Sunday, April 27, 2014

Convergence + digitisation

def. of convergence: the concept of the distinctions between once distinct media platforms/institutions collapsing under the influence of new media and the ongoing processes of digitisation. For example, a typical newspaper (print) now offers web content, including podcasts (radio?), video (TV?), blogs etc
To further explore and explain this several additional terms are used; note all opportunities to utilise terminology for your exam! 'Digitisation' is explored below.
NB: I have posted on this topic many times since creating this post some years back!!!

Thats how I'd define 'convergence', an especially important concept for Media Studies and your AS exam, as so many consequences flow from this both in terms of how audiences access and consume/interact with the media and the institutions that produce, distribute and market media products.
(The exam board pick out 4 areas you need to be able to discuss with reference to your case studies - WT v Warp, + a brief comparison of both to the big 6 blockbuster Avatar - production, distribution, marketing + 'exchange' [the point at which an audience buys/consumes, perhaps co-creates, a text])

Here's a vid which further explores the idea

It is a concept which has been discussed for some years now, with its consequences and whether its an entirely good thing seen as up for debate:
Perhaps we will reach a point of consolidation when the pace of technological change slows and the audience catches up, but at the moment most companies with both offline and online enterprises still see the vast majority of their revenues and costs lying with their traditional, offline businesses. Yet they are increasingly aware that this will tip in the opposite direction in the middle distance. So how should the transfer be managed?
... What we will see from media companies are assumptions about the dominant medium, be it print or TV, transferred to the newly converged online world without adequate recognition that the two are completely different entities. (Emily Bell:

Our exam board, in an annual report on the AS Media exam, note that many students weren't really clear on this concept (, which is a central one when considering Britsih Cinema in the context of Instiutions and Audiences.
Here's another, more detailed definition then:

media convergence,  phenomenon involving the interlocking of computing and information technology companies, telecommunications networks, and content providers from the publishing worlds of newspapers, magazines, music, radio, television, films, and entertainment software. Media convergence brings together the “three Cs”—computing, communications, and content.
Convergence has occurred at two primary levels:
  1. Technologies—creative content has been converted into industry-standard digital forms for delivery through broadband or wireless networks for display on various computer or computer-like devices, from cellular telephones to personal digital assistants (PDAs) to digital video recorders (DVRs) hooked up to televisions.
  2. Industries—companies across the business spectrum from media to telecommunications to technology have merged or formed strategic alliances in order to develop new business models that can profit from the growing consumer expectation for “on-demand” content.
Some industry analysts see media convergence as marking the twilight of the “old media” of print and broadcasting and the rise of “new media” associated with digital publishing. Among the major changes associated with digital publishing is the growth of a “flatter” publishing structure that allows one-to-one and many-to-many distributions of content. []

A Media academic, Juha Herkman, explores convergence in a fairly challenging article, noting for example:
Another much discussed, but not so much researched area, has been the impact of convergence on media economics: merger of companies, concentration of ownership and converging markets of communication technology and media content. []
We will take this point up later, looking at the example of Avatar. A key point here will be the advantages the major players receive from synergies:
In addition to convergence at the distribution level there are areas in which the same content can be re-packaged across media: for example, computer games and films use the same content in different ways. This also creates powerful marketing synergies.[]
The wiki on convergence is also quite useful; this is an excerpt, there is much more content on the page:
Technological convergence is the tendency for different technological systems to evolve towards performing similar tasks.

Convergence can refer to previously separate technologies such as voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications), and video that now share resources and interact with each other, synergistically creating new efficiencies.

Today, we are surrounded by a multi-level convergent media world where all modes of communication and information are continually reforming to adapt to the enduring demands of technologies, "changing the way we create, consume, learn and interact with each other".[1]

Convergence in this instance is defined as the interlinking of computing and other information technologies, media content, and communication networks that have arisen as the result of the evolution and popularization of the Internet as well as the activities, products and services that have emerged in the digital media space.

