Spreadable Media

Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green

Spreadability and Youth

Monday, December 15, 2014   9:00

Several researchers are focusing particularly on youth media and activism—from teenagers/young adults down to younger children’s use (or potential use) of social media. Below, we highlight three interesting projects that draw from Spreadable Media:

  • In her chapter “Youth Media and Its Global Digital Afterlife” for the anthology Youth Cultures in the Age of Global Media (edited by David Buckingham, Sara Bragg, and Mary Jane Kehily), Elisabeth Soep uses Spreadable Media to help set up her study—arguing for the importance of commentary and context around participation with youth-produced texts after the projects themselves are “complete” in the traditional sense.
  • Sangita Shresthova’s September 2013 working paper for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics’ Media, Activism and Participatory Politics Project, entitled “Between Storytelling and Surveillance: American Muslim Youth Negotiate Culture, Politics and Participation,” draws on Spreadable Media’s definition of spreadability and the book’s focus on circulation to providing underpinning for her case study of media production and circulation among Muslim youth in the U.S.
  • Northeastern University sociology professor Suzanna Danuta Walters (who is director of the university’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program), draws on Spreadable Media to help set the stage for her latest research project, “The Viral Is Political: Sexual Identity, Sexual Violence, Social Media,” The project, part of the university’s Humanities Center Resident Fellowship Program, uses the alleged high school gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio, and the “It Gets Better” project as case studies to examine how the method of circulation shapes the topic and how “virality enable(s) new and transforming responses to these topics.
  • On Ashley Woodfall’s Children & Cross-Platform Media site, which houses her ongoing doctoral research for Bournemouth University’s Center for Excellence in Media Practice, a July 2014 short thought piece draws on a piece from co-authors Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green that is part of the Spreadable Media project. Woodfall says that Green and Jenkins “usefully warn us here that we shouldn’t label participatory practices as being either ‘progressive or reactionary, exploitative or resistant’” before they’ve been fully examined. He uses the piece in a thought piece about Habermas’ idea of a “public sphere” and questions about what an ideal “public sphere” would be for children, who “are not fully enabled to participate” in spaces that are more participatory and, when spaces are explicitly set aside from them, usually find their agency severely restricted.

Spreadability and Non-Traditional Media Production/Circulation

Monday, December 8, 2014   9:00

Several recent studies have drawn on Spreadable Media vis-a-vis looking at new models for producing and distributing media content in a digital age. We recommend checking out these studies below:

