MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium
In 1992 when I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation about rec.arts.tv.soaps, the Usenet fan group that talked about soap operas, I was told to get ahold of Henry Jenkins, who had just finished a book about fandom. Henry was generous enough to send me the page proofs of the not-yet-released Textual Poachers, to read my work, and to provide encouragement.
I knew he was destined to be one of my favorite writers and thinkers when I got to the chapter (#2) about “how texts become real,” and saw how he used the relationship between a boy and his favorite stuffed animal in my favorite children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit (a story that moves me to tears every time I read it, and which I can get choked up just thinking about) as a metaphor for the fan/text relationship.
In a child’s room, the stuffed animals that look the best are the ones that haven’t been loved. The ones that have been loved the hardest are all beat up. It’s a brilliant way to think about how very critical fans are, yet how the “damage” they do is evidence of the depth — and magically transformative potential — of their love.
All of which is a very roundabout way to provide some deep background for how pleased I am to now be a “consulting researcher” with the Convergence Culture Consortium Henry’s put together at MIT. Many regular readers of this blog already know C3, but those who don’t will recognize many of my core interests in how they describe their focus:
The logics of convergence culture are quickly becoming ubiquitous within the media world. Audiences are being encouraged to participate in a wider range of sites, transmedia principals are being adopted by content producers in a broad range of fields, and ‘engagement’ is being discussed as crucial to measurements of success. Housed within MIT’s uniquely cross-discipline Program in Comparative Media Studies, C3 has the experience and expertise to help make sense of the interplay between media platforms, media producers, and media consumers. These elements interact dynamically with each other, reshaping the contexts of consumption and generating new trends in the process. C3 extrapolates the insights gained from studying these leading sites of cultural consumption to understand current developments and future trends.
C3 researchers seek to answer the following questions:
How has the intersection between old and new technologies affected the ways people consume entertainment, relate to branded content, and experience mediated culture?
How can the behaviors of bleeding-edge media consumers (such as fans and brand enthusiasts) inform us about new ways to engage more general audiences?
What new methods and models can be used to build lasting emotional connections with brands? (e.g. product placements, advergaming, and viral marketing)
How can content producers adapt to the global environment entertainment content circulates within?
How can content producers be prepared to respond to newly emerging events and a rapidly changing media landscape?
Where do companies “cross the line” in their efforts to attach themselves to particular entertainment franchises through product placements and tie-ins?
I look forward to the opportunity to talk more and work more closely with all the researchers involved in the consortium.