Posted by: Rachel Fleenor | October 23, 2014

Viruses, farming, and courtship – oh, my!

In their book Spreadable Media, Jenkins, Ford, and Green (2013) use metaphors to describe the way media is communicated. They make the argument for a “participatory model of culture,” and they iterate “perhaps nothing is more human than sharing stories” (p. 2). Technology is just another means of sharing – or “spreading” – these stories. Perhaps that is why entertainment (primarily image, song, video) is the most easily “spreadable” form of media (p. 9) and this content often goes “viral.”

Many filmmakers recognize the contributions fans make to the value of stories and work to increase audience’s emotional investment by allowing them to own the story. In a sense, they are “farming” or “sowing seeds” among audience members. How do they do this? By letting audiences live the story. In an online article featuring “things to do in London,” the top three suggestions had to do with Harry Potter-related locations. Similarly, fans of the movie Frozen can participate in a Disney tour of Norway. Another example is simply to Google search for “Lord of the Rings tours,” which returns dozens of options in New Zealand.

Going a step further, storytellers want “total engagement” (p. 139), which is collaboration between storyteller and audience to create the story in real time. This is a relationship; the storytelling is essentially “courting” the audience to let them know their perspectives are important. When the audience knows that they are a contributor to the story, it will effectively drive them to the show week after week.

Posted by: eldrickbone | October 23, 2014

The Ice Bucket Virus and the Formula for Sticky Media

By now, everyone in America has at least heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge, a feat that is phenomenal in itself. Your social media feed was barraged with posts, videos and comments of people filling buckets of iced water and dumping it on their head. The spreadability of this concept was ingenious, simple and reproducible. I am not referring to the participating in the challenge, but the formula created to inform people.

Pete Frates, the creator of the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS awareness, created a monster.  The meat of this formula lies in stirring a response from the viewer. The act of pouring cold water onto your body stimulates a response from the audience. People react with shivers down their  spine from knowing what sudden cold water feels like. We all have had that experience in the shower. Without that, there is no reason to watch the video or even want to imitate the act. Being challenged by someone else also evokes competition in the audience. The action also of donating also evokes the part of the audience that wants to help someone or something.

Social Media, the user-generated content aggregator, is driving force for the challenge. If it were not easy, no one would do it. You have a movie production company, marketing team and distributor in your pocket.

The Formula broken down: Promote an action that is practically free, stimulates emotional response, is replicate-able and  can be shared in a visual matter.

Posted by: stratcommpdx | October 23, 2014

Education platforms and “the gift economy”

The concept of gift economy first presented in the classic anthropology Marcel’s Mauss book The Gift is revisited through an online perspective in the work Spreadable Media by Jenkins, Ford and Green (2013).

Digital theorist Howard Rheingold (1993) relates Mauss’s gift economy to the online communities. In his work The Virtual Community, Rheingold defines information as the “web’s most valuable ‘currency’”. According to the author, “the generalized spread of knowledge is one way of giving back to the larger community”.

Educational sites Coursera, Khan Academy, and other massive open courses online rely on the collaboration of volunteers to translate courses available on the platforms into their native languages and reach out to a broader audience worldwide. This way of giving back to the community by localizing educational content allows citizens across the world with an internet connection to access an extensive collection of online courses in all areas of study. The gift economy applied to the online community is helping to transform education around the world.

Posted by: jstrieder | October 23, 2014

Will Spreadability Go Viral?

In their new book, Spreadable Media, Henry Jenkins and his co-authors assert that they have “Found a Cure for Viral Media!” (16). Specifically, they don’t care for the term “viral” as a description of a piece of media that becomes popular on the Internet. Their alternative is their title: “spreadable” media.

I’m not sure their term is going to happen. Ever since William S. Burroughs declared that “language is a virus from outer space,” “virus” has meant a coded germ as well as a physical one. “Spreadable,” in contrast, has all kinds of possible meanings. Are marketers and content creators really going to start congratulating each other at the water cooler by saying, “Hey, I saw you went spreadable, good job”?

