Convergence culture

Class: Over the weekend, you’ve read the introductory chapter to Henry Jenkins’ book “Convergence Culture.” In the comments section, please tell us about your overall impression: What does the blending of production and consumption, of professional and amateur, through the digitization of media and the tensions that creates … well, what does it all mean, exactly? What does it mean for media industries at large? Journalism in particular?

I’d like to see you all step it up a notch in your blog comments on the readings. Remember that I’d like you to be analytical—that you should approach this with the eye of a critic, forming an opinion about what you’ve read and using evidence from the reading to illustrate your point. Got it?

I’ll look forward to reading these Monday night.

p.s. Bonus points if you visit Henry Jenkins‘ blog!

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15 Responses to “Convergence culture”


  1. 1 Leigh. September 7, 2009 at 8:29 am

    When reading about things like the Ignacio situation, it’s easy to understand criticism that this “convergence” is cheapening journalism. Even though I know there’s no reversing the influence of the Internet and participatory journalism on the news and on society as a whole, it’s still hard for me to accept all of it, just because — as this article aptly points out– in many ways it is so obviously flawed.

    In a way, it’s kind of scary that whatever you do (in Ignacio’s case, this silly website he created on a whim), can blow up to these exponential proportions simply by being put online. I read this article recently about a writer for Gawker.com who anonymously write a relationships blog on the side where she talked about her own experiences. Inevitably, it was discovered that she was writing the blog, and she was publicly called out, even getting a NYT Op-Ed written about the situation. All this said, “convergence” means exposure, whether or not you wanted it in the first place, and the fact that the two go hand-in-hand is often really daunting when broken down.

  2. 2 billbowmanut September 7, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I thought this reading’s most important point was summarized with the author saying “Old media are not being replaced. Rather their function and status are shifted by the introduction of new technology.” The author made this point convincingly through his examples regarding the radio/tv/theater. It is not a point that I really considered but really shifted my perspective.

    The one development that has occurred (somewhat) recently that might alter one of the points he made about the so-called “black box” would be the iPhone and other advanced mobile devices. I believe they have successfully eliminated the need for a music player, camera, phone and navigation device. Of course, this is just for mobile technology, but still it is an important exception. Of course, the author concedes this point when he goes on to that new technology will be “a jerry-rigged relationship between different medias.” This fact has become true but personally I think it is likely that there could be one “black box” for home entertainment in the future, even though there is not now.

    The question “what does it mean?” is difficult to answer since what it “means” is constantly changing as media changes. In the end, it may not mean anything. It may simply be a continuation of the wave of new technology that has been happening for centuries – from the printing press to radio and so on. The exponential advancement in technology may just mean that we are having to adapt faster and faster.

    Some points can be made however. The overthrow of traditional media has meant that merit, originality and uniqueness have become more important than any credentials since like we have discussed in the article and the other reading, the transaction cost and ease of use has made everyone a professional. Another trend I can point out regarding journalism, is that since the content being produced by individuals can be disseminated on numerous platforms and methods, the quality of the content must be even higher and stand out even more for consumers to search it out. I believe this one fact is good for journalism on the whole.

  3. 3 Lonny.A September 7, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Overall, I think that convergence culture is a good thing. It’s a way to personalize the media by using different types of media and bring people from different industries together, who probably would’ve never met on different circumstances. The Harry Potter franchise was once just a series of books, but today it now includes movies, video and board games, food, and soon to be an amusement park.
    The convergence talk section was pretty interesting, especially the part when a screening of a movie was played on people’s cell phones. It’s not that surprising though since video enabled phones are a common feature in East Asia’s phones. When I was on the subways in Korea and Japan, more than half of the people on there, young and old, was watching movies or TV shows. I know the states have video enabled phones and laptops, but I have yet to use them or hear of my friends using them. The author used the perfect description for cell phones nowadays, “the electronic equivalent to a Swiss Army Knife”. I completely agree. My Iphone carries everything I could possibly need through my apps: newspapers, GPS, flashlight, etc; all without the extra weight of separate devices and killing trees.

