Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture at Forrester Consumer Forum

I’ve written several times before on Jenkins – he’s a major guru I think of the new media shift. If you haven’t read Convergence Culture go do so now.

Today he’s one of the keynotes at the Forrester Consumer Forum


I’m here as the token EggHead of the event. I always go where no humanist has gone before.

If you want to understand the web now, you need to hire humanities grads – the questions about the web used to be technical questions, but now they are social and cultural questions – the kinds of things studied by liberal arts grads.

Describe Web 2.0 in 2 sentences or less:
“You make all the content. They keep all the revenue.”

Convergence culture is a world where every story, image, sound, idea, brand, and relationship will play itself out across all possible media platforms.

Along with convergence culture is participary culture – he actually used this slide:
Participatory Culture

Which is user generated content which originally came from this presentation.

The question now is really what can I do with your product.

We hear about people worried about losing control – the reality is you lost it long ago. Consumers can take your content and remix it and share it and publish it almost as publically as you can. You can sue, and shut a few people down, but the genie is out of the bottle.

The ability for “us” to control and remake content and republish it at an equivalent quality and fidelity as large media brands is fundamentally and radically different than previous eras of media.

But large media and brands have a place as well -all the parodies of the mac ads circulate in part because everyone knows the original.

There’s also great innovation going on here in terms of fan practices and how they are cocreating value.

There are all kinds of low cost experiments which remix the raw materials our culture provides and you can support and cultivate these in dialog – not shut them down.

Four Eyed Mosters and collaborative curating – creating a market for your product before it is even released.

Wizard Rock – over 200 wizard rock groups using myspace to create music with reference to Harry Potter – a whole genre of widely listened-to music that did not exist before it came bottom up, not top down.

Any platform that can be used to trade cat pictures can bring down a government – Ethan Zuckerman.

The fundamental questions are all about what this new participatory and convergent culture will be like.

The story of Fanlib – a company which wanted to create a commercial portal to distribute fan fiction – and some of the fans are revolting – they don’t want a commercial entity to run this.

Fanlib committed several obvious mistakes – 80% of the fan fiction writers are women, but the ad campaign was all men. The company told fans it wanted to empower them, but to corporate rights holders they were telling a different story – complete control, staying within the lines.

The community didn’t like the idea of things being regulated, commercialized, and brought into the lines.

Example of Stephen Colbert – but his studio sends a cease and desist to YouTube – different parts of the same company have different ideas of what this means. That is the current state of convergence culture.

One quick plug at the end for the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference.

Q: Is copyright dead?

A: No, but it is evolving. In the future, companies will have every right to protect their content but every incentive to let it go. It isn’t that they don’t have legal right but they should not use it.

Q: Is participatory culture even across the world?

A. Not even, but global. When the media folks went after Harry Potter fan fiction in Poland and Thailand, the kids in the US knew about it immediately. In some ways this group is more connected and interactive than anyone else. But there are other countries which are clearly left out. This is a global phenomenon, but not one in which everyone in the world participates equally.

Q: To what extent should brands try to control / engage in negative discussions about their brand?

A: You can’t shut it down. Your best response is to do something about what you’ve done that people are criticizing you for. If it is a misperception get out there and correct it – if it is an accurate criticism change the behavior.


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