"From Youtube to Youniversity" — Henry Jenkins at ACC, Part Two


Jenkins noted that the success of Youtube as a business owes as much to amateur contributors like the Chinese Backstreet Boys as it does to the founders — the value of a user-generated content business depends precisely on the popularity, if not the production quality, of content generated by users, and the willingness of these prosumers to alert their social networks to new cultural discoveries.

Then he moved on to “the basic premises of convergence culture.”

1. “Convergence culture is a cultural rather than a technological process.”

The flow of stories, ideas, information, communities, brands, intellectual properties across media platforms has created new forms of “transmedia entertainment.” For example, to get all the clues and puzzle pieces to see the whole story and undergo the full Matrix experience, you need to see the Matrix movies, play the game, participate in the online discussions, read the comics.
It is not the “digital revolution” in the sense of a withering away of the mass media regime in the face of grassroots, peer to peer, vernacular media. The concentration of ownership of large media companies is as great as ever. But the media environment has changed radically from the days when mass media was the only choice. Top-down and bottom-up media co-exist in corporate boardrooms and teenagers’ bedrooms. Convergence culture, as Jenkins sees it, is “an ever more complex ecology of media cultures.” Mass media is still the biggest organism, but it is no longer the only species, and as digital media make new forms of cultural production, appropriation, re-interpretation possible, the properties of the system become as interesting as the properties of the biggest organism.

Jenkins cited Ithiel de Sola Pool as an important foundation for his own ideas about “the perpetual process of convergence and divergence, the dynamic churn of culture.” As examples of convergence coexisting with divergence, Jenkins pointed to the video iPod — “a dramatic shift of how television relates to consumers” — and to the mobilization online of fan communities to protest the cancellation of Stargate by the Sci-Fi channel.

(to be continued…)


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