"Convergence Culture, Where Old and New Media Collide," by Henry Jenkins

Worship at the Altar of Convergence

“Welcome to convergence culture, where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.” (pg.2) What is converging is the creators of media and the users of media.
“By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platform, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want.” Today media consumers can get whatever they want, in whatever form they want it, anytime they want it.

“Media convergence [functions] across multiple media platforms.” (pg.3) Every major newspaper has a web presence. The TMZ website has a nightly syndicated show. The “Bob and Tom” morning radio show is broadcast every day streaming on their website and an edited version appears every night on the WGN cable network. Video did not kill the radio star, it made him a guest star on Law and Order.

“Convergence [is not] a technological process bringing together multiple media functions within the same device. Instead, convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content.”

Participatory Culture: “media producers and consumers [occupy] separate roles. [They are] participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understand. Not all participants are created equal. Corporations…exert greater power than any individual consumer.” “Some consumers have greater abilities to participate in this emerging culture than others.”

“Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers and through their social interactions with others. Each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives. Because there is more information on any given topic than anyone can store in their head, there is an added incentive for us to talk among ourselves about the media we consume.”

Collective intelligence: “Consumption has become a collective process.” “None of us can know everything; each of us knows something; we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skills.” “Collective meaning-making within popular culture is starting to change the ways religion, education, law, politics, advertising, and even the military operate. “(pg.4)

Convergence Talk

Henry Jenkins uses a media convention as an example of the various challenges and opportunities presented by convergence culture.
“If the digital revolution paradigm presumed that new media would displace old media, the emerging convergence paradigm assumes that old and new media will interact in even more complex ways.”(pg.6)

Convergence culture has caused a great deal of consternation among the producers of media. “The old paradigms were breaking down faster than the new ones were emerging, producing panic among those most invested in the status quo and curiosity in those who saw change as opportunity.” (pg.7)
Convergence culture can’t be controlled even within the confines of a single corporation. “Political economists and business gurus…look at the charts that show the concentration of media ownership as if they ensure that all the parts will work together to pursue maximum profits. But from the ground, many of the big media giants look like great big dysfunctional families, whose members aren’t speaking with each other and pursue their own short term agendas even at the expense of other divisions of the same companies.” If one corporation can’t control this convergence, it’s no wonder that many users are confused.

“At a panel on game consoles, the big tension was between Sony and Microsoft; both had ambitious plans but fundamentally different business models and visions. All agreed that the core challenge was to expand the potential uses of this cheap and readily accessible technology so that it became the “black box,” the “Trojan horse” that smuggled convergence culture right into people’s living rooms. What was mom going to do with the console when her kids were at school? What would get a family to give a game console to grandpa for Christmas? They had the technology to bring about convergence, but they hadn’t figured out why anyone would want it.” (pg.8) The Wii made this promise a reality by ditching the race to build the most powerful graphics machine in lieu of focusing on game play and control that everyone could use, from 6 year olds to great grandparents.

Regarding “Relationship between video games and traditional media…movie moguls saw games not simply as a means of stamping the franchise logo on some ancillary product but as a means of expanding the storytelling experience.” Enter the Matrix was the first game to parallel and actually interact with the film.
“The record industry types were sweating bullets; their days were numbered unless they figured out how to turn around current trends such as dwindling audiences, declining sales, and expanding piracy.” (pg.9)

“The messages [of the convention] were plain:
  1. Convergence is coming and you had better be ready.
  2. Convergence is harder than it sounds.
  3. Everyone will survive if everyone works together (unfortunately that was the one thing nobody knew how to do).”

The Prophet of Convergence

- Prophet of Media Convergence, Sola Pool author of Technologies of Freedom, a text that explained "the concept of convergence as a force of change within the media industries."
- Noted that the lines are blurring between media (one device carries many services: phone, internet, radio, etc.).
- "Freedom is fostered when the means of communication are dispersed, decentralized, and easily available, as are printing presses or microcomputers. Central control is more likely when the means of communication are concentrated, monopolized, and scarce, as are great networks.” If we could only learn history from one textbook created by one author, this would be a restricted form of communication. If we could learn history from a textbook, an encyclopedia, a website, a game, etc. then the information is more dispersed and allows for a participatory culture.
-“New media technologies enabled the same content to flow through many different channels and assume many different forms at the point of reception.”
-Pool believed that the transition would not be immediate and that stability would have to be something attained through trial-and-error, always changing.
-“As pool predicted, we are in an age of media transition, one marked by tactical decisions and unintended consequences, mixed signals and competing interests, and most of all, unclear directions and unpredictable outcomes.” Essentially, this is uncharted territory and we don't know quite how it will turn out. The nature of it is just that, constant evolution.

