I received a lot of mail about the Anglophile Channel’s interview of Richard Armitage before it was broadcast. The consensus of a significant number of the notes seemed to be three questions: who are these people? how can they interview Richard Armitage when they’re not Entertainment Tonight or CNN or even TheOneRing [or insert some other well known media outlet or website]? And why would Richard subject himself to it?!
It seems fairly obvious these fans thought that site was bogus at worst and not important enough at best.
Meanwhile the rest of the world moved on.
And where did everyone else go? They moved into the new age of media which is far from limited to a few established networks and sites. It just doesn’t work that way anymore and hasn’t in a while. The new media is this. No, I mean this, what you are looking at right now. If you have a site, you are a media producer. Heck, if you have a cell phone, you are a media producer. And that is the shift some resist — consumers have become producers.
Henry Jenkins explains this evolution of media including the reemergence of participatory culture and the rise of convergence culture (more on Jenkins shortly):
Nowhere have participatory and convergence cultures been more ubiquitous than among fandoms. Look at all of the media it has produced and intersected with traditional media. In this particular fandom, which is not even close to the largest, we have produced a large body of media such as artwork, video, stories, and reporting, and more traditional outlets have tapped into it. Hollywood is also looking at that and co-opting the fervor as they feel they can, and one of the early adopters was Peter Jackson. The main reason is Jackson is a fanboy himself and understands and appreciates the ardor. It’s no surprise he was looking at fan sites back in 1997 and developed a relationship with Harry Knowles. It’s no surprise he let a New Zealand resident, who created a a site about The Lord of the Rings movies, onto the sets to document the progress for fans. Jackson gets it, and as well as his artistry, it is a key part of his success.
This evolution of media has been happening for a long time, and I should have been more aware of its progress given my exposure to the power of the Net early on. Nevertheless, I watched that video above in the Fall of 2009 and became fascinated again and read Jenkins’ book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. Interestingly, I realized while I was reading that I had another book on my shelves by Jenkins. It’s a seminal work on fandom, and it came into my possession over 20 years ago.
When I worked at IBM, there was a graphic designer, Bob, whom I and all my co-workers tapped for “prettying up” our documents. He was a major Trekkie who had written his own language and had a beautiful poster of it as well as some other Trekkie memorabilia decorating his office. Everyone teased him about his obsession, but I was curious what had made him so rabid. We had several conversations over the years about his involvement in the Star Trek fandom, and I remember saying early on, “You must be really into this to put up with the ribbing you get.” I’ll never forget his response, “People don’t get it, and I don’t care. I enjoy it, and it’s a great creative outlet.” It was about a fairly judgment free environment for his creative efforts. He had been to art school, and according to him there was a very oppressive mentality there. One that said if you didn’t do it a certain way, you were no good. Fandom welcomed him and allowed him to make mistakes. That thought stayed with me, and perhaps I was a fan in the making even then. About two years later as I was leaving the company, Bob gave me the Jenkins’ book, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. I didn’t read it until 16 years later.
Those two books changed my view of media and creative outlet, and in late 2009, I began to see my personal blog as something different and eventually became frustrated with it. I also began to become more involved in the blogosophere with the thought that I had ideas and didn’t want to just consume others’ ideas. By happenstance I developed a very rewarding relationship of give and take with a powerful media player in England. He is in fact one of the founders of Empire Magazine. There I was exchanging ideas with him, and having a blast and I think he was too, and I was realizing the world really had gotten tiny and huge at the same time. I adored that, so when I started this site, I knew there was power in blogging. But I feel compelled to say to some in this fandom who are determined to cast people as connivers, that I did not start this site with an eye toward capitalizing on that kind of power. Are you kidding me?!! I was scared to death someone would find out I was running this place. But I don’t think it would have been wrong if I had been motivated by that. I just wasn’t. I was simply desperate to say something without every little part of it being nitpicked. Whatever fortuitous things have happened to me here as some sort of result, have just happened with no one more surprised than me. All just further confirmation of the power of the new media.
And now I come to the Anglophile interview with Richard Armitage. For a few hours after I watched the promo video for the interview, I had the same view of Marlise Boland so many others of the spectatorial era seemed to have. This idea that she was out of bounds! But a little time later, I mentally slapped myself for two reasons. I recognized she was seizing a marvelous opportunity of the new media, and more important to me is she was a female who was trying to start a business. Why would I want to demean that? Thankfully the better part of me quickly came to my senses and didn’t. I haven’t even seen the interview yet, but I support her efforts. You go, Girl!
If you think about it, this meeting was a natural for Richard for two reasons:
1) He has already made it plain he’s fan friendly. Hello! Have you read this page?
2) Who has he been hanging out with for three years?
note: Henry Jenkins was the Co-Director of Comparative Media Studies program at MIT and is now a Professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, and someone I would love to interview.
I’ve gone on to read quite a bit about fan culture and the new media as well as quite a few sociology books. It now takes up an entire bookshelf. Very enlightening, and I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this. Maybe not on this blog. I’m not sure yet.