C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

First off, as a final reminder, this is the last day to RSVP for next week's C3 Spring Retreat for our corporate partners and consulting researchers. If any of you who are coming have any travel questions, please feel free to contact me at We will be sending more specific information on the location of the two-day event to the list who sent their RSVP in next week. As a reminder, the retreat will begin next Thursday at noon and run through late Friday afternoon.

In preparation for the retreat, we've been continuing to put the results of our major projects from the previous academic year into written form. Henry Jenkins and graduate students Ana Domb and Xiaochang Li have been putting together a large white paper explaining our criticisms of the "viral media" concept, our proposal for a model of "spreadable media," and some case studies and propositions that flesh out that concept. C3 Graduate Student Researcher Eleanor Baird from the Sloan School of Management will be presenting her work on the spread of online videos for film promotion, looking at some films from summer 2007 as examples, and there will be a resulting paper for the Consortium of that study as well. Finally, Joshua Green will be presenting on the major YouTube project the Consortium was immersed in over the past academic year, in preview of the white paper coming out in a few weeks. We are excited to share with you the longer-term projects we've been working on this past year at the retreat, and we hope that the resulting white papers will provoke plenty of great discussion amongst our corporate partners this summer. We also plan to package together some of the work that has appeared on our blog and in the C3 Weekly Update over the past academic year in a "yearbook" format to distribute amongst our corporate partners and consulting researchers.

We look forward to C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio leading our opening comments for the retreat next Thursday. While many of you have had the opportunity to meet and interact with Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins over the past couple of years, several of you have not had as much of an opportunity to interact with William, as he was on sabbatical for all of 2007 and out of the country during most of that time. We hope that corporate partners and consulting researchers alike are excited about our two Friday morning panels, featuring a mix of industry and academic voices discussing transmedia and online community. And we are excited to get everyone involved in the afternoon session, which will begin with a panel-led discussion of the intersection between media studies research and the media industry, followed by breakout discussions on marketing and advertising, audience measurement, participatory culture, global media flow, and video games that will get everyone in the room involved in the conversation. Finally, Henry Jenkins will be leading a conversation afterward about how the Consortium might be able to facilitate conversation among these various groups.

For those of you joining us, 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. So look forward to hearing from any final registrants tonight and to seeing several of you here in Cambridge next week!

The Opening Note this week features an essay from C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf on the potential profitability of pro-social games, in preview from an upcoming session she will be participating in for the 10th anniversary of Harvard University's Berkman Center. Shenja will be participating in the breakout discussion on video games for the retreat next week.

The Closing Note this week is a thought piece from C3 Consulting Researcher Eleanor Baird with her take on teasing out some of the issues of spreadable media we've been discussing within the Consortium this past year, in particular in terms of the concepts of "interactivity" and "participation." While the Consortium as a whole has been devleoping a position paper on our concept of "spreadable media," we wanted to share Eleanor's thoughts on potential models for undersatnding participation and interactivity online with the C3 Weekly Update readership.

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: Shenja van der Graaf on Pro Social Gaming

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: Eleanor Baird on Participation and Interactivity Online (1 of 2)


Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09
C3's Spring Retreat

Thursday, May 15, and Friday, May 16
Berkman Center 10th Anniversary
C3 Consulting Researcher Shenja van der Graaf will be joined by researchers from MIT Comparative Media Studies' GAMBIT games lab and Harvard's Gene Koo called "The Dilemma of Games: Moral Choice in a Digital World" at this Harvard event.

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

Valuable Games

Intuitively, we know that individual values, qualities of leadership, and character play a vital role in the success of organizations, societies and markets, and yet their impact are terribly difficult to measure empirically. Now that tens -- indeed hundreds of millions of people are spending a significant portion of their social, recreational, and economic lives online, there is an unprecedented opportunity to analyze rigorously people's online behaviors and the interaction of individual values, reputations, and social institutions.

Furthermore, should it be possible to demonstrate the measurable effect of individual and institutional values upon economic and social outcomes for online activities, it might also be possible to design value and reputation-based social technologies to improve a wide variety of online activities: economic production, social co-operation, digital media, education, and scientific research.

