Henry Jenkins – talk and discussion – LiveBlog

This evening I am at a talk by Henry Jenkins, notes will be tied up but here’s the raw form live from my iPad:

David Gauntlett is introducing us to Henry Jenkins, Professor at University of Southern California, prior to that he was at MIT and he is in the middle of a European tour around his new book Spreadable Media which he will be talking about today…

So I’m in this sange place where my book is in the publishing process and won’t be out for months. As a blogger I’m used to being able to post stuff up right away and I always fear my books will be out of date by the time they are published.
My last book, Convergence culture, came out about 6 years ago. Since then… Second Life arose, kind of declined again. Niche media and audiences, the long tail became more prominent. Social media has grown hugely, become prominent, YouTube and Hulu have appeared since, into Twitter. Web 2.0 was still being thought about by Tim O’Reilly and others. People ask me if by convergence culture I mean web 2.0 and I say no, we’ll come to that later.
Spreadable media is about looking at consumption. We wrote a white paper called “If it doesn’t spread it’s dead” [part one can be read here]. Joshua Green and sam grew and I transformer that white paper into the book that will be out in the autumn. We also talked to ex students, businesses, contacts. Much of this will be made available freely. And we hope the book is a provocations, the beginning of a discussion of where social media is taking us. And this Turks abOut that discussion. And my tour started early enough to coincide with occur wall street… People were there as zombies, as games as thrones characters.. The occupy sesame street protestors, super hero protestors. Protestors adopted and remixed popular culture, this stuff spread and snared across the web in the way occupy wanted to do.. It met the goal of provoking debate, discussing equality of opportunity. How it engaged a variety of populations and what they talked and thught about inequality in America.
This character is pepper spray cop. This could have been a small local image and stor bt the remixing of images we’re circulated, making t a memorable issue and widely distributed.
At the heart of Spreadable Media is about distribution, grass roots communities as the heart of how material spreads. Corporations routnelytme releases of media – doctor who or Sherlock taking moths to reach the us for instance. But, let’s bracket piracy off for a moment, and think about how else those media artefacts circulate. This book is about hybrid circulation- producers and others sharing and distributing.
I don’t use the word viral, it suggests a lack of agency. See Neal Stephenson‘s quote and theory on viral media in a nutshell. It lets those in control think that they have this killer virus and t.hat this stuff will just spread. Let’s of baggage removing agency here. We call it spreadable media… We don’t care if you think that sounds like peanut butter… We think it works as an alternative to stickiness and a deliberate contrast to “viral”. The generative aspects of circulation is what we are interested in. A social and cultural model of how information circulates on the internet.
Kony 2012 is a video created by a group called Invisible Children. We had been study them for about eight years. One of their videos went viral, was spread widely much more than they expected. They ask us to spread the message… But in 4 days it got 70 million views. The biggest US tv shows get 40 million viewers.  It reached more eyeballs more quickly than anything on US TV or in US theatres. They expected to get around half a million viewers. The result of that many views was tragedy, one of the filmmakers had a nervous breakdown. They had been making these for years and had a reasonable idea of spreadability but this film totally exceeded these.
SocialFlow looked at words in Tweets that spread the video… They targeted celebrities and you that here. We have cities like Dayton Ohio… Not the big cities for these things usually but where groups were active. A wordless of those tweets we see words like Love Life bt also multiple constituencies come in – schools and colleges vs church groups.
The whole critique of activism/slacktivism is watch a thirty minute video on the internet become a social activist. But in this case there were already students here who were already protesting, it didn’t emerge from nowhere.
Georgetown University looked at social activism. Those who frequently engaged in pro optional social activity are likely to take further action on behalf of their cause. There is some sort of political effects,the networks are shaping she media landscape bt by reporting This spreadable media they have a big impact and spreadable media is increasingly having an impact independently.
Depending on which numbers [of various stats shown on screen] believe we are seeing a pattern of engaged in promotion and acts of circulation of news and information. We get more and more of our news that way and we need to think about how that shapes our worlds.
Cory Doctorow says that part of the reason we have current copyright laws is that we are mammals, we reproduce only a few times… We need to think more like dandelions, spreading things widely, some will succeed, some will fail. An author or a media maker needs to think more like a dandelion and trust people to find media and circulate our work. Doctorow puts that into action in his own work… He thinks as an author that he is at much more risk of obscurity than bankruptcy. And he shares all of his books under Creative Commons licenses and has reached the best seller lists. People know who he is, they know his work, they are happy to pay for their copy.
