I wanted to start this week's edition of the C3
Weekly Update with the latest
news on our MIT C3 Spring Retreat, which will be held May 08 and May 09
here at MIT. As we've noted before, this event is open to our
consulting researchers and anyone affiliated with our corporate
partners. We will be sending an RSVP out to all the newsletter
subscribers in the next couple of weeks, and we hope that many of you
will be able to join us here in Cambridge that Thursday and Friday.
Thursday will begin with lunch, followed by
comments from C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio and
presentations based on many of the research projects the Consortium has
been engaged with during this academic year. We will be presenting work
on understanding the concept of "viral" and our discussion of
spreadable media, from C3 Director Henry Jenkins and C3 Graduate
Student Researchers Ana Domb and Xiaochang Li. C3 Graduate Student
Researcher Eleanor Baird will discuss her work on film promotion
through YouTube and logics for marketing uses of the video sharing
site. C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will be discussing the YouTube
project the Consortium has been engaged with throughout the previous
academic year, and Joshua and I will talk about a variety of other
initiatives the Consortium has engaged with over the past several
months, including Futures of Entertainment 2 and our continuing
relationship with our consulting researchers.
After our internal presentation of our latest
research findings is complete, everyone is invited to a public event
looking at larger questions about how to study sites such as YouTube,
in a Comparative Media Studies Colloquium event from 5 p.m. until 7
p.m. on Thursday evening, followed by a reception.
The second phase of the conference will begin on
Friday morning, with two panels which incorporate the work both of our
consulting researchers as well as industry guests. Matt Wolf from
Double Twenty Products and Keith Clarkson from Xenophile Media will
join some of our consulting researchers in discussing transmedia, while
guests from Forrester and Communispace here in the Boston area will
join some of our consulting researchers in discussing community
management and understanding audiences as communities.
After lunch, the event will culminate in an
afternoon session designed to create a dialogue amongst our corporate
partners and consulting academics. This conversation will begin with an
introductory panel discussing the intersection of industry and academia
and morph into a series of simultaneous conversations on topics such as
participatory culture, audience measurement, gaming, global media flow,
and advertising and marketing, which will include the C3 team,
consulting researchers, corporate partners, and guests. We will the
conclude with a final discussion about how we can best utilize the
opportunities the Consortium affords for dialogue across our
Finally, as is reflected in the calendar of
upcoming events, we again wanted to remind people that Futures of
Entertainment 3 has been set for Nov. 21-22 here at the Wong Auditorium
in the Tang Center at MIT. Be sure to make plans now to attend.
This week's Opening Note features a preview of
David Edery's new book For Fun and Profit: How Games Are
Transforming the Business World, co-authored with Ethan Mollick. As
many of you know, Edery worked here with the Consortium in 2005-2006
and continues to contribute to our project as a consulting researcher.
The Closing Note is the conclusion to the
piece C3 Consulting Researcher Abigail Derecho began last week, looking
at legal precedents set in hip-hop music sampling in the early 1990s
and how it affects the current discussion of "remix culture."
If you have any questions or comments or would
like to request prior issues of the Update, direct them to Sam Ford,
editor of the C3 Weekly Update, at email@example.com.
In This Issue
Opening Note: David Edery Previews His New Book, For
Fun and Profit
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: Abigail Derecho on Creative
Copyright and Fair Pay, Part II
Thursday, April 10, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Our World Digitized: The
Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Featuring Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein: Bartos Theater, Wiesner
Building, MIT Media Lab
Co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media
Thursday, April 24, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Youth and Civic
Featuring Lance Bennett, Ian V. Rowe: Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building,
MIT Media Lab
Co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media
Friday, April 25
Passions 2008 Conference
C3 Project Manager Sam Ford presents "Outside the Target Demographic"
as part of the Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old panel.
Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09
C3's Spring Retreat
Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26
for Social Impact, Conference of the
Interntional Communication Association
C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will make two presentations at this
Montreal event. Details forthcoming.
Thurs., June 19, to Sunday, June 22
Culture Theory Conference 2008
C3 Director Henry Jenkins, C3 Research Manager Joshua Green, and C3
Project Manager Sam Ford are going to be panelists for a plenary
this Suffolk University event here in Boston. More information
Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22
MIT Futures of Entertainment 3.
The Consortium's annual public conference is scheduled
for the weekend before Thanksgiving. We look forward to seeing a
variety of our partners at the event and will have more information
forthcoming after our Spring Retreat.
For Fun and Profit
One game-based approach to teaching teamwork skills is
to focus on very specific problems that are usually hard to identify
and correct. For example, one such problem is that teams often prove
dumber than their individual members. This is caused by a phenomenon
known as "process loss" -- the opposite of the "wisdom of crowds."
