Spreadable Media

Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green

From the Trivial to the Employable…

Monday, April 20, 2015   9:00

A couple of places Spreadable Media has been seen in recent months:

  • “Based on what you know about digital narratives, what do you think the term ‘spreadable media’ applies to?” This and other questions about civics and storytelling from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “Digital Storytelling Quiz.”
  • Could understanding “spreadable media” get you a job? For a position earlier this year entitled “Graduate Developer, Alternate Reality Games,” London-based company Transmedia Storyteller listed understanding the concept as a “desirable” skill/attribute.

Applying Spreadable Media to New Realms

Monday, April 13, 2015   9:00

Since Spreadable Media was released, we’ve been intrigued to see scholars, practitioners, and thinkers apply concepts from the books to fields we wouldn’t have expected. Below, see how the book has recently been used as a resource in studies of religion, mathematics, museums, photography, sound, architecture, performance art, psychology, sociology, and communication platforms that uniquely meet the needs of seniors:

  • In their 2014 piece for Argumentation, entitled “What’s So Funny about Arguing with God? A Case for Playful Argumentation from Jewish Literature,” Don Waisanen, Hershey H. Friedman, and Linda Weiser Friedman reference Spreadable Media to establish how humor about God is highly spread through the contemporary environment for producing and circulating content.
  • In their 2014 Perspectives on Psychological Science piece, “Missed Programs (You Can’t TiVo This One: Why Psychologists Should Study Media,” authors Bradley M. Okdie, David R. Ewoldsen, Nicole L. Muscanell, Rosanna E. Guadagno, Cassie A. Eno, John A. Velez, Robert A. Dunn, Jamie O’Mally, and Lauren Reichart Smith draw on Spreadable Media to argue that the more active roles audiences play in producing/circulating media texts further proves the need for their field to pay greater attention to contributing to media psychology.
  • In her 2013 piece for Scientific Studies and Research. Series Mathematics and Informatics, entitled “Measures for Uncertain Data. Case Study on Data Extracted from Mass Media,” University of Bacău Mathematics, Informatics and Education Sciences Professor Elena Nechita examines two key measures of uncertainty when applied to a data set from mass media. Nechita references Spreadable Media as a supporting text when talking about the prominence and increased access to media texts in a digital age, as well as an increased ability for interactivity between producer and audience enabled by new technologies/platforms.
  • Johan Oomen and Maarten Brinkerink from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and Thijs van Exel from Kennisland included Spreadable Media among their cited works for their “Sound of the Netherlands: Crowdsourcing the Dutch Soundscape” presentation at the “Museums and the Web 2013″ conference in April 2013 in Portland, Ore.
  • In her presentation at Helsinki Photomedia 2014: Photographic Powers, which took place at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, on March 26-28, 2014, Dr. Bojana Romic, a researcher at Roskilde University’s Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies and professor at Malmö University’s Communication for Development Department in Denmark, presented “Cloned Images and the Optical Unconscious,” which proposes a definition of broadening the concept of “optical unconscious” as defined by Walter Benjamin and Rosalink Krauss to include phenomena of image cloning explored by W.J.T. Mitchell and spreadability as defined by Spreadable Media.
  • In his 2014 University of Texas-Austin doctoral dissertation, entitled Televising Architecture: Media, Public Engagement, and Design in America, Samuel Tommy Dodd evokes Spreadable Media and its description of today’s media environment in exploring how definitions of architecture must change “as our understanding of new media and participatory culture change within the digital culture of the twenty-first century.”
  • In her Master’s thesis work at The University of Akron on “New Media Technology Strategies in the Performing Arts: A Case Study on GroundWorks DanceTheater’s New Media Project,” Takisha Williamson draws on Spreadable Media to underscore how audiences are reshaping media texts in new ways in the contemporary media landscape.
  • Denis I. Chistyakov’s dissertation (in Russian) for the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, focused on sociological interpretations of the operation of mass media in society—including how media texts impact people’s identities, status, and construction of social reality. Included among the sources for the project is Spreadable Media.
  • In their work advocating for the development of information-sharing communities “tailored to the use of older people” as part of Projeto SEDUCE in Portugal, published in Portuguese as “Construção de Comunidades de Partilha para Utilizadores Seniores,” authors Célia Soares, Ana Veloso, and Óscar Mealha draw on Spreadable Media to establish the increased importance of information dissemination community practices in shaping the movement of content.

