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Convergence is a State of Mind

September 23, 2008

There are many provocative ideas raised by writer Henry Jenkins (Founder and Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT) in the opening chapter of his book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. I hope by now you have had an opportunity to read it. Titled “Worship at the Altar of Convergence,” the introduction reminds us that convergence is more than just the notion of various media technologies evolving into a single apparatus. Jenkins states:

“I will argue here against the idea that convergence should be understood primarily as a technological process bringing together mulitple media functions within the same devices. Instead, convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content.”

Also:

“Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers and through their social interactions with others.”

To begin building his case, Jenkins discusses “participatory culture,” “buzz,” “expanding the storytelling experience,” “the Black Box Fallacy” and “fandom”. He says, “I have watched fans move from the invisible margins of popular culture and into the center of current thinking about media production and consumption.”

After our discussion in class today, I wanted to hear from more of you. How is this statement about fandom real for you? I suspect everyone in this class considers himself/herself a fan of something—a band, a movie, a series of books or writer, a TV show, a sports team, etc. Certainly, we are all the “individual consumers” mentioned above. For your post, tell us how your experience as a fan has changed. How have new media channels and formats allowed you to participate as a fan in a variety of contexts?  Has this participation somehow changed/impacted/influenced the experience of other fans or the object of your fan affections? Most importantly, how are you creating convergence in your head by seeking out the fan-related media you want and cobbling together a unique experience?

Tell us about it.

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16 comments

  1. As I said in class, I was a huge fan of Halo and the sequels when they first came out. I’m not as big of a fan now as I was then, mostly because the excitement about upcoming developments has gone away with the end of the series.

    In the months before Halo 2 and 3, I found myself going to the game developer’s (Bungie Studios) website almost every day to watch the latest ads or to see if the release date had been moved up or back. I also frequented the game forum section of the Xbox website to discuss theories about storyline or even a possible Halo 4, or if Master Chief would die, and so on.

    The release of the last Halo game was especially exciting as the release date came nearer. I pre-ordered the most expensive edition of the game that even came with a replica of Master Chief’s head, was tempted to buy the various keychains, wallets and other memorabelia, and was even tempted to subscribe to the Halo comic series that was supposed to bridge Halo 2 and 3.

    When I frequented these communities and played with other gamers online, I felt like I was part of a cult following. In this community no one cared whether we were called nerds or other things. I played and discussed things with people from around the world, both old and young, who were drawn by this video game. Overall, I would say that I just felt a part of a community free from regulation, the inhabitants of which shared a deep passion for what they loved.


  2. I am not really a die-hard fan of anything in particular anymore, so I usually just dabble in things. But some past examples of what I have done, and how convergence has occurred for me are the magazine Sports Illustrated and the TV show Arrested Development.

    I used to be a subscriber to SI for several years, starting back in 2003, which meant every week I’d get a new issue which I would flip through looking at pictures and finding articles that interested me. Occasionally I would log onto their website if the magazine mentioned something online that interested me. However, the magazine got too expensive for a subscription (I think it costs around $90 a year now or something), so I don’t subscribe. Now, I just visit their website a few times a week and find the same news articles or sports news and pictures for free instead of spending that amount of money for a paper copy. If there is an issue I want, I can just buy that single copy.

    Arrested Development was a good TV show on Fox that got canceled after 3 seasons. I really found it funny, so I have purchased or received each of the seasons on DVD. Occasionally, I did frequent fan websites to get news on the shows, but that was mainly when there were rumors of it being picked up on a different network or talks about a movie. I did frequent imdb.com a lot as well to get names of the characters and plot summaries, especially when the show first started.

    I think for the most part, the Internet has changed a lot of my fan experience because the ease of information is helpful. Plus, I can find this information rather quickly with the help of Google. So, I think the Internet has allowed a lot more fan participation on subjects, like sports or TV shows, through discussion boards and blogs.


  3. I would consider myself a fan of football, both college and professional. New media channels have allowed me to participate as a fan by presenting me with the opportunity to listen to games online. As a full-time college student who also works part-time I rarely get to sit down and watch an entire football game anymore. New media has presented fans with convenient outlets.

    While the replays and game summaries are great to catch on ESPN or the internet, I hate hearing what the final score was or who had the best catch of the game from others. It is for this reason that I love being able to listen live off of some team sites but having this convenience also make me less of a fan I think.

