weekly round-up [9/25/09]: Wharton on the Long Tail, transmedia and the future of tv, Mittel on lostpedia

By | September 25, 2009

One of my biggest complaints about the blog-o-sphere is that the trade-off of being able to write more casually and toss out ideas that are just beginning to brew is that there sometimes isn’t enough attention paid to citation/reference/attribution. This isn’t so much a problem of credit where credit is due (though that can also be a problem at times). The problem is that it makes it robs us of a valuable research tool: namely, getting a big list of what people you’re reading are themselves reading.

I don’t make a ton of direct references, so adding a list of citations to my posts Grant McCracken style won’t be of much help. Instead I thought I’d start doing a weekly round-up of some highlights from what I’m reading, since I tend to read pretty widely across a number of different fields, all of which influences my thinking directly or indirectly one way or another.

  • Wharton Business School announced new research that challenges Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory (Download full pdf at the bottom of the article). Their data-bolstered work looks at the limitations in how the long tail defines “hit” and “niche” products only in absolute terms (ie, top 10) rather than relative metrics (top 10%). An interesting read overall, and I’m always all about talking about ambiguities in definitions.
  • Henry Jenkins has a piece in the Huffington Post this week about The Future of TV where he talks about post-network television, transmedia, and the role of social media in the consumption of TV content. Anyone familiar with Henry’s work will have heard him talk about many of the examples he mentions elsewhere, but the article is a good, quick rundown of some of the key points and cases that recur in his presentations. (I have to admit, seeing “my students at University of Southern California” instead of “my students at MIT” was momentarily jarring.)
  • In a similar TV/Fans/Participatory Media vein is Jason Mittell’s study of Lostpedia in the current issues of Transformative Works and Cultures. I’m had mixed feelings in the past about that journal for fandom-related reasons, but there’s been interesting work being published (and more importantly, made openly accessible).
  • Following a couple of interesting new transmedia cases: Flash Forward and Dragons v Robots.
  • On the transmedia front, I’ve been reading a lot things scattered here and there. Gunther Sonnenfeld has a piece on transmedia as marketing strategy. I have to admit that I would’ve like more depth and specific discussion given the length of the piece, but overall it makes for a decent primer for those new to the concept. Even better though is that it led me to former MIT CMS/C3 alum Ivan Askwith’s not-so-recent-but-highly-relevant resource list post on transmedia and advertising cases and research. Tons of great links and case descriptions that runs down all the greatest hits as well as a few lesser known examples and perspectives. And finally, there’s some great discussion going on between Scott Walker and Erek Tinker in the comments of my last post.

A couple of things that I’d read before but recently revisited that are worth a mention:

  • Susan Fournier and Lara Lee’s great article in the Harvard Business Review on Getting Brand Communities Right lays out some key principles about community behaviors, motivations, and organizational structures in a really clear, smart, market-relevant way. Absolutely required reading for anyone thinking about brands and community courting, online and off.
  • Television Melodrama (links directly to pdf, requires MIT certificate to access), the article by Prof. David Thorburn that inspired my post on Transmedia and multiplicity is definitely worth reading. Don’t let the “melodrama” deter you — this article has proven really fruitful in shaping my thinking on many things that don’t fall under the heading of television melodrama. For those without MIT access, it can also be found in the collection Television: The Critical View

Offline, I’m hitting up a few books I’ve been meaning to get around to:

  • On the academic front, I’m finally cracking Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism by Miryam Sas, in hopes that some older examples of transnational/transcultural movement of expressive forms and genres will shape some of my further research in the online circulation of content.
  • Also started reading Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, the first in the Takeshi Kovacs novels, and really my first foray into Sci-Fi/Genre fiction.
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