  • In his 2014 Television & New Media case study, “Clouded Visions: UltraViolet and the Future of Digital Distribution,” Gregory Steirer evokes Spreadable Media, among other work, with models for understanding online distribution practices that he feels should be resisted “or, at the least tempered,” through neoclassical economic principles that can help us better understand the economic logic “underpinning media industry initiatives,” such as his case study of the UltraViolet model for digital distribution. In particular, Steirer uses the case study to advocate for economic analysis to be a more welcome part of media studies.
  • In this piece for IndieWire, “Finding Web TV’s ‘Louie’: Why Views Don’t Matter for Indies,” Aymar Jean Christian argues that indie TV productions shouldn’t focus on being as highly spread as possible but rather on having something to say and being discovered by the right audience.
  • Elsewhere, in his essay, “Indie TV: Innovation in Series Development,” for James Bennett and Niki Strange’s forthcoming book Media Independence: Working with Freedom or Working for Free?, Christian builds on the exploration of “challenges to the process of corporate network piloting in financing, audience behavior and distribution” in Spreadable Media and other media studies texts to explore how independent alternatives to the process of piloting “bridge(s) competing industry stakeholders’ needs through alternative practices and values.”
  • Kate Nash’s 2014 piece for Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, “What Is Interactivity For? The Social Dimension of Web-Documentary Participation,” draws on Spreadable Media’s description of the role active audiences play in circulating media texts in her consideration of Nico Carpentier’s distinction between participating in media texts and participating through media texts and what it means for scholars studying documentary.
  • Samuel Jason Cole draws on Spreadable Media for his 2013 dissertation for the University of Kansas’ Film and Media Studies program, entitled A Qualitative Case Study Analysis of the Current Condition of Niche Market, Independent Motion Picture ProducersHe uses the book to reference his belief that “longtime proponents of audience empowerment have…begun to acknowledge the realities of operating within…larger societal norms,” such as “a society driven by economic profitability,” as well as the blurring of “production” and “consumption” as practices of distribution spread from a model of stickiness to a model of spreadability.
  • In her 2013 Master’s thesis for MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies, “Byte-Sized TV: Writing the Web Series,” Katie Edgerton draws on Spreadable Media’s consideration of how the media industries struggle with understanding how to assign value various audiences and various means of participation, as well as various understandings of “value” in market and non-market logics, as well as on Henry Jenkins’ online essay regarding Joss Whedon for the project.
  • In his April 2014 piece for Georgetown University’s Media Theory and Cognitive Technologies course, entitled “Netflix and Video Streaming: The Remediation of the Video Rental Store into the Consumer’s Home,” Master’s candidate Alvaro Espiritu Santo Raba evokes Spreadable Media’s distinction between “consumer” and “multiplier” (inspired by the work of Grant McCracken in his essay for the project) in establishing the overall shifted media landscape in which Netflix operates.
  • On her MFA Not MBA blog post on “House of Cards and the Changing Entertainment Distribution Model,” UC-Irvine’s Deidre Woollard (who also work as a writer, editor, and marketer) draws on Spreadable Media to help set the context of how word of mouth and online circulation is increasingly being built into marketing and distribution strategies for serialized stories.

Fan Studies Research Drawing on Spreadable Media

Monday, December 1, 2014   9:00

In addition to the recent Cinema Journal roundtable looking at Spreadable Media in relation to fan studies scholarship and the range of recent essays published in Transformative Works and Cultures that we previously shared, several other scholars have used Spreadable Media in their own work—developing and further exploring themes this project has explored in a range of new areas. See some of them below:

Spreadable Media in Transformative Works and Cultures

Monday, November 24, 2014   9:00

A range of scholars writing for the online journal Transformative Works and Cultures have built on material from the Spreadable Media project over the past several months. Find their work here:

Studying Memes

Monday, November 17, 2014   9:00

Several new research projects focused on memes draw on Spreadable Media from a range of different angles:

  • In their May 2014 New Media & Society piece, “Memes as Genre: A Structurational Analysis of the Memescape,” Bradley E. Wiggins and Bret G. Bowers draw on the white paper that was part of the Spreadable Media project—challenging the white paper’s definition of the term “meme” in purely biological terms and reappropriating the phrase “spreadable media” to refer to original content that is circulating by audiences, as opposed mimetic content, which modifies the content from the original iteration.
  • Limor Shifman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Communication and Journalism draws on the original whitepaper from the Spreadable Media project in “Anatomy of a YouTube Meme” for New Media & Society in 2012, using the whitepaper’s argument for the audience’s agency in circulation—calling for retaining the language of “viral” and “meme” but arguing for giving them more nuance and definition.
  • Ryan Milner’s 2012 University of Kansas Communication Studies dissertation, The World Made Meme: Discourse and Identity in Participatory Media, draws on Spreadable Media’s critique of the biological metaphors “meme” and “viral” to describe how cultural texts circulate, distinguishing between the two terms and arguing for retaining the term “meme,” especially in how it has been redefined over time.
  • In his 2012 honors thesis for the University of Pittsburgh, entitled “LOLs, Lulz, and ROFL: The Culture, Fun, and Serious Business of Internet Memes,” Noah David Levinson includes some consideration of Spreadable Media’s characterization of spreadability.

