst those participated in fan studies last summer on Henry Jenkins' blog and on LiveJournal.
Each of the five panelists for the workshop began the session by talking about some of our individual research and how we might build that research from an awareness of issues raised in that discussion last summer, which brought together 44 fan studies academics and a variety of other interested commenters to talk about gender divides in academia and in the fan cultures we study.
I posted the short paper I presented at Console-ing Passions here on the blog last week, and each of us involved in the workshop posted our papers to the LiveJournal Fandebate site that hosted the academic dialogue last year.
The workshop was entitled "Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old." In addition to my provocation--entilted "Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps"--Bob Rehak presented "Boys, Blueprints, and Boundaries;" Julie Levin Russo presented "The L Word: Labors of Love;" Suzanne Scott presented "From Filk to Wrock: Performane, Professionalism, and Power in Harry Potter Wizard Rock;" and Louisa Stein presented "Vidding as Cultural Narrative."
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.
Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (3 of 3)
Perhaps even more frustrated, then, are soap opera fans. Soap opera producers sell the 18-49 female demographic more broadly, and the 18-34 female demographic in particular, to advertisers. Further, since soap operas primarily only exist as a daily television show, there are few economic forces counterbalancing the pervading "logic" of the target demographic, thus leading "the powers that be" (or "the idiots in charge," as soap opera fans more often refer to them) to constantly try to develop stories, and feature characters most prominently, that they believe will play well to the target demo. Since soap opera ratings have been falling steadily for the past 15-20 years, soaps have responded by trying to even more expressly target the target demo. However, the problem with that logic is that it directly defies the transgenerational nature of the narrative itself.
I have found anecdotally that almost all longtime soap opera fans began their relationship with the text of these shows through relationships with other fans. Often, this has been a transgenerational relationship. A grandmother, a mother, an uncle, or a babysitter watched soaps regularly, and the fan grew up with these same soap operas on. Thus, it is the longtime characters that have remained the glue holding them to the show, and it is the relationships built around the show--or the memories of these relationships, for loved ones who have passed away--that keeps them watching today. For more on this appeal, see Lee Harrington and Denise Brothers-McPhail's latest project on aging in soaps, as well as some of the work from Barbara Irwin and Mary Cassata at Project Daytime.
Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (2 of 3)
In the case of pro wrestling, the WWE's popular television shows--Monday Night Raw, ECW, and Friday Night Smackdown target a young adult male and teenage audience.
Advertisers expect this audience, and the shows position their texts to presumably appeal to heterosexual U.S. young men in particular, despite the fact that some estimates have WWE audiences at 30 percent to 40 percent female, the average age of the WWE's fan base is older than the target demographic, and WWE's international popularity often helps bolster flagging enthusiasm in this country.
This economic marginalization can lead to great creativity among pro wrestling fans excluded from the debate--see scholarship, for instance, about how Latino-American children interpret the WWE narrative from Ellen Seiter, Sue Clerc and Catherine Salmon's work on pro wrestling slash, and Brian Pronger's writing about pro wrestling from the standpoint of a gay spectator.
Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (1 of 3)
I came to the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture dialogue on LiveJournal and Henry Jenkins' blog from both ends of the producer/consumer scholarship binaries often posed in the discussion. On the one hand, I work for a group called the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, which converses with media corporations to look at the intersection between media producers and audiences. On the other, my primary areas of research interest have come from studying the ways in which fans reappropriate media texts in their own performances and discussions, often in ways that run counter to the interests, or at least irrelevant of the interests, of bottom-line driven corporate endeavors.
I also felt some kinship to both sides of the gender divisions being discussed in the debate. On the one hand, my work on professional wrestling occupies a place between sports fandom and media fandom--two worlds that have strangely been separated in academic discourse, as Kimberly Schimmel, Lee Harrington, and Denise Bielby have researched recently. Pro wrestling has often been criticized as "hypermasculine," while my other research interest--soap operas--has often been derided and ghettoized in popular culture in many ways because of its rich history of primarily female authorship, a feminine narrative perspective, and a largely female fan base. For me--as a lifelong fan of both professional wrestling and soaps--I saw great connections between the two, connections I have written about as dealing with the immersiveness of the narrative worlds of both texts.
Last month, I read an article in The New York Times from Brad Stone, looking at a "Risk-esque" game created for Ivy League schools called GoCrossCampus. The game, called GXC, is called by their site "a team-based locally social online sport that revolves around your connections, location and interests. The game is billed as "a massively multiplayer game built on your social networks.
This local angle to digital culture is what I've been writing about for some time now and one of my greatest interests in the potential of new technologies. This post is not really about this Ivy League game per say but rather how social networking sites and initiatives like this are proving just how localized the global adoption of online technologies can be.
In a Web 2.0 world, global really is local. Many of the earliest, most utopian writings about the Web were about how people could transcend the boundaries of where they are from, their local community, in an effort to reach out to others like them. In other words, we could defy geographical boundaries and make new connections, based not on proximity but on genuine compatibility. Online fan communities, matchmaking sites, and a plethora of other social gatherings are built on this principle.
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."
Transparency and the Public Eye: Wal-Mart's Shank Controversy
First off, since the following post is about reputation, I wanted to share with everyone the resulting white paper from the recent PR News Webinar I participated in with Peppercom. The paper is entitled "D=BC²: Are You a Digital Einstein?" See more here.
Sometimes, you can't help but wonder what companies are thinking. But here's a rule of thumb that I think might help anyone out in their decision-making process. If it's the type of move that you don't want the public to know about, then don't make it. Transparency is crucial.
Take, for instance, all the blogosphere discussion regarding Wal-Mart from earlier this month. For those who haven't heard the story, a Wal-Mart employee suffered serious brain damage after being hit by a truck in her van several years ago. She eventually won a settlement with the trucking company, but Wal-Mart decided to sue her in order to recoup medical expenses that had been paid out for her injury. As if this didn't seem suspect enough, it was complicated by the fact that the amount Wal-Mart was asking for was more than the amount the woman received, after lawyer fees. Ultimately, Wal-Mart took the funds remaining in the woman's trust, which amounted to approximately $277,000.
As many of you may have read in this post here on the blog earlier in the month, I'm teaching a course this semester on the history and current state of the U.S. soap opera genre, using As the World Turns as a case study. As I continue research on that field, and particularly how one of television's oldest genres may transform itself in interesting ways in a digital age, I'm always interested in hearing of new initiatives being launched.
For instance, see this post from December 2006 on the SOAPnet Fantasy Soap League, the idea being to mimic the success of fantasy football by having fans play games based around some of the stereotypes in the genre. I guess it's a chance for those of us not terribly interested in sports to nevertheless participate in something similar that, in part, measures our knowledge of a media property while also encouraging us to watch the current product. I know I participated in pro wrestling fantasy leagues once upon a time that incorporated some elements from this approach, and it reminds me as well of the Fantasy Television League that some C3-affiliated folks have taken part in.
But, in following soap operas for more than two years here on the Consortium blog, I'm always interested to see how these initiatives launch in the U.S. daytime serial drama industry, which is what attracted my attention to this post from Adrants back in March.
In an effort to further build their brand, Soap Opera Digest has launched casual games surrounding the soap operas, available here. The choices include a jigsaw puzzle of the cover of SOD, a variety of word-based games, solitaire, and other variations on classic casual games.
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.
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."
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.
MIT Art Work-Out: John Bell and the Celtics' Lucky
In addition to my presentation on the history of professional wrestling in the U.S. as part of the Art Work-Out Lecture Series event on "The Theater of Sport," I was joined at the event by John Bell, a professor here at MIT who is also known as a puppeteer, as well as an historian of puppet theater. He is author of such books as Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History and the forthcoming American Puppet Modernism.
I had heard about John's work, but I had never gotten the chance to meet him. John introduced and interviewed Damon Lee Blust, famed for his impressive dunks at Boston basketball games in recent years in his role as Lucky, mascot of the Celtics. Lucky is the only "human mascot," with no large outfit, allowing him to perform more athletic feats.
Turns out, building off my talk about pro wrestling as "sports entertainment," and prepared completely independent from my presentation, John and Damon talked about the work of a mascot also as sports entertainment.
Earlier this week, I was honored to be invited to take part in the Art Work-Out Lecture Series sponsored by the MIT Visual Arts Program, in conjunction with the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER), for an event called "The Theater of Sport."
The lecture was offered as part of Wendy Jacob's Introduction to Visual Arts class and Andrea Frank's Introduction to Photography and Related Media class. Thanks to Jennifer Tren, Sofia Ponte, and Kate James for their work in setting this up. (By the way, you can still see Kate's insights on the world of professional wrestling archived from her participation in my Spring 2007 course on U.S. pro wrestling here at MIT on our class blog.)
My portion of the Art Work-Out event was entitled "Pro Wrestling--Sport as Theater." This talk was based on a lecture I gave for the MIT List Visual Arts Center back in May 2007, entitled "America's Fascination with Pro Wrestling."
Dates Set for Consortium's Futures of Entertainment 3
This year's Futures of Entertainment conference the Consortium holds every November at MIT is set for Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22. The event will be held this year in the Wong Auditorium in the Tang Center here at MIT.
Our World Digitized: Henry Jenkins, Yochai Benkler, and Cass Sunstein
As we've mentioned a few times on the blog lately, the Program in Comparative Media Studies featured the latest version of the MIT Communications Forum last week, an event particularly of potential interest to Consortium readers.
C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins moderated a conversation between University of Chicago law and political science professor Cass Sunstein and Yochai Benkler of Harvard University's Berkman Center, in an event called "Our World Digitized: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly."
Sustein is the author of Republic.com 2.0 and Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, while Benkler wrote The Wealth of Networks.
According to the abstract:
Much discussion of our impending digital future is insular and without nuance. Skeptics talk mainly among themselves, while utopians and optimists also keep company mainly within their own tribal cultures. Today's forum challenges this unhelpful division, staging a conversation between two of our country's most thoughtful and influential writers on the promise and the perils of the Internet Age.
The audiocast of the event is already available here, and video will be available soon.
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.
I was contacted by a reporter on Monday with The Chronicle of Higher Education about a decision from the NCAA to work with the NBA to develop a company to help cultivate the organization of youth basketball in the U.S. Prior to the request, I hadn't heard about the announcement, but there was particular interest in the Comparative Media Studies/Convergence Culture Consortium perspective because of the centrality of social networking at the center of the initiative.
I had a 10 or 15 minute conversation with a reporter who was contributing to the article, Catherine Rampell, in which we talked about the positives and negatives of such a decision, particularly how this approach has much promise but also plenty of potential stumbling blocks. You can see the full article here.
My appearance comes in the article's conclusion, in which they propose that reaction is mixed. As evidence of the mixed reaction, Brad Wolverton picks out mine as a positive response to the decision, saying "A project like this really catches my eye," and noting I thought it had "much potential," while Eric J. Anctil was quoted as saying that it's hard to get kids to "do what you want them to do" and that this "sounds like a good idea to people who are in their 40s and don't know what kids like."
Being a journalist myself, I know how the construction of articles goes, and perhaps it set Eric and I up as being on two opposite sides of the article, myself the CMS optimist and Eric the cynic. But, and perhaps Eric would agree with me, I'm both optimist AND cynic when it comes to announcements like this.
Presenting on the panel alongside me were some other academics doing interesting research. Mary Cassata and Barbara Irwin, who are chief powers in organizing the soap opera area for the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference each year and who head up "Project Daytime," presented a project entitled "The American Soap Opera Genre at a Crossroads: An Analysis of Its Past, Present, and Future." Although, through my own lack of organizational skill, I neglected to take my copy of their essay back to my room with me even after they were nice enough to print out copies for everyone, I have reached out to Barb to get an electronic version and am expecting one shortly.
PCA/ACA: Marsha Ducey on FCC Complaints; Other Soap Projects
One project that really caught my eye at this years soap opera area at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association national conference in San Francisco was from Marsha Ducey at the State University of New York--Buffalo, whose project was entitled "As the World Turns: 'Indecency' in American Soap Operas."
Marsha's project looks at complaints filed against soap operas in particular with the Federal Communications Commission from 2004 through January 2008, with information provided through a Freedom of Information request. Marsha became interested in her projects in a post-nipple society, as she wondered what impact--if any--the controversy surrounding the Janet Jackson incident at the Super Bowl would have on daytime television. She was also interested in the FCC issuing what had been the largest fine in history at the time for a show called Married in America, despite abysmal ratings and the fact that there were only about 25 complaints, stemming from a couple of form letters. She could not find any research on complaints filed for soaps and decided to investigate.
The soap opera area at the national joint conference for the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association in San Francisco this year was my main reason for attending. Since I did my thesis work on soaps and am currently co-editing an anthology on the current state of the U.S. soap opera (see more on my soaps projects here), I find it rewarding to go to a conference where I can talk with others who are working on soaps in particular.
This year was particularly rewarding, because part of the session was in tribute to an academic who I never had the opportunity to meet personally but who nevertheless had a significant impact on my project and the work of many soap opera scholars. That person was Suzanne Frentz, a longtime soap opera scholar who was the original chair of the soap opera area at the PCA/ACA.
PCA/ACA: Clayton Childress on Daytime Television and Pro-Anorexic Groups Online
I never actually got the chance to meet up with Clayton Childress at the National Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association joint annual conference in San Francisco last month. I became aware of Clayton's work because of a piece he and Denise Bielby are contributing to the anthology on soap operas I am co-editing with Gail Derecho and Lee Harrington. But we'd never met.
