Group B: Harry Potter and Participatory Media

In this chapter of Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins seeks to draw attention to a phenomenon which has managed to pervade recent media and discussions of media: participation.

On all sides and at every level, the term participation has emerged as a governing concept, albeit one surrounded by conflicting expectations. Corporations imagine participation as something they can start and stop, channel and reroute, commodify and market. The prohibitionists are trying to shut down unauthorized participation; the collaborationists are trying to win grassroots creators over to their side. Consumers, on the other side, are asserting a right to participate in the culture, on their own terms, when and where they wish. This empowered consumer faces a series of struggles to persevere and broaden this perceived right to participate (175).

I, too, notice this phenomenon. But, I never thought of it as a matter of participation. The word itself implies a greater dialogue or force in which to participate, which I had not really considered.

What I had considered, though, is the “perceived right to participate.” I framed it more as a matter of addition than participation, however. Personally, I believe this right and the expectation of its existence are in some response to this commodification and controlling of media. When media are produced by nearly nameless producers—companies, corporations, or bodies of individuals with no clear property rights—consumers of media are forced to reconsider both attribution, and their roles as consumers. For many, the ability to reappropriate and reuse media is a necessary part of their consumption.

So, the prohibitionists want the lines to be very clear between media creators for whom this participation is acceptable or unacceptable, and the collaborationists call for a radical blurring of these lines. For them, it would seem, media can not and do not exist independent of participation.

When Heather Lawver decided to subvert the prohibitionists and create The Daily Prophet, she acted with more authority in that moment than any intellectual property rights lawyer could. From my point of view, to claim a piece of media—especially one with nameless producers—and take authority over its production on either a social or consumerist level is far more authoritative than claiming power over the action, reactively demanding its end. I take pleasure in knowing children exist with the willingness and courage to claim media as their own, in a world which fundamentally seeks to treat them like participants without giving them any authority.

The main issue I take with corporate media which is commodified is the apparent unaccountability and distortion of the underlying media as well as its producers’ intentions. “When Warner Bros. bought the film rights in 2001, however, the stories entered a second and not so complimentary intellectual property regime” (194). In my view, media must maintain some sense of normalcy in its expectations of participants. How is it fair to produce media, support participants, sell the rights to that media, and then deny participants what they once saw as their right to participate? Regardless of its intentions in doing so, Warner Bros. went on to attempt some rectification of its poor treatment of participants, but the right to participation can not and should not only be reactive. So, if you say Heather can write, changing your mind is in poor taste.

 

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