Behind the Twitter Mad-ness – WSJ.com

02/28/2009
Mad Men
Image via Wikipedia

In the digital media convergence concepts of particpatory culture, bottom up media, microblogging, and digital self, this is an interesting article that talks about the phenomenon where people tweet on twitter in the voice and persona of characters from the popular AMC TV show called MadMen.

The people behind three of the most mysterious Twitter accounts, those themed after the AMC television show “Mad Men,” have kept their identities a secret—until now.

So who are @PeggyOlson, @BettyDraper and @Roger_Sterling? Together, the characters from the halcyon days have more than 24,000 followers on the microblog and have written nearly 3,000 tweets, as posts on Twitter are called.

via Behind the Twitter Mad-ness – WSJ.com.

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Broadcast Networks Battling Uphill for Profit and Audience – NYTimes.com

02/28/2009
Image representing New York Times as depicted ...
Image via CrunchBase

This is posted to illustrate the tension in digital media convergence between the current, the past and the future media. When the old model begins to collapse, how do the longstanding media react? If they don’t alter their methods and change to meet new needs, they falter, crumble, and disappear.

Ratings over all for broadcast networks continue to decline, making it harder for them to justify their high prices for advertising. Cable channels are spending more on original shows, which bring in new viewers and dampen their appetites for buying repeats of broadcast shows.

For the networks, the crisis is twofold: cultural and financial. For viewers, the result is more low-cost reality shows, prime-time talk and news programs and sports from the institutions that once made “Hill Street Blues,” “All in the Family” and “Cheers.”

via Broadcast Networks Battling Uphill for Profit and Audience – NYTimes.com.

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What Convergence? TV’s Hesitant March to the Net – NYTimes.com

02/16/2009
A potentially convergent interface

One possible mode of convergence

This is an interesting article that talks about the ways in which television makers may be trying to slow the ‘progress’ of convergence, citing consumer reluctance to surf on their TVs. I say, bring it on.

But perhaps the most surprising thing is not how long it is taking to get the Internet on TV but that, to some degree, that slow pace is deliberate. Television manufacturers simply do not seem to want it.

Sony’s stance is that consumers don’t want an Internet-like experience with their TVs, and we’re really not focused on bringing anything other than Internet video or widgets to our sets right now,” said Greg Belloni, a spokesman for Sony. Widgets is an industry term for narrow channels of Internet programming like YouTube.

Ditto for Sharp Electronics. “I don’t think that consumers are yet ready to access all content on the Internet on the TV,” said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president for marketing at the Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America.

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Seth’s Blog: Solving a different problem

02/05/2009

As usual, Seth makes a great point. The convergence happens naturally, and often there is a evolutionary aspect to the curve of adoption. Sometimes, though, there’s just no comparison. In a way, it’s surprising that we who have internet access at high speeds still have televisions and cables around today. I ask again, when will NBC take down their transmitter, and just use their routers?

If the telephone guys had set out to make something that did what the telegraph does, but better, they probably would have failed. Instead, they solved a different problem, in such an overwhelmingly useful way that they eliminated the feature set of the competition.

The list of examples is long (YouTube vs. television, web vs. newspapers, Nike vs. sneakers). Your turn.

via Seth’s Blog: Solving a different problem.


Week 2 Reading Review & Questions.

02/01/2009
15 minutes of fame.

15 minutes of fame.

1.  Provide a quick over view or summary of the readings  (3 – 5 sentences)   (8pts)

The Federman article on The Cultural Paradox of the Global Village talks about the Internet and the ways in which it is analyzed in terms of McLuhan’s ideas about media.  The article talks about ideas surrounding media such as implosion, metaphoric centripedal and centrifugal force, visual and acoustic space, the concept of Ma, and the DigiSelf, a construct of the author. It also predicts the future of cinema (in what I see as already unlikely), reviews recent media events shaped by blogging, and our new found fascination with our digital self, along with our responsibilites in relation to it.

The introduction to Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins entitled “Worship at the Altar of Convergence” did a very good job, in my opinion, of defining convergence by definition, example, counterexample, and discussion. It described how media’s effects on people, participatory culture, big media, ownership, copyright, mash-ups, and living room or pocket black boxes are all in play in today’s existing convergent culture experience.

2.  Clearly Identify what you feel are 3 key ideas in the readings (8pts)

A key idea of Federman’s is the concept of the DigiSelf, his concept of our identities online which may become a more real us than us to observers, may or may not be owned by us, and which is a literal creation more so than an existence, in which we are the creator (2003). I personally think the name needs some work. A key idea in Jenkins’ introduction was defining convergence itself, which is the idea that traditional and newer mediums, cultural norms, delivery methods, collaborations, are all struggling to be defined in some convergent monolithic way which is unlikely to happen (2006). Another idea of Jenkins’ is that there is no monolithic black box, per se, though many media pundits content producers and delivery companies would love for it to be so — the reality is that each of us loves the way that certain media are interacted with in different contexts, and trying to apply a one size fits all solution would likely only anger consumers (who are also possible participants in the production) (2006).

