This past fall saw the public unveiling of the Convergence Culture Consortium (C3), a new CMS initiative examining the world of branded entertainment. As new ways of storytelling, advertising and branding emerge, C3’s mission is to track them, analyze them, and examine how they can be placed into a larger artistic and commercial context.
The project takes its name from Henry Jenkins’ forthcoming book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. Parmesh Shahani, a recent graduate of the CMS Master’s program, was hired as research manager for the initiative. Graduate student investigators are Ilya Vedrashko (’06), Ivan Askwith (’07), Alec Austin (’07), Sam Ford (’07) and Geoffrey Long (’07). William Uricchio, co-director of CMS, and Beth Coleman, assistant professor of writing and new media at MIT, join Jenkins as principal investigators for the project.
During its first semester, C3 authored a round of white papers on innovations in advergaming (the convergence of advertising and video games), product placement and fan cultures.
The group also launched a weekly newsletter about media events for its corporate partners, and started a website at convergenceculture.org, which includes a weblog on issues of media convergence.
Plans for the spring semester include producing five more white papers on topics such as transmedia storytelling, alternative reality games, the use of new technology within the advertising industry and a major ethnographic case study of media use on the campuses of MIT and Northeastern University.
C3 team members have been active at conferences dealing with issues of media convergence. Among the events where members have or will appear are VNU’s The Next Big Idea, South by Southwest, MIT’s The Economics of Open Content, McGraw-Hill’s Media Summit 2006, The Game Initiative’s Austin Games Conference, and the Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association’s national conference. The group is also planning a conference of its own to be held in the late spring.
In addition to C3’s core team, the project’s affiliated MIT faculty members include Edward Barrett, senior lecturer in writing; Ian Condry, assistant professor of Japanese cultural studies; Thomas DeFrantz, associate professor in the Department of Theater Arts; and Jing Wang, section head of Foreign Language and Literatures. They are joined by several faculty members from other universities including Robert Kozinets, associate professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business; Grant McCracken, adjunct professor at McGill University and corporate consultant; Jason Mittell, assistant professor of American civilization and film and media culture at Middlebury College; Kurt Squire, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former CMS project manager; Shenja van der Graaf, an international independent media scholar; and Stacy L. Wood, associate professor of marketing at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business.
The group’s first three corporate partners are the Austin, Texas-based ad agency GSD&M, MTV and Turner Broadcasting.