Understanding the Spreadable Media Environment

Monday, November 10, 2014   9:00

We’ve been excited to see our book pop up in relation to a variety of pieces which help provide a better understanding of key concepts surrounding the cultural landscape we describe in Spreadable Media. No matter what angle has brought you to the book and our site, we recommend you add the following to your reading list:

  • In their 2013 piece for Media and Communication, “Understanding Social Media Logic,” the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Mediastudies’ José van Dijck and Thomas Poell consider and make a distinction between the concept of “spreadability” and concepts of “connectivity” in relation to social media platforms.
  • In evoking “the scale at which people who never had access to broadcast media are now doing so on an everyday basis and the conscious strategic appropriate of media tools in this process,” Nancy Baym and danah boyd’s 2012 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media piece, “Socially Mediated Publicness: An Introduction,” references Spreadable Media—particularly in making the point that it’s not the few “viral hits” but rather the many moderately spread videos that are truly changing the media landscape.
  • In their 2014 piece for Convergence, entitled “Charting and Challenging Digital Media Convergence Practice and Rhetoric through Longitudinal Media Population Surveys,” Anna Westerståhl Stenport, Elias Markstedt, and Matthew Crain reference Spreadable Media in the trajectory of co-author Henry Jenkins’ work about how “new forms of participatory media culture (are) enabled by media convergence” and draw on the book to argue that such tools/forms’ ability to be a “power generator” is “highly contextual and never absolute.”
  • In March 2014, the Universidad de La Sabana (in Colombia)’s Palabra Clave published a “brief reflection” entitled “Integrated?” arguing against technological determinism and looking at the ways human communication and culture pre-date and shape online communication. In the process, the piece references Spreadable Media and a range of other contemporary work in the communication field on digital culture.
  • Maria Clara Aquino Bittencourt opens her 2013 piece for the Brazilian journal GEMInIS (in Portuguese), entitled “Interatividade como Categoria de Análise sobre Convergência entre Televisão e Web,” by evoking Spreadable Media in a call for studying how both the media industries and cultural practices are evolving in an environment where media texts are circulating, both bottom-up and top-down. Her study looks at interactivity, and in particular at processes of participation and sharing “to understand technical, social and cultural exchanges established in production, circulation and consumption of television and web.”
  • In her early draft published on Cultural Digitally, the University of Arkansas’s Stephanie Ricker Schulte shares her piece on “Personalization,” which will be published in Ben Peters’ forthcoming Digital Keywords project. Schulte writes about the origin of the term, the ways new technology presumably increase “pleasure, autonomy, ease, and agency” for users, and also “how human and institutional interactions shape the meaning of these news gadgets.” The draft draws on Spreadable Media as an example of scholarship focusing on the potentials of new technologies to increase agency and participation.
  • Back in October 2013, co-author Henry Jenkins published the work of one of the students in his Public Intellectuals class at USC, David Jeong, on “Information Darwinism.” In it, Jeong argues for the type of information people are more likely to engage with and draws on the concept of “spreadable media” to argue that, in an era of an overabundance of available info, “the information that survives is information that garners our collective attention, that captivates the collective consciousness.”

Thinking Critically about the Nature of Spreadability

Monday, November 3, 2014   9:00

For those looking to think critically about the social, cultural, political, and economic environment shaping the ways in which people are sharing media texts, here are a few pieces we highly recommend you check out and which have engaged with ides from our book:

