C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

We're only two weeks away from our C3 Spring Retreat, and we hope to see many of you here for the event. To recap the information we ran in the Weekly Update last week, the retreat will be Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09. Thursday will give our core C3 team a chance to present our latest thinking at work, including remarks from C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio; a presentation from C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins and graduate students Xiaochang Li and Ana Domb about their work on the concept of spreadable media and "viral" distribution; a presentation from C3 Research Manager Joshua Green about C3's work this academic year on some of the most prevalent uses of YouTube; and a presentation from C3 graduate student Eleanor Baird about film promotion and online video. Thursday evening will include a colloquium event open to the public about larger issues surrounding research on YouTube, as well as a reception.

The first session on Friday will focus on two panels: a discussion on transmedia media initiatives and a discussion on understanding audiences as a community. These panels will include C3 Consulting Researchers, as well as some guests from the industry. The afternoon session will begin with a discussion from C3 Consulting Researchers on the intersection between media studies academics and the media industries and will branch out into five simultaneous discussions on issues such as participatory culture, audience measurement and metrics, global media flow, video games, and advertising and marketing. These groups will get everybody present involved in the conversation, with each group featuring a mix of academics, partner companies, and guests. We will end with a final discussion led by Henry Jenkins.

If you ar einterested in attending, we ask that you please RSVP by next Friday, May 02. Please let us know if you only plan to attend part of the event, if you have any dietary needs, etc. Again, there is no charge for the event, and it is open to any employee of our partner companies, as well as our consulting researchers.

The Opening Note this week features an essay from C3 Consulting Researcher Derek Johnson, whose work here comes from his research on major media franchises. Derek will be taking part in the transmedia panel at the retreat, and we are excited to present his first piece this week for the Weekly Update.

The Closing Note this week is a description for a position the Consortium is currently hiring for: C3 Research Manager. Current C3 Research Manager Joshua Green's role will change to postdoctoral researcher at CMS. Joshua will still be working with C3 along with Principal Investigators Henry Jenkins and William Uricchio in guiding the Consortium's research. I will be leaving my position as project manager for the Consortium, and as editor of the Weekly Update, at the end of this semeste to take the position of "Director of Customer Insights" for Peppercom. However, I will remain involved in some initiatives with the Consortium as well. We are currently searching for a new Research Manager for the Consortium, a role that will combine some of the current responsibilities Joshua and I both perform. We are going to promote the new research manager position through our public blog, but if you have any thoughts of someone who would be interested in this sort of role between industry and academia, let us know, as we'll be immersed in a job search over the next couple of 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: Derek Johnson on Media Franchises

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: Job Description for C3 Research Manager


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

Franchise as Culture, Not Conglomerate Product

Although we heartily acknowledge precedents in sources as diverse as Sherlock Holmes, early radio serials, and world-building games like Dungeons and Dragons, those of us who study transmedia storytelling tend to trace its resulting media franchises primarily to institutional developments in the 1990s. Franchises like Lost and Harry Potter deliver formally on the potential borne institutionally by the successive waves of mergers between media giants, the promise of synergistic exploitation of that horizontal integration, and the concurrent dawn of digital technology and culture throughout that decade. At the upcoming C3 retreat, I’d like to rethink these ideas in two major ways, suggesting instead that we might consider the media franchise to be a networked cultural form taken up but not generated by convergent media structures and institutions.

First, how can we make more careful distinctions transmedia storytelling and the media franchise? While the two ideas often work hand-in-hand, especially today, there are at least two distinct types of franchises: A) “inter-industry” modes of franchising that support transmedia storytelling coordinated across multiple, integral platforms; and B) the less examined “intra-industry” modes that create content systems tied together within a single medium. Both modes constitute storytelling networks--but it’s the difference between the way the network of The Matrix franchise relies upon nodes in a variety of media, while a franchise like CSI works primarily by linking together a variety of nodes within television alone. I say primarily, however, because CSI too experiments with extension into other platforms; the point, however, is that franchising is not always a transmedia phenomenon, but it is generally a networked one (in a non-digital sense). To understand these distinctions more clearly, we need to push our institutional memories back a bit, before these two modes became so intertwined.

So, secondly, what can we learn by looking at the intra-industrial franchises of the 1980s? That decade saw several institutional changes that created a demand for the networked content strategies offered by franchises; and despite the participation in the media industries in conglomerate structures of that time, this demand was primarily an intra-industrial one. So if the 1980s saw great demand for intra-industry content networks, I want to explore how those content systems informed the development of greater inter-industry franchises in the 1990s. My goal is to ask whether we can consider franchising not as a product driven by conglomerate synergy, but instead as an historical form of culture at least in part driving those mergers and economic logics in the 1990s.

The 1980s saw a great expansion of the capacity of distributional networks in a variety of separate industrial spheres, and what happens as a result is basically the development of content networks that can correspond to distributional demands. It’s not always the exact same story in each industry (sometimes we can see openings for new independent producers, whereas in other cases we see contraction of access), but we can see new and significant distributional networks in 1980s video games, broadcasting, comics, and toys, creating new intra-industrial demands at the level of content.