After several failed attempts, we eventually came to accept it wasn't going to happen in San Francisco. But I was lucky enough to have Clayton pass the two papers he presented at the PCA/ACA conference this year along. Apparently, he wasn't aware that you are only supposed to present one round of work at the conference, and he wa allowed to go forward with presenting both. I was also lucky to have him be agreeable to pass both projects along to me, since I wasn't able to attend his panels.
Clayton chaired a panel on meaning-making and Internet culture, presenting on "pro-anorexic journaling." He also presented on "Variations in Talk from Trash to Simulated Courtrooms," as part of a larger project looking at changes in daytime television. That project, Childress' thesis at the University of California-Santa Barbara, is entitled "Ordering the Court: Morality, Power and Play in Daytime Television." Childress is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology.
PCA/ACA: Louis Bosshart, Sports, and Celebrity Culture
One of my most intriguing PCA/ACA friendships struck up over a complete accident. My first year at the PCA, in San Antonio, we had a paper added to our panel at the last minute. Dr. Louis Bosshart, from Switzerland's University of Fribourg (or Freiburg in German), had missed his regular panel and joined a panel otherwise on pro wrestling to discuss his work on what television did and does to sports. I remember that he was intrigued by the fact that I had notes on one index card rather than reading a paper as many people do at these academic panels, and we struck up a conversation afterward.
The conversation turned into an e-mail exchange, and hopes at creating a collaborative project on looking further at how televising sports fundamentally changes the way the competition is structured. In particular, pro wrestling can be seen as an extreme of the importance of mediation in athletic demonstration, because pro wrestling has adapted itself for the spectator to the point it is no longer a competition at all, or at least not in the traditional sports sense. I soon moved to Boston for the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, and Louis came to town once and we discussed the project further, but it never got out of the "ideation" phase.
We used San Francisco as the opportunity to strike the conversation up again.
PCA/ACA: Bryce McNeil and Shane Toepfer on Wrestling Morality and Fandom
There may be no session I was more disappointed in missing than Bryce McNeil's presentation on Wednesday afternoon with fellow Georgia State University scholar Shane Toepfer, entitled "'He's a Rattlesnake but He's One Tough S.O.B.': Establishing the Fluidity of Professional Wrestling Character Types." My interest in the subject's no secret: one only has to look at the course I taught on the subject last spring. (See more on the course from the class blog, the OpenCourseWare site for the class here at MIT, and Emily Sweeney's Boston Globe article on the class.)
Bryce and I first started corresponding based on his Master's thesis work on pro wrestling, looking at the rhetoric of WWE owner Vince McMahon in situations in which his company was in some form of public controversy. He ended up coming up here and spending some time with my class last spring, and we keep up, especially as we both have a continued research interest in the world of pro wrestling.
Bryce was nice enough to give me a copy of his and Shane's remarks, and we had corresponded a few times as they planned the paper. In short, their central proposition is that it has been a mistake to look at pro wrestling as "good vs. evil," but it is likewise a mistake to throw the "face/heel" dichotomy in pro wrestling out completely as well. Rather than wrestling characters "being" babyfaces or heels, in a static way, it's easier to understand actions as face or heel actions, thus acknowledging a greater degree of moral ambiguity not only in today's pro wrestling but arguably that has always existed.
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.
PCA/ACA: Michael Duffy and Regionally Digital Filmmaking
As most of the academic readers of this blog would likely agree, the intellectual curiosities of many media studies researchers far outweighs the time and resources one has to spend on writing and research projects, especially for those tenure-track academics who have courses, peer-reviewed publications, and a variety of institutional obligations to contend with. That's the great thing about a venue like a blog, though; it gives you the chance to briefly explore and think about issues that you might not have time to design a more rigorous project around.
Such was the case with my interest in regional cinema. In the summer of 2006, between my first and second year as a Master's student in the Program in Comparative Media Studies, I returned back to Kentucky to spend the summer working for several local weekly newspapers, in addition to continuing my work for the Consortium. In the process, I was assigned the task of covering a film being shot locally in Hartford, Ky., called Red Velvet Cake.
When I attended the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference last month, I had the chance to meet up with Michael Duffy, an emerging scholar whose dissertation reminded me of that interest.
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.
The Consortium and events related to our work has received great coverage in Brazil of late, thanks to the work of Maurício Mota, who attended our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference back in November. The most recent edition of Brazil's MeioDigital magazine, from Meio & Mensagem, featured a total of 12 pages dedicated to the Consortium, FoE2, and a related story on Heroes, based in part on our hosting a couple of members of the Heroes team here at MIT last November.
The MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, its Futures of Entertainment 2 event, and the Program in Comparative Media Studies were all featured in an article entitled "Os Alquimistas Estão Chengando!," including insights from myself, C3 Research Manager Joshua Green, as well as a focus on Consortium director Henry Jenkins. Mota's article highlights of all of the Program in Comparative Media Studies' research groups and Henry's recent publications and blog. See the piece here.
This semester at MIT, I'm teaching a course on the history of U.S. soap operas, based on the work I've published here on the blog over the past couple of years, my Master's thesis project, etc. The class includes a few MIT undergraduates and a Harvard undergraduate, as we look at the history of and contemporary state of the U.S. soap opera through reading and discussing the history of soap opera scholarship and soaps.
In particular, the class is following the soap opera As the World Turns, my longtime favorite, for the semester. None of the students were fans of U.S. soaps prior to the launching of the class, and none had seen ATWT prior to the class' beginning, save perhaps a few clips of gay couple Luke and Noah, through YouTube or other video sharing sites.
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...
C3 Director Henry Jenkins made a presentation at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia based on his research on politics in the era of convergence culture, particularly looking at the 2008 presidential primary season in relation to the rising popularity and political uses of sites such as YouTube.
The basis of this presentation was a blog entry Jenkins wrote last fall, entitled "Answering Questions from a Snowman: The YouTube Debate and Its Aftermath." This project has led to a chapter completed for a forthcoming anthology, as well as the paperback version of Henry's book and the project that was this origin of this Consortium, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.
The television panel I wrote about in my previous post also included a presentation from Victoria Johnson, who discussed Friday Night Lights and the ways in which the show's promotion, and the difficulties the network has had in promoting the show, can be tied to tensions at the network in how to promote the show and tensions among critics on how the should should be received.
As many of you know (see here, here, and here, among others), FNL is a favorite show among a couple of us here in the Consortium, and I am particularly passionate about what many call "flyover country" and thus was particularly interested in Johnson's research about how the idea of a "quality television" show based on high school football in Texas presented a variety of challenges in how to promote and receive the show.
For the network, it was promoted at first alongside football shows and later as a show not really about football. On the reception side, Johnson presented quite a bit of evidence that critics who liked the show was troubled at liking it and continually felt the need to validate their enjoying the show. I'm hoping to discuss this more with Victoria in coming months and perhaps center more work on this topic in particular. But her SCMS presentation was among the most interesting I heard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the more intriguing panels at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies dealt with paratextual material--that material outside the "main text" or "primary text" of the show--from a variety of perspectives. The idea of paratext is that it is anything surrounding the text that isn't considered the text itself, and it is most often used to give us better understanding of the primary text.
This panel featured two of the Consortium's consulting researchers--Jonathan Gray and Jason Mittell--as well as two academics I've had the pleasure of increasingly collaborating with--Louisa Stein and Kristina Busse. Kristina was responsible for helping spearhead the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture discussions that took place in LiveJournal and on Henry Jenkins' blog last year, and Louisa and I are participating in a workshop with others at Console-ing Passions next month to discuss that series of discussions in greater detail.
This panel was directly informed by the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture discussion as well. All four participants were part of that discussion, and all four are involved with the new journal Transformative Works and Culture, whose first issue is coming out this fall. Here, the way the panel was laid out was in response to many of the issues raised as part of that Gender and Fan Studies/Culture discussion and the ongoing dialogue that came out of that series. In particular, the four presentations at SCMS in this session were organized based on their relativity to the source text itself.
SCMS: Kevin Sandler on Production Studies and Censorship
At the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia earlier this month, C3 Consulting Researcher Kevin Sandler presented the latest in his continuing work on censorship and managing concerns with regulatory powers, through a compelling project in which Kevin spent time looking at the negotiation between the creators and standards and practices.
From this presentation, my understanding is that Kevin is using this study of standards and practices to build on the work of others like Elana Levine to create a more robust body of work on what is being called "production studies," better understanding the ways in which these shows are being put together and the many creative and regulatory forces that are involved with the creative product.
The Society for cinema and Media Studies conference earlier this month gave the Consortium its first change to officially welcome a few new consulting researchers to our project. One of those scholars is Abigail Derecho, who is currently teaching at Columbia College Chicago and who will be moving to the University of California-Berkeley in the fall. Gail and I met through the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture discussion that happened throughout last summer and fall over on C3 Director Henry Jenkins' blog and on LiveJournal, after she made various comments referring to her work on soap operas in her round of the conversation.
She and I began to share thoughts and research possibilities surrounding our common interest in soaps, leading to our planned collaboration with another C3 Consulting Researcher, C. Lee Harrington, to co-edit an anthology on the current state of the U.S. soap opera industry, entitled Search for Soaps' Tomorrow. SCMS provided me my first chance to see Gail "in action," so to speak, presenting her work, and I was especially excited to hear her present something off the path of the work we've been doing together, dealing not with soap operas but rather copyright issues surrounding the development of remix culture in hip-hop music and how legal precedents set in the early 1990s impact discussions of reappropriation of media content and video mash-ups today.
Our approach here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies in general, and in the Consortium in particular, is that, often, the best way to understand the present moment and where the media industries are headed is to look at where they have been. That is one of the foundational principles, for instance, of our bi-annual Media in Transition conference, and it explains why the Consortium is built on the type of work, for instance, that C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio has done on early conceptions of new media forms in the past, such as the telephone, phonograph, cinema, television, etc. Questions currently arising about mobile media, online video, virtual worlds, and the Internet more broadly can often be better understood by looking at how similar questions were tackled and what mistakes were made in previous eras of media transition.
That approach is a staple of CMS curricula, and it explains in part our association with scholars like Dr. Ted Hovet of Western Kentucky University. I've been fortunate enough to know and work under and with Ted for six years or so now. We've had the pleasure of presenting workshops at conferences together in the past (the 2006 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in particular, where--along with my wife Amanda Ford and WKU's Dale Rigby--we discussed the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to curriculum and academic research), and I was glad to be able to hear him present his latest work at this year's SCMS. His presentation on Friday morning was entitled "Framing Motion: Early Cinema's Conservative Methods of Display."
MIT Communications Forum on Global Television (2 of 2)
This followup to yesterday evening's post comes from CMS graduate student Lan Le, who is reporting on the MIT Communications Forum called Global Television. An audio version of the event is available here. The previous post from Lan summarized the comments of C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio. This post looks at the comments of Roberta Pearson and Eggo Müller.
Roberta Pearson (University of Nottingham)
Pearson began her talk with a billboard advertisement for American television in the UK. The slogan is "Who says nothing good ever came out of America," and features "respectable" television actors and producers like Spike Lee or William H. Macy. This example shows the way American television is framed and positioned in the UK.
MIT Communications Forum on Global Television (1 of 2)
The following post comes from CMS graduate student Lan Le, who attended the recent MIT Communications Forum called Global Television. An audio version of the event is available here.
A feature of emerging television is the increasing global profile of programs appealing more widely across national boundaries, a kind of global programming. Big Brother is an example of the wide appeal of this competition-based reality programming, which has been adapted to different national contexts. Fiction shows like Ugly Betty require only a small amount of adaptation before release in the US. And a great deal of American television, like Lost or Desperate Housewives, now finds enthusiastic audiences in other countries.
These global flows of television are accompanied by country specific promotion strategies to frame the show for national contexts. But are we moving beyond nationally specific interests to a global village of television? This forum will also consider the impact of American programming on the world, especially how the world reacts, adapts to, and utilizes American TV formats.
The following are summaries of the speaker's remarks for the forum.
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.
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 call for papers is currently open for the inaugural edition of Transformative Works and Cultures, the international peer-reviewed journal coming out of The Organization for Transformative Works. For more information, see the CFP.
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.
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.
Telling Stories Across Multiple Media Platforms: An Interview with WWE's J.R. (V of V)
This is the final part of an interview I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment icon Jim Ross. For background on the interview, please see the first part in this series. For J.R.'s appearance here at MIT, listen to the podcast here.
Sam Ford: WWE has been increasingly working to expand its mobile services. Where do you feel this might take the product in the future, and how will mobile fit in to the future of pro wrestling, in your mind?
Jim Ross: I think WWE Mobile is on the same path that the Internet created for our company. I think it's a new horizon. It's a new way of getting your message out. Telephones are becoming all-purpose, and now iPhones provide computers in your phones. Phones are not just something to talk to someone with today; they are now information sources. As the technology continues to evolve, the WWE is smart to be on the front end.
Telling Stories Across Multiple Media Platforms: An Interview with WWE's J.R. (IV of V)
This is the third part of an interview I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment icon Jim Ross. For background on the interview, please see the first part in this series. For J.R.'s appearance here at MIT, listen to the podcast here.
Sam Ford: In addition to your work on WWE.com, you also run your own blog, J.R. What are the differences between writing on the WWE's official site and writing on your own site?