  • In his 2014 piece for Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies entitled “Frictionless Sharing and Digital Promiscuity,” American University of Paris Global Communications Profesor Robert Payne looks at the rise of “frictionless sharing” as a concept and the monetization efforts focused on normalizing and making as easy as possible the circulation of media texts. Payne asks, “If the new rhetoric of ‘sharing’ erases the riskiness of circulation previously encoded in dominant images of vitality, notably behaviors associated with HIV, then what is the relationship of the projected potential of ‘frictionless sharing’ to existing normative frames of ethics and morality?” In the process, Payne refers to Spreadable Media and looks to complicate binaries in understanding user agency and in moving beyond the language of vitality.
  • This piece draws from Robert Payne’s 2013 piece for Cultural Studies, entitled “Virality 2.0: Networked Promiscuity and the Sharing Subject,” which reacts to material related to the Spreadable Media project by stating that “as transmission has been rebranded as ‘sharing,’ questions of personal and moral responsibility attendant to transmission and infection have been erased in favor of a bland ideology of interactivity.” The piece posits that such language “stabilize(s) and fetishise(s) the active ‘sharing subject’ in neoliberal and heteronormative terms.”
  • In her 2014 New Media & Society piece, “The Interface as Discourse: The Production of Norms through Web Design,” Mel Stanfill draws on Spreadable Media’s designation between stickiness and spreadability in examining the various technological functions in place on media producers’ official sites that limit the portability of content, makes audiences more “measurable,” and eliminates the opportunity to remix media texts in ways that she argues “ignores fair use.”
  • Andrew Hoskins’ provocative 2013 piece for Memory Studies, “The End of Decay Time,” draws on Spreadable Media in its consideration of how “permanently” archived material might easily spread in an environment where the physical decay of most archived media is no longer an issue. In particular, Hoskins explores the potential for “instant decay: corruption, disconnection and deletion” and a “ressentiment of the post-scarcity age: a loss of the confidence of steady decay time exposes memory to less certain prospects for erasure and for forgetting.”
  • Jason Pridmore and Daniel Trottier’s essay “Extending the Audience: Social Media Marketing, Technologies and the Construction of Markets,” for Lee McGuigan and Vincent Manzerolle’s The Audience Commodity in a Digital Age: Revisiting a Critical Theory of Commercial Media, draws on Spreadable Media’s consideration of Dallas Smythe’s work on audience activity as labor as it explores social media users’ ambivalence to how their participation is shaped and commoditized via social network sites.
  • In her work on describing the “infosaturation” involved in giving people recommended content based on their profiles and previous behavior, Patrícia Dias of the Research Center on Communication and Culture at the Catholic University of Portugal draws on Spreadable Media’s argument for the more active agency of people in engaging and circulating content. Her research, which looks at “the cognitive and relational effects of digital immersion” as new personalization technologies arise, is published at “From ‘Infoxication’ to ‘Infosaturation’: A Theoretical Overview of the Cognitive and Social Effects of Digital Immersion” in Ámbitos: Revista Internacional de Comunicación.
  • In their 2013 Swedish media and communication studies thesis for Uppsala University’s Department of Informatics and Media, “Google ser Dig: En Kvalitativ Studie av Internetanvändares Medvetenhet och Åsikter om Filterbubblor” (which translates to “Google Is Watching You: A Qualitative Study of Internet Users’ Awareness and Opinions on Filter Bubbles”), Carl Hallvarsson & Jessica Norén draw on Spreadable Media to demonstrate a greater expectation of trust from audiences/users. Based on focus group group research, Hallvarsson and Norén argue that the “empowered audiences” Spreadable Media advocates for are often not possible when it comes to digital companies like Google, where audiences are grossly unaware of the design of the platform and how the data they create is being used.
  • The University of Michigan’s Lisa Nakamura spoke to content/“memes” that we want to die and some of the negative cultural attributes that make things spreadable—including racism, hate, and other issues, challenging any unabashed celebration of spreadability on its own right. Her comments were part of a panel on “Identity Work and Identity Play Online” at the American Studies Association in Washington DC in December 2013 alongside NYU’s Laura Portwood-Stacer, UCLA’s Anne Cong-Huyen, and USC’s Tara McPherson. See Dan Greene’s write-up here.