    Can I truly be considered a fan if I’m listening online? Can I truly be a fan if I’m ONLY “in the know” because I’ve opted to listen to a more convenient media outlet?

    I would say that my fan affections have changed because I have stopped making time to sit down for the game, convenience has won me over and watching Monday night football has been put on the back burner so-to-speak. This is why convergence begins to frustrate me. If the ONLY way I could know about the game was to watch it, I’d probably still be making the time as a loyal fan but, with other opportunities presented by new media I have become a consumer searching for the convenient option.

    Convergence in my mind to create a unique experience for fans would be setting aside time on a Saturday to watch the game with fans. Fans based interactions allow for fans communities to grow; this itself would be cultural and social convergence … this is when we get away from digital (or new media) convergence and we begin to create an experience for fans; not a convenience.


  4. I completely agree with Megan. I also want to say that her dedication to football makes me happy. I hope she is a Clemson fan.

    That being said, one thing i am a fan of other than college football is cycling. It’s a sport that i actively participate in as well as follow through different media outlets. Though the process of becoming a fan was gradual, it has now become a huge part of my life. It started from me doing the sport. The more i raced, the more i became interested in who else raced. As this curiosity grew i started to buy magazines and training books so that i may too become a professional. As my interest grew, i started watching cycling on TV. From there i learned the pro’s teams, where they started from, what teams they are on now and what races they won. I became interested in team Discovery with Lance Armstrong back in the day and i would check in with the online sites about the team and the current outlook of a win. You could buy merchandise and team apparel from the site but i never did.
    The sport has grown tremendously due to high gas prices and people seeking alternative methods of travel. Because of this, there is more media coverage on my sport which drives me to find out more about these amazing athletes how i could one day be one of them.


  5. Currently, I wouldn’t say I am a real fan of anything. However, while the Olympics were going on this summer, I became a huge fan of U.S. Gymnastics, especially Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson. Any time the team triumphed, I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness and anytime something unfortunate happened, like Nastia’s second place finish to Chinese gymnast He Kexin on the bars, my heart broke for them.

    I made sure to clear my schedule to watch the gymnastics events on TV and even watched reruns of them on On Demand, in addition to extras that were provided. While watching them perform, I was emotionally engrossed. At one point, I was so caught up in gymnastics that I visited both Nastia and Shawn’s websites, reading through most of the information on the sites.

    When the underage Chinese gymnast scandal was at its peak, I was checking the internet constantly waiting for new developments in the investigation. It was great not to have to wait for the stories to be printed in the newspaper or even to come out on television news. Instead, all I had to do was search the internet for new information as it was uncovered. When Mike Walker, a computer expert, unearthed documents on two of the gymnasts’ ages by Googling then using the Chinese search engine Baidu to search for public records, he included links from his site to the public records with the gymnasts’ names and information highlighted. I, of course, visited his site (which was linked to the article I read) then clicked the links and found myself looking at public records in Chinese which I found interesting. After reading any articles I found online, I scrolled to the bottom to read the comments people had blogged to see if other people were reacting the same way as me to the articles. In this way I felt a connection to many people who I didn’t know and hadn’t met who were experiencing fandom in the same way as me.

    In past Olympic years, I haven’t gotten this caught up in the gymnastics events. They are by far my favorite to watch, but before I was content with just watching the routines on TV. However, now that I am constantly surrounded by the combination of media convergence, I realized that I didn’t have to stop being engrossed in Olympic gymnastics when it wasn’t on TV. On Demand and the internet, especially, aided my fandom as I explored aspects of the Games that I never would have before, combining older media (television) with newer media (the internet.) The internet especially makes it easier to be a fan of something as everything is literally right at your fingertips: you can get information just as fast as you can type the topic in the Google search bar. Many websites and articles even direct you to sites and articles on the same topic so you can get even more information from multiple sources. Each person’s fan experience is unique in what aspects of their fan affection they seek out and how they acquire it.


