Sunday, November 28, 2004

Finding a blueprint for crossmedia communication

After having experienced a very inspiring networking session at the IST Event(thank you all attendants!) I am working on the paper as a result of the session. Just a few notes on the session.. The audience was definitely split in two. With one half having expected something completely different and leaving early, and the other half not knowing yet, but curious enough to stay and finally very enthusiastic about the session and the brainstorm element at the end! Ben Schouten held an inspiring presentation asking more filosofical questions on the emergence of biosensing in our everyday lives. Sonja Kangas gave a real eye opener by approaching the way in which content will be produced as maybe analog with what is happening in the field of open source for software. Can we expect an open content movement? I think that this may very well become true and even faster than we may expect. While traditional media companies are thinking and worying about how to protect their IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) in a digital environments, newcomers do not have any wory about that. They only follow the need to express themselves or to publish their ideas and thoughts. Much like the immense popularity of this means, the blog. It is a fact today that traditional media use blogs as a news source other then the means they normally had. The same will probably be true for other forms of content, produced by "amateurs" they may very well be what people are looking for!


Christy said...

I really look forward to reading the paper Monique.

On the comments on "amateur" content creation. Media theorist Henry Jenkins has discussed this issue at length over the past 10 years. In his latest paper 'The cultural logic of media convergence' in the International Journal of Critical Studies' he addresses the opposing forces you mention:

'The American media environment is now being shaped by two seeminly contradictory trends: on the one hand, new media technologies have lowered production and distribution costs, expanded the range of available delivery channels and enabled consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate and recirculate media content in powerful ways; on the other hand, there has been an alarming concentration of the ownership of mainstream commercial media, with a small handful of multinational media conglomerates dominating all sectors of the entertainment industry...'

Jenkins posits 9 sites where important negotiations between producers and consumers are apt to occur:

'Revising audience measurement;
Regulating media content;
Redesigning the digital economy;
Restricting media ownership;
Rethinking media aesthetics (which is my area);
Redefining intellectual property rights;
Renegotiating relations between producers and consumers;
Remapping globalization;
Re-engaging citizens.'

And as for the "amateur" content producer specifically: Jenkins calls fan content 'textual poachers' and sees them as having a huge influence on the design of what he terms 'transmedia storytelling' (a sub-set of cross media)...

Monique de Haas said...

My point is that consumers are not focussed on earning off there IPR's, for they are not concsious or media savy enough (yet) to realise that. It is not there motive to produce (I will go into that with regard to your work as well in my IST paper) The big media companies will see there property erode because of the 'amateur' activity. So they are forced to find ways of getting into that movement. I think Jenkins overestimates the powers of the big media companies and underestimates the powers of the public. For large media conglomerates may own mass media content and channels, but the public will do with it whatever it wants. The guerilla attack of the public will be very influential on the big media companies, for they are not yet prepared for that, as was the music industry before. The public is giving away for free the thing they always used to ask money for (like with music)how are you going to tackle that? Please let me know your thoughts on this

Monique de Haas said...

Just for clarity, I obviously agree with Jenkins on the influence of poachers of 'amateurs'. I just think that broadcast management is not as well prepared as say the industry games management to hook into this trend. So their powers, although huge media conglomerates, powerfull economic entities, may still not be as big, for they might not be flexible enough to answer to this opent content movement. Jenkins sees a lot of negotiating taking place, but that would be the case if consumers poaching would have profit motivations, they do not have that (yet)

Christy said...

Hello Monique!

Apologies for taking so long to respond – we had a couple of deaths in the family. But lovely life lessons have been their gifts in passing.

I like your comment on Jenkins’ over-estimation of conglomerates and under-estimation of the people. ‘For large media conglomerates may own mass media content and channels, but the public will do with it whatever it wants.’ Right on.

And yes, it is the gaming industry that is making the biggest inroads on participatory design: pre-publication game forums to ask game fans for ideas and criticisms for instance. And yes, I’d say that the music industry is the most behind in dealing with appropriation and so on. What I find interesting is that what a lot of these fans want to be able to do is play with the tunes they love, and share it. If it wasn’t such a one-way sender-receiver path then perhaps there would not be as much pilfering. I think one good way to help sales and allow for appropriation is to have a site where fans can upload their remixed tunes. One could be selected at added to the next single of the band, or on the official site, or on the band DVD. The fans would want to buy it because they or their friends are on it, or because the band is seen to support fan content production. They’d have to work out content rights of course, which may be a whole other can of worms.

