Monthly Archives: November 2008

MIT’s Futures of Entertainment 3 Conference coming up

Well, after that super-long and intense posting on poetry and hypotheco-deductivetheoretical transmutation, I thought I’d offer up a pretty short little announcement.

I’ve got lots to update you on as I’ve been traveling around to speak in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, and England.

I’ve mentioned my affiliation to MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium. They’ve put on a variety of fascinating events and this year’s looks to be one of the best. If you’re going to be in the Boston area, or if you are motivated to come, I can vouch that this is one of the best venues anywhere for practical networking between peiople in industry and academia.

Here’s the announcement.

NOV. 10, 2008   CAMBRIDGE, MA–The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Futures of Entertainment 3 conference will take place Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Wong Auditorium in the Tang Center on MIT’s campus.

Futures of Entertainment 3, an event sponsored by the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium ( http://www.convergenceculture.org/ ), is the third annual conference bringing together media industries professionals and media studies academics to discuss the current state and ongoing trends in media.  This year’s conference will include panels on how value is counted in the media industries, understanding audiences, social media, the comic book industry, franchising and transmedia, media distribution in a global marketplace, and the intersection of academia and the media industries.

Speakers at the conference include Kim Moses, executive producer of  The Ghost Whisperer ; Alex McDowell, production designer for  Watchmen;  Gregg Hale, producer of  The Blair Wtich Project  and  Seventh Moon ; Lance Weiler, director of  The Last Broadcast  and  Head Trauma ; and Tom Casiello, Daytime Emmy award-winning former writer for soap operas including  As the World Turns One Life to Live Days of Our Lives , and  The Young and the Restless ; Peter Kim, a founder of the Dachis Corporation; as well as representatives from HBO Online, World Wrestling Entertainment, and other innovative media companies and projects.

The conference will also feature academics such as Henry Jenkins (MIT, founder of the Convergence Culture Consortium and author of  Convergence Culture  and  Textual Poachers ), Yochai Benkler (Harvard Law School, author of  The Wealth of Networks ), John Caldwell (UCLA, author of  Production Culture ), Anita Elberse (Harvard Business School, author of “Should You Invest in the Long Tail?”), and Grant McCracken (author of  Transformations ).

More information on the conference, including the program and registration, is available at  http://www.convergenceculture.org/futuresofentertainment/

Hypo(etry)thesis: Science meets Art meets Science

If you haven’t seen the little experiment I’ve been working on in the blog, you may want to check back a few postings. Initially, based on a course I was teaching in Sydney on Research Methods, I was inspired to write about ways that researchers can try to cross, or at least dive into, the divide separating qualitative and quantitative research approaches. I offered up an idea of transmutability, which would take qualitative findings and help to translate them into statements that looked more propositional or hypotheco-deductive.I posted a poem that I had written for CCT this year called “Stigmatic Enterprise.”

A major benefit of this experiment was the fascinating responses posted by three readers. Their fascinating interpretations of the poem point to the variety of interpretations that a poem can elicit.

  • Renan considered the poem to be a type of metaphorical exposition on the interviewer-interviewee research relationship.
  • Kiwi Anchy considered it in broader and more general terms as considering the consumption system, the role of needs, wants, desires, and the other in this system.
  • Daiane offered another systemic read, but she posited that it principally concerned stigma and stigmatization, and also finding the role of the media in this process.

Each of these interpretations is worth further close consideration. Following, I will present a stanza-by-stanza interpretation of the poem. There is, of course, considerable interpretive “wiggle room” in my interpretation, but the very act of interpreting it this way both solidifies particular meanings as well as illuminates alternate meanings.

The exercise shows that hypotheco-deductive style theory generation from polysemous (containing multiple meanings) poetry is a creative exercise in itself, one that can be quite productive for generating theories.

Channel Me/ channel my
Desires/ flotation
Devices in a sea
Of mes, of mys, of Other
Needs and faces and wants to

Here, I was considering what it means to be a self in consumer culture. The mechanical nature of structure, the freedom of agency, the sense of others and Other involved in the sense of “culture.” I choose in my interpretation here to narrow down into the sense of subjectively experiencing consumer culture captured in this first stanza.

