A few weeks ago, I made the trip back to Cambridge, MA to participate in the fifth iteration of the Futures of Entertainment conference. This conference emerged from the work we did at MIT through the Convergence Culture Consortium.
The goal of the conference is to provide a meeting ground for forward thinking people in the creative industries and academia to talk with each other about the trends that are impacting how entertainment is produced, circulated, and engaged with. Through the years, the conference has developed its own community, which includes alums of the Comparative Media Studies Program who see the conference as a kind of homecoming, other academics who have found it a unique space to engage with contemporary practices and issues, and industry leaders, many of them former speakers, who return because it offers them a chance to think beyond the established wisdom within their own companies. Our goal is to create a space where academics do not read papers and industry folks don’t present prospectus-laden powerpoints or talk about “take-aways” and “deliverables,” but people engage honestly, critically, openly about topics of shared interest.
Read by these criteria, this year’s event was arguably our most successful venture ever, ripe with sometimes heated debates about the nature of the “crowd” (and of the relations between artists and consumers within crowd sourcing models), about the struggles over privacy, piracy, and self identity which shape everything from our relations with location-based entertainment to children’s media, about the ways that global perspectives complicate some of the assumptions shaping American media practices, and about the ways that grassroots control over circulation complicate established business models.
On a personal level, I was deeply proud to see so many of the CMS alums in their new professional identities, showing that they have continued to grow in intellectual stature and cultural authority after leaving MIT, including Sam Ford who has taking over as the primary person in charge of the event and of our newly renamed Futures of Entertainment Consortium. I was delighted to see so many of my new friends from the west coast fly to Cambridge to join us for this year’s event, including Ernest Wilson, the Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism. Formally, Futures of Entertainment is the sister conference to Transmedia Hollywood, which we host here in Los Angeles, swapping years between USC and UCLA. But this was the year where the two families mingled with each other and the bridges between the two conferences were strengthened. By the way, I’ve gotten lots of questions about the next Transmedia Hollywood conference: there’s not a lot of information to share yet, but it will be held on April 6 2012 at the USC Cinema School, if you want to save the date. Watch this blog for further announcements.
Finally, I was deeply proud of the diversity we achieved in our programing this year, making further progress in a long struggle to get greater gender balance on our panels, and making a huge step forward in terms of bringing transnational perspectives into the mix. We welcome recommendations for speakers at our future events in general, but we especially welcome recommendations for female, minority, and international speakers.
I am also proud that we continue to maintain a tradition of making webcasts of the conference available free to all. I am posting the videos of the Friday events today and next time, of the Saturday events. We will end the week with a focus on a special event on Global Creative Cities, and with some further reflections of our announcement of a new partnership with the City of Rio.
Check out this very thoughtful response by Jonathan Gray to the conference’s focus on “crowdsourcing” and collaborative production.
While I was at MIT, I dropped by my old stomping grounds at the Comparative Media Studies Program and had brunch on Sunday with the newly arrived crop of Masters Students and some of the Program’s Alums. What a smart group! After several years of regrouping, CMS has come back strong as ever, has maintained strong standards in terms of the quality and diversity of the community. I wish them all the best.
Introduction (8:30-9:00 a.m.)
William Uricchio (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Ilya Vedrashko (Hill Holliday)
Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Society. (9:00-10:00 a.m.)
How are the shifting relations between media producers and their audiences transforming the concept of meaningful participation? And how do alternative systems for the circulation of media texts pave the way for new production modes, alternative genres of content, and new relationships between producers and audiences? Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green-co-authors of the forthcoming book Spreadable Media-share recent experiments from independent filmmakers, video game designers, comic book creators, and artists and discuss the promises and challenges of models for deeper audience participation with the media industries, setting the stage for the issues covered by the conference.
Speakers: Henry Jenkins (University of Southern California), Sam Ford (Peppercom Strategic Communications) and Joshua Green (Undercurrent)
Collaboration? Emerging Models for Audiences to Participate in Entertainment Decision-Making. (10:15 a.m.-11:45 p.m.)
In an era where fans are lobbying advertisers to keep their favorite shows from being cancelled, advertisers are shunning networks to protest on the fans’ behalf and content creators are launching web ventures in conversation with their audiences, there appears to be more opportunity than ever for closer collaboration between content creators and their most ardent fans. What models are being attempted as a way forward, and what can we learn from them? And what challenges exist in pursuing that participation for fans and for creators alike?
Moderator: Sheila Seles (Advertising Research Foundation)
Panelists: C. Lee Harrington (Miami University), Seung Bak (Dramafever) and Jamin Warren (Kill Screen)
Creating with the Crowd: Crowdsourcing for Funding, Producing and Circulating Media Content. (12:45-2:45 p.m.)
Beyond the buzzword and gimmicks using the concept, crowdsourcing is emerging as a new way in which creators are funding media production, inviting audiences into the creation process and exploring new and innovative means of circulating media content. What are some of the innovative projects forging new paths forward, and what can be learned from them? How are attempts at crowdsourcing creating richer media content and greater ownership for fans? And what are the barriers and risks ahead for making these models more prevalent?
Moderator: Ana Domb (Almabrands, Chile)
Panelists: Mirko Schäfer (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), Bruno Natal (Queremos, Brazil), Timo Vuorensola (Wreckamovie, Finland) and Caitlin Boyle (Film Sprout)
Here We Are Now (Entertain Us): Location, Mobile, and How Data Tells Stories (3:15-4:45 p.m.)
Location-based services and context-aware technologies are altering the way we encounter our environments and producing enormous volumes of data about where we go, what we do, and how we live and interact. How are these changes transforming the ways we engage with our physical world, and with each other? What kind of stories does the data produce, and what do they tell us about our culture and social behaviors? What opportunities and perils does this information have for businesses and individuals? What are the implications for brands, audiences, content producers, and media companies?
Moderator: Xiaochang Li (New York University)
Panelists: Germaine Halegoua (University of Kansas), Dan Street (Loku) and Andy Ellwood (Gowalla)
At What Cost?: The Privacy Issues that Must Be Considered in a Digital World. (5:00-6:00 p.m.)
The vast range of new experiments to facilitated greater audience participation and more personalized media content bring are often accomplished through much deeper uses of audience data and platforms whose business models are built on the collection and use of data. What privacy issues must be considered beneath the enthusiasm for these new innovations? What are the fault lines beneath the surface of digital entertainment and marketing, and what is the appropriate balance between new modes of communication and communication privacy?
Participants: Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard University) and Helen Nissenbaum (New York University)