The Black Box Fallacy
Definition of Media by Lisa Gitelman
A: "a medium is a technology that enables communication"
B: "a medium is a set of associated “protocols” or social and cultural practices that have grown up around that technology"
-recorded sound is media whereas CDs, MP3s, and 8-Track cassettes are delivery technologies
-once a medium becomes something that satisfies a human demand, it continues its function
-old media is not displaced but shifted
-black box refers to the idea that an eventual black box that will hold all media and will be carried everywhere. However, the different devices that we have are designed for the different needs we have for them (school, home, work, etc.) Devices are becoming generalized so that they can perform lots of functions but these functions, at times, are not specialized enough.
-“Convergences alters the logic by which media industries operating and by which media consumers’ process news and entertainment.”
-Convergence changed the way we consume media (ex: multitasking)

The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence

"Snapshot of the future: telecocooning:" people in constant contact via various mobile technologies (anthropologist Mizuko Ito) (p. 17) As with most technology, this can be good and bad -- good for maintaining contact, bad for people trying to have face-to-face contact who are interrupted by those in tech-contact with others. Parents know that they should know who their kids hang out with -- the peer group is a significant influence in a teen's life. But if the teen maintains almost all contact via technology, the parents often don't even know who the friends are. Privacy is important for kids, but too much can be problematic.

"Convergence... also occurs when people take media into their own hands." (p. 17) "The results can be wonderfully creative... [or] bad news for everyone involved." My father taught me early on that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" (and although my mother tried to teach me that "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar," my father's voice was louder). I learned at a young age to seek justice, compensation, or whatever else I thought was owed me -- and thanks to the Internet I can do this so much more often and more easily than ever! I e-mail letters to the editor, I take advantage of the "contact us" button for companies to whom I need to complain, I participate in conversations in response to news posted on the web... I take full advantage of the ability to take media into my hands. So far it's been great -- although I have seen the issues with "written" communication lacking tone of voice which leads to misunderstandings. Overall I see more good than bad when the masses have this power to get involved and participate via media... it reminds me of the power of free speech: one reason we need to protect it is so that the people whose speech we despise get the chance to speak it out and be shouted down. Hopefully an educated populace will sift through the garbage and recognize the good stuff (OK, this is ridiculously Polly Anna -- but I don't want to be too pessimistic).

"...seemingly contradictory trends: ...new media technologies... enabled consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways... at the same time... a small handful of multinational media conglomerates dominat[e] all sectors of the entertainment industry... " (p. 18) Media is out of control vs. media is too controlled. This is the part that I don't want to accept. I like to live in my Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington optimism, thinking that each individual does have potential power, and that savvy manipulation of the media can put that power to good use... I pretend that a few gazillionaires don't actually control the money and media and power in our world. <puts blinders back on>

"Convergence ... is both a top-down corporate-driven process and a bottom-up consumer-driven process." (p. 18) OK, now this makes me hopeful. We know that consumers are very important to those gazillionaires, so maybe we can have some influence and power after all. But then I think about the context of education... and how powerful teachers should be because there are so many of us. We really should have a voice about decisions made in our profession, but -- and here's the rub -- we're too tired to blog! That sounds like a lame excuse, but really, when I talk with teachers about using our power via media (letters, e-mails, contacting representatives) they say, "Great idea, but I need to finish my granola bar (no time for lunch) so I can prep for my next class and then go to a parent conference and then grade papers and then... what was I complaining about?"

"... media ... has to rethink old assumptions about consumers: they are now migratory... declining loyalty... socially connected... noisy and public" ... "convergence .. expanded opportunity for media conglomerates vs. a risk... fragmentation or erosion of their markets" (p. 19) This is good stuff -- make those companies work for our money! But -- now in education does that mean that our "consumers" are also less loyal, more migratory? Makes me think of families looking beyond their local schools -- not sure if that's related here, but I know their connections beyond the neighborhood can be strengthened via media, so they can hear about and make comparisons to other schools outside the area. Rather than assuming the school down the street is fine for Junior, parents may go looking on-line, thus reducing their loyalty to the neighborhood. On the plus side that can bring fresh ideas to schools by connecting them with programs they wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Survivor spoiling = example of collective intelligence at work... "knowledge becomes power in the age of media convergence" (p. 20) I love collective intelligence in the context of education -- but then I realize it's just a fancy term for cooperative groups and I remember I hate those. But the ability to track a small group's work via their "changes" on a wiki... cool! (Like I know Jessica will see that I'm doing all this work because my name will be attached to the "changes"...) I'm still debating whether or not this will work with 8th graders... but allowing them to work together without having to get to each other's houses is very cool (assuming they all have the Internet). Since I don't have television, I'm not sure how I feel about those Survivor-spoilers. I see very frustrated Hollywood people who are not used to Everyman interfering with their work. Ha ha. Not much sympathy here.

"affective economics encourages companies to transform brands into ... 'lovemarks'...blurring the line between entertainment content and brand messages..." consumer is brought into the "brand community" -- too much? (Survivor) or not enough? (American Idol) (p. 20) This reminds me of what I decided about all kinds of media long ago -- it is all an attempt to sell us something (products or belief systems or concepts of beauty or lifestyles...) and I need to be clear on what I am seeing, what it is trying to teach me and what I believe. Raising children in a media-saturated environment makes one hyper-aware (and hopefully hyper-vigilant) about this bombardment of messages (aka sales pitches). So in the context of education... ah ha! One more reason reading (in more classes than English) is such a critical skill. Wise consumers need to be able to "read" the onslaught of messages coming at them every day.

