Spreadable Media

Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green

Spreadability in Public Media

Monday, February 9, 2015   9:00

A range of great research has been conducted in the past several months that draw on Spreadable Media in some way in relation to looking at the public media space. Find some of those pieces below:

  • José van Dijck and Thomas Poell’s 2014 Television and New Media piece, “Making Public Television Social? Public Service Broadcasting and the Challenges of Social Media,” argues that public service broadcasters “have historically not only played a role as creators of public programs but also as promoters and facilitators of public value outside their institutional space.” The piece draws on Spreadable Media to build the argument that public service broadcasters must develop new initiatives for producing and distributing content outside their proper channels, despite the imperfections and imbalances that raises, in order to “promote audience engagement and push public value content through the transnational flows of media circulation.”
  • Maura Edmond’s 2014 New Media & Society piece, “All Platforms Considered: Contemporary Radio and Transmedia Engagement,” draws on Spreadable Media’s description of “transmedia engagement” and active audience engagement practices surrounding transmedia strategies in an in-depth application of transmedia concepts to radio.
  • Ren Reynolds’ “Managed Not Edited—How Participative Platforms Operate” references Spreadable Media within co-author Henry Jenkins’ range of work advocating for rethinking the “producer/consumer” dichotomy in light of “fan culture and other participatory practices.” Reynolds examines massively multiplayer online role-play games and Wikipedia and questions what public service media can learn from these case studies. The piece appears in Michał Głowacki and Lizzie Jackson’s 2013 book, Public Media Management for the Twenty-First Century: Creativity, Innovation, and Interaction.
  • In their piece “”The Mass, the Audience and the Public: Questioning Preconceptions of News Audiences” for Michał Głowacki and Lizzie Jackson’s 2013 book Public Media Management for the Twenty-First Century: Creativity, Innovation, and Interaction, Heikki Heikkilä, Laura Ahva, Jaana Siljamäki and Sanna Valtonen draw on arguments from the Spreadable Media project that media companies must be prepared for their audiences spreading content to places or via contexts that may go against the intent of producers, in their advocacy that media managers must “take into account—and appreciate—the critical and sometimes unruly features associated with the role of audience.”

Transmedia Storytelling & Spreadability

Monday, February 2, 2015   9:00

Several researchers have drawn on concepts from Spreadable Media via a study of transmedia storytelling from various angles. See the pieces below:

  • Matthew Freeman’s 2014 International Journal of Cultural Studies piece, entitled “Branding Consumerism: Cross-Media Characters and Story-Worlds at the Turn of the 20th Century,” references both William Uricchio’s essay and Derek Johnson’s essay for the enhanced Spreadable Media book as “further work on the historicisation of cross-media strategies, particularly that which begins to re-interrogate the past as that which grounds and provokes the claims of the present.”
  • Marta Boni’s 2013 online publication for Edizioni Ca’ Foscari’s series Innesti (Crossroads), entitled Romanzo Criminale: Transmedia and Beyond (revised in English  by Craig Lund), draws on Spreadable Media to underscore how media texts are transformed into material to be circulated on sharing platforms.
  • In their 2013 piece in the Spanish journal Historia y Comunicación Social, entitled “Transmedialidad y Ecosistema Digital,” Pilar Carrera Álvarez, Nieves Limón Serrano, Eva Herrero Curiel, and Clara Sainz de Baranda Andújar look at structural features of “transmedia storytelling” and “offer a tentative definition of ‘transmedia storytelling’ from a processual perspective.” Spreadable Media is included among the sources on which they draw for the piece.
  • In her Master’s thesis for Liberty University’s Communication Studies Program, “Lost in Trans’media’: Where the Intersection between Media Convergence and Missions Is Found,” Tabethia Cosner draws on the Spreadable Media book, as well as work from Jason Mittell and Derek Johnson related to the project, to explore whether the concept of transmedia storytelling can be applied to Christian mission work.

Understanding Evolving Audience Practices in TV/Film

Monday, January 26, 2015   9:00

A wide range of researchers have drawn on Spreadable Media in looking at the evolving ways that media companies are understanding and thinking about their audiences. See some of those studies below:

  • Rhiannon Bury and Johnson Li reference Spreadable Media regarding  their Television 2.0 study, in hypothesizing that more continental Europeans were using their computers for viewing television content more frequently that viewers in the U.S., U.K.,  or Canada because of “the unevenness of transnational media flows” and “the spreadability of American popular culture texts.” Their results are available at “Is It Live or Is It Timeshifted, Streamed or Downloaded?” published by New Media & Society in 2013.
  • In their 2014 piece for Revista Mediterránea de Comunicación (The Mediterranean Journal of Communication), entitled “Televisión Conectada en España: Contenidos, Pantallas y Hábitos de Visionado,” authors Patricia Diego González, Enrique Guerrero Pérez, and Cristina Etayo Pérez include Spreadable Media among their literature review of key recent studies on “the emergence of a new digital culture.” The study (in Spanish) focuses on viewing via “connected devices,” analyzing which screens are preferred and what type of media texts are preferred for these non-traditional “TV” screens.
  • Can the popularity of TV series, building from both industry-created and audience-created factors, be explained through mathematical models? In “Dynamics and Motivations of Media Marketing: The Role of Globalization and Empowerment,” published in the mathematical journal Abstract and Applied Analysis, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice management researcher Cinzia Coapinto and Università della Svizzera Italianamedia and journalism researcher Eleonora Benecchi provide such a mathematical formula, as well as a decision-making model for media companies to consider their investments in a marketing campaign, using case studies of various U.S. TV shows imported into the Italian media market. Their research draws on Spreadable Media and various other books to set the background for the importance of audience-generated activity in the modern media market.
  • University of St. Andrews Institute for Capitalising on Creativity doctoral researcher Michael Franklin references the book in his 2013 Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies piece, “What Metrics Really Mean, a Question of Causality and Construction in Leveraging Social Media Audiences into Business Results: Cases from the UK Film Industry.” Franklin uses Spreadable Media as a reference point for the media industries’ current focus on counting instances of the sharing and viewing (i.e. likes, followers, views, downloads, shares).
  • Meanwhile, Franklin’s 2013 piece with colleagues Nicola Searle, Dimitrinka Stoyanova, and Barbara Townley for Creativity and Innovation Management, entitled “Innovation in the Application of Digital Tools for Managing Uncertainty: The Case of UK Independent Film,” provides a case study meant to apply “risk and uncertainty management” to innovation in digital/social media in the film industry. The authors evoke Spreadable Media in the introduction not help lay the foundation for the current media environment these attempts at innovation in the tim industry are trying to acclimate to.
  • Steinar Ellingsen’s 2014 piece “Seismic Shifts: Platforms, Content Creators and Spreadable Media” for Media International Australia draws on Spreadable Media to describe a shift from “distribution” to “audience-driven ‘circulation’” and on the book’s consideration of evolving relationships between media producers and “grassroots intermediaries.”
  • Germán Antonio Arango-Forero’s 2013 piece in Observatorio, entitled “Fragmentación de Audiencias Juveniles en un Ambiente Comunicativo Multimedial: El Caso Colombiano,” looks at the implications of audience fragmentation through a case study focused on 17-24-year-old Colombians. The piece draws on Spreadable Media as one of multiple texts looking at more active audience behaviors in the contemporary media environment.
  • Michael Lahey’s 2013 dissertation for Indiana University’s Department of Communication and Culture, Soft Control: Television’s Relationship to Digital Micromedia, draws on Spreadable Media’s reaction against the term “viral” and argument for opportunities for a greater degree of active participation from media audiences.
  • Jessica Hutchinson’s Master’s thesis for Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication, entitled “Did You Watch #TheWalkingDead Last Night? An Examination of Television Hashtags and Twitter Activity,” draws on Spreadable Media’s distinction between appointment-based viewing and engagement-based viewing and other arguments on transmedia storytelling, audience engagement practices, and characteristics of media texts more likely to spread.
  • Cultural anthropologist (& Spreadable Media contributor) Grant McCracken looks at how poorly television shows facilitate word-of-mouth discussions about their episodes and how making TV content more grabbable and quotable can greatly benefit TV audiences and TV producers alike—drawing on the book to build his argument.
  • In her 2014 Master’s thesis for the University of Ottawa, entitled “L’industrie Canadienne de la Télévision à l’ère du Numérique: L’invasion du Multi-écrans,” Fanny-Ève Tapp draws on Spreadable Media when describing why people engage in more participatory behaviors in and around television shows and, in particular, the motivations of greater access to and control of television content.