3.  Support your summary and/or key points with three specific references to the readings (7pts)

On page 5, Federman writes that

“what was once integral – our self, our person, our identity – is now split among our self in the physical world and our many digiSelves, each having an autonomous life of its own. Thus we disconnect from the normal experience of physical and corporeal time and space when we live vicariously through our digiSelf on the Internet (2003).”

Jenkins talks about an early prophet of the idea of convergence, Ithiel de Sola Pool, and quotes Pool (from 1983) as a way of helping to define Convergence, and the Internet’s (and digitization’s) essential role in the process:

“A process called the ‘convergence of modes’ is blurring the lines between media, even between point-to-point communications, such as the press, radio, and television. A single physical means — be it wires, cables, or airwaves — may carry services that in the past were provided in seperate ways…the one-to-one relationship that used to exist between a medium and its use is eroding. (2006, p. 10)”

Jenkins quotes Cheskin Research in explaining the monolithic Black Box fallacy: “The old idea of convergence was that ll devices would converge into one central device that did everything for you (a’ la the universal remote). What we are now seeing is the hardware diverging while the content converges (2006, p. 15).”

4.  Identify the most difficult or challenging concept for you from this week’s readings.  Saying “I don’t know” or “nothing was difficult” is not an adequate response. (8pts)

I would say that the most difficult concept for me this week is still the idea itself of convergence — it seems that there are a hundred different interpretations of it, some contradicting each other, some negating each other. The authors note that it is not an end, but rather a process, and I think that moving target aspect of the concept makes it very difficult to nail down comfortably. This is what I’m getting: Convergence is about different people, cultures, media, and processes now twisting, turning, and reversing roles, exchanging ideas, being entertained, informed, and taught, using one’s own most preferred method, time, and media. Messages are just the beginning — where will they be delivered, how, to whom, between whom? Will the originator of the message retain the ability to keep the message as they intended? Probably not — the viewer has the power of producer, co-producer, reinventor. It’s a wonderful, scary, brilliant, and exciting time in terms of media exchange, but it is not easy to understand all of what’s contained in that magic term, Convergence.

5.  Provide 2 or 3 discussion questions for us to talk about in class (6pts)

What was the last thing you modified and made your own (ranging from a discussion online to a mash up), in terms of media, that would not have been possible before digitization?

How long before the NY Times stops their print editions altogether?

When will NBC Universal turn off their broadcast signal? Have they already?

6. Discuss how this week’s readings might relate to your upcoming presentation, paper or to the “real world.” Here too, saying “I don’t know” or “it does not apply” is not an adequate response.  (8pts)

I feel that the idea of convergence is something I’ve been immersed in for a while now. I maintain blogs on various topics ranging from beer (http://beercritic.wordpress.com) to organizational leadership (you’re looking at it) to myself (http://www.lemasney.com). I sometimes post photos or pages right from my phone. I have lots of black boxes, including the G1 from tmobile, my Tivo, my Satellite reciever, my netflix account, the radio in my var, my iPods, and my laptop. I’m always connected via wifi, 3G, or ethernet. I belong to at least 10 social networks that I’m active in, including facebook, ning.com, flickr, youtube, and friendfeed, which is a collector of content from each of them. I say this as an introduction to the idea that I spend a great deal of time still interacting with people physically, speaking, collaborating, presenting, doing workshops and sessions. I often record these and redistribute the presentation as a way of adding on to what Federman would call my digiSelves. These readings have made me begin to examine in a deeper way the impact that the convergence of media, culture, and interpersonal relationships have had (and will have) on me, and the impact that I have had (and will have) on the convegence of media, culture, and interpersonal relationships.

Questions for Introduction, Convergence Culture

1. What is convergence? Why does the author dismiss the understanding of convergence as a technological process? How does the technological process make convergence possible on the other hand? Please use some examples in your life to illustrate the convergence process.

Convergence is the idea that media, methods, culture, personalities, and identities are all coming together, which is directly opposed to the previously prevalent concept that, for instance, print media and television, would travel in divergent, separate paths of production, delivery, and treatment. Convergence in this author’s voice is specifically referring to the changes to the culture, the effects of the media on the ways that people interact, rather than any simpler explanation of 3 mediums converging upon a laptop over the internet. However, that 3 medium example gives the possibilites of the socio-cultural effects taking place, and without digitization and other keystones of the concepts of convergence, it’s impossible to have the deeper discussion. I’m affected each day by the sociocultural effects of convergence — it affects where I go to eat (yelp.com) what I do to entertain myself (netflix.com) and the way that I capture and share memories (flip camera) but further, it affects the ways in which people can find out what I’ve found out, that collective intelligence piece (friendfeed.com/lemasney). In this way, I’ve become a producer of content simply by consuming. And, it all happens to take place in one place, converging upon my laptop, my sites, and my space and time.

2. Why does the author claim that convergence is “an old concept taking on new meanings” on page 6? Is the new media going to replace the old media? How does the concept of convergence play out in the relationship between the new and old media?