Proposition 1: Consumer culture is subjectively experiences as an unending series of choices between desires that offer the consumer a sense of refuge, comfort, exciting alternate other selves, social contact with other people.

Hypothesis 1a: Consumer mentions of consumer culture will be correlated with positive associations of a choice of other self-identities.

Hypothesis 1b: Consumer mentions of consumer culture will be correlated with positive associations of belonging to social groups.

Get into it
Get over it

In this stanza, I emphasize the temporary but mandatory nature of trends, styles, and fashions that typify living in a consumer culture, and consider in these hypotheses how they can be subjectively experienced.

Proposition 2: Consumer culture is subjectively experienced as a series of socially driven commands insisting or demanding that particular cultures, subcultures, communities or lifestyles are desirable and should be entered, and then subsequently (at time t+1) that these cultures, subcultures, communities and lifestyle are undesirable and should be exited.

Hypotheses 2a: Mentions of consumer culture related topics by consumers will be correlated with negative associations of social pressure to enter into particular lifestyle-related behaviors.

Hypothesis 2b: Mentions of consumer culture related topics by consumers will be correlated with negative associations of social pressure to leave particular lifestyle-related behaviors.

Get in
Get out

Get on it
Get it

On channels/ in channels/from channels/ I channel it
Raw unfeeling feeling: I
Need it NOW

This stanza continues the prior theme of moving in and out of consumer culture and the role of the mass media (“On channels….from channels”) in the interrelated sense of identity (“I channel it”) and need to participate in the culture (I need it…”). As with the other propositions, I extrapolate somewhat freely, trying to turn a poetic statement into a statement that can be tested.

Proposition 3: The desire to partake in current consumer culture is experienced intensely through the consumption of the mass media and, in particular, through identification with desirable mass media personalities and characters (“channeling”).

Hypothesis 3a: Consumers exposed to desirable media personalities engaged in a particular consumer (sub)culture will be more likely to engage in that (sub)culture’s related consumption patterns and acts that those who are not exposed to that media personality.

Hypothesis 3b: Consumer who find a particular media consumer (sub)culture-associated media personality to be positive and desirable as a role model or image will be more likely to engage in that (sub)culture’s related consumption patterns and acts that those who find the media personality to be negative and undesirable.

Hypothesis 3c: Cultivation effects will be intensified by the attractiveness of media personalities and characters and their appeal to individuals.

You like it you like that
I like it
the way I like it

This stanza is perhaps more colloquial and risqué, wrapping words around the frequently-noted and studied connection between sexual innuendo and commercial culture.

Proposition 4: The desire for consumer culture has strong characteristics of fulfillment and the approval culture surrounding sexuality, attractiveness, and power.

Hypothesis 4a: The language expressed by consumers to describe their desire to enter into a particular consumer culture will have significant associations to sexual fulfillment.

Hypothesis 4b: The language expressed by consumers to describe their desire to enter into a particular consumer culture will have significant associations to social approval.

But fade shades possible
and newness sharing doubts

I want your desire
uncovered,
a pure something/
else

this moment
passes
my disappointed heart
along,
ever
unfaithful.

This is, as those who interpreted the poem all noted, the most complex and polysemous series of stanza in the poem. The first stanza talks about the shade of doubt hanging over the adoption of any product, trend or style, and the word “fade” here puns with the word “fad.” Thus, sharing the newness of any product, trend or trend carries doubts and cautions. And yet these is still want, a pure Lacanian-Freudian desire-eros. We want to desire-we are desiring being, and our being inheres in the directionality of desire. We are communal, too, and mystery seeking. Thus we want what other’s want, and we want to uncover their desire. We want authenticity, perfection, quintessence, and we want what which is exotic and unfamiliar, too: a “pure something/else.” The slash is the desperation, insistency, and even threat: give me “a pure something…or else.”

And yet satisfaction is impossible in consumer culture. All moments of fashion, all designs of technology, all branded primaturs of quality and stylishness, all media-boosted, ego-boosting ‘moments’ must pass. And dissapointment, the lack of lasting fulfillment, drives the consumer culture cycle.

Proposition 5: Consumers culture is subjectively experienced as a series of disappointments and sadnesses, of longing unfulfilled and the self-image of endless choices that must be made and which drive the consumer away from constancy, stability, and tradition. This endless change driving endless trial is, in the end, accepted. I recognize myself as both disappointed and “ever unfaithful.”