  6. As I write this, I am watching the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King extended edition for the third time. Obsessed much? Maybe. Fan? Of course.
    I have been a fan of many things. I am a fan of rock music and bands such as Green Day, A.F.I., and Fall Out Boy. I’m a Harry Potter fan, collecting and reading all seven books, in addition to watching and waiting anxiously for every movie. I also consider myself a Star Wars fan and a Pirates of the Caribbean fan.
    However, I’m not really a diehard fan of any of these. When they first came to my attention, I was way into them. Since then, my following has mellowed out. I would browse imdb.com reading memorable quotes, actor profiles, and the different bloopers and trivia for movies like Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. I visited websites and fan-sites of bands like Green Day, wanting to know what was going on in their lives. And yes, I’ve read fan-fiction.
    There are many different ways to compile a fan experience of all these things. As mentioned, the internet was one of the ways that I could get closer to the things I loved. I could find quotes, biographies, and fun facts. Fan-fiction is an interesting way to get close to the celebrities, because while a fan has applied their own interpretation to these people, somehow the reader can’t help but think that perhaps that is exactly how the character would react to a situation in real life. Maybe I would meet a rock star at his concert and he would fall in love with me and take me on tour with him and his band. Other media in the fan experience include movies and concerts that I have seen.
    In these online communities it’s perfectly natural to be a huge fan of something. Other people share your interests, and I almost felt secure knowing I could pursue finding more information without looking too obsessed to others. The internet made it easier for me to find out about my interests, because there is a variety of information available literally at my fingertips. All I ever had to do was type in a web address, and I could be in a world of my choosing.


  7. One of my favorite artists is Michael Buble. If anyone had asked me last week if I was a fan of Michael, my answer would have been “of course.” But since our discussion in class, I’ve been second-guessing myself and wondering if I am a true fan of anything. I don’t know Michael’s birthplace, tour dates, or relationship status. I have his CDs and listen to his songs, but I’ve never been to a concert. New technology makes media convergence so easy for the user, but it’s my responsibility to take advantage of it if I choose to do so. I may not be busy, but I could watch his music videos on my phone to and from classes. I could download his podcasts, visit his fansite, purchase concert tickets, or create a Michael Buble blog. But I the truth is, I haven’t because I don’t care. I don’t care about his personal life. I care about his music. The time I spend visiting his website or youtube is for the purpose of listening to his music.

    When I was in middle school the very popular Lord of the Rings Trilogy was first released in theaters. This was the one time in my life when the term “crazy fan” would have been a good description. I loved the books, the movies, and the cast. At the time I thought the movies were the best movies ever produced. I memorized lines, I watched the behind the scenes footage, I knew the names of the main cast, I owned posters, I owned an Arwen action figure, I read the books several times, and I actually visited the official LOTR website to watch trailors and read bios.

    Now that I’m older, I don’t really want to be a crazy fan of anything because I realized from the Lord of the Rings experience that being a fan can become an obsession. It’s time consuming. I may not be a raving, stalking, Michael Buble encyclopedia, but in a small way I am still a fan because I love and listen to his music.


  8. I wouldn’t consider myself a true fan of anything in particular, but I do love the TV show Lost. Not only can I watch the episodes on TV, I can watch them online at abc,.com if I happen to miss an episode. On this website you can also read about the show as well as bios of the characters and there are many other options to choose from.

    I think the new trend with watching television shows online has made a great change in the ways of media convergence. The internet can now provide almost anything a consumer may want from news, music, information, TV shows, etc. It used to be that if you missed your TV show you were out of luck or had to wait for a re-run, but now you can just go online at your own convenience and watch your show with limited interruptions. This is another reason why I almost prefer to watch my shows online because the commercial interruptions are usually short and you are able to watch your show without the annoyance of minutes of commercials.

    I am creating media convergence, because as a fan I am seeking out a quicker, more convenient way to watch the shows I like. I am straying from the traditional way to watch a TV show by choosing to do so on another form of media.

    I really believe that it is true that many of these media changes are coming from the fans/consumers because we are looking for newer and faster ways to get what we want in a fast-paced world.


  9. First off you all know I’m a fan of Harry Potter. Actually I wasn’t part of the Harry Potter wave when it first came out; honestly I thought it was stupid. When my mom started reading it to me before bed (wow that was a long time ago) I actually started to like it. That’s how I started as a fan: reading the books. Around when the second or third book was released the Harry Potter books on tape became a fast commodity. My mom, sister, and I would listen to them whenever we went on road trips. I bet you couldn’t how excited I was when I heard they were making into a movie! The movie was okay but definitely not as good as the book, which is why I cringe every time someone tells they’ve seen the movies but haven’t read the books. The movies don’t compare. I’ve been to the fan pages but didn’t really dabble with very much. Now for my fandom I’m awaiting the release of the final two movies and rereading the books…and quite publicly I am a part of the Gryffindor house on my Facebook page.


