Digital Media & Culture: Collaborative Essay Collection 2018/Convergence/Research Question 4:/Digital Dancers

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How does Henry Jenkins' theory of 'Media Convergence' correlate and contrast with alternative approaches to the term adapted by various other academic scholars?[edit]


Introduction[edit]

In modern social engagement, media convergence is a concept that can be considered highly dangerous, not only in terms of topic but also definition (Meikle & Young, 2012)[1]. This is because the word itself can denote various meanings and can also be connoted in several different manners. It can often refer to technological developments (Holt & Sanson, 2014)[2], it can be based off of industry structures (Bolter & Grusin, 1999) [3] and changing forms of media texts (Lee & Andrejevic, 2014) [4]. However, the most dominant denotation, by Henry Jenkins, refers to shifts in relationship between the consumer and the consumed (2006)[5]. Our essay intends to explore the main findings of Jenkins' research on convergence, and expanding upon such by comparing his work to that of other renowned theorists in the area, noting both the clear similarities and arguments. By dissecting a case study conducted by Henry Jenkins, we were able to see the links he makes to convergence, while clearly breaking down his arguments and understanding his point of view. From this we were able to visibly match up other theorists work and eventually come to a concise conclusion, detailing our findings on the concept of convergence, enabling us to express how other scholars use the term of convergence; whether they find it relevant in their own studies and how we can link older methods of convergence, to that of more recent approaches.


Main Concepts[edit]

In the introductory chapter of his book, ‘Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide’, Jenkins draws comparisons from real life case studies and examples to give us, as the reader, the best chance of understanding his main arguments and research through these sub headings; Media Convergence & Participatory Culture.


Jenkins begins to convey his argument on convergence, by following the American school student Dino Ignacio, and how he decided to create a whimsical meme which included 'Sesame Street's' 'Bert' alongside Osama Bin Laden, in a segment that the Filipino student entitled.... 'Evil Bert'. However, what a school boy thought was a slight bit of humour quickly turned into a large media disaster.


From the original photo, other World Wide Web users were inspired and took note of Ignacio's work, this further influenced the creation of more photos, with a development of cruder images taking place. Pictures emerged of Evil Bert framed with Hitler, the KKK, other far right leaders and even pictured having sexual intercourse with Pamela Anderson. This, however was only the start of something much larger in terms of the convergent world that media places itself in today’s society. This initial viral sensation quickly turned sour as a Bangladesh publisher broadcasted the original image and turned it into various forms of anti-American hate crime. It began to gain widespread media coverage featuring in newspapers, television and even the likes of merchandise such as t-shirts furthering the controversy. Which, evidently, quickly caught the attention, and some would say outrage, of CNN. From being a child-friendly character in the programme Sesame Street, the characterisation of Bert has truly become evil in the media's eyes.

This is convergence; “Where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media interact, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer and producer interact in unpredictable ways” (Jenkins, 2006, p.12)[5]. Jenkins further elaborates that convergence refers to the flow of content across multiple media platforms; “the co-operation between multiple industries and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go anywhere in search for a particular type of entertainment” (Jenkins, 2006, p.14) [5] . Bert’s photo travelled from Sesame Street, to Ignacio's Photoshop to create the meme, then further to becoming a global dispute blasted on the News, TV, T-shirts and even talked about on the radio. Jenkins argues this to be the perfect way to describe convergence as a whole, a place where; everyone’s story is told, every brand story is sold, and every consumer is courted across every single media platform available.

