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Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Paperback – September 1, 2008
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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Henry Jenkins, founder and director of MIT's comparative media studies program, debunks outdated ideas of the digital revolution in this remarkable book, proving that new media will not simply replace old media, but rather will learn to interact with it in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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Rather than writing from an objective viewpoint, Jenkins instead describes what the media landscape looks like from the perspective of various localized people. He also is quick to dismiss the idea that in the future consumers will get all their media from one device, referring to this prognostication as the `black box fallacy.' Through his book, Jenkins explains how convergence is both a top-down corporate-driven process and a bottom-up consumer-driven process.
Throughout the six chapters making up the first edition of the book, Jenkins looks at a number of scenarios that highlight the way culture is shifting based on the intersection of new and old media. He describes in detail the fans of the television show Survivor who have banded together online to form communities that attempt to find out as many secrets about the show as is possible, using this example as a microcosm to explain how knowledge can be formed within a community that would be impossible to be formed by individuals working separately. He also discusses the ramifications that interactive audience-driven voting has had on the hit American Idol, and the potential backlash against its new brand of corporate sponsorship.
In the realm of movies, much attention is paid to the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix trilogy and the various other ways the universe was used by different media. Calling the practice `transmedia storytelling,' Jenkins explains how the unified universe across the multiple media gave viewers of the films an insight into the greater intended meaning and helped inform seeming gaps in knowledge that caused the later movies to be panned by critics. He then goes on to describe the way fans have created their own content in the Star Wars universe and the issues that have been raised. The explosion of fan fiction in the fictional world of the Harry Potter books is used as an example of the copyright problems both producers of fan content and owners of intellectual property face, while advocating such practices help young people learn ways of communicating and collaborating that are antithetical to the education they receive in schools.
Finally, Jenkins analyzes the way that politics is changing as traditional means for campaigning are being influenced and in some cases superceded by the new media options available online. Even with an afterward written seemingly towards the end of 2007, this is the weakest part of the book not because of anything Jenkins did or did not include, but due to the timeliness of issue. While analyzing the way Howard Dean was able to raise so much money in 2004 is worthwhile, without the discussion of how President Obama seized these ideas and raised millions upon millions of dollars causes the arguments to seem outdated.
Formatting errors abound in the book, with dozens of hyphens being placed in the middle of words for seemingly no reason. Often lines just skip down halfway through a sentence and at least once a block quote just ended, completely obscuring the point for which it was quoted. In all this is only mildly distracting, but it does tend to jar one out of Jenkins's narrative.
Timeliness is a problem with any book concerning technology, and can be seen in the other chapter as well, though not to as great a degree. As new media continues to explode and the changes to our culture become more and more drastic each day, Jenkins's book will become more and more obsolete. Yet his arguments are illuminating and his writing style is easy to read and able to be assimilated by scholarly audiences as easily as by educated laymen. For those interested not only in the types of new media that are currently emerging but also in the effects said media is having on our culture, Convergence Culture is a book you should read.
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.