Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week 2 Reading: Convergence Culture, Chapter 4: Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?

Chapter 4: Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?

1.  How has technology changed the division between folk culture and commercial or mass culture?

Technology, particularly the Internet, has blurred the lines between folk culture and mass culture by bringing the ability to let everyone become a creator of content.  With a couple clicks of your mouse, you have access to almost every part of the world.  Never before has an individual had so much “power” at their fingertips.  We have the ability to broadcast our thoughts through word, audio and even video now.  Jenkins compares fan digital film to the punk DIY culture: “grassroots experimentation generated new sounds, new artists, new techniques, and new relations to consumers which have been pulled more and more into mainstream practice” (Jenkins, 2006).  Here are a couple of examples of what Jenkins is talking about:

Jenkins further goes on to say that technology blurs the line between creator and consumer: “within convergence culture, everyone’s a participant – although participants may have different degrees of status and influence” (Jenkins, 2006).

2.  How did Japanese media companies work with anime fans?

Compared to American and European media companies, Japanese media companies took a completely different approach to their fan base.  They actually encouraged the interactivity and devotion of their fans, as it increased their popularity and brand loyalty.  According to Jenkins, “the global sales of Japanese animation and character goods is an astonishing eighty billion dollar a year industry, ten times of what it was a decade ago” (Jenkins, 2006).  Japan and the U.S. used the same format for videos (NTSC), which increased the availability of the products to American audiences.  The 90’s showed the first huge “boom” of the anime industry.  While “many U.S. companies might have regarded all of this underground circulation as piracy and shut it down” (Jenkins, 2006), Japanese companies welcomed it.  The companies “used the fan base to monitor shifts in audience tastes…fearing the wrath of such a well entrenched fan base if they were to act otherwise” (Jenkins, 2006).  The following examples are some of the more popular anime titles of the past two decades (all taken from YouTube):

3.  Jenkins goes on quite a bit about how Lucas and Lucas Arts have tried to deal with fan fiction. What have been the various ways they've tried to promote their Star Wars franchises without losing control of the IP?

Lucasfilm established a non-fee licensing bureau in 1977 that “would review material and offer advice about potential copyright infringement” (Jenkins, 2006).  The bureau dissolved after Lucas had “stumbled upon some examples of fan erotica that shocked his sensibilities” (Jenkins, 2006).  In 1981, Lucasfilm “issued warnings to fans who published zines containing sexually explicit stories, while implicitly giving permission to publish nonerotic stories as they were not sold for profit” (Jenkins, 2006).  As the Internet expanded in the late 80’s and 90’s, corporations tried to play sheriff in lands that were unfamiliar and not governed yet.  In 2000, Lucasfilm offered fans free Web Space via the Star Wars domain name, even “offering free content for their sites, but only under the condition that whatever they created would become the studio’s intellectual property” (Jenkins, 2006).  Lucasfilms also “designated AtomFilms.com as the official host for the Star Wars fan films” (Jenkins, 2006).  Atomfilms proved to be a double edged sword though.  Fans could submit their films to the website as long as they were considered parodies of the Star Wars Universe.  Any deviation from this constituted the creation of fan fiction, and could possibly open up Lucasfilms for litigation.  The following videos are from Z-Team Productions.  I actually worked with the producer of these films (but never realized how popular they were in Star Wars circles):

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

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