However, the flow of content here to allow such convergence to take place, activates Jenkins second topic surrounding media convergence - ‘Participatory Culture’. Jenkins here argues against the idea that the media convergence is a technological drift and shift, involving many different media sources and outlets through one device. He sees it rather as a cultural shift, as consumers actively go and seek their information on the platforms they choose, through the forums they like, and perceive it in their very own way, thereby actively participating in the culture of convergence, such as has happened in the example above. Participatory Culture, contrasts with older passive media spectatorship. Rather than thinking about media producers and consumers as occupying separate roles, we might now put them in same group of participants who interact with each other according to convergence, and the conformity that surrounds them in media. Corporations for example and individuals with corporate media hold greater powers than the average consumer like me or you as they influence a massive group of people, however, consumers have greater abilities to participate in emerging cultures than corporate consumers do. Further, as previously mentioned, Jenkins argues that convergence does not occur through a media device, or even a media platform, he argues that convergence occurs through the brain of an individual consumer, and through the social interactions they take part in both on and offline. We all individually perceive the media that we are exposed to and individually construct our own personal thoughts through fragments of information extracted from each source and each piece of media. Further to this, he argues, “Printed words did not kill spoken words. Cinema did not kill theatre. Television did not kill radio. Each old medium was forced to coexist with the emerging media” - Old media are not being displaced (Jenkins, 2006) [5]. Rather, their functions and status have shifted by the introduction of new technologies. Convergence, as argued by many, has not displaced or rendered extinct “old” technologies, rather it has forced them to adapt, and coincide with new forms of media technologies.


'Connected Viewing' by Holt and Sanson offers a different perspective on the impact of media convergence. Firstly, they define connected viewing as “more than just digital distribution, it is the broader eco system in which digital distribution is rendered possible, and the new forms of user engagement take place.” They then go on to explain connected viewing, stating that it provides the framework from which we can understand the evolution of different media and entertainment (Holt and Sanson, 2014, p.3). [2] Holt and Sanson provide examples of how new technology has impacted the media, going as far as to suggest that connected viewing and migratory media, has transformed the way we think about the very core of media itself. Their study then looks into connected viewing, illustrating the various areas it has impacted; the distribution of media and how it is policed, how much more difficult it is to distribute media because the relationship between the two is now much less straightforward, and finally how every user can now produce their own media thanks to the emergence of new technology. (Holt & Sanson, 2014, p. 3). [2]

While the cooperation and collaboration of the user and producer has had its negative impacts on some businesses, Holt and Sanson further describe how film is an area that has also been affected by the emergence of media convergence. Using film’s struggle to adapt as an example, they explain the increasing popularity of online streams and sites such as Netflix, and further how this has caused a reduction in the number of people going to the cinema. Moreover, this is a perfect example of how major businesses, or major industry (cinema) is being negatively affected by media convergence. However, Holt and Sanson go on to explain and argue how cinema as a whole are attempting to adapt to ensure people continue to value the cinema experience. However, it remains to be seen whether these claims of adaptation will come of fact, or remain of fiction, allowing Netflix to surpass them, and for cinema to die out at the hands of convergence.

Consider the context of Jenkins work; he believes that media convergence occurs through the individual minds of people themselves and that it is an achievement of the brain rather than a product of recent advancements in technology (Jenkins, 2006) [5]. This differs from the view of Holt and Sanson who believe that technology isn't the most important part of media convergence, adding that it is inaccurate to think that technology is not at the sole of convergence. Instead, Holt and Sanson suggest that the advancements in technology and second screen viewing have led to media convergence, they place emphasis on the fact that the media has shown great expansion and that there are various examples in gaming where a video game has gone on to become a film or television series and therefore expanded across all media platforms. While it takes someone to come up with the idea to expand, they rank the human contribution behind the advancement in technology which has made it possible. The findings of Holt and Sanson are similar to those of Lee and Andrejevic and we will now look at his findings in more detail in order to provide a more accurate alternative to the evaluation of media convergence provided by Henry Jenkins.



Jenkin's views compare and contrast to that of Andrejevic and Lee in multiple ways. Media Convergence was thought to signal the end for the monopoly that was ‘real time viewing’ and terrestrial TV companies. Lee and Andrejevic (2014)[4], state how convergence has helped marketers and traditional TV companies make more money rather than less. TV companies while threatened by the emergence of on demand viewing provided by companies such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, have realised that convergence does not mean convergence on one device but rather multiple, thus the idea of interactive TV which had failed to stem the tide of ‘on demand viewing’ in the past could be done successfully through ‘piggy backing off of’ secondary devices (Lee and Andrejevic, 2014).[4] This was termed the ‘second screen’.

