In 2006, TIME magazine published the person of the year edition of their magazine with an image of a computer monitor and the word ‘YOU’. The reason being is that this year marked a milestone in the way that entertainment and media was consumed and created. Technology had reached a tipping point where the audience now had the neccessary equiptment to easily broadcast their own media.
This was the same year media theorist Henry Jenkins released his book ‘Convergence Culture.’ Convergence culture describes “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between media industries, and the migratory behaviour of audiences who will go almost anywhere in search for the kinds of entertainment experiences they want.”
It also introduces the idea of participatory culture and the phenomena of User generated content (UGC) that empowers audiences and creators alike to share their ideas and connect through converging media platforms and social networks.
We are currently living in a time of cultural convergence. Old media is transforming and new media is in constant flux. The possibilities are endless; Jenkins is optimistic in his outlook of our contemporary media environment and believes it is different to the Orwellian idea that in 1984 we would all be under the surveillance of video.
Jenkins beleives it is the audience who has the power watch over Big brother. There is a tension between looking backward and looking forward. In the United States, society is conditioned to feel excited about the future and seek refuge in the advancement of new technologies. (Jenkins, 2013.)
Media convergence describes the implementation of new tools for media production and distribution, it also includes the social and cultural practices that stem from a part of participatory media culture; All of these phenomena are enabled by the digitization of media. Our digital media environment has created new forms of consumption, demand and societal participation.
More and more, parts of our domestic lives are becoming digitized and interconnected, wearable fashion, smart fridges and digtial assistants all gather data and contribute to the Internet of Things. IOT as it is known.
In our society we see examples of traditional business models being transformed through digital disruption. Well known examples include the uprise of Netflix and the mass closure of Block Buster stores around the world. The Uber explosion that combines AI and Big Data to connect drivers and passengers. As of May 2017, Uber announced they had completed more than 5 Billion trips since the companies beginning back in 2009. (Muchneeded, 2019.)
Other forms of media convergence we witness daily are through the banking sector, Air Bnb and traditional media companies who have recently heavily invested into the digital space to catch up on startups and early adopters who managed to jump ahead in the digital space.
The rise of new digital platforms that have spawned through technological innovations have resulted in a new style of contemporary cultural literacy. Mobile technologies have developed to the extent that smartphones have become a device where content can be created, published and shared. Within convergence culture, Television can be viewed from a computer and streamed online via digital platforms.
“The shift in the creation and manipulation of texts is illustrative of the practice and discourse of contemporary media-performance theory that celebrates convergence over fragmentation.” (Luber, 2016.)
For Henry Jenkins, the author of Convergence culture, his utopian vision of the future is that of equal participation in our digital media landscape. Where all people are empowered to consume information, publish ideas and connect with like minded communities.
The media is more than technology, content created by the users is consumed as an internet practice. In this era of convergence culture, through social media we carry our relationships with us. Henry Jenkins states we do this similarly to how a turtle carries it shell on its back. It is apart of us. We have the ability to reconnect with people we have lost and share old stories that celebrate lived experiences.
Convergence culture has resulted in the rise of transmedia and multiplatform business models that aim to reach their audiences on their chosen device. The way that media is spread comes from decisions made in company boardrooms from the top of the economic ecosystem this action is replicated by teenagers sharing images of their friends at the skatepark. Sharing with each other is mutually rewarding. Convergence culture allows us to communicate across geographic locations in a participatory discourse.
In considering how this affects the approach of digital distribution, convergence culture has made the audience the priority. “All the tech in the world is a means to an end, and the end is taking your audience somewhere amazing…Try keeping in mind a sort of copernican revolution: instead of thinking of entertainment that lives in a book or a console that your audience has to come to, think of that audience as the sun: try building entertainment that orbits around them. (Lee, E & Stewart, S as cited in Phillips, A. (2012)).
Digital assets are now re cut and re mixed to be distributed via a plethora of channels. Short clips, trailers and image teasers are taken from the finished product and are published through social media, youtube, facebook, twitter, digital magazines, billboards as an attempt to connect with the fragmented audiences of their chosen platform. New technologies have broken down the boundary between artists and consumer, so behind the scenes content and comments have created new dialogues.
Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a creative project are dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Each medium makes its own contribution to the unfolding of the story. (Jenkins, Cited in Phillips, 2012).
In Australia, for adults 18+ the favored device for consuming media is that of the mobile device. In March 2018, a study by Nielsen research discovered that mobile consumption had increased 12% from 2017. Where mobile consumption increases more and more storytellers are forced to adapt their distribution strategy to target this audience. (Nielsen, 2018.)
In the realm of media ecology, where the content holds our attention on a personal level, it is the medium of these mobile technologies that has the greatest impact on human affairs, it’s not the messages that we send and receive. It is the materials we work with, and the methods we use to work with them that have the most to do with the final outcome of our labours. (Strate, 2008).
Jenkins, Henry. (2013). Henry Jenkins. UNED. [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1473&v=1nrWcFPjnCc
Jenkins, Henry. (2012). Henry Jenkins – What Is Media Convergence? Ehu Terminology. [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFbJCdCoNIc
Luber, Steve. (2016). Convergence and Contingency: The Early Media Work of Reid Farrington. Theatre Journal. Washington D.C. Vol. 68, Iss.3. Retrieved from: https://search-proquest-com.saeezproxy.idm.oclc.org/docview/1877820947/25284E412F974E21PQ/6?accountid=145504
Nielsen, (2018). Australians 18+ Spent 12% More Time on Smartphones in February 2018 versus a year ago. Nielsen. Retrieved from: http://www.nielsen.com/au/en/press-room/2018/february-2018-digital-ratings.html
Phillips, Andrea. (2012). A creator’s guide to transmedia storytelling. McGraw Hill Books. USA.
Strate, Lance. (2008). Studying Media as Media: Mcluhan and the Media Ecology Approach. CMS Faculty Publications. Retrieved from: https://fordham.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1004&context=comm_facultypubs