Convergence has beeen happening for a very long time, during which plays had to take on the effects of movies, radio had to take on the effects of television, and live music had to take on the effects of recorded music, then subsequently the effects of digital piracy, resulting in a new resurgence in the importance of live music. It is more likely that the new media will strongly influence and ask older media to adapt, change, and be reborn in a new form. Despite design applications, drafting tables still exist. When will the touchscreen drafting tables arrive, I wonder? Convergence is about the meeting of the mediums, and the potential for the new outcomes that are hopefully better than either of the originals.

3. Please use some examples to discuss how participatory culture helps drive the process of convergence.

When I have the ability to comment, edit, redistribute, publish, discuss, mash-up, videotape, audio record, collaborate, react, and share publically online, I am a different kind of consumer — one that produces, co-produces, and creates. If I decide to participate, I converge, or become closer to one with traditional production — I may publish something on my blog about a show, possibly even editing a scene the way that I might have done it and publishing the clip, which might then in turn get the attention of the original producer. Many things can happen at that point, including influence, collaboration, payment, legal action, or gaining an audience that is more interested in my take than the original.

4. On page 15, the author cites the report from Cheskin Research, “…What we are now seeing is the hardware diverging while the content converges.” Please use the media ownership concentration happening in today’s society to discuss how the media conglomerates take advantage of convergence.

Apple Computer’s iPod is the superlative front runner in the handheld media player market, and until very recently insisted that you use their DRM protected media methodology when purchasing songs from their site. By doing this, they tried to assure market share, brand loyalty (forced), and less likelihood of migration to another platform because of incompatibility with other devices. Zunes can play standard MP3s, for example, but can not play iTunes Music Store protected media. By having all of those eyes coming to one place, they were able to make the ITMS into a delivery method for other kinds of media besides just music, including movies, audiobooks, and more. When you have a single (successful) device that can replace your television, radio, phone, walkman, cd player, voice recorder, and music store, you are making the most of convergence.

5. Convergence also takes place in our every-day life besides in the media industry. We are in the age of convergence culture. How do we define convergence culture?

We can not escape the effects of convergence — because everyone is constantly being exposed to media in different forms, carrying it with them, reading it in print media, catching it in email, catching shares in Facebook, reading RSS feeds, and even watching tv and movies in varios delivery forms, we are all (even those who might decide to not be a part of the participatory culture) increasingly being influenced, and then passing on that influence passively in discussions, actively in sharing online, and internally, as we watch, as we sleep and process all the messages we saw. Convergence culture is the resulting environment that we are all a part of, being affected by our always-on mediums, their cross influences, and the results of those interactions.

Questions for Cultural Paradox article

1. What is the “intriguing paradox” the author refers to?

The author writes “What is the culture of a place that is everywhere and nowhere, that is at once global but renders the globe obsolete, that globalizes the individual yet strips our individuality?” and refers directly to the Internet, digitization, and speaks to a main issue of convergence.

2. According to this article, how is the internet often compared to TV, and how are they different?

They both have interfaces for various sized screens, audio, and video. They are both acoustic spaces, and both alphabetic visual spaces. However, the interactive nature of the internet separates it dramatically from television. The microphone, webcam, mouse and keyboard all give you a way to control and affect the medium differently than a remote control. In television, he producers and the consumers are in two very different positions. On the internet, the rules of the roles of producer vs. consumer are not just blurry, they’re missing.

3. Discuss what the author means by television’s centripetal force and the Internet’s centrifugal force?

Television expects you to take it all in — the media comes towards you, you take it in like an imploding whirlpool, and that’s it. The internet allows you to reverse the direction, spinning outward, sharing media, sharing ideas, and exploding with content going outward to everyone.

4. What does the author mean by DigiSelf, and how is it related to the Greek Narcissus myth identified by McLuhan?

The digiSelf is the author’s construct to describe an online identity. McLuhan’s belief was that Narcissus did not fall in love with himself, but rather that he did not recognize his self image, and therefore, fell in love with someone else (Fisher, n.d.). There is a connection there that says that we can easily create an online persona that we do not recogize as ourselves, that can be far more witty, interesting, and engaged than we are ourselves. We might also interact with others online as our digiSelf in ways that we would never consider (abuse, shouting, rudeness, aggressiveness, assault, debauchery) in physical reality.

5. Comment on the following: “Like acoustic space we cannot shut out the effects of the Internet on our culture and society even if we choose not to use it.”

Even if you do not use the internet, you likely know a lot about its cultural effects. Obama’s success in the 2008 election was strongly influenced by internet activity (twitter account, youtube publishing, change.gov), for example, and all of us in the US are affected by that outcome, even if we never visited a web site, wrote an email, or watched a video online.

References

Federman, M. (2003, February 10). Cultural Paradox of the Global Village. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.utoronto.ca/mcluhan/article_culturalparadox.htm.

Fisher, M. (n.d.). Flatline_Constructs 2.6 From Narcissism to Schizophrenia. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from http://www.cinestatic.com/trans-mat/fisher/FC2s6.htm.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press.