Case Studies of Spreadable Media

Monday, April 6, 2015   9:00

We have been excited to find a range of particular case studies that examine issues raised in Spreadable Media and explore them deeply with particular texts. Check out some of the studies below to dive deep into the spread of Makmende within Kenya; the popularity of “Gangnam Style” globally and, in particular in Indonesia; the development of Annoying Orange on YouTube; a look at Shakesperian content on YouTube, case studies of the TV shows Mad Men and Black Mirror, a look at the development of the Pixar brand, and an analysis of the popularity of the home video “Para Nossa Alegria.” See below for further information:

  • In their 2014 Critical Studies in Media Communication piece, “Makmende Amerudi: Kenya’s Collective Reimagining as a Meme of Aspiration,” Brian Ekdale and Melissa Tully draw from the book as they build on the examination of Makmende’s transnational circulation in Spreadable Media and in Ethan Zuckerman’s essay for the project to “situate this meme in its cultural and social context to analyze how and why Kenyans used Makmende to represent themselves.”
  • Sun Jung and Doobo Shim’s 2014 International Journal of Cultural Studies piece, entitled “Social Distribution: K-Pop Fan Practices in Indonesia and the ‘Gangnam Style’ Phenomenon,” references Spreadable Media in explaining the means by which media texts circulate online and the labor that fans and other active audiences exert which “shapes and rams the circulation of content.” The piece provides an in-depth case study of how “Gangnam Style” spread in Indonesia through a mix of “bottom-up grassroots aspects” of K-pop fan communities, “as well as corporate-controlled top-down aspects” of more traditional media participants.
  • Georgia State University Department of Communication graduate Sookeung Jung uses Spreadable Media as a foundational text in analyzing the spread of the video for “Gangnam Style,” as part of Jung’s 2014 thesis, “Global Audience Participation in the Production and Consumption of Gangnam Style” (work Sookeung also presented at the International Association for Media and Communication Research’s 2013 conference, in a presentation entitled, “An Encounter of Spreadable Media and Active Users on YouTube: A Case study of ‘Gangnam Style’ Videos”).
  • In her 2014 piece for Journal of Consumer Culture, entitled “From Homemade to Store Bought: Annoying Orange and the Professionalization of YouTube,” Joanne Morreale draws on Spreadable Media’s description of the ways that parody invites spreadability.
  • Joyce Goggin’s “‘Is It True Blondes Have More Fun?’ Mad Men and the Mechanics of Serialization,” in Rob Allen and Thijs van den Berg’s 2014 book Serialization in Popular Culture, draws on Spreadable Media’s comments about Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s desire for tight control around the production and reception of his show from the book’s introduction.
  • In their study on subjectivity, control and media ubiquity using the case study of the series Black Mirror (“Subjetividade, controle e ubiquidade midiática: o seriado Black Mirror”), presented at the XVIII Congress of Communication Sciences in the Southeast in Bauru, Brazil, in May 2013, and available via the Brazilian Society of Interdisciplinary Communication Studies, Francisco Beltrame and Thiago Siqueira draw on Spreadable Media’s definition of spreadability and description of a “bottom-up and top-down” hybrid circulation model.
  • Stephen O’Neill’s 2014 book Shakespeare and YouTube: New Media Forms of the Bard draws on co-author Henry Jenkins’ work on participatory culture in its introduction—in particular acknowledging that, while Jenkins’ theories of participatory culture are sometimes categorized as being too broadly optimistic, Spreadable Media acknowledges their existence within larger commercial forces/platforms that shape that participation.
  • Felipe da Silva Polydoro’s examination of the 2012 home video “Para Nossa Alegria” (“To Our Joy”), entitled “O Vídeo Caseiro “Para Nossa Alegria” e a Captação do Imprevisto,” was also presented at the XVIII Congress of Communication Sciences in the Southeast in Bauru, Brazil, in May 2013, and available via the Brazilian Society of Interdisciplinary Communication Studies. The study draws on Spreadable Media’s mention that people first have to have access to the tools to share but that what and how they share are shaped even more fundamentally by cultural practices surrounding their sharing.
  • In his 2013 doctoral thesis for the University of East Anglia’s School of Film, Television and Media Studies, entitled Towards Infinity and Beyond: Branding, Reputation, and the Critical Reception of Pixar Animation Studios, Richard John McCulloch includes Spreadable Media among the references which shaped his study.