  4. 4 Grant Derigo September 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    One of the most interesting things I noticed when reading the chapter on convergence was the difference in attitudes between the younger generations and the older generations. It seems that for those in my generation who have grown up in the age of convergence that it just makes sense. It’s something I have grown up just accepting as the norm, but it is also, as the article says, much more difficult to accomplish than it seems.

    When I was a Web intern at KTLA one of the biggest pet peeves of my department was reporter’s unwillingness to embrace convergence. It seemed that they saw it, if anything as more of a threat to their work than an enhancement. The summer I was working there a new policy had been put in place saying that after reporters finished up their stories in the field and recorded their pieces that they had to then produce a text version of the story for the Web. It was amazing how many were vehemently opposed to this, even though the reporters who did quality work usually wrote a text version of their piece before going on air anyway!! My department ended up writing almost half of the Web based text stories that were supposed to be written by the reporters just because they felt that this type of work was extraneous and beneath them.

    Despite their feelings TV viewership was still slowly declining while hits to the Web site grew exponentially (even during the two months that I spent there). This is probably why a few of them lost their jobs halfway through my internship…

  5. 5 Katherine Robinson September 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I agree with Lonny on convergence culture being a good idea. Media convergence is a good idea, but it in the wrong hands (i.e.-terrorists using Ignacio’s image) could do harm. Something that was a joke was eventually blown out of proportion. In the reading it says that convergence primarily occurs within an individual who’s connected with others. New technologies are allowing convergence to continue to grow at a fast rate. I feel as if convergence will always take place. New ideas seem to recycle themselves all the time. For instance, about ten years ago a lot of my friends and I were always logged into chat rooms then once we got to high school we joined Myspace. When I first arrived at UT, Facebook was the new trend in social media. Facebook is the new ‘black’ while Myspace/chat rooms are prehistoric. Trends shape consumers lives. In a few years, Facebook will be a thing of the past and the latest social media will be a remake from the others.
    I’m not sure how journalists are going to be able to compete with media convergence. It seems like every day I hear that there won’t be any print jobs available in the future. I do feel, that in the future, more papers will just convert entirely to the internet for readers.

  6. 6 James September 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Toward the end of this chapter I started to become disappointed that Jenkins did not mention the fact that such a convergence of media is possibly creating a wider rift between the haves and the have-nots. My disappointment ebbed on the last two pages when the author hits this nail on the head: “As long as the focus (of the participation gap) remains on access, reform remains focused on technologies; as soon as we begin to talk about participation, the emphasis shifts to cultural protocol and practices.”
    I feel that this is one of the most important quotes in the first chapter. Today access to the Internet has improved for those not fortunate enough to purchase a computer and pay their monthly Internet bill. This access is now provided at local libraries and schools. But the skills required to use the Internet as a communication device and knowledge hub are increasing. Jenkins admits as much about his own book when he writes that “Yet many of the activities this book will describe depends on more extended access to those technologies, a greater familiarity with the new kinds of social interactions they enable, a fuller mastery over the conceptual skills that consumers have developed in response to media convergence.” Although media convergence is not necessarily critical to people’s lives when it comes in the form of entertainment, it is critical when it comes in the form of journalism, political policy, and education.
    I believe that early education about navigating the Web is a good first step to provide everyone the ability to participate in this convergence of media, which will probably prove to be more and more important in our everyday lives.

