March 30, 2007

Weekend of March 30, 2007

*Editor's Note

*Opening Note: Henry Jenkins on the Desi and the Otaku, Part III of III

*Glancing at the C3 Blog

*Closing Note: Ted Hovet on the Pedagogy of Fair Use

--------------- EDITOR'S NOTE ---------------

Welcome to this week's Weekly Update from C3. As usual, this week's update includes links to all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog. Also, the site features tools to favorite the blog on Technorati, so be sure to do so if you read on a regular basis.

This week's update features an opening note from Dr. Henry Jenkins, who provides us with the final part of a three-part series entitled "The Desi and the Otaku: Two Entries into Pop Cosmopolitanism." This final part of the series look at the Japanese otaku. The first two parts of the series were available the past two weeks in the C3 Weekly Update

The closing note is from C3 Affiliated Faculty Ted Hovet, who writes about the pedagogy of fair use in media education and recent discussions about fair use at the Society of Cinema and Media Studies meeting in Chicago.

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 Weekly Update, at

--------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------

The Desi and the Otaku: Two Entries into Pop Cosmopolitanism, Part III: The Otaku

By: Henry Jenkins

This piece is the final section of a three-part series which Dr. Jenkins has prepared for the C3 Weekly Update and is excerpted from his anthology Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, a collection of Jenkins' work over the past 15 years which was published a few months ago by New York University Press. The first two parts of this series were featured in the past two weeks here in the C3 Weekly Update.

The first week's piece set the stage for Jenkins' concept of pop cosmopolitanism, in relation to our recent discussion surrounding MTV Desi here in the C3 Weekly Update. Last week's essay primarily focuses on understanding the "desi" phenomenon in relation to the pop cosmopolitanism concept. The final piece of this excerpt from Jenkins' book looks at American fans of Japanese anime.

These same paradoxes and contradictions surface when we turn our attention to American fans of Japanese anime, the "Otaku." "Otaku" is a Japanese term used to make fun of fans who have become such obsessive consumers of pop culture that they have lost all touch with the people in their immediate vicinity. American fans have embraced the shameful term; constructing their identity as "otaku" allows them to signal their distance from American taste cultures and their mastery over foreign content. While a minority of Otaku are Asian or Asian-American, the majority have no direct ties back to Japan.

Sean Leonard, the president of the MIT Anime Society, is typical of many of his generation whose interest stemmed from his initial exposure to Japanese children's programming: "I first discovered anime around when I was in 10th grade. I started hearing and watching a little Sailor Moon, which aired periodically on USA. What really got me into it, though, was when a Mexican friend of mine lent me the first ten episodes of Fushigi Yuugi (The Mysterious Play), fansubbed. It's a really cool shoujo series, and it was totally different, and totally more complex, than anything else I had seen before. I resolved that I really liked anime and that I would pursue it. Shortly thereafter, I decided to look at anime from an academic perspective: I wanted to figure out its history, its creators, its principles, and all of that stuff."

Initially, anime, like Bollywood videos, entered this country through small distributors who targeted Asian immigrants. Fans would venture into ethnic neighborhoods in search of content; fans turned to a handful of Japanese bookstores in New York and San Francisco for manga which had not yet been translated or distributed in North America. The web enabled fans to start their own smallscale (and sometimes pirate) operations to help import, translate and distribute manga and anime.

As Leonard explains, "Fansubbing [amateur subtitling]has been critical to the growth of anime fandom in the West. If it weren't for fans showing this stuff to others in the late 70s-early 90s, there would be no interest in intelligent, "high-brow" Japanese animation like there is today.? On college campuses, student organizations build extensive libraries of both legal and pirated materials and host screenings designed to educate the public about anime artists, styles, and genres. The MIT Anime society, for example, hosts weekly screenings from a library of more than 1500 films and videos. Since1994, the club has provided a website designed to educate Americans about anime and anime fan culture.

