Convergence Culture

Perhaps you will remember that on 20 July 2006 I posted a call for papers for a special issue of the journal Convergence that MIT's Henry Jenkins and I would be guest co-editing on the topic of convergence culture, based on his book of the same title, and as a theme running throughout my recent book on how convergence culture affects media work.

Well, the special issue is out now (February 2008), and we're very excited about the stellar authors and papers in the issue. Indeed, we received many more excellent submissions than we had room for in this issue, many of which papers will appear in forthcoming issues of the journal.

Of course, this being academic publishing, all the content is hidden behind lock and key - something that one of the authors in our issue, danah boyd, justifiably takes issue with. Indeed, danah calls for a boycott of academic journals that "lock down" their content.

Another author in our issue, Christy Dena, has been cool enough to build a special site around the special issue, including a version of her contribution - a piece on Alternate Reality Games.

Of course, if you are looking for one or more of the pieces in this special issue and your library does not have print or electronic access to the journal, do not hesitate to contact me (mdeuze at indiana dot edu). To provide a bit of context for the issue, here are the opening paragraphs of our introductory essay on convergence culture.

Introduction to: Special Issue on Convergence Culture

by Henry Jenkins and Mark Deuze

"We are living at a moment of profound and prolonged media transition: the old scripts by which media industries operated or consumers absorbed media content are being rewritten. As those changes occur, we need to work across the historic divide in academic research between work on media industries and work on media audiences. Media companies can no longer be meaningfully studied in the absence of an understanding of how they relate to their consumers. By the same token, consumers, audiences, fan communities, users, call them what you wish, can no longer be meaningfully understood without a better understanding of the economic and technological contexts within which they operate. The essays contained within this special issue of Convergence, each in its own way, represents a raproachment between industry studies and audience research.

In this context, media can be seen as the key drivers and accelerators of a growing integration between culture and commerce. Brought down to first principles, media mediate – between people, communities, organizations, institutions, and industries. In the classic model, a small number of media companies were homogenizing culture through their dominance over the means of production and distribution of media content. And individuals were defined through their roles as "consumers" rather than being seen as producers of -- or better yet, participants within -- the surrounding culture. Over the past several decades, the expansion of new media resources has led to what Yochai Benkler has described as a "hybrid media ecology" within which commercial, amateur, governmental, nonprofit, educational, activist and other players interact with each other in ever more complex ways. Each of these groups has the power to produce and distribute content and each of these groups are being transformed by their new power and responsibilities in this emerging media ecology. And in the process, the focus on individual consumers is giving way to a new emphasis on the social networks through which production and consumption occurs. In this context, it may no longer be of value to talk about personalized media; perhaps, we might better discuss socialized media. We might see YouTube, Second Life, Wikipedia, Flickr, and MySpace, to cite just a few examples, as meeting spaces between a range of grassroots creative communities, each pursuing their own goals, but each helping to shape the total media environment.

These shifts in the communication infrastructure bring about contradictory pulls and tugs within our culture. On the one hand, this "democratization" of media use signals a broadening of opportunities for individuals and grassroots communities to tell stories and access stories others are telling, to present arguments and listen to arguments made elsewhere, to share information and learn more about the world from a multitude of other perspectives. On the other hand, the media companies seek to extend their reach by merging, co-opting, converging and synergizing their brands and intellectual properties across all of these channels. In some ways, this has concentrated the power of traditional gatekeepers and agenda setters and in other ways, it has disintegrated their tight control over our culture.

Convergence therefore must be understood as both a top-down corporate-driven process and a bottom-up consumer-driven process. Media companies are learning how to accelerate the flow of media content across delivery channels to expand revenue opportunities, broaden markets and reinforce consumer loyalties and commitments. Users are learning how to master these different media technologies to bring the flow of media more fully under their control and to interact (and co-create) with other users. Sometimes, these two forces reinforce each other, creating closer, more rewarding, relations between media producers and consumers. Sometimes the two forces conflict, resulting in constant renegotiations of power between these competing pressures on the new media ecology."

Table of Contents

Henry Jenkins and Mark Deuze: Convergence Culture

danah boyd: Facebook's Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion, and Social Convergence

Neil Perryman: Doctor Who and the Convergence of Media: A Case Study in Transmedia Storytelling

Christy Dena: Emerging Participatory Culture Practices: Player-Created Tiers in Alternate Reality Games

Hector Postigo: Video Game Appropriation through Modifications: Attitudes Concerning Intellectual Property among Modders and Fans

Daren C. Brabham: Crowdsourcing as a Model for Problem Solving: An Introduction and Cases

Larissa Hjorth: Being Real in the Mobile Reel: A Case Study on Convergent Mobile Media as Domesticated New Media in Seoul, South Korea

Gunn Sara Enli: Redefining Public Service Broadcasting: Multi-Platform Participation