  7. 7 Cassandra H September 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    This article definitely helped me looked at convergence in a more positive light than before. Although it is something that is scary and can be taken to extremes (e.g. Bert is Evil), it can also make us look at things the way no other medium has allowed us to do it before. We are participating more than ever, especially our generation as college students. We are not the same bland “passive media” that is of the past. I really like the idea being of the internet being a converged medium when Jenkins talked about the idea of not every one person can know everything but that we all know something and can put those pieces together with our resources and combined skills. I feel like this is the direction in which journalism needs to be headed.
    We have been using the internet to get out the news quickly, to sometimes not use all of our resources to verify facts but just to make sure whichever company you are working for is first or has the exclusive. As we have evolved within journalism’s shift from print to digital, I feel like this has been a big flaw within the system.
    Jenkins broke down this shift that made it easier for me to understand the panic that we are hearing about in our journalism classes or current journalists telling us to get out of the game: old paradigms are breaking down faster than the new ones are emerging. As journalists, we already have a constant pressure to keep things really fresh and new, if something happened yesterday, it might as well have happened a month ago, its done. However, Jenkins also explains that delivery technologies do come and go, but once a medium has established itself as a satisfying core demand—it will continue to function within the larger system of communication options. As a society, we have become accustomed and even taken for granted the amount of information that is available to us because of journalists and be cause of the practices we keep. It is not going anywhere.

  8. 8 msherfield September 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    The meaning I took from the readings was one generally of uncertainty. For all that we speculate about the impact of new media and old media colliding, we still don’t really know where this is going and what it means as of yet. The example he gives of the New Orleans conference is in many ways a metaphor for the process we are all going through, where we know what we’re doing is not going to work, we know where we want to go (roughly) but we still seem to have know idea how to get there, how to “Worship at the Alter of Convergence.”
    As Jenkins points out, paradigms are constantly changing, being broken down and resurrected. Just a decade ago, “convergence” meant the internet and digital world taking over every over medium of entertainment and enveloping. Now, we’re still not sure what this new idea means.
    Jenkins furthers this point when explaining the crowd’s reaction, or lack of reaction, to the conference. The few people there were more concerned with the release date of Grand Theft Auto than the new technologies redefining the way we view, think about and communicate with the rest of the world.
    As Jenkins points out, we are currently in a state of transition. There will not be a eureka moment where a single black box will finally control the chaos of convergence, but the current status quo won’t exist for much longer either.
    As always, the answers lie somewhere between the extremes at either end we still experience, between the corporate gatekeepers and digital free-for-all some industries still experience.
    His solution, if there is one to be found, seems to be participation. The great positives of convergence lies in what Jenkins calls the collective intelligence, the pooling of knowledge from minds across the Earth to unlock problems, even if they are as trivial as what will happen on Survivor.
    So keep and open mind, try it out and remember it is a process, not a destination.

  9. 9 jwhitcomb September 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    After reading this, I surprisingly felt no real, strong reactions to the information. I reread the introduction again trying to figure out what convergence meant to me, to journalism. What I found, though, is through my lack of strong feelings towards the topic, that convergence seems completely commonplace to me. None of the information felt very new to me. It seemed silly to me that so much time has been spent analyzing a concept that I feel characterizes a majority of my experiences on a day to day basis.

    I especially found it interesting when Jenkins discussed the New Orleans Media Experience and the three main messages presented (1. Convergence is coming and you had better be ready, 2. Convergence is harder than it sounds, and 3. Everyone will survive if everyone works together). I see convergence as something not directly controlled by people like ‘political economists and business gurus’ at panels but by everyday people with access to the mediums that allow for convergence.

    While I do think the technology we have presently has provided an open forum for convergence, I still think the process is stemmed directly from the participatory masses and not media conglomerates. This is not to say that the power of convergence in the media is diminished because it is not controlled by a specific group of people anymore. I believe that media is most certainly more powerful when convergence is factored in, however, I don’t think there is any way to determine whether its power will benefit or detract from journalism. Jenkins clearly highlighted how convergence can be used both negatively and positively and while it provides no real solution or prediction, I think only time will show us how convergence will work with journalism and the media.