Thinking Further about Spreadability

Monday, October 27, 2014   9:00

Several great pieces have been published which draws on Spreadable Media in some way in looking further at how stories spread in a digital age:

  • The January 2014 International Journal of Cultural Studies piece “Constructing a Digital Storycircle: Digital Infrastructure and Mutual Recognition,” authored by Nick Couldry, Richard MacDonald, Hilde Stephansen, Wilma Clark, Luke Dickens, and Aristea Fotopoulou, examines the community setting in which stories are shared online. In their analysis, the authors draw on Spreadable Media’s “reflections on the limits of participatory culture around commercial media” and questions about the potential dangers posed to political institutions by spreadability but primarily focus on “the positive possibilities” for narrative exchange in an online setting.
  • John Hartley includes Spreadable Media among his references for his 2013 piece in Journal of Cultural Science, entitled “A Trojan Horse in the Citadel of Stories?” In the piece, Hartley examines the “scaling up” from self-expression to self-marketing/representation and how storytelling connects with “the evolution of the polity.” Ultimately, via a case study of connections between Australia and Turkey, Hartley argues that there needs to be “new guides to storytelling action, not the old (Trojan) warhorses of mainstream media.”
  • In their introduction to the 2014 inaugural issue of Asiascape: Digital Asia, entitled “Revisiting the Emancipatory Potential of Digital Media in Asia,” Leiden University’s Florian Schneider and Chris Goto-Jonesdraw on Spreadable Media in talking about co-author Henry Jenkins’ contention that “social sharing and the ‘remixing’ of culture allows users to develop a sense of self-worth and of community.”
  • Pip Shea’s 2013 Journal of Cultural Science piece, entitled “Co-Creating Knowledge Online: Approaches for Community Artists,” focuses on the concepts of co-creation and participatory culture in the community arts field, and particularly looking at “the making of new knowledge.” The piece evokes Spreadable Media in referring to a booklet Shea made and focuses the analysis around, entitled Co-creating Knowledge Online, which was made available for free online distribution.
  • University of Southern California’s Kathi Inman Berens (now researching as part of the Digital Culture Research Group at Norway’s University of Bergen) is currently doing work on “OccupyMLA,” a “hoax” that took place at the Modern Language Association’s 2013 conference. Her work includes using concepts from Spreadable Media to examine the wide circulation of the project beyond its original context and beyond the creators’ own distribution. More on her work from her proposal for a 2015 session at the MLA’s national conference, as part of a larger panel on “Authenticity in Distributed Networks.”
  • In his 2013 University of Texas-Austin Master’s thesis, entitled “Characteristics of Content and Social Spread Strategy on the Indiegogo Crowdfunding Platform,” Joseph S. Stern references Spreadable Media’s consideration of how people appraise media content.
  • In his 2012 political science thesis for the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali “Guido Carli” (LUISS University of Rome), entitled “Influenza, Reputazione e Visibilità su Twitter. Un’analisi Semiotica.” Gian Mario Bachetti draws on Spreadable Media’s reference to a networked culture where people maintain much more frequent connections with a wider range of their network via online communication tools in his semiotic study of the activity of “influencers” on Twitter.
  • Recent George Washington University School of Business grad Alex Smolen looks at the cultural drivers behind various highly spread online videos, drawing on Spreadable Media and other media studies/journalism texts at her blog, The Mind of Alex Smolen.

Spreadable Media and Rethinking Pedagogical Approaches

Monday, October 20, 2014   9:00

A range of thinkers working on changing pedagogical practices throughout all forms of education have been engaging with—and providing useful extensions to—many of the ideas in Spreadable Media. Learn about a few of these projects—and how they engage with the book—in the following places:

