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A Critical Review of Convergence Culture Through The Matrix, Survivor, and Harry Potter

It may not seem like it, but The Matrix, Survivor, Harry Potter, and American Idol all have something in common. The book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, illustrates how consumers are taking an active role with these various forms of media. Instead of being passive, consumers participate with multi-media, and by doing so have much more active and engaging experiences. The author, Henry Jenkins, argues the importance of focusing on how consumers “are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content”. This theory is key in understanding the future of media.

To analyze this argument, it is important to recognize the credentials of the author. Henry Jenkins directed MIT’s graduate program, Comparative Media Studies for 15 years. He is now a Provost Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California (University of Southern California). His previous work focused on pop culture, communities, democracy and other related topics (University of Southern California). This research led to the creation of the Convergence Culture book, and then to the formation of The Convergence Culture Consortium, a group of researchers at MIT who analyze the implications of media convergence (Convergence Culture Consortium).

In addition to his accomplishments, Henry Jenkins presents very strong evidence to show that culture is shifting towards a more participatory environment where consumers are able to expand their media experience through multiple platforms: convergence. Similarly, Transmedia is a narrative told across multiple platforms; it is one part of convergence culture. One of the strongest examples Jenkins gave to show the culture shift was through Transmedia and The Matrix. Instead of just producing movies, the creators of The Matrix crafted a media universe that consisted of an animated series, comic books, video games, and many other forms of media. Each one of these mediums provided a platform for the creators to expand the story of the series, and allowed people to take an active role in the overall story.

Jenkins also argues that the ease of online communication allows people to take an active role in the convergence of entertainment. By dong so, their media experience is expanded and a community of knowledge is created. Survivor is used as an example. Some of the fans worked together to predict which cast members would last the longest on the TV show. Others even analyzed how many pounds a cast member had lost to determine how long they were on the show. They pooled their resources and created an online community that expanded Survivor’s media scope and fan experiences.

Jenkins had a very sound research style. He presented evidence, and where applicable, discussed both sides of the argument. For example, he discussed how effective The Matrix was in using Transmedia, but admitted it “was a flawed experiment, an interesting failure”.  He explained that it was a failure because the story was not expanded upon fully in each medium. Movie critics thought The Matrix sequels were poorly written because there seemed to be gaps in the stories. Similarly, people that played the video games, read the comics, and watched the animated version thought that those stories needed more substance.

Because of Jenkins’ ability to present the research, the main argument was very convincing. Participation within the convergence culture is demonstrated very well through The Matrix and Survivor, but Jenkins’ example of convergence and fan participation within the Harry Potter franchise was excellent. A 13-year-old girl started The Daily Prophet, a “Web-based school newspaper for the fictional Hogwarts [school]”. Currently, over 100 children from around the world contribute to its publication. Kids were able to create a fictional characters based on Harry Potter characters and plotlines, while practicing their creative writing. The process helped kids learn, but also expanded upon the Harry Potter universe as well.

The author of Harry Potter encouraged the fan fiction, but when Warner Brothers bought the rights to the Harry Potter franchise, they reacted negatively. Warner Brothers sent cease and desist letters to many of the kids that had created the Harry Potter websites, but The Daily Prophet created a petition that had a “call to arms against studios that fail to appreciate their supporters”, with the intent to protect other fan-based work, even beyond Harry Potter. Currently, the studio allows fan-based work but retains the right to shut down their sites at any time. This example showed how fans have taken an active role in expanding upon, and interacting with media. It also shows the issues that will arise with both fans and copyright holders.

Henry Jenkins created the definitive work on convergence culture. His arguments were effective, and the information he presented in the book was highly relevant. It will become the basis for my term project in Evolutions and Trends on Digital Media. I will focus on how Transmedia has created a more compelling user experience. Anyone who wants understand the future of media should read this book. The contemporary examples Jenkins used can serve as good lessons for the future of media convergence.

Resources

University of Southern California. (n.d.). Faculty. Retrieved April 23, 2011, from University of Southern California: http://annenberg.usc.edu/Faculty/Communication%20and%20Journalism/JenkinsH.aspx

Convergence Culture Consortium. (n.d.). About C3. Retrieved April 23, 2011, from Convergence Culture Consortium: http://www.convergenceculture.org/aboutc3/

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where old and New Media Collide. New York, NY: New York University.

 

Transmedia Term Project

I have changed the focus of my term project for Evolutions and Trends in Digital Media. Instead of focusing on the broad topic of online video, I will focus on another one of my interests: Transmedia. Transmedia is a growing field in the media industry. It is an “art of conveying messages, themes or storylines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms.”  (Jenkins, 2006)

Thesis: The future of media will be much richer and engaging through Transmeida storytelling.

Statement of Intent:

When I was young I created my own form of Transmedia. I had action figures like Batman, Wolverine, and the Ninja Turtles (they are not dolls when you’re a guy!). I would take these toys and continue their stories past what I had seen in the movies or television. We can still create these stories on our own, but brands are starting to do this for us by furthering the stories of their characters through Transmedia.

Early stages of Transmedia might only include an action figure or some kind of other promotional material, but today that has changed. Entertainment companies have been able to “develop new brands and entrance, educate and engulf a global audience” (Phillips, 2010). You can see it through shows like Lost that have a web series, comic books, and more. Brands want to create a more engaged audience, and the only way to do that is through building a larger relationship between the fan and the characters. That is why this industry seems to be growing, and will likely get much larger in the future.

Source:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, NY: NYU Press.