E.P. Thompson talks about ongoing social and moral systems and he talks about the centrality of trust and the threat of instability and of changes in economic models. We see messages that “piracy kills music” but people say no, “sharing is caring”. We are at a time where we will see lots of to and fro. Sharing is the core factor in social media – how does that connect to traditional economic models and cultures, right now one side is frightened of free content, the other is frightened of free labour (Facebook using our data say).
My issue with free labour is that circulation is part of a gift economy. If you had a hot date and someone left you a £100 note you would feel pretty weird and bad about that! You cant just insert cash into this type of equation.
The framing of an action is crucial here, it changes the nature of the action and she social signifiers. I buy a bottle of wine, take it home and remove the label I’ve changed that commodity into a gift. And giving t to a friend if that friend told me off for paying to little he’d be a bit of an ass. There is social value here, gift value, it’s a complex set of meanings we attach a sharing action. We can connect this to other work on gift culture, we refer to Lewis Hyde in the book.
Sharing can lead to warm feelings, can justify the act of sharing. See this LOLCAT that will look like John Lennon to over forty year olds, Harry Potter to those below. This is cultural studies 101. People have their own cultural frames. You are not servicing the advertiser you are instead using the ad for your own conversations.
Joshua Green put a diagram together of the evolution of the LOLcats, someone has put together something great on this talk around lolcats etc.
Anime is a really an interesting example here. Mimi Ito talks about the growth of anime. The fan culture generates value and builds the market through the circulation of illegal copies through fans, piracy builds the market. Then companies step in and engage… This happens more and more.
Religion is also invested in sharing here.they have a mission to spread the word – if someone steals a bible is that theft or is that spreading gods work? Their models give us something interesting to hind about in terms f spreadable media
Independent artists and filmmakeers can connect to audiences without engaging with gatekeepers,through various crowd sourcing ventures. Shines like kickstarter which funds things through very interested communities. Lost zombies is a similar idea, a crowd participation project. DVD the third stage here is brave new films activist collection – they gather fans who commit to see a film as a way to get a theatre screening. This changes circulation, creates stronger bonds between audiences and creators. It works. Enter for some than others. Those making low budget, zombie, sic if films flourish, as these a
Have established fan base. Those fr minority communities, African American audiences, Asian american audiences, LGBT audiences, they are u deserved and kee. To see media abut the, but those missed out are innovative esoteric filmmakeers.
Now going back to web 2.0. This is a business model. Participatory couture is different but they are two sides of the same coin here. Web 2.0 companies have friction and tension with their communities and users. We want participatory culture, we shouldn’t try and adopt the web 2.0 label. Web 2.0 began in 2005 but social networks many many years before this, before the web. We had kids making a form of zines protesting slavery etc. because its hard to set type they used abbreviations… Including LOL, the practice and logic does connec up. The a auteur radio fan communities. The early sic if communities. Undergrad news in the nineteen sixties, new media in the nineties. Allow these are stugges to control and shape the nature of our culture of our consumption. This relates to commercial companies by tus a struggle.
Brecht critiques radio for being one directional and advocates participatory culture. Youll note that I talk about More participatory culture Rather tha participatory culture. We have people who are nt taking part, there are more people who need to participate.
Hans Magnus enzenberger in 1970 talks about copnstituants of ratification culture. My mentor john fiske’s last book understanding popular culture says that new tools create new challenges, it doesnt guarantee any so  outcome, good r bad. Participatory culture is worth fighting for but we have to mansTain a distinction from web 2.0
Looking at political use of a participatory culture. Here we have palemtian protestors… They regulary do protests, film them and sharing… Fr instance they painted the selves blue a la avatar and filmed his. Yo can view this critically or positively. This group harnessed popular culture for triggering debate and I choose to see it this way, but you could see this as a negative
Trend. Although there are long histories of dressing as other cultures in protest so that does
Superman comes ut: “I am superman – and I am undocumented”. There was huge debate about this, complaint about changing supermans values. But his story is of passing, f secretidentity… superman is a great playful way of evoking protest.
This is the Harry potter alliance… They look at what is evil in our time, how do we change the world. This is a decentralised network of crisis on all sorts ftopics. Ad they are now moving on fromharry potter, they launched a campaign around the launch of the hunger games. Asking fr do Atkins o Sco hunger. They received a cease and desist  letter from studios, they published it online and the press coverage per press release meant the film company backed down, lions gate films approached them and asked what they could do…
So with that I shall stop…
DG: we think of ourselves as thoughtful critiques of these things. There is a new book by Natalie fe town and colleagues called misunderstanding the internet which does just that.. They skewer twitter as being only consumed by middle class’s… But so are academic books and endpapers… So… What are responses to critiques who see you as a technological determinists
