Henry Jenkins

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For other people named Henry Jenkins, see Henry Jenkins (disambiguation).
Henry Jenkins
Henry Jenkins SRN.jpg
Born (1958-06-04) June 4, 1958 (age 57)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Education MA, Communication Studies; Ph.D., Communication Arts
Alma mater University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Occupation University Professor
Years active 1992-present
Employer University of Southern California
Known for Theories of "world-making" and "media convergence"
Title Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts

Henry Jenkins III (born June 4, 1958) is an American media scholar and currently a Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, a joint professorship at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.[1] Previously, he was the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities and Co-Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program with William Uricchio. He is also author of several books, including Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture and What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic.

Personal life and education[edit]

Jenkins did his undergraduate work at Georgia State University, where he majored in Political Science and Journalism. He earned his MA in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa and his PhD in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He and his wife Cynthia Jenkins were housemasters of the Senior House dorm at MIT before their relocation to the University of Southern California in July 2009. They have one son, Henry Jenkins IV.[citation needed]

Research fields[edit]

Jenkins' research explores the boundary between text and reader, the growth of fan cultures and world-making, "the process of designing a fictional universe that will sustain franchise development, one that is sufficiently detailed to enable many different stories to emerge but coherent enough so that each story feels like it fits with the others".[2]

Currently, Jenkins is involved in Project New Media Literacy where he discusses the importance of assessing the technology around us, and incorporating the idea of living in a participatory culture. "The NML conceptual framework includes an understanding of challenges, new media literacies, and participatory forms. This framework guides thinking about how to provide adults and youth with the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical framework, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in the cultural changes which are taking place in response to the influx of new media technologies, and to explore the transformations and possibilities afforded by these technologies to reshape education."[3] Jenkins introduces a range of social skills and cultural competencies that are fundamental for meaningful participation in a participatory culture. Terms that he discusses more extensively include: appropriation (education), collective intelligence, distributed cognition, judgment, negotiation, networking, performance, simulation, transmedia navigation, participation gap, the transparency problem, and the ethics problem.

More recently, Jenkins' research has focused on how individuals in contemporary culture themselves tap into and combine numerous different media sources. He suggests that media convergence be understood as a cultural process, rather than a technological end-point. Jenkins discussed media convergence in his 2006 book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and the founding of the Convergence Culture Consortium research group at the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT. "In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms” –Henry Jenkins.[4]

Henry Jenkins suggests how the new media will transform itself as Internet will be an easy and accessible mechanism to citizens. He argues that convergence is not just related to technology, which works within certain devices.From his point of view, convergence is a new way for people to reach instant information that allows an immediate media involvement of all over the world. Moreover, convergence has made a remarkable modification in the way media is produced and consumed nowadays as people desire to be part of it - everyone has the ability to share their opinion or become writers, for example. People do not want to consume, they want to participate. Henry Jenkins tells us how convergence media could work well if we would work as a team. His use of successful and famous media properties such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, American Idol and The Sims help ground the book for readers as well as serving to add a layer of excitement.

Jenkins' research also includes critical video game studies. In his article, "Complete freedom of Movement": Video Games as "Gendered Play Spaces," he discusses the cultural geography of video game spaces. He investigates as to what draws boys to video games and whether girls should feel the same attraction. Inspired by such cultural critics as Gilbert Seldes who believed that cinema was unfairly victimized during his time for being a rising new medium.[5][6]

He has also written extensively about the effects of interactivity, particularly computer games, and "games for learning", and in this capacity was called to testify before Congress in 1999. This work ultimately led to the founding of the Education Arcade group, also at the MIT Comparative Media Studies program.[citation needed] In 2012 Henry Jenkins went on a lecture tour of Western Europe. [7][8]

Henry Jenkins touring Western Europe, 2012

Jenkins's forms of participatory culture:
Affiliations — memberships, formal and informal, in online communities centered around various forms of media, such as Friendster, Facebook, message boards, metagaming, game clans, or MySpace).
Expressions — producing new creative forms, such as digital sampling, skinning and modding, fan videomaking, fan fiction writing, zines, mash-ups).
Collaborative Problem-solving — working together in teams, formal and informal, to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (such as through Wikipedia, alternative reality gaming, spoiling).
Circulations — Shaping the flow of media (such as podcasting, blogging).[9]


Jenkins’ conception of media convergence, and in particular convergence culture, has inspired much scholarly debate.

Critiques and engagement[edit]

In 2011, a special volume of the academic journal Cultural Studies was dedicated to the critical discussion of Jenkins’ notion of convergence culture. Titled ‘Rethinking “Convergence/Culture,” the volume was edited by James Hay and Nick Couldry. Hay and Couldry identify some of the key scholarly critiques of Jenkins’ work on convergence culture. They are: an excessive emphasis on the participatory potential of users; an under-appreciation of the inherently corporate logic of convergence; an insufficient consideration of the broader media landscape, with its corresponding power dynamics, in which the user engages with convergence; and an overly optimistic view of the democratic contribution of convergence.[10] A number of these critiques had been identified by Jenkins himself forming the basis of his 2014 response to the special edition.

