I just returned from a weekend of convergence culture convening at MIT's Future's of Entertainment Conference. I am still reeling from all the amazing people and potent conversations. Although a relatively small group attends this event, the variety and level of engagement is remarkable. Just sifting through the pile of business cards I collected over the weekend, from experienced thinkers and do-ers, producers and PHDs alike, I am reminded the importance of this very rare, much needed, opportunity for exchange.
The conference started on a pitch perfect note when Henry Jenkins called out the Myth of Viral media, which got a hearty Amen! from those gathered before him. The point is, we know that the injection theory, is just not true. Consumers are not simply impregnated with ideas, people have agency and contexts as well, are dynamic, and especially so in todays media environment. 'Viral' is clearly the wrong metaphor to rely on, if we really want to understand the complicated things that the internet is teaching us about media and how people (have always) connected to each other through it. Avoiding use of the word became an excellent test for all the panelists, keeping everyone on their feet and avoiding falling back on BS industry terminology.
This conscientiousness with language is one of the important aspects of this conference. Having a dialog about the industry that takes place in an academic context forces more specific articulation, guiding the discussion to the real issue by not overly simplifying with some non-dairy whipped topping buzzwords.
Last year, the overall sentiment that moved me the most was a sincere desire we all shared to make (promote, distribute etc.) meaningful experiences for people through entertainment. The this year I would say, the word empathy struck me as a defining theme. In the closing panel Maurício Mota of New Content (Brazil), created a nice bookend when he so passionately advocated for empathizing with audiences - seems so obvious but is the first the to get lost in the frenzy over new technologies and money making schemes around media.
Entertainment which is attempting to broadcast with generic broad stroke demographic information is no longer working (and I think many would agree, has always sucked.) The key is to remember that an audience is still made up of individuals with varying interests and changing needs from moment to moment.
I'll be posting more specific thoughts from various panels in the next few days. I noticed Mike Arauz is also thinking about audiences and fans in particular and I am sure he'll be posting more from FOE3 as are many others. The official Convergence Culture Consortium blog has lots of conference notes posted, as well.
(image credit - Factoryjoe )