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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cybersubculture Project

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Affective Energetics

Memories of conversations and good laughter pour out of the woodwork of this porch. Each creek and bend in its beams puts a bounce in my step. Each timber teems with a trajectory of what has been and what is promised to come. There are knots that have fallen out, they hold the secret to lost objects, forgotten once and for all. I’m seduced by what may lie beneath this rigid frame. When in times of wind, I care for these columns as if they were my only hope. This porch makes possible the oscillations of my swing. Each movement enchants me, amidst its uncertainty a subtle rhythm emerges, grabs hold of me, and takes flight. An iridescent light of reverence spills out upon me, an entire reservoir overflows the dams of memory’s clogged pores. In a single moment of intensity of the everyday, I finally become free to resonate with the multiple me’s.

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Turning Documents into Monuments

    Jenkins seems to be just as seduced by the objects of convergence culture as those he intends to inform. He claims that his “goal here is to document conflicting perspectives on media change rather than to critique them.” (p. 13) He attempts to take’ a God’s eye view from nowhere’, speaking from a position as somehow above the fray of the structures he’s analyzing. While being reflexive and rigorous in research methods is key, Jenkins seems to fear reaching any semblance of a decisive conclusion. He merely points to the existence of a paradox, without providing a measurement of the way the scales are tipped. Granted the Survivor chapter and others points to the problem of an oversaturation of dogmatic interpretations about the dynamics of convergence, it seems there is an even greater risk in claiming to be apolitical.  

    Jenkins states that, “The new knowledge culture has arisen as our ties to older forms of social community are breaking down, our rooting in physical geography is diminished, our bonds to the extended and even the nuclear family are disintegrating, and our allegiances to nation-states are being redefined.”(p.27)It is unclear whether a single causal claim can be made as to whether the internet erodes these ties or if these ties determine  the way we engage the internet; the forces appear to be mutually reinforcing. People have been making statements like “knowledge becomes power in the age of media convergence” (p. 20) repeatedly since the Renaissance, what seems more important is to evaluate the trends of its dispersion or concentration. While Jenkins points to the paradoxes that emerge within the particularized cases of reality television or other pop culture examples, it seems that if one is able to pan out and investigate the overall effects of convergence culture Levy’s feet seem more firmly rooted in the ground than at first glance. Knowledge is now able to circulate with increased rapidity and scope than ever before, people are able to check the manipulation of events, and see beyond what immediately given to them. The difference in the available knowledge about the current wars and the First Gulf War that may or may not have ever occurred seem an especially poignant demonstrations of the ongoing transformation. While there certainly are limits, it seems misguided to present the case as just a paradox, without having a yardstick by which to judge it. Perhaps there are contradictory forces which problematize the way one ought to understand the dynamics of convergence, but one can also discern more universal forces emerging amidst all the noise.

    Jenkins uses the most commodified examples of convergence culture to point to the inevitability of consumer capitalism’s stranglehold on resistance. Why would we expect the forms of collaboration that develop out of a reality television show to hold emancipatory potential? If a group’s method of exerting control upon a media corporation is part of the “narrative pleasure” (p. 28 ) or the experience of its product then that only makes people more affectively invested in the process of consumption. Jenkins points are not to be overlooked, it is extremely important " to understand the emotional underpinnings of consumer decision-making as a driving force behind viewing and purchasing decisions." (p. 62) And to analyze the way "commodification is also a form of exploitation.” (p. 62) But Jenkins analysis is limited, almost threadbare, in scope in certain respects. Why even mention exploitation as an abstract concept unless one is willing to make it felt? It seems the importance in the cases of Survivor or American Idol is to show the way in which these original Frankensteined combinations birthed by convergence culture breed interpassivity among publics. They participate within a larger ideological frame that keeps people distracted from struggles beyond themselves by creating the illusion of activity. People go on voting on their cell phones or really sticking it to Mark Burnett, thinking companies are changing the way they relate to you as a consumer, when in reality nothing changes. 

    Jenkins thinks he is the spoiler of the spoilers. He criticizes Pierre Levy at the points where Levy is “most utopian” (p. 38) or “at his most optimistic” (p. 29) rather than at his most pragmatic level. What about the numerous examples in which convergence has led not to cynical disenchantment with politics but toward cultivating new modes of engagement? What about the use of social media in the Iranian elections? Cell phones documenting human rights abuses? Wikileaks? or whistle-blowing organizations? 

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