Jim Ross: What I write on WWE.com is a little different than what I wrote on my own blog on JRsBarBQ.com. That's done intentionally. I look at it as apples and oranges because there's a major difference in what I write on those two venues. I write my column every week for WWE.com, and they tell me that it does well and that people enjoy reading it. I believe that's because I infuse that column with humor and entertainment.
Telling Stories Across Multiple Media Platforms: An Interview with WWE's J.R. (III of V)
This is the second part of an interview I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment icon Jim Ross. For background on the interview, please see the first part in this series. For J.R.'s appearance here at MIT, listen to the podcast here.
Sam Ford: J.R., what do you feel are the biggest changes in marketing and producing professional wrestling in the Internet era?
Jim Ross: I think one of the biggest changes would probably be the timeliness with which information is provided. When I was a kid, before cable television was invented, we got our one hour wrestling show in our area, and that was it. We got one hour a week on our local show.
Telling Stories Across Multiple Media Platforms: An Interview with WWE's J.R. (II of V)
This is the first part of an interview I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment icon Jim Ross. For background on the interview, please see the first part in this series. For J.R.'s appearance here at MIT, listen to the podcast here.
Sam Ford: J.R., you have been involved with a variety of projects for WWE 24/7 On Demand. Can you tell us a little about the motivation behind that initiative?
Jim Ross: I have a theory that you really can't navigate the future if you don't understand the past. I think that from just a corporate standpoint and a young sports entertainer standpoint, it's really a great option for them to see how the business was and how it has evolved.
Telling Stories Across Multiple Media Platforms: An Interview with WWE's J.R. (I of V)
Over the next five entries, I'm presenting the transcript of a recent question and answer session I conducted with World Wrestling Entertainment Monday Night RAW commentator and professional wrestling icon Jim Ross, known affectionately to wrestling fans as "Good 'Ol J.R."
J.R. has been a fixture in the wrestling world for decades now, growing up in the territory era and serving as a referee, an announcer, and a pivotal part of the organizations of Leroy McGuirk and later Bill Watts in the center of the country. J.R. worked for several years for Ted Turner's now defunct World Championship Wrestling and has been a key part of the WWE, as both an on-air personality and a pivotal behind-the-scenes force, since he joined the company in 1993.
When I taught a class on American professional wrestling last spring, the WWE partnered with me to officially sponsor the class, which included sending J.R. our way to visit with the class on two different sessions, as well as participate in a public question and answer event that has later been made available as a podcast. That podcast is available here.
As I noted last month, the Program in Comparative Media Studies will be holding our CMS Research Fair from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. tonight, on the first floor of the Ray and Maria Stata Center here on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If you're interested in attending this evening and need any further info, don't hesitate to e-mail me at email@example.com.
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.
For anyone here in the Boston area, I wanted to put it on your radar to attend the Boston FCC hearing on the future of the Internet, which will be taking place tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Ames Courtroom at Austin Hall in Harvard Law School. The hearing will not include an open microphone for the public at large to voice their opinion as part of the event, but activist group "SaveTheInternet" will be videotaping the comments of those in attendance and submitting them to the FCC.
A wide variety of speakers will be present as part of the event, which will revolve around two 1.5-hour panels. The first will feature Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benlker, author of The Wealth of Networks, as well as a variety of other law professors, a general counsel for Free Press, Massachusetts State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, and Comcast EVP David L. Cohen.
The second panel will focus on technology and include the Chief Technology Officer of BitTorrent, a network architect, SVP of Networks & Systems Architecture for Sony Electronics, and three MIT speakers.
GL Makes Major Shift in Soap Opera Production This Week
One industry many have come to expect the Consortium blog to post on, per my entries, over the past couple of years is American soap operas, the area in which I've done my thesis work and continue to write about substantially. In fact, my particular areas of interest and my acting as the primary contributor to this blog explains why there are robust categories of entries on soap operas and professional wrestling. (NOTE: We have not completely tagged all the posts in our archives, so these categories often do not include a significant number of the posts we've done on a subject.)
I'm actually teaching a course on the American soap opera this spring here at MIT for the Program in Comparative Media Studies, and my students and I are in the process of launching a class blog about soaps and particularly about the soap opera we are following for the semester, Procter & Gamble Productions' As the World Turns. We'd love to have you stop by and join in the conversation here. The good news is that comments actually work over at that site! We've also been invited to run regular class updates at the official blog for Procter & Gamble Productions, located here.
But one of the most significant stories in soaps this year is set to take place this week, when Guiding Light switches over to a new taping format that uses handheld cameras and four-walled sets.
Seems that board games based on media properties have been more prevalent than media properties based on board games. After all, it's easy to create a fairly low-maintenance ancillary product by replacing the names of various streets with venues associated with The Simpsons or Star Wars. It's a bit more challenging to turn the very brief narratives of most board games into film.
Now, news has come from Hasbro that a major deal has been signed to do just that, however, and many of the world's favorite board games are set to come to life through a partnership with Universal Pictures.
Transparency and Viral Media--Notes from the CMS/C3 Colloquium
The Viral Media--Hows and Whys colloquium event I wrote about in my previous post earlier tonight featured a discussion of a few issues that are of particular interest of me with regard to the issues I've been writing about here on the C3 blog over the past several months.
During the panel, Natalie Lent brought up issues of transparency and authenticity when it comes to promoting word of mouth as an advocate. I've written a few posts recently about transparency and what I see as its great importance in that, despite being a buzzword, it still seems to be primarily undervalued as an essential component of online presence for many companies. See a couple of the anecdotes I shared regarding transparency here and here.
Tonight, we hosted an event in conjunction with our parent academic program, the Program in Comparative Media Studies, here at MIT, dealing with viral media. For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you know that we're doing a fair bit of research within the Consortium right now about this concept of "viral," and some anecdotes from that research have made their way here on the blog. This CMS colloquium event also flowed out of that work.
The event was hosted by C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf (see her bio here), who is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society here in Cambridge at Harvard Law School and who works with the London School of Economics, moderating a discussion between two practitioners working in the digital space who incorporate tactics that are often labeled as "viral."
I wanted to start a string of blog updates this afternoon/evening by making note of the end of the format war that has divided HD television owners for some time now. However, now that the DVD format war is over, despite what might be lost in innovation and pricing for the consumer, one would think a consolidated technology will help push innovation forward on the content side and likewise ease consumer reluctance in adopting the new technology.
For those who haven't followed the events, news surfaced earlier this week (see here) that Toshiba has conceded the market battle with Sony between its HD DVD format and Sony's Blu-Ray.
As with others I know, since I hadn't taken a personal stake in the battle up to this point and never purchased and HD player, this is a victory because it means consumers now know which technology to invest in, but I still feel there's some bad branding involved when the format which won carries the name "Blu-Ray" instead of the more intuitive "HD DVD." Perhaps they could just buy Toshiba's much simpler brand name in the process?
We spend quite a bit of time here on the Consortium's blog writing about and thinking about the relationship between producers and consumers, particularly in the media and entertainment space. As regular readers know, my own Master's thesis work at MIT dealt with how this relationship manifests itself today in the soap opera industry in particular (see here, for instance), and the energy of the Consortium and many people surrounding the CMS program here at MIT are often dedicated to these questions.
While I hold fast to the idea that companies must treat their fan communities with some esteem and pay attention to the discussion taking place around their product, perhaps even communicate directly with those fans, we also see that this desire to get closer to fan communities can quickly become a desire to control communities in many cases. It's quite a mistake to think that all fans want, through the social connections they form online around brands and media properties, is to get closer to the official productions of these shows. After all, that's one of the biggest misconceptions that caused some of the controversy surrounding Fanlib.com, which we wrote about several times in the past year (see, for instance, 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.
The latest in continuing controversy about the role of Internet service providers in monitoring or having any responsibility or culpability in the actions of its customers comes from the United Kingdom, where Mark Ward from the BBC reports on governmental pressure directed toward ISPs to reject net access to those who use their Internet service for pirating copyrighted content.
Ward writes about a new consultation document that has been circulated in the UK this week, advising the government that ISPs should be brought into "the fight against piracy." However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has come out in staunch opposition to the suggestion, pointing out that "the 2002 E-Commerce Regulations defined net firms as 'mere conduits' and not responsible for the contents of the traffic flowing across their networks.
Online Buzz as a Catalyst and a Symptom of Popularity
Perhaps it is intuitive, but it's always helpful to have some bolstering studies out there. News came out earlier this month of the results of a study from the Stern Business School at NYU that, among a variety of factors studied surrounding the success of album sales, blogs and social networks are particular indicators of successful album sales.
According to Jacqui Cheng with Ars Technica, the study found that albums with 40 or more posts made about them before their release received three times the average sales; for albums with 250 or more blog posts about them, the sales were six time the average.
Last.fm, Online Music Distribution, and Cross-Platform Promotion
The Web has brought discussion of crises to traditional media for a variety of industries. However, no industries have been hit harder than newspapers and music, in terms of rhetoric about Internet culture and consumption signing the death warrant for those industries as we know it.
I have written multiple times in the past about the plight of newspapers here on the C3 blog (look here and here, for instance), while Ana Domb has written multiple times about changes in the music industries (see here and here).
Last month, Ana wrote specifically about how 2007 was considered "the year the media industry broke," writing further that:
My sense is that the music industry is not broken, but it is going through terrible growing pains. It's outgrowing its parents and struggling to find its new identity. (We all know that this is a long and painful process.) Now, granted, "parents" is not the strongest analogy for the music labels, since they have NOT given birth to music, and some might argue they've done just the opposite. For the moment, though, let's consider them the music industry's legal guardians.
We have yet to find out what this new music industry will look like, but changes like the ones that took place last year will help consolidate an important shift in the dominant power structure. Much has been said about how this change has empowered the audience, and certainly Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails respond to this trend, but they also reflect the increasing power that the creators have obtained over the production and distribution of their content. This will be a long, slow and interesting struggle. And I would say that, in spite of the industry's flare for the dramatic, it will be a while until everybody knows what their new role is, what they are allowed to expect, and how they can relate to each other.
This all takes me to Last.fm, a CBS-owned music site which allows users to listen to a wide variety of musical choices, on-demand, for free, with advertising support. The positives? Through CBS's reach and access to a deep reserve of music, users can line up their own mix of music to play for free without interruption. The negative? At current, a track is only allowed to be played three times. Otherwise, users are linked to iTunes, Amazon, and other outlets to buy that song from.
Bickering between Dunkin' Donuts and Its Franchises
Some of you may have read my posts a few weeks ago about a local donut joint here in town called Linda's and the subsequent discussion regarding authenticity and chains (see here, here, and here.
A couple of the Yelp users I wrote about framed Linda's against the chain of Dunkin' Donuts, and in fact I got into a longtime discussion with the guy my age while I was visiting about Dunkin' Donuts, the value of their convenience, and what he felt was the declining quality of their product, in favor of proliferation and speed.
Compare this with our discussion with Joe Pine from back last fall, in which Joe referred to the Starbucks edict that "it should take time to get a cup of coffee."
Apparently, many of the franchise-holders of Dunkin' Donuts agree to some extent, that there is a point of too much proliferation. And that's not that surprising, considering that they have quite a financial stake into not seeing the Dunkin' Donuts brand extend too far...especially out of their stores.
Light Bulbs and Eye Drops: FNL Fan Care Packages for NBC
In my previous post, I wrote about the fan campaign surrounding the effort to keep FNL on the air. With some further searching this afternoon, I've found a couple of other campaigns focusing on keeping this NBC drama on the air.
While the group I wrote about earlier are focusing on sending mini-footballs to the network, other groups are sending related household and health items related to the show.
Considering the writing we've done here at the Consortium of late about Friday Night Lights (see here, here, and here), as well as fan campaigns (see here and here), I wanted to spend some time looking at the rise of fan energy surrounding attempts to get NBC to renew or find a new home for one of the best American primetime dramas I've seen.
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."
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.
As part of some blog catch-up this Sunday, I wanted to pick back up on a story I wrote about last month about fan response to the firing of actor Scott Bryce on As the World Turns. Fan campaigns have launched Web sites, petitions, and mailing campaigns, as soap fans are so quick to do when they dislike a decisions made by soap opera producers.
Now, with Bryce doing a fairly candid interview with well-known soap opera columnist Michael Logan about the situation for TV Guide, fans have had much of their sentiment confirmed by the actor himself.
Passions Cancelled Again...But Rumors of Its Continuation Persist
Last April, I wrote about the intriguing deal NBC struck with DirecTV to move its soap opera Passions over to the satellite provider as exclusive content, after the network had decided to cut the soap opera from its daytime schedule to make room for another hour of The Today Show.
The show ended up getting a run that lasted from Fall 2007 until Summer 2008, when the last episode of Passions is currently set to air. Fans and critics alike knew the deal struck with DirecTV was an experiment from the start.
WWE's Departure from The CW a Situation Worth Watching
Significant news broke this week for the CW Network and World Wrestling Entertainment, as the WWE announced on its Web site Friday that, at the end of the current television season, Friday Night Smackdown will no longer air on the CW Network.
The move raises significant questions for what will happen to one of the two major WWE wrestling brands, but it also gives us a chance to consider what programming with a strong base like the WWE's might be able to seek out as alternatives. The WWE has proven in the past few years to be willing to experiment and change the nature of its programming, from its launch of defunct brand ECW as its "C-show" on Sci Fi (a move that was controversial in itself, especially due to tensions between wrestling fans and sci fi fans over its placement on the network) to its use of the Internet for distribution of shows in the past when they were moved off the network (see here).
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.
