‘Spreadable Media’ – H, Jenkins. et al

One book I have been reading on and off over the past few months is Spreadable Media. With a clarity of writing and a focus on the activities of fans that has become typical of Henry Jenkins, Spreadable Media traverses a number of ideas surrounding contemporary participatory culture. Central throughout this book is the notion of ‘spreadable’ as a paradigmatic feature common throughout all participatory media. Jenkins coined ‘the phrase if it doesn’t spread it’s dead’ in 2009 and in a nutshell that’s the core concept of this book. Distinct from notions of ‘stickiness’ that are commonplace in measuring online commerce as a way of measuring attention of a web page through number of clicks or hits, spreadability refers to the degree to which messages can be re-appropriated across contexts upon the Internet. It is only through the re-appropriation of material that it becomes meaningful through the social dynamics of its new context, for example, sharing this post with your followers on Twitter (hint, hint).

Jenkins states that: “‘Spreadability’ refers to the technical resources that make it easier to circulate some kinds of content than others, the economic structures that support or restrict circulation, the attributes of a media text that might appeal to a community’s motivation for sharing material, and the social networks that link people through the exchange of meaningful bytes.” (4)

Through a number of fan examples and an adaptation of frameworks including Hyde’s (1979) notion of the gift economy, Williams (1975) notion of cultural residual and Smythes (1981) notion of audience labour the idea of spreadable is explained paradigmatic force it undoubtedly is. Echoing many of the same messages of the participatory/corporate power struggles that were covered in ‘Convergence Culture’ (2006) and the same re-appropriation of content themes that defined ‘Textual Poaching’ (1992), Spreadable Media is another instalment in same vein. That said, it is still an extremely worthwhile and timely read into exactly what defines ‘spreadable’ material and why somethings spread and some are dead.

Bibliography

Hyde, L. (1979) The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage: New York.

Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers, London: Routledge.

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, London: New York University Press.

Jenkins, H. Ford, S. Green, J. (2013) Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture¸ New York: New York University Press.

Smythe, D. (1981) ‘On the Audience Commodity and its Work,’  Dependency Road: Communications, Capitalism, Consciousness and Canada, 22 – 51, New Jersy: Ablex.

Williams, R. (1975) Television: Technology and Cultural Form, New York: Schocken Books.

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