Convergence: Shaping the Future of Media Relationships, Production & Consumption

As mentioned in the lecture, I found convergence to be a topic closely interlinked with mobility, as well as touching on spatial aspects. It is perhaps a more difficult derivative of these concepts to grasp, however the readings and the lecture have helped me to formulate my own understandings of convergence in media; particularly in relation to the shift from the analogue to the digital world.

In the article from Nightingale, ‘New Media Worlds’, notions of richness and reach were discussed. I believe that convergence has allowed for not only a greater reach – i.e. through broadcasting rather than “narrowcasting”, through the World Wide Web, and mass media platforms – yet, alternatively to some views presented in the article, allows for a general increase in richness and personal proximity. For example, digital television such as Foxtel IQ now allows audiences to prerecord their favourite programs in advance for later viewing, offers features such as Foxtel Demand for twenty-four hour preference based viewing, Sky News Active’s user-selective interface, the geographically-personalised Weather Channel, and recently segmented movie channels by genre. Similarly, iTunes has the Genius function; creating playlists from the user’s personal library of songs that match based on sound or style, and recommending music based on a personalised assessment of the individual user’s music library. Amazon, as mentioned in the 2015 video recommended by Scott Shaner in the lecture, acts in a similar way, creating personal recommendations unique to the user based on previous purchases and prior browsing. It is in this sense I feel I have to argue the first aticle’s argument that these new digital “competitors” offer “greater reach and less richness,” assuming that it is these kind of ‘disintermediary’ technologies that the author refers to. (I say ‘disintermediary’ in that businesses like iTunes, Foxtel Box Office, and Amazon remove the ‘middle man’ mediums of record stores, DVD rental stores, and bookstores or libraries, respectively).

I do agree with the 2015 video referred to in the lecture, as well as the first article’s labelling of these new media, digital ‘competitors’ as posing “a degree of uncertainty about the future of traditional media” and responsible for the “emergence of new audience formations that challenge the existing orderly system of media distribution,” and it is in this light I refer to reality television and the second reading, Jenkins’ ‘Buying into American Idol: How We are Being Sold on Reality Television.’ I understand that reality television is perhaps, what Karla Peterson so bluntly described, “a conniving multimedia monster. Shameless product placement. Bloodless nostalgia. Corporate hype,” however I argue that given the “3 seconds” media producers have to “impress” contemporary consumers, reality television is an extremely effective answer to the increasing transience of consumer-producer media relationships of current times. Reality television incorporates numerous genres of entertainment: drama, comedy, real time and past time, usually a ‘game show’ or competitive aspect, and usually catered to some specific entertainment niche, be it music, sport, or cooking, as examples among many. Reality television programs such as American Idol allow for “transmedia storytelling” and content branding as discussed in the first reading, supporting consumer “expression” rather than “impression” through increased participatory aspects, a sense of democracy between producers and consumers (i.e. the user’s ability to influence the outcome of these “real” programs), and providing a platform for advertisers and marketers to market their products to mass yet segmented audiences, overcoming limitations posed by digitalisation of television and an increased awareness and desensitisation  to marketing among contemporary consumers.

I am still getting my head around the full concept of convergence, but I have appreciated learning about it as I feel that so far it is the topic most relevant to our future as media practitioners and media consumers.

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