"The Matrix = transmedia storytelling: places new demands on consumers and depends on the active participation of knowledge communities..." (p. 20-21) Are most audience members willing to go that far in order to appreciate the films? I know I missed out on this fad... and I think it's because I kept hearing how confusing it was! Can you imagine students that intrigued by something at school that they would start on-line communities to figure it out? I mean, what was the prize in figuring out The Matrix? What drove them to go to such great lengths?

Fan cultures reshape the work of artists, for example: Star Wars and Harry Potter fans who write their own stories based on the hit series -- how much control do the original writers have over their intellectual property? That would be the proverbial tip of the iceberg... does anyone actually own anything once it is on-line? I remember a friend who had no qualms about borrowing someone's record album (I know, I'm dating myself) and making a tape of it for herself. She said, "If it's that easy, it can't be wrong." Clearly criminal activity must involve some hard work. The Internet makes it awfully easy to "take" someone else's "property," so it must be OK, right? I think beliefs (maybe even laws) about this are still forming, still being questioned and challenged as technology continually changes what is available to us. It is difficult as a teacher to know what to teach my students about intellectual property when the ink is still wet on the latest challenge.

2004 American presidential campaign: popular culture far more influential in getting citizens involved, educating them, affecting the entire election -- candidates and campaigns lost some control over the political process. I've always voted, always preached activism, always known how important it is to be involved in my community and my country... yet I've often wondered just how much it actually mattered. 2004 and 2008 changed that. MoveOn taught so many people, both those seeking control and those losing control, that Everyman can make a difference. You go, Mr. Smith.

"Digital divide is giving way to concern about the participation gap..." focus on access = focus on technologies; focus on participation = focus on cultural protocols and practices... majority of tech participators (vs. users) are white, male, middle class, college educated -- and they "exert a disroportionate influence on media culture..." (p. 23) Is this really new? This is a country (world?) of inequities, and certain groups have always had more power than others, and corporations have always appealed to groups based on their power. If a group can't purchase their product, they won't appeal to them. Whoever has more toys and has had the toys longer will know how to use them better. This is clearly seen in education: technology is expensive, so schools with more $$ (more power) have more technology, so their students have more avenues for taking advantage of the technology. Not fair, true, but it's just a tiny piece of the enduring inequities in education. The wealthy will always be able to buy a better education, even in public schools.

Conclusion: "Audiences, empowered by these new technologies, occupying a space at the intersection between old and new media, are demanding the right to participate within the culture... The resulting struggles and compromises will define the public culture of the future." (p.24) This sounds like the very goal of education! Why do our students need to know how to read, write and communicate effectively? Why do they need to be able to discern right from wrong? Isn't one of our main goals to educate our students so that they may actively participate in society? Be a productive member? Vote? Vote! The oldest "participation within the culture"! If technology makes it easier and more convenient for people to actively participate in their community, then it behooves us to train them to do so -- via whatever media is available, let us teach them to read, write, communicate effectively and vote. Because the next American Idol contestant is counting on them.

Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins Vocabulary Definitions
Collective Intelligence
Definition: a. shared intelligence that develops from the knowledge of many individuals
b. collective meaning making
Implications for Education: the teacher doesn't have all the knowledge, students pool their knowledge together to create meaning
Example: Class Wiki

Black box fallacy - the notion that all access to media can be made through one device. This is fundamentally flawed because of the obsolescence inherent in emerging technologies. This implies that the black box is both the expectation and the fallacy. "This pull toward more specialized media appliances coexists with a push toward more generic devices."

Digital Divide
Definition: The term digital divide refers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen . In other words, it is the unequal access by some members of society to information and communication technology, and the unequal acquisition of related skills. The term is closely related to the knowledge divide as the lack of technology causes lack of useful information and knowledge. The digital divide may be classified based on gender , income , and race groups, and by locations. [1 ] The term global digital divide refers to differences in technology access between countries or the whole world.
Implication for Education: There is a participation gap in the access of technology necessary to participate in conversations. Primarily in the area of fiscal capabilities.
Example: Not all schools/families have computers,internet,money,etc.

Definition: Describes the communication from one person to another, without having face-to-face physical interaction. Communication can be achieved in many ways: letters(snail mail), phone calls, text messages, e-mail, social networking sites on the Internet, live video feeds, etc. By communicating this way, many people can interact with each other from anywhere in world, without having to actually convene in the same physical location. Shared knowledge becomes quicker and easier. People who only ever communicate by tele-cocooning for long periods of time, without any physical contact with others, may forget how to act--loss of social behavior.
Implications for education: Students would be able to communicate with other students anywhere around the world.
Example: KeyPals(electronic version of PenPals)

Transmedia Storytelling

Definition:a) art of world making b) hunting (searching) and gathering (collecting) bits of the story (person, idea) across media channels (internet, books, etc.)
Implications for education: Teachers could use as a way of researching their students and teaching them in their preferred learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesetic...)
Example: Teacher reads a story out loud to students and then gives the students clay so they can use it to mold any ideas or thoughts that comes to mind that connects the story to the student.

Convergence Culture
Implications for education:

Screenshot of Post on Original Class Wiki