  10. I completely second was Sarah said about re-thinking if I’m a fan of anything anymore.

    However, I am really into the artist Gavin DeGraw. If you haven’t heard of him, which I hope you have, he was the artist of the theme song to the WB tv show “One Tree Hill” (which is where I first found out about him!). I just recently went to my first concert of his before I came down to school, my parents got me tickets for my early 20th birthday present.

    It is really easy for me to stay updated when Gavin comes out with new music. Although I’ve only used it a few times, a lot of fans that go to his concerts submit youtube videos of their experience, so that was fun to watch the few times that I have done it.
    I download almost all of his songs that I know about, and I actually pay for downloading his because I appreciate him as an artist and want to support him. I’ve personally never been on his fan website, but I’m sure that you can blog about him and post videos and things like that.
    I have a lot of videos from his concert on my phone, even though the quality is very low because the music was so loud. I also have his song on my phone as one of my ringtones, which I love.
    New media has definetly made it easier to be a fan of Gavin DeGraw, simply based on how I heard his song on “One Tree Hill”, and then I went right to my computer and downloaded it.
    Finally, I am creating convergence in my head by looking online every once in a while to see if any new songs have been released. Usually when I see that that has happened, I take that information and I use it by downloading the new song. If I like the song enough, I might download it onto my phone or make it a ringtone.


  11. As I explained in class I’m a big hip hop fan, among other things. My fandom has grown exponentially over the past few years (I began listening in 2005) following the growing trend of the internet.

    I used Napster around the time it came out, but I was only a casual listener of music. In 2005 I used Limewire to download songs from certain artists, which led me to multiple message boards. I learned as much as I could from them and was then pointed in the direction of many blogs that could fill my appetite for new music.

    Fast forward to today where I check those blogs and message boards dozens of times per day on my computer and my phone. I also buy hundreds of dollars worth of music every year and attend as many concerts as I can. My experiences are virtual as well as in person.

    The internet has made being a fan so much easier because of the growing connection between an artist and his fans. Imagine how fans feel when artists like Kanye West and Diddy blog and post video messages for the sole purpose of sharing news with their fans.

    Also, the ease in which the artists can reach their fans has made it more fun for people like me. An artist can put out a new song at 1 o’clock and I can have it on my ipod at 1:01.

    This new participation has changed group fandom as well, because now thousands of people around the world can have pointless e-arguments over who the best rapper alive is. Now it’s not only your friends who know your opinion, but a good portion of the world.

    This whole convergence has made it easier for some artists and more difficult for others.


  12. The only thing I could truly call myself a fan of would be Red Sox baseball. However in all honesty, my favorite way to follow my team is by listening to the games on the radio. Baseball is America’s favorite pastime, and this word pastime hold very true to the game. Baseball is a game that has been in our culture since the late 1800s and to this day not much has changed, so there is something special to me about listening to the games in the same way my great-grandparents would have a long time ago.

    That being said, it is difficult being so far away from Boston and not being able to listen to the games on the radio. So in order to watch the games or even listen to them, I need to subscribe to MLB.TV and stream the games through the Internet on my computer. Without modern technology, I would not be able to get instant information about my team or nonetheless watch the games from North Carolina. But with these new delivery systems, I was able to know the second the team clinched a playoff spot this week and immediately after a press conference that Johnny Pesky’s number will be retired.

    I personally have a unique relationship with the team and as an employee I am under contract that I will never have any contact with any forms of media so it would be unethical to post in blogs or on fan websites, but I certainly enjoy reading these as well.


  13. As I delineated in class on Tuesday, I love skateboarding. One way my “fandom” has contributed to convergence that I didn’t describe in class was email correspondence with columnists with my favorite magazine entitled The Skateboard Mag. About three years ago I emailed a letter to the editor that described an experience I had skateboarding out in front of my hometown’s local Subway restaurant. I was just messing around on this curb on the sidewalk when this couple exited their vehicle on the way to dinner, and in the mother’s arms was a handicapped toddler who had braces on his arms and legs. He apparently had some sort of mental handicap as well, though I couldn’t figure out what it was. Despite all his disabilities, the kid somehow found my skateboarding to be very entertaining. He clapped (or some form of applause) whenever I landed a trick and roared with laughter every time a fell and ate pavement. I guess young kids find humor in others’ pain just like fans of Jackass. Anyway, the experience of being able to put a smile on a kid’s face who deals with so much pain and adversity everyday affirmed my convictions that skateboarding is a positive contribution to society, not the negative one that so many people seem to judge it to be. My letter ended up getting published in the following September issue and a couple of my friends approached me at the skate park and talked to me about it. If it weren’t for the convenience of email I probably would never have sent in a letter about my experience, but because of the advancement of technology I, the fan, an able to contribute to skateboarding and affect other skateboarders’ experience.