Process loss happens when teams fail to share information, get trapped
by various conflicting goals, lose themselves in unproductive argument,
and fall into a pattern of groupthink. A game called Everest,
which was designed by Harvard Business School and Forio Business
Simulations, forces players to grapple with all of these issues and
overcome them as a team.
Everest sends MBA students climbing up its
namesake. After watching a harrowing video describing the mountain
climbing experience, students are divided into teams of four and
assigned roles with individual descriptions and goals, ranging from
extreme sports enthusiast to the trip doctor. Over the course of the
next hour, teams work their way up the mountain, and are faced with a
variety of challenges such as oxygen shortages, terrible weather, and
sudden illness. In the end, the only way to win Everest is to
work together as a team, share information, and adapt to rapidly
As a game, Everest doesn't use the flashiest
graphics or deepest interaction to help people suspend disbelief.
Players interact with a stylized map of the mountain through a
selection of check boxes. The experience is rounded out with graphs and
graphics that allow the team meteorologist to predict the weather and
the team doctor to analyze illnesses. The game's genius is in its core
design -- it assigns slightly different goals and provides slightly
different information to each player. The doctor knows crucial
information about various diseases, but cannot act on that information
if the marathon runner fails to report that she is feeling ill -- a
likely occurrence given that the game encourages her to hide the
information. Players are encouraged to chat privately with one another
using an instant messaging system.
These simple elements combine to create a very immersive
and emotional experience -- conspiracies form between the meteorologist
and the photographer, while the doctor hides the fact that there is
only one dose of aspirin remaining. Halfway through the exercise, any
observer will be able to tell the differences between teams that are
overcoming process loss and teams that have succumbed to it. The
functional teams are productively calculating their remaining oxygen
supply, while the dysfunctional teams horde information. Needless to
say, only the functional teams make it to the summit. The result is
powerful lesson to all players, who learn in no uncertain terms what
the cost of poor teamwork can be and the ways in which teamwork
problems might be overcome.
In any game, players are rewarded for learning the rules
of the game and applying those lessons properly. In Everest and
Gorman's Gambit, the rules are designed to encourage teamwork and
punish failures to communicate. They are simple and elegant examples of
how games can be used to teach the principles of good teamwork.
However, as carefully constructed and compelling as these games are,
they fail to take advantage of one of the most interesting recent
discoveries on games and teamwork: massively-multiplayer games
naturally develop and train leaders as part of gameplay.
According to research by IBM and start-up firm
Seriosity, people who play MMOGs like World of Warcraft
naturally learn some of the same leadership techniques taught to MBAs.
Indeed, every skill expected of leaders in the well-studied Sloan
Leadership Model was found to be echoed in online games. This is
because players of MMOGs learn to operate in challenging environments
that encourage people to develop their leadership skills. For example,
to achieve success in an MMOG, players must jointly tackle specific
projects (i.e. "we need to kill that dragon") that require individuals
to persuade and lead groups. MMOGs also help leaders with the difficult
task of team selection by giving players clear roles and skills. A
leader knows they need a teammate who can heal the injured or is
capable of flying, and can easily see whether current team members have
that skill. Finally, MMOGs tend to make incentives very clear ("the
warrior wants armor, the wizard wants a staff, and everybody wants
gold"), which makes it easy for leaders to align the goals of players
on a team. Under these conditions, leadership emerges quickly and
naturally, as individuals step up to lead a team, and then, just as
rapidly, hand off control to other players. This provides lots of
leadership practice to everyone involved.
In fact, in IBM's survey, three quarters of all MMOG
gamers surveyed said that the leadership skills they learned in games
has helped them lead in the workplace. IBM's study concludes, "It's not
a stretch to think resumes that include detailed gaming experience will
be landing on the desks of Fortune 500 executives in the very near
future. Those hiring managers would do well to look closely at that
experience, and not disregard it as mere hobby. After all, that gamer
may just be your next CEO." In both virtual environments built for
training teamwork, and virtual environments made purely for fun, the
social and leadership skills learned are very real.
About the Book
For Fun and Profit is fast-paced tour of the many
ways in which games
are transforming the business world. Already bigger than the music
industry, games are an increasingly influential and well-recognized
part of millions of people's lives. What you may not realize, however,
is that games are also becoming a profoundly important part of the
business world. From connecting with customers, to hiring new
employees, to developing new products and spurring innovation, games
have introduced a new level of fun and engagement to the workplace.
