MySpace and the Participation Gap

Everyone seems to agree that we live in a era of participatory culture. Few people agree on what should be the terms of participation. From time to time, I will direct attention towards challenges and obstacles to the public’s right to participate. More often than not, these debates center on young people and their access to media. Young people are the shock troops in the digital revolution — early adopters and adapters of technology in their constant search for a room of their own in a culture where adults get to define all of the rules.


The latest battle in the ongoing struggle over young people’s access to and participation within digital cultures is HR 5319, better known as the Deleting Predators On-Line Act (or Dopa). Essentially, this proposed legislation would require any school or library which receives federal funds to ban a range of social networking software, including most notably MySpace, but also potentially including Live Journal and blogging software. This legislation has emerged in response to media coverage of a range of social problems which critics associate with MySpace, including concerns about the threat posed to young people by adults on the prowl for underage victims.

My former student, danah boyd, has been researching MySpace and the other social network sites. She’s become a go-to gal with the media on MySpace issues and a sharp critic of the proposed legislation. Recently, the two of us got together for a joint interview about DOPA and MySpace more generally.

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Networked Publics Group Tackles Participatory Culture

The Networked Public group at USC’s Annenberg Center recently posted a fascinating new essay on participatory culture, written by Adrienne Russell, Mimi Ito, Todd Richmond, and Marc Tuters. The group has been conducting conversations with leading thinkers about contemporary media and is now putting its collective heads together to jointly author a new book for the MIT Press. I was lucky enough to be included in the process, having an animated two hour conversation with them after they had read an advanced copy of Convergence Culture.

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Ode to Robot Chicken

I recently had a chance to catch up with the first season DVD of The Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken series and found it an interesting illustration of some of the trends I discuss in Convergence Culture. For those of you not in the know, Robot Chicken is a fifteen minute long, fast-paced and tightly-edited, stop motion animation series, produced by Seth Green (formerly of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Austin Powers) and Matthew Senreich: think of it as a sketch comedy series where all of the parts of played by action figures. The show spoofs popular culture – vintage and contemporary – mixing and matching characters with the same reckless abandon as a kid playing on the floor with his favorite collectibles.

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Welcome to Convergence Culture

Welcome to my blog.

I launched this site in June in anticipation of the release of my new book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. The book is now out and can be purchased here.

What’s it all about? Here are some key passages from the book’s introduction:

Reduced to its most core elements, this book is about the relationship between three concepts – media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence….

By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes, depending on who’s speaking and what they think they are talking about. In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms. Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers’ bedrooms. It is shaped by the desires of media conglomerates to expand their empires across multiple platforms and by the desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want….

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Who the &%&# Is Henry Jenkins?


The simple answer is:

Henry Jenkins is the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities. He is the author and/or editor of nine books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture and From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. His newest books include Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture.

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