C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

We are only three weeks away from our C3 Spring Retreat. Many of you have received an RSVP in the past week asking you to let us know if you plan to attend this year. Again, the event is free of charge to all C3 consulting researchers and employees of our five partner companies.

The Closing Note to the C3 Weekly Update this week includes the full schedule for Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09. We ask that you please let us know if you are planning to attend by Friday, May 02. Also, please spread word around to others in our partner companies who might be interested in attending but who may not be on our newsletter distribution list.

In addition to providing that schedule in the newsletter this week, we have an Opening Note from one of the C3 Consulting Researchers who will be participating in the retreat next month: Jonathan Gray. If you attended our MIT Futures of Entertainment 2 event last November, you may remember Jonathan from the opening session of Saturday's event. Jon is going to be leading a panel on transmedia at the retreat and presents here an excerpt from his latest publication, dealing with television, hype, and the concept of paratexts. The full version of this piece was published in last month's edition of The International Journal of Cultural Studies.

Our MIT Communications Forum called "Our World Digitized: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly," moderated by C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins and featuring Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein, went well. For those not in the area or unable to attend, there is audio currently available from the event, and video will be available soon. In our "Glancing at the C3 Blog" section, you can find more about that event. Please note from the "Upcoming" calendar that the final MIT Communications Forum of the spring, entitled "Youth and Civic Engagement," is set for next Thursday, featuring--among others--MTV Networks' Ian V. Rowe. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend, as I will be presenting at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

In addition to the final MIT Communications Forum of the spring, there will also be another event taking place in Cambridge that many folks around the Program in Comparative Media Studies are involved in: ROFLCon. While conference attendance is closed, some C3 folks will be in attendance, and C3 Graduate Student Researcher Xiaochang Li plans to give the event some coverage through the Consortium's blog over the next couple of weeks.

Otherwise, we have publicly released the dates for our Futures of Entertainment 3 event through the blog, so please be sure to tell anyone you think might be interested in attending to mark Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 on their calendars now. We will be releasing more information on the event throughout the next several months.

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: Jonathan Gray on Paratexts

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: The Lineup for C3 Spring Retreat May 8-9


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

An Excerpt from "Television Pre-Views and the Meaning of Hype"

Yesterday's clichéd wisdom to "not judge a book by its cover" has in today's multimedia, synergy-filled environment turned into "don't believe the hype." But either imperative is near-impossible to follow: how can we not at least start to judge a book by its drab or glamorous cover, and how can we not pay attention to the media hype that covers the cityscape, from billboards, to radio stations, to bus-stop ads, to commercial breaks, and to various forms of guerrilla marketing?

Hype works best by completely surrounding a text with ads, the goals being not only that as many people as possible will hear about a text, but that they will hear about it from industry-created hype. Hype aims to be the first word on any text, so that it creates excitement, working to create frames through which we can make sense of the text before even consuming it.

Given that the mediascape is filled with more products than we could ever hope to consume, a key role of hype is to give us reasons to watch, read, or listen to this media product. In short, hype succeeds by creating meaning.

Research within the field of media studies has more traditionally seen hype wholly in economic terms, as something that makes money for the cultural industries, and that excitedly tells us to consume. But the demand that we consume would be futile if it did not provide reasons, if it did not create its own text or textual promise.

After all, our world is saturated with ads, and yet we deflect many of these daily. Ads and hype cannot merely demand our consumption: they must buy it with textuality, creating some form of script and meaning for the product in question, giving us some sense that this product will offer us something in particular.

However, if this is so, then many interactions that we have with texts will be set up and framed by the hype that we consume; more than merely point us to the text at hand, this hype will have already begun the process of creating textual meaning, serving as the first outpost of interpretation.

We may in time resist this, by not "judging the book by its cover" or not "believing the hype," but first the cover and the hype tell us what to expect, fashion our excitement and/or apprehension, and begin to tell us what a text is all about, calling for our identification with and interpretation of that text before we have even seemingly arrived at the text.