Video Games: Still in its infancy, the video game market made its most significant shifts from a hardware market to a content market in the 1980s--especially once the home console eclipsed the arcade as a cash center. Moreover, the ability of multiple formats to coexist amplified the need for unique content to differentiate each system. So in a market where planned obsolescence makes reliance on catalogue titles nearly impossible, the next most risk averse way to manage content production was to extend successful brands (Pac-Man, Mario, etc.) into series of sequels and spin-off titles.

Broadcasting: Television too expands its distributional capacity, creating a subsequent demand for content. The development of the cable industry is certainly relevant here, but in the case of television in the 1980s, change at the regulatory level also impacts broadcast distribution as well. Thanks to the implementation of the Fin-Syn and Prime Time Access rules in the 1970s, both first-run syndication and independent commercial broadcasting had become far more viable by the 1980s, creating an opening for content produced and distributed outside of network control. Again, for the companies trying to fill this void with original narrative content, it made good economic sense to develop properties like Star Trek: The Next Generation that extend its parent series’ success in second-run syndication. In first-run syndication we also see numerous attempts on the part of television content producers to work inter-industrially to grab a distributional foothold; with the afternoon hours opening as a stronghold for first-run syndicators, series like Transformers based on toys worked to establish and secure a children’s television market in that daypart. But importantly in this case of inter-industrial cooperation, we’re not talking about horizontally integrated conglomerates, but instead strategic partnerships in which new markets are coordinated and explored from the outside or the margins.

Comics: The comic book industry of the 1980s presents an interesting case where distributional networks are not so much expanding as contracting, in which comics are moved from mass distribution into the “direct market” of specialty shops. As Matthew Pustz argues in Comic Book Culture, an increased reliance on continuity in 1980s comic books is directly related to the creation of this new market structure. While mass market distribution was wide, it was also more scattershot, and readers could not be guaranteed to find every issue of a title. The direct market, however, formalized availability. Publishers were now freer to use continuity and ongoing narrative enigmas to encourage readers to collect every issue. At the same time, the specialization of the comics market and its virtual reduction to the single super-hero genre made it more difficult for individual titles to stand out on the shelf. Promising continuity not just between issues but between titles in franchises (like X-Men spun-out into New Mutants and X-Factor, for example) enabled new titles to gain automatic cultural significance on a shelf crowded with generically similar books.

Toys: The toy market also established specialized distribution networks in the 1980s, but at the mass market level, with big box retailers like Toy R Us rapidly expanding their reach. Previously, the toy industry had largely been structured around the holiday season when department stores and other smaller retailers would make significant shelf space for product (only major metropolitan areas like New York or Chicago would have dedicated toy stores). With so much year round shelf space now available thanks to the big boxes, toymakers shifted to a catalogue mentality, creating brands that could be extended and relied upon perennially. Thus, the 1980s saw an increased narrativization of product, with ongoing story lines that pushed toy lines toward indefinite, serialized development and change. That narrativization, of course, was something in which relationships with other industries like comic books and television could and did play a role.

What I’d like to explore, therefore, is how the mergers and the logic of inter-industry synergy that took hold in the 1990s (and support transmedia storytelling today) worked in response to intra-industry franchise forms already in play in the 1980s. With the success of intra-industry franchises and the desire to control their application as they moved across industries, conglomeration and consolidation might be considered partial responses to the franchise, a means to manage its networked growth--and not, as we might assume, the forces that gave rise to it. By teasing out these historical distinctions when we talk about transmedia storytelling, media franchises, and media institutions in relation to one another, we will be more capable at the upcoming retreat of acknowledging these networked content systems as an evolving cultural form, not just a product of recent horizontal structures.

Derek Johnson is a doctoral candidate in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his dissertation work focuses on this development of the franchise media property. His interests include film, television, video games, comics, and licensed merchandising.

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (4 of 4). In the final part of this interview with the ROFLcon team, C3's Xiaochang Li discusses how only a small niche of Internet culture is being represented at the conference, as well as what the organizers hope attendees will take away from the event.

Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (3 of 4). In the third part of this interview, Xiaochang Li talks about the blend of an academic conference with largely non-academic panelists and how the panelists were chosen in the third part of this interview with the organizers of this weekend's conference.

Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (2 of 4). Xiaochang Li discusses the need the conference on Internet culture seeks to fill and unique ways this weekend's conference at MIT has been promoted.

Countdown to ROFLcon: An Interview with its Organizers (1 of 4). C3 Graduate Student Researcher Xiaochang Li talks with the creators of this weekend's MIT conference about the origin of ROFLcon.

"It's Just a Trailer." C3 Graduate Student Researcher Ana Domb writes about the controversy surrounding a YouTube trailer for Outsider Productions' A Beautiful Day, which resulted in the film being kicked out of a festival because the stealth campaign was interpreted as a potential terrorist threat.

Localization in a Web 2.0 World. Sam Ford writes about the new GXC game for college campuses and the appeal of localized content in a digital world, as well as the importance of the local in a global digital media environment.


