MIT6: Impact of Convergence Culture on Live Performance

Sarah Florini’s paper Impact of Convergence Culture on Live Performance, is an interesting treatment of Henry Jenkins’ model of participatory culture that emerged from media convergence. While explaining that our understanding of live musical performances have always been colored by our experiences with media, Florini argues that the rise of convergence culture, as defined by Jenkins, has created a shift in the complex relationship between electronic media and live performance. Although the participatory nature of convergence culture offers us new possibilities in engaging in politics, she contends, it also allow us to disengage from it. Ironic, huh? She notes some interesting examples from her own field work on Black August Hip Hop Project concert. She notes that these performances are highly political in nature. Political activists who had been previously incarcerated give speeches during the events while Hip Hop musicians perform songs with political content.

For some reason, however, Florini notes that some audiences attending these concerts dismiss the political characteristics of these events. Because some people are eager to record the performances with their cameras and cell phones, they are not able to fully participate in the activities that Hip Hop audiences would traditionally engage in. Moreover, the videos of the event that are posted on YouTube, for the most part, is suspiciously devoid of any political content. Videos merely capture featured Hip Hop musicians, thereby neglecting the speeches that political activists give. Even the comments that the users post on these videos are devoid of any political content. Finding this curious, Florini argues that convergence culture may also be allowing us to disengage from politics, a statement that problematizes the civic engagement that participatory culture is thought to afford. Jenkins, on the other hand, stated that YouTube is a public platform and these groups are possibly engaging in politics in their own private forums where they are not under strict scrutiny of the public. Either way, for Florini this is indicative of the diverse ways in which people use participatory culture.

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