Media Convergence and Participatory Culture

For this weeks reading, we looked at Henry Jenken’s article “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture,” and the book You Are Not a Gadget. I’m going to discuss some key concepts from the two readings.  In Jenken’s article, he emphasizes the concept of amateurization and the participatory culture playing out in the digital age.  In the second section of You Are Not a Gadget, the author, Jaron Lanier, provides an interesting perspective on technology and the future.  Lanier discusses a multitude of ideas, but I will emphasize the idea of the open-source marketplace surrounding the recording industry.

What is amateurism?  Amateurism, in the digital age, is the availability of technologies allowing amateurs to produce professional quality work, which was previously impossible because of a lack of resources.  An example would be the fan-fiction created for almost 40 years based on Star Wars.  Fans have been creating parody movies (some very high quality) and fiction novels for years.  As technology becomes more available, the quality of work has risen precipitously, but the most important evolution is with the audience.  The Internet provides these films and novels a massive audience, previously unavailable.  Jenkins discusses two ideas of the impact of amateurism: a media convergence and participatory ownership.  Media convergence offers the idea that more and more of the produced media are owned by fewer and fewer conglomerates, hence the media is converging.  According to Jenkins, the participatory culture have changed and “…have been profoundly altered by a succession of new media technologies which enable average citizens to participate in the archiving, annotation, appropriation, transformation, and recirculation of media content.”  I think Jenkens prefers the second idea, and pans to the idea of media convergence.  Who doesn’t love a fan-produced film called George Lucas in Love?

            In You Are Not a Gadget, Lanier gives an interesting perspective about the future of the recording industry.  The recording industry has seen a paradigm shift in the way people are consuming music.  He discusses the idea of an open-source market for music, which enables people to obtain, or “steal,” music for which they normally would’ve had to pay.  Lanier suggests that they should leverage this open-source, instead of combating it.  This is allowing musical acts a new avenue to commercial success.  What used to involve being signed by a label, the process can now be achieved via Youtube or Vimeo.  I think the record labels will be necessary in the future, but they need to adapt now or slowly whittle away.  Lanier introduces some interesting suggestions about returning physical objects back into purchasing music (i.e. cds, promotion, etc.).  He thinks they need to reintroduce romance into music.  Both authors offer some enlightening topics, and I think they have a good perspective about the changing digital age.

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