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….

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….

This circulation of media content – across different media systems, competing media economies, and national borders – depends heavily on the active participation of the consumer. I will argue here against the idea that convergence can be understood primarily as a technological process – the bringing together of multiple media functions within the same gadgets and devices. Instead, I want to argue that convergence represents a shift in cultural logic, whereby consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections between dispersed media content. The term, participatory culture, is intended to contrast with older notions of media spectatorship. In this emerging media system, what might traditionally be understood as media producers and consumers are transformed into participants who are expected to interact with each other according to a new set of rules which none of us fully understands. Convergence does not occur through media appliances – however sophisticated they may become. Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers. Yet, each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information we have extracted from the ongoing flow of media around us and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives.

In a culture which some have described according to information overload, it is impossible for any one of us to hold all of the relevant pieces of information in our heads at the same time. Because there is more information out there on any given topic than we can store in our heads, there is an added incentive for us to talk amongst ourselves about the media we consume. This conversation creates buzz and accelerates the circulation of media content Consumption has become a collective process and that’s what I mean in this book by collective intelligence. None of us can know everything; each of us knows something; we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skills…. Collective intelligence can be seen as an alternative source of media power. We are learning how to use that power through our day to day interactions within convergence culture. Right now, we are mostly using collective power through our recreational life, but it has implications at all levels of our culture. In this book, I will explore how the play of collective meaning-making within popular culture is starting to change the ways religion, education, law, politics, advertising, and even the military operate.

The book develops these ideas through case studies of a number of key media properties, including Survivor, American Idol, The Matrix, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Global Frequency and the presidential campaign of 2004.

Here’s What the Blurbs Say (Skip This Part)

At the risk of being immodest, let me share with you some of the things that others have been saying about the book:

“I thought I knew twenty-first century pop media until I read Henry Jenkins. The fresh research and radical insights in Convergence Culture deserve a wide and thoughtful readership. Bring on the ‘monolithic block of eyeballs!’” –Bruce Sterling, author, blogger, visionary

“Henry Jenkins offers crucial insight into an unexpected and unforeseen future. Unlike most predictions about how New Media will shape the world in which we live, the reality is turning out far stranger and more interesting than we might have imagined. The social implications of this change could be staggering.”

–Will Wright, designer of SimCity and The Sims

“One of those rare works that is closer to an operating system than a traditional book: it’s a platform that people will be building on for years to come. . . . It should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to make sense of today’s popular culture–but thankfully, a book this fun to read doesn’t need a mandate.”

–Steven Johnson, author of the national bestseller, Everything Bad Is Good For You

Henry Jenkins is the 21st century McLuhan I’ve been waiting for. With all the fuzzy generalities, moral panics, and gloomy pronouncements from industry spokesmen and social critics, Jenkins’s clearly communicated and nuanced analysis is sorely needed. The world McLuhan foretold back in the age of electric media has become immensely more complicated in today’s many-to-many, converged, remixed and mashed-up, digital, mobile, always-on media environment. If you are a parent, a student, an educator, a creator or consumer of popular culture, an entrepreneur, or a media industry executive, you need to understand convergence culture­­. And you will only after reading Henry Jenkins. –Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution

“I simply could not put this book down! Henry Jenkins provides a fascinating account of how new media intersects old media and engages the imagination of fans in more and more powerful ways. Educators, media specialists, policy makers and parents will find Convergence Culture both lively and enlightening.” –John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corp & director of Xerox PARC

And oh, one more endorsement, for a second book also coming out this summer, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture:

“Jenkins is a one of us: a geek, a fan, a popcult packrat. He’s also an incisive and unflinching critic. His affection for the subject and sharp eye for ‘what it all means’ are an unbeatable combination. This is fascinating, engrossing and enlightening reading.”

–Cory Doctorow, author of Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town and co-editor of Boing Boing

Check Out This Webcast

For those who would like to see me talk about convergence culture, check out webcast of a keynote presentation I did about some of the key themes from the book at the New Media Conference in 2004.