HJ: wel. I was at MIT for 20 years, I know technological determinism wheni see it. You have to startwth social and cultural contex John has a quite that everyone in the middle ages had a larynx but tall were allowed o speak. I want to think abut education, resources, cultural empowerment. In the us about 95% of youth have technology access but far fewer feel able to use this in meaningful way. I am pro learning here.
DG: we had a debate on your Blau about how much of this is remix and fan culture, not original creation
HJ: one of your colleagues was criticising the lack of original creatin work compared to most peoples activities. But spreadingu can be a creative act. The most rapidly growing spreadable content is amateur mati
Email.the spreading is meaningful, nt justnriginal content creation. The idea of voting with your feetisnt meaningful if you don’t pick what’s on the table but increasingly we are curating from a vast array of media of all types. People are watching the world through the eyes o people who now they can participate, who know the can when they nt to. We need to get rid of structural barriers to participation. To provide support for those who are not yet waiting to participate.
Q1) can I go bac to the idea f viral vs spreadable. You said that you don’t l,e viral as it lacks agency. But is agency not ore subtle tha that. Can it nt be Interrogated more.
a1) absolute,y but starting with the idea that there is no value of agency, a model like viral is the wrong way to go. Richard Dawkins idea of a meme is a productive term – I’ve been persuaded by communities like 4chan. We must stifle the idea of increased democracy.
Q2) I’ve seen stats that professional content on YouTube has vastly I creased and bloggers are being encouraged
A2)  talked about the withering of mass media but it’s not going to happen… It will not be the only media. In the us YouTube has made more Asian stars by far than traditional media. You nan read that several ways but I don’t this circulation will dispose distribution but will sit side by side. We need both very often, but the bottom holding the top to account.
Q3) I wanted to g back to the Facebook quote on sharks brands. I was wondering about the tre d for sort of social commerce – commercial I ce gives to share things.
A3) this is a thing people are calling AstroTurf, a fake grassroots system. But it’s interesting top me that rands that have the money to advertise are desperate to pretend we have bottom up power… I think this is a transitory a trend… In many cases this stuff is exposed, but it really shows the shift in power. Grassroots is powerful enough to meant to fake it.
Q4) I have a question about methodology in exploring ways in which participation takes place?
A4) this book isn’t about theory and methodology, it has a Gow to trigger discussion. I tend to discuss methodology a bit separately. I use social media mapping and visualisation here as Kony 2012 this works well and backup our own research work. But we are currently doing 50 interviews with community participants, pretty much ethnographic approach. Book just out on net organs is about a pretty large eth Gorky dog web communities. These are the kind of toos that I find helpful. Yo really want to combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. Looking at meaning and social implication s aof acts of sharing.
DG: with pepperspray cop we have a creative clash of great seriousness with silly funny playful materials…
HJ: i think pepperspray cop is the community equipment of the editorial cartoon, a way to make something satirical and me oracle, sometimes you laugh at black humour, sometimes informed by actual issue. Jason ? Has the notion of drillable to complement spreadable media as an idea.the Palestinian a avatar protestors had loads of information on their website to drill into. One of the issues for invisible children was that they had taken down a lou  of content on the website ready for the new campaign so there was very little to contextualise the video. That need for drillable context is something I tell activist groups to think about.
Q5) how do hosed these changes and leanings culture?
A5) well I have another book coming out called reading and participative culture and have worked with the. Arthur foundation for years and have a white paper I’ve writte. Further open participatory learning. E are designing a digital toolkit for teachers to share successful learning motors via social media. W are dong a lot on that space right now. Making learning relevant to Lear era, bringing what is outside othe schoo, into the classrooms to allow p
Collaborative learning. In my country schools tend to block participatory media and that kaes it impossible for students t engage in those sorts of environments. This is usually justified as protection for children, but I what wa does blocking access he them. Sure.y better to support and improve digital literacy. My colleagues says most young people lackan Nile me for. Blocking social media leaves stude ts more ilnerabe than before not less. S we bring participatory Media into the classroom we connect students to the world around them.
So… Some chapters will be coming to the website in November as the book comes out.


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About Nicola Osborne

I am Digital Education Manager and Service Manager at EDINA, a role I share with my colleague Lorna Campbell. I was previously Social Media Officer for EDINA working across all projects and services. I am interested in the opportunities within teaching and learning for film, video, sound and all forms of multimedia, as well as social media, crowdsourcing and related new technologies.

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