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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue
Opening Note: Jonathan Gray on Paratexts
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: The Lineup for C3 Spring Retreat May
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.
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
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
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
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.
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."
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."
Set for Consortium's Futures of Entertainment 3. Sam Ford announces
that FoE3's dates have been set for Nov. 21-22.
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
"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.
"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
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
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
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
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
Reception. 7 p.m.--8:30 p.m. We will carry on
discussion from the Colloquium and the first day into an evening
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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com.