~ ~ ~

Hype and synergy are terms inescapably connected to the realm of finances, profits, and balance sheets; therefore, to shift the discussion to their textual/interpretive role, I pose that we use Gerard Genette's term, "paratext." Writing of books, Genette spoke of paratexts as all those elements surrounding a text that are not perceived as wholly of the text – such as book covers, typeface, prefaces, paper quality, reviews, and so on. As the subtitle to the English translation of his book Paratexts insists, Genette sees paratexts as the "thresholds of interpretation," in that we can only experience a text by going through its paratexts. Genette observed that while paratexts can exist without a text, all texts are surrounded by paratexts, never wholly free from a paratextual entourage.

Ultimately, a paratext works as "an airlock that helps the reader pass without too much difficulty from one world to the other, a sometimes delicate operation, especially when the second world is a fictional one." In other words, paratexts guide our entry to texts, setting up all sorts of meanings and strategies of interpretation, and proposing ways to make sense of what we will find "inside" the text.

When viewed as paratexts, hype and synergy become inherently textual and interpretive, therefore, working to create structures of meaning for texts-to-come. Moreover, if we use the language of paratextuality, this also allows us to consider the role that non-industry-created paratexts, such as reviews, parody, or fan discussion, can similarly play in setting the ground rules for entry to a text. Different paratexts will be at odds with each other at times, arguing over the interpretive terms that they would like viewers to employ when "entering" a text and its world.

~ ~ ~

Given the disjuncture that can occur between the meanings of the hype and the meanings of the texts once they begin in earnest, we might speculate as to how many texts fail in part because of a poor marketing campaign, and hence because of paratextual dismantling. But the power of paratexts forces us to pose numerous other questions about the meaning of texts.

First, for example, if hype can so effectively frame a text, perhaps some of the instances of "active audience" resistance that media studies research has long been attributing to playful readers may in fact be due to strong paratexts. Different interpretations, therefore, may result from different elements in a marketing campaign and from exposure to different paratexts.

Second, since paratexts can add meanings to a text, clearly our discussion of media effects, power, and identification should involve significant acknowledgment of the degree to which paratexts create or contribute to the text's many powers. If people judge books by their covers, we as analysts need to study covers.

Similarly, and third, since much discussion of texts is conducted by those who have consumed only hype or paratexts, analysis of a text's place in popular culture may require that we see this place as often primarily constructed by paratexts and perhaps only secondarily by the actual text.

Fourth, then, it may be worth our while to conduct textual analyses and audience research projects that deal with paratexts independent of their associated texts, or to conduct production analyses of the making of hype.

Fifth, and finally, far from seeing paratexts merely as entry points to a text, we should recognize the continuing, conditioning role that paratexts play throughout a text's life, especially when that text is televisual, and hence particularly open to inflection and disturbance over its lengthy exhibition schedule.

Long after we may have forgotten hype, synergy, and paratexts' brief, explosive appearances in the mediascape, they have created meanings that fill their texts and popular culture.

The full length article appeared in The International Journal of Cultural Studies 11.1 (March 2008), pp. 33-49. It includes two case studies: one of the preview/trailer for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and the other of an ad campaign for Six Degrees. A shorter version of the latter can be found here.

Jonathan Gray is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. His research examines the interactions of entertainment media and audiences, with particular interest in parody and satire, transmedia storyworlds, and the changing nature of "television."

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Around the Consortium: Jayhawks Fans, Sarah Marshall, and Filipino "Thriller." Sam Ford writes about Nancy Baym's coverage of fan reactions to the University of Kansas' basketball successes, Jon Gray's analysis of promotion for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Abigail Derecho's analysis of the continued cultural references to the Filipino "Thriller."

Around the Consortium: Grant McCracken on Chipchase, FX, and Baseball. Sam Ford writes about C3 Consulting Researcher Grant McCracken's recent posts on Nokia's Jan Chipchase (, the nuisance of corner-screen promotion using promotion for FX's Dirt as an example, and consuming the media of the past.

MIT Art Work-Out: John Bell and the Celtics' Lucky.Sam Ford writes about MIT's John Bell and his interview with the portrayer of the Boston Celtics Mascot, as well as the resulting conversation about the crossover between the work of mascots and the world of pro wrestling as two forms of "sports entertainment."