Fans can be third-party producers, like fan programmers who developed a train simulation (see John Banks’ paper presented at DAC 2003); or well-known, highly-regarded ‘emerging auteurs’ themselves: Jenkins’ cites the films produced by Evan Mather and the success he has subsequently had with festivals and so on; or could use their content production to attract ‘proper work’: Kevin Rubio is a fan fic maker who attracted Hollywood (see Jenkins’ paper ‘The Poachers and the Stormtroopers’).

They are not interested in holding IPR because that goes against their credo of the right to produce. And most fan content produced adheres to a definite ‘poacher aesthetic’: where the clever working-around finance and production resources is a significant trait in itself. But I do think some are interested in being taken seriously, or are emerging content producers in their own right. I haven’t figured out, though, where the line is between appropriator and creator. (I’ve got to look at theories around Andy Warhol). What do you think?

I think it is in the media companies best interests to design works allowing for participation at some stage – the easiest way so far seems to be during pre-production with forums etc.. Once a good relationship is set-up the fans will not necessarily be stripping valuable earnings. Fans I think make money for the companies. There is a good paper Elana Shefrin: ((2004) 'Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Participatory Fandom: Mapping New Congruencies between the Internet and Media Entertainment Culture' in Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 21, 3, pp:261-281) that talks about the differences between the approach to fans by filmmaker Peter Jackson and George Lucas, and the subsequent troubles that not allowing for cultural participation has caused. I’ll throw in another Jenkins quote here:

‘The web is altering the balance of power between media producers and media consumers, enabling grassroots cultural production to reach a broader readership. […] In such a world, the category of the audience, as a mass of passive consumers for pre-produced materials, may give way to the category of cultural participants, which would include both professionals and amateurs.’

P:10 Poachers and Stormtroopers.

Looking back to your original post I think I’ve moved a bit off-topic here! Perhaps it is helpful to differentiate between fan production, appropriation, theft, rights management… They’re not always in the same bag. But I’d like to hear your views on this last post.

Hope this makes sense.
Have a good hols,

Monique de Haas said...

Hi Christy,

First of all, how beautifull your words are on the losses in your family, my sincere condoleances here.

Thank you for working with me on this subject and no you are not off-topic in my opinion.

Your remark on appropriators and creators is meaningfull. I have been thinking about this a lot and described this as follows in my IST paper (it is.. coming really!!) "It is when the interaction (between peers on a community) transcends this closed circle of meaning (inside the community) that consumers are moving towards functioning as producers of content."

Let me know what you think

Christy said...

Hello Monique,

Happy New Year!

It is good that you are tackling the difference between appropriators and creators in your paper. And obviously you've thought alot about how to define the line between them. Could you extrapolate on the statement you supplied:

"It is when the interaction (between peers on a community) transcends this closed circle of meaning (inside the community) that consumers are moving towards functioning as producers of content."

To me, the statement reads like you're saying that when people start using messages that have meaning for more than a few (eg: fans) that they become creators. That when a work is accessible by more people that the producer is working towards becoming an artist. Interesting, and good point. But let me know if I've read it wrong. Yeah, I've thought about this subject regarding myself and my own journey in becoming/emerging/maturing as a content creator. It is true that if we don't get across a feeling, or neglect to engage or immerse anyone that we can't work as a content creator. And at the same time, we can affect people but not be earning money so we may not be a 'producer' in the economic sense. But these are just rambling thoughts.

I agree with your statement (if I got it right): that accessible meaning in content defines it as an artwork in its own right... Although this idea is highly problematic it does have merit. I've been studying the Star Wars franchise and can't help draw on the ideas I've come across now. Many filmmakers, writers and artists that have spent their own time creating fan fiction were then commissioned by LucasFilm to produce official books and comics. Their skills, as writers, as fantasy creators, were transferable but their knowledge of the Star Wars world was pivotal in their employment. Their interest in SW resonated with other SW fans, their knowledge of SW events, names, places and terms gained them access to the 'closed' SW fan community but also gained them employment as content creators of further fan fiction. So, it seems there are 3 lines (at least): 1 = crossing the line over to have storytelling talent and skills (which most of them have incidently); 2 = crossing the line to being employed, commissioned to produce works for a wider part of the 'closed' community; 3 = crossing the line to using the skills to create outside of the 'narrative universe' already created. Some of the fans I've looked at are teachers, writers, journalists, budding film-makers in their own right. They've just chosen to use their skills to idolise through creation.

Anyway, over to you.