USC Cinematic Arts

Henry Jenkins is the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter deFlorez Professor of Humanities. He is the author and/or editor of nine books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture and From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. His newest books include Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. Until recently, Jenkins wrote a monthly column and blogged about media and cultural change for Technology Review Online. A longtime advocate of games culture, he currently co-authors a column with Kurt Squire for Computer Games magazine which seeks to promote innovation and diversity in game design.

Jenkins recently developed a white paper on the future of media literacy education for the
MacArthur Foundation, which is leading to a three–year project to develop curricular materials to help teachers and parents better prepare young people for full participation in contemporary culture. He is one of the principal investigators for The Education Arcade, a consortium of educators and business leaders working to promote the educational use of computer and video games.

Jenkins also plays a significant role as a public advocate for fans, gamers, and bloggers: testifying before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee investigation into “Marketing Violence to Youth” following the Columbine shootings; advocating for media literacy education before the Federal Communications Commission; calling for a more consumer-oriented approach to intellectual property at a closed door meeting of the governing body of the World Economic Forum; signing amicus briefs in opposition to games censorship; and regularly speaking to the press and other media about aspects of media change and popular culture.

Jenkins has a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Georgia State University, a M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has taught at MIT for more than 16 years, where he is also housemaster of Senior House dormitory. If convergence is shaping the technological environment and conglomeration is shaping the media industry, then transmedia entertainment represents the aesthetic logic which will shape future creative outputs.

How do we transform an economic necessity into a creative opportunity?

Some of this push for an “expanded canvas” (Scott McCloud) comes from the desire of entertainment companies to construct franchises which can play out across multiple media platforms; some of the impulse come from consumers who want to use the fictional worlds and popular mythologies provided by Hollywood as a springboard for their own creative expression, building on the details depicted on screen as resources for everything from cosplay to fan fiction.

World building has become the cornerstone of this new transmedia aesthetic, placing greater emphasis on art direction as a key component of the immersive narrative experience and requiring greater flexibility in conceiving a story which will play itself out effectively across many media platforms. At the same time, designers need to develop a better understanding of how fans and other consumers build upon, expand and enrich their fictional worlds. This talk will offer a guided tour of contemporary transmedia entertainment, seeking insights which can inform the next generation of creative experiments.