One of the key challenges, however, will be to capture and organize the right kind of data so that they can be analyzed in a meaningful way to measure the effects of values. For instance, my fellow fellow at the Berkman Center, John Clippinger, is working towards undertaking this task by developing a 'meta' social network of networks, layering on top of existing social networks, where natural experiments can be performed with large samples of subjects who are naturally pursuing online social and economic lives. While Clippinger focuses on social networks, my other colleague Gene Koo and myself are interested in this domain by way of 'pro-social' values of games.

One of the major obstacles to producing commercially successful games that convey pro-social values and behaviors is finding talented game developers who not only share the vision of pro-social gaming but who also have the resources and the skills to create compelling games that appeal to broad audiences, including disadvantaged youth.

However, it is not enough to have engaged talented game makers; game publishers have to be convinced there are markets significant enough for pro-social titles that they are willing to invest the required resources to produce such games with or without additional financial underwriting. The cost of developing a modern, commercially viable game have become so extravagant that game developers are increasingly unwilling to take risks on untested ideas like pro-social games. Violent games are not only proven in the market but are also backed by developers with the experience needed to deliver profitable titles. By contrast, games that are not only social but pro-social lack market credibility and developers expert in their creation.

We believe that, although some advocates worry that games depicting violence might promote aggressive behaviors in players, games also have the potential to advance pro-social values and behaviors. After all, games offer choices, and such choices could invoke ethical, civic, or moral dilemmas.

We are now framing a research project focusing on those pro-social values: social entrepreneurship (games that inculcate the values, skills, and behaviors necessary to build businesses with “double bottom lines”), compassion (games that lead to provoke reflection about other persons and invoke a desire to alleviate physical, emotional, or mental suffering, particularly where such efforts would require a significant cost or sacrifice), fairness (games that raise the question of what constitutes fair play, explore the costs/benefits of cheating, or invites players to structure new rules of fairness), and trust (games that demonstrate the causes, costs, and benefits of reliability, reputation, or deception; our primary focus should be on the value of or dilemmas associated with trustworthiness, not strategic analysis of whom to trust).

Some examples of working hypotheses that we intend to test include:

  • Pro-social values have no positive impact upon the outcomes of the social and economic production of social networks.
  • Pro-social values are only evolutionary stable strategies for 'repeat games.'
  • Pro-social values are only evolutionary stable when reputation scores are visible and cannot be changed or forgiven.

Every few weeks, some folks from the GAMBIT games lab at the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and the Berkman Center here at Harvard come together to discuss these and other issues surrounding pro-social games. Some of our thoughts make it to our blog.

I also welcome you to the 10th anniversary celebration of the Berkman Center to be held on May 15 and 16. There is a special session covering valuable games on Friday, May 16, called "The Dilemma of Games: Moral Choice in a Digital World," led by Gene Koo, some GAMBIT members, and myself. We will focus on ways games may promote such values as compassion, charity, or sacrifice. Can they marry these values to the kind of "systems thinking" that games promote and which are becoming more vital in our networked world?

WGBH, the renowned public television station, is launching a transmedia TV show and game that tackles these questions head-on. In this workshop, we seek your input in shaping this project that aims to teach children about environmental systems and their own choices within that system.

For more information look here.

Shenja van der Graaf is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen and is also conducting research at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research focuses on the organization and management of innovation and technology, especially demand-side innovation, product development, and media uses in media and software industries. Over the years, she has worked with an extensive international network of companies including Hakuhodo, Valve, and Ericsson. She will be joining us at next week's retreat, participating in the games breakout session being led by GAMBIT researchers Geoffrey Long (an alum of C3) and Doris Rusch (a C3 Consulting Researcher).

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Consortium Hiring Research Director. The Consortium shares its job description for the new research director position with its blog readership. The application process is ongoing, so please forward the link to anyone you think might be interested.

Who Do You Think I Am?: My Life as a Cartoon Character. C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins shares a post from his blog on his appropriation as a comic strip image and the various ways in which his image has been used through this user-generated comic strip template site.