Faris Yakob on Futures of Entertainment; Marlena on Soaps Class. Sam Ford links to a piece written by FoE2 speaker Faris Yakob drawing on insights from the conference for The Next Issue, as well as comments from well-known soaps journalist personality Marlena De Lacroix about the class on soap operas he's teaching at MIT this spring.

Transparency and the Public Eye: Wal-Mart's Shank Controversy. Sam Ford writes about the recent controversy in Wal-Mart trying to recoup medical insurance expenses from a former employee, a move that damaged the company's reputation in the public eye, even as the company ultimately decided not to take the funds, even after a court ruling in their favor.

Soap Opera-Branded Casual Games. Sam Ford shares insights about Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly moving into the casual games space through their Web site.

Children as Storytellers: The Making of TikaTok (Part Two). Henry Jenkins shares the concluding section of an interview with Orit Zuckerman and Neal Grigsby of TikaTok, a company encouraging children to create and share stories online.

Children as Storytellers: The Making of TikaTok (Part One). C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins shares the first part of an interview from his blog with TikaTok Co-Founder Orit Zuckerman and Director of Online Community Neal Grigsby.

I Like It When Smart People Agree with Me... Sam Ford writes about Ilya Vedrashko's recent post about Twitter, Rob Kozinets' series of posts about his customer service exprience with Costco, and Jason Mittell's clarification about quotes from him in an NPR piece.

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

C3 Research Manager Job Description



Department: Literature/ Comparative Media Studies

Supervision received: Professor Henry Jenkins; Co-Director and C3 Principal Investigator, Sarah Wolozin; Program Manager, Comparative Media Studies.

SUPERVISION EXERCISED: Research staff, Contractors, Graduate Students, and UROPs

Payroll Category: SRS/ADMIN

Start Date: JULY 1,2008

End Date with possibility of extension: June 30, 2009

Salary: 60K Plus benefits


Position Overview Statement:

Under the direction of the Convergence Culture Consortium Principal Investigator, the Research Manager oversees the efficient operation of the Convergence Culture Consortium, ensuring the delivery of research outcomes and effective internal and external relations with graduate students, Consortium Partners, Consulting Researchers, prospective partners, and other interested parties. The Research Manager is required to work with the Principal Investigator, Graduate Research Students, researchers, CMS Program Manager and other staff, and contractors as necessary.

Characteristic Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Together with Principal Investigator, research staff and students, develop and execute research projects. Responsible for ensuring the timely completion of research, the Research Manager must monitor progress, milestones, and publication deadlines;
  • Supervise research staff, consultants, graduate students and UROPs assigned to work on the C3 project;
  • Maintain communication with existing partners and potential new partners, including keeping track of relationships, managing email and mailing lists, and coordinating regular communication. This may involve planning and completing site visits that may require some travel; Meet regularly with the Principal Investigator and research staff to discuss the progress of the project; Working with the graduate students and research staff, coordinate visits to MIT from sponsors and potential sponsors, including the annual Partners meeting and the Futures of Entertainment conference. Maintain efficient internal communication with Research Students, Research Assistants, Principal Investigator, CMS Program Manager and other members of CMS and the Department.
  • Manage publication of research activities, coordinating publication of white papers and reports for Consortium partners, regular updates of the C3 blog, maintaining the C3 Weekly Newsletter, and website, prospectus and other official copy as necessary. This will include communications through CMS, Faculty and Institutional channels as well. Coordinate with technologists and designers as necessary. This communication may take a variety of forms (i.e., written, audio, video, PowerPoint);
  • Together with the Principal Investigator and Comparative Media Studies Program Manager, manage all administration for project including but not limited to overseeing and managing budget; resolving legal, contractual, copyright and IP issues; generating necessary reporting for funders, CMS program, and MIT; managing and monitoring all documentation and reporting for the program, including coordination of reports with the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects and the Office of Foundation Relations; ensuring project is in compliance with CMS program and MIT policy; handling personnel issues including hiring, training, and terminations.
  • Identify opportunities for the dissemination of Consortium research, including speaking engagements, formal academic, business, and informal opportunities. Coordinate with the Principal Investigator and research staff to prioritize and coordinate outcomes via these channels. This may involve taking speaking opportunities and some travel;
  • Keep informed of developments in media and cultural studies theory, media industry, entertainment and popular culture theory and industry, and consumer electronics; bring such knowledge to bear on the development of C3 research activity and outcomes.

Qualifications/Technical Skills: MA or equivalent work experience in creative industries, media studies, cultural studies, or related fields. Proven ability to manage media research projects, coordinate and supervise research teams, write quickly and effectively, and possess an understanding of the application of research outcomes to advising media industry practitioners. An ability to communicate with a wide variety of contributors and audiences, including researchers, industry participants, graduate students, media specialists, and current and future sponsors is critical as is the ability to work in an academic setting guiding and mentoring graduate students.

Please direct anyone who is interested to this site to apply.

The Fine Print

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


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