Media in Transition 5: Creativity, Ownership and Collaboration in the Digital Age

This weekend, the Comparative Media Studies Program will play host to several hundred researchers, activists, and artists from around the world who will be attending the fifth of our Media in Transition conferences. The core theme of the conference centers around issues of Creativity, Ownership and Collaboration in the Digital Age, though our goal is to discuss the present moment in relation to the larger history of media change. I haven’t publicized the event here because the number of participants has reached such a level that there are very few seats left for people who simply want to attend.

For those of you who are in the Boston area, it may make sense to drop by for one or another event since there is no fee to attend and since we often have some seats left.

For those of you who are not in the Boston area, have no fear. You will have two opportunities to take advantage of the event programing. First, we will be streaming the plenary events via Second Life. And Second, we will, as with all of our events, be offering webcasts which will be announced here once they are available.

How to Access MIT5 on Second Life

To view from New Media Consortium Campus:

You must first join the NMC to view from here. It’s free and simple. Go to the following address: and give them your SL Avatar name, your real name, a valid email address, and for affiliation, mark as ‘MIT’.

The SLURL for the NMC Campus is here:

We’ll be at the Gonick Amphitheatre which can be seen the campus map here: and within the Welcome area in SL.

For more info about the NMC Campus in Second Life, go here:

About the Event

The following descriptions will give you some sense of the plenaries we are hosting. Keep in mind that there are more than 70 panels and several hundred papers being presented. For more details, check out the Media in Transition 5 conference website.

Folk Cultures and Digital Cultures

Digital visionaries such as Yochai Benkler have described the emergence of a new networked culture in which participants with differing intentions and professional credentials co-exist and cooperate in a complex media ecology. Are we witnessing the appearance of a new or revitalized folk culture? Are there older traditions and practices from print culture or oral societies that resemble these emerging digital practices? What sort of amateur or grassroots creativity have been studied or documented by literary scholars, anthropologists, and students of folklore? How were creativity and collaboration understood in earlier cultures? Are there lessons or cautions for digital culture in the near or distant past?


Lewis Hyde is the Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College and a fellow of the Berkman Center on Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. He is a poet and essayist whose current book project is a defense of cultural commons. His book Trickster Makes This World (1999) is a portrait of the kind of disruptive imagination needed to keep any culture flexible and lively.

Thomas Pettitt is an associate professor at the Institute of Literature, Media and Cultural Studies, University of Southern Denmark, where he lectures on late-medieval and early-modern literature and theatre, and on folk traditions.

S. Craig Watkins writes about race, youth, media, and technology. His most recent book is Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. He is currently working on a book examining the social consequences and implications of young people’s changing media behaviors. He teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.


David Thorburn is professor of literature and director of the Communications Forum at MIT. He is the author of Conrad’s Romanticism, and, most recently, co-editor of Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition.

Friday, April 27



Plenary Conversation 2

Collaboration and Collective Intelligence

“Collective Intelligence” and “the wisdom of crowds” have become central buzz phrases in recent discussions of networked culture. But what do they really mean? What do we know about the new forms of collaboration that is emerging as people work together across geographic distances online? Are we working, learning, socializing, creating, consuming, and playing in new ways as a result of the emergence of our participation in online communities? What have we learned over the past decade that may help us to design more powerful communities in the real world? What lessons can we carry from our Second Lives into our First?


Mizuko (Mimi) Ito is a cultural anthropologist of technology use focusing on children and youth’s changing relationships to media and communications. She has been conducting ongoing research on kids’ technoculture in Japan and the US, and is co-editor of Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life. She is a research scientist at the USC Annenberg Center for Communication and a visiting associate professor at Keio University in Japan.

Cory Ondrejka is the chief technology officer at Linden Lab where he leads the team developing Second Life. He also spearheaded the decision to allow users to retain the IP rights to their creations and helped craft Linden’s virtual real estate policy. While an officer in the United States Navy, he worked at the National Security Agency and graduated from the Navy Nuclear Power School.

Trebor Scholz is assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Media Study at the State University of New York at Buffalo and research fellow at the Hochschule fuer Kunst und Gestaltung, Zurich. He is founder of the Institute for Distributed Creativity and has contributed essays to several books, journals, and periodicals and co-edited The Art of Free Cooperation forthcoming with Autonomedia (NYC).