A Followup from Lynn Liccardo on Listening to Consumers and P&G Soap Operas. Sam Ford shares a response from Lynn Liccardo on her piece from earlier in the week on the disconnect between how P&G manages its product brands and how the cultural products of Procter & Gamble Productions are produced. Liccardo served as one of the advisors for Ford's thesis research when he was a CMS graduate student.

Lynn Liccardo on P&G and Listening to Consumers. Sam Ford shares a piece from longtime soap opera critic Lynn Liccardo on recent comments from P&G CEO A.G. Lafley about the importance of listening to consumers and how that has translated poorly in the ethos of the television production branch of P&G.

Console-ing Passions: Abigail Derecho on Filipino Viewer Protests Sam Ford writes about C3 Consulting Researcher Abigail Derecho's recent research presented at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference focusing on Filipino viewer protests of The Daily Show and Desperate Housewives based on what they felt were inappropriate remarks, the role of communication technologies in the spread of this sentiment, and the underlying cultural tensions that help contextualize these tensions.

Console-ing Passions: Heather Hendershot, Abortion, House, and BSG. Sam Ford writes about television scholar Heather Hendershot's work on religion and abortion in contemporary television, based on the research she recently presented at Console-ing Passions.


Console-ing Passions: Fan Studies Workshop. Sam Ford shares some thoughts on the recent workshop he helped lead at Console-ing Passions as a follow-up conversation on the Gender and Fan Studies/Culture/Fan Debate conversation involving 44 scholars that took place on C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins' blog and LiveJournal. Joining him was Bob Rehak, Julie Levin Russo, Suzanne Scott, and Louisa Stein.

Console-ing Passions 2008. Sam Ford writes about the media studies conference in Santa Barbara he attended last weekend and some of the discussion about the conference around the blogosphere.

Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (3 of 3). In the final part of this three-part series, Sam Ford looks at how the target demographic has caused many industry problems for the world of soap operas, where the transgenerational patterns of soap opera viewership ran counter to the 18-34 and 18-49 female demographic logic of the television advertising industry.

Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (2 of 3). Sam Ford writes about target demographics and the world of pro wrestling, where World Wrestling Entertainment's overall approach benefits from attracting all age groups but whose television product is particularly aimed at teenage and young adult males, the group being commodified for advertisers.

Outside the Target Demographic: Surplus Audiences in Wrestling and Soaps (1 of 3). Sam Ford shares a thought piece he developed for a workshop he was helping lead at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference. For more on the workshop and the conversation that inspired it, look here.

The Appropriation of Indiana Jones. C3 Graduate Student Researcher Ana Domb writes about Raiders of the Ark: The Adaptation and the creative benefits of allowing more freedom for audiences to create their own work with copyrighted material.

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

If You Build It, Would They Come? (1 of 2)

The Interplay of Interactivity and Participation, Stickiness and Spreadability

Around the Consortium in the last few months, we have been giving a lot of thought to the term "viral marketing" and the ways in which content can be passed along through online social networks. We've also been thinking of the complimentary concepts of stickiness and spreadability. Henry Jenkins, C3's founder, has theorized that "sticky" content, designed to draw in audiences, has given way to "spreadable" content, designed to be circulated by grassroots intermediaries.

My latest research focuses on patterns in the most discussed and viewed video on YouTube related to the top 10 movies of summer 2007. Many of the trailers posted by the audience members had been taken down in response to copyright claims. This made me wonder about how the studios had promoted the films, and if they were relying on a sticky or spreadable model. Regardless of what was going on on YouTube, were they encouraging fan promotion and sustainable engagement by building in interactive and participatory features?

The conclusion was, simply put, no. Most of them had created fairly standard microsites with few, if any participatory features. There was a lot of reliance on interactivity and pushing audiences to a microsite, rather than on enabling audiences to participate in pulling others towards the property incorporating participatory elements. Overall, I found that most studios are relying on a sticky model for developing a film's presence online, representing a lost opportunity to invite the audience to be actively engaged with the film itself, and in promoting it.

These two newsletter pieces will examine the concepts in brief and discuss how they relate to cultivating relationships with consumers.