Many experts view this as simply being the tip of the iceberg, as all facets of institutional activity and social life such as business, government, art, journalism, health, and education are increasingly being carried out in these digital media spaces across a growing network of information and communication technology devices. []
 Over at another school's Media blog, an excellent resource for you to use as you work towards the exam (they also study British Cinema), as well as the vid included earlier we get this point, which stresses (note the terminology...) the proliferation of delivery platforms; places, technologies where we can consume or access film ... which these days extends to making our own (UGC), including fan videos (see vid below).
Technological Convergence and Exibition
In the film industry the number of platforms where you can view films is proliferating all the time; audiences can also watch films in a variety of ways WHEN THEY WANT TO. You can use digital technology to download a film or TV programme onto your mobile phone, laptop, I-Pad or PC; you can watch it on your flat-screen TV; you can also connect your  HD TV to the Internet and watch the film on You Tube; of course, you can see the film on Blue Ray or ordinary DVDs;  some might prefer to watch the film on Playstation or X Box; you could, perhaps, download it on Pirate Bay or other sites and consume it at a time that suits you. Of course the latter is illegal. But is this not how many students get their music these days? How do you think institutions will use technological convergence to reduce the impact of piracy? []
Here's an example of a fan vid, a new aspect of how some of us interact with film (part of the 'exchange' the exam board refer to for your exam; we'll more usually refer to 'consumption')

For this to fully make sense we have to consider how the media has changed since you were born! The web began becoming a 'mass' media (used/accessed by a large proportion of the audience) from the mid-90s, though didn't really reach a tipping point when most people used it until the mid-noughties.

The penetration of the web into everyday usage, to the point where many people access most of their music, newspapers and even TV + film through it (including on mobiles, iPads etc) is actually just one example of the ongoing transformative effects of digitisation. Life was simpler in the mid-90s: newspapers were straighforwardly newspapers, radio came through radio sets, TV through television sets, and so on. Print, film and the broadcast media are referred to as 'old media', the binary opposite of 'new media' (principally the web). The traditional media were analogue; not interactive. If you bought a paper the only way to interact was to write in, giving rise to the phrase 'outraged from Tunbridge Wells'. Analogue and digital also form a binary opposition.

Interactivity isn't the only feature of digitisation, the rendering of media content into computerised code of 1s and 0s. Copying analogue media required equipment to copy one particular analogue media: the photcopier or printing press; cassette recorder (back in the 80s I like many recorded music from radio shows by holding a tape recorder to the speaker of a radio set!); VHS video recorder (or two linked together, as seen in Son of Rambow). As you may have picked up from the National Media Museum display, many early computer games came on cassette tapes too!

Pre-digitisation, copying audio-visual media was not straightforward, and each copy suffered a loss of quality (so a copy of a copy would be much lower quality than the original). Your teacher remembers well giving up trying to watch a copy of The Exorcist which was so degraded it was like having a snowstorm between you and the TV screen!
For your exam, you need to consider what this process of convergence, and the associated concept of digitisation, means not just for the film industry, not just the audience(s) they tap into, but also YOU specifically and how this has impacted on YOUR interaction with the film industry.

more portable (mobile) media
interactivity: rise of UGC and social media
new source of profits: DVD (+ special editions) & now Blu-Ray (more new formats WILL follow) to replace old VHS copies (tip: long tail theory), BUT...
vastly increased piracy; rise of BitTorrent and other illegal download sites (filesharing) - once rendered into binary code, films are easy to 'rip', copy and re-distribute, circumventing cinema/TV/retailers
greater opportunity for low-budget/Indie filmmakers to compete with conglomerates? Digital filmmaking greatly reduces cost of production, and theoretically reduces to near-zero the cost of distribution (post a hard drive to cinemas; make avaiulable for download or streaming) [consider Warp X; Atonement; Coens' latest; Colin]

vastly enhanced opportunities to market (eg viral marketing) + new modes of distribution
arguably increasing advantage of conglomerates, eg the big 6, through the synergies available (vertical and especially horizontal integration)
arguably the large scale of these conglomerates is vital now? Convergence also applies at the corporate level, with media companies having to adjust to this new reality
flipside to that argument is that digitisation enables Indies to compete by reducing costs

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