  14. I am a big Harry Potter fan and have been since my fourth grade teacher read the first book to my class; I have literally grown up with Harry and when I graduated high school that happened to be the year that the series was over. When Harry’s childhood was over, so was mine.
    I am definitely embarrassed to admit (but it is time) that in middle school and ninth/some of tenth grade I was a little…shall we say, addicted. There was one website in particular that I would go to (MuggleNet.com) every day, at least once. They had tons of new info about the movies, actors, J.K. Rowling and the new books. They would help you figure new book stuff out, and they had all sorts of analysis about the books, movies, names, love triangles and basically any Harry Potter curiosity one had.
    In about 9th grade I discovered FanFics. This is where it gets embarrassing. I would read these often, and even had certain ones I would follow because they had chapters. Basically, they would borrow the characters, some of their characteristics and make their own Hogwarts (though it was usually fairly loyal to the books). For a scary while I lived for these because I discovered them in the looooong hiatus between books. They held me over and made me feel closer to the characters and the world of Harry Potter, which frankly, was a trillion times cooler than my small New England town and school. I so badly wanted Harry Potter to be real and this is how I made it real to me–but not having to wait until the next book to read about it. Eventually I realized that I was actually confusing the FanFics and the actual books and I stopped reading them. I did not pine for them, like I did the books, but they served their purpose and kept me tied to Harry Potter. A little scary, huh?
    I definitely think that part of my desperate desire to be Harry Potter-esque was the fact that I was growing at the same rate as Harry. He became a friend, as strange as that seems, and I missed him when he was not around. A lot of the things that he went through in the book (minus the whole Voldemort and dark magic thing) dealing with growing up were things I could relate to. When Harry Potter was over and I was done high school I realized the end of my childhood was over in two ways: my Harry Potter life was over and my real childhood was over and I was about to start a new chapter of my life without Harry.
    Again, it may sound way to absorbed in Harry Potter, but it was the most important literature of my childhood. I think if the Star Wars nuts or Lord of the Rings fanatics had IAmYourFather.net or HobbitHole.com they would be there as much as I was at MuggleNet.com.


  15. I would consider myself a big fan of playing music, especially guitar. I happen to be a very big Fender fan, and that is the only electric guitar I will ever play. I use various websites to check out new Fender gear, and read reviews by other musicians.

    I also record the music I play onto my computer using various software (Garage Band to Logic Pro). These tools help me to easily share the music I write with friends and other artists to get feed back on. I have discovered entire websites that are dedicated to helping musicians share their music with others. One site is Purevolume.com which is an online community of musicians. It is a quick and easy way to send your music to anyone who is interested in it and you can gain fans with minimal effort. Just post your songs, and people will listen.

    Another way which I can share and update my music is through my cell phone. With internet access right on my phone I can check what is new wherever I am. Another useful feature on my phone is an mp3 player. I can download my music to my phone and easily share it with whoever I can get to listen. It is convenient because my phone is always in my pocket.


  16. I am a fan of many things, but my most recent obsession has been with the TV show The Office. Since I was not an original fan of the show, I had to use different forms of media and convergence to catch myself up for the premier of the 5th season (Tonight at 9!).

    I had caught a few episodes previously and thought it was funny, mainly due to Steve Carrell. However, at work this summer, when all my coworkers would discuss and joke about previous episodes, I had to get involved. I went out and spent an entire weeks paycheck on all the first 3 seasons. After I watched all of those episodes, I would watch webisodes on my laptop at night, I couldn’t get enough of the hilarious antics.

    After I had seen all the webisodes, I would watch YouTube tributes to certain characters and read the comments which I also responded too. This lead me to feel fully part of the shows cult-like following. I have recently purchased and watched all of season 4 and I even own some Dunder Mifflin apparel.



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