We are pleased to announce that the Futures of Entertainment 6 conference will be held on Friday, Nov. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Bartos Theater on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, MA. Registration is available here. Also, note there is a pre-conference MIT Communications Forum free and open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 8. Some details below.

At the two-day conference, each morning will be spent discussing key issues faced by media producers, marketers, and audiences alike, at the heart of “the futures of entertainment.” Each afternoon, we will look into how some of those issues are manifesting themselves in specific media industries.

Here is the schedule outline, as well as some of the confirmed panelists who will be joining us at the event. More information will be released regularly from @futuresof on Twitter.


Thursday, Nov. 8

7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.: MIT Communications Forum Pre-FoE6 Event at Building E25 Room 111.


New Media in West Africa

Despite many infrastructural and economic hurdles, entertainment media industries are burgeoning in West Africa. Today, the Nigerian cinema market–”Nollywood”–is the second largest in the world in terms of the annual volume of  films distributed, behind only the Indian film industry. And an era of digital distribution has empowered content created in Lagos, or Accra, to spread across geographic and cultural boundaries. New commercial models for distribution as well as international diasporic networks have driven the circulation of this material.  But so has rampant piracy and the unofficial online circulation of this content. What innovations are emerging from West Africa? How has Nigerian cinema in particular influenced local television and film markets in other countries across West Africa, and across the continent? What does the increasing visibility of West African popular culture mean for this region–especially as content crosses various cultural contexts, within and outside the region? And what challenges does West Africa face in continuing to develop its entertainment industries?


Fadzi Makanda, Business Development Manager, iROKO Partners

Derrick “DNA” Ashong, leader, Soulflége

Colin Maclay, Managing Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

Moderator: Ralph Simon, head of the Mobilium Advisory Group and a founder of the mobile entertainment industry


Friday, Nov. 9 

7:30 a.m. Registration Opens

8:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m.:

Opening Remarks from FoE Fellows Laurie Baird and Ana Domb

9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.:

Listening and Empathy: Making Companies More Human

Media properties have long measured audiences with Nielsen ratings, circulation numbers, website traffic and a range of other methods that transform the people who engage with content into that aggregate mass: the audience. Meanwhile, marketing logic has long been governed by survey research, focus groups, and audience segmentation. And, today, executives are being urged to do all they can to make sense of the “big data” at their fingertips. However, all these methods of understanding audiences–while they can be helpful–too often distance companies from the actual human beings they are trying to understand. How do organizations make the best use of the myriad ways they now have to listen to, understand, and serve their audiences–beyond frameworks that aim to “monitor, “surveil,” and “quantify” those audiences as statistics rather than people? What new understandings are unearthed when companies listen to their audiences, and the culture around them, beyond just what people are saying about the organization itself? What advantages do companies find in embracing ethnographic research, in thinking about an organization’s content and communications from the audience’s perspective, and in thinking of “social media” not just as a new way to market content but a new and particularly useful channel for communicating, collaborating and conducting business?


Lara Lee, Chief Innovation and Operating Officer, Continuum

Grant McCracken, author, CulturematicChief Culture Officer

Carol Sanford, author, The Responsible Business

Emily Yellin, author, Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us

Moderator: Sam Ford, Director of Digital Strategy, Peppercomm


11:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: “Networking Break


11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.:

The Ethics and Politics of Curation in a Spreadable Media World 

A One-on-One Conversation with Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova and Undercurrent’s Joshua Green

We live in an environment where the power of circulation is no longer solely–arguably, even primarily–in the hands of media companies. However, if that means we all now play a role as curator and circulator of content, what responsibilities does that bring with it? How is curation becoming an important aspect of the online profile of professional curators? And, for all of us who participate in social networking sites or who forward content to family and friends via email, what are our obligations to both the creators of that content and to the audiences with whom we share it? If we possess the great power to spread content, what are the great responsibilities that come along with it?


12:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m.: Lunch Break


1:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.:

The Futures of Public Media

Public media creators and distributors often face a wide variety of strains on resources which impact their ability to innovate how they tell their stories. Yet, in an era where existing corporate logics often restrain how many media companies and brands can interact with their audiences–or how audiences can participate in the circulation of media content–public media-makers are, at least in theory, freed from many of the constraints their commercial counterparts face. How have the various innovations in producing and circulating content that have been discussed at Futures of Entertainment impacting public media-makers? How do the freedoms and constraints of public media shape creators’ work in unique ways? How have innovations happening in independent media, civic media, and the commercial sector impacting those creators? And what can we all learn from their innovation and experiences?