Measuring Consumer Awareness about the Digital Deadline
When it comes to measuring phenomena, there are a variety of things one can look at, but at the heart of any question is whether your goal is to measure how much of something exists or the quality of that phenomena where it does exist. These are two fundamentally different research questions, yet it often feels that the goals of both get confused.
We've spent considerable time over the past year talking about audience measurement--online, for advertisers, for the television industry, for technological adoption, and so on. Several of those pieces are available here, and you can watch to a whole panel on the topic from our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference back in November.
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.
I've gotten a few e-mails regarding the piece I wrote a few days ago about Linda's Donuts and the search for authenticity. One of them came from friend and Consortium Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken, who turns out had written some on the subject of authenticity only a couple of days prior, in response to criticisms of the Dove and Axe Unilever campaigns, which many have had problems with because of what they identify as an inconsistency between the messages of each, with Dove stressing one's comfort with their own body in their advertising, while Axe emphasizes a more narrow form of feminine beauty in encouraging teenage boys to use the body spray to attract a certain kind of woman.
Grant wrote me wondering whether we might disagree, and I didn't answer him for a couple of days, as I wasn't sure if we were or not. And I'm still not.
I read his post before I ever wrote the Linda's piece, but it hadn't dawned on me that my points about authenticity might be in conflict with his, even though we both referred to Joe Pine and James Gilmore's new book Authenticity. Of course, in academia, one has a right---perhaps an obligation--to not always agree, and Grant and I have discovered in the past that perfect agreement at the expense of others can sometimes be downright unhelpful. I'm referring here to Grant's September piece on the nature and problem of scorn.
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."
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.
After my daily intake of As the World Turns yesterday afternoon, I saw a curious ad, one that prompted me to write this morning.
First of all, I'm one of those timeshifters who doesn't watch the ads...It takes my hour of soap a day down to 30-some minutes, and it gives my wife and I something routine to watch on the DVR while we're having dinner. Generally, as the show ends, and we get a couple of preview teasers from the next episode, I hit stop and delete.
We got a new "all-in-one" remote over the weekend, so it look me a little longer than usual to stop and delete the episode, and I heard a commercial that sounded vaguely familiar. "Six weeks ago, Bob slipped into a coma. Ooh! Now, he's fine, and Chris is the one with a headache." At first, and only half-listening, I thought it was a bizarre start to the commercial, but then I realized that they were talking about Dr. Bob Hughes and his son, Dr. Chris Hughes, characters on ATWT.
The tagline? In that same amount of time, you could have lowered your cholesterol by 4 percent by eating Cheerios.
I've had the pleasure recently of having several conversations and exchanges with Bernard Timberg, a professor at East Carolina University. Bernard wrote a piece on soap operas more than 20 years ago that dealt with production, and Abigail Derecho and I are interviewing him for the collection we are putting together on soaps, looking at the rhetoric of the camera in American soaps today, compared to the early 1980s.
Timberg has written on a variety of subjects, including a substantial amount of work on talk shows, and he is passionate about fair use as well, which is where our most recent conversations were targeted.
Recently, an e-mail came my way bringing my attention to this interesting piece from back in 2006, as a user decides to look back 10 years and see what the Web was like back in 1996. The author of the piece, Eric Karjala, writes occasional articles and blogs regularly at 3,300 Diggs. But it's interesting to see it still getting forwarded, more than a year after its spread and all those Diggs, and it's a reminder that, to whatever degree you buy into the idea of a Long Tail, an extended archive does leave content dormant for a renaissance someday. (That's what I keep thinking about some of those random blog pieces I wrote that I just know someone is going to find valuable in the future--ham radio, anyone?
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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.
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.
In light of the previous post, I wanted to share with you an article I wrote back in the summer of 2005 for The Ohio County Times-News, for the column I write there entitled "From Beaver Dam to Boston." This deals with franchise chains and locally owned shops:
Over the past couple of weeks, Amanda and I were hosts to one of our English professors from Western Kentucky University, Dale Rigby, who was participating in a nearby writing workshop in Vermont. While Dale was here, we discussed Kentucky a lot. Dale has lived all over the country in his life: Ohio, California, Iowa and Missouri, before coming to Bowling Green.
He really enjoyed Boston and Cambridge, the chance to go to English pubs and play chess with strangers. That got us talking about the differences between the business culture and the culture of Bowling Green. Here in Boston, there are local businesses and restaurants on almost every block, each establishment with its own stories and its own history, and I think that should serve as a point of inspiration to the Bowling Greens and even the Beaver Dams I came from.
In cities the size of Bowling Green, though, there is just something increasingly generic about the city as it grows. I have worked with Bowling Green's Chamber of Commerce on various articles and know that there are many unique things about the local Bowling Green economy. But, for every Mariah's in Bowling Green, there's 10 Red Lobsters, good food but without any sense of local culture.
Sometimes, your life changes when you don't have a car. I decided to work from home one day last week, to do some writing from home. Now that I live outside of Boston and Cambridge, though, out in Belmont here in the Boston area, it's not quite as easy to run out for some lunch on foot. But I had dropped my suit off at the dry cleaners' on the corner, the one who waved at us when we drove by--a move that was so Kentucky-like in nature that we decided to give that particular dry cleaners--Hemmingway--a try.
A couple of blocks away, there's a small little restaurant I noticed shortly after moving in here last summer, but I'd never dropped in. The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. each morning, but it's always closed by the early afternoon. I had driven by on the morning commute and especially on weekend mornings and seen a virtual traffic jam around this place.
It's name is Linda's Donuts, and the store touts that these particular donuts are "hand-cut."
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.
Soap Fans and Veteran Actors: Jesse & Angie, Scott Bryce
For those of you who have followed my writing about soaps here on the C3 blog, you likely know that I feel one of the strongest thing the current daytime serial dramas have on their side is their history. As such, historical characters on the show today provide those contemporary ties to that deep history which I believe helps strengthen the transgenerational viewing patterns necessary to gain and maintain viewership for these shows in the long term.
ABC seems to hope this is the case, especially with the sagging ratings of longtime ABC Daytime fixture All My Children has been experiencing. Racquel Gonzales, one of the contributors to the book Abigail Derecho at Columbia College Chicago and I are putting together on the current state of soap operas, wrote me recently about how ABC Daytime is using the SOAPnet channel in a strategic way for both AMC and General Hospital. For GH, the cable network has planned to air a "Robin Unwrapped" episode marathon which helps catch viewers up on the history that more fully explains a pivotal story on the show, which is the first HIV pregnancy storyline in television, according to the promotion.
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.
I've followed the story for a long time, but as of this Monday night, World Wrestling Entertainment has converted its programming over to HD.
WWE RAW on the USA Network, ECW on Sci Fi, and Friday Night Smackdown on The CW will all now be aired with high-definition feeds, as well as WWE pay-per-view events, starting with Sunday's Royal Rumble. The CW had been looking to upgrade Smackdown for a while, in its effort to transition all its programming to HD. Meanwhile, both USA and Sci Fi are using the transition amidst their creation of dedicated HD channels.
WWE provides an FAQ section on HD, as well as a story on their site detailing some of the last minute struggles for the production team to get prepared for the first HD broadcast of WWE television.
Meeting Scheduled to Discuss Digital Deadline for TV
Recently, in my regular daily e-mail update from TelevisionWeek, I saw the latest update from Ira Teinowitz on the House of Representatives' most recent reaction to preparations for the digital deadline for American televisions.
Teinowitz, who has covered this situation regularly for that publication for quite a while now, writes that House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell remains displeased with the ways in which everyone involved with preparing for the Feb. 17, 2009, transition from analog to digital signals for television broadcasting has been educating the public and preparing for the transition.
Now, a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13, with the idea of looking at how well the preparation has been and needs to be, one year from the actual date of the conversion.
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.
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.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part VIII: Soap Operas as Brands and Conclusion
Soap Operas as Brands
The phrase "not your mother's soap opera" does not work well for fans in this genre. This phrase may never have been overtly used, but the implication has been in place when the show's history was sacrificed at times to new characters meant to appeal to the target demographic with little connection to a soap opera's past. In most of these cases, though, managing these shows as one would a primetime show and trying to come up with a short-term way to increase viewership among the desired demographic proved to do nothing to curb the downward ratings trend and the continued loss of cultural and financial significance for soap operas. While every other television industry seems to make its name off target marketing and niche audiences according to age/sex demographics, soap operas are in danger when being conceptualized in this way because they are, by their nature, best as a transgenerational narrative. Soap operas may be able to continue thriving in a narrowcasting environment, but the niche audience these shows appeal to may not be able to be broken down so neatly by age/sex.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part VII: Quick Fixes and Fan Proselytizers
Many long-standing television forms have not completely grasped the idea that one of the most important selling tools they have is exactly what sets them apart from the more ephemeral primetime fare: longevity. This category includes any type of program with deep archives but particularly daytime serial drama. These programs have been on for years, without an end in sight, making them special in a television industry of constant changes and cancellations. The formats of these programs are meant to instill in viewers the sense that, even if the program hits a down time, its longevity and format will cause it to rebound and remain a part of the television landscape for years to come.
Most soap operas today concentrate on finding new viewers by either trying to appeal to casual fans or else stealing viewers from other soap operas, resulting in a dwindling pool of potential audience members as the viewership of the genre as a whole slowly drops. On the other hand, these shows used to have millions more viewers a decade ago and especially two decades ago. Appealing to those prodigal viewers, the "lapsed fans" who have moved away from their soap but would still recognize and perhaps even care about some of the longtime faces of the show--legacy characters--could help bring fans back to these shows, and through the process of transgenerational storytelling, get them interested in newer characters as well.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part VI: Product Placement and Transmedia Storytelling
Product Placement and Soap Operas
If soap operas shift to a brand-management strategy that gives greater value to depth of fan engagement and the social activities surrounding the consumption of the official texts of these shows, new revenue sources become more plausible, as I look at in the fourth chapter of my Master's thesis.
The deeper engagement that the immersive story worlds of soap operas encourage also lead to revenue models that value engagement in a way that commercials based on Nielsen ratings do not. While the first forms of product placement can be found in literature, product placement in broadcast was launched simultaneously with commercial radio content, particularly driven by corporate sponsorship that involved prominent product mentions on the air. Nowhere in radio drama was the product more closely married to the show than in the soap opera, however, a genre in which product placement was part of its name.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part V: Utilizing Soap Opera Archives in a Long Tail Economy
Since most American soap operas have been on the air for decades now, these shows have legions of former viewers from previous generations that may not be as interested in the contemporary product but might watch the shows from their past if they could be reached and marketed to and especially if material could be packaged and contextualized in meaningful ways, rather than just airing every episode from the archive in its entirety--especially since many of those episodes no longer exist, especially from the early years. The potential value in this archive leads to a logical business model which directly integrates the available content from the many years in the air.
Using Chris Anderson's concept of the "Long Tail economy," the fifth chapter of my thesis looks at how soap operas could use their history more meaningfully, perhaps as an ancillary revenue source. While ratings today are lower than in previous decades, much of the footage available in that archive aired with higher ratings than the show airing today.
The proliferation of television viewing choices, the rise of women in the workforce, and the O.J. Simpson trial have all contributed to these changes, but the fact remains that most soap operas may have more prodigal children who could potentially be part of a market for this archive content than current viewers. Further, since there is no syndication and no off-season, many of these popular episodes only aired once, never to be seen again, unless a viewer happened to archive the episode and add it to his/her tape collection.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part IV: Understanding Online Fan Communities
Online fans are more active than the casual viewer model the Nielsen ratings system is based on, with its focus on impressions without relation to the level of engagement. The shift to balancing quantitative measurements with qualitative ones requires acknowledging and valuing that active engagement, however, as I explain in further detail in the third chapter of my thesis.
Further, many of the "unique" and "niche" aspects of online fan communities actually echo offline modes of engagement with the text as well, albeit on a much larger scale and in published form. These discussion boards can often seem full of noise, especially for the television executive approaching these fan forums with no history in the fan community.
It is important for those exploring the reaction of these fans to be a part of that fan community in an active way and to understand it not as an outsider but as a native. Generally, this means that researchers are best recruited from the fan community rather than trying to become anthropologists studying that community from a distance.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part III: The History of Fan Discussion
Soaps do not exist in a vacuum, and a show's daily texts can only be completely understood in the context of the community of fans surrounding them. Instead of imagining the audience as a passive sea of eyeballs measured through impressions, this approach views soaps as the gathering place for a social network. Acting as dynamic social texts, soap operas are created as much by the audience that debates, critiques, and interprets them than through the production team itself. Here are the various ways fans have interacted with and around soap opera texts through the years, as described in detail in the second chapter of my thesis:
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part II: The Current State of Soaps
Currently, the soap opera industry is in a state of flux. With Passions moving off NBC, ratings that continue to fall or at best stay even, commentators continue the discussion that has taken place for more than a decade as to the long-term fate of the American soap opera. Reasons for the long-term decline of soaps most often cited include the proliferation of media choices, women moving into the workforce, and the O.J. Simpson case interrupting the daily flow of the soap opera text. However, the inevitability argument posits that nothing can be done to reverse this trend, that soap operas are inevitably on a slowly declining path toward eventual extinction, and also attempts to give a pass to the strategic and creative errors that have expedited or even created many of these negative trends in viewership.