Spreadable Media and Protests

Tuesday, January 20, 2015   9:00

A range of scholars have been studying protest and its relationship to sharing texts and communicating online—from Brazilian and Egyptian protests to protesting the Olympics and the banking industry in Australia to the Anonymous movement to Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Iraq. Check out the following work:

  • Tama Leaver draws on both the Spreadable Media book and Whitney Phillips’ essay for the book in “Olympic Trolls: Mainstream Memes and Digital Discord,” a piece for Fibreculture Journal which uses the Channel Nine Fail group’s protest of the quality of broadcast coverage of the 2012 Olympics in Australia to explore how some groups use various aspects of “trolling behavior” in online spaces but for reasons that differ significantly from how trolling has most commonly been used/understood.
  • In their 2014 Information, Communication & Society piece, “Organization in the Crowd: Peer Production in Local-Scale Networked Protests,” authors W. Lance Bennett, Alexandra Segerberg, and Shawn Walker draw on Spreadable Media’s “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead” to likewise argue that a “large-scale crowd will disintegrate if there is no connection between and circulation across its networks.” Their study looks at “stitching technologies” that connect looser, larger communities to one another to sustain a larger “crowd-enabled network.”
  • Christian Fuchs’ 2013 piece for Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements, entitled “The Anonymous Movement in the Context of Liberalism and Socialism” uses video announcements posted by Anonymous activists to examine the “differences between liberal and socialist worldviews” and how both “co-exist, complement each other, and also conflict to certain degrees” within the rhetoric of Anonymous activists. In his analysis, Fuchs examines how Anonymous draws on core principles of “video activism,” referencing Spreadable Media when referring to how these tactics include including posting the videos in multiple locations to increase the likelihood of their being spread.
  • Maria Clara Aquino Bittencourt’s 2013 piece for Revista Eletrônica do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Mídia e Cotidiano (The Electronic Journal of the Graduate Program in Media and Everyday Life), entitled “About Spreading and Convergence on Social Movements: Relations between Mass Media and Social Media,” uses 2013 Brazilian protests to look at “the appropriation of social media made not only by social movements, protestors, and ordinary citizens, but also by the mass media” and the reconfiguration “at technical, social and cultural levels” where content flows between social media and mass media. Her piece draws on/reacts to Spreadable Media as a foundational text to ground her examination.
  • Stefka Hristova’s Radical History Review piece, entitled “Occupy Wall Street Meets Occupy Iraq: On Remembering and Forgetting in a Digital Age,” draws on the white paper that is part of the Spreadable Media project and on the book Spreadable Media to help describe the nature of how “memes” are spread online.
  • Miami University Anthropology and International Studies Professor Mark Allen Peterson draws on Spreadable Media in his piece “How Meme Analysis Can Help Understand The Egyptian Revolution (Not),” on the website for his book Connected in Cairo. Peterson argues against the usefulness of “meme analysis,” arguing that the “meme” concept is problematic and that such analysis misunderstands how culture spreads and what would be most useful to study about that spread.
  • In her paper for the Communities and Social Networks Online Conference 2013, Rosie Cornell studies an informal community that communicates largely online to help identify corruption in the Australian finance sector. The piece, entitled “Banking on Each Other: Online Communities and Collective Action Against the Banking Sector,” draws on Spreadable Media to underscore the importance for this group not just of connecting with one another and coordinating their efforts but on engaging in tactics that spread their message beyond their community.

Spreadability and Civic Media

Monday, January 12, 2015   9:00

A wide range of great research is being done on civic media and activism in a digital media environment, which draws on concepts from Spreadable Media. We highly recommend checking out the projects below:

  • Pavlíčková Tereza’s 2013 piece, “Trust in the Author: Identity, Expertise and Reputation,” for CM: Časopis za Upravljanje Komuniciranjem (Communication Management Quarterly) uses Spreadable Media to establish a media environment in which media is produced, adapted, and circulated by a wide range of “alternative, independent and community media” outlets and individual users. Tereza’s study looks at the “strategies of interpretation” required from online audiences today “to establish whether the particular source is trustworthy or not” and on the construction of “the imagined author” when reading content online produced by a source whose reputation they do not know.
  • Benjamin Burroughs’ 2013 The Fibreculture Journal piece, “Obama Trolling: Memes, Salutes and an Agnostic Politics in the 2012 Presidential Election,” draws on Spreadable Media’s use of 4chan and focus on the agency of participants in circulating and providing new meaning around online content in an analysis “which seeks to conceptualise trolling as a broader cultural practice, which can be considered political.”
  • Joel Penney’s 2014 piece for Convergence, entitled “Motivations for Participating in ‘Viral Politics’: A Qualitative Case Study of Twitter Users and the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election,” uses Spreadable Media to ground the degree to which peer-to-peer circulation by “grassroots intermediaries” have become important marketing strategies in the contemporary media environment, in his analysis of how people think about their participation in spreading political messages online during a campaign.
  • Igor Vobič and Peter Dahlgren, in their 2013 piece for Medijska Istraživanja on “Reconsidering Participatory Journalism in the Internet Age,” draw on Spreadable Media to argue of the importance of looking at emerging audience sharing practices that are reshaping how news stories circulate among people’s social networks.
  • In their 2014 Quality & Quantity piece, entitled  “Measuring Web Ecology by Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Online News: 2012 General Election in South Korea,” authors Yoonjae Nam, Yeon-Ok Lee, and Han Woo Park draw on Spreadable Media’s focus on how content “serves as a resource and is a vehicle for an ongoing conversation with other members in the community.” Their study looks at the flow of information online surrounding the South Korean elections and the levels of biases in how information circulates.
  • In interviewing Ethan Zuckerman about his book RewiredSpreadable Media co-author Henry Jenkins asks Zuckerman in particular about the benefits and challenges of discovering news increasingly through the circulation of your online connections.
  • Salvador Millaleo and Pablo Cárcamo reference Spreadable Media in analyzing the Tea Party as part of their look at digital activism across the globe, in their 2014 online book for the Democracy and Development Foundation in Chile, Medios Sociales y Activismo Digital en el Mundo.
  • In her May 2013 University of Texas-Austin dissertation, entitled “Still Alive and Kicking”: Girl Bloggers and Feminist Politics in a “Postfeminist” Age, Jessalynn Marie Keller refers to Spreadable Media as one of several texts that provide “comprehensive discussions of participatory culture and social media platforms.”
  • In her 2013 University of Michigan Department of Communication Studies Honors Thesis, entitled “The Third Wave Afro: How the Black Beauty Blogosphere Has Mobilized New Meaning and Movement,” Dora Z. Sobze draws on the concept of “spreadability” and Spreadable Media’s section on systemic bias in Wikipedia in her analysis of the “natural hair movement” and the ways in which online spaces have “saturated the afro with new meanings” and examining “the ways in which Black women have negotiated these meanings.”
  • In his proposal for Green Horizon magazine on how the Green Party might better utilize today’s communications landscape globally, Steven Schmidt refers to Spreadable Media as a potentially useful/important resource.

Spreadability and Journalism

Monday, January 5, 2015   9:00

Several researchers have been thinking through how ideas from Spreadable Media might change the way people are thinking about journalism in a digital age. See some of their work below:

  • Mabel Oliveira Teixeira’s 2014 Brazilian Journalism Research piece, entitled “User X Newspaper Interaction on a Social Network Site: Evidence of Change,” draws on Spreadable Media to discuss an environment where readers “become (co) responsible for the spread of information…both within the source system, and beyond, in other environments.”
  • Drury University Assistant Professor of Communication Jonathan Groves asks, “What is the best way to measure meaningful content?” in journalism. He draws on Spreadable Media and a range of other arguments to ultimately propose the idea of basing success on the longevity a piece of content has.
  • Rasa Jusionyte takes themes from Spreadable Media and builds on it to look at longform journalism in a digital age and show how professionally written pieces may still have an audience…but an audience where the model for attracting readers won’t be “to go viral.”
  • In their 2014 piece (in Portuguese) for the journal Contemporanea: Comunicação e Cultura, entitled “Remediation of the News Consumption Experience in Social Network Sites,” Universidade Federal de Pelotas professor Gabriela da Silva Zago and Universidade Federal do Pampa professor Vivian de Carvalho Belochio draw on Spreadable Media to set up the environmental context for journalistic content produced  for social network sites, in particular the conceptualization of audiences as active participants with media texts.
  • Portuguese scholar Ivan Satuf’s 2014 piece for Liinc em Revista in Brazil, entitled “A Rua Manda Notícias: Dispositivos Móveis e Manifestações Sociais na Atualização dos Critérios de Noticiabilidade,” looks to update the criteria to establish newsworthiness in light of 2013 Brazilian social demonstrations—drawing on Spreadable Media in referring to a shift from a broadcasting communication model to one more in tune with “a scenario of ubiquity and mobile media.” In the process, Satuf references Spreadable Media’s distinction of how content circulated by communities within themselves become deeply rooted in the popular memory through repetition and variation.
  • On her SciLogs’s blog From the Lab Bench, Paige Brown writes about lessons from reading Spreadable Media for science journalism in this piece: “Spreading Science Far & Wide Takes Time, Design and Reader Empowerment.”
  • University of Texas-Austin doctoral student Angela Lee, University of Minnesota School of Journalism & Mass Communication’s Dr. Seth C. Lewis, and New York University Media, Culture, & Communication’s Dr. Matthew Powers reference Spreadable Media and other texts as a check on seeing audiences “in an ‘algorithmic’ fashion, reduced to statistical flatness” and instead focusing on “the relative empowerment” of media audiences, as part of their 2014 piece for Communication Research, entitled “Audience Clicks and News Placement: A Study of Time-Lagged Influence in Online Journalism.” This piece is based, in part, on work Lee and Lewis presented at the April 2012 International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, Texas.

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:

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