MIT Art Work-Out: Pro Wrestling--Sport as Theater. Sam Ford writes about his recent lecture for the MIT Visual Arts Program on the history of professional wrestling in the U.S. as "sports entertainment."

Dates Set for Consortium's Futures of Entertainment 3. Sam Ford announces that FoE3's dates have been set for Nov. 21-22.

Our World Digitized: Henry Jenkins, Yochai Benkler, and Cass Sunstein. Sam Ford writes about last Thursday's MIT Communications Forum event, noting some of the reaction from the blogosphere and audio from the Comparative Media Studies event being available online.


C3 Internal Retreat May 8-9 and Past Retreats. Sam Ford informs the C3 blog readership of the upcoming internal retreat, promising to--as in past years--provide a few notes from the internal Consortium event. This post includes links back to the first two years' retreats, "There Is No Box" and "Collaboration 2.0."

Video: the Flickring Image. C3 Graduate Student Researcher Geoffrey Long writes about some of the negative reaction to Flickr offering videos and some users' desire to keep the site as tightly focused as possible, without being "diluted by the addition of moving images."

Espaço Cubo: Creating New Centers from the Margins. C3 Graduate Student Researcher Ana Domb writes about a Brazilian organization designed to help cultivate and promote musical talent within the country.

Viral Video and Cadbury's "Trucks." C3 Graduate Student Researcher Xiaochang Li looks at the new "Trucks" campaign from Cadbury and posits that one of the reasons it may not be as successful as the "Gorilla" campaign from last year is that it has more complexity.

When "Music" Is Not about Music (2 of 2). C3 Graduate Student Researcher Ana Domb writes about the Putumayo World Music brand and its selling a sense of international variety and flavor in an era of globalization through appeals to a cosmopolitan sensibility.

When "Music" Is Not about Music (1 of 2). C3 Graduate Student Researcher Ana Domb writes about the Starbucks music label Hear Music and the balance between mainstream music and undiscovered music, particularly in a global context.

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

Schedule for C3 Spring Retreat

As we have been mentioning in recent weeks, the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Spring Retreat is set for May 8-9 at the Faculty Club here on MIT's campus. The event is free of charge and open to any employee of the Consortium's five partner companies, as well as our consulting researchers. We have sent many of your an RSVP e-mail in the past week, requesting that you let us know whether or not you are coming by Friday, May 02. We know we will have a variety of our consulting researchers presenting at the event and also hope to have several representatives from our partner companies present for the event.

The event is broken into three parts. Thursday afternoon will give the core C3 team a chance to present the research we've been working on this academic year, providing previews of forthcoming white papers, which will be distributed in the weeks following the Retreat. Friday morning's sessions will feature two targeted discussions on issues of interest to the Consortium: the state of "transmedia storytelling" and understanding audience members as a community. These will be led by panelists but are intended to invite participation from all attendance. Finally, the afternoon session will create a chance for the Consortium to come together in dialogue to discuss the intersection of academic and industry interests and potential for collaboration amongst the Consortium on a variety of issues.

Thursday, May 08

Part I: Consortium Research for the 2007-2008 Academic Year

Lunch 12 p.m.--1 p.m.

Opening Comments: C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio will discuss the Consortium's philosophy and work, what will be presented at the retreat, and his own media industries research interests. 1 p.m.--1:30 p.m.

Presentation of C3 Viral Work: C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins will be joined by Graduate Student Researchers Ana Domb and Xiaochang Li to discuss their work on new ways to understand the concept of "viral" through the lens of Jenkins' concept of "spreadable media." 1:30 p.m.--2:30 p.m.

2:30 p.m.--2:45 p.m. Break

Presentation of YouTube Research: C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will discuss some of the significant findings from the Consortium's work on YouTube. 2:45 p.m.--3:45 p.m.

Film Promotion, Online Video, and Spreadable Media: C3 Graduate Student Researcher Eleanor Baird will present her work on film promotion through video sharing sites such as YouTube, in a project that lies at the intersection of the Consortium's main research threads for this previous academic year--on the concept of "viral" and on the uses of YouTube. 3:45 p.m.--4:15 p.m.

