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Henry Jenkins and fan communities

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Assignment Cover Sheet School of Communication Arts College of Arts Student Name: Nicola Parkinson Student Number: 16520572 Unit Name and Number: 101053 Researching Media Audiences Tutorial Day and Time: Friday 2-3pm Tutor: Luke Carman Title of Assignment: RMA Essay Question1 Length: 2,869 words (Actual number of words written, excluding reference list) Due Date: 30th September 2010 Date Submitted: 30th September 2010 DECLARATION I hold a copy of this assignment that I can produce if the original is lost or damaged. I hereby certify that no part of this assignment/product has been copied from any other student's work or from any other source except where due acknowledgement is made in the assignment. No part of this assignment/product has been written/produced for me by another person except where such collaboration has been authorised by the subject lecturer/tutor concerned. Signature: ...Nicola Parkinson ............................................................................... Note: Assignments will not be marked if the above declaration has not been signed. "You've got fifteen seconds, impress me." It is with this phase that we can start to understand just how great the power of the audience is becoming. An ordinary young male, with regular clothes and scruffy hair is the poster child for the new interactive audience. He, just like the rest of us determines what, when, and how he watches the media. (Nightingale and Ross, 2006) He is a media consumer, perhaps a media fan, but can also be a media producer, distributor, publicist and critic. We are in a new transmission, where an old media system is dying and a new media system is being born. An era where sceptical culture is giving way to participatory culture, where a society based on a small number of companies controlling the story telling apparatus is giving way to a much more complex media scope, where average citizens have the ability to seize control over the media technology and tell their own stories in a powerful new way.


Members can upload stories, embed promos and build communities around their favourite shows, books, movies, games etc. Fanfiction sites provide "challenges" asking fans to write their own conclusion to their favourite shows season finale. Members can shift from one community to another as their interests and needs change and they belong to more than one community at the same time. (Nightingale and Ross, 2006)It's this idea that stories are spread across media platforms, almost without regard to technical barriers. People seem quite eager to flow these stories and pursue bits of information about them. In a networked society, people are increasingly forming knowledge communities to pool information and work together to solve problems they could not confront individually. We call this "Collective Intelligence." (Nightingale & Ross, 2006) This is the world of discussion list. A type of cyberculture. Pierre Levy tells us "nobody knows everything, everyone knows something, and when any given member knows is available to the group at a moment's notice." Levy sees "collective intelligence" as a vehicle for democratisation, feeling that it provides a context through which diverse groups can join forces to work through problems. (Jenkins, H 2006 Blog)Lost presents one of the first examples of a TV show that leverages the collective intelligence, giving viewers the opportunity to create a community around the show online that discusses the show, the many secrets and mysteries it contains, and allowing fans to feel far more involved than was previously possible. Another example of the emphasis fanfiction has on an audience is Survivor. Survivor, a reality TV show first aired in 2004 where 16 strangers were to 'survive' each other. Around every carefully crafted episode emerges another contest between the producer and the audience. As Survivor was the first to kick start the reality TV trend; Survivor is known as television for the Internet age; designed to be discussed, dissected, debated, predicted and critiqued.


(Bell, D & Kennedy B M, 2000) Maybe cyberspace would not have emerged, but cyberculture is an entirely different thing. It's a culture, a way of life- the cyberspace (websites) has just made this more readily available. Jenkins declared cyberspace a new frontier of civilization, a digital domain that could and would bring down big business, foster democratic participation, and end economic and social inequalities. (Bell, D & Kennedy B M, 2000) The reasons behind such a claim by Jenkins and the reasons that this claim is indeed correct are supported by arguments that fans and fan communities date back to the early 1900s. Without too much detail, you can understand the extraordinary lengths fans go to stay in touch with fellow fans. Letters that may have taken months, conferences that were held annually demonstrate the dedication an audience can have on a show, book, band or film. If there weren't any fans, there would be no fanfiction, without fanfiction would be no online communities. The fans make it what it is, thus highlighting that fans are in fact pioneers of cyberculture. This idea does not just rely on fanfiction but any online discussion forums. If you answered a question posted by someone on yahoo or google, than you participated in cyberculture. So would there be these forums if they were no questions being posted by people? Our previous lives where we were told what we can or cannot read, watch or listen to - is now a thing of the past. The term 'participatory culture' is just that-participate. The audience are now the creators, the critics. Although fanfiction dates back to the early 1900s, the evolution of the internet and in fact cyberspace will mean fanfiction will have a bigger purpose in a lot more lives. If there weren't any fans, there would be no fan communities, without fan communities there would be no such thing as cyberculture.

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