Advertising in games, unlike television, is not a burden to be
suffered between all-too-brief segments of entertainment. Learning in
games, unlike other forms of corporate education, is not a chore -- it
is puzzle-solving, exploration, and experimentation. And innovation in
games, unlike innovation in the lab, is an immediately rewarding
experience that brings consumers and businesses together in a
For Fun and Profit introduces you to how games are
being used to
enhance productivity at Microsoft, increase profits at Burger King,
raise employee loyalty at Sun Microsystems, and encourage consumers to
innovate on behalf of businesses -- for free.
Worldwide Games Portfolio Planner for Xbox Live Arcade in addition to
being a C3 Research Affiliate, in addition to formerly helping manage
C3 and serving as Associate Director for External Relations and Special
Projects for the Comparative Media Studies program here at MIT. He also
runs a blog about the video game industry called Game Tycoon
Glancing at the C3 Blog
the Consortium: Recent Publications from Jenkins, Green, Punathambekar,
and Ford. Sam Ford writes about Henry Jenkins' being featured in The
Chronicle of Higher Education, Joshua Green and Aswin
Punathambekar's pieces for In Media Res, and his own co-written piece
in Bulldog Reporter's Daily Dog.
Articles on the Consortium. Sam Ford shares two recent articles
published in a Brazilian media industries magazine on the Consortium,
Futures of Entertainment 2, etc.
MIT Course on U.S. Soap Operas. Sam Ford provides notes on his
course this spring on soap operas at MIT, including information on the
class blog project associated with the course and Procter &
Gamble's cooperation through the official blog for their production
Presents Wu Ming 1. Sam Ford writes about CMS' recent hosting of Wu
Ming 1 from the Wu Ming Foundation, a collective of writers from Italy.
Henry Jenkins and Final Links. Sam Ford provides final notes from
the SCMS conference on Henry Jenkins' presentation and other links of
interest from the event.
Victoria Johnson on Friday Night Lights. At the SCMS
conference in Philadelphia, Victoria Johnson presented on how promotion
around NBC's FNL demonstrated confusion among critics, viewers,
and the networks about how to understand quality television set in
Amanda Lotz, Max Dawson, and Laurie Ouelette. Sam Ford provides
notes from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in
March on C3 Consulting Researcher Amanda Lotz and others discussing
industry logics, myths, brands, and conceptions of audiences.
the Consortium: Dr. Pepper, The Tolcuhuks, PSFK, etc.. Sam Ford
writes about Ilya Vedrashko's blog entry on Dr. Pepper's new initiative
involving the new Guns'N'Roses album, Aswin PUnathambekar's piece about
Aliens in America, GSD&M Idea City on
information overload, Grant McCracken on the PSFK conference, and Nancy
Baym's writing about becoming a consulting researcher with the
MIT Communications Forum Events. Sam Ford writes about the podcasts
for recent MIT Communications Forum events "Prime Time in Transition"
and "Global Television" being available, as well as upcoming events
such as "Our Worlds Digitized: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"
featuring Henry Jenkins, Yochai Benkler, and Cass Sunstein and
"Youth and Civic Engagement," featuring, among others, MTV Networks'
Media: Hows and Whys" Podcast Available. The Consortium-hosted
colloquium featuring C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf,
Mike Rubenstein from The Barbarian Group, and Fanista's Natalie Lent is
now available as an audio podcast.
Links, and More Links. C3 Director Henry Jenkins writes about a
variety of recent events he and the Program in Comparative Media
Studies have been participating in, including a conversation about
virtual worlds with CMS' Beth Coleman and Jenkins for MIT alum through
the MIT Club of Boston.
Consulting Researchers and Postdoctoral Researcher. Sam Ford
welcomes Nancy Baym, Abigail Derecho, Jonathan Gray, Lee Harrington,
Derek Johnson, Amanda Lotz, and Esteve Olle to the project.
Follow the Blog
Don't forget – you can always post, read, and
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
License to Remix, Part II:
Structuring a Creativity-Copyright Balance by Reviving
Proposals for Digital Appropriations
Last week, C3 Abigail Derecho looked at the 1991
court decision that determined all unlicensed sampling as stealing and
that the right to determine how much to charge for a sampling lies
entirely with the copyright holder, focusing her investigation on the
period before the ruling as handled down and prior understandings of
the need to protect the art and potential commercial value of sampling.
This week's piece provides further analysis on that historical research.
In the first part of this series, I referred to several
law journal articles that appeared between 1989 and 1992 which all
argued for the need for "Fair Pay" structures to be put in place so
that digital sampling practitioners would be able to "sample," or use
bits and pieces of existing media works, without having to pay (often
prohibitively high) licensing fees, and to protect themselves from
copyright infringement lawsuits.
The legal scholars who published these proposals
perceived much aesthetic value in digital sampling. The Harvard
piece states, "copying less than an entire song requires the new artist
to have contributed original creative elements of his own, including
the choice, alteration and arrangement of samples within the new
environment." This belief in the ability (or even requirement) of an
artistic appropriator to demonstrate some uniqueness and originality in
his or her use of a pre-existing material, artifact, or text was, and
continues to be, commonly held in high-art circles.