Andrew Golis, Director of Digital Media and Senior Editor, FRONTLINE

Nolan Bowie, Senior Fellow and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Rekha Murthy, Director of Projects and Partnerships, Public Radio Exchange

Annika Nyberg Frankenhaeuser, Media Director, European Broadcasting Union

Moderator: Jessica Clark, media strategist, Association of Independents in Radio


3:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m.: Coffee Break


4:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m.:

From Participatory Culture to Political Participation

Around the world, activists, educators, and nonprofit organizations are discovering new power through their capacity to appropriate, remix, and recirculate elements of popular culture. In some cases, these groups are forging formal partnerships with media producers. In other cases, they are deploying what some have called “cultural acupuncture,” making unauthorized extensions which tap into the public’s interest in entertainment properties to direct their attention  to other social problems. Some of these transmedia campaigns — Occupy, for example — are criticized for not having a unified message, yet it is their capacity to take many forms and to connect together diverse communities which have made these efforts so effective at provoking conversation and inspiring participation. And, as content spreads across cultural borders, these activists and producers are confronting new kinds of critiques —such as the heated debates surrounding the rapid spread of the KONY 2012 video. Are new means of creating and circulating content empowering citizens, creating new forms of engagement, or do they trivialize the political process, resulting in so-called “slactivism”? What are these producers and circulators learning from media companies and marketers, and vice versa? What new kinds of organizations and networks are deploying this tactics to gain the attention of young consumer-citizens? And, for all of us, what do we need to consider as we receive, engage with, and consider sharing content created by these individuals and groups?


Sasha Costanza-Chock, Assistant Professor of Civic Media, MIT

Dorian Electra, performing artist (“I’m in Love with Friedrich Hayek”; “Roll with the Flow”)

Lauren Bird, Creative Media Coordinator, Harry Potter Alliance

Bassam Tariq, co-creator, 30 Mosques in 30 Days

Moderator: Sangita Shresthova, Research Director of CivicPaths, University of Southern California


6:15 p.m.-6:45 p.m.:

Closing Remarks from FoE Fellows Maurício Mota and Louisa Stein


Saturday, Nov. 10

7:30 a.m. Registration Opens

8:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m.:

Opening Remarks from FoE Fellows Xiaochang Li and Mike Monello

9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.:

Curing the Shiny New Object Syndrome: Strategy Vs. Hype When Using New Technologies

With the constant barrage of new technologies, platforms, and services vying for attention, media producers and marketers are frequently lost among the potential places–and ways–of engaging with their audiences. Before they have ever truly figured out one technology, they’ve already moved to another, because of an intense desire to be “first.” As such, companies and media properties have launched–and then abandoned–their virtual world presence, their mobile app, their social game, and their QR code and are now exploring “social TV,” “Twitter parties,” Pinterest pages, augmented reality, and location-based initiatives. This leaves the web littered with old blogs, microsites, and profiles and companies blaming technologies when, too often, it’s been the lack of strategy that led to no traction. How do storytellers and communicators build a framework to more intelligently choose technologies based on how a platform aids their story and their audience, rather than a “gee whiz…get me one of those” approach? How does–or should–listening to the audience factor into this process? And what role, or responsibility, do technology creators have to help with this integration process? Drawing on examples contemporary and historical, this panel looks at how and when to take risks with new platforms, the difference between “innovative failure” and “failure to innovate,” and the deeper patterns of engagement that help us make sense of how new platforms and behaviors connect to longstanding means of engagement.


Todd Cunningham, Futures of Entertainment fellow and television audience research leader

Jason Falls, CEO, Social Media Explorer

Eden Medina, Associate Professor of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University

David Polinchock, Director, AT&T AdWorks Lab

Mansi Poddar, co-founder, Brown Paper Bag

Moderator: Ben Malbon, Managing Director, Google Creative Lab


11:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: Networking Break


11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.:

Rethinking Copyright

A discussion with musician, songwriter, and producer T Bone BurnettHenry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California; and Jonathan Taplin, Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.

