Intro to Networked Collaboration

Erin’s First Week Assignment

Henry Jenkins says that convergence culture is where old and new media collide. Converging media is all around us, and has been all around us for some time. In the 1870s, telegraph technology collided with Bell’s new technology to create a new media; the telephone. Highway billboards have become large TV screens in increasing numbers, tapes have given way to digital music technology in the form of CDs and mp3s, VHS media has met its digital future in the DVD and Blu-ray disc, direct marketing has progressed from catalog mailings to telemarketing to email marketing to text message advertising, TV viewers are spending more and more time watching YouTube videos, and digital written communication is moving away from email towards online communities like MySpace and Facebook. These examples illustrate progressions from one media type to another, but perhaps convergence culture signifies something more. Convergence culture implies a situation where the collision of old and new media produces a noticeable cultural shift. One could argue that all of the above have created cultural shifts, and yet Jenkins says, “YouTube is the fullest embodiment of convergence culture”. Perhaps he is alluding to the participatory nature of YouTube (he goes on to speak about “participatory culture”). YouTube is a prime example of participatory culture. It is only successful when users participate, i.e. upload their own media content and view the content of others.

Each new wave of media that rolls into our culture corresponds to a different point in my life. Email became mainstream as I was graduating from high school. The internet became highly accessible during my freshman year in college. I saw a mobile phone for the first time during my junior year, and I bought my first cell phone three years later when I moved to Manhattan. I now rely heavily on email, Facebook, and texting. I see the genius behind i-mode’s targeting of Japan’s child/adolescent market. These technologies hit me when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and as much as I do use email, Facebook, and texting, I can imagine them being even more ingrained in my life had I been exposed to them as a child.

I find that Facebook has changed the way I interact with specific groups of people. It’s incredibly easy to let all my Vermont friends know when I’m driving up to visit my parents. When my dog had kennel cough (highly contagious!) I alerted all my dog park friends at the touch of a button. If I’m singing in something or going to see a show, I can invite my music and theatre friends through Facebook. Casting directors are beginning to form groups on Facebook to make it easier for actors and singers to submit themselves for projects. Lastly (and somewhat to my embarrassment), my roommates and I regularly leave notes for each other on Facebook instead of walking out to the kitchen and writing on the dry-erase board on the fridge! Food is optional; Facebook is not.

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September 7, 2008 Posted by | collaboration, convergence, culture, social networking | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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