Picasso's incorporation of African mask-making
techniques in his Cubist works, the re-working of ancient myths in high
modernist classics such as Eliot's Waste Land and Joyce's Ulysses,
the critiques and parodies of mass consumerism offered by Andy Warhol's
Brillo boxes, and the postcolonial revisions of British classics
performed by Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and J.M. Coetzee's Foe,
have all generally been deemed valid artistic practices by art
historians, literary critics, and other gatekeepers of highbrow
culture. However, for the most part, hip-hop, fan films, fan fiction,
viral videos, mash-ups, game mods, and other forms of digital remix
today are utterly devoid of the cultural cachet and artistic legitimacy
that have been accorded to pre- or non-digital appropriations.
I think that the minority origins of digital remix are a
significant reason that this form of cultural production is not
regarded as an art form. But I also think that the fact that digital
remix is not allowed to make money for its producers has inhibited the
evolution of this type of production into an art form.
What would other forms of digital remix be today if,
over the last few years, its most talented and dedicated practitioners
had been allowed to aim for substantial revenues and profits, perhaps
to the point of being able to make a decent living from their remix
productions, maybe even to the point that they were able to invest
substantial amounts of money into the types of remix that they created,
yielding ever more refined and sophisticated iterations of this
still-relatively-new form? Where are the T.S. Eliots, the James Joyces,
Andy Warhols, the Jean Rhyses, the Public Enemys of Web 2.0 digital
remix? Has the current interpretation of copyright law kept our
potential artistic geniuses poor anonymous hobbyists, with no resources
-- either in time or money -- to invest in advancing this new media
culture? What if a future court ruling on digital appropriation
mandated that the media industries and consumer advocacy groups agree
on a Fair Pay system, whereby both copyright holders and appropriators
could benefit from a less restricted development of digital remix?
We know how much excitement and emotional affect can be
generated by the simplest, lowest-quality YouTube mash-up vids. Imagine
a Fair Pay structure that would invite audiences to fund -- perhaps via
subscription fees to certain online "channels," or perhaps merely by
watching advertising that prefaces their favorite productions -- the
creation of the richest, highest-quality remixes that the combination
of digital technologies and human imagination could allow.
Today, we live in a time of what Gramscians would call
an extraordinarily strong cultural consensus around issues of
copyright. Hardly anyone thinks to contest the idea that copyright
holders have the absolute power to determine whether their works can be
used in artistic appropriations, and if so, how much to charge. This
lack of questioning is currently characteristic of American cultural
consumers and producers (and remix artists are both), even though the Grand
Upright ruling was handed down only 17 years ago; even though
digital remix has the potential for great aesthetic value and might be
considered fair use, just as other forms of appropriation have been
deemed to be fair use before it; even though most new media forms,
including film, radio, and cable television, were founded on piracy
(see Lessig); even though the U.S. government has set the terms for
many types of media licensing, including what it costs to record a
cover version of an already-recorded song, what radio stations have to
pay recording artists vs. composers, and what cable TV companies have
to pay for the right to broadcast content made by other TV companies
and film studios.
I have raised the ghosts of the Fair Pay articles
published between 1989 and 1991 partly to encourage a haunting, our
haunting, by the possibilities that existed in our not-too-distant past
for a balance to be achieved between copyright owners and digital remix
artists, and partly because those ghosts are the dim traces of a moment
in our culture's history before our copyright consensus had been
established and sedimented.
In the end, my raising up of the Fair Pay arguments is
not so much a legal argument -- although I would greatly enjoy seeing a
future judge reverse Judge Duffy's 1991 decision -- as much as it is a
cultural studies critique. In Cultural Theory and Popular Culture,
John Storey writes (reading Gramsci), that in a hegemonic society, "the
interests of one powerful section of society have been ‘universalized'
as the interests of the society as a whole. The situation seems
perfectly ‘natural'; virtually beyond serious contention." It is
useful, I believe, to resuscitate the Fair Pay proposals of nearly two
decades ago as tangible proof that the consensus around copyright,
which severely constrains the circulation and use of intellectual
property in our society, was not always embedded in our nation's
Abigail Derecho is currently
a faculty member of the Program in Cultural Studies at Columbia College
Chicago. In Fall 2008, she will join the faculty of the University of
California-Berkeley as Assistant Professor for The
Berkeley Center for New Media and the Department of Theater, Dance
Performance Studies. She researches intersections of minority discourse
with artistic appropriations, Internet piracy, and narrative
serializations in digital contexts.