As the recent legislative battles have demonstrated, it’s becoming painfully clear that our conception of copyright is ill-prepared for regulating and making sense of a world where media content is fluidly circulated by most of a society. However, in an effort make content free to spread in the ways audiences find them relevant, what is the appropriate balance to ensure that the rights of content creators are preserved and that the incentive to develop intellectual property remains? Rather than continue a debate in which audiences and critics attack copyright while media companies cling to them, how might we cut through current tensions to collaboratively imagine what a new sense of copyright, appropriate for an era of “spreadable media,” might look like?


1:00 p.m.-2:15 p.m.: Lunch Break


2:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m.:

The Futures of Video Gaming

Many innovations in the creative industries owe their roots and inspiration to the gaming world, from audience engagement and storytelling techniques to distribution methods and cross-platform integration. This session examines some of the critical questions facing those working in the gaming industry as large companies and indie developers grapple with the challenging evolution of the market brought on by new networked technologies, audience practices, and business models. How are game developers embracing or rejecting the unauthorized play of games online, and how has piracy evolved as a discourse in the gaming sector? How do creators strategize around the widespread circulation of games through automated propagation (using friend invitations for social and “free to play” games) — or grassroots spreading (for unexpectedly popular titles like Minecraft) — of information through social network sites? How badly are new architectures (Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, PSN Network) clashing with old traditions (game stores, $60 game discs)? And how are business models in the gaming industry shifting as we see massive success simultaneously from high-budget technology like Kinect and low-budget distribution like the Humble Bundle?


T.L. Taylor, Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies, MIT

Christopher Weaver, founder of Bethesda Softworks and industry liaison, MITGameLab

Ed Fries, architect of Microsoft’s video game business and co-founder of the Xbox project

Walter Somol, head of tech community outreach, Microsoft New England Research and Development Center

Moderator: Futures of Entertainment Fellow and games producer Alec Austin


4:15 p.m.-4:45 p.m.: Networking Break


4:45 p.m.-6:45 p.m.:

The Futures of Storytelling and Sports

Throughout the history of mass media, sports programming has been an innovator. In today’s era of online circulation, transmedia storytelling, and 24/7 access to engaging with sports stars, teams, and fellow fans, sports franchises could be argued as the most immersive of storyworlds–with drama playing out in real-time, and the “narrative world” being our own. What is driving innovation in how sports tell their stories, and get their fans more engaged than ever, through multiple media platforms? How does operating as a media franchise in our everyday world set sports apart from entertainment properties? How are sports empowered by being “real,” and what constraints does that place on what they can do as well? How are talent engaged to be part of the storytelling? And what innovations are seen as sports are extended wholly into the fictional realm, whether through licensed extensions or various forms of “sports entertainment”?


Abe Stein, researcher at Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab; graduate student, Comparative Media Studies, MIT; columnist, Kill Screen

Peter Stringer, Senior Director of Interactive Media, Boston Celtics

Jena Janovy, Enterprise Editor, ESPN.com

Jamie Scheu, associate content director, Hill Holliday

Moderator: Alex Chisholm, transmedia producer and Co-Founder and Executive Director, Learning Games Network


6:45 p.m.-7:15 p.m.:

Closing Remarks from FoE Fellow Sheila Seles and Heather Hendershot, Comparative Media Studies, MIT


7:15 p.m.: Post-Conference Workshop–The Futures of Transmedia Studies: Collaborations in and beyond Higher Education

This post-conference workshop invites academic and industry participants to discuss how those in higher education can most effectively teach and research the topics and issues raised in FoE6.  Topics for discussion may include some of the following:

-What from FoE6 can participants in the field of higher education take back to their classrooms and research?

-What disciplinary and institutional structures in higher education provide excellent models of support for transmedia teaching and research?

-How can we improve collaboration in our teaching and research across disciplines and institutions—including potential industry partners?

-How can we find grants and otherwise “pitch” transmedia to generate funding for our teaching and research?

-How can institutions of higher education themselves best make use of transmedia practices/platforms?


This workshop will also discuss the possibility of initiating a research collaboration of the futures of transmedia studies with an eye toward a presentation/publication ready for FoE7.


Contact person:

Ted Hovet
Professor of English and Film Studies
Western Kentucky University