Restricted user agency and corporatisation[edit]

A prominent critique of Jenkins’ account of convergence culture is that he overstates the power of the user in a convergent media sphere. Jenkins argues that convergence represents a fundamental change in the relationship between producers and consumers of media content. With the transition from supposedly passive to active consumers, the role and agency of consumers have been redefined, with a focus on their ability to engage with media content on their own terms.[11][12] The ability of these ‘newly’ empowered audiences to migrate to the content they wanted to engage with was central to Jenkins’ claim that convergence is reshaping the cultural logic of media, giving rise to what he termed ‘participatory culture’.[13][14] Participatory culture follows from the replacement of the supposedly passive media consumer with a new active media user in an online sphere, no longer governed by the unidirectional dynamic of traditional mass media but by the two-way dynamic of interactivity. This techno-optimist conception of the agency of these users has been highly contentious. Jenkins’ account of the dynamic of traditional mass media, and subsequent passivity of the audience is criticised as simplistic because he overemphasises the virtues of interactivity, without considering the real-life power structures in which users exist.[15] Nico Carpentier argues that this “conflation of interaction and participation” is misleading: the opportunities for interaction have increased, but the conglomerated and corporate media environment that convergence has both facilitated and come about in, restricts the capacity of users to genuinely participate in the production, or co-production, of content, for commercial gain.[16] This is in keeping with traditional media business models, which sought a static, easily quantifiable audience to advertise to.

Mark Andrejevic also notes that interactivity can be seen as the provision of detailed user information for exploitation by marketers in the affective economy, that the users themselves willingly submit to.[17] According to Ginette Verstraete, the tools of media convergence are inextricably corporate in their purpose and function, even the generation of alternative meanings through co-creation is necessarily contained within a commercial system where “the primary aim is the generation of capital and power through diffraction”.[18] Thus, user agency as enabled by media convergence is always already restricted.

This critique of convergence culture as facilitating the disenfranchisement of the user, is taken up by Jack Bratich, who argues that rather than necessarily and inherently facilitating democracy, as Jenkins argues, convergence may instead achieve the opposite.[19] This emphasis on convergence as restricting the capacities of those who engage with it is also made by Sarah Banet-Weiser in reference to the commodification of creativity.[20] As convergence is “a crucial element to the logic of capitalism,” the democratisation of creative capacity that has been enabled by media convergence, through platforms such as YouTube, serves a commercial purpose.[21] Users become workers and the vast majority of convergence-enabled creative output, by virtue of the profit-driven platforms on which it takes place, can be seen as a byproduct of the profit-imperative.

Limited focus[edit]

Melissa Driscoll, Catherine Gregg, Laurie Ouellette, and Julie Wilson argue that the willing submission of the user to the corporate interests fuelling media convergence is also gendered as the logic of convergence, which is, to a large extent, informed by the logic of capitalism, albeit in an online environment, perpetuating the ongoing exploitation of women through a replication of the ‘free’ labour built into social expectations of women.[22][23] As Richard Maxwell & Toby Miller point out the logic of convergence is one of ceaseless growth and innovation that inevitably preferences commercial over individual interests.[24] Further, discussions of convergence have attended to the micro level of technological progress over the macro level of rampant economic exploitation, through concepts like ‘playbour’, labour freely provided by users as they interact with the online world, resulting in a dominant focus on the Global North that ignores the often abhorrent material conditions of workers in the Global South who fuel the ongoing proliferation of digital capitalism.

Democratic contribution[edit]

Turner highlights the need to be wary of any overtly optimistic accounts of the impacts of convergence culture.[25] Although there is no denying that the idea of convergence has “its heart in the right place,” seeking the “empowerment for the individual ... the democratizing potential of new media, and ... [the desire to] achieve something more socially useful than commercial success,” there are no guarantees that any of this is achievable.[26]

'More participatory culture'[edit]

Jenkins responded to the special edition in a 2014 volume of Cultural Studies. His article ‘Rethinking “Rethinking Convergence/Culture”’ counters Turner’s argument by stating that while we may not yet know the full extent of the impact of convergence, we are “better off remaining open to new possibilities and emerging models”.[27] This rebuke is tempered by the admission that the original conception of participatory culture was overly optimistic about the possibilities of convergence.[28] Jenkins suggests the revised title of ‘more participatory culture,’ which acknowledges the radical potential of convergence without pessimistically characterising it as a tool of “consumer capitalism [that] will always fully contain all forms of grassroots resistance,” thereby falling prey to the same deterministic reasoning that saw convergence as an entirely positive cultural phenomenon.[29]


