When Fans Become Activists
"Doubledore's Army" offers a pretty compelling model of the process by which average students get transformed into citizens, confronting the realities of their society and working together to overcome shared concerns. In this discussion, I will be sharing current research being conducted with the MacArthur Foundation on youth, new media, and the public sphere. My own contributions there include a focus on how fandom and other kinds of participatory culture may become a base for civic engagement, including field work on the Harry Potter Alliance.
Henry Jenkins, currently with USC, he also worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was Peter de Florez Professor in the Humanities. He directed MIT’s Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1999-2009, setting an innovative research agenda during a time of fundamental change in communication, journalism and entertainment. As one of the first media scholars to chart the changing role of the audience in an environment of increasingly pervasive digital content, Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture. His research gives key insights to the success of social-networking Web sites, networked computer games, online fan communities and other advocacy organizations, and emerging news media outlets.
Jenkins is recognized as a leading thinker in the effort to redefine the role of journalism in the digital age. Through parallels drawn between the consumption of pop culture and the processing of news information, he and his fellow researchers have identified new methods to encourage citizen engagement. Jenkins launched the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT to further explore these parallels.
Jenkins has also played a central role in demonstrating the importance of new media technologies in educational settings. At MIT, he led a consortium of educators and business leaders promoting the educational benefits of computer games, and oversaw a research group working to help teach 21st century literacy skills to high school students through documentary videos. He also has worked closely with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to shape a media literacy program designed to explore the effects of participatory media on young people, and reveal potential new pathways for education through emerging digital media.
His most recent book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, is recognized as a hallmark of recent research on the subject of transmedia storytelling. His other published works reflect the wide range of his research interests, touching on democracy and new media, the “wow factor” of popular culture, science-fiction fan communities and the early history of film comedy. Altogether, he has written or edited 13 books on media and popular culture. His new book project is Spreadable Media, which is being developed with Sam Ford and Joshua Green, in collaboration with the Convergence Culture Consortium. The Convergence Culture Consortium seeks to apply concepts of participatory culture, transmedia storytelling, moral economy, and spreadable media to address challenges confronting the contemporary media industry. The consortium is best known for running the Futures of Entertainment conference, which brings together researchers and industry leaders to discuss cutting edge trends impacting popular culture.
Henry Jenkins blogs regularly about fan studies, transmedia stories, media policy, and new media literacies, among other topics, at henryjenkins.org .