This is an awesome and entertaining speech by Lessig – the whole book in twenty minutes.
For me, reading this book is a mesmerizing voyage, during which the mysteries of new media ambiance in the economic, technological, industrial, social, and cultural contexts have been unveiled.
Jenkins’ definition of “convergence” is much more complex and far beyond the unsophisticated understanding of the intersection of media technologies. As Jenkins proclaims, convergence culture, for him, is where new media and old ones collide, grassroots and corporate media intersect, media producers and consumers interact in unpredictable ways (2). In his definition, convergence is happening more on a macro level. The convergent tendency of media has invited a large range of participation and interaction to modern media creation and distribution. Convergence culture represents a shift in the citizen’s relationship to media. Jenkins uses this definition to challenge the old idea of convergence, and calls it “the black box fallacy” (14). Why do you think “the black box theory” is a fallacy?
In some parts of this book (or maybe, one could say throughout this book), Jenkins seems to praise convergence—the discourse of blurring boundaries, disciplines, and the roles of participants in media communication—as a way to improve society and the market. Is this an optimistic point of view? Or say, does Convergence Culture merely present an ultimate utopian stance? Is Jenkins’ enthusiasm for grassroots culture (especially the influence of his fan experience on his opinions toward fan culture) making this book as a whole valueless for media criticism?
Do you think some of the fan activities depicted in this book are, as some critics put it, vaguely pathetic, unhealthy, and reflecting all the worst aspects of human nature? As possessing tremendously interests in the fandom area, I feel a bit furious when hearing people talking about fan culture sarcastically. Topics in this book, like the bottom-up power to turn over co-optation, the media literacy, the knowledge community and collective intelligence to gather, circulate, and challenge information, are staggeringly remarkable for further legitimizing fandom to a “formal” culture and “real” academic area. (I believe, Jenkins’ previous publications already did so.)
Personally speaking, I don’t think Jenkins only holds optimistic opinions. In this book, he does mention the weakness of collective intelligence is disorderly, undisciplined, and unruly (53). However, as he argues, it is also the strength of collective intelligence. The participatory paradigm, as Jenkins describes, seems providing a double-win or even a triple-win possibility for media producer, consumers, and the entertainment industry. On the other hand, he also points out that the uncontrolled fluidity of media content in this paradigm sometimes acts as a double-edged sword.
Admittedly, he does not focus on any further in-depth discussion of the negative side of the circulation of information and these participatory activities in this new media system, like the high chance of offering fragmented culture, or the so-called “divergent” trends as Grusin contends. I think, here, Jenkins is attempting to argue against some blatant pessimistic ideas by presenting the positive aspect of the increased participation in popular culture (247-249). He does believe that there would be uncertainty upon the roles media corporations, media producers, and consumers could play in this dynamic. And like he explains, divergence and convergence act as two sides of the same phenomenon (10).
This book, at the very least, successfully makes a significant point: to make our criticism more applicable to today’s media culture, we have to understand clearly what happens during the negotiation and participation in the age of media convergence. I would totally agree if someone calls Jenkins’ standpoint is critical utopianism (247).
Recently, we’ve discussed how new media such as DVR and web streaming has taken eyes away from television commercials. Our class has observed and commented on several techniques advertisers use to get around this trend of less people viewing television ads. One thing we did not really talk about is what Henry Jenkins calls “loyals.” In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Jenkins writes, “Loyals are more apt to watch series faithfully, more apt to pay attention to advertising, and more apt to buy products” (63). Since Jenkins wrote this, DVR has become much more popular and many people get TV series from Netflix or download them from iTunes. But more potential branding sites such as Facebook and Twitter have evolved and been developed. Do you think Jenkins’ argument pertaining to loyals and advertising consumption gained or lost credibility in the four-to-five years since Convergence Culture was published? Why?
Jenkins sees convergence culture and participatory culture as a revolution of a new means of strengthening personal bonds, collective intelligence, and a democratic voice. He mentions these things in his first chapter with the Survivor spoiler groups (29) and throughout the book to his conclusion that references Al Gore’s news network Current. Jenkins views participatory culture as a potential ground for intellectual growth. Individual ideas bounce around in the bubble of message boards, fan fiction sites etc. and create a collective intelligence that enhances the minds of the individuals. In the conclusion, Jenkins admits there are commercial interests involved in convergence culture that could undermine its endless potential. He suggests, “We are in a critical moment of transition” (243). More than just economics are at play here though. Can’t these message boards and fan fiction sites be used to tear people apart? Who is to say hate groups won’t infiltrate the minds of children by creating their own Harry Potter fan fiction sites to subtly proliferate their agendas? Perhaps this sounds like moral panic, but the truth likely lies somewhere between Jenkins’ view and the moral panic view. What do you think are the pros and cons of the different types of participatory cultures Jenkins writes about in Convergence Culture?
At the end of the first chapter, Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin put down the idea that digital media must make a radical break with the past. They say digital media will “instead function in a constant dialectic with earlier media, precisely as each earlier medium functioned when it was introduced.” Media remediate previous media. Bolter and Grusin say this how new media reaches importance and new media does not necessarily need to break out. What do we think is more important for new media? To remediate old media or radicalize and find its uniqueness? A balance of both?
However, Bolter and Grusin’s chapter on video games feels dated at times. Video games have not stuck with remediating film and television as much as they suggest (certain video game genres still do remediate film with cut scenes and static cameras). Many game industry professionals (like Irrational Games’ Ken Levine) show how video games are finding its uniqueness in interactivity and less about remediating past media (Bioshock, Half-Life, Shadow of the Colossus). Are video games going against what Bolter and Grusin say? Will video games continue to both remediate and innovate? Are video games innovating to “improve” upon old media and convince customers games are better? Is it all economic?
I wish Bolter and Grusin would have spent less time during the video game section discussing pornography. I was incredibly excited to see him mention The Last Express, though. Visually wonderful experience that is worth looking at.
Bolter and Brusin have a wonderful phrase in chapter 3. “To condemn new media is to condemn contemporary culture itself.”
I’ve got to go back and try and figure out more of the book now.
1) In chapter 2 Bolter and Grusin explain that “media are continually commenting on, reproducing, and replacing each other.” Technology is advanced through reforms and, in turn, reforms itself. This process is not limited to our contemporary time, Bolter and Grusin claim, but is an integral part of the human history.
Bolter and Grusin separate technology from the social and political sphere as if it was an entirely autonomous entity that can influence, but not be influenced back. The book’s deterministic view of media does not answer the question how the changes in society modify or disrupt the progress of media. Assuming Bolter and Grusin are correct in their understanding of media, why different cultures use, perceive and value the same technology in different ways?
2) In chapter 7 Bolter and Grusin write that the introduction of new media immediately challenges the separation of high and low culture as the new technology makes high culture accessible for larger number of people. The new media claims it is at least equal (if not superior) to the existing one and, thus, should be seen as legitimate. The distinction is eventually restored by separation on the level of style – into high styles and popular styles. Does this separation of styles has something to do with the different ways immediacy, transparency and reality can be expressed and perceived?
Bolter and Grusin do not talk much about how the high styles of one art remediate the high styles of another, and how the popular styles of one art remediate the popular styles of another. Is the new version of the style sharing the same characteristic as the old one even though the technology might be different?