Trajectories of Convergence: The Medium is the Message?

“In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms” -Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins defines media convergence as the collision of old and new media, ‘where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways’ (Jenkins, 2006). Thus it is the flow of content across multiple media platforms through the cooperation between media industries and the active participation of media audiences (Jenkins 2006). In simple and concise terms, it is the the continuous process and sharing of content over different media platforms i.e. taking a photo with the multifunctional device, your mobile phone; sending it to your friend via WhatsApp who then posts it on instagram and then decides to share it on Facebook. Convergence not only entails the usage of multiple media platforms, it also involves the continuous development of products through technology. For example, back in the day, watching a movie meant going to the cinema, it was a public event. Now you can watch a movie at home; on your laptop; on your phone; on the internet; on your tablet; on the plane etc: the options are limitless!

This video gives a useful insight on how technology has impacted the innovation of multinational electronic cooperations, Panasonic.

This convergence culture has had a profound impact in our society. It has made society more: efficient; multi-functioned; productive; dependent; I dare say, lazy; innovative etc. It has essentially changed the way we behave and structure our lives. 

When I think about the impact this culture of convergence has had on me personally, I can safely say that my life would be so chaotic without such developments. Why? Because I am your typical tech savy young adult who relies on her mobile phone to get through her daily tasks! I still remember the very first phone my parents bought for me. I was in year 7 and I felt so cool to own one. I could make my own calls, send messages, take pixilated photos, record my own voice and play games. It was pretty amazing for a 12-year-old! However, there has been so much technological development since 2006 that it’s hard to imagine how i’d function with the phone I had back in year 7. Now my mobile actually feels like a mini computer in my pocket. Other than being able to use the basic and original functions of a mobile phone -make calls – I can also now: text, use the internet (access Facebook, google etc), take high resolution photos, use NetBank, Skype, use GPS, use calendar (which is one thing I can’t live without), download subject notes, read books, watch movies, type up notes, listen to music and the radio etc. Any of these functions can be performed through other media appliances (Jenkins, 2004), such as a camera or an ipod. Thus, with all these functions on one appliance, I feel pretty much limitless when I have my phone -except for when the battery dies on me..then feels like the end of the world. I have clearly structured my life in such a way where I’m always dependent on my my phone wherever I go. 

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This continuous change in the way we express ourselves through media platforms also reflects Mark Federman’s assertion that ‘any extension of ourselves…results from any new technology’ (Federman, 2004). Thus the medium -‘the message that reflects the change of scale, pace or pattern of behaviour’—is an extension of ourselves (Federman, 2004). In a way, this also reflects the move from a more passive culture by consumers to a more active and participatory culture where consumers share, produce and consume products. Thus we become prosumers. A classic example would be YouTube. YouTube is a video-sharing site which displays a variety of not only video clips, TV clips, music videos but also user-generated video content and amateur content such as video blogging. It has also enabled ‘visual journalism’, in which both ordinary citizen eyewitnesses and established news organisations can create, upload and share news. YouTube has also been used as a tool to spur activism and protest. Phillip N.Howard quoted an activist’s description that organising political unrest involved using “Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” Thus media platforms has given the audience the power to dictate, control, influence, appropriate and recirculate content in powerful ways.

Here is an interesting take by Henry Jenkins on what YouTube means for the future of participatory culture.

Need a nice concise summary? Check out this video of Henry Jenkins explaining the definition of media convergence.

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