SXSW – Convergence Culture an conversation with Henry Jenkins

Whole new cultures are emerging around convergent media, an example of which is The Matrix Trilogy, the narrativeis which is contained, not just in the films, but also in comics, animé, games, and web sites all serving acommunity of participants – they’re actually more than “fans.” Henry Jenkins’ latest book, Convergence Culture, isan in-depth review and critique of several evolving transmedia cultures, their quirks, and their impact on ourperceptions.

danah boyd USC Annenberg Center
Henry Jenkins Dir, Comparative Media Studies – MIT

what henry has being doing is looking at fan fiction, wwf, remix, media production, collapse of production and consumption, has produced 3 books, writes full posts everyday. my goal is to interview and provide insight into what he does and how it relates to you.

Q: your early work about fandom you approached as a fan

Q: can’t remember when I was not a fan. at college i was in the culture and active as a fanboy. My wife and I were both star trek fans. In Menagerie, spick got very emotional. I looked the behind the scenes, Cynthia looked a the psychology. we approached it in different things. when in grad school i was an active fan. but fans were not held in high esteem by academics, we were held as dupes. I’m tired of being to get a life and wanted to write a book about the passion that drives the fan world. 20 years ago fans were marginal to the cultural I call them rogue readers, describing how they see things.

Now the fans are central to the ways of culture. web2.0 is fandom without the stigma. it’s social community, that shares knowledge, that remixes, that appropriates culture. we were doing it in our basement 20 years ago and now businesses are making money. participatory culture that was so exotic then is central to what we do today

Ql so what role has the net played?

A: more people can find a way into the fandom; it was not highly visible before and now more people are finding their way in. expansion is step 1. now you can talk and watch in real time, a world of collective intelligence . within 2 mins of a show starting you can follow a conversation online. For Twin Peaks, the papers were saying it was too complex, the online fandom wanted more complex. sharing and collaborate means that we need more complexity. the biggest change is the collective viewing pattern leads to greater demand to complexity. convergence culture is trying to describe the moment of time when the audience becomes central, power from the collective power and they demand more, more opps to participate, more back story

Q: as remix etc, it becomes available to the creators themselves, but many are not happy. they get sued for copyright

A: start with the premise that the media producers have lost control. and my friends can do what we want and the likelihood of you stopping me is zero. have to get over this and moving to where you take advantage. let fans appreciate the properties, increase their value. look at the browncoats, the studio billed them for use of images on tshirts..the community then sent the studio a bill for their time for marketing. it was more value to empower them. we are seeing whole spectrum o attitudes, from C&D to enfranchisement, use them as vanguard for publicity. control over IP is a battleground that will determine if our culture will become participatpry and what the terms are. it;s been under corporate control, etc, we need to find rationale for it…in many of the free speach groups advocating for electronic freedom have not embraced fan fictions not tech. put as much effort into defining bittorrent as to fan fiction. no one is standing up for fiction writer etc. we need more participatory vulture and we need to get behind it

Q: this bullying is part of an larger issue about asserting power. you have written a lot about young people and how they are participating

A: fan culture is part of a larger culture of online production. people share product, we shift from spectators to producers. so what does it mean to turn these kids lose in a world with a large power and reach where they have little knowledge or guidance. the DOPA act would strip schools of ability to provide access. we fought to close digital divide, about access. now we are there, but is it unequal access. they can;t store, low bandwidth, filtering, restriction s on networks etc. the participation gap. you cannot acquire skills that you need in this culture. its been reintroduced as part of protecting children in 21st century. it will have an enormous impact if it passes. even if you believe that myspace is crawling with predators..but are kids more safe if parents and teachers can guide them or if we turn them lose outside of adult supervision and locks out the 43% that want to get into he space at schools. it is a bad piece of legislation. this is the example of gov going after youth participation. they are being hit by studios and by gov. when we think of social networking as engine driving wealth production t is also the thing under fire for fans and young americas. so ‘you’ and your right to participate is under siege

Q: DOPA is not the only legislation that is an issue. in CN all social tech will need to put in age verification..anyone under 18 will need to get parental permission for any tech that allows them to connect to people. so what role do parents have in this conversation…so you see a scenario that allows for protection that would be frustrating

A: fear sells, the politics of fear is the one issue that both parties agree on..that our kids would be muzzled. politics of fear has a gender dimension..we are afraid of our sons and for our daughters. as a society we need to say were tired of being led by fear. macather institute is looking systematically how young are using the tools, looking at the culture. 50m$ we need to get the info out and use it to challenge the fear-mongering and call attention to the mechanisms that fear is being propagated, we have to pull together across the partisan blogs, it is not a right left issue. this is preserving the instruments of democracy we all need to protect this.

Q: role tech can and should play in civic engagement. where do you see online democracy going?

A: we are seeing line between part culture and part democracy blurring. the language of politics is not eternal, it shifts over time. we are in a world where a particular culture gives people a new language and politic become remixed. democ is a special event..vote every 4 years. we need democ to be a lifestyle and something we love day in and day out. find how we integrate into every day life means we need to talk as different we feel more confident as producers rather than citizens. as American Idol caused us to think about musics, maybe we need democratic entertainment to see it through this world. so photoshop for democracy, people respond in real time in ps, the peoples editorial cartoon, they do not follow the norms…we see vicious use of imagery

knowledge as product or knowledge as profit? wikipedia is a monument to participatory culture. but you need to understand process of how knowledge is produced..can teach people about the the process. the power of collective intelligence is better than one. the ethics of being part of wiki, working through the issues and trying to create space for participation. we were talking to wales about history, globally history, and different perspectives. english lang history had to arrive a shared perspective, there was an multiple perspectives, there is more multiple viewpoints on wiki then many traditional national books. if we can figure out he ethic that allow it to work then we can begin to put together how to create shared info space to deliberate n national issues. put people to gether you get different options. need to tap how wiki doe sit to get at a cohernent national policy instead of name calling.

Q: critique to wiki is challenge to what is real and not, UGC etc, UNC break up on website. (see the stuff). was it real or not? awkward video. it was ahoax. it was atest to see how far things reached on web. a lot of people were used- they want this to be real.

A: my 25yo son does not use youtube, no idea why…look through lens of 19th c ..look at humbug…presented to public where there was dispute about status…he promoted things as being under dispute, come and see for yourself. put barnums mermaid in context to the platypus being discovered which was real? with YT it is a mixed media economy, amateur profession, legal , illegal etc we are trying to sort out the status, it comes to us without context. but it is produced a grassroots media literacy effort. something really exciting may come of it if we can stop being angry about being faked out. how do we decide what is fake, teach people how to think about evidence, construct arguments, interpret reality. what skills do we need to teach to people to do that that is a challenge.

Q: with rise of MMORPGs, emmersive environs etc so what is important to consider there.

A: fascinated by SL. my avatar takes about 20lbs off me..i;m working towards it through exercise. it is a new centre, plenty of opportunities. it;s like a medieval carnival where people stepped out of their normal life. think about SL as carnival we step into all year round, so what kinds of transformation can take place. we can do thought experiments. we can try out new ideas, economic, identity, we try them out, see what they feel like. e carry that energy back into the RL. we can create experiment, try social relationship. if simple escapism, its less interesting over a place for social experimentation.

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