Posted by: carolbcarolb | October 2, 2011

Trends in Contemporary Media

Reading the first 3 chapters of Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture, we are exposed to the beginnings of his study and analysis of the relationship between the concepts of media convergence, the participating culture, and collective intelligence.

A couple of things that struck me after doing the reading: 1) Interesting to note that his goal was to document conflicting perspectives on media change rather than critique them, because he doesn’t think a critique of convergence can be done until it is more fully understood (spoke to the utter complexity of understanding convergence); 2) He said he wanted to help ordinary people grasp how convergence is impacting the media they consume because “if the public doesn’t get some insights into the discussions that are taking place, they will have little to no input into decisions that will dramatically change their relationship to media.” (this made me start to think about my media consumption in a more analytical way); 3) And last, (and perhaps least to some), I appreciated his accessible writing style (if writing is not engaging and consumable by the public he is trying to share his insights with, then what’s the point?!).

Chapter one was a discussion about the world of a group “spoilers” of the reality TV show  Survivor. We delved into the word of the spoilers and how their actions affected the TV show. By pooling their knowledge and intelligence, this group seeks to find out secrets about the TV series and reveal them on their message boards before they are aired on the show. We learned about active consumers and the power of collective intelligence through an analysis of the Survivor spoiler community. This case study showed how active consumers can become a powerful force that can change the way producers act and react to their messages.

Chapter two was a discussion about the American Idol TV show. This study was told more from the perspective of the media industry. We learned about how reality is being shaped by “affective economics.” In its most basic terms, because of the decline of the value of the 30 second commercial, advertisers are now interfacing with consumers in ways that blur the line between content and brand messages. For example, the Coca-Cola brand’s infiltration into  American Idol from everything to the Coke glasses in the judges hands, to the “red room” on set to the soft drink promotions reward tickets to the show’s finale. Jenkins talked about the ways companies are trying to get the audience “inside” the brand. The American Idol story was in contrast to the Survivor story in that the spoilers had the power to affect the producers, but the American Idol fans felt that even though they were supposed to be the ones voting and deciding the outcome of the show (after all, they were promised: America gets to decide upon the next Idol!), that the producers were actually the ones manipulating the outcomes. The fans were starting to speak out, expressing their outrage over what they perceived as fraud in voting methods and counts.

Chapter three, The Matrix, an example of transmedia storytelling. Here we learned about world-making and the role of active participation and knowledge communities which are needed in order to fully comprehend and even enjoy what you are watching. To fully understand The Matrix, and its sequels, the consumer must participate by researching and finding out information about the story, and spend time comparing notes with others in online groups, playing games, watching shorts, etc. This type of transmedia storytelling can be construed as quite demanding on the consumer, as they don’t get the full experience by simply watching the movie (and indeed won’t really understand what is going on in the movie – reading this chapter helped explain why I was scratching my head and saying “huh?” a lot when I watched the first two movies!).

Thomas Ruggiero’s Uses and Gratifications Theory explored the history of communications research surrounding U&G studies. He said that while many scholars think that U&G is not a  rigorous social science theory, he believes that any attempt to speculate on the future direction of mass communication theory must include the U&G approach, especially in light of the emergence of computer-mediated communications, which has heightened the significance of the meaning of uses and gratifications. He starts with a decade by decade history of the communication research methods that have been used, as people have switched media behaviors, from radio to newspapers to TV to computers. He stresses that in order to answer the question of why do people become involved in one particular type of mediated communication over another, that it must be known what gratifications they receive. In Sunday’s Columbian business section there was an article about how on-demand viewing is on the rise in households, and how you can find every member of a household involved in using a different form of media, even while they are all in the same room– different gratification levels). It was startling and a bit humbling to read the predictions of media use in article and think about how far we have come in only a decade since this article was written (“…the Internet is a technology that many predict will be genuinely transformative, it will lead to profound changes in media users’ personal and social habits and roles.”)


1.  Are you willing to be an active participant in the TV shows or movies that you watch? Are you willing to expend the time and energy to do research, participate in on-line message boards and/or do other research in order to fully enjoy a show or movie? Do you think it depends on your age? Is this type of active participation solely for the “younger” generation? If so, what will happen to the “older” generation? Are people age 40 and over irrelevant to popular culture media producers?

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