These shows have attempted a series of short-term strategies to gain more viewers specifically in the 18-to-49 female demographic, but this process is often done by focusing on characters within that age demographic as well, ignoring one of the soap opera's strengths--transgenerational storytelling, and particularly transgenerational storytelling that focuses on characters and relationships more than plot progression. In a broad-casting model, soap operas were strengthened by their ability to draw in viewers from multiple generations through texts that examined the relationships in multigenerational families, but the genre has increasingly targeted young adult females at the exclusion of its older viewers and characters as the television industry has become focused on target demographics.
As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture: A Summary, Part I: Immersive Story Worlds
With my class on soap operas coming up, I recently completed a summary of some of the major points of my thesis work, some of which has appeared here on the C3 blog in the past here and here. A draft of the full thesis is available here. Speaking of the class, a quick thanks to the folks at CBS Soaps: In Depth for featuring it in their latest magazine.
As of this posting, comments have been temporarily turned off, so if you have any response to this summary, feel free to e-mail me directly at email@example.com. Our tech guys tell me comments should be enabled once again later this month.
One of the central ideas of my thesis' posits that soap operas exist as one of few "immersive story worlds" in the media industries, narratives that are developed over time with a large volume of characters and text. Many of the reasons why people are attracted to these narratives deal with the depth and breadth of these stories and the feeling that these narratives are immortal. The first chapter of the thesis posits that only three narrative types exist as exemplars of immersive story worlds, even if many media franchises have some of the characteristics:
The Internet is abuzz with politics. And it's that time every four years when suddenly everyone cares about civic engagement and democracy and all that. I'd like to see more of that type of engagement on a local level, including form myself, but nevertheless we're swept up in the frenzy of national politics.
This year, with so many candidates in the mix, it seems as if every election is a surprise. Online, it's been quite interesting as well. There's no doubt that Barack Obama is carrying unprecedented amounts of interest from young voters, and there's a corresponding amount of buzz in the blogosphere, on YouTube, and elsewhere.
For those of you who follow these spaces regularly, it will come as no surprise that there's a comparable amount of buzz from a much more unsuspecting candidate, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. As opposed to Obama, who is the youngest candidate in this year's election, Paul is the second-oldest, following only Mike Gravel. Further, Paul is a Republican fiscal conservative to an extreme, a fairly strict libertarian at heart.
The media industries adapt to change very slowly. That I have established several times. In some ways, this is necessarily so. The infrastructure that the industry has built for itself helps major media companies weather the tests of time, but they also keep them from being nimble enough to change very easily.
Before the holidays, we published a couple of posts dealing with the writer's strike. As you know, a lot has changed over the past couple of months when the Heroes writers visited MIT while the strike was young. We've seen the late night shows disappear, only to come back in the new year. Letterman and Ferguson have returned with an interim deal in place, while the other late night shows--including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have come back sans writers.
For me, soap operas are in the most interesting place, as they are the one narrative that is especially built on a "world without end." Strike don't stop soaps, and whether you call the writers "interim," "scabs," or "fi core," there are a group of unnamed people churning out scripts for the nine American daytime soaps. Most of those scripts haven't made it on air yet, but fans are wondering what this will mean for the respective shows.
As many of you who follow our blog or our other writings or conferences regularly know, the Consortium has always been interested in transmedia storytelling, and I have often posited that professional wrestling is a narrative that has always been ripe for crossing multiple media formats. World Wrestling Entertainment has built a model around it.
At first, television and other revenue streams were meant as ancillary content and even more as a way to build for the real meat of the business, which was the touring live event show. Over time, however, the television show, pay-per-views, DVDs, and other media products have become the primary focus, while live events that aren't televised have fallen low on the list of priorities.
The question for a long time now has been what to do about that, how to make coming to a non-televised WWE event worthwhile. After all, very little usually happens at them, and the idea is more of a touring show that you only get to see live on occasion. A lot of fans otherwise engaged in the product, though, are happy to stay home when WWE comes to town, as they know nothing important in the narrative will happen if the cameras aren't rolling.
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.
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).
The Convergence Culture Consortium will be presenting in a Research Fair for the Program in Comparative Media Studies from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, on the first floor of the Ray and Maria Stata Center on MIT's campus.
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.
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!
In my previous post, I wrote about the smart people I met at Communispace out in Watertown. There are a lot of other great companies and bright minds I've been crossing paths with here in the Boston area of late. We were honored, for instance, to have Jim Nail from out at Cymfony join us on our recent panel on Metrics and Measurement at FoE2.
Another guy in attendance who I've been honored to get to know is John Eckman from Optaros. We had a chance to meet John a few weeks before our conference, when he came in for a visit. Eckman had written about Henry Jenkins' appearance at the Forrester Consumer Forum back in October, and he ended up coming in to meet myself and Joshua Green, C3's Research Manager. The conversation ended going on even past the point I had to leave for another appointment.
Surrounded by Smart Folks: Fanscape and Communispace
While we've been working on rounding out the semester here at MIT and pushing several projects forward, I've had the chance to cross paths with quite a few interesting people. Of course, FoE2 brought all sorts of fascinating people through our doors, and I've been fortunate enough to follow up with more than a few of them.
One of those folks is Natalie Lent, who is coordinator of business development for Fanscape. Natalie, a Harvard grad who previously worked for Creative Artists, "works to determine how potential and existing clients can creatively utilize a multitude of non-traditional online marketing strategies to connect to their target audience in ways that are engaging, personalized and seamlessly integrated into their preferred online properties and communities."
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.
The final panel at our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference, on cult media, is now available fro download in audio form. The mobile panel from the first day will be made available in the coming weeks, and video on the rest of these panels will be available shortly.
The cult media panel, available here, features a conversation among Danny Bilson, Jesse Alexander of Heroes, Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner, and Gordon Tichell of Walden Media, moderated by Henry Jenkins.
The first full panel on the second day of our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference, on advertising, is now available for download in audio form.
This panel, available here, features a conversation among Bill Fox of Fidelity Investments, Mike Rubenstein of the Barbarian Group, Baba Shetty of Hill/Holliday, Tina Wells of Buzz Marketing Group, and Faris Yakob from Naked Communications, moderated by Joshua Green.
FoE2 Podcast: Jason Mittell, Jonathan Gray, and Lee Harrington
The opening comments panel on the second day of our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference is now available for download in audio form.
This panel, available here, features a conversation among three academic speakers--C3 Consulting Resercher Jason Mittell of Middlebury College, Jonathan Gray of Fordham University, and Lee Harrington of Miami University, moderated by me.
On Monday morning, I was up at 3 a.m. working on a class project. Part of the assignment was to come up with an alternative metric for television.
I thought back to what I know about engagement and what it might mean from my friend Ivan Askwith's thesis, the Metrics & Measurement panel at C3's Futures of Entertainment 2 conference, and what we'd covered in class. There's been a lot of great discussion about a new metric, but few concrete suggestions about what might replace the much maligned Nielsen ratings and C3 (the commercial rating).
So, I decided to write a metric, put something on paper, and get feedback on it. That's what this post is about.
I wanted to start Monday morning by rounding out a few new links coming out of the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference.
First, Kare Anderson over at Moving from Me to We wrote a piece on this year's Futures of Entertainment 2, which also includes excerpts from an interview she conducted with me regarding the event.
Meanwhile, Rik Hunter, a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the composition and rhetoric program in the university's English department, provides a lot of notes from the conference on his site, Canned Goods.
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.
The final panel on the first day of our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference, on fan labor, is now available for download in audio and both high-res and low-res video form.
This panel is available here in audio and video form. The video is intended for download, and some browsers may try to display text if you don't right-click the link to save to your computer. If your browser tries to download it as a ".txt," remove the ".txt" from the name, and the file should work as an "m4v."
The panel features a conversation among Mark Deuze of Indiana University, Jordan Greenhall of DivX, Raph Koster of Areae, Elizabeth Osder of Buzznet, and Catherine Tosenberger of the University of Florida, moderated by Henry Jenkins.
The first panel from the conference, on mobile media, will be available shortly. However, we now have the metrics and measurement panel from FoE2 available for download in audio and video forms.
The metrics and measurement panel, available here, can be accessed in audio, 320x240 video, and 640x480 video. The video is intended for download, and some browsers may try to display text if you don't right-click the link to save to your computer. If your browser tries to download it as a ".txt," remove the ".txt" from the name, and the file should work as an "m4v."
here for download, features a conversation among Maury Giles of GSD&M Idea City, Bruce Leitchman of Leitchman Research Group, Jim Nail of Cymfony, and Stacey Lynn Schulman of Turner Broadcasting, and moderated by me.
We're excited to make the first of our events from the recent Futures of Entertainment 2 conference here at MIT available for download. Each of the panels from the conference are available in both video and audio form.
The panels are available here. Here is audio and video. The video is intended for download, and some browsers may try to display text if you don't right-click the link to save to your computer. If your browser tries to download it as a ".txt," remove the ".txt" from the name, and the file should work as an "m4v."
The opening comments features C3 Director Henry Jenkins and C3 Research Manager Joshua Green discussing some of the media industries trends in 2007. These opening comments helped set the agenda for what would be covered in the six panels to follow at FoE2.
Writing About FoE2: Around the Blogosphere (3 of 3)
A variety of folks wrote summaries of several different panels simultaneously or referenced the conference as a whole. Faris Yakob wrote about the conference here, here, and here. Faris also provided a piece on FoE2 for Contagious.
C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken provides his take on FoE2 here and here. Meanwhile, see Jonathan Gray's take on the conference at The Extratextuals.
Darren Crawforth provided a report from FoE2 for PSFK.
Writing About FoE2: Around the Blogosphere (2 of 3)
Below is a list of the blogs and pieces that reflected on or recapped Friday afternoon and Saturday's panels from our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference here in mid-November. See the first post of links here.
Writing About FoE2: Around the Blogosphere (1 of 3)
Between Futures of Entertainment 2 on Nov. 16 and 17 and Thanksgiving the next week, we've been in the process of trying to catch up on internal research projects and finish out what was really a fantastic conference, as far as we felt. Thanks to everyone who came, both panelists and audience members, for making it such a fantastic conversation. The plan is to have the audio and video from the conference made available, panel by panel, over the next few days, so be sure to come back here continuously for the latest.
In the meantime, I wanted to share with all of our readers many of the interesting accounts that have been posted around the blogosphere from FoE2. Over the next three posts, I'll link to a variety of these conversations, as a preview of those podcasts.
In this post, I'm linking to the posts for the pre-conference and some of the first day's events.
First, the MIT Communications Forum with Jesse Alexander and Mark Warshaw from Heroes was covered by C3 Graduate Researcher Lauren Silberman for this blog, here and here.
The second panel of the day was on Advertising and Convergence Culture. Speakers included Mike Rubenstein of the Barbarian Group, Baba Shetty of Hill/Holliday, Tina Wells of Buzz Marketing Group, Faris Yakob from Naked Communications, and Bill Fox of Fidelity Investments.
The panelists talked about the challenges and successes that they have encountered as marketers and advertisers in a convergent media environment, the problem of relinquishing total control over brands, user generated content and social media.
Live blogging for this session are Kevin Driscoll, Xiaochang Li, and Eleanor Baird.
In this session, the panelists talked about the "holy trinity" of media studies scholarship, tensions between industry and academia, qualitative versus quantitative understandings of audiences, and improving the connections between academics and insdustry in the future.
Live blogging the session were Xiaochang Li, Josh Diaz and Eleanor Baird.
Today is the launch of Futures of Entertainment 2. It's the wee hours of the morning now, and we're trying to get everything prepared for what we hope is a stimulating conference for academics and industry execs alike. We have a variety of folks coming in from around the country, and internationally, and from what looks to be about an even split of academic and industry registrants. We're hoping that it will lead to some stimulating conversation, on par with the energy developed around last year's event.
One thing I wanted to note before the conference begins is that we have had a couple of late additions to the program. Francesco Cara from Nokia will no longer be able to make it here for the mobile media panel this morning, so we will be joined by Anmol Madan of the Media Lab here at MIT.
Also, Jim Nail from Cymfony has been added to the list of speakers for the metrics and measurement panel this afternoon.
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.
WWE Grapples with CNN Documentary: Smacking Down the News
Journalism is fundamentally altered in an age of convergence culture. This isn't particularly new news for my colleagues over at the Center for Future Civic Media here at MIT in the Program in Comparative Media Studies. Nor is it new news for many of the people I spent time with back at Western Kentucky University when I was a journalism student in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting.
It's not even new news for the folks in the trenches of rural weekly journalism, described as the cockroaches of the journalism world by my editor at The Ohio County Times-News.
But I was reminded how talking back to the official journalists is possible in new ways in a new media environment, as was evidenced by a recent controversy between the WWE and CNN.
The final panel at last year's Futures of Entertainment 2, like the mobile media panel this year, focused on a particular media outlet, in this case virtual worlds. The discussion included John Lester from Linden Labs, Ron Meiners from Mplayer.com, and Todd Cunningham from MTV Networks, who we work with closely, as well as Eric Gruber from MTVN.
Todd will be able to join us again this year as a conference attendee, and we're glad to have Alice Kim from MTVN on our panel discussing mobile media.
The panel, called "Not the Real World Anymore," is available in audio here and in video here.
Last year's panel on fan cultures was one of the greatest precursors to the direction this year's conference has taken. Our discussions on fan labor, cult media, and even the audience measurement panel will deal with issues that were first raised in last year's fan cultures panel, which we live-blogged here.
The audio from last year's panel is available here, and the video is available here.
Looking back at FoE: Dr. Joshua Green on Viscerality
The second day of Futures of Entertainment last year began with a discussion led by Dr. Joshua Green, C3's Research Manager. Green will be helping to lead the opening comments of the conference with Dr. Henry Jenkins on Friday morning and will be moderating two of the panels at the conference.