  10. 10 frankie marin September 7, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    1) Why did Jenkins want a single-function phone? It doesn’t seem like he’s that resistant to change, and surely he understands the benefits that can come along with “the electronic equivalent of a Swiss army knife”. Convergence, from what I read, seems like it couldn’t have been done without some huge leaps in technology — the iPhone, for instance, is an invaluable tool in convergence culture (which is strange to mention, given that the iPhone hadn’t made its debut at the time of publication — kind of awesome that what he said is more relevant now than ever). Laptops, web apps, blogs, etc are all conducive to establishing this new connection between old and new media where we are no longer bystanders, but a global panel of judges, critics and tastemakers. “Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers and through their social interactions with others.”

    2) I’m curious — is there anybody else out there that feels strange about being so connected and on-the-grid? Twitter, Facebook/Myspace, email, blogs, chat clients, skype — I wonder if any of us could go through an electronic purge and still be able to function normally — what kind of ramifications would it hold for our work, school, and personal lives? I also wonder if there will ever be some kind of huge backlash against convergence, an anti-convergence, a “dot com bubble burst 2”.

  11. 11 timgarlitz September 7, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I believe this was written a few years ago, but one subject that the article only scratched the surface of (and no one else has mentioned) was the relationship between record companies and customers who download music. At the New Orleans conference, record companies were not interested in letting people download music for free, but were unsure of any alternatives that would curb illegal piracy. Now in 2009, several artists, such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, have become fed up with the control that record companies possess in releasing an artist’s music and have just decided to start releasing music directly to the people, either for free or letting fans pay what they want. I think this new development will force corporations to devise a new convergence model in order to maintain profits but also attract music fans. If corporations are unwilling to, then most likely an artist or an enterprising music fan will develop some new technology or synergize existing technologies that will grant fans access to more music.

    More than likely, as more artists begin to offer music for free online, record companies will have to package their music in some new or updated format (that will more than likely be a prime example of convergence) that is loaded with extras to incentivize consumers to purchase their products. Since none of the legal action against individuals that the record companies have taken in recent years have done anything to curb file sharing, it is increasingly likely that record companies will have to get on board or become obsolete entirely.

  12. 12 Tiffany Tso September 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Beginning note: I like it when documents are posted on Google Docs or in a form where they cam be opened as HTML, rather than PDF from Blackboard. Just sayin’!

    Anyway, the Ignacio Dino anecdote, I felt, was a perfect example of exactly what can happen when we are a “global community.” This is not at all a bad thing; nor do I think the whole Evil Bert debacle was. Just imagine, as a contributor to the greater media writing or creating something that you see appear across the world, somewhere you have never traveled. It seems that with this transformation what the media is will affect everybody. Jenkins points out that at the moment it is the more privileged, “white, male, middle-class, and college-educated,” that will be privy (currently and at least more so than many others) to this convergence culture, but that cannot seriously define what it is on the large scale and in the long run.

    First of all, the Dino story shows that there are many who do not fall into this category, the “haves” as James stated, who will be able to join in on in this global communication that would not have before all of this technological evolution. They may not do it in the same way as the affluent white males, but they will be doing it all the same and in their own way. That is what I believe this entire media/technological craze is meant to do, to better our lives in different ways, modified to fit our wants and needs — rather than what a college-educated, media-savvy would believe is the appropriate way to join in. [I hope these run-on sentences are making sense to anybody besides me.]

    Anyway, in visiting Jenkins blog, there is already a prime example to this convergence of the privileged and the lesser in the article he posted about connecting rural Peru to the Internet. Just imagine posting a Youtube video and having it viewed by that little boy searching for juegos. Amazing to think. (I am already in awe when I see multiple people from California or New York visiting my site — let alone the ones from U.K. or Asia.)