Two Invitations

Just about everything on the web is, by nature, interactive - in navigating through a site and accessing content, we interact with it. However incorporating participatory elements in a site, let alone elements that encourage pass-along and "viral diffusion" of content are indicative of not just the available technology, but the type of relationship that an organization wants to cultivate with it's consumers. They are different types of invitations.

First, let me explain how I see the differences between interactivity and participation, and how they relate to one another, based in part on Spiro Koiusis' work in the 2002 New Media & Society essay "Interactivity: A Concept Explication;" Yuping Liu and L.J. Shrum's work in the 2002 Journal of Advertising essay "What Is Interactivity and Is It Always Such a Good Thing?;" and Sally J. McMillan and Jang-Sun Hwang's work in the 2002 Journal of Advertising essay "Measure of Perceived Interactivity."

Interactivity, in its simplest form, enables consumer to access and control the flow of information they receive online by sending commands through a device to a server. The most basic website, with links from the home page to other pages or sites, is interactive.

Interactive sites or applications are often designed to be sticky, pushing information seeking audiences to return repeatedly to a destination to locate data or access a community. A website that is interactive, not participatory, puts the control and power over content, rents, and norms in the hands of the site owner.

It often enables personalization but restricts it to specific parameters determined by the owner, and limits opportunities for identity performance. Focusing on interactivity limits risks for a company or brand by keeping control of the site squarely in the hands of a small group or an individual.

Participation encourages spreadability because it puts more control over what content is seen and shared in the hands of consumers. The audience not only controls the information flow, but contributes to the information itself by rating, commenting, tagging, editing, posting, creating, and sharing content. Some of the risks that participation does not mitigate can actually be beneficial, most notably content that "goes viral."

Interactivity vs. Participation?

None of this is to suggest that participation is superior to interactivity - in fact, the best websites successfully combine elements of both. Many of the most popular sites - such as MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, eBay, Wikipedia and Craigslist - are comprised of both interactive and participatory elements, and often blend the two very successfully. To keep audiences returning to the site, they provide a store of information, but also encourage participation and spreadability of certain elements within and beyond the site.

Social networks rely on a model of invitations and network effects, so a user has both incentive to join and stay, but they promote participation above and beyond finding and friending. For example, MySpace and Facebook both offer a Newsfeed feature which combines interactivity and participation to facilitate viral diffusion with minimal effort or intrusion for users or their networks. The Newsfeed is interactive in that users log on to see it, and can click on links to learn more about the people, events, and information that is listed. This is combined with a strong participatory element: all of the content is derived from the participatory actions of users on the site (and with Facebook Beacon, their purchases elsewhere on the web), from making connections with other users to joining groups, becoming fans, installing applications, rating movies or music, RSVP-ing to an event, and a host of other activities.

The newsfeed is a sort of passive spreadability: the user controls what appears in the Newsfeed and has agency over that information, but does not have to take another step to inform people in the network. The Newsfeed further enables spreadability by inviting the network to interact with the page, learn more about what their friend has done, follow suit if they are interested, and then the cycle begins again when their that action is displayed to their whole network. Although this lacks the direct nature of a word of mouth (WOM) campaign, it retains the advantages of endorsement and trust as a "user generated" marketing effort.

Spreadability can also be a more active proposition, requiring more direct participation by the user to decide how, when, and to whom the content will be sent. For example, YouTube offers users a variety of options to spread content across the site and to other users using a variety of very simple, convenient methods, as shown in this screenshot (from this page):

Getting audiences to come back to a site implies revenue from advertising and, more indirectly, loyalty and affinity to a brand. A balance of stickiness and spreadability are a way for these sites to facilitate diffusion of content throughout various networks, and ensure that audiences keep coming back for those features.

The second part of this piece will appear as the Closing Note in next week's C3 Weekly Update.

Eleanor Baird has been a Graduate Student Researcher with the Convergence Culture Consortium since early 2007. This June, after graduating with an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, she will be taking on the role of Sales Strategy Manager in the Telecommunications and Media practice of the Boston-based web analytics firm Compete. Eleanor is completing her Master's thesis on targeted online advertising, which she writes about on her blog.
The Fine Print

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


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