Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture

Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture

Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture

Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture

Synopsis

Henry Jenkins"s pioneering work in the early 1990s promoted the idea that fans are among the most active, creative, critically engaged, and socially connected consumers of popular culture and that they represent the vanguard of a new relationship with mass media. Though marginal and largely invisible to the general public at the time, today, media producers and advertisers, not to mention researchers and fans, take for granted the idea that the success of a media franchise depends on fan investments and participation.

Bringing together the highlights of a decade and a half of groundbreaking research into the cultural life of media consumers, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers takes readers from Jenkins's progressive early work defending fan culture against those who would marginalize or stigmatize it, through to his more recent work, combating moral panic and defending Goths and gamers in the wake of the Columbine shootings. Starting with an interview on the current state of fan studies, this volume maps the core theoretical and methodological issues in Fan Studies. It goes on to chart the growth of participatory culture on the web, take up blogging as perhaps the most powerful illustration of how consumer participation impacts mainstream media, and debate the public policy implications surrounding participation and intellectual property.

Excerpt

Hello. My name is Henry. I am a fan.

Somewhere in the late 1980s, I got tired of people telling me to get a life. I wrote a book instead. The result was Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (1992).

This past year, I completed a new book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Intersect (2006), which is in some loose sense a sequel to Textual Poachers.

Poachers described a moment when fans were marginal to the operations of our culture, ridiculed in the media, shrouded with social stigma, pushed underground by legal threats, and often depicted as brainless and inarticulate. Inspired by work in the Birmingham cultural studies tradition, which helped reverse the public scorn directed at youth subcultures, I wanted to construct an alternative image of fan cultures, one that saw media consumers as active, critically engaged, and creative. Poachers defines fans as “rogue readers.” When I was writing the book, a number of fans were nervous about what would happen if their underground culture was exposed to public scrutiny. They didn't love the media stereotypes of “Trekkies,” but they weren't sure they wanted to open the closet doors either.

Convergence Culture describes a moment when fans are central to how culture operates. The concept of the active audience, so controversial two decades ago, is now taken for granted by everyone involved in and around the media industry. New technologies are enabling average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content. Powerful institutions and practices (law, religion, education, advertising, and politics, among them) are being redefined by a growing recognition of what is to be gained through fostering—or at least tolerating—participatory cultures. Many had argued that Textual Poachers should have been informed by political economy perspectives, often . . .

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