More importantly, the key distinction the authors are trying to make – that “viral” suits only the needs of scared businesspeople, but “spreadable” is the truer metaphor of the people – is only half-true. “Spreadable media” is accurate, but also more business-friendly than “viral media.” Think about it:

Viral = Passively consumed and passed along, outside the conscious control of its audience

Spreadable = Actively consumed and passed along, via conscious choice

“Spreadable Media” is a book for media scholars, communication professionals and people creating and sharing content. (ix) Which pitch better helps this audience get work? The latter. A conscious audience can be communicated with, partnered with, persuaded and massaged. A passive audience can only be manipulated – subliminal seduction is the only seduction possible.

Posted by: reddingrob | October 22, 2014

Youtube or Their Tube?

Youtube is supposed to be for the people, but it cares about corporations more than the individual uploader. Cutting the music from videos overnight  in January of 2009 violated what E.P. Thompson termed the moral economy. Youtube made a one sided decision to change the social climate for how it would do business with its up loaders on who it relies for its content.

In web 2.0 there will always be tension between corporations who submitted videos that they can use for free in their advertising, and consumers who expect content to be free. The tools to rip, edit, and upload content aren’t going away. There needs to be a reset in the moral economy.

There needs to be a balance between the rights of the content creators and the audience that puts their own spin on the material. While the corporation holds the copyright, shutting out fans completely would severely hurt audience engagement. The less engaged fans become, the less likely they are to tune in, which in turn hurts the corporation.

Flourish Kink,Chief Participation Officer at The Alchemists agency argues in chapter one that “by respecting and recognizing the contributions fans make to the value of stories, thus strengthening  the moral economy surrounding a brand or text.” I believe that this sentiment should be the basis of a new compact between storyteller and fan.

How do we balance creator and remixer rights?

Posted by: alansylvestre | October 22, 2014

The Economics of Piracy

game of thrones

According to an article in TIME Magazine, HBO’s Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV show of all-time.

Since the advent of the Internet, companies in the entertainment industry have argued that piracy has hurt the entertainment industry because users are not paying for the content they watch.

In Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, Shoemaker writes how Jason Mittel wrote that his using file sharing to watch the first season of Veronica Mars, “actually offered more value to the industry.” (Shoemaker, 115). His claim was that because he was watching it outside the Nielsen system, he wasn’t watching commercials and “his viewing factors didn’t fall into the elaborate exchange of audiences between networks and advertisers via the currency of ratings.”

In 2013, Yahoo News reported that piracy is not hurting the profits of the entertainment industry, based off a study put out by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In their story, they quote Bart Cammaerts, one of the authors of the story, who says, “Contrary to the industry claims, the music industry is not in terminal decline, but still holding ground and showing healthy profits. Revenues from digital sales, subscription services, streaming and live performances compensate for the decline in revenues from the sale of CDs or records.”

Is pirating having a negative effect on the entertainment industry, or is it creating more profit for the industry because more viewers are watching the content, ultimately leading to a higher demand for advertisements?

Posted by: bburk2014 | October 20, 2014

Guest Speaker Video: OPB President Steve Bass, 10/16/14

Oregon Public Broadcasting president Steve Bass dropped by the Turnbull Center last week to share his insights around three key topics:

  • The past, present and future of the media
  • The factors impacting that change
  • The responsibility of media producers to shape or influence society

Past, present and future

Bass began with a brief history of Oregon Public Broadcasting, showing a studio photo of its original AM radio station, KFDJ, that went on the air at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) in 1923. He made the point that, in spite of OPB’s broad digital reach and the technological advancement of “new media”, the same station that started it all nearly a century ago is still on the air and going strong.

Factors driving change

Obviously, the major factor driving changes in media is the rise of the internet and its associated technologies and applications. This technological factor is followed closely by economic ones. “The fact of the matter is, reporting is expensive; punditry and opinion [are] cheap,” said Bass. “We’re going to see a splintering of the media more toward opinion and punditry, in my view.” Bass said he spends a lot of time trying to figure out what the next disruptive element facing the media will be, pointing out that the newspaper industry was warned for years about the coming of the internet and still didn’t adapt in time. The economic collapse of 2008 had an especially destructive effect on newspapers because of the loss of classified ad revenue.

Click here for a 1980s-era news report that Bass showed exploring a precursor of the modern internet.

One threat facing media organizations such as OPB is the fact that barriers to media production are much lower now. Virtually anyone can produce high-quality content now, whereas in the past media companies had near-monopolies on production.

