East Los High Pays Tribute to Convergence Culture

After serious reflection, I am declaring intellectual bankruptcy — at least as far as the blog is concerned. I have been having an incredibly demanding semester and have a huge mound of dissertations to review before the end of the academic term. I don’t see any way that I can maintain the regular schedule of this blog on top of those other demands. I was planning to post content through some point in May (before taking off for the summer) but I think I need to discontinue regular postings as of now.

I do have a few outstanding interviews and when and if they come back to me, I will be posting them.  I will also be posting videos from Transforming Hollywood and the Cyberpunk event when they become available. But, I suspect things will be erratic from here until some point in the late summer or early fall.  I am going to be on the road this summer — visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains region in June, India in July, and Indonesia in early August. And then I will be having the first academic leave I’ve enjoyed in more than a decade, spending time in residence at Microsoft Research New England. I will be sharing details down the line about all of the above.  So, have no fear, I will return.

Today, as a parting gift, I wanted to share with you a video which warmed my heart. It was a tribute/gift from Mauricio Mota and Katie Elmore Mota, who are among the producers behind Hulu’s hit series, East Los High. Both are good friends, who I had the joy of introducing to each other shortly after I came to LA, and who are now working together professionally as well as married and raising a son together.  In this video, East Los High actor Gabriel Chavarria reads a passage from my book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collides.

If you are not watching East Los High, you are missing something significant. It’s a dramatic series — a kind of teen soap — produced on an independent scale here in Los Angeles with an almost-all Latino/a cast and writer’s room, seeking to tell stories that are meaningful to second and third generation Latino/a youth for whom English has become their preferred language (a group especially underserved by a English-language media which rarely offers representations of their culture and a Spanish-language media which also does not address their experiences). We are at a moment where diversity in representation is entering television from many different fronts, and East Los High is one of them. Not only is it telling stories that matter for the Latino/a community (and far beyond) but it is also doing so through the effective use of transmedia production practices in the service of entertainment education.

The series emerged from research which showed how urgently this Latino/a  community needed frank and reliable information about sexual health, nutrition, college readiness, voter participation, and a range of other topics, and the series has been produced in collaboration with a range of nonprofit organizations which seek to address these concerns. A growing body of  research shows that its mix of high gloss entertainment and serious conversations about important topics is having a highly constructive impact on how its viewers think and act around some of these issues.

When I am asked to identify contemporary transmedia projects which I think are important, I often speak about East Los High. I am anything but the target audience for this program, but I was engaged enough with it that I watched all of the first season, and I hope to spend time with Season 2 later this summer. So, given this history, I was deeply touched by having the cast and producers create this video for me, and I wanted to share it with you.