Sunday, August 13, 2006


Reading Convergence Culture

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that there was a book coming out called Convergence Culture, and based on the description, and my brief familiarity with the author, that it was likely to be a book that would be right in my strike zone. So, I didn't waste any time when I saw the book on the shelves.

And sure enough, it was. In Convergence Culture Henry Jenkins describes the culture that I -- and probably you -- live in. And even more so, he points out an optimistic track on what the opprotunities technology can bring. But it's not really a technology book; though I think technologists can and should read it. It's about our culture; pop culture, political culture, fan culture, and how they mix together.

He takes examples from some specific "fandoms" -- reality series like Survivor and American Idol; media fantasy francises like The Matrix, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, and our American political system.

I'm intrigued by the idea that society may be teaching itself new skills that can be applied to the political system -- is something like The Lost Experience, where the participants are taking down Thomas Mittlewerk and The Hanso Foundation building the skills that we see in people investigating why Joe Lieberman's Site Is Down, or checking on the authenticity of Reuters photographs.

One of the things I really like about this book is how you can take some of the ideas and see how it applies to other pieces of your culture today; something like the just-conclusing the Minnesota Fringe Festival turns into an example of what Jenkins calls Convergence Culture when you realize that people choose what shows to see based on reviews on the Fringe Festival website and in the various blogs of particpants and audience members -- especially when the person that you sat next to in one show is on the stage of the one following. There's a focus on television, film, and books, but almost every art form has elements of the culture that I see Jenkins describing.

This book also ties together some of the other books that I've been reading this summer; Cory Doctorow's Down And Out In the Magic Kingdom and Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. Two non-fiction and one science fiction views that describe some of the possibilities that are out there. All are books well worth reading and thinking about.

I haven't read the book, but your review sparks this thought. One of the myriad failures of modern culture is the compartmentalisation of people and interests. The distinctions are really artificial and when people buy into the myth that if you are interested in one aspect of humanity, you are opposed to competing or parallel aspects. On the micro level back in the days of Fidonet, Trek and SW fans felt compelled to hate on each others loves. Or Lit fans felt the need to put down "media" fans.
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