Community/Genre Studies Drawing on Spreadable Media

Monday, March 30, 2015   9:00

A range of academics have focused on very useful case studies that have drawn on Spreadable Media. From Reddit forums, genealogy sites, Flash enthusiasts, and photoshoppers to genres like cat videos and death images to particular studies of the ending of long-running TV series and social media’s role in managing a sports crisis…we recommend you check out some of the work below:

  • James Messe, a researcher at the University of Melbourne ARC Discovery Project on “Digital Commemoration,” provides an in-depth study of the Reddit sub forum “Aww,” dedicated to pictures, videos, and stories of “cute things,” in order to look at complications, negotiations, and questions around spreadability in online social network sites/communities, drawing in part on Spreadable Media. His research is published in the M/C Journal in 2014, entitled “‘It Belongs to the Internet’: Animal Images, Attribution Norms and the Politics of Amateur Media Production.”
  • Andrew M. Peck’s 2014 piece for International Journal of Communication, entitled “A Laugh Riot: Photoshopping as Vernacular Discursive Practice,” draws on Spreadable Media to help describe the environment in which people begin to photoshop a commonly known image, in particular via a case study of the police officer who pepper-sprayed University of California-Davis student protestors.
  • In her ethnographic work on genealogy site Geni.com and how participation on the site demonstrates the tensions between facilitating a wiki for collective intelligence gathering supported by a for-profit model, Reinhardt University Department of Communication’s Pamela Wilson draws on Spreadable Media’s descriptions of the Web 2.0 business model/rhetoric to set up her analysis. Find her research in full in her 2012 J. Knowledge Engineering and Soft Data Paradigms piece, “An Uneasy Truce: Brokering Collaborative Knowledge Building and Commodity Culture.”
  • In her 2014 M/C Journal piece, Radha O’Meara references Spreadable Media when discussing—what else?—cat videos. See more at “Do Cats Know They Rule YouTube? Surveillance and the Pleasures of Cat Videos.”
  • In her 2013 piece for The International Journal of Cultural Studies, entitled “The Ars Moriendi of U.S. Serial Television: Towards a Good Textual Death,” Miami University’s Dr. C. Lee Harrington references Spreadable Media’s consideration of the moral economy of fans, and particular soap opera fans. For more on Harrington’s own writing for the Spreadable Media project on that subject, see her online essay, “The Moral Economy of Soap Opera Fandom.”
  • In Nicolò Gallio’s 2013 doctoral dissertation at the University of Bologna, entitled Framing Death: La Morte in Diretta, tea Cinema e Media Digitali (in Italian), Gallio turns  the opening words of Spreadable Media around to proclaim, “If it’s dead, it spreads.” The dissertation, which looks at the circulation of images of death in various media forms, includes some consideration of Spreadable Media’s challenges to the metaphors of “the meme” and “viral.” It also references the essays by Grant McCracken and Whitney Phillips for the project.
  • In their essay  “Marking New Ground: Flash, HTML5 and the Future of the Web Arcade,” the University of Baltimore’s Anastasia Salter and the University of California-Santa Cruz’s John Murray draw on Spreadable Media in explaining the popularity of Flash, noting both that media texts designed on Flash are “designed to be passed, remixed, transformed and moved through social networks” but also that much knowledge and material about designing on Flash has also spread deeply within Flash communities. The essay was presented at the April 2014 Foundations of Digital Games conference, held on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.
  • The Tumblr blog “Booth Review” ran a piece entitled “The Role of Social Media in a Professional Sports Controversy,” which looks at the arrest of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay through the lens of Spreadable Media’s introduction, among other sources.

