2007 Symposium Summary Part 4

Frontiers of New Media 2009 is less than two weeks away! As the symposium approaches, I’d like to do a few posts looking back at the 2007 Frontiers of New Media symposium, reviewing the conversations we had there and building a sort of bridge to this year’s symposium. This is made possible by the fact that all the formal talks–though not, alas, the many great interstitial conversations over coffee, beer, sushi, what have you–from the 2007 symposium have been saved as podcasts, and also by the remarkable fact that I’ve saved my notes from the first symposium. (Which goes to show how terrific it was.)

The keynote speaker for the 2007 symposium was Henry Jenkins, then the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. His talk was entitled “Participatory Culture, Lead Use(r)s, and Moral Economy: How Convergence Culture is Changing the Relations Between Producers and Consumers,”and you can hear or download it here.

The talk grew out of Henry’s best-selling and hugely influential book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, but it updated and I would say darkened the generally upbeat picture of “convergence culture” presented in the book. One of the strongest aspects of the talk, for me, was Henry’s willingness to raise tough questions about the moral economy of Web 2.0. In the fan culture world that Henry has moved in and studied for years, works of participatory culture–fan fiction, mashups, augmented reality games, and the like–are often labors of love, made and shared with little thought of financial reward. Yet by 2007, participatory culture was also big business, and for many, the Web 2.0 business model was to find ways to monetize what fan communities had done and were doing for free.

Meeting and talking to Henry was a high point of the 2007 symposium. He didn’t just drop in for the keynote but was able to stay for the whole thing, and had great feedback for everyone in the final wrap-up session (about which I will post anon). Plus, he and I had a great conversation over lunch about comic books that chased all the non-comic nerds away from the table.

Henry is now the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California. His most current work involves transmedia or cross-media storytelling. Here’s a little bit of video where he talks about the concept.

Henry Jenkins on Transmedia – November 2008 from niko on Vimeo.

I was happy to see that Henry has stayed in touch with Daren Brabham, a Ph.D candidate in Communication here at the University of Utah. Daren did much of the organizational work for the 2007 conference–he even picked me up at the airport. Last month, Henry posted a great essay by Daren on crowdsourcing and governance at his blog. That’s just a slice of the cool stuff Daren is working on–check out Next Stop Design, where he’s crowdsourcing the design of a better bus stop!