Thomas W. Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also the founder and director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and author of the book The Future of Work. Malone has published over 75 articles, research papers, and book chapters and is an inventor with 11 patents.

Friday, April 27


Bartos Theater

Media Lab (E15)

Plenary Conversation 3

Copyright, Fair Use and the Cultural Commons

How has the American tradition of intellectual property law understood the relationship between originality and tradition? What rights do artists and educators have to draw inspiration from or comment on existing works in existing media? What habits, beliefs, legal and policy decisions threaten the emergence of a more participatory culture? What have people done, and what can we do to protect the Fair Use rights of artists, educators, and amateurs so that explore the opportunities created by new media and a networked society?


Hal Abelson is professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. He is engaged in the interaction of law, policy, and technology as they relate to the growth of the Internet, and is active in projects at MIT and elsewhere to help bolster our intellectual commons. Abelson is a founding director of the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, and Public Knowledge and serves as consultant to Hewlett-Packard Laboratories.

Patricia Aufderheide is a professor in the School of Communication at American University where she also directs the Center for Social Media . She is the author of several books including Documentary: A Very Short Introduction (2007), The Daily Planet (2000), and of Communications Policy in the Public Interest (1999). She has been a Fulbright and John Simon Guggenheim fellow and has served as a juror at the Sundance Film Festival. She received a career achievement award in 2006 from the International Documentary Association.

Wendy Gordon is a professor of law and Paul J. Liacos Scholar in Law at Boston University. In many well-known articles, she has argued for an expansion of fair use utilizing economic, Lockean, and ethical perspectives.

Gordon Quinn is president and founding member of Kartemquin Films where for over 40 years he has been making cinema verite films that investigate and critique society by documenting the unfolding lives of real people (i.e., Hoop Dreams, 1994). Quinn is working on Milking The Rhino, a film examining community based conservation in Africa and At The Death House Door, a film on a wrongful execution in Texas.


William Uricchio is co-director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and professor of comparative media history at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. His most recent book is Media Cultures, on responses to media in post-9/11 Germany and the U.S.

Saturday, April 28


Bartos Theater

Media Lab (E15)

Plenary Conversation 4

Learning through Remixing

Historically, engineers learned by taking machines apart and putting them back together again. Can young people also learn how culture works by sampling and remixing the materials of their culture? Might this ability to appropriate and transform valued cultural materials be recognized as an important new kind of cultural competency, what some people are calling the new media literacies? How might we meaningfully incorporate this fascination with mash-ups into our pedagogical practices and what values should we place on the kinds of new content which young people produce by working on and working over existing cultural materials? In this program, we will showcase a range of contemporary projects that embrace a hands-on approach to contemporary and classical media materials as a means of getting young people to think critically about their own roles as future media producers and consumers.


Erik Blankinship is a co-founder of Media Modifications, a new start-up whose mission is to expose and enhance the structure of media to make its full learning and creative potential accessible to all. He has many years of experience working with children as an inventor of educational technologies and activities and as a researcher studying the potential of digital media for teaching and learning literature, history, mathematics, and game design. While an undergrad at the University of Maryland, College Park he was a recipient of the Jim Henson Award for Projects Related to Puppetry.

Juan Devis is a new media producer at KCET/PBS Los Angeles in charge of all original web content including Web Stories, KCETs multimedia webzine. He is currently working with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Institute for Multimedia Literacy to develop a serious game based on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Devis was recently awarded a writer’s fellowship at ABC/Disney for his original screenplay Welcome to Tijuana which is scheduled for production early in 2008. Devis is president of the board of Freewaves, a non-profit media arts organization.

Renee Hobbs is associate professor of communication and education at Temple University where she directs the Media Education Lab. She has worked extensively with state departments of education in Maryland and Texas, and her new book Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English (2007) provides empirical evidence to document how media literacy improves adolescents’ reading comprehension skills.

Ricardo Pitts-Wiley has been the artistic director of Mixed Magic Theatre for over 20 years. I that role, he has written/ produced/ directed a number of productions including From the Bard to the Bounce: A Hip-Hop Shakespeare Experience, Kwanzaa Song, The Great Battle for the Air, About Me and the Adventure (with Community Prep and the Rhode Island School for the Deaf) and four Annual Black History Month Celebrations at Portsmouth Abbey. Pitts-Wiley was resident artist at Brown University Summer High School in 2001.

