C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

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 partnerships.

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


In This Issue

Editor's Note

Opening Note: David Edery Previews His New Book, For Fun and Profit

Glancing at the C3 Blog

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 Engagement
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
Console-ing 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
Communicating 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
Consumer 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 session at this Suffolk University event here in Boston. More information forthcoming.

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.

Opening Note

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 changing circumstances.

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 revolutionary manner.

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.

David Edery is currently 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

Around 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.

MeioDigital 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.

My 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 company.

CMS 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.

SCMS: 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.

SCMS: 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 Texas.

SCMS: 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.


Around 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 Consortium.

Spring 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' Ian V. Rowe.

"Viral 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, 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.

New 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 carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.

Closing Note

License to Remix, Part II:

Structuring a Creativity-Copyright Balance by Reviving Fair Pay 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 consciousness.

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.

The Fine Print

Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium.


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