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.

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