Wrap-Up Discussion: C3 Research Manager Joshua Green and C3 Project Manager Sam Ford will give brief updates on other Consortium projects for the academic year and invite further feedback about the research presented during the afternoon from partner members and consulting researchers. 4:15 p.m.--4:45 p.m.

4:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. Break

Program in Comparative Media Studies Colloquium about Research on YouTube. As a complement with the Consortium's own research on YouTube, C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will lead a session with MIT's Nate Greenslit and CMS graduate student Kevin Driscoll about doing research on the video sharing site. As opposed to the afternoon session, which is aimed at delivering research findings within the Consortium, this session will present a variety of approaches to YouTube. This event will be open to the public. 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Reception. 7 p.m.--8:30 p.m. We will carry on discussion from the Colloquium and the first day into an evening reception.

Friday, May 09

Part II: Panel Discussions

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

A Discussion on Transmedia: C3 Consulting Researcher Jonathan Gray will lead a discussion on how the concept of transmedia storytelling is being implemented across the media industries and how scholars are understanding these narratives and marketing campaigns. The session will feature two practitioners who are at the cutting-edge of the transmedia field: Matt Wolf, founder of Double Twenty Productions, and Keith Clarkson, production executive for Xenophile Media. They will be joined by C3 Consulting Researchers Abigail Derecho, whose research interests include digital fan appropriations and narrative serializations online, and Derek Johnson, whose research focuses on media franchises as they span across myriad media formats. 9 a.m.--10:30 a.m.

10:30 a.m.--10:45 a.m. Break

Understanding and Managing Audiences as Communities: C3 Consulting Researcher Robert V. Kozinets will lead a discussion about the various ways to understand media audiences as members of a community and the social character of media materials. The discussion will look at different conceptions of community and Kozinets' own work about how producers can and should interact with, moderate, or manage these discussions amongst audience members. The discussion will involve C3 Consulting Researchers Nancy Baym, whose research focuses on music and television fandom and how conversation amongst fans manifest themselves online, and Aswin Punathambekar, whose research deals with the international flow of media content, particularly in relation to Indian media industries. Also participating in the panel will be Brian Haven from Forrester Research, and Judy Walklet from Communispace, whose company specializes in creating and managing small, private communities of lead users and fans for clients. 10:45 a.m.--12:15 p.m.

Lunch 12:15 p.m.--1:45 p.m.

Part III: Collaboration Across the Consortium

Introduction: The Intersection of the Industry and Academia. C3 Project Manager Sam Ford will moderate a discussion on how the Consortium might create a space for its corporate partners, its consulting researchers, and the core team to better collaborate in discussing the pressing issues of the contemporary media industries. Ford will be joined by Consulting Researchers Lee Harrington and Jason Mittell, continuing the conversation commenced at Futures of Entertainment 2 (available in audio and video form here). This conversation will also feature C3 Consulting Researchers Grant McCracken, whose work model exists at the intersection of industry and academia with half his time spent continuing to write and research, alongside his regular role consulting on marketing and the media industries, and Kevin Sandler, whose latest work focuses on "production studies" and ways that media industries researchers can work with those who produce media texts to better understand the process by which programming and advertising is created. 1:45 p.m.--2:45 p.m.

Breakout Discussion Groups. In order to put this process into practice, five discussion groups built around specific Consortium topics will provide a chance to explore these processes in specific contexts. Each of these discussion groups will include academic researchers and members of multiple partner companies, as well as the invited guest speakers for the event. C3 Alum Ivan Askwith will lead a breakout session on advertising and marketing; C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar will lead a breakout session on global media flow; C3 Alum Geoffrey Long and C3 Consulting Researcher Doris Rusch will lead a breakout session on gaming; C3 Graduate Student Researcher Eleanor Baird will lead a breakout session on audience measurement and metrics; and C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins will lead a breakout session on participatory culture. 2:45 p.m.--3:45 p.m.

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

Final Discussion: C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins will moderate a closing discussion among all those in attendance about the breakout discussions, potential models for further collaboration, and the research interests of the Consortium moving forward. 4 p.m.--4:45 p.m.

If you have any questions or plan to attend and have not yet contacted us to RSVP, please e-mail Sam Ford at

The Fine Print

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


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