He was featured in both Electronic Gaming Monthly and Game Informer magazines, where he was asked about the effects of violence in video games. He offered a very different perspective from Jack Thompson's.[citation needed]

On May 12, 2009, a socially networked artwork called Will Henry Jenkins Hear About It? was underway. It features bottles in the sea with the message "Will Henry Jenkins hear about it?" and posting the same message through different social networks to see if Henry Jenkins will come across the message.[citation needed]


  • Jenkins, Henry (1992). What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 416. ISBN 0-231-07855-2. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. Studies in culture and communication. New York: Routledge. p. 343. ISBN 0-415-90571-0. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (1995). Classical Hollywood Comedy. AFI film readers. New York: Routledge. p. 430. ISBN 0-415-90639-3. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (ed. with Justine Cassell) (1998). From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. p. 360. ISBN 0-262-03258-9. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (1998). The Children's Culture Reader. New York: New York University Press. p. 532. ISBN 0-8147-4231-9. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (ed. with Tara McPherson and Jane Shattuc) (2002). Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture. Duke University Press. p. 748. ISBN 0-8223-2737-6. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (2003). Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Media in transition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 404. ISBN 0-262-20146-1. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (ed. with David Thorburn) (2003). Democracy and New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 385. ISBN 0-262-10101-7. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. p. 308. ISBN 0-8147-4281-5. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (2006). Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press. p. 279. ISBN 0-8147-4284-X. 
  • Jenkins, Henry (2012), "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture.", in Durham, Meenakshi Gigi; Kellner, Douglas, Media and cultural studies: keyworks, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 567–568, ISBN 9780470658086 
  • Jenkins, Henry (2007). The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture. New York: New York University Press. p. 285. ISBN 0-8147-4282-3. 
  • 2006 White Paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.annenbergonlinecommunities.com/jenkinsAPOC
  2. ^ Jenkins, Henry Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006
  3. ^ Jenkins, Henry. "Our Methods". USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  4. ^ Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture:Where Old and New Media Collide. New York University. ISBN 9780814742952. 
  5. ^ http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/July96/KAMMEN.jkg.html
  6. ^ Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Smith, ToscaUnderstanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction.New York and London: Taylor and Francis Group, 2008
  7. ^ "Au Revoir:Heading to Europe May 1, 2012 http://www.henryjenkins.org/". 
  8. ^ "How Content Gains Meaning and Value in the Era of Spreadable Media". June 18, 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Jenkins, Henry. "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education For the 21st Century". Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning. 
  10. ^ Hay, James; Couldry, Nick (2011). "Rethinking Convergence/Culture: An Introduction". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  11. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2004). "The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence". International Journal of Cultural Studies 7 (1): 37. 
  12. ^ Deuze, Mark. Media Work. Cambridge: Polity. p. 74. 
  13. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. p. 4. 
  14. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2014). "Rethinking 'Rethinking Convergence/Culture'". Cultural Studies 28 (2): 268. 
  15. ^ Hay, James; Couldry, Nick (2011). "Rethinking Convergence/Culture". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  16. ^ Carpentier, Nico (2011). "Contextualising Author-Audience Convergences". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5): 529. 
  17. ^ Andrejevic, Mark (2011). "The Work that Affective Economics Does". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  18. ^ Verstraete, Ginette (2011). "The Politics of Convergence". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5): 542. 
  19. ^ Bratich, Jack (2011). "User-Generated Discontent: Convergence, Polemology, and Dissent’". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  20. ^ Banet-Weiser, Sarah (2011). "Convergence on the Street: Re-thinking the Authentic/Commercial Binary’". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  21. ^ Banet-Weiser, Sarah (2011). "Convergence on the Street: Re-thinking the Authentic/Commercial Binary". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5): 654. 
  22. ^ Driscoll, Catherine; Gregg, Melissa (2011). "Convergence Culture and the Legacy of Feminist Cultural Studies". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  23. ^ Ouelette, Laurie; Wilson, Julie (2011). "Women’s Work: Affective Labour and Convergence Culture". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  24. ^ Maxwell, Richard; Miller, Toby (2011). "Old, New and Middle-Aged Media Convergence". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5): 595. 
  25. ^ Turner, Graeme (2011). "Surrendering the Space: Convergence Culture, Cultural Studies and the Curriculum". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5). 
  26. ^ Turner, Graeme (2011). "Surrendering the Space: Convergence Culture, Cultural Studies and the Curriculum". Cultural Studies 25 (4-5): 696. 
  27. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2014). "Rethinking 'Rethinking Convergence/Culture'". Cultural Studies 28 (2): 274. 
  28. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2014). "Rethinking 'Rethinking Convergence/Culture'". Cultural Studies 28 (2). 
  29. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2014). "Rethinking 'Rethinking Convergence/Culture'". Cultural Studies 28 (2): 274–276. 

External links[edit]