Media in "The Cultural Logic of Media … Term Paper
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In "The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence," Jenkins describes the two "seemingly contradictory" trends in American media (33). Those two trends include new media democratization and consumer empowerment on the one hand, and corporate conglomeration of mainstream media on the other. Another way of framing the dichotomous trend is in reference to excess fragmentation vs. excess homogenization. Jenkins also points out that convergence is not an "endpoint" but a process that reflects how consumers interact with technology, with information, and with each other. The convergence of media is dependent on and akin to a convergence of technology, in which one device serves a multitude of functions. The smartphone is the quintessential example of the converged media device. In some ways, media convergence signals the emergence of a collective mind in which knowledge is combined, shared, collaboratively created, and potentially beneficial to all stakeholders. On the other hand, corporate conglomerates and governments retain too much control over media to enable a truly free bottom-up process of liberalization. The appropriation of blogging by corporate media conglomerates is the ultimate symbol of the "new vision of media politics" that Jenkins describes (37). Within the new vision, both consumers and corporate stakeholders have specific needs, goals, and responsibilities. When these needs, goals, and responsibilities converge, the result can be the best of both worlds rather than a continual struggle for dominance and power. Jenkins does embrace a new era of cultural production in which power is distributed more wisely and equitably through a process of self-empowerment and collective social action.
If a harmonic convergence between producers and consumers is to occur, Jenkins suggests nine key points. Those include revising audience measurement via modes like fan communities, regulating media content via "narrowcasting," or placing the onus on the consumer for choosing their own content, and redesigning the digital economy using "micropayment" models instead of the traditional and predictable model in which a large entity serves as a gateway to content. Cutting out the middleman will create a more judicious value system of content, in which content creators are paid, and consumers have the power to choose their content. In a new era of cultural production, emerging artists can participate in discourse and discourse is not necessarily mediated by commercial interests. As art becomes re-valued in this way, popular culture itself changes. Moreover, the empowerment of the artist reflects a new incarnation of Marxist values within the postmodern framework. Rather than disenfranchise the artist through the capitalist labor model in which labor is artificially valued and the artist is distanced from the means of production, in the new model suggested by Jenkins, the artist does own the means of production. The artist is no longer separate or alienated from one's own product (Harvey 103).
Also among Jenkins's suggestions for how to harmonize the needs of producers and consumers include restricting media ownership at the level of legislation and public policy. This is likely to be one of the more controversial of Jenkins's measures because it is also the most direct appeal to government intervention. However, at some level, consumers intuitively understand that their elected officials should be empowered to make decisions regarding media conglomeration rather than enable the plutocratic system that has emerged. Harvey would point out, however, that American democracy is far from being ideal and that the state is "a coercive system of authority that has a monopoly over institutionalized violence," (108). The state does in fact capitalize on new media in order to represent itself in ways that make it appear relevant or benevolent, representing the "aesthetization of politics," (Harvey 108). Consumer empowerment is the only means by which to mitigate both corporate and state control, and create a more harmonizing balance of power.
Fifth, Jenkins suggests reexamining media aesthetics to allow greater creative expression and reduce the formulaic predictability of popular culture. More pessimistic critics of popular culture like Horkheimer and Adorno would strongly disagree, as they locate only "sameness" homogenization and monopolization (41). There is only "trash" according to Horkheimer and Adorno, because the generation of culture is a completely commercial enterprise (42). Horkheimer and Adorno likewise do not recognize any salvific power in the postmodern re-ownership and ironic capitalization on popular culture by its subversives. Rather, there is only a "cycle of manipulation and retroactive need," and power remains concentrated in the hands of "those whose economic position in society is strongest," (42). Jenkins urges a shift away from pessimism and cynicism, and envisions a new relationship between consumer and producer that can simultaneously support and subvert capitalism. The subversion occurs at the level of politics: the empowerment of the individual which allows for the reversion of ownership of means of production and the reconnection of worker to the product. This would play out in any scenario, such as those described in "Cultural Industries in the Twentieth Century," in which the technical workers, creative managers, and marketing personnel are all part of a team working together to collectively create and disseminate media (78). Even if there is a distinction between the primary creative personnel and the executive of some media company, the end result will be a transformation of their relationships so that hierarchy and power systems are dismantled and made egalitarian in nature.
Jenkins also discusses the important topic of redefining intellectual property rights in nuanced and meaningful ways. Renegotiating relations between producers and consumers follows naturally from redefining intellectual property, especially when it comes to corporate ownership of rights rather than artist ownership of rights. While perhaps not reverting to the medieval vision of patronage and the artisan in all cases, these trends have been emerging in "hipster" culture, which seeks often to ironically subvert capitalism via a free market enterprise ("Cultural Industries in the Twentieth Century," 66). Intellectual property rights occupy a curious place at the intersection of power and the commodification of the arts. On the one hand, intellectual copyright counterbalances the democratization of information represented by the most idealistic incarnation of the Internet. All information is to be shared, and collectively enjoyed. On the other hand, the capital wound up in intellectual copyright could perhaps enable artists to gain a foothold over the gatekeepers and barriers to their empowerment: the capitalist owners of the means of production. The postmodern vision, and one that Jenkins would espouse, would be a shift in understanding of how media is produced and disseminated. Rather than viewing creativity as a limited font, creativity can be reframed as a continual unfolding. Ideas are not "property" to be owned and possessed; the fact that intellectual "property" is called that calls into question the validity of intellectual property. Shared values and communalism must, however, converge with the basic needs for individuality and privacy.
The final two Jenkins tips include remapping globalization and re-engaging citizens. Remapping globalization entails recognizing the multilateral discourse in media, and the value of multicultural sharing. Jenkins uses the example of the ways Nintendo and anime have become embraced by Americans, and that globalization is not at all about West infiltrating East. On the contrary, the West has been borrowing from the east for centuries. Believing the globalization has been a one-way street is incredibly arrogant and reflective of the root cause of post-colonial problems. In the new era of cultural production, diversity empowers the creator and the consumer. Products must be relevant for consumers in all regions, forcing media and content creators to become more globally aware and more knowledgeable about culture and geography. This is as true for the consumer as for the conglomerate. Granted, globalization has led to some situations in which media conglomerates and corporations disseminate their hierarchical models rather than dismantle them.
Citizen re-engagement refers to robust public inquiry and demands for corporate accountability through the use of social media. Thus, Jenkins shows how democracy itself is at stake when discussing issues related to media and cultural production. The new era of cultural production depends on the politicization of media literacy. With new media serving as a multilateral platform for political and social discourse, challenges to social injustice can resonate at a global level and lead to total transformations in norms and policies. If, however, conglomeration is permitted to perpetuate globally, the result could be a more complete disenfranchisement of what Marx called the proletariat. Bereft of control over the media, the masses are disempowered.
The new era of cultural production is dichotomous and paradoxical. On the one hand, the owners of the means of production gain deeper strongholds, and hold far more power than ever before. The convergence of media has led to the sinister blurring of lines between advertising, news, and entertainment. Films are produced to create lines of products; bloggers write posts to sell lines of products; and the illusion of democracy and empowerment falls apart. There is a new era of cultural production, but to preserve the ideals of democracy it promises, greater controls are needed, and greater attention needs to be paid to the darker elements of conglomeration.
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