  • A group called “The 21st Century Collective” published a collection in 2013 called Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning, available via the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC). The co-authors of the second chapter (entitled “From Open Programming to Open Learning: The Cathedral, the Bazaar, and the Open Classroom”), Barry Peddycord III and Elizabeth A. Pitts, write that Spreadable Media “eloquently” describes the shift from one-way models of producing and distributing messages to a more collaborator model where audiences can “create, remix and share information.”
  • In Joanne Larson’s Radical Equality in Education: Starting Over in U.S. Schooling, she draws on Spreadable Media to evoke the shift “into many-to-many participation structures in which the social relations between production and consumption are blurred, if not erased” and emphasizes that “children and youth are not ‘playing’ at something they will grow out of; these are the language, literacy, and knowledge production practices now.”
  • In her presentation at the Networked Learning Conference in Edinburgh, UK, in April 2014, entitled “Taming Social Media in Higher Education Classrooms,” Ryerson University School of Professional Communication’s Wendy Freeman uses Spreadable Media to help set the landscape for communication in today’s society before launching into the results of a study based on in-depth interviews with postsecondary educators and how they use social media as part of their pedagogical approach.
  • Stefano Bonometti of the Università degli Studi del Molise in Italy draws on Spreadable Media to help explain the current online environment of “sharing and participation” which is driving some experimentation with online multimedia learning. See his short paper, entitled “A Cross-Media Environment for Teacher Training,” published as part of the proceedings for the Interaction Design in Educational Environments (IDEE) workshop in June 2014 in Albacete, Spain.
  • In her 2013 dissertation for Pennsylvania State University’s College of Education, entitled Tensions of Teaching Media Literacy in Teacher Education, Nalova Elaine Ngomba-Westbrook references Spreadable Media as an example of a media literacy study that takes a “process focus,” looking at “the democratizing opportunities inherent” in the potential spreadability of media texts.

Spreadable Media in the Classroom

Monday, October 13, 2014   9:00

We are excited to see instructors using Spreadable Media in the classroom across a wide range of subjects, disciplinary approaches, and countries. Below are some of the latest appearances we’ve seen for Spreadable Media on university syllabi:

  • Drake University Law School’s Peter K. Yu lists Spreadable Media among his Reference Works for his Fall 2014 course, IP in the Internet Age.
  • Georgia State University Department of Communication’s Ted Friedman used Spreadable Media as one of the textbooks for his Fall 2013 senior seminar on “Convergence Culture.”
  • The University of Turin Department for the Study of Culture, Politics, and Society’s Cristopher Cepernich is using Spreadable Media as a core text for his upcoming course, Media Systems and ICT.
  • The University of Greenland’s Language, Literature, and Media’s course catalog lists Spreadable Media among the texts used/covered in its classes.
  • Charles Sturt University School of Information Studies course director Judy O’Connell includes Spreadable Media on her book list for students to review for her Concept & Practices in a Digital Age course.
  • Spreadable Media is one of the core texts for Renira Rampazzo Gambarato’s Transmedia Storytelling II course at the Tallinn University Baltic Film and Media School.
  • Spreadable Media is also a required textbook for Liberty University’s communication course “The Transmedia Organization.”
  • Spreadable Media is listed as a key “New Media/Multi-Platform” resource for the Rights & Creative Industries module in Creative & Culture Industries at the University of the West of Scotland, coordinated by Jason Robertson.
  • Darryl Woodford has been using material surrounding the Spreadable Media project for his “New Media: Internet, Self and Beyond” course at the Queensland University of Technology.
  • Prof. Leonardo Flores in the English Department at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus uses Spreadable Media’s introduction and first chapter to help his Literature in Digital Media students think through how Hamlet has been remixed and spread. A write-up on the class is available here.
  • Gary Hink of University of Colorado-Boulder’s Program for Writing & Rhetoric used the white paper that was part of the Spreadable Media project for his Summer 2014 Technology & American Culture course.
  • Chloe Smolarski’s Digital Storytelling Spring 2014 course for York College Communication Technology launches with William Uricchio’s “The History of Spreadable Media,” which is one of the essays that are part of the enhanced Spreadable Media book available online.
  • Finally, in her use of Spreadable Media in her Marylhurt University literature course, entitled “Digital Humanities and New Media: An Introduction,” Prof. Kathi Inman Berens posted two videos with her reflections, here and here.
← Older posts