Chapter 4 Convergence by Jean Burgess Dynamic of Change Homework 1-2 pages, Times New Roman, double-spaced Cite all quotations by MLA style Title your re

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○ Highlight why a particular example in the quote works or doesn’t work, or why the particular argument in the quote works or doesn’t work During this peak in the 2000s, the concept was
14
participatory culture—springing especially from the
Convergence
fact that audiences and fans were now talking about,
Jean Burgess
strongly associated with a certain optimistic vision of
evaluating, curating, and remixing media content via
the same digital networks that media producers were
using to distribute and market it. Henry Jenkins is most
famously associated with this model of media conver-
Convergence is a dynamic of change. In the most
gence, and he elaborated the concept in his influential
neutral and general sense, it describes the tendency for
and much-debated book Convergence Culture: Where Old
separate streams or pathways (whether of matter, of
and New Media Collide (2006).
Copyright © 2017. New York University Press. All rights reserved.
technologies, or of biological life) to come together. Its
Tracing the origin of the concept of media conver-
complement is divergence—the tendency for these same
gence to Ithiel de Sola Pool (1983), Jenkins begins with
paths and streams to branch, fork, and drift apart.
the most orthodox technological definition, which
In the context of media and communication, conver-
has two parts: on the one hand a single physical me-
gence is the tendency of separate media technologies,
dium might perform a number of functions that were
cultural forms, and/or social practices to come together
previously handled separately (in today’s terms, think
to perform similar functions and make new hybrid me-
of smartphones especially); while at the same time a
dia systems. In this sense, it is a key driver of economic,
single cultural function or service can be carried by
technological, and cultural change in the media envi-
several different technologies (think of “television”
ronment. Convergence, then, is one of the constitutive
content, which we can now access in a dizzying va-
dynamics of new media (Hartley, Burgess, and Bruns
riety of ways, including via “smart” television sets
2013). To be able to describe and understand the differ-
that run mobile operating systems and connect to
ent forms convergence takes is to begin to unravel one
app stores). Convergence Culture explores the changing
of the deepest and most long-standing issues in the his-
relationships among cultural producers and consum-
tory of media studies: the nature of the relationship be-
ers under these conditions, which are driven both by
tween technological and sociocultural change.
From the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, the con-
“top-down” and “bottom-up” logics (Jenkins 2006, 18),
focusing particularly on the potential for these new
cept of media convergence was especially prominent.
relationships to lead to a more participatory culture—
It featured in media scholarship, in popular reporting
hence, the optimism. Jenkins does acknowledge the
about the Internet and digital media, and in media
dangers of convergence, including concentrated me-
policy circles. There is even a well-respected academic
dia ownership, despite the lower barriers to cultural
journal that took its title from the concept and the dy-
production afforded by new media technologies. He
namics of media change it represents: the title Conver-
warns that the “cultural shifts, the legal battles, and
gence: The International Journal of Research into New Media
the economic consolidations that are fueling me-
Technologies implicitly suggests that “convergence” is
dia convergence are preceding shifts in the techno-
the primary dynamic of new media.
logical infrastructure,” and that “how those various
47
Keywords for Media Studies, edited by Laurie Ouellette, and Jonathan Gray, New York University Press, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central,
http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nyulibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4717750.
Created from nyulibrary-ebooks on 2019-11-15 10:05:04.
Copyright © 2017. New York University Press. All rights reserved.
transitions unfold will determine the balance of power
Instagram, and YouTube have—in their own distinctive
in the next media era” (17).
ways—created new forms of cultural convergence among
However, other scholars have raised concerns about
the modes of communication and self-expression for-
Jenkins’s approach to convergence—so much so that an
merly characterized as personal media (self-portraiture,
entire special issue of the journal Cultural Studies was
daily journaling) or public communication (journalism,
given over to scholarly critiques of the “overuse” and
news distribution). Zizi Papacharissi and Emily Easton
conceptual limitations of the term, some of which are
(2013, 171–82) have discussed how technologies of social
directed at Jenkins specifically but also at “participa-
convergence like Facebook and Twitter produce a new
tory culture” approaches more generally (see Hay and
habitus—a new way of living in and through media that
Couldry 2011 for an overview). Across the twelve contri-
emphasizes authorship, “accelerated reflexivity,” and
butions to the collection, the recurring themes concern
the blurring of boundaries between cultural production
a perceived lack of attention both to history and power,
and the practice of everyday life, and that have normal-
and to the socially and environmentally destructive im-
ized the very idea of living in a state of constant new-
pacts of technological and economic convergence.
