Spreadable media
Sarper Durmus
21

“How To Read This Book”

Hi Sarper…I appreciated this piece and the chance to reflect on this in some greater detail. I’m curious: did you read the “How to Read This Book” that began the book? It was intended to address just the questions that you’re outlining here. If you did, I hope it was a help to you. If you didn’t, and you don’t have a copy of hte book available, happy to forward that part to you. I think some context might be particularly useful for anyone who reads this. The “Spreadable Media” project was a result of a 5+-year research initiative at MIT. Henry Jenkins was principal investigator; for a significant portion of that time, I worked in the project as a grad student and later as project manager. And Joshua Green, in a postdoctoral position, was research manager. The project, called “The Convergence Culture Consortium,” was aimed to bring work being done in the humanities into direct conversation with two “industry” groups: the marketing/advertising/PR/corporate communications world and the media industries. So it’s particularly important to note that the explicit focus of “Spreadable Media” is to engage academics and students in media studies classrooms, on the one hand, and professionals in media and marketing, on the other, in a common conversation. As such, it made particular sense to draw many examples from the world of marketing, corporate communications, and the media industries.

By the time Spreadable Media was published, all three of us were no longer at MIT, and the Convergence Culture Consortium project itself had finished its 5-year run. In many ways, this book acted as a collection of the work done around that project. Henry Jenkins is now at USC and has been following up on this work particularly with his explorations into “civic media,” via the Civic Paths project and his work with MacArthur, etc. Joshua Green served as part of a project at UC-Santa Barbara for some time looking at engaging with the media industries and then went on to work for digital straetgy firm Undercurrent and now advertising agency Arnold.

Meanwhile, I have worked, as a consultant since 2007 and full-time since 2008, at Peppercomm, a communications & marketing consultancy. I spend 1/3 of my time consulting with companies about their communications strategy and 1/3 of my time talking about changing pracitcies in the marketing/communications space within the industry…and then they give me 1/3 of my time to continue doing academic work that doesn’t necessarily relate to marketing/communications and which I retain IP for and the company doesn’t have oversight. So, in that time, I continue teaching on pop culture studies, etc. And my academic work has focused on fan studies, the narrative worlds of soap opera and pro wrestling, the concept of “ownership” and neogiations between audiences/users/customers and the companies that technically “own” intellectual property or trademarks, etc. I’ve also done some academic writing about concepts like empathy and ethics and how they do (or don’t) manifest themselves in the world of marketing & communications.

In any case, I hope this provided a bit of helpful context, as I thought the piece seemed to indicate you felt the book promised something other than what was delivered when we’d hoped that the desire to engage academics, marketers, & media industry professionals had been explicit in the project.

That being said, someof the work we’re doing now and that we’ve seen coming out of the project focuses on elements of participatory culture beyond the media and marketing worlds…as well as a deeper look at “the dark side” of spreadability, both in terms of how negative behaviors manifest themselves in the contemporary media environment and the sort of data gathering techniques (from government and from industry) that pose significant challenges to today’s citizens.

If you’d like to talk about any of this more, feel free to shoot me a line sometime at samford@mit.edu.

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