Alice J. Robison is a postdoctoral fellow in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT where she is a consultant for several new media initiatives including New Media Literacies and advises several student-run organizations devoted to the study of videogames and interactive media including the Harvard Interactive Media Group and the MIT Videogame Theorists.


Henry Jenkins is co-director of Comparative Media Studies and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities at MIT. He is the author and/or editor of several books on various aspects of media and popular culture including Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and is the author of the blog Confessions of an ACA/Fan.

Saturday, April 28


Bartos Theater

Media Lab (E15)

Plenary Conversation 5

Reproduction, Mimicry, Critique and Distribution Systems in Visual Art

Today, artists working in new media, including video, web projects and music confront contested and conceptually confusing terrain in which reproduction can be as perfect as the artist desires and endless copies theoretically possible. Yet many find the lack of clarity stimulating and a compelling space in which to break new ground. Why are so many artists today mimicking new forms of visual culture and their distribution systems — even at the risk of confusion with their popular sources? How are artists debating the value of tightly controlling distribution of media art versus allowing its wider reproduction? What are the tradeoffs artists make between creating artificial scarcity to increase a work’s unique value and increasing its visibility through broader reproduction? How are the needs of those who teach and write on video going to be met in the face of hyper-commodification?


Tony Cokes, who teaches art at Brown University, uses videotapes and installations to explore personal, cultural and historical constructions. Cokes’s works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum Soho, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and other venues.

Andres Laracuente approaches art making as adventure, and frequently focuses on the idea of existence in mediation. With past exhibits in Chicago, New York, Berlin, and Paris, he is currently developing a documentary of art making in collaboration with artists across the U.S.

Michael Mittelman is founder and editor of ASPECT: The Chronicle of New Media Art, a biannual DVD periodical. He is also an active artist with exhibitions at the List Visual Arts Center, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, and ArtSpace, New Haven.


Bill Arning is curator at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. Since joining the List Visual Arts Center in 2000 he has organized such acclaimed exhibitions as America Starts Here – Ericson and Ziegler ( 2006), which was awarded first prize for best monographic show in a Boston museum by the International Association of Art Critics; Thoughts Unsaid, Then Forgotten (2005); Son et Lumire (2004); and Influence, Anxiety and Gratitude.

Sunday, April 29

10:45 am-12:15 pm

Bartos Theater

Media Lab (E15)

Plenary Conversation 6

Summary Perspectives

What have we learned? What have we accomplished? Where do we go from here?


Suzanne de Castell is a professor in the Faculty of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at Simon Fraser University where he specializes in literacy, new media and educational technology studies. She has published widely across these fields, and was senior editor for the books Literacy, Society and Schooling; Language, Authority and Criticism; and Radical Interventions.

Fred Turner is an assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Communication. A journalist turned cultural historian and media scholar, he is the author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (2006) and Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory (2001).

Siva Vaidhyanathan is associate professor of culture and communication at New York University and a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities. He is the author of The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System (2004) and Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (2001). Vaidhyanathan’s writings have appeared in many publication including the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times Magazine, Salon and The Nation.

Jose van Dijck is professor of media and culture in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam.


Nick Montfort is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, author of Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (2003), and co-editor of The New Media Reader (2003). Montfort’s digital media collaborations include the Grand Text Auto and The Ed Report.

Sunday, April 29


Bartos Theater

Media Lab (E15)


  1. A small group of people are using Twitter to follow the event:,, Anyone else? Add your name here 😉

  2. An interview with you on partecipatory culture and MIT5 on

  3. Christopher Lam says:

    Hello Dr. Jenkins. I am an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, currently majoring in Geography and minoring in Anthropology. I just wanted to post a “Thank you so much!” to you and your wonderful AV crew for setting up the live webcasts of the plenary sessions from the NMC campus on Second Life, and for ironing out the bumps (big and small) that inevitably come with the use of technology. It was a real privilege to be able to transcend geographical barriers and watch the proceedings as they unfolded, and to sit virtually among the avatars of MIT students/staff.

    I’d also like to thank you for making it easy enough for even a total Second Life newbie like me to navigate safely to the virtual campus! =)