ness. The boundaries between public and private have
Given the acuteness and intensity of this debate in
always been both constructed and dynamic—think of
the mid- to late 2000s and its focus on Jenkins’s work,
the quasi-public sharing of holiday photographs via
the concept of convergence might seem specific to the
the humble slide projector and the vernacular form of
digital era. But media and communications have always
the slideshow, on the one hand, and the public expo-
been shaped by convergence, and new media scholars
sure of private information through “gotcha” tabloid
have long been attentive to both the creative possibili-
journalism on the other—both of which predate digi-
ties and the social dangers associated with it. On the
tal media by many decades. But social media combine
industrial side, James Carey was concerned about the
public communication with interpersonal communica-
centralization of power associated with the “electronic
tion and self-expression in specific ways, not only across
revolution” that was connecting and reconfiguring
platforms but also within single platforms like Facebook,
public, commercial, and personal communication in
leading scholars to talk about new concepts like a “pri-
the mid-twentieth century (Carey and Quirk 1970). On
vate sphere” (Papacharissi 2010) for the circulation of
the consumer side, technological inventions have gen-
public communication via personal stories, or “context
erated surprising new combinations—convergences—of
collapse” for the convergence of our public and private
practical uses not intended by their inventors. The tele-
personae (Marwick and boyd 2011), for example.
phone is an excellent example—intended for broad-
The logics of industrial convergence are having pro-
cast and business but taken over for intimate, personal
found and concerning effects in the social media mo-
communication—thereby transforming both the tele-
ment too; and the “platform paradigm” is a crucial and
communications infrastructure and the practices of ev-
distinctively contemporary form of this (Burgess 2015).
eryday, domestic life (Marvin 1988).
Mega-platforms like Facebook and Google are seeking
Convergence is more significant and challenging
to provide more and more of the services that used to
than ever, in both economic and critical terms. Since
take place in other platforms. Google has risen from a
the mid-2000s, social media like Facebook, Twitter,
scrappy start-up to search giant to global connectivity
ConvergenCe
Jean burGess
48
Keywords for Media Studies, edited by Laurie Ouellette, and Jonathan Gray, New York University Press, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central,
http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nyulibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4717750.
Created from nyulibrary-ebooks on 2019-11-15 10:05:04.
and digital services company, and a single Google signand Gmail) to your personal entertainment system
15
(through Android TVs, tablets, and mobile devices), and
Copyright
your most intimate relationships (through geolocative
Kembrew McLeod
on can connect your workplace (through Google Drive
dating apps, for example). As part of its Internet.org infrastructure project, Facebook, transforming from being
Copyright © 2017. New York University Press. All rights reserved.
a place for college kids to meet up and hang out, is planning to beam its own version of the Internet from the
Copyright law emerged from the technological,
sky to developing countries—indeed, Facebook arguably
economic, and legal-philosophical transformations
wants to supplant the open web in favor of its own op-
produced by the invention of the printing press, the
erating system. For Uber and other “sharing” economy
rise of capitalism, and the ideological construction
businesses, the convergence of personal transport coor-
of the author as owner. The term “copyright” is self-
dination and workforce management within a mobile
defining, for it means, quite literally, the right to copy.
app is only the beginning of a historically significant
Copyright protects all types of original expression—
disruption of our employment and civic infrastructures
including art, literature, music, songs, maps, software,
and how they are managed and governed.
film, and choreography, among other things. In order
Convergence, then, is a dynamic of new media that
to be copyrightable, a work merely needs to rise to the
operates technologically, socially, and industrially. It
most minimal level of originality. But not everything
is neither a revolutionary event that can be located in
does. For example, the US Supreme Court ruled that
the mid-2000s, nor a state that can be permanently
telephone books and other such databases are not
achieved—it’s a persistent tendency, but never a fact. As
copyrightable, because an alphabetical list of names
Papacharissi and Easton note, the dynamics of new me-
and numbers is simply not original or creative enough
dia are “founded upon the premise and the promise of
to be protected by copyright law (Feist v. Rural Telephone
constant change and permanent evolution” (2013, 171).
1991).
In the restless logics of the digital economy, there needs
In 1710 Britain passed the Statute of Anne, which is
to be enough apparent stability to enable us to integrate
often recognized as a predecessor to modern copyright
new media into our everyday lives and for cultural en-
law. Then, in 1790, Congress passed the first copyright
trepreneurs and Silicon Valley start-ups to build new
law in the United States—a country that also was the
cultural forms and viable business models around them,
first to acknowledge copyright and patent rights in its
but there also needs to be enough change and disrup-
Constitution (something that several other nations
tion (which can come from media consumers as much
have emulated). Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Frank-
as from tech companies) to enable new new media to
lin, and their peers were wary of perpetual patents and
emerge.
copyrights, viewing them as state-sanctioned monopolies that deterred the progress of learning, creativity,
and innovation. The Framers of the US Constitution developed a utilitarian theory of copyright that rewarded
49
Keywords for Media Studies, edited by Laurie Ouellette, and Jonathan Gray, New York University Press, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central,
http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nyulibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4717750.
Created from nyulibrary-ebooks on 2019-11-15 10:05:04.

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