Spreadable Media and Gaming

Monday, March 23, 2015   9:00

We have been excited to see ideas from Spreadable Media picked up in several of case studies and essays of video games and gaming communities. See some of the latest games-based research that uses the book as a resource below:

  • In her 2013 piece for The Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, “Diggy Holes and Jaffa Cakes: The Rise of the Elite Fanproducer in Video-Gaming Culture,” Esther MacCallum-Stewart references Spreadable Media within the trajectory of co-author Henry Jenkins’ longstanding work within fan studies—as MacCallum applies fan studies questions to researching player communities and gaming texts.
  • Kiri Miller’s January 2014 New Media & Society piece, “Gaming the System: Gender Performance in Dance Central,” draws on Spreadable Media’s description of how a media text becomes fodder for community discussion/debate when looking at YouTube videos created about the game Dance Central and the charged debates about gender identities that take place in the comments section.
  • In their January/February 2014 TechTrends piece, entitled “Participatory Scaling through Augmented Reality: Learning through Local Games,” University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers John Martin, Seann Dikkers, Kurt Squire, and David Gagnon list Spreadable Media among the texts they draw on for their analysis.
  • In their piece presented at the June 2013 International Association for Media and Communication Research entitled “Videojuegos y Violencia: Hacia la Búsqueda de una Autorregulación Ética,” on self-regulatory ethics regarding video game violence, Oscar Jaramillo Castro and Lucía Castellón Aguayo from Universidad Mayor Escuela de Periodismo draw on co-author Henry Jenkins’ work, including Spreadable Media…in particular, referencing the book’s distinction between stickiness and spreadability.
  • Arcadia University’s Jonathan Church and Michael Klein use a case study of commentary, criticism, and reviews surrounding the game Assassin’s Creed III to look at how gamers “produce a ‘culture of history’ about the game they play through their commitment to commentary and critique” in reviews and gaming websites. In the process, they draw on Spreadable Media to establish how gamers participate in activities surrounding games as part of “the generation and competition of gaming capital” and to establish how today’s online publishing and circulation tools have given “greater persistence and availability” to these gamer activities. Their research, “Assassin’s Creed III and the Aesthetics of Disappointment,” was presented at the Digital Games Research Association 2013 Conference: Defragging Game Studies.

Spreadability and Writing/Publishing

Monday, March 16, 2015   9:00

Some interesting provocations and research projects have been published in the past several months about changes in the publishing industry and/or in writing, in relation to concepts from Spreadable Media. Check out some of the work below:

  • Lucy Montgomery and Frances Pinter from Knowledge Unlatched published a piece back in January on “Data Innovation and Open Access” at the Big Innovation Centre, using Spreadable Media and other works to help set the stage for an environment where publishers are more open to new publishing schemes.
  • At the June 2013 Bled, Slovenia, eConference, eInnovations: Challenges and Impacts for Individuals, Organizations and Society, the University of Maribor’s Andrej Duh and Dean Korošak presented “Reshaping Knowledge Tools Using Social Media Solutions.” Their work, while using Spreadable Media to help establish the current landscape, goes in a different direction as Spreadable Media’s focus: looking at technological ways for publishers to create new algorithms and systems to use data streams for more personalized content recommendations.
  • Writer Chris Meade uses Spreadable Media, among other pieces, as a catalyst for exploring potential futures for fiction writing.
  • In his piece for The European, Gunnar Sohn writes about the difference in pricing ebooks between the U.S. and Germany, using Spreadable Media’s ebook as the U.S. example. Also, here is the piece in German on his site and on Netzpiloten.

Recent Research Drawing on Spreadable Media

Monday, March 9, 2015   9:00

We were excited to see Spreadable Media cited in a range of interesting academic studies and contemplative pieces of late about the nature of audience research, global mobile media studies, “cognitive surplus,” and the performative aspect of online social media use:

  • In Vol. 3 of Comunicazioni Sociali, published in 2013, Francesca Pasquali, José Manuel Noguera Vivo, and Mélanie Bourdaa co-author “Emerging Topics in the Research on Digital Audiences and Participation,” which lays out areas the authors believe should be the focus on forthcoming audience research. One of the areas the authors advocate for focus on is “the social experience that surrounds and penetrates the consumption of information and media content,” which “is becoming as important as the information itself.” The authors use Spreadable Media as a reference point to underscore the importance of more work in this area. The piece also appeared in the January 2014 Building Bridges: Pathways to a Greater Societal Significance for Audience Research, published by COST—European Cooperation in Science and Technology.
  • In his 2013 review of Gerard Goggin’s book Global Mobile Media for The Information Society, Andrew Schrock writes on how Goggin’s interest in “difficult questions about how mobile devices similarly serve as cultural platforms and business goals” mirrors similar concerns in Internet studies, such as Spreadable Media’s examination of the gift economy versus the market economy in Web 2.0.
  • The Wikibooks Digital Media and Culture Yearbook 2014’s chapter on “Cognitive Surplus” includes a reference to Abigail De Kosnik’s work, including her piece for the Spreadable Media enhanced book.
  • Juan-Carlos Duran, who consults on reaching Hispanic audiences to media producers and brands, recently wrote a piece entitled “The Masks of Social Media,” inspired by reading the book, about how social media profiles are performances to an audience.

