Are Participation and Corporate Interests Compatible?
Written By: Christine Weitbrecht
- Jan• 15•12
"I have to admit that I’ve been avoiding the topic of participation in transmedia (or any media, really). The reason for this is simple; because I’m approaching transmedia from a business perspective in this blog, I mostly see problems of participation at the moment, and very few solutions. Even after thinking about the compatibility of participation and corporate interests for a long while now, I haven’t reached a conclusion on what the best way forward is. Consequently, I’d like to put this question out there to all of you, in the hopes that some of you might offer me perspectives or experiences that I haven’t thought of before. To start off, then, here’s what I’ve been mulling over:
The Concept of Participation
First of all, I’d like to go into more detail what I mean by “participation.” As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I really like Henry Jenkins’ distinction between “interactivity” and “participation,” where “interactivity” refers to “preprogramed entertainment experiences” and “participation” to “tak[ing] the resources offered by a text and push[ing] it in a range of directions which are neither preprogrammed nor authorized by the producers.” So, to put it simple, interactivity gives the users a pre-set choice (ending a, b, or c; should the character do this or that next) while participation has users ‘do their own thing’ with the existing content – expanding it, altering it, continuing it, etc. In this blog post, I am solely talking about participation in this sense then – cases where users are having an actual, not-pre-programmed impact on how the story or the story universe develops.
Because interactivity is pre-programmed, it is usually the safer option to engage users – from a corporate perspective. The content creators retain absolute control over how the story develops, and they can divide all revenues from the users’ interaction amongst those involved in the production (the biggest share remaining with the content owners). Interactivity also offers great instant feedback for content creators, and can prove invaluable for causing audiences to emotionally invest in a story. So right now, we already see many different forms of interactivity, and they become increasingly sophisticated.
The real crux of the matter remains participation, however, where things are a bit different...."
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