Phillips, S. (2010). Transmedia: What We’ve All Been Waiting For?. License! Global, 13 (9), 10. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

 

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Seeing What’s Next: Windows Phone 7?

The Windows Phone 7… yeah I know… I forgot about it to… that was until I started reading Seeing What’s Next by Clayton M. Christensen. The book explores how understanding innovation can help people predict the future. Well, it might not help predict the right lottery numbers, but it can help predict how to determine if a product or service will be successful. Oh, I almost forgot again, back to the Windows Phone 7 (WP7). While reading Christensen, I was finally able to understand Microsoft’s somewhat odd marketing campaign for WP7. Their “Really” campaign finally started to make sense.

Christensen identifies three main signals of change for a potential customer group. There are Nonconsumers who are “not consuming any product or consuming only in inconvenient settings”, Undershot customers “who consume a product but are frustrated with its limitations”, and Overshot customers that “stop paying for further improvements in performance that historically had merited attractive price premiums” (Christensen, 5). Microsoft could have pulled a Steve Jobs and tried to target the Undershot customers by adding extra features, but instead they targeted the Nonconsumers and Overshot Customers.

At an adoption rate of only 31% in the United States, Microsoft had the potential to reach a large group of smart phone Nonconsumers.

They tried to reach this new market the “Really” campaign. They targeted an audience that was fed up with their friends, family, or others around them who were addicted to their smart phone (surfing the web while using a urinal does take a certain type of dedication… don’t worry, it’s from the campaign, I haven’t done it). Microsoft anticipated that the Nonconsumers were worried that by buying a smart phone that they could become one of the many people addicted to their phone as well, so they invented a “phone to save us from our phones”.

In addition to the Nonconsumers, Microsoft has been able to target the Overshot customers who don’t care about new features that may come with an iPhone or Android device. Their targets are people that just want to check their email, and want giant buttons to do it.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, even though the Nonconsumers and Overshot customers seemed like good target markets, they haven’t been successful. For example, as of January 2011, Microsoft had sold a total of 1.5 million WP7’s. In comparison there are over 300,000 Android devices activated daily.

There are many possible reasons that the WP7 has been unsuccessful, but there is one that may explain why people were not actually receptive to the “Really” campaign. People may complain about their friends or family using their smart phones too much, but when it comes down to it, they want to stay just as connected as everyone else. Microsoft will have a very tough battle ahead to rebrand theWP7 (but at least it’s not the Kin). Even though targeting these customer groups seemed like a good idea, their audience was not receptive. Hopefully Microsoft can rebrand the WP7 before everyone else forgets about it as well.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Evolution of Online Video!

Within the last few years it has been amazing to witness the growth of online video. In 2010 people in the US watched a combined 500 million hours of video online. Personally, I watched everything online, either through Netflix, Hulu, or iTunes. I haven’t had cable for the past two years, which allows me to choose the shows I want to see, and watch them when I want to. Also, by avoiding a cable subscription I have saved about $50 a month, which so far has totaled over $2000. In addition to saving money, I have also had a much more pleasant experience. Sure the buffering can be annoying, but I’ll put up with it for the benefits.

My experience with online video, as well as my interest in video production has made me very interested in exploring the evolution of online video. I will develop a research paper for Evolutions and Trends in Digital Media that will focus on how online video started, current trends, and where it is likely to go in the future. By concentrating on this topic, I hope to gain an understanding that will allow me to explain the importance of online video. I also hope to use what I learn to create and promote a weekly show that will be distributed online.

 

Sci-fi, Technology, and Evolution

Science fiction is by far, my favorite genera of Entertainment. Dr. Who, Battlestar Gallatica, Farscape, Stargate, I’ve seen it all. The reason for my love of sci-fi lies in technology. The genera allows for an examination of what is possible with new technology, and by doing so, explores the positive and negative effects it can have on a species. Just as the cell phone was influenced by StarTrek, what we see today will be influential for the scientists and engineers of the future.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a Stargate, Sonic Screwdriver, or engineering degree, but I do have the ability to predict the evolution of technology.

This quarter in the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington, I am lucky enough to take Evolutions & Trends in Digital Media with Kathy Gill. Just as sci-fi allows me to imagine worlds of the future, this course will allow me to pursue my passion for exploring the future of technology. By analyzing technology’s past, present, and future, I will be in a position to help shape where it should go, and understand and explain why.

In addition to exploring the future of technology, I also have an interest in the production and distribution of online video. Over six years ago I started watching video podcasts like Diggnation and The Totally Rad Show. While watching, I realized that video had changed forever. Instead of watching programs when the networks told you to, you could make your own choice as to when you wanted to watch a program. Individuals could create their own content and bring in millions more viewers than many networks could ever achieve. The possibilities of online video inspired me to get into video production, and to also join the MCDM. I am looking forward to combining my passion for predicting the future of technology with my interest in online video.

*Tardis CC image by aussiegall

 

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Multimedia Storytelling: Final Class

I am more than impressed with the presentations in Multimedia Storytelling. The Unplugged Sundays and He Said She Said were great. Good job everyone. The pacing was great and the stories were well told.

Thanks to my group for all of your hard work. The Real Social Guru turned out great. It is surprising how much work it was to shoot a three episode series.

I look forward to working with all of you in the future!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Why didn’t MTV’s distribution strategy work?

The biggest question that I came away with from my storytelling class tonight was this: Why did the MTV distribution model fail? It should have worked.  MTV allowed partners to embed its media player onto their sites. This should have increased viewership for all of their content, and by doing so they should have increased revenue from advertisers. Why didn’t this strategy work? Does anyone have any ideas?

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2010 in Uncategorized