Last year's presentation from Green focused on viscerality in a convergence culture. The audio of the presentation is available here, and the video is available here.
Green, whose bio is available here, has helped direct several exciting new strands of research at the Consortium this year, and the panels planned for the conference this year are indicators of the types of issues we've been tackling in our internal work that Joshua directs and what I've written here on the blog, along with our graduate students.
The final panel on Friday of last year's Futures of Entertainment focused on transmedia properties, in what is a precursor to a couple of the discussions taking place this year, perhaps most notably the conversation on cult media properties, which might be particularly ripe for transmedia storytelling.
The audio from this panel is available here, and the video is available here.
For those who haven't seen it, our panel on cult media this year will feature a variety of people steeped in knowledge of transmedia storytelling: Danny Bilson, who has written for a variety of media platforms; Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner; Gordon Tichell with Walden Media; and Jesse Alexander with Heroes.
The second panel on the first day of Futures of Entertainment last year was focused particularly on user-generated content. The panel provides a good precursor to a lot of the issues to be discussed this year in the "fan labor" panel.
For those who have not seen it, the description of our "Fan Labor" panel this year reads, "There is growing anxiety about the way labor is compensated in Web 2.0. The accepted model -- trading content in exchange for connectivity or experience -- is starting to strain, particularly as the commodity culture of user-generated content confronts the gift economy which has long characterized the participatory fan cultures of the web." The full description is available on the program, here.
Last year's "User-Generated Content" panel was live blogged here on the C3 site, available here. The conversation included Rob Tercek, who is president and co-founder of MultiMedia Networks; Caterina Fake, Tech Development at Yahoo!/Flickr; Bubble Project founder Ji Lee; and BioWare Director of Design Kevin Barrett.
Audio is available here, and video is available here.
Delivering the Message: Interview with a Baptist Minister (5 of 5)
This is the fifth of a five-part series of an interview I conducted in March 2006 with the pastor of a small Baptist church in Kentucky about how ministers use the media at a local level and the art of oratory in preaching. Rev. Darrell Belcher is the past or Echols General Baptist Church in Echols, Ky.
Sam Ford: Do you think the Internet, since it can stream audio and video, provides new opportunities for delivering sermons?
Darrell Belcher: I think we have a wonderful opportunity here, if it is used correctly. Television, radio, and the Internet broadens a pastor's horizons immensely. You can think about outreach here and can potentially have this be a religious realm, if you use it correctly.
Delivering the Message: Interview with a Baptist Minister (4 of 5)
This is the fourth of a five-part series of an interview I conducted in March 2006 with the pastor of a small Baptist church in Kentucky about how ministers use the media at a local level and the art of oratory in preaching. Rev. Darrell Belcher is the past or Echols General Baptist Church in Echols, Ky.
Sam Ford: Do you find preaching on radio and/or television more restrictive than a regular sermon?
Darrell Belcher: I feel equally comfortable doing radio as I do delivering a message live. When you are with a congregation, you don't have any time limits or anything like that, so you can deliver live better than on radio because you don't have to figure out how to squeeze a message into 15 or 20 minutes. You don't have time to stop and deliberate on something and then start back. You just have to put it out there fast and get it out there. In front of a congregation, you have time to play with things a little bit while you are preaching.
Delivering the Message: Interview with a Baptist Minister (3 of 5)
This is the third of a five-part series of an interview I conducted in March 2006 with the pastor of a small Baptist church in Kentucky about how ministers use the media at a local level and the art of oratory in preaching. Rev. Darrell Belcher is the past or Echols General Baptist Church in Echols, Ky.
Sam Ford: Tell me about your experience in preaching on the radio.
Darrell Belcher: Radio is completely different. For radio, you go into a studio. They sit you in a sound room, just you alone, or maybe they'll bring in a group of singers first who will sing, and then they put you in a sound room by yourself. They turn the lights on, and you know you are live on the air and what amount of time has been allotted to you. You have a time when you can start and a time you have to finish. It's not like preaching to the congregation; it's a lot harder, standing in there all alone, just preaching to the walls. It's a lot harder preaching like that than it is preaching at a church somewhere. You can't have any contact with anyone but the four walls in the studio. Of course, they have a little window there you can look through and see the person running the switchboard or whatever it might be out there. They give you your cues of when to start and when to stop, so you have to keep your mind on that, too. It's completely different than going into a church or anything like that.
Delivering the Message: Interview with a Baptist Minister (2 of 5)
This is the second of a five-part series of an interview I conducted in March 2006 with the pastor of a small Baptist church in Kentucky about how ministers use the media at a local level and the art of oratory in preaching. Rev. Darrell Belcher is the past or Echols General Baptist Church in Echols, Ky.
Sam Ford: Darrell, how frequently do pastors in your position deliver sermons?
Darrell Belcher: I have done radio shows, and I used to do some things years ago for Channel 13 (a local station in Bowling Green, Ky.) There was a lot of filming done of revivals I have preached and messages I delivered back in Louisville years ago. 15 or 20 years ago, I preached a lot of revivals. I was healthy, so I travelled a lot. I would sometimes preach five or six revivals in a row, without stopping, plus pastoring a church in between. It was hard to travel, and you had to take off work if you had a regular job most of the time. I always tried to keep my preaching in front of my job. WHen I worked for General Motors, it was always a little harder to manage my work schedule with pastoring and revivals. But, I worked for about 20 years in my own business, so I could plan my work schedule around revivals, and have employees work for me while I was gone.
Delivering the Message: Interview with a Baptist Minister (1 of 5)
Our C3 graduate students, as part of their course on media theory and methods with Henry Jenkins this semester, have been working on an assignment to interview a media producer of some sort. My recent post on Jesus 2.0 reminded me of my own assignment I did for Henry's class last year, when I interviewed a longtime Baptist preacher as my assignment.
I returned to the original transcript of the interview and thought I would include it here on the C3 blog, as it focuses on how religion has long dealt with how content fits into multiple media forms, and how to adapt messages for various audiences. As religion, and all media, are struggling with how to best adapt messages for a new media space--which we actually call "new media" in this case--it's interesting to see how individual pastors on a local level have been considering these changes in relation to the radio, televised preaching, etc.
The theory is that Friday Night Lights just hasn't grown a bigger audience because most people have never watched it. More than most shows, it does seem that I don't find people peripherally familiar with it; the people I talk to who have seen it absolutely love it, and everyone else says they have never watched. The show feels real in a way that few primetime shows have, and there's one element in particular that FNL does better than any other show on television: product placement and integration.
The Applebee's integration into FNL is the best use of product integration I've ever seen. The restaurant is a prominent part of the story at many points, as one of the key characters works as a waitress there and it's the de facto place to stop in town for a nicer meal, if players or their parents aren't going to the local burger shop or the "Alamo Freeze." Actually, the "Alamo Freeze" is a Dairy Queen, and you can easily tell that's the case, complete with partial shots of the Dairy Queen sign and Blizzards on the menu. My understanding is that it is even filmed at a Dairy Queen in Austin, Texas, but that they've chosen to make it a localized restaurant instead.
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.
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.
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."
Bluegrass Music and Fan Tourism at Jerusalem Ridge
I wanted to start out this morning by writing about something close to my heart: bluegrass music, bourbon, and The Bluegrass State. I was reading an article from today's New York Times that dealt with a reporter's excursion for a tour of Kentucky, which ended up being on the front page of the travel section. And right there at the top of the story, by Steven Kurutz, was The Rosine Barn Jamboree, a landmark of my home county: Ohio County, Ky., "The Birthplace of Bluegrass Music," as it commonly called itself, and home to about 23,000 people.
The article chronicles a journey through bourbon country and distilleries throughout the state, which are mostly east of where bluegrass music was berthed. But the final piece of the article looks at their journey to the big Jerusalem Ridge bluegrass music festival and the many ways it tries to recreate the authenticity of yesteryear in celebrating the music, and the culture that inspired the music, of Bill Monroe and other bluegrass legends.
Is it time to explore alternate forms of distribution a little bit more heavily? We have all come to generally agree to some of the principles for Long Tail economics; particularly, that there is room for marketing to niche interests. Hollywood has been met with increasing skepticism, however, as to what this means for film distribution, which leaves me to question whether savvy forms of direct-to-DVD distribution or online distribution or VOD distribution may be the answer to the problems currently facing some films in the theater.
Perhaps several of you read or heard about the New York Times article a few days ago by Michael Cieply dealing with the lack of money derived from the theater release of several films. Of course, these films may end up being more profitable over time, but it's likely that the amount of cost put into promoting them for theater release will make turning a profit even less likely. Maybe it's not just the fat middles in danger anymore, to steal a line from Grant McCracken.
If anyone believes we live in a world that is all about social connections, and understanding people in relation to one another rather than as distinct wholes, it would be folks around CMS and the Consortium. Concepts we discuss often such as the value of Web 2.0 and social networks, as well as fan communities and "collective intelligence," are all about the power of meeting people.
But, recently, I had a chance to not just meet up with an interesting who, but a what as well. Yesterday afternoon, while spending some time in downtown Boston, I ended up in what turned into a longer conversation with a man and his robot.
Looking at the Google/Nielsen Partnership in Light of This Year's Developments
One of the biggest pieces of news making the rounds of late is Google's further movement into the television industry with the announced partnership with Nielsen to help provide second-by-second ratings information, starting with a test market. I wanted to link this back to the trends we've been discussing here at the C3 blog for the past several months, to think about all that this means, and doesn't mean, for the industry.
First, Google having its eye on television advertising is hardly new news, although its application to audience measurement through Nielsen is. I wrote about the Echostar partnership Google started earlier this year in a post back in April, which also touted bringing online precision of "measurability and accountability" online.
Our cohorts over at MIT's new Center for Future Civic Media have been providing a lot of interesting and insightful pieces over on their new blog for the center, which is located here. The center is a collaboration between the Program in Comparative Media Studies and the Media Lab here at MIT, through a grant from the Knight Foundation. According to their Web site, the group will focus on creating the "technical and social systems for sharing, prioritizing, organizing, and acting on information. These include developing new technologies that support and foster civic media and political action; serving as an international resource for the study and analysis of civic media; and coordinating community-based test beds both in the United States and internationally."
A friend of mine, Surya Yalamanchili, recently took a job as director of marketing for LinkedIn. His moving into that position got me to thinking about the role that social networking site plays in the "Web 2.0" universe and the reasons people get involved with the site.
As you know, I am am a proponent of social networks and the way they can transform our lives. I also think they introduce a variety of new strains and that you should not enter them lightly; as well, you should have a strategy about how to handle connections and try to remain consistent with that strategy.
All these issues prompted me to write after I read Steve Cody's recent piece on LinkedIn over on his RepMan blog about the headache of trying to manage LinkedIn. Steve is one of the co-founders of Peppercom, a public relations company who recently graciously hosted me for a day at their offices in New York City. He writes about some of the challenges of finding use out of LinkedIn from an executive-level standpoint.
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.
Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (4 of 4)
This is the final section of a four-part series featuring an interview with Damon Taylor and Daniel Krueger from Electric Sheep, who helped produce tonight's launch of the CSI:NY television series crossover into Second Life.
Sam Ford: Electric Sheep is using this collaboration for the launch of OnRez, your viewer of the Second Life universe. What is it about the CSI:NY/Second Life collaboration you all are producing that made this the best opportunity to launch OnRez?
Daniel Krueger: I can't speak for our software development team, but I think that it's always been something that Electric Sheep wanted to do, as far as making an easier interface for navigating Second Life. It's not traditionally a very intuitive space for new users, so we wanted to make something simple for new users to come in with. We launched it with this project because we wanted to provide the easiest way for CSI:NY viewers who have never used Second Life to be able to come into the virtual world. It's really a perfect opportunity to launch OnRez.
Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (3 of 4)
The following is the third part of an interview series being published today regarding tonight's launch of the CSI:NY television series crossover into Second Life. This interview, with Damon Taylor and Daniel Krueger from Electric Sheep, looks at the motivations, implementation, and plans for extending the popular crime drama series into a virtual world.
Sam Ford: What is Electric Sheep Company's involvement in this project?
Damon Taylor: We are the vendor working with CBS to develop this, and it all started out as a relationship between Electric Sheep and CBS, working with Anthony E. Zuiker, who has become convinced that virtual worlds provide an opportunity for television companies or entertainment companies in general to create and provide content in ways that has never been done before. This has been a six-month planning process, culminating today. Our contract with CBS is to do this for six months, so we will be operating this experience for the next half-year. With content being updated every four weeks, we will be moving this story forward, along with a second television show next year that will tie back into the whole storyline.
Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (2 of 4)
What follows is an interview with Electric Sheep Company producers Daniel Krueger and Damon Taylor about their involvement in the CSI:NY/Second Life collaboration that launches with tonight's episode of the crime scene investigation drama on CBS. For a background on the crossover, look at this post from earlier today.
Sam Ford: To start off with, what do the two of you believe are some of the most compelling aspects of the CSI:NY/Second Life crossover that's taking place tonight, and what are the benefits for CBS and CSI:NY, on the one hand, and for Second Life other other?
