Convergence Culture, Nollywood, andCultural Change in a Globalized World

Hello All –

Our group will present tomorrow, and as my presentation focuses on the Global Nollywood reading, I will focus my comments here on that.  The following will be brought for dialogue, for your consideration.

The Nollywood network is an asymmetrical global media framework, or regulatory and distribution system, similar to the asymmetrical systems studied in last week’s Bollier reports from the Aspen Institute.  In the military example given in the paper, the asymmetrical military capabilities of the U.S.’s super-dominant military power and the lesser powers of the next most powerful militaries of western allies leads to specific labor divisions.  The disparity in capabilities between the U.S. military and enemies with far lesser capabilities, and no timely expectation of reaching level capabilities leads to guerilla-type   The total exclusion from the dominant global media network may or may not have lead to the alternate system – what evidence do we have in either direction?  Is it possible for those outside of the West African region or ‘global south’ to understand the dynamics well enough to answer that question?

Has the alternative Nollywood network grown in contrast to (or “against”) the western and eastern Hollywood and Bollywood media industries?  Or has this network grown as an inherently West African cultural phenomenon?

Would regulating the Nollywood network with laws, formal contracts, and regulations help or hurt the industry?  In what ways?  Who specifically would it help?  If Nollywood can be seen as a social network, has adaptation to technology and exclusion from the western dominant network facilitated the network?  How?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWsehhj2JRw (skip to 2:58)

Is the case of translation or dubbing the films into French a case of the local acting on the global?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i49WXTp4fVY (skip to 3:25)

In my summary, I have used the terms ‘western’ and ‘dominant’ interchangeably to indicate the U.S.-dominated western global media network.  Is this network dominant?  In what way?  In what ways could Bollywood or Nollywood be described as dominant?

The Audience: From Passive Recipient to Active Participatant

While the past readings focused almost exclusively on the roles of the nation state and the global media networks, their struggle for power/influence in the “market for loyalties,” and their relationship to each other, this week’s readings focus on audience’s role.  Castells argues that the audience act as active recipients of these messages sent by the media, or “codes.”

One case study Castells provides when describing global culture as global (and not entirely derived from American culture), is the popular telenovela  from Mexico, Betty La Fea. The show was so successful that they were able to build the brand in the US as Ugly Betty. I don’t think he really addresses this in his book, but I wonder what factors help contribute to the appeal of a local product, so much so that it is able to be rebranded and packaged overseas. What helps make a product successful as part of the global culture?

BoA's US Album

BoA’s US Album

Some thing that Arsenault mentioned during her past lecture was the popularization of Korean pop music and culture in the West as an example of a global culture (not from the US). As a person who grew up around Koreatown in Los Angeles and in a big Asian community, Kpop was not entirely a new concept to me. My friends and I would trade music and watch Korean dramas together, even though we don’t necessarily understand everything that is being said. When the popular Korean artist, BoA, visited LA to hold a concert to promote her new English album, I thought it was strange but understandable that she’d want to try to tackle the American market (just like she had with Japan, China, and the rest of Asia). And when Psy’s “Gangnam Style” kept playing on the radio, I then started to believe that Kpop is really taking over. However, I think that my hometown is an anomaly–I don’t think the same thing could be said for the rest of the US, specifically in “middle America.” With that said, I wonder if this concept of global culture more relevant in certain areas than others. Does Castells think that global culture only pertains to bigger, more “cosmopolitan” cities?

Logo for Ragnarok Online, a popular MMORPG game

Logo for Ragnarok Online, a popular MMORPG game

Lastly, I found the case studies presented in Mark Deuze’s article, “Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries” fascinating as he looked at how exactly the audience or consumers are collaborating with the professional designers or journalists to create new products or modify existing ones. The specific case study on the online game Counter-strike, was an eye-opener for me because I had no idea that it is the product of Half-Life users. Another example of this sort of collaