Intro to Networked Collaboration

On convergence and participation

In Convergence Culture, Jenkins writes, “Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about.” I must say that I was relieved to read this sentence! Over the course of this week the notion of convergence has been simmering on the back burner of my mind, and I’ve been asking myself what exactly we mean when we talk about convergence. Apparently it’s quite subjective! To me, the most interesting interpretation of convergence is the merging of old and new media delivery systems as a result of (or resulting in) a change in cultural participation. For the rest of this post, this is the interpretation of convergence I’ll be using.

A huge example of convergence in our recent media history was ABC’s decision to begin airing full episodes of the network’s shows online. Critics of the move predicted that once viewers began watching full episodes online, they wouldn’t return to watching ABC programming on television. Perhaps, however, it doesn’t matter if viewers begin watching most of their television online. Could this be the beginning of a new convergence trend? reported that in May 2008, ABC viewers watched “a record 815 million minutes of full-length episodes during the month, a 53 percent increase over the previous month and an increase of nearly 110 percent over May 2007. The full report is HERE. My own experience with ABC’s online episodes was one that actually increased my television viewing. I often come home late at night after bartending and want to watch something besides infomercials. I got hooked on “Desperate Housewives,” “Brothers and Sisters,” and “Pushing Daisies” through online episodes, and soon I was making time in my schedule to watch the new episodes as they aired on TV. What a sly way to get me addicted to three ABC shows!

I came across another interesting example of media convergence today. I do some work at Sirius Satellite Radio on the Metropolitan Opera Channel. The Met Channel is a recent project with a goal of making a wide range of full-length Metropolitan Opera recordings available to the listening public. As the channel’s popularity has grown, the demand for older and more obscure operas has increased. This afternoon I was uploading a 1935 recording to the system and my supervisor remarked that this particular opera had never been broadcast. When it was recorded in 1935, the three-plus hours of music were all contained on large wax-like discs that held five minutes of music each. With the improvement of sound restoration technology, it is now possible to merge this extremely old form of media delivery with a very new form—satellite radio. Exciting!

The Hopkins reading intrigued me with its thoughts about participation (and by extension, participatory culture.) To live is to participate. We are, by default, participating. It would follow that there is no non-participatory culture, so all culture must be participatory. The question then becomes not “will I participate?” but “how will I participate?”

September 18, 2008 - Posted by | convergence | , , , , ,


  1. I also have begun DVRing TV shows that I started watching as downloads from iTunes. I bet there will be some people who don’t watch the network once all the content is available online. I also think there will be an increase in viewership of people who wouldn’t have watched the shows “on TV” but will watch them online. – Stacey

    Comment by scollins99 | September 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. Responding to your thought smartscrutiny on how we all participate in some way, I would say that yes we do but some people consume the culture more than participating in it. I am probably guilty of it in some ways but not leaving comments on youtube even though I enjoy watching clips all the time. I do enjoy reading this blog and contributing to it so I would say that is “participatory” to a greater degree. The same distinction could be made for those that just view their friends’ statuses on facebook and keep track of their friends’ photos without posting that much information on themselves. This could really be looked at as different introverted or extroverted personality traits translated to our online selves or this could be viewed as not being a “participatory” player in this online world.

    Comment by unoq | September 20, 2008 | Reply

  3. You’re right, unoq, there are definitely many ways to interpret the term “participation”. I was actually commenting on the views of participation expressed in the Hopkins article, particularly in the third paragraph of the first page, beginning with, “Participation is a condition that does not leave our lives until we leave our lives…”

    It’s an interesting article, if you haven’t read it yet. It is less about media/technology networks, and more about human interaction and energy exchange.

    Comment by smartscrutiny | September 20, 2008 | Reply

  4. What smartscrutiny is saying is so true and you see it more and more as technology progresses. It’s one of those things that is becoming really hard to avoid. When there are so many ways to participate in convergence. It is true that there are a few people that don’t. But as unoq was saying, some are guilty of participating in a non “participatory” way. It just goes to show you that no matter how involved you are with these advances, they are doing a really good job of sucking you in.

    Even people who didn’t grow up with these technologies are giving in. Example being, my mother. Now, she too can’t stay away from it. 😛

    Comment by isrellyrel | September 21, 2008 | Reply

  5. I’ve also had similar experiences with television media going online. It’s affected the way I watch the news the most. With many news outlets being online now I can schedule an hour or two to scroll through topics I’m interested in following, rather than waiting for a news anchor or pundit to start talking about a subject. And the web has been a great resource for alternate news sources, like Comedy Centrals Jon Stewart Show, or visiting Al-Jazeera’s English site. Also, there’s access to behind-the-scene’s points of view, like what was going on during the Olympics that wasn’t shown on television. There really is so much news out there that television can’t, or won’t handle.

    Comment by nancyajones | October 1, 2008 | Reply

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