In an earlier review (for Hamlet on the Holodeck) I mentioned that new media books tend to age rapidly and somehow become irrelevant while being written. Convergence Culture is both a prime example of it but not in the way I expected it to.
Convergence culture is the combination of different media and the creation of new forms of expressions and new forms of media. Specifically, it looks at how corporate culture and fan culture interact in the 21st century, and how the internet changed the way we consume that media. By exploring specific media artifacts, Jenkins traces the relationship between fans and corporate media and how the internet had shifted that relationship.
Now, the first issue the book has is the choice of artifact Jenkins examines, not necessarily the artifacts themselves (even if some of them, like American Idol, do not have the same cultural significance as they had then) but the relationship we now have with those artifacts. The best example is probably in the chapter about Harry Potter, which deals with the relationship between fandoms, corporate culture and religion. While it is an interesting read, written today it will probably focus a lot more on the relationship between the fandom and the creator of the artifacts. Same with the Star Wars chapter, which focuses more on fan films than on fanfiction.
But that is not the actual problem of the book, at worst case, those chapters just give you a historical overview of pop culture at a specific time. The actual problem is Jenkins’s optimism- meaning he never looks at the way the internet and convergence culture can (and ultimately had) become toxic. Even in chapters in which he does deal with political issues, he cannot imagine, or at least doesn’t pay attention to the way those trends might impact things negatively. It gets especially uncomfortable when the book mentions shows like The Apprentice, and it’s a connection to both corporate culture and fandoms, knowing today how much this affected Trump election in 2016.
Not that Jenkins could have predicted Trump or Gamergate, but his utopian view of technology is the main reason why this book aged so much for me!
What works for Jenkins, unlike many other academics, is his readability to non-academics- meaning his writing is approachable enough that you do not have to be an expert to enjoy it. While the book considerably aged, some of the points presented were salient enough that it is still worth reading if you are interested in the ways our culture shifted over the last twenty years.