Damon Taylor: This experience is compelling for users from two different perspectives. One of those perspectives is new users of Second Life, who are new to virtual worlds in general. The other perspective is for existing Second Life users. Potential new users who are fans of CSI:NY will care about this crossover because it will give them the opportunity to wrestle with CSI content in a way that has never been made available to them before. We have endeavored and achieved a true cross-platform experience where these fans can watch the television show, see the storyline that began on the TV show continued in-world, and then see the storyline jump back to the TV show next February when there is a sequel show that wraps up the storyline that starts tonight.
Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (1 of 4)
For those who haven't heard, tonight is the launch of a particularly compelling transmedia experience, the first time a major television franchise has driven its viewers into a virtual world to fill in the gap of a cliffhanger mystery that will not be resolved until next February.
CSI:NY, the New York version of the Anthony E. Zuiker television franchise, will feature an episode tonight in which a murder mystery takes the crime scene investigation team deep into Linden Lab's Second Life, with the mystery not being resolved until the concluding episode next year. The activities that take place in SL will build off what happens on the show and are planned to give fans the opportunity to get acquainted with a virtual world and also to have a new place to interact with and around the television franchise.
Even as television and other media forms struggle to quantitatively understand audiences as anything other than a mass of passive eyeballs, there is an increasing awareness among marketers that connecting with a brand is an active process not just for advertisers but for consumers as well. One of the ways this approach manifests itself is the movement away from traditional commercials and sponsorships and the movement toward a much different approach: branded services.
It's a concept that perhaps sounds novel and yet not all that surprising at all. Built off the backs of various goodwill and public relations initiatives that have long been a part of marketing brands, these newest moves are to offer services and experiences to potential consumers that in some way help promote the overarching brand.
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.
As many regular readers of our blog know, one thing that interests several of us here at C3 is audience measurement. There are a variety of debates about audience measurement; a couple of us are quite invested in our own individual projects at looking at how just measuring quantity of views--impressions--is severely lacking in understanding the qualitative relationships people have with that content. But we also often cover a problem that Louise Story examines in today's New York Times: discrepancies in counting.
Significant Changes for Procter & Gamble Daytime Shows
One of the big discussions generating a significant amount of buzz among the soap opera industry and the soaps fan community is the decision to make some production changes to Procter & Gamble Productions' two daytime serial dramas, Guiding Light and As the World Turns. As those of you who follow this blog regularly know, the soaps industry is an area of particular fascination with me. My Master's thesis work, which is currently under consideration for publication, deals with the PGP soaps in particular, and I am currently co-editing a collection of contemporary work on the state of soaps with Abigail Derecho from Columbia College Chicago, as well as gearing up to teach a class on soaps in the spring here at MIT.
Tremors of this decision had been making their way around the fan community. ATWT has been experimenting with various new aesthetics on the show, including the use of a digital handheld camera and an increase in the use of location shoots, as it has been rare in recent years to have outdoors scenes actually filmed out of the studio. Through using digital cameras, though, PGP has decided that it would actually be a better use of funds to have a permanent "outdoor studio" of sorts, where all outdoor scenes are filmed.
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.
Pragmatically Challenged: Where Do Quotes Fit in the YouTube Copyright Solution?
As those who are either members of the Consortium or who follow C3 regularly may know, we are in the process of doing some in-depth research into YouTube and the types of content that is most prevalent on the video sharing site. With that in mind, we have been paying more attention than ever to what is happening in this space. With the recent launch of the tools designed to cut out the improper use of copyrighted material, or at least offer copyright holders the opportunity to profit from the content's appearance on YouTube by offering ads, I fear that both fair use and the benefits to producers are getting lost in the process.
Let me explain what I mean. It has to do with what I feel is a very legitimate and fundamentally important aspect of YouTube: quoting. There is a substantial amount of copyrighted material on YouTube--of that, we can all surely agree. However, there is something fundamentally different about a segment from a show, a funny bit or a suspenseful bit, that is quoted in particular, versus the many people who post "last night's episode of X, Part I of V." One is trying to find the way around distribution; the other is about sharing a snippet of content that points back to the larger work, pointing to the proselytizing activities that are vital to a fan community and benefit both the fan sharing the link, those who click on the link, and the media company which the quote points back to.
Online TV Affects TV Viewing; It Affects It Not; It Affects It...
Alice Robison here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies alerted me last night to a short piece from TelevisionWeek's Daisy Whitney that viewing of online TV has doubled in the past year.
The study, which came from ad researchers TNS Media Intelligence, found that viewers cited most often a desire to avoid ads and the convenience of watching on-demand as reasons to move online. However, she writes, "While broadcast television ratings continue to decline, 80 percent of online viewers say watching shows online has not affected their viewing of traditional television."
Best and Worst Practice in Online Narrative Extensions
I wanted to respond this morning to a piece over at The Extratextuals, the blog which C3 alum Ivan Askwith has a 1/3 stake in. This was not from Ivan, but prolific Extratextual Jonathan Gray, who had a couple of notes of interest for me.
Gray reviews two NBC-related textual extensions of their show, a character blog from My Name Is Earl and the Dunder Mifflin site for The Office. His criticisms of each are both quite strong, as they include official NBC logos, advertisements for shows, ranking favorite characters, and a whole host of things that break the illusion that this is in any way part of the narrative world. I think his criticisms here are a lesson as to how to make these extratextual extensions more meaningful and part of creating an immersive story world, a sense of deeper engagement with the characters.
He asks for examples of really good Web sites, and there's one, bar none, that deserves all the credit: WWE.
It's retro marketing at its most direct, and since it is intended to appeal directly to my demographic, it fascinates me: it's NBC's plans for the return of American Gladiators. For those who don't remember the original, it was over-the-top television spectacle at its most ridiculous, often to the point of absurdity. Of course, it was coupled by many stations in syndication alongside professional wrestling content, hoping to appeal to the same demographic.
In the early-1990s, when I was in elementary school, I watched American Gladiators among my Saturday morning television favorites. Without the narrative development and greater story world of the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE), American Gladiators seemed to pale in comparison, but it served as an acceptable appetizer for wrestling content.
The future of online television continues to get brighter. Why? Not necessarily because any of the particular series that have launched are of such high quality that it will make a major difference. In fact, I'm trying to take a quality-agnostic approach here. I'm convinced rather by the proliferation of online video series. As the number of television series that launch online continues to skyrocket, the chance of online distribution becoming a viable market increases.
The learning curve requires industry innovation, an increase in quality, and viewer acclimation. The many online video series that have been launching in recent months encourage all of that. The first online video series are interesting just for their "gee-whiz-ness," the fact that they were an online video series being a novelty all their own. As these series become more commonplace, though, the industry begins to learn through trial and error what does and doesn't work, and series can no longer ride on that innovator wave, requiring the shows to have to stand on their artistic merit.
TV Sponsorship Model Becoming Increasingly Prevalent
Earlier today, I wrote about the new Live with Regis and Kelly promotion with Walgreens for a 3D episode on Halloween. In that case, Walgreens was not planned to circumvent the usual advertising for the show but rather to help promote and provide the glasses for 3D viewing for that special event. In many other cases, though, a sponsorship model increasingly means limited advertising for a show.
The latest to get some attention for moving toward a sponsorship model is Mad Men, the AMC series actually focusing on the advertising industry. The season finale of the critical hit show will be commercial-free branded as being brought to us by DirecTV.
As high-definitiion becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the new frontier of experimentation continues to be 3D TV. Whle sports organizations and networks have been the predominant experimenters with 3D technology and television content, the latest tinkerer looking to add a dimension to his show is one that American daytime audiences might know well: the shy TV producer at the sidelines, Michael Gelman.
Gelman is the not-so-behind-the-scenes executive producer of Live with Regis and Kelly, the daytime talk show featuring longtime TV personality Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, a daytime TV star in multiple genres. The 3D experiment will be featured as a stunt for Halloween. As longtime viewers of Live will know, Halloween has long been a featured episode on the show, stretching back to the days that it was Kathy Lee Gifford instead of Kelly Ripa.
This is more than just an experiment with 3D technology, though: it is also an experiment in sponsorship, as the special 3D Halloween episode will be brought to viewers by Walgreens pharmacy. As soon as the episode was planned, Disney-ABC went forward to find a sponsor willing to take part in playing 3D to the home viewing audience.
Jericho Fans in Waiting to See How Season Plays Out
When are we going to see the next chapter in the Jericho saga? As most of you know, Jericho was the CBS serial primetime drama cancelled at the end of last season that raised substantial fan outrage, which manifested itself in fans sending a large amount of peanuts to the CBS offices, among other things. CBS has decided to bring the series back for a seven-episode run in its second season. The only question is when that mini-season will run.
Jericho was planned as a replacement series once one of the newcomers to the CBS lineup fails, with the idea that it would launch after the first several weeks and give viewers either a chance to support the show for a longer run or to get a better resolution of the plot with seven episodes to wrap up lingering questions.
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.
VOD's Business Model: Need for Advertiser Leadership?
Recently, I was reading a piece from MediaPost by Lydia Loizides, a friend of the Consortium's. Lydia was talking about video-on-demand and some of the problems inherent with the current deployment of VOD, particularly the myriad ways in which VOD advertising has been capitalized on so little.
She points out all the ways in which VOD needs to be revolutionized as a business and calls on the advertisers to be the one to make this happen, since they will drive the VOD business model as it matures. Lydia, who is VP of the new media division at Paradigm, writes, "I have been following VoD technology for close to ten years now, and I can honestly say that while the advances we have made in deployment should be applauded, the lack of technological enhancements that have been developed and adopted in order to grow this into a true revenue-generating business should be admonished."
You know we are in a phase of experimental marketing when audiences start debating whether or not something was meant to be an advertisement, or whether it was just an error.
The debate, of course, can be good or bad: when an ad runs consecutively, back-to-back, I've often found that it annoys consumers, at least from anecdotal evidence of hearing others talk when it happens, or conversations I've seen take place online. But I saw a new one a little while back.
I was reminded of it when I was going back to watch parts of a wrestling show from the end of August. It was Friday Night Smackdown, World Wrestling Entertainment's show on the CW Network, for Aug. 31. When the show first came on, I noticed something peculiar every time there was a black screen: a Wendy's watermark.
This past week, registration opened for our second annual Convergence Culture Consortium and Program in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) co-sponsored conference, Futures of Entertainment 2. More updates will be forthcoming over at the FoE2 Web site.
We will be including full speaker bios and headshots over the next few days for all the speakers on our various panels, among other things.
For more, see our last few posts, including our announcement of the conference, Henry Jenkins' notes on the conference, and a look back at the first event last year. However, word about FoE2 has been popping up elsewhere across the Web as well.
For those of you who may have been hearing recently about this year's Futures of Entertainment 2 conference (see the site here), but who may not have been able to attend last year's event, I wanted to go back into the archives and share more information about last year's event.
The site is still up, available here. As I noted back in August, there are audio and/or video podcasts up from the panels last year.
The Consortium is always interested in ARG-esque promotions for content, as regular readers of the blog and some of our other work know, and I am always keeping a close eye on the world of professional wrestling. That's why a recent WWE campaign caught my eye in particular. It has the fans talking and speculating about the potential impending return of one of the biggest wrestling stars of the last decade, "Y2J" Chris Jericho, or perhaps the impending return of "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels, who was injured earlier this year.
Jericho, who took a sabbatical from wrestling in 2005, has not returned to the ring since. But a short clip that aired during World Wrestling Entertainment, starting a couple of weeks ago, has gotten people talking about his potential return. The video, available here and in various versions, features streaming numbers and letters, Matrix-style, with the only major repeated text being flashes of a message: "Save_us.222."
I've been writing about a variety of interesting online video series lately, that have been in one way or another labeled "online soaps." I want to make clear at the outset, though, that I don't personally agree with this definition, or at least would argue that the online soap would be considered a very different format than the daytime soap.
I've been thinking about these issues a lot lately, as Abigail Derecho and I are co-editing a collection of essays on the contemporary state of daytime serial drama. We have been thinking through questions about what does and does not count as soap opera. I've discussed this often with other friends and fellow soaps enthusiasts, like Lynn Liccardo, in the past, finding that there is danger in the conflation of daytime soaps and primetime soaps, even with the similarities.
The latest of these online soaps comes from the United Kingdom, originating with a study that has found that the desire to watch the romantic lives of soap stars often eclipse the romantic lives of the actual fans. Now, mind you, a condom maker commissioned this study.
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.
A lot of discussion focused on Second Life of late has been about the overhype--how the economic and cultural implications of late have exaggerated the impact that this space is having. I, however, take the same approach that Henry Jenkins has at times, noting that Second Life is interesting inasmuch as it is a testing ground for interesting behaviors. In short, it's an interesting place to study, even if it is not necessarily a major piece of the economic puzzle for the mainstream.
The latest example of interesting things happening in Second Life? See this post from Wagner James Au, who reports from Second Life, about labor union protests spilling over from the first life into this world. Workers who are part of the RSU Italian labor union are in a struggle with IBM, and the picketing and other protest behaviors have made their way into the virtual world.
It was an announcement we knew was in the works, but Nielsen has made public that it will be tripling the size of its ratings sample by that mythic year, 2011, in which the media industry is hanging all its hopes. (I say this because every projection I come across extends a forecast out to 2011.)
The announcement, made earlier this week, has seen Nielsen proclaim that their numbers will be much more precise now, since they will be based on 37,000 homes and 100,000 people, rather than the current 12,000 homes and 35,000 people that Nielsen says it uses today.
Among all the discussion about the television shows launching this season is a whole other series of programming launching this fall as well: new online series.
In the past couple of weeks, I have written about new online series like Crescent Heights, sponsored by Tide, and Quarterlife, the online television series from the creators of thirtysomething and My So-Called Life.
Now, there has been some buzz about another new online series, launched from NBC, called Coastal Dreams. According to the series' site, Coastal Dreams "is a new online-only drama featuring two young women living, working and playing in the scenic seaside town of Pacific Shores."
Discovery/Starcom Study Finds HD Ads Sigificantly More Successful
A new study that's been making its rounds finds that high-definition advertising content, at this stage, is a much more successful way to reach audiences.
The study, which was conducted in correlation with the upfront deal struck between the Discovery HD Theater channel and Starcom USA, found a lot of interesting points: that recall of brands was three times higher for HD users as compared to those watching commercials in standard-definition; that advertising was considered more enjoyable in HD; and that the "intent-to-purchase" was 55 percent higher comparing high-definition ads to standard-definition ads. The study looked at SD and HD viewers of Discovery programming and their ad recall rates.
The latest news coming out about an online series ties into writing we've been doing here at the Convergence Culture Consortium about online video, branded entertainment, and soap operas. Procter & Gamble's Tide brand will be the sponsor of a new broadband series through GoTV Networks, a 10-parter called Crescent Heights.
The series, written by Mike Martineau of Rescue Me fame (see this post relating to Jason Mittell's writing about the FX series and how he feels it serves as a hypermasculine soap opera), will be available not just through Tide's Web site but also through mobile providers as well.
Kentucky Weatherman Controversy Raises Issues About Privacy, Copyright, Context, and Information Traces
An event that got a lot of people talking over the past few weeks back in Kentucky, and elsewhere, have--for some people--brought up the somewhat unsavory side of online video, user-generated content, and issues of privacy and context. The weatherman and morning television personality for a local news station in Kentucky, WBKO-13, had a short video clip released of him, off-the-air, waiting for a segment on breast milk donors.
Chris Allen, the news personality, was standing at a screen, juxtaposed against a quite large illustration of the female figure, with the figure's breast next to him. Allen, in an attempt at humor toward his fellow colleagues, started feigning that he was suckling at the breast of the figure, and then reached out to do a grab, complete with "honk, honk" noises.
An interesting piece of self-reflection from The New York Times yesterday. For those of you who are interested in the newspaper business, or just interested readers of The Times, you may have already seen that the site has decided to release most of its archives from behind the pay wall.
I'm intrigued anytime a newspaper decides to report on itself, but this piece, by journalist Richard Perez-Pena, is particularly open about the business rationale behind the decision. Rather than try to hide behind the facade of a good-hearted wish to make the archive open to the masses of students, researchers, and interested citizens, the article highlights the real reason: making the archives available openly is simply more profitable for the Times than keeping them as gated content in a pay-per-view model.
The second part of our discussion yesterday with Joe Pine focused on his work with Gillmore on authenticity, which is part of a forthcoming book of his.
This discussion began with Pine describing the three aspects of a product that make people determine it to be inauthentic: the first would be in terms of popularity, in that products often become less authentic as they become more mainstream or taking into account mainstream interests; the second would be in terms of machine, as the lack of human crafting usually causes people to view a product as less authentic; and, finally, there is the aspect of money, in which the more lucrative a product is or the more the creation is perceived to be driven by profit, the less authentic it is.
Joe Pine of experience economy fame joined the C3 team and a few other interested folks for a discussion of his work yesterday afternoon, prior to his planned colloquium yesterday evening, for which the podcast will be available in the coming weeks. (Update: The podcast is now available here.)
C3 has encountered Joe's work on the experience economy in the past, although many of the arguments made there have become part of the ways in which may in the media industry think. On the other hand, Joe pointed out that, often, the problem was that the idea gets implemented in quite opposite ways in which it was intended.
For the next couple of posts, I thought I would share some observations based on our conversation yesterday, with this post focusing on our discussion of the experience economy, and the next one focusing on our discussion of authenticity, a subject which Pine and Gillmore are about to release a book on.
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.
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Pontus Bergdahi, the CEO of Swedish television measurement company MMS. Pontus, a regular reader of the C3 blog, wrote to say that his company had produced a study that might be of interest to our focus here at the Consortium. Unfortunately, the 100-pp. study is not available in English, but I got a chance to look through a summary of the findings, which revealed a few interesting trends.
For instance, the study emphasized above all else that viewers today are watching more television than ever, but it is complicated by the fact that there are a variety of new channels in which they are viewing. In a media environment which values views equally, without bias to which platform they are viewed on, the television industry is stronger than ever, then. As examples like the CBS/Jericho situation reveal, however, the system is not equipped to deal with views on video-on-demand, DVRs, online streaming, downloading or other sources equally, meaning that a viewer really does "count more" when watching on television at the regular time, than they do otherwise...Well, let me amend that: as long as they have a Nielsen box, that is.
The Disney Channel: Educating Children for a Transmediated World
The Disney Channel has provided an interesting case study throughout cable television history. From its early launch on cable in 1983, to its switch from a premium cable channel to a basic cable channel, to its continued reinventions and rebranding with each new generation of viewers, the outline provides yet another interesting form of study into one of the most important players in the entertainment and media industries, not just in the United States, but around the world.
In Disney TV, J.P. Telotte examines the history of Disney on television, particularly focusing on Walt Disney's early television shows and their relationship to the theme park. The book was required reading in Henry Jenkins' class on the media industries that I took back in 2005, and I found it to be a great model for an intense, narrowly focused, and concise take on a media company.
C3's Balance between Industry and the Academy: The Consortium in the Press
We mentioned this in our C3 Weekly Update that we sent out within the Consortium this week, but I wanted to draw the attention of the larger C3 community toward an interesting piece in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education, focusing on the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, and Dr. Henry Jenkins in particular. The piece, here, is one of the most detailed pieces that have been written on Henry, and there's some focus on C3 in particular as part of the piece.
SIGGART: Trying to Emphasize the Importance of Nimble UGC Campaigns
Last month, we got an e-mail from The Gold Group about an interesting project they had completed on behalf of SIGG Switzerland, which is an aluminum bottle manufacturer with its US offices based in Stamford, Conn., who are concerned about building their brand as being eco-conscious. The company solicited user-generated ideas, "crowdsourcing" a new design for their bottles. Based on the study, Gold wants to emphasize that the "wisdom of crowds" can generate interesting results, no matter which buzzword you use. The winning bottle design was produced and sold by the company.
A report that Jeff Greene, Executive Director of Client Services for the Gold Group, wrote, focused on the question, "Do social media outreach effects really produce word of mouth engagement? And, if they do, what are the most effective components of social media that should be incorporated into a campaign?"
Yesterday, I was walking into the lobby of Five Cambridge Center, where the Convergence Culture Consortium offices are located, when a newspaper on the front desk caught my eye. Now, the subscription to this Wall Street Journal was for one of my neighbors on another floor of the center, so I could only glance at the headline, but it involved two things of interest to me: our partner, MTV, and deodorant.
Of course, I guess deodorant is of the interest of many of the C3 readers, but I am particularly interested because of my fascination with the history of product placement, and particularly with the history of soaps and everyday items as product placement. Considering my interest in soap operas, I often emphasize the fact that this was a whole genre (or format, depending on your perspective) which was set up under the notion of product integration or branded entertainment, two phrases that have become quite the buzzwords for the industry.
Quarterlife and the Rise of the Online Video Series
What will be the impact of Quarterlife on the future of online video? It's hard to say, but one thing is for certain: the evolution of online video series continue to move forward. In short, the creators of My So-Called Life and thirtysomething, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, are releasing a new television series on the Web, through MySpace. The show, which will debut on Nov. 11 and run for 18 weeks, with two new eight-minute episodes a week, will focus on a group of characters in their 20s.
Daisy Whitney at TelevisionWeekpoints out that this news is particularly relevant coming after the announcement from Warner Bros. Television Group for the production of 23 new series produced for online video, all short-form content. The business model will be through ad revenue sharing with MySpace.
The background for the show? It was originally a pilot for ABC, which was ultimately not picked up.
Jonathan's Story: Guiding Light's New Transmedia Project
A story that's been getting some press in the American daytime drama industry of late is over at Guiding Light, where the character Jonathan Randall returned for a short stint recently after having faked his death, along with his daughter's, in order to escape the domineering figure of Alan Spaulding, his daughter's great-grandfather.
A short-stint return of a popular character is always big news in daytime, but it's not particularly novel. What is perhaps more interesting is his return is yet another chance for daytime to experiment with the novel, quite literally, as Procter & Gamble Productions is promoting a book tie-in with Jonathan's return, with the upcoming release of Jonathan's Story through Simon and Schuster. See this post from A.C. Powers at The Soap Dispenser for more, and look here for more information on the character.
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.
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.
An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (4 of 4)
This is the final part of a four-part interview with the creators of a fan-led grassroots movement to raise money for charities within the Supernatural fan community. I have been publishing my e-mail discussion with three organizers for the group: Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.
Sam: What has been the impact of using various social networking sites to help spread the word of Fandom Rocks?
Dana: Utilizing as many networking sites as we are familiar with has been important because we know each site has a subsection of the viewing audience. Some people participate in more than one site, but often there is a specific site you spend more time at than others. We wanted to make sure we were reaching as many Supernatural fans as possible. However, we know it is also important to reach fans away from networking sites - potential fans on other forums and especially offline. We have plenty of work ahead of us to reach new fans. Recently, a fan on the CW Lounge forum responded to my post that she hadn't heard of Fandom Rocks before that moment, despite my posting there three times prior. This showed me we still needed to work hard at spreading the news of Fandom Rocks if we were missing fans who participated regularly at the network's Web site.
An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (3 of 4)
This is the third part of a four-part interview with the organizers of Fandom Rocks, a fan organized grassroots initiative within the Supernatural fan community which sponsors a variety of charities. This interview is conducted with three organizers for the group, Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.
Sam: What activities have you all engaged with so far?
Dana: We just completed our first campaign. Just over $2,000 was raised via fan donations and Cafe Press purchases. I traveled to Lawrence to visit the community shelter and give them our donation in person. While there, I also visited the soup kitchen across the street where shelter guests often receive their meals if the shelter is not serving. I also visited the humane society anticipating they would be one of the charities fans chose for the next campaign.
An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (2 of 4)
This is the second part of an interview with Dana Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney, the three creators of Fandom Rocks, a fan-led organization from the Supernatural fan community dedicated to raising money for charities.
Sam: Why Supernatural? What is it about this show and this fandom in particular that encourages this type of initiative?
Dana: I think Supernatural falls into that category of show where it has an extremely loyal fan following, but it is on a lesser-known network with an imminent threat of cancellation. Fans want to keep their show, but they also want other people to learn about it and enjoy it as much as they do. Starting campaigns for charity accomplishes the goal of making more potential viewers aware of Supernatural, and it has the added benefit of making a difference in the world. It shows the "offline" world that online communities are formed by caring, intelligent individuals, much like themselves.
An Interview with the Organizers of Fandom Rocks (1 of 4)
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Dana Stodgel, representing an interesting group called "Fandom Rocks," which Stodgel described as "a fan-created initiative to support charities and raise interest in the CW show Supernatural." She thought that the work they were doing might be of interest to the type of issues we look into here at the Convergence Culture Consortium.
As I examined the work of Fandom Rocks further through their Web site, I thought that the best approach might just be to do a multi-part interview with the organizers of Fandom Rocks here on the C3 blog, to get a better idea of the work they do, what motivates them, and how the activities a group like Fandom Rocks participate in can be understood in relation to the show, the network, the fan community, and the charities they work with.
This interview is conducted with Stodgel, Brande Ruiz, and Rebecca Mawhinney.
Sam: What are each of your backgrounds, both in relation to the fan community, the network, and the pro-social purpose of Fandom Rocks?
Dana: I am a fairly quiet member of the fan community, contributing mostly to discussions with fellow fans on LiveJournal and some graphics. I do not have any connection to the CW network. As for the pro-social purpose of Fandom Rocks, I have been involved in other fandom charity events and participated as a volunteer and fundraiser for organizations offline as well, so it was another opportunity to give back.
IBM Internet Survey Finds Respondents Spend a Lot of Time Online
Language can be an interesting thing. And an important one when you are talking about issues like consumer adoption. You know that we're interested in these issues at C3, and that I am a proponent for looking and preparing for the future. But I also believe a healthy dose of realism is good as well, and the hyperbole and overhype has saturated our discussion of technological point to the degree that even the most culturally savvy border on mild forms of technological determinism when they aren't careful.
Related to all of this, I was reading an IBM press release recently that touted the decline of television as the primary media device in the home, boasting that "the global findings overwhelmingly suggest personal Internet time rivals TV time."
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.
As we have mentioned a few times here on the blog, C3 has been been paying special attention to social networking sites in the past several months. That work has spilled over here on the blog in a variety of ways, looking both at the business models and deals struck around the business models for these sites, and perhaps even more interestingly, the types of behaviors that take place in these online communities.
For me, it is key to distinguish between Facebook the company and site, and Facebook the community of people, just as it is for MySpace, or even sites like YouTube. Especially when lawsuits and accusations start getting thrown around, precision of language matters, as squabbles between corporate parent entities often instead seem to be conversations that show disdain for the community of users who inhabit and empower these sites.
In my mind, it is crucial to realize that these sites mean nothing without the people on them, and that any discussion of the brand equity of a YouTube or MySpace has to be tempered with the realization that it is directly the users who provide that value and who control the continued vitality of these sites.
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."
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.
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 onepart twopart threepart four)
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.
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.