About This Blog

I am going to be using this blog to talk about some of the issues raised in the book — including providing some of the sections I had to edit out of the book for length reasons, updating some of the case studies in the book, commenting on recent events which reflect some of the book’s key themes, and responding to questions and criticisms from readers. Frankly, one of the challenges of writing about contemporary media change is that many of the specifics of popular culture will have shifted by the time a print book appears, so I am excited to have a space where I can play catch-up.

Have no fear, though, if you have not read the book yet, this space will also allow me to comment on many other contemporary developments in the new media landscape. This is after all my 12 book over the past 16 years and so I have a broader array of interests than can be gleamed from any given publication.

And along the way, I will be sharing more about the work we are doing through the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT to put the ideas found in these books into practice through work on consumer culture, media

Update: Some people have read this to suggest this site is purely a “publicity stunt” for the book or to imply that I plan to stop blogging once the book tour is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to this site. I am going to do my best to keep blogging in the months ahead. Getting the book out has given me an incentive to start blogging. But it isn’t the only reason for this blog. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time but like many of you, I have been procrastinating. In any case, I plan to continue to blog once classes start back up. This may result in some cut back in the number of entries per week but I am going to try to continue to get out something every weekday, even if it means more use of interviews and guest bloggers to fill in some gaps in my schedule.

Comments

  1. Mr. Jenkins,

    I’ve long been a fan and follower of your work, as we shared an appreciation for the more intellectually interesting aspects of the squared circle. The blog is a welcome surprise and I look forward to reading it regularly.

    Best,

    – MDT

  2. Wally H. says:

    Hey Henry! Welcome to the blogosphere proper! :)

    Are you around Boston at this point?

  3. Ed Batista says:

    Hi Henry,

    Outstanding stuff. I’m the Executive Director of AttentionTrust, and I think what you’re discussing here has significant implications for the “attention economy.” Further thoughts at http://attentiontrust.org/node/327.

    (One stylistic note: Your blog will be much easier for people to read if posts are in reverse chronological order.)

    Looking forward to the book!

    Ed Batista

  4. Morgan says:

    Your usage of the term ‘convergence’ aligns more effectively with the term ‘divergence’.

    You might be interested in what Al Ries has to say about convergence.

  5. Pat Cadigan says:

    Hi, Henry–

    This is great stuff! I really want to read the book when it comes out!

  6. Emily says:

    Now that there is a (somewhat) direct path of communication, I felt the need to come offer my admiration. You’ve never met me, but I want to thank you for imparting an air of validity on fandom and fandom culture. I don’t think you realize quite how much fen look up to you. To give you an inkling, on bookshop’s livejournal, which is where I found the link, she referred to you as “godfather of all fandom”. I feel this is an accurate description.

  7. Tama Leaver says:

    Great to see you in the blogopshere and I can’t wait to read Convergence Culture.

    Some years ago when I read Textual Poachers it really had a huge impact on how I thought about cultural studies and on how and what I’d be researching. I suspect Convergence Culture will have a similar impact on the courses I’m now teaching!

  8. Matthew says:

    “…who is speaking and what they think they are talking about…”

    Yup, that speaks volumes about this field. Gotta love it. I will read this book for those words alone.

  9. Luca says:

    Not only “what they think they are talking about” somethimes you hope they “know what they are talking about”. Anyway the emergence from the merge of media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence sound e very interesting explanatory path. This could be a good text-book for advanced media studies. looking forward for it.

  10. Danny Motion says:
  11. When will this title be available for audio download… it is convergence and all??

  12. Mariel says:

    Can I get it in Spanish? x.x OK, I will learn English.

  13. kaybee matsaung says:

    ur book is great based on the fact that most of the people seem to think that this whole convergence issue will do the world a great deal whilst in fact it could be costing us to forcibly adapt to new changes that those we were used to since the inception of technology and the computers and internet…. great pieces of art.