Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

I skimmed the above book at rapid-fire pace today, and here's what I came away with:

Jenkins is all about how multiple forms of media allow consumers to become participants. He wrote chapters on the group that tried to sleuth out how each season of Survivor would end by analyzing the footage frame-by-frame, the American Idol participatory phenomenon, and the Matrix with its "transmedia storytelling" through 3 movies, games, and websites. Jenkins writes: "Transmedia storytelling is the art of world making." And I think of all those fantasy novelists who have always been involved with world making, but their worlds were specific to the medium of print. Except when there were also role playing games... "Transmedia storytelling" is an interesting idea, and one I imagine I'll be mulling over for awhile.

Finally, he has a chapter on Harry Potter, which I know I'll be assigning to my students for next fall, because it's all about children as writers, not just readers. In the chapter "Why Heather Can't Write" (a play on the old Why Johnny Can't Read), Jenkins details the creation of a fake newspaper for Hogwarts by a homeschooled middle-schooler in Mississippi which then became a major hub of fan fiction, or stories written by fans to extend the world of the book or books. Harry Potter "fan fic" has been written for and by readers of all ages on many different websites. Heather had an edge as a site for kids because her goals were essentially educational, to get children like herself deeply involved with reading and writing. And then Warner Bros. and Scholastic attacked, which went badly; 1,500 people signed a petition to get them to leave her site alone. The corporate media withdrew, realizing they were attacking the heart of their own fan base. Jenkins also gets into the right-wing reactions to Harry Potter in this chapter, but that part of the story was less exciting (and more familiar) to me than the part that emphasized children as producers of media.

I'd recommend this to anybody engaged in thinking about media or storytelling, especially those who want a clear overview of the academic debates that preceded his approach.

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