Participatory Culture in Transmedia Convergence

I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Harry Potter Lexicon. It’s an online reference work of Harry Potter series, created by a fan named Vander Ark. It even received praise from J.K. Rowling, “This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an internet café while out writing and check a fact…” (JKRowling.com, no date) The website not only gives detailed information about characters, locations, spells, etc, it also created a timeline including all the things happening in the magic world, which was accepted by the production company, Warner Bros, as a composition of Harry Potter DVDs. This is a perfect example of media convergence. Through it, we saw a good interaction between “the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer”. (Jenkins, 2008, p2)

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Everything goes smoothly before Rowling and Warner Brothers filed a lawsuit against Vander, asserting he violated intellectual property laws as he was going to publish the content of Lexicon in a book form.

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Here I have no intention to judge who is right or wrong. All I want to do is to remind consumers, don’t be too naive. Admittedly, the flow of media convergence “depends heavily on consumer’s active participation”.(Jenkins, 2008, p3) They use their own intelligence to interpret, explore or even create new content of the original version. While all these practices are limited to cultural level. When it comes to economic benefits, the line between corporations and consumers, which has been blurred in convergence culture becomes clear again. Until then media producers will retake the control over other participants.

In fact, so-called “participatory culture” is a wise business strategy. On the one hand, it encourages users to take part in content generation. In this way, they build loyalty to the brand. On the other hand, such active, migratory, and socially connected consumers are more like free labor, whose work can be taken as a link in the business chain to attract following participants. What producers need consumers to consider is how to transform their great enthusiasm into creative works. Besides this, nothing else.

By Mengyu Huang

Henry Jenkins (2008). Convergence Culture: Where Old Media and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 1-24.

JKRowling.com (no date). The Harry Potter Lexicon. Wikipedia. Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Harry_Potter_Lexicon[Accessed 4 March 2017].

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