Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Core Post 3

In "The cultural logic of media convergence" Henry Jenkins discusses the changing media landscape (in 2004, as it were) and its potential for "remapping globalization.' Not only do western media products flow toward the developing world, "the flow of goods, workers, money and media content" continues to flow from east to west" (41), creating a "new pop cosmopolitanism" amongst media producers and consumers worldwide.

To me, this seems inextricably tied to Jenkins' next identified "site of negotiation" -- "Re-engaging citizens," as media convergence continues to "blur the lines between consumption and citizenship." In Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan (2012), Mark Steinberg identifies what transmedia (media convergence) looks like in Japanese culture, under the term "media mix." Broadly speaking, it draws an argument for how transmedia in Japanese culture long preceded the Digital Age, due to the merchandising and franchising of characters across toys, games, TV shows, and print media, with Astro Boy (created and serialized in 1952) acting as the first "template" of character merchandising. Such a character-based media ecology would influence global economic models "from Hong Kong to Hollywood," leveraging characters as both a material commodity and a nexus of virtual engagement.

However, Steinberg also discusses how the purposeful marketing of Japanese (character) commodities as a central part of Japan's global economy (beginning in the 1950s and 60s) also affected its national identity. Looking at the prevalence of character-based industries in Japan, from Gundam to Kawaii fashion to Studio Ghibli, it's easy to see how "anime's media mix" has radically altered our image of Japan as a nation-state, as well as its own political economy.

In 2016, Western economies, cultures, and individuals have continued to engage with, adopt, and appropriate commodities from countries like Japan, China, and South Korea to an unprecedented extent. As Jenkins states, "A new pop cosmopolitanism is being promoted by corporate interests both in Asia and the West but it is also being promoted by grassroots interests, including both fan and immigrant communities, who are asserting greater control over the flow of media content across national borders" (41). He questions the long term cultural impact of such trends.

Some of my own questions -- If the formation of "fan and immigrant communities" continues to relegate Eastern cultural commodities to the realm of the "pop," are there less limiting ways to consider the national/cultural impact of "east-west flow"? Have recent viral media like "Gangnam Style" and Emma Stone helped us to engage our own understandings of national identity or do they lend themselves to elision and caricature? It seems to me that a commodity-based cultural exchange has strong implications for how we see ourselves and how we see others. (If you've seen the most recent season of Girls (HBO), the episodes with Shoshanna in Japan to me seem to exemplify this problem.)


  1. Cheny, I appreciate your probing of how transmedia and a "media mix" can contribute to national identity and our ideas of citizenship. I agree that we need to question how what “flows” between cultures is arbitrated, and if those fan and immigrant communities are truly as positive and cohesive a force as Jenkins suggests. The two spheres of influence that Jenkins points to as the forces of media convergence, that of the dominant corporate and the grassroots interest, seem to inform each other in ways that could become problematic and inexorably linked when not critically engaged.

    Katherine Robinson

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  3. Cheny, I like the issue you raise here of questioning East-West cultural transference as a kind of celebratory "pop cosmopolitanism." One of the few TV shows I consistently watch is an anime show on Hulu called "Mushi-shi: Next Passage" (a second life for a successful older anime). I appreciate it for its unusual aesthetics, contemplative pacing, and sense of mystery; it's a great way for me to unwind while still being imaginatively engaged. On the other hand, I have never made an attempt to connect with its fan base and I guess I pretty much have zero interest in Japanese pop culture in and of itself. Jenkins definitely doesn't seem to leave room for a casual media cosmopolitan; it's as if there are only companies that create fan communities and fan communities that demand a voice, all playing out in the realm of pop culture. For me, it's more a matter of streaming options -- it's just as easy to click on imported media as anything else -- that provides a kind of aesthetic/emotional engagement that I attribute to the East that has nothing to do with participation in pop culture.