introduction to MiT5

The first plenary session at MiT5 was fabulous, like being in a mirrorworld where everyone gets it. Henry Jenkins‘ introduction used Stephen Colbert as an example of a mainstream media character who gets mashup and remix culture. To the audience’s enjoyment, he showed us the sequence Colbert did inviting people to edit him, pointing out that what makes us laugh is imagining how what Colbert says can be remixed and reedited. Colbert’s greenscreen challenge is another example of how Colbert gets participatory culture, but of course, ViaCom’s removal of their content (including clips of Colbert) from YouTube due to copyright issues shows how even within a single institution we have an enormous split between those who get and play with participatory culture and those who try to keep us within the paradigm of copyright.

Jenkins also mentioned the less positive sides of participatory culture, such as the racist ads portraying Barack Obama as Hillary’s chauffer, or as Borat. He recommended a book coming out later this year by Andrew Keen, called The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is killing our culture, which deals with the dangers of participatory culture. Jenkins said he doesn’t agree with everything Keen argues, but that it’s an important and thought-provoking book.

David Thorburn continued with some introductory remarks to the first panel, a plenary on Folk Culture and Digital Cultures. He noted that the current breakdown between high and low/folk culture in many ways brings us back to the lack of distance between high and low that existed in earlier times. Shakespeare was popular culture in Elizabethan times. “Text”, he said, “is a site of negotiation, as is becoming clear again with digital media and television.” The constant negotiation of what constituted a text was also characteristic to the founding texts of Western culture, such as the Homerian epics.

More later. For now, I’ll twitter a bit. Luca is conveniently twittering from the Second Life session, where I am not, and Jean Burgess is on twitter too.

[Nick Montfort wrote about the rest of this plenary over at GrandTextAuto, as has Axel Bruns.]

27. April 2007 by Jill

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