Increasingly, larger commercial interests are capitalizing on this growing Otaku culture. Disney, for example, has purchased the American rights to the films of Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away), has redubbed these films with the voices of American film stars, and insured their distribution across North America. The Cartoon Network features a wide array of anime series as part of its late night Adult Swim programming. ADV Films, the major importer of anime series for the American market, has announced the launch of a 24 hours Anime Network.

Tokyopop, a San Francisco-based company, will publish 400 volumes of translated manga for American consumption this year. Shueisha, the Japanese comics publisher, launched a monthly English-language version of its successful weekly, Shonen Jump, predicting that they would be selling 1 million copies a month in the American market within the next three years. It is a striking mark of the growing competence and confidence of American manga fans that Shonen Jump is being published Japanese style--with text designed to be read from back to front and right to left -- rather than flipping the pages.

Ethnographers who have studied this subculture disagree about the degree to which "otaku" seek any actual connection with real world Japan or simply enter into an imaginary world constructed via anime genres. As Susan Napier writes, "The fact that anime is a Japanese product is certainly important but largely because this signifies that anime is a form of media entertainment outside the mainstream, something 'different.'"

Napier suggests that fans are attracted to the strange balance of familiar and alien elements in Japanese animation, which openly appropriates and remakes western genre conventions. Some anime fans do cultivate a more general knowledge of Japanese culture. They meet at sushi restaurants; clubs build partnerships via the internet with sister organizations in Japan. Members often travel to Japan in search of new material or to experience that fan culture more directly; some study Japanese language in order to participate in various translation projects. As American fans go online and establish direct contact with their Japanese counterparts, it creates an opening for other kinds of conversation.

Discussion lists move fluidly from focus on anime and manga specific topics onto larger considerations of Japanese politics and culture. These different degrees of cultural engagement are consistent with what Hannerz has told us about cosmopolitanism more generally: "[In one kind], the individual picks from other cultures only those pieces which suit himself. In another mode, however, the cosmopolitan does not make invidious distinctions among the particular elements of the alien culture in order to admit some of them into his repertoire and refuse others; he does not negotiate with the other culture but accepts it as a package deal." What cosmopolitianism at its best offers us is an escape from paroachialism and isolationism, the beginnings of a global perspective, and the awareness of alternative vantage points.

Henry Jenkins is the chief faculty investigator for the Convergence Culture Consortium and is Director of the Comparative Media Studies program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities at MIT. His blog is available at Jenkins' new book, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, features Jenkins' work on fan communities, collective intelligence, and video games in the past decade-and-a-half, an anthology of several of his essays. The first two parts of this essay were featured in the previous two weeks' C3 Weekly Updates.

---------- NEWS FROM THE C3 BLOG -----------

A New Era of Publishing: Scarcity and Plenitude, Blurb, and GSD&M's Andy Hunter. A recent post by GSD&M's Hunter on Blurb's facilitation of self-publishing ties into C3's writing about changes in the publishing industry related to a model built on scarcity in an era of plenitude, as Grant McCracken calls it.

Austen 3:16: Jane Austen Fan Communities Active on the Internet. The canonical author retains a strong fan presence online, proving that entertainment with active fan communities is not limited to today's media fare.

Prom Queen Launches Today on MySpace, Monday on YouTube, Official Site. Michael Eisner's new Webisode series has put a distribution deal together that will encourage community-building around this content, but will the series be strong enough to garner viewer interest?

NBC Universal Mobile Plan Launches with MediaFLO on Verizon, MobiTV. NBCU's deal with both MediaFLO and MobiTV launches significant news and entertainment content onto the mobile platform as the company moves forward in crossplatform distribution.

Crowdsourcing, Elizabeth Edwards, and the Times Quoting Blog Comments. In its story on Elizabeth Edwards' cancer, the New York Times chooses to quote a blogger as its "(wo)man on the street," only the second time the Times has used online comments from its site in a news story.

