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Reintroducing Gender Studies Perspectives into Convergence Culture

From this opening presentation in this convergence culture session at ICA 2010, we move on to a number of shorter presentations. The next speaker is Mel Gregg, who also problematises Jenkins's work - in this case, from a gender studies perspective (which she says is less present in Convergence Culture than in Jenkins's earlier work, e.g. Textual Poachers). Indeed, taking a historical perspective, Mel says that the boom in cultural studies publishing ended up marginalising gender studies scholarship, and the same might be happening again with the recent increase in works on convergence. This is a problem not least also in teaching, if students are now unable to find alternative voices.

Critiquing Henry Jenkins's Convergence Culture

The first full day of ICA 2010 starts with a session on convergence and culture, and a rather lengthy introduction, citing especially Henry Jenkins's work on convergence culture - however, historical perspectives on convergence, the geospatial distribution of convergence, the human and technological networks of convergence, the role of convergence beyond the media industries, the role of convergence in the creative industries, and the political implications of convergence all need to be considered further.

Understanding Web 2.0 in India

The next speaker in this ICA 2010 session is Debashis Aikat, whose interest is in how popular communication is transformed in the digital age, with a specific view towards India. India and a number of other countries, like China, continue to be areas of significant growth in Internet access, while there is saturation uptake in the US and a number of European countries already.

Aligned with this is the explosion in Web 2.0 sites and platforms, some of which last only a very short time, while others develop into major market leaders. In light of this, how are emerging technologies reshaping concepts and theories of communication and technology? How does this communication revolution play out? How does it affect us? Debashis runs through a number of ways to conceptualise this - categorising the range of Web 2.0 activities, and outlining the changing value chains from mass media to mass social media.

Facebook in Norway

Our CCI roundtable on methodological challenges and cultural science was next in this pre-conference at ICA 2010, but we were presenting from my laptop so I couldn't blog it... Skipping to the first of the post-lunch sessions instead, we're starting Knut Arne Futsaeter, whose focus is on the growth of Facebook in Norway as a process of diffusion. Norway is a world leader in Internet access (at some 92% of the population), and Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites (with a market penetration of 50%).

New Methodologies for Popular Communication Research into Convergence

The next presenters at this ICA 2010 pre-conference are Lothar Mikos and Ilona Ammann, who begin by highlighting the idea of convergence (a dangerous word, according to Roger Silverstone in the mid-90s). Convergence means the flow of content across multiple media platforms, connected to the cooperation between multiple media industries and the movement of users across platforms - so it exists on various levels: on the level of texts and the media (in transmedia storytelling, hybrid forms, and global and national brands) and on the level of audiences (in transcultural audiences, audience engagement, and audiences as producers.

Key Transmedia Concepts for Popular Communication Research

The next speaker at this ICA 2010 preconference is Ranjana Das, who also notes the changing nature of audiencing and the move towards user-led content creation. Audiences and users, she says, can now be placed in a continuum of sorts, and to grasp this requires methodological advances. There are a number of shared interests in audience and in user studies, and both move beyond a mere individualistic focus on motivations and take a strongly interdisciplinary approach.

There is an increasing conceptual challenge here, however: the visual is becoming more important; it does not simply replace the verbal; hypertextual formats offer new modes of engagement; and so a new communicative order us upon us. In the process, reception, interpretation, text and genre are becoming more and more difficult to define. Divergence and diversity in interpreting texts is highly important, too.

Challenges for Popular Communication Research Today

From steamy Hong Kong I've now travelled to humid Singapore, where the 2010 conference of the International Communication Association is about to get underway. This Tuesday we're starting with a pre-conference on methodological questions in popular communication reearch. Pre-conference organiser Cornel Sandvoss begins by highlighting the significant intertextuality of media texts - and there is a quantitative increase in media content and use. Additionally, narratives are increasingly moving transmedia, and lines between the producers and users of content are blurring.

Fansubbing in China as a Form of Produsage

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Donna Chu, who highlights the different forms of content creation which are emerging in Web 2.0 environments as the nature of production and consumption is shifting. Does this mean that users are empowered or exploited in this environment? What forms of civic participation are possible here?

Some of these questions are not new, but continue similar discussions in the area of fandom - fans have been creating content for a very long time, and have now simply moved online to share that content. Fans mobilise in support for discontinued TV shows, create petitions to save characters which are to be dumped from TV shows, etc. TV fans who participate in this way, though, are also contributing free labour to these TV shows, and could be seen as being exploited.

Interpreting the Development of Twitter

Hong Kong.
We're starting the last day of The Internet Turning 40 with the session that I'm in as well - but the first speaker is José van Dijck, who introduces the idea of 'interpretive flexibility' - an approach for examining technologies that remain in flux. Why and how do technologies become dominant over time; how can we trace this process while it is happening; and why is it important to do so? She is applying this specifically to Twitter (and microblogging in general) here.

There are four factors here: technologies and services, mediated social practices, cultural form and content, and business models. All of these are important when examining emerging platforms, of course. Microblogging, José says, is both a tool and a service - and its versatility is crucial to its success. When it was launched, it was unclear what it would become; by 2007, it was adopted and integrated by a large number of other social media platform, and in the process adapted its interface and technological specificities to their needs (but this took place the other way around, too). Since then, there has been an 'appliancisation' of Twitter, turning it into a closed, applied platform, and reducing its versatility and openness.


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