I Have Seen the Futures of Entertainment …And It Works!

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For the past two years, the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT has been happy to offer its Futures of Entertainment conference, bringing together key thinkers from academia and the media industry in substantive conversations about trends which may change popular culture as we know it. You can sample discussions at the 2007 conference of such topics as Fan Labor, Cult Media, Advertising and Convergence Culture, Metrics and Measurements, Academic-Industry Relations, and Heroes: From ‘Appointment TV’ to “Engagement TV.’ This year’s event will be held at MIT on Nov. 20-21 and we are opening registration for the event as of today.

Here’s what you can expect this year:

Convergence culture has moved swiftly from buzzword to industry logic. The creation of transmedia storyworlds, understanding how to appeal to migratory audiences, and the production of digital extensions for traditional materials are becoming the bread and butter of working in the media. Futures of Entertainment 3 once again brings together key industry leaders who are shaping these new directions in our culture and academic scholars immersed in the investigation the social, cultural, political, economic, and technological implications of these changes in our media landscape.

This year’s conference will work to bring together the themes from last year – media spreadability, audiences and value, social media, distribution – with the consortium’s new projects in moving towards an increasingly global view of media convergence and flow. Topics for this year’s panels include global distribution systems and the challenges of moving content across borders, transmedia and world building, comics and commerce, social media and spreadability, and renewed discussion on how and why to measure audience value.

Confirmed speakers for this year’s conference include: Kim Moses – Executive Producer, The Ghost Whisperer, Javier Grillo-Marxuach – The Middleman, Lost, Medium, John Caldwell – UCLA, Production Culture (Duke University Press), Henry Jenkins – MIT, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (NYU Press), Alex McDowell – Production Designer, The Watchmen, Kevin Slavin – Area/Code, Grant McCracken – Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture (Indiana University Press), Donald K Ranvaud – Buena Onda Films, Amanda Lotz – University of Michigan, The Television Will be Revolutionized (NYU Press), Gail De Kosknik – UC Berkeley, How to Save Soap Opera: Histories and Futures of an Iconic Genre, Joe Marchese – socialvibe.com, Amber Case – Cyborg Anthropologist and Social Media Consultant, Hazelnut Consulting, Mauricio Mota – New Content (Brazil), Alisa Perren – Georgia State University, The Media Industry Studies Book (Blackwell Publishing), Sharon Ross – Columbia College Chicago, Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet (WileyBlackwell), Nancy Baym – University of Kansas, Personal Connections in a Digital Age (Polity Press), Alice Marwick – New York University, Vu Nguyen – VP of Business Development, crunchyroll.com, Lance Weiler – Director Head Trauma and The Last Broadcast, Gregg Hale – Producer Seventh Moon and The Blair Witch Project with more to come.

Friday, November 21

Consumption and Value

Where does value come from in the media evolving media landscape? In a medium rooted in the popularity of content, who or what is the source of media value? Does it lie in the properties themselves, or in what people do with these properties? Do creative companies create value or does value creation also occur on the consumption side, as audiences discover hidden potential in existing properties, make their own emotional and creative contributions to the mix, and spread the brand to new and previously unsolicited markets? Might we also see value as originating from those who simply sit and watch? “Attention” can be thought of as a core product produced by media companies – under advertiser-supported models, media properties attract audiences whose attention is sold to advertisers seeking to reach groups of people. While this is not always the case, the increasing significance of product placement suggests even goods sold directly to audiences are subsidized by the sale of their attention. Especially with the rapid emergence of user-created content, can we consider audiences participants in the creation of the value media properties hold? How do we account for the non-monetary value of media properties? How should gains from media value be distributed through the networks of creatives who collaborate in its production?

Panelists to be announced.

Making Audiences Matter

Audiences seem to present a constantly moving target. Migratory, skilled at avoiding advertising, and increasingly looking like producers, working out who the audience is and what they are doing is an evolving challenge. How do we create better relationships with audiences who look less like “consumers”? In a media landscape that looks to increasingly value broad distribution over concentrating attention, how do we uncover audiences and connect them with content? What does an “engaged” audience look like, and how do you know when you’ve got one? What do you do once you’ve found one?

Panelists include: Kim Moses, Executive Producer, The Ghost Whisperer; Gail De Kosknik, How to Save Soap Opera: Histories and Futures of an Iconic Genre (with Sam Ford and C. Lee Harrington), UC Berkeley; Kevin Slavin, Area/Code; Vu Nguyen, VP of Business Development, crunchyroll.com

Social Media

Moving lives online, creating conversations across geography, connecting with consumers – how is social media defining the current entertainment landscape? As people not only put more content online, but conduct more of their daily lives in networked spaces and via social networking sites, how are social media influencing how we think of audiences? Video-sharing platforms have changed how we think of production and distribution, and Facebook gifts point to the value of virtual properties, how are these sites enabling other processes of production or distribution practices. Spaces where commercial and community purposes intertwine, what are the implications for privacy, content management, and identity construction of social media? How have they impacted notions of civic engagement?

Panelists include: Alice Marwick, NYU; Joe Marchese, socialvibe.com; Amber Case, Hazelnut Consulting.

Cutting Global Deals

The Internet has altered transnational media flows, making it easier to move content across national and geographic boundaries, but complicating the economic structures that support these flows. How do we manage global distribution in the current context? What is the impact of the Internet on the interactions between local audiences and globalised content? What is the role of international audiences as taste-makers, and what can that tell us about making content relevant to multiple local audiences? How do we balance international distribution windows with audiences who move content themselves?

Panelists include: Donald K Ranvaud, Buena Onda Film; Nancy Baym, Personal Connections in a Digital Age (Polity Press), University of Kansas; Mauricio Mota, New Content (Brazil).

Saturday, November 22

When Comics Converge

The last few years have seen a steady expansion of comic book creators, characters and audiences into a range of different mediums. Television programming to successful Hollywood franchises seem respectful (mostly) of the source material. The graphic novel and the short run series have burgeoned and been mainstreamed. Comic-con has expanded to a key event for the entertainment industry. Many established producers in other media are looking towards comics as a platform for creative expression or for extending their narratives (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, and Supernatural, for instance.) What contributions do comics make to convergence culture? What makes comics such a rich recruiting ground for new content or creative talent? Why are other media producers so aggressively courting comics fans?

Panelists include: Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The Middleman); Alex McDowell, Production Designer, The Watchmen; Alisa Perren, (Co-editor with Jennifer Holt) The Media Industry Studies Book (Blackwell Publishing), Georgia State University.

Franchising, Extensions and Worldbuilding

Media convergence has made the complex intertwining of multi-platform media properties more and more common-place, yet the creation of storyworlds that extend beyond a single text is not a recent development. With a history that includes sequels, spin-offs, and licensed products, what is the future for the media franchise? Is there a material difference between creating media franchises or transmedia properties? What is the role of television programs or films in anchoring wider narrative franchises, especially when they extend beyond media and into the “real world”? What is the significance of the creative individuals who contribute to franchises, including creatives, professionals, and fans?

Panelists to be announced

At the Intersection of the Academy and the Industry

What are the challenges of bringing the academy and the industry together? How do we negotiate working across these two worlds?

Panelists include: Amanda Lotz, The Television Will be Revolutionized (NYU Press), University of Michigan; John Caldwell, Production Culture (Duke University Press), UCLA; Grant McCracken, Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture (Indiana University Press).

More speakers will be announced in the coming weeks, but surely our line-up is already strong enough that you will not want to miss this event.

Coming Soon: The Second Part of a Three Part Interview With Danny Ledonne