February 2008 Abstracts

Facebook's Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion, and Social Convergence

danah boyd
Harvard University and University of California-Berkeley, USA

Not all Facebook users appreciated the September 2006 launch of the ‘News Feed’ feature. Concerned about privacy implications, thousands of users vocalized their discontent through the site itself, forcing the company to implement privacy tools. This essay examines the privacy concerns voiced following these events. Because the data made easily visible was already accessible with effort, what disturbed people was primarily the sense of exposure and invasion. In essence, the ‘privacy trainwreck’ that people experienced was the cost of social convergence.

Key Words / privacy / Facebook / exposure / invasion / convergence / social network sites

Doctor Who and the Convergence of Media: A Case Study in ‘Transmedia Storytelling’

Neil Perryman
University of Sunderland, UK

The British science fiction series Doctor Who embraces convergence culture on an unprecedented scale, with the BBC currently using the series to trial a plethora of new technologies, including: mini-episodes on mobile phones, podcast commentaries, interactive red-button adventures, video blogs, companion programming, and ‘fake’ metatextual websites. In 2006 the BBC launched two spin-off series, Torchwood (aimed at a post-watershed audience) and The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures (for 11-15 year olds), and what was once regarded as an embarrassment to the Corporation now spans the media landscape as a multi-format colossus. This article critically explores many of the transmedia strategies the BBC have employed in re-launching this property. Has it resulted in a richer and more entertaining experience, or is it merely an economic exercise in merchandising and branding? Can these mediums really work together to create a coherent and satisfying whole?

Keywords / transmedia storytelling / convergence culture / mobile media / interactive television / participatory culture / cultural memes

Emerging Participatory Culture Practices: Player-Created Tiers in Alternate Reality Games

Christy Dena
University of Sydney, Australia

This paper introduces an emerging form of participatory culture, one that is not a modification or elaboration of a primary producer's content. Instead, this paper details how the artifacts created to 'play' a primary producer's content has become the primary work for massive global audiences. This phenomenon is observed in the genre of alternate reality games (ARGs) and is illustrated through a theory of 'tiering'. Tiers provide separate content to different audiences. ARG designers tier their projects, targeting different players with different content. ARG player-production then creates another tier for non-playing audiences. To explicate this point, the features that provoke player-production - producer-tiering, ARG aesthetics and transmedia fragmentation - are interrogated, alongside the character of the subsequent player-production. Finally, I explore the aspects of the player-created tiers that attract massive audiences, and then posit what these observations may indicate about contemporary artforms and society in general.

Key Words / culture / media / alternate reality games / game design / narrative / transmedia / aesthetics / audience / complexity / personalization / player types.

Video Game Appropriation through Modifications: Attitudes Concerning Intellectual Property among Modders and Fans

Hector Postigo
University of Utah, USA

This article investigates an instance in convergence culture: the conflicts and compromises between modders [1] and their supporters, and the owners of the copyrighted works they appropriate. I suggest that current copyright ownership in cultural products interfere with the way creative industries can benefit from convergence; that modders (and fans generally) develop a specific rationale and set of norms rooted in Jenkins’ concept of a ‘moral economy’ (Jenkins, 2006) to justify their appropriations; and that mutually beneficial relationships can be teased out of the apparently contradictory positions of modders and copyright owners. This article focuses on two case studies that illustrate the ways modders re-use cultural products and incorporate them into their video game modifications to achieve a sense of creative ownership and meaning over their entertainment experience.

Key Words / modding / modders / intellecutual property / moral economy / video game fans

Crowdsourcing as a Model for Problem Solving: An Introduction and Cases

Daren C. Brabham
University of Utah, USA

Crowdsourcing is an online, distributed problem-solving and production model that has emerged in recent years. Notable examples of the model include Threadless, iStockphoto, InnoCentive, the Goldcorp Challenge, and user-generated advertising contests. This article provides an introduction to crowdsourcing, both its theoretical grounding and exemplar cases, taking care to distinguish crowdsourcing from open source production. This article also explores the possibilities for the model, its potential to exploit a crowd of innovators, and its potential for use beyond for-profit sectors. Finally, this article proposes an agenda for research into crowdsouring.

Key Words / collective intelligence / crowdsourcing / distributed problem solving / Goldcorp Challenge / InnoCentive / open source / iStockphoto / Threadless / wisdom of crowds

Being Real in the Mobile: A Case Study on Convergent Mobile Media as Domesticated New Media in Seoul, South Korea

Larissa Hjorth
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Convergence has become part of burgeoning mobile media. The mobile phone has come of age. As a integral component of visual media cultures, camera phone practices are arguably both extending and creating emerging ways of seeing and representing. In media footage of late, camera phones have been heralded as providing everyday users with the possibility of self-expression and voice in the once one-way model of mass media. Extending practices of analogue photography through its so-called democraticising of photographic media, camera phones are affording users with the ability to document, re-present and perform the everyday. These emerging practices are underscored by the “exchange” and gift-giving economy of the mobile phone (Taylor and Harper 2002) that see new forms of sharing and distribution through various contextual frameworks and archives from MMS, blogs, virtual community sites to actual face-to-face digital storytelling. But is mobile media a new emerging artform?

Convergence has become part of burgeoning mobile media. Whether we like it or not the mobile phone has become a multimedia device par excellence. Epitomising contemporary convergence by way of its smorgasbord of applications and multimedia possibilities, it seems almost impossible to get such a device just for calling without all the 'extras'. But is mobile media a new emerging artform? Is it new media? Or is it a domestic technology? And in an age of convergent media can we distinguish the different media histories? As a symbol of convergent global media, mobile phone practgices are also marked by divergence. This divergence is particularly the case in terms of the increasingly tenacious role of the local in informing and adapting the global. The history of the mobile phone as a communication device inflects the localized practices of mobile multimedia, fusing communication with new media discourses. This article will discuss the rise of mobile communication studies and the role of locality, then turn to one of the centres for mobile innovation, Seoul, to discuss the role of mobile media as new media.

Key Words / domestic technology / locality / mobile media / new media / remediation / South Korea

Redefining Public Service Broadcasting: Multi-Platform Participation

Gunn Sara Enli
University of Oslo, Norway

This article investigates how the communicative relationship between public broadcasters and their audiences is being cultivated through new possibilities for participation offered by new technology. The aim, in the first part of the article, is to examine the strategic functions of multi-platform participation for public service broadcasting (PSB). In order to analyze how programming that has strong associations with the commercial sector is constructed within the context of PSB, the second part presents a case study of the multi-platform format Test the Nation. The article engages with current debates on the role of PSB in a changing technological environment, and explores the dilemma faced by public service broadcasters caught between attracting large audiences while also representing an alternative to the commercial channels. The article draws on analysis of institutional documents from the British BBC, the Swedish SVT, the Norwegian NRK and the US PBS. The documents range from official policy documents and mission statements to press releases and homepages, assembled between 2004 to 2006. The document analysis sheds light on the emergence of audience participation as a strategy for institutional legitimacy and platform expansion, and as a way to develop new sources of revenue. A basic finding is that audience participation is a central strategy in the media companies under scrutiny. The ‘Reithian trinity’ has through several decades been in a process of redefinition, and the articles suggests that public service broadcasting in the digital era may best be described as ‘entertainment, education and participation’.

Key Words / audience participation / convergence / entertainment / institutional strategies / multi-platform formats / Test the Nation

Bedfordshire University

Issues» 2008, Volume 14» February, Number 1» Abstracts