The Stress Monster and Executing Creating Meaning Management in Advertising. The new Gatorade Propel ad proves that creative advertising still gets people's attention, and Grant McCracken has even more analysis in addition to this coverage.

The Votes Are In for YouTube's First Awards. The YouTube awards garner significant publicity for its winners, as others question the real meaning in awards including categories such as cutest and most inspirational videos...and the differences between views and favorites, which YouTube already allows, and voting in these awards.

Sheamus O'Shaunessy: Great Example of Transmedia Personality Promotion. This colorful Irish pro wrestling personality is using a transmedia approach to promoting his persona through the Web, Second Life, film, etc.

NBC Universal/Fox Plan Online Video Distribution Site--But Are They Competing with YouTube? The conglomerate online video site could be a great forum for crossplatform distribution, but the venture will likely be less successful if it's an attempt to replace YouTube without providing the quotability and grabability that makes YouTube attractive.

Viacom's iFilm Questioned by Online Reporters for Having Copyright Violations Among Online Videos. A series of questions launched by Eric Bangeman at ARS Technica has gotten a lot of attention on the Internet, leaving people questioning its implications on Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube.

--------------- 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 ---------------

The Pedagogy of Fair Use

By: Ted Hovet

The 2007 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Chicago, Illinois, earlier this month featured a workshop on "SCMS and the Future of Fair Use." As an organization made up largely of university-level researchers and teachers, SCMS seeks to develop statements on the best practices of fair use of media content in both teaching and publication (more on this below).

While there are some overlapping issues and concerns, the concept of fair use covers areas distinct from those that fall under exemptions to copyright law, which protect "traditional" uses of media material in the classroom such as showing clips of films or TV shows to students in a media studies course. Recently, for instance, regarding the prohibition of circumventing encryption on digital media in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the Librarian of Congress in 2006 created an exemption for

Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university's film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors" (

In shifting attention to "fair use," where such direct statements of law or legal precedents are more difficult to come by, teachers and scholars will benefit from further clarification not only for our own purposes, but because the issue of fair use provides rich ground in the study and application of media by our students inside and outside of the classroom.

One especially valuable document presented at the SCMS workshop as a model of addressing fair use in one realm of media was the Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use (the entire document can be downloaded at, published through the Center for Social Media at the School of Communication, American University ( One thing that struck several of us at the workshop is how similar the uses of media in documentary film is to the potential uses of it in an educational setting--not surprising, of course, since the documentary film itself rests firmly in the realm of pedagogy in seeking to instruct its viewers by organizing, presenting, and analyzing its subject matter.

As I have suggested elsewhere ( the understanding of the role of a media educator can't end at the borders of a traditional classroom. As we encourage students to create their own documents and analyses, we should extend our emphasis on appropriate citation and attribution of sources to an exploration of the issues around fair use in the larger corporate, media, and educational realms. Critical thinking about fair use within the larger (and nebulous) area of copyright law can certainly be a valuable and productive area of inquiry in any classroom. In this light it is worth remembering that in a given media studies course we are likely to find not just future scholars and critics, but future media providers--a convergence of ideas and interests that should be extended beyond the classroom.

The SCMS Best Practices Statements are being developed in conjunction with the American University School of Law (who also helped develop the documentary filmmaker statement mentioned above), and they will be published on SCMS's website (, with the Teaching statement expected to be available this summer and the Publication one to follow. These will be important and valuable documents in the ongoing exploration of fair use in the study, teaching, creation, and distribution of media content.

As a part of continuing dialogue in this area I plan to suggest a workshop for the 2008 SCMS conference on the pedagogy of fair use, and hope that this conversation can take place in other forums (including here) as well.

Special thanks to Jason Mittell for assistance on this piece.

Ted Hovet is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Film Studies at Western Kentucky University. He teaches classes on American studies, film theory, the history of narrative film, and composition and has published on early film exhibition, pedagogy, and film adaptation. His current research focuses on the ways in which various media create "lines of display" that distinguish the content from the context and the introduction of new technologies into educational settings.


Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford (

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