  13. 13 Samantha Borger September 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I also find the idea of convergence very commonplace and ubiquitous in my everyday life. The fact that I spend most of my time on a college campus around people who are here because they’re motivated to learn about communication, means that I am around people who are more likely to be curious about things like new technology and media. I mentioned the iPhone the other day is my comment– it’s because I can’t look ten feet in any direction and not see at least one. And if it’s not an iPhone, than it’s some other type of smart phone. Everyone I know owns a computer, a cell phone and some type of mp3 player. I’m so used to all these new, expensive devices being readily available to me and the people I know that it is hard to remember the fact that there are so many people in the world that have absolutely no access to technology. There is virtually no “participation gap” (as Jenkins called it) on college campuses, but on the other side of I-35 one many find a home that does not even include a computer. i think that’s an important thing to remember when talking about convergence: not everyone has the ability to converge.
    I liked the points that Jenkins made and I think he has strong cases for all his examples. However, it’s unfortunate that a book like this can become outdated so quickly. I’m sure he had a hard time keeping up with all the digital media out there right now.
    The “black box” theory, and how he believes it will never happen, seemed a little strange to me though. I personally would love to be able to receive all forms of communication through one device. I can’t have an iPhone because I don’t have AT&T, so I have to carry a phone, an iPod, and a laptop in order to do that.

  14. 14 brandonfried September 7, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    As I continue to study emerging media technologies and read selections like the Jenkins piece, I need to remind myself that I’m 21 and infatuated with technology. (I’m sure my family could think of a harsher word to describe my relationship but that should be left for a different post.) So as I type my response to the reading and skim over my classmates reflections, I have to remember that we look at ideas like through a slightly biased lens.

    While many could argue that our affinity for ideas and “convergence culture” is something we can’t help because of the times in which we live, I wonder if any of us really have a problem with that? I don’t mean to speak for others but I can’t imagine life without the technologies I immerse myself in and I’d be lying if I said I was worried about it getting any worse. That being said, let’s move on to the reading.

    A few things stuck out to me as I studied the selection:

    I was intrigued by the comments Pool made concerning the former centralization and now increasingly decentralized manner of technologies and broadcasting. The age of big media companies of course isn’t dead yet – Turner and Time Warner aren’t going anywhere and let’s not forget that Rupert Murdoch owns MySpace (the essence of “new media”…from 2005 that is.) And as I think about this, I wonder when the two are really going to separate. When will major media conglomerates cease from making purchases of such magnitude in the online space and when will they realize that they aren’t the only ones who can succeed? Just as we discussed in class, it’s open platforms like Twitter that prove one can succeed without keeping all the money stored at the top.

    Also, I really liked the point Jenkins brought up concerning the mediums and messages of communication today. As he said, “old media never die – and they don’t necessarily fade away. what dies are simply the tools we use to access media content.” While the example of movies not replacing theatre resonated with me wonderfully (still a live theatre buff, always will be), the idea he discusses is more than true.

    We all want messages – just some of us in a text or on our phone and others only at night on our computers at home. We each ultimately decide for ourselves how to consume today’s culture and, knowing friends of varying technological preferences, I’m confident this will continue to dictate how new ideas are adopted going forward. If you plan to develop for the future, you have to be ready to present content in a variety of platforms (not just going forward) but for those who maybe aren’t ready to adopt things so quickly.

  15. 15 Erin Harris September 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    To reiterate once again, media is undergoing a great transformation. What stage we are in, and what the next step will be, remains unknown. We journalism students are trying to make ourselves marketable to an industry that is undergoing vast change. We’re reading what the experts have to say and accepting or rejecting hypotheses about what the future of journalism looks like. We’re trying so hard to equip ourselves with the tools we think we’ll need in the field. But who knows how far that will take us?
    Ithiel de Sola Pool identified in 1983 that “the one-to-one relationship that used to exist between a medium and its use is eroding.” Turns out, he’s right so far. So how much further will this concept transcend? Which delivery technologies will become obsolete and what new inventions will supersede them? What does the future of journalism look like and how can we be ready?


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