Hypothesis 5a: The narratives expressed by consumers to describe their experience of consumer culture will contain significant negative associations of goal frustration.

Hypothesis 5b: The narratives expressed by consumers to describe their experience of consumer culture will contain significant and negative repeated mentions of forced consumption choices.

Hypothesis 5c: The narratives expressed by consumers to describe their experience of consumer culture will contain significant and repeated negative mentions of the loss of stability.

So, let’s look at these propositions without the poem at all.

Proposition 1: Consumer culture is subjectively experiences as an unending series of choices between desires that offer the consumer a sense of refuge, comfort, exciting alternate other selves, social contact with other people.

Hypothesis 1a: Consumer mentions of consumer culture will be correlated with positive associations of a choice of other self-identities.

Hypothesis 1b: Consumer mentions of consumer culture will be correlated with positive associations of belonging to social groups.

Proposition 2: Consumer culture is subjectively experienced as a series of socially driven commands insisting or demanding that particular cultures, subcultures, communities or lifestyles are desirable and should be entered, and then subsequently (at time t+1) that these cultures, subcultures, communities and lifestyle are undesirable and should be exited.

Hypotheses 2a: Mentions of consumer culture related topics by consumers will be correlated with negative associations of social pressure to enter into particular lifestyle-related behaviors.

Hypothesis 2b: Mentions of consumer culture related topics by consumers will be correlated with negative associations of social pressure to leave particular lifestyle-related behaviors.

Proposition 3: The desire to partake in current consumer culture is experienced intensely through the consumption of the mass media and, in particular, through identification with desirable mass media personalities and characters (“channeling”).

Hypothesis 3a: Consumers exposed to desirable  media personalities engaged in a particular consumer (sub)culture will be more likely to engage in that (sub)culture’s related consumption patterns and acts that those who are not exposed to that media personality.

Hypothesis 3b: Consumer who find a particular media consumer (sub)culture-associated media personality to be positive and desirable as a role model or image will be more likely to engage in that (sub)culture’s related consumption patterns and acts that those who find the media personality to be negative and undesirable.

Hypothesis 3c: Cultivation effects will be intensified by the attractiveness of media personalities and characters and their appeal to individuals.

Proposition 4: The desire for consumer culture has strong characteristics of sexual fulfillment and the approval culture surrounding sexuality, attractiveness, and power.

Hypothesis 4a: The language expressed by consumers to describe their desire to enter into a particular consumer culture will have significant associations to sexual fulfillment.

Hypothesis 4b: The language expressed by consumers to describe their desire to enter into a particular consumer culture will have significant associations to social approval.

Proposition 5: Consumers culture is subjectively experienced as a series of disappointments and sadnesses, of longing unfulfilled and the self-image of endless choices that must be made and which drive the consumer away from constancy, stability, and tradition.

Hypothesis 5a: The narratives expressed by consumers to describe their experience of consumer culture will contain significant negative associations of goal frustration.

Hypothesis 5b: The narratives expressed by consumers to describe their experience of consumer culture will contain significant and negative repeated mentions of forced consumption choices.

Hypothesis 5c: The narratives expressed by consumers to describe their experience of consumer culture will contain significant and repeated negative mentions of the loss of stability.

As a group of propositions and hypotheses, they are a bit gnarled and grizzled. Certainly not the most attractive and cohesive set of propositions and hypotheses. They often deal on the cultural level of constructs that could be a bit hard to measure. They don’t really cohere nicely into some over-arching theoretical framework. They aren’t really elegant and pretty. I probably could have spent a lot more time thinking about them and slicing them with Occam’s razor.

But maybe there is something there, too. I’ve certainly seen worse hypotheses. Some of them, maybe even more than some, are not particularly obvious. They don’t have that all-too-familiar air of tautological reasoning about them.

Maybe the poetry freed me up to realize some new things and then the act of hypothesis generating imposed some discipline and structure onto that expressiveness that led to something maybe a little bit new being said, an articulation of an idea that is just a tiny bit fresh and different. Maybe. Possibly.

It was certainly an interesting experiment for me. A little gedanken, a thought experiment. The transmutation process was uncomfortable, awkward, imperfect, and challenging.

I’d really like to hear from others about what they thought of this. How would you go about transmuting other people’s or your own research into these terms? Would you be willing to try this exercise, to do this experiment?

Maybe, just maybe, this is something to talk about…I’m going to post a second, significantly longer poem that I also wrote for the CCT Conference this year in another post, coming soon.

Reflections on ACR 2008 in San Francisco, 3 of 3

In the last few blog entries,  I related some of the interesting events surrounding ACR 2008 in San Francisco and relating some of the sessions and Plenary speeches of the Doctoral Symposium. I also detailed in my last blog John Deighton’s very thought-provoking speech, which really captured the zeitgeist of the American moment for me. Today, I just want to highlight just a scant few of the other interesting sessions and presentations this year.

Of course, the afternoon of the Symposium was also very interesting. We had groups broken out then by theoretical  interest, which has in past years also been the way that things are done. I enjoyed sitting in on several of the sessions, where mainly people were presenting their own research projects and interests.

In the CCT session, a heated, spirited debate broke out, which probably alarmed the students. Academics, fighting and arguing amongst themselves? What could be more natural…and more healthy for the development of good research. It also gave some grist for the mill that I hope to be able to follow up on in a future session, possibly at the upcoming CCT conference in Detroit in Summer 2009.

The conference itself was jam-packed with interesting, informed sessions, more than ever before. I believe we had twelve tracks going at once, which means that there are twelve rooms full of presenters (usually four in each), each presenting research. As an attendee, you had to choose among these twelve sessions-often a very tough choice.

On Friday morning, I caught the session on Witchcraft. Yes, you read it right. Cloaked in the title “Roll You Own Religion,” there were three terrific presentations by extraordinary consumers researchers who were studying the consumption of paganism, magic, the occult and witchcraft.

I’ve always been interested in the links between spirituality and consumer culture. You’ll find me babbling about it in everything from my earliest work Star Trek to my exploration of Burning Man to my latest work on technology ideologies. It’s a core thread running through this blog which is, of course, named as an homage to Rudolf Steiner, one of the great mystics and spiritual philosophers of our time. I’m reading a lot more about those great Mystery School traditions now, and even visiting some of the great sites, and I’ll have a lot more to say about these topics in future postings.

I think that it is incredibly relevant, meaningful, and practical to investigate the role of the mystical and magical in consumers’ everyday lives and consumption. This set of ethnographic research projects, presented by Darach Turley of Dublin City University, Pauline Maclaran of the Royal Holloway Business School at the University of London, Linda Scott of the Said Busienss School at Oxford, and Diego Rinallo of Bocconi Universirty in Milan, is, in my opinion, the most exciting and highest-potential ethnographic work  being done in the field of consumer research today.

That’s saying something. I missed the Odyssey, but have had the pleasure of hearing some of the war tales from the front lines by those most involved in its inception and execution.  I had the privilege to see John Schouten and Jim McAlexander present their Harley work in the mid- 1990s. That certainly had the feeling of something massive and substantial. So too did Al Muniz and Tom O’Guinn’s work on brand communities. I’m looking forward to following this Witchy Consumer Research and seeing it develop and grow and have massive impact in our field and beyond.

Closer to home, Jay Handelman presented some new and updated research on consumer activism that we’ve been working on an percolating for over a decade-follow-on research and new theory development based on and extending into new terrain our prior work on consumer activism. And Professor Ashlee Humphreys, recently graduated  from the Kellogg School and in her first ACR as an assistant professor from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University , presented some work we have been doing together that looks at the communal acts and dynamic co-creation modalities of YouTube viewers  and participants.  I’m very excited about both of these pieces of research and am looking forward to developing them further with my co-authors.

That’s all I’m going to say about ACR this year. It was a large event, but for me it was awesome. Even though it is big, diverse, and growing more diverse all of the time, there is a real family feeling, a genuine feeling that we are a community. We have common interests and goals. For the most part, we understand and respect each other. It was a great year for ACR, a great location, and a great time, and I’m looking forward to next year’s conference, where Jeff Inman will lead us in Pittsburgh.

I’m back a’blogging. It feels good. Next, I’ll post the poetry hypotheses. Please have a glance at that stuff and if you feel moved, leave a comment or two.

Adios for now, amigos.