OPB’s role in society

The current media landscape demands a great deal of collaboration among news organizations, even those that are unaffiliated, Bass said. Since most audiences are getting their news from multiple sources, it is imperative that a media company be as ubiquitous as possible. No longer is OPB divided along lines of medium (i.e. TV vs. radio); now the company is organized by subject matter across platforms.

Bass also pointed out that the reporter’s role is changing. Whereas at one time a journalist might get an idea, file a report and be done, today a reporter has to do all those things and market the story, as well as be available to interact with the audience via web comments, e-mail and the like. But this interaction makes for better reporting, Bass said.

Looking forward

Bass expressed optimism about the future of public media, citing OPB’s diversity of funding sources as a saving grace. Less than 10% of OPB’s funding comes from tax dollars, and much of its money comes from member donations averaging $130.

Bass concluded his remarks with a nod toward eventual expansion in mobile technology for OPB.

Posted by: johncardenas | October 16, 2014


What we see and what we read can be viewed as how cool or in the know we are. Are we using the newest social media gizmo or are we still using myspace? Are we reading People magazine or The Economist? How and what media we consume, can create assumptions about who we are and what we must be like.

This idea of creating an audience is the basis for names like generation X and Y, and the millennial’s. This type categorization was created as a way to assume what each generation was mostly likely to think, behave like and ultimately what they would consume. It’s used to create a subculture that can be sold something based on patterns of behavior.

People generally don’t like to be classified for the purposes of being sold something. Most people would like to be viewed as individual thinkers. Media and marketing agencies understand that so they create a product and through the magic of the online comment section, we now have instant feedback from the audience.

People can participate in the conversation, be critical of the content the writer presents, and for the first time ever, they can be part of the story. All this is happening on a web page that is filled with ads that are slowly being customized to the reader. The content of the article is merely bait, the ads are the hook and you’re the suckerfish.

Posted by: jstrieder | October 16, 2014

Black, White, and Read All Over

I see that Ferguson is turning up in this blog lately, and so far we haven’t broached what for journalists may be the most provocative question posed by the events in that town and how they were covered: Would more journalists of color have provided better journalism?

A provocative post on Jezebel challenged the editorial decisions regarding Ferguson at the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the New York Times: “I can hear you coming up with all sorts of rationalizations for how and why the words and the images are what they are in these two publications (and in others like them). But let me ask you something: are you white? Because the majority of journalists in American newsrooms are. Less than 15% of newsroom employees are people of color (POC), and that’s a problem.”

This question isn’t confined to Ferguson. After the New York Times published a profile of a TV show creator that leaned heavily on a stereotype, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan implied that a more integrated editorial staff would have flagged the obnoxious column.

Are these critics right? Maybe not. Pam Shoemaker and Stephen Reese address the issue in Mediating the Message in the 21st Century, and their conclusion is a resounding question mark. Minority journalists adopt the same “routines” as white pros, they say (161), in part to avoid “professional conflict” (218-219).

Maybe more editors and publishers of color would help. But why would the people at the top step aside?

Posted by: lindsaym88 | October 16, 2014

The Funneling of News Media

News reporting is conducted through a funnel effect. Key stories are selected based on, according to Pamela Shoemaker and Stephen Reese, how they fit into predetermined categories: Prominence and importance; Conflict and Controversy; The Unusual; Human Interest; Timeliness; and Proximity. Beyond this, they are subjected to a “gatekeeper”, or someone who has a vested interest in the content produced by the agency, who may be concerned about the potential to upset sponsors and lose ad revenue. Such steps are necessary, especially in today’s hyper-connected global arena, however it reduces the “news” to a select few, highly moderated pieces.

With these factors in mind, it is then necessary to understand what influences are involved in the news we read. While that isn’t always easy, I think it’s best to get a rounded few of events. Because of this, I am often tempted to seek out multiple articles on the same event to enable a cross comparison of reporting styles and details, often with telling results.

It’s not a perfect system, but at least with the rise of social media and the increased ability of the consumer to interact with their news, with the vastness of information available to the public there is a check and balance system in place. Like I said, it’s not perfect, but it is an ever evolving field and an integral aspect of our postmodern society.

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