Other Reactions to Viral

Monday, March 2, 2015   9:00

We’ve seen a wide range of other authors with their own thoughts, reactions, and studies “going viral” and which have drawn on Spreadable Media. Here are some of them:

  • In his 2011 piece “Recombinant Comedy, Transmedia Mobility, and Viral Video,” David Gurney draws on one of the original white papers that were part of the Spreadable Media project to look at the distinction between “viral” and “spreadable” and considerations for how comedy works in relation to spreadability.
  • Clare Wells draws on Spreadable Media in her blog post at Digital Universe, “You Can’t Make It Viral,” looking at the ways in which some media makers and advertisers try to force “vitality,” only to have it backfire.
  • In his work on “Can the Retweet Speak? Agency in Viral Video Diffusion,” Jay Owens draws on Spreadable Media to help set up his quantitative study of how videos are shared via Twitter. This abstract is based on Owens’ presentation for Theorizing the Web ’14, held in May.
  • On his A Simpler Creature blog, Abe Stein writes about whether, and  what, the “tipping point” will be for eSports to reach widespread interest. In the process, Stein mentions Spreadable Media’s critique of the “viral” metaphor and its argument that the agency of those doing the sharing must be taken into account.
  • Responding to Tiziano Bonini’s review of the Italian version of the book, Virginia Fiume responds (in English) in “A Seed Is Better Than a Virus” about how a strong critique of the idea of “going viral” corresponds with frustration she has found as a consultant.
  • In his July 2013 post on “virality,” Pedro Ivo Rogedo (in Portuguese) starts with Spreadable Media’s challenge to the ideal behind “viral media,” before exploring the aspects of a particular network that make it more likely that a media text could “go viral.”

Fair Use, Copyright, and Other Regulatory Questions in an Era of Spreadability

Monday, February 23, 2015   9:00

A range of pieces about fair use, copyright, and other regulatory issues have drawn on concepts from Spreadable Media. We recommend you check out this work:

  • In Beatrice Zuell’s 2014 piece “The Vision of Global Internet Freedom” in The International Journal of Computers and Communications, she begins her piece on “striking the balance between regulation and protection of interests” with a quote from Spreadable Media about the opportunity for change and “for diversity and democratization” that is “worth fighting.”
  • Olivia Conti’s 2013 M/C Journal piece, “Disciplining the Vernacular: Fair Use, YouTube, and Remixer Agency,” references Spreadable Media’s consideration of alternative, non-market forms of value that audiences receive from “user-generated content platforms,” as well as its consideration of how YouTube’s policies regarding copyright infringement give unbalanced power to “the largest rights holders.”
  • In his 2013 Flow piece, “Prisoners of Permission: Advancing the Cause of Fair Use,” the University of Oklahoma’s Ralph Beliveau draws on Spreadable Media’s case study of AMC’s reaction to fan-created Twitter accounts to raise questions about how fans provide meaning and value to media texts.
  • In his Master’s thesis work for the 2012/2013 European Legal Informatics Study Program at Leibniz Universiät Hannover’s Institut für Rechtsinformatik, entitled “Copyright Protection of Formats in the European Single Market,” Maximilian von Grafenstein draws heavily on Spreadable Media to help set up the issues of copyright “between culture industry and participatory aka. remix culture” and examine the shift “from television to transmedia formats.”
  • And…to carry out a theme in Spreadable MediaThe Pirate Bay.

Spreadability in Advertising/Marketing/PR

Tuesday, February 17, 2015   9:00

Here are a few of the pieces from academics and practitioners that draw on Spreadable Media in an analysis of advertising, marketing, and PR issues:

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