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? Movenetworks.com 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 | , , , , , | 5 Comments

First Week Assignment

“What are some of the social networks you use and why do you use them?”

“How have technologies like sms/text messaging, youtube, and myspace changed the way that we interact?”

The social networking age has dropped on me like a pile of bricks recently; within the last two years I am sms-ing at breakneck speed, facebooking everyday, a myspace page i never look at, you-tubing more than watching TV and the ever-present, nerve-wrecking expectation that I should already be blogging about my band, or have an itunes page, or at least a video on you-tube nags at my conscience constantly. You see I’m trying to lead a band of 20-somethings, who already know about most of this but aren’t willing to do the PR, and at 35 I’m still kinda impressed with the notion of a cell phone. It is overwhelming and intimidating to me, yet the possibilities of marketing to so many without the need for money or connections is exhilerating. I am intrigued.

I am also living in Norway and have needed to stay in touch with family and friends in the US while having to create a social network here in Trondheim quickly and efficiently. I couldn’t have accomplished these tasks with speed and efficiency if I had moved in 2000 (at least I couldn’t), yet today I have been able to use e-mail chatting and Skype to speak with family across an ocean without any delays or cost. And I have been able to meet and stay in touch with over 80 people in Trondheim, Norway by utilizing Facebook.  It is exciting to be living in what Henry Jenkin’s describes as a “Renaissance culture”. And I think our interactions with each other and expectations of one another have been radically transformed by our recent ability to inform one another about every aspect of our lives in real-time.

“I have developed these concepts of media and cultural convergence to describe the present moment as a kind of Renaissance culture, one being transformed — for both better and worse — as the social, cultural, political, and legal institutions respond to the destabilization created by media change” (Jenkins, Henry. “Media Convergence.”)

September 6, 2008 Posted by | social networking | , , , | 7 Comments

Transmedia Convergence

When Jenkins talks about convergence culture, he’s also talking about the convergence of different kinds of media — “transmedia.”

For instance, we might watch a movie, like The Matrix, then play the Matrix video game, and then we might download some animated shorts from the Matrix website, and so on.

In Jenkins’ book, Convergence Culture, he states that The Matrix is an example of transmedia storytelling, which refers to an aesthetic that depends on the active participation of knowledge communities. It is an art of “world making,” infused with a sense of play. Consumers chase down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer experience. (Convergence Culture, pp. 20-21)

The process may start with any media channel but a successful product will flow across media until it becomes pervasive within the culture at large — comics into computer games, television shows into films, and so forth. (from Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture)

This kind of transmedia intake is fairly common these days. Just take a look at the recent political party campaigns. We might have read about candidates in the papers, watched some of the debates on tv, then checked out videos on websites.

This kind of convergence represents a shift in our relations to media. We are enframing our experiences through popular culture and play, and the skills that we acquire along the way collectively impact the way that we participate in the process and connect with others on a global level.

February 10, 2008 Posted by | convergence | , , , | 3 Comments

Convergence Culture

I use LinkedIn and use (but usually don’t post to) comments on Amazon, BestBuy, etc. LinkedIn is an incredible way to network for business — hugely convenient and saves a tremendous amount of time. I didn’t grow up with cellphones, e-mail, texting, Facebook, etc. It seems that the introduction of all of these is both a great advance, and yet in some ways a burden because we have the ability to be constantly connected. The benefit of being able to conduct business at anytime–anywhere, for instance must be significantly increasing our productivity, but aren’t we losing something in the process?Also, I think it’s fascinating to see the large number and wide range of web communities. I’m a gardener and there are forums on the most esoteric topics. Again, I think this presents positives and negatives. How great to be able to converse with someone, in England about ferns (if that’s what you’re into), but are we spending so much time communicating about ferns that we don’t have time to be out there planting them?

February 7, 2008 Posted by | culture, social networking | , , | 4 Comments

Convergence Culture

In the Henry Jenkins reading, he is quoted as saying “YouTube is the fullest embodiment of convergence culture.” What is meant by that?
YouTube is the most widely used network for gathering and sharing videos. Everyone “converges” there for information. YouTube permits everyone, everywhere to share information and create content of any kind to be shared with anyone around the world. You can access any type of media: news, music, interviews, classic commercials etc. It can also be used by students, companies and political parties who want to share a message. It allows everyone and everything to have their “15 minutes of fame”.

What is “participatory culture”?
A participatory culture is people sharing ideas, creating projects, getting involved in community affairs and knowledge sharing. This culture makes you feel like you are part of something bigger and facilitates making connections to those around you who may share the same ideas and interests.

What are some of the social networks you use and why do you use them?
Honestly, I created a Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn page for past courses and rarely if ever use them. While they all facilitate networking, I find that I don’t have the time to post daily or connect with people in that way. I prefer simple email and the phone. My colleagues who do use them, do so for photo and music sharing, networking, dating, advertising, party planning, and catching-up with old friends.

How have technologies like sms/text messaging, youtube, and myspace changed the way that we interact?
SMS & Texting: These technologies have taken away face to face time. Sure they have made life easier and perhaps more interesting, but I miss the “real” interactions.

Youtube: I absolutely love it. Being able to watch old music videos, relive my youth with vintage food/toy commercials is simply amazing. The community of Youtube is a special breed, someone is always posting new content for the most obscure subjects.

Myspace: Don’t use it.

February 5, 2008 Posted by | convergence, culture | , , , | 9 Comments