Friday, October 19, 2007

Henry Jenkins

Jenkins talk on The Moral Economy of Web 2.0: Reconsidering the Relations Between Producers and Consumers has been the highlight of this trip. I started reading his book Convergence Culture on the plane, because I was asked to write a review of it for Journalism and Mass Communication Educator. I'm only three chapters in, but I am already teeming with ideas and inspiration. Several interesting points came out of his presentation. He contrasted a typical, corporate focused definition of Web 2.0 (Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominances in the Web 2.0 era - Kevin O'Reilly) to a more practical explanation (You make all the content, they keep all the revenue - I was going after some of these attitudes in my survey. He also called Web 2.0 fandom without the stigma. Jenkins has studied and participated in fandom for many years, so he is speaking from experience when he recognizes that those who were once textual poachers (his term) are now central in the Web 2.0 world.

He mentioned briefly about the demographics of participation, that there was a study about YouTube that identified that white men were the dominant creates of YouTube videos. I will have to see how that shakes out in my study. But, I have been looking at the gender implications of contribution since I first started at UT. I need to get some of that old stuff out and brushed off to revisit.

Some of his high level points:
  1. Convergence is a cultural rather than technological process.
  2. In a networked society, people are increasingly forming knowledge communities to pool information and work together to solve problems they could not confront individually (collective intelligence).
  3. Seeing the emergence of new forms of participatory cultures (a contemporary revision of folk culture) as consumers take media in their own hands, reworking content to serve their personal and collective interests.
He said he stole these characteristics on participatory culture from someone else's presentation on the web:
  1. Low barriers to entry
  2. Strong support for sharing creativity with others
  3. Information mentorship between new and experienced members
  4. Members believe contributions matter
  5. Care about others' opinion of self and work.
Members do not have to contribute, but must feel that they are welcome to contribute when they area read.

He even mentioned the paradox of Stephen Colbert, who gets the user-generated content thing (green screen challenge, etc.), and Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, requesting take-downs of Colbert images on YouTube.

He explored the idea of a moral economy, in that we have to question a society that uses metaphors like pirate or sharing interchangeably, and what is meant by each. Are corporations trying to have it both ways?

Shout outs throughout the presentation referenced the work of Clay Shirky ("everyone is a media outlet"), Axel Brunes (idea of produsage - community can achieve more than a closed team of professionals), Benkler, Tiziana Terranova (free labor), Lawrence Lessig (the past always tries to control the creativity that builds on it). He even mentioned Andrew Keen, but mainly as a critique of his idea of the cult of the amateur as not fully complicating the role of participatory culture.

Another theme that I found worth further exploration is his idea of a shift from Intellectual Property to Emotional Capital.

Lots to think about, study, and discuss...

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