|Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide|
|publisher||New York University Press|
|summary||Convergence Culture offers numerous insights on how technology and media professionals can forge better relationships with their customers|
In one example, he follows the progression of the Harry Potter franchise after Warner Brothers purchased the film rights. In the interest of protecting their trademark, the studio sent out cease-and-desist letters to an online network of pre/teen [largely] girls who had been writing and sharing stories about Harry Potter as a way of learning to improve their writing skills. Rather than desisting, they coordinated a global protest that became a major P.R. headache for Warner Brothers -- who ultimately had to back down. This is likened to the confused message LucasFilms sent its customers when its movie division attempted to litigate control of the Star Wars storyline away from fans, while at the same LucasArts was trying to encourage players of Star Wars Gallaxies to explore and expand the Star Wars universe.
By themselves, the case studies are perhaps not that dissimilar from the many other accounts of industry execs completely botching their community relations. However, as the director of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, Jenkins adds some insightful perspectives on thinking about technology and the structuring of new-media companies in response to internet communities. Contrasting the typical response of U.S. companies to technologies like filesharing, he looks at the attitudes of Japanese anime and manga producers -- outlining how their more open attitudes could have influenced the current popularity of Japanese-origin franchises within the United States. Similarly, he looks at the corporate structure behind the Matrix franchise (in particular the Enter The Matrix video game), demonstrating how elements of The Matrix design process could serve as a model for other industries.
The book also contains a second thread running through it looking at 'collective intelligence.' Basically, this can be thought of as a sort of Wisdom of Crowds view of what happens when customers become so tightly networked with one another that they can overpower media producers. One chapter looks at the tv series Survivor and how online spoiler teams shared satellite data, local knowledge and social networks to determine the show's conclusion before it aired. Rather than simply fighting efforts such as these as was done with Survivor, Jenkins outlines examples of how collective intelligence communities could be harnessed to advance products or causes. Using the extensive accomplishments of the 600,000 players in the popular Alternate Reality Game I Love Bees as a model for what is ultimately possible, he outlines how viral marketing, politics and other domains are changing in response to the increasing collaborative abilities of networked fans.
Having previously taken classes with Professor Jenkins, I had long been looking forward to the release of this book. Reading it, I was glad to find the same clear focus on real-world examples and practical applications that was emphasized in his classes. Overall, it reads far more similar to titles like Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You or Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs than anything you'd expect from an academic professor.
As the subtitle "where old and new media collide" suggests, the book contains a pretty even split between traditional broadcast/cinematic media and web/video game/mobile media. Anyone interested only in a single media form probably won't find this book that different from any others on their topic. Rather, most of the more unique insights come from Jenkins's understanding of how these different media forms interact to re-enforce one another, and the ways in which consumers navigate between multiple media forms and online channels.
While most of the theories put forth in the book will likely remain relevant for years to come, a few of the case studies are already showing their age. For example, the Star Wars Gallaxies discussion appears to be written before the recent shakeup at Sony Online. This means readers will need to go beyond the book to remain fully up-to-date with some of the examples.
Overall, any reader should find Convergence Culture an extensively researched book using a conversational writing style that makes it truly engaging to read and clearly accessible. However, those in charge of managing community relations, online presence or designing media to cross multiple platforms would likely benefit from it the most.
Disclaimer Notice: The review author is a former MIT student who took classes taught by Henry Jenkins on this topic."
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