This process is perhaps best demonstrated with the launch of the iPad in 2010. The US TV network ABC, released a companion app for the Oscars where, for those who downloaded it, they were granted backstage access. The move was an unprecedented success (Lee and Andrejevic, 2014).[4]This shows how media convergence helped traditional media and did not hinder it, thus pointing towards new media and old media coexisting rather than one replacing other. Media Convergence in this form also helped to maintain the relevance of ‘real time TV’. Lee and Andrejevic (2014)[4], note how the ultimate goal of this approach by large TV corporations was to get real time reactions from audiences. This would help marketers garner the most relevant material for the most appropriate people. Thus, convergence in this sense, allowed traditional TV maintain this ‘liveness’ element and subsequently help to maintain their relevance.

Furthermore, this convergence helps to maintain the relevance of advertisements. Lee and Andrejevic (2014)[4], also note how the ‘live’ element helps sell what is being advertised as people, using their ‘second screen’ will be able to look it up and even buy it instantaneously. Therefore, media convergence has helped advertisers as well, due to the convergence between devices allowing for more time relevant adverts.

This type of media convergence has also benefited television producers. Through the means of social media platforms like Facebook, and twitter, TV producers do not have to wait for reaction to a particular show but rather, can get an instant reaction [4] Thus, this technological convergence between different platforms and devices shows how old media can coexist with new media.

Mirroring this point, Jenkins displays his agreement between these theorists. Jenkins (2006)[5] points out that convergence is where grassroots and corporate media collide and combine with one another. Lee and Andrejevic (2014)[4] , make a similar point with the emergence of on-demand viewing, though not spelling the end for big corporations and media outlets, has meant that viewers are given a modicum of power while big corporations must adapt to compensate for this change. Therefore, the initial theories between these theorists seem to be that of agreement.

Furthermore, the theorists agree over the influence of big media corporation’s ability to understand the flow of audiences towards a piece of entertainment. For instance, the example of ABC in 2010 shows how a TV company was able to release an app to compensate for the demand of ‘real time viewing’ of the Oscars (Lee and Andrejevic, 2014)[4] . Thus, this again shows areas of convergence of opinion, as it were, between the theorists.

However, the theorists do have areas of disagreement. Jenkins (2006) [5] argues that media convergence is heavily reliant on the individual, in that individuals actively seek the media they want to see. However, this contrasts with an example provided by Lee and Andrejevic (2014)[4] , where they state that the emergence of the ‘second screen’ and ‘second device’ culture is a massive part in media convergence. These points are in direct contrast to one another and thus shows an area of disagreement. Therefore, it is clear that the definitions and views on media convergence between these theorists have differing perceptions however do agree in what some may call the fundamentals of media convergence.


Visual representation of social media in today's society.

Looking more specifically into the work Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin have constructed on media convergence, they compare both new concepts of digital media - hypermediacy, immediacy, transparency and most importantly remediation. According to Bolter and Grusin, convergence is a term derived from the meaning of remediation. They state that "convergence is remediation under a different name" (Bolter & Grusin, 1999, p.224)[3], it is a term that they have developed to connote the representation or combination of one medium in another. As mentioned above, Jenkins splits the term of convergence into three disparate categories; participatory culture being the one that is most applicable to Bolter and Grusin's approach. Participatory culture is touched upon by Jenkins as an important part of understanding convergence, as it is presumably the concept of accessing various forms of media through one device. He debates that it should be recognised as a "cultural shift" (Jenkins, 2006, loc.191)[5] Introduction to Convergence Culture pp. 1-24</ref> in terms of consumers actively going out and seeking the information they want, through whatever platform they wish; ultimately not abolishing an "out-dated" medium, rather perceiving it as a matter of preference (Jenkins & Thorburn, 2004, p.88)[6].

With regards to Bolter and Grusin's approach, their take on the matter can be seen to correlate with Jenkins' as they state that one form of converged media cannot eliminate another but evolve from such. They view convergence as mutual remediation; the idea of mediums remodifying one another consistently. Bolter and Grusin like to think of the mutual remediation of at least three technological devices at the same time, focusing specifically on devices that allow a sense of immediacy (1999, p.224)[3]. They state the advantages that a few technologies have developed - the idea that telephone offers immediacy of voice interaction in real-time, how television guarantees the immediacy of real-time monitoring worldwide, and the notion that computers have a sense of immediacy through interactivity. Here they essentially "dumb down" (Deuze, 2006, p.70)[7] the obvious functions of each device but, by doing so, they express the benefits of each device and ultimately, they provide the relevance that each one has that isn't offered by the other, promoting the importance of multiple mediums.

However, despite their statement regarding the beneficial side of remediation, Bolter and Grusin introduce the contradiction of double logic remediation. Here they discuss the contrast between immediacy and hypermediacy; both terms developed in connection with remediation but offer opposed definitions (Bolter & Grusin, 1999, p.225)[3]. Immediacy ultimately proposes the idea of forgetting the presence of the medium and making the consumer feel as though they are in the presence of those they are in communication with (Blakesley, 2000)[8]. For example, video games, where the interactivity is purposely to make the user absorbed into their surroundings and ultimately forget that they are indeed playing a game. While hypermediacy has the goal of reminding the viewer of the medium (Blakesley, 2000) [8]. The idea of having a PowerPoint on a smart board, while taking notes and updating your social media accounts from your smartphone at the same time, being fully aware of the different mediums you are experiencing (Grusin, 2004, p.17-18)[9]. Here it is presented with the double logic of remediation, as the initial thought would be that the two terms clash with one another but Bolter and Grusin argue that the two contrasting concepts actually converge themselves; "the appeal to authenticity of experience is what brings the logics of immediacy and hypermediacy together" (Bolter & Grusin, 1999, p. 71) [3] , experiencing the realness of the immediacy but also being partially aware of how the devices are actually working on your behalf. Overall, it is evident that Bolter and Grusin have not necessarily went against Jenkins' approach to convergence but have rather derived a specific way of defining it through alternative terms and expressed how they believe they develop from the meaning of convergence by expanding it and looking at it from an extensive perspective.

Conclusion[edit]

To conclude, from Henry Jenkins' initial explanation of convergence; the manipulation of an innocent cartoon character turned media catastrophe when photoshopped with an evil figure, it is evident that convergence has changed the way we use multi media platforms. In our essay, we successfully used our findings of Jenkins to compare the concept of convergence against approaches 'new' and 'old'. We found that Holt and Sanson contrast with Jenkins' view of media convergence with their perception of technology being at the core of convergence; the idea of "second screen" viewing enabling an expansion of device viewing allowing convergence to exist. Lee and Andrejevic concur with Holt and Sanson in terms of multi screen viewing but also seem to agree with Jenkins wherein he states that one medium does not ultimately eliminate another. Bolter and Grusin play on this point with their older methodology of remediation which the term convergence can be said to have derived from. So ultimately, the term of convergence is highly relevant in describing new media, however it is "dangerous" as described by Meikle and Young as it can be interpreted in various ways to mean different things depending on a number of personal beliefs and as well as the evolution of new media since the publishing of Jenkins' book.



Word Count: 3110

References[edit]

  1. Meikle, G., & Young, D. (2011). Media Convergence Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life. Macmillian Education UK, Great Britain.
  2. a b c Holt, J., & Sanson, K. (2014). Introduction. Connected viewing (1st ed., pp. 1-15) Routledge
  3. a b c d e Bolter and Grusin (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media pp. 220-226
  4. a b c d e f g h i j Lee, H. J., & Andrejevic, M. (2014). Second screen theory: From the demographic surround to the digital enclosure. Connected viewing (1st ed., pp. 40-61) Routledge
  5. a b c d e f g h Jenkins, H. (2006). Introduction. Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide (1st ed., pp. 1-24) NYU Press.
  6. Jenkins and Thorburn (2004) Rethinking Media Change
  7. Deuce, M. (2006). Participation, remediation, bricolage: Considering principal components of a digital culture.22(2), 63-75. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972240600567170
  8. a b Blakesley, D. (2000). A review of remediation: Understanding new media. Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/6.1/reviews/blakesley/remediator.html#glossary
  9. Grusin, R. (2004) Premediation