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Convergence Culture 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-likes-of-the-many dept.
javathut writes "Perhaps an alternate title for this book could have been "understanding your audience." For any Sony PS3 execs out there wondering why their technological masterpiece is being ridiculed by customers months before it's even released, or what the long-term repercussions of their DRM policies will be, Convergence Culture is a must read. Drawing upon case examples of how a variety of user communities adopt digital technologies, sometimes in ways completely opposite from what the designers intended, Jenkins offers numerous insights on how technology and media professionals can forge better relationships with their customers." Read the rest of Ravi's review.
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
author Henry Jenkins
pages 336
publisher New York University Press
rating 10
reviewer Ravi Purushotma
ISBN 0814742815
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."


You can purchase Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Convergence Culture

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  • Missing stories (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andrewman327 (635952) on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:58PM (#15905329) Homepage Journal
    They forgot the CueCat and New Coke! I think both are great examples of products that had a very different impact than that intended. New Coke actually made consumers more interested in old Coke and the CueCat spawned a large "after market" community that still exists long after the laser scanner's demise.


    The main message in this book seems to be "Don't piss of your fans!" While some would argue that this is common sense, the provided examples prove otherwise. People do not want to feel like they are supporting a faceless corporation, so they rebel when their favorite product turns and tries to control them.

    • Slurm Queen: As for you, you will be submerged in Royal Slurm which, in a matter of minutes, will transform you into a Slurm Queen like myself.

      Small Glurmo #1: But, Your Highness, she's a commoner. Her Slurm will taste foul.

      Slurm Queen: Yes! Which is why we'll market it as New Slurm. Then, when everyone hates it, we'll bring back Slurm Classic, and make billions!

    • New Coke (Score:3, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486)
      Contrary to popular wisdom, the New Coke formula didn't come completely out of nowhere.

      Coca-Cola had been enjoying tremendous success with a recent product, Diet Coke. So at some point the big brains at Coca-Cola decided that they might as well reform their product line so that all the Coke products had a similar taste.

      It seems that, due to FDA restrictions on various artificial sweeteners in the U.S., Coca-Cola was not able to come up with a sugar free formula that tasted exactly like regular Coke. Instead
      • Sorry, I wasn't aware that popular opinion was that it came "from nowhere". I always thought that popular opinion was that the Coke company had developed a new formula for Coke that tested better in focus groups, but had failed to ask the question as to how people would feel if the new coke were to replace the old Coke. There were many people who liked the old Coke and when they were told it was going away, it caused a public backlash.
      • Coke Zero -- no "diet" on the can.

        Actually it's Coca-Cola Zero, which addresses something else Coca-Cola marketers have been worrying about, that the labels "Coke" and "Diet Coke" have been watering down the "Coca-Cola" brand name.
      • by doom (14564)

        It seems that, due to FDA restrictions on various artificial sweeteners in the U.S., Coca-Cola was not able to come up with a sugar free formula that tasted exactly like regular Coke. Instead, they decided not to try -- they came up with a new formula that tasted something like Coke, but different. Thus was Diet Coke born. Diet Coke has never been based on the same formula as the product we now know as Coca-Cola Classic.

        All plausible enough, but where's your information from?

        I've got a different the

  • Disclaimer (Score:5, Informative)

    by neonprimetime (528653) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:04PM (#15905374) Homepage
    Disclaimer Notice: The review author is a former MIT student who took classes taught by Henry Jenkins on this topic."

    Wiki link [wikipedia.org] for Henry Jenkins

    One of the first scholars to seriously study the effects of audience participation in media culture and its effects, and recognized as an expert in the influence of digital popular culture on behavior, including political behavior in a participatory media age.
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:04PM (#15905379) Homepage
    The book sounds interesting. But I'd like to pose a question for /.ers... has convergence ever really worked?

    The biggest piece of convergence I can think of would be TV/VCR combos. While they do sell, they've never over taken TVs (even in small sizes).

    Everything else I can try to think of I wouldn't call convergence. I'm not sure Clock-Radios should be counted, as it is just an enhancement of an alarm clock with a different alarm. Sure every oven and microwave has a clock in it, but that doesn't replace the clock elsewhere.

    Everyone keeps talking about convergence, but by and large it doesn't seem to be successful anywhere that I can think of.

    Anyone have any going counter-points to prove me wrong? I'd love to hear them. The only thing I can think of would be cell-phone/PDAs, but I would consider that arguable (after all, most are just PDAs with cell-phone hardware in them and one little application to drive the phone, they are hardly well merged; form factor is the same as a PDA).

    • To follow your arguement though, an "alarm clock" is a convergence of an alarm and a clock. A Radio alarm clock is a convergence of a radio, an alarm, and a clock. And yes, having a CD/radio alarm clock does replace the need of having a cd player, a radio, an alarm, and a clock on my night stand.

      -Rick
      • How can you have an alarm without a clock if you're setting the time you want the alarm to go off based on time of day? That's like saying video game consoles are a convergence of controllers and cartridge slots or that a car is the convergence of wheels and an engine. Just listing two parts of a whole is not convergence. They're both needed to serve one purpose.

        "And yes, having a CD/radio alarm clock does replace the need of having a cd player, a radio, an alarm, and a clock on my night stand."

        Do you us
        • "How can you have an alarm without a clock if you're setting the time you want the alarm to go off based on time of day?"

          Because the alarm is a seperate entity that has been "converged" with a clock for so long that people consider is a single technology. My car has an alarm. My house has an alarm. My office has an alarm. My email client has an alarm. The alarm's function is to raise awareness. I could tie that alarm to any number of external entities to get the same functionality.

          "Do you use the radio or C
    • The PDA itself is a convergence item combining calendar, e-mail, calculator, clock, etc.

      A laptop is a covergence item combining screen, CPU, mouse, etc.

      The iMac is similar.

      Your house is a combination of technologies. Who would've thought they could put the bathroom inside the house?!

      Convergence happens all around you, you're just not looking.
    • The biggest piece of convergence I can think of would be TV/VCR combos. While they do sell, they've never over taken TVs (even in small sizes).
      The argument my family have always maintained against the TV/VCR combo could explain most of the old-school attitude toward "convergence.." if either the TV or the VCR breaks, you're out one gadget. In a combo if either component breaks, you're out both gadgets.
    • Swiss Army Knives and their evolution into Leatherman-type tools come to mind. Of course the perfect convergence is the addition of a claw onto a hammer, way back when.
      • . . .the perfect convergence is the addition of a claw onto a hammer, way back when. . .

        The hammer part being used to concuss the armoured knight, the claw part to pierce his helmet and kill him once you had him down.

        Who knew they'd be useful for nails?

        KFG
    • by EatHam (597465) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:27PM (#15905540)
      has convergence ever really worked?

      Spoken like someone who has never experienced the wonder of the dildo toothbrush.
      • Hale and Pace scetch?

        Woman sat in bed with her husband in the bathroom getting ready for bed.
        The husband pops round the corner with a dildo in hand and asks, "Have you seen my electric toothbrush".
        Womans face turns to shocked and appears to remove said toothbrush from herself under the covers.
    • has convergence ever really worked?

      I'm not sure if the examples you offer are the sort of convergence discussed in the book. A TV with built in VCR is a combination device which doesn't bring about the audience-producer interaction that this seems to be related to.

      The case studies mentioned in the review are instances where a corporate culture has encountered an independent culture that has sprung up around a product such as a TV show, book, game, or some gadget.

      The geek example most people can pr

    • Convergence happens where it works, not where it's forced -- More and more consumers are dissatisfied with cellphone/mp3-player/organizer/blender/hairdryer/ e tc. combinations because they really don't do those things all that well in many cases and in many cases, they don't do ANYthing well. The PSP is a good example -- people didn't adopt it as a movie and game platform because it wasn't especially good at either. Contrast that with video iPods -- I've certainly seen them used for videos on commuter trai
      • re:" The PSP is a good example -- people didn't adopt it as a movie and game platform because it wasn't especially good at either. "

        Um - bullshit?

        There's plenty of games that are great on it. Just because you don't play them doesn't make them so. Now MOVIES - yes. The idea of micro-media instead of downloads is a no-brainer, until you realize that iTunes' video selling model only emerged AFTER the PSP specs were put down. I still enjoy transfering video onto a wide screen for portable video - compared to th
        • Okay, so you've conceded one part of my previous two points -- the PSP isn't that good of a movie platform. (that in itself means I'm not as full of it as you'd seem to like to believe...)

          Now, for games... there's nothing all that inventive or novel about the PSP. Sure, there are some very playable games, but that doesn't make it a great gaming platform -- far from it... and here are two examples: First, compare the input options on the DS vs the PSP (for the record, I own neither of the systems) The m
          • re:"please, enlighten us as to why it's not complete blowing its competition away."

            I didn't know popularity precluded fun. I guess all the Mac users should just crawl under a rock and die right now because their platform of choice isn't "blowing the competition away". I thought it was just a decent computer - and the PSP is a decent portable game system. And as far as amazing - I dont dance in front of eyetoy cameras and wave wands around the room to get my game-on. I just want solid gameplay in a portable
    • Radio: Amplifier and tuner used to be separate boxes (still are on very top-end gear).
      TiVo.
      Cell phone + camera.
      Cell phone + email = crackberry.
      Roller skate + sneaker = annoying kid conveyance at the malls these days.
      Internet + walkman = Ipod.

      Plenty of two-use devices. I can't think of much beyond the computer in general that successfully rolls a bunch of concepts into just one device.

      I think the ipod is the big one; it's widely regarded to have succeeded based on how well it works with itunes, not just on
    • The thesis of the book is that convergence never works as a technological combining of functions into a single product, but rather as a cultural phenomenon whereby people use products in new ways to do all sorts of creative things with them. See the description on the author's blog [henryjenkins.org]
    • by zogger (617870)
      Vacation cabin + the family station wagon in one package. Pretty successful. Like you said, the multifunction cellphone, now with camera, wifi, GPS, radar, laser beams, plays MP3s and vidcasts. next year..more. They sell a couple of them... hey! Beenie frikkin weenie! huh, huh? Banana splits? Lunch boxes with a thermos inside? (ya, I know, geezerville) Girls in high heels? Computer bundles? Little bit 0 everything fireworks pack? Ace doubles sci-fi paperbacks? Box of cereal with toy inside? crew cab pickups
    • Is the cell phone and the wristwatch.

      Young people often just don't wear watches. Everyone my age does (mid 30s), but younger people often don't because they always have their cell phone and are used to using that.

      Some of these people will wear wristwatches for fashion later, but as functionality thing, the wristwatch is in steep market decline.
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:07PM (#15905407) Homepage Journal
    how technology and media professionals can forge better relationships with their customers

    Simple:
    • Don't assume customers are criminals
    • Include technology that offers possibilities instead of hinders them.
    • Let hobbyists modify what they buy and you'll get free publicity.


    It's common sense.

    Where's my book deal?
    • Don't assume customers are criminals - Just because they name their distros and other applications after Satan.

      Include technology that offers possibilities instead of hinders them. - Show me your source code and I'll show you a better product.

      Let hobbyists modify what they buy and you'll get free publicity. - Jump into that Open Source buzz.
    • Simple:
      * Don't assume customers are criminals
      * Include technology that offers possibilities instead of hinders them.
      * Let hobbyists modify what they buy and you'll get free publicity.

      People want to do what they want to do. When THEY make it hard to do, people work around it. When THEY abuse people with lawsuits and buy themselves laws that criminalizes what people want to do, people move on to something else that doesn't

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The post mentions the "Wisdom of Crowds." Isn't it hard to assume that a crowd will behave consistently wisely?

    I wondered about this, so I decided to let "Wisdom of Crowds" and "Mob Rule" fight it out... [googlefight.com]
  • by monopole (44023) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:46PM (#15905682)
    A welcome book, particularly when it seems that the primary aim of corporate policies are to make their products less useful and more annoying at each turn. In particular, the upgrade path of the PSP is a perfect example. Each firmware upgrade reduces the capabilities of the PSP, and downgrades are eagerly sought. In the meantime Sony has so hopelessly crippled the platform that it cannot even exploit the capability for wireless download services due to its own DRM!
    • if you want to know how the PSP issue will shake out, turn to history. before the PSP there was the iopener (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOpener) the company made the iopener for $300-$400 and sold it for $99 requiring 3 years commitment to dialup internet access from netpliance's preferred partners. enthusiasts discovered that the machine could be hacked into a real PC, and so people began buying htem in drives and canceling the internet service. suffering losses, the company tried many things to cur
  • updates (Score:2, Informative)

    by JavaTHut (9877)
    He actually posted an update for the Star Wars Gallaxies section [henryjenkins.org] online.

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