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Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Paperback – September 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Henry Jenkins, founder and director of MIT's comparative media studies program, debunks outdated ideas of the digital revolution in this remarkable book, proving that new media will not simply replace old media, but rather will learn to interact with it in a complex relationship he calls "convergence culture." The book's goal is to explain how convergence is currently impacting the relationship among media audiences, producers and content, a far from easy undertaking. As Jenkins says, "there will be no magical black box that puts everything in order again." Jenkins takes pains to prove that the notion of convergence culture is not primarily a technological revolution; through a number of well-chosen examples, Jenkins shows that it is more a cultural shift, dependent on the active participation of the consumers working in a social dynamic. He references recent media franchises like Survivor, The Matrix, and American Idol to show how the new participatory culture of consumers can be utilized for popular success and increased exposure. Jenkins' insights are gripping and his prose is surprisingly entertaining and lucid for a book that is, at its core, intellectually rigorous. Though wordy at times, Jenkins' impressive ability to break down complex concepts into readable prose makes this study vital and engaging.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Remarkable . . . Jenkins’ insights are gripping and his prose is surprisingly entertaining and lucid for a book that is, at its core, intellectually rigorous . . . Jenkins’ impressive ability to break down complex concepts into readable prose makes this study vital and engaging."
- Publishers Weekly
"Jenkins is an astute observer of media culture and his insights are spot-on."
- The Los Angeles Times
"For any Sony PS3 execs out there wondering why their technological masterpiece is being ridiculed by customers before its even released . . . Convergence Culture is a must read . . . Jenkins offers numerous insights on how technology and media professionals can forge better relationships with their customers."
"Jenkins tries to bring clarity to cultural changes that are melting and morphing into new shapes on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly basis. Convergence Culture provides a view that looks at the restless ocean and tracks the currents rather than just looking at the individual rocks on the beach."
- The McClatchy Newspapers
"One of those rare works that is closer to an operating system than a traditional book: it’s a platform that people will be building on for years to come. What’s more, the book happens to be a briskly entertaining read--as startling, inventive, and witty as the culture it documents. It should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to make sense of today’s popular culture—but thankfully, a book this fun to read doesn't need a mandate."
- Steven Johnson, author of the national bestseller, Everything Bad Is Good For You
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Jenkins discussion of transmedia storytelling is fascinating, and fits together very well with Frank Rose's discussion in The Art of Immersion. The discussion of transmedia storytelling combines Jenkins' three concepts of media convergence, participating culture, and collective intelligence, because it requires consumers to move across multiple media and collaboration with a fan community to fully experience a story. As mentioned above, he uses the example of the Matrix movies to illustrate this point. Traditionally, all the information viewers needed to fully understand a movie were contained in the movie itself and presented in a mostly linear way that was easy to grasp, but movies like The Matrix provide open ended clues and loose strands that can't be fully understood without collaborating with other fans through online communities and by taking part in other extensions of the story in different mediums such as comics and video games. In some cases, these extensions may provide more background or a deeper understanding of the movie, or they might be completely new tangents unexplored in the movie. It will be interesting to see if this mode of story telling continues to gain traction.
Overall I enjoyed reading Convergence Culture, especially having also previously read The Art of Immersion. I do think Jenkins was trying to fit too much into the book, and at times the organization was a bit clunky. Each chapter focused on a particular TV show or movie as an example, so there was a chapter that discussed Survivor and the concepts of fan paticipation and "spoiling," the process by which fans share information that hasn't been aired yet about popular TV shows online. There was also a chapter on American Idol and advertising and fan participation. I think it may have been a better idea to organize the book around these ideas and provide more examples as opposed to organizing the book by show or movie. By far my favorite chapter was the one that focused on transmedia storytelling and The Matrix. By comparison, the last chapter on politics and popular culture and the afterword on the ramifications of YouTube on politics, while interesting and important, seemed out of place.
Perhaps my biggest gripe was how dated the book seemed. Despite being published in 2008 (the paperback was published in 2008, the hardcover in 2006), some of the examples given and, for instance, the lengthy explanation on what a blog is, made the book feel very dated, which goes to show how rapid the media landscape is changing. I would definitely recommend reading this book either before or after The Art of Immersion for a more well-rounded view.
If you have ever been interested in how technology is changing how we view the world, this is a good book to look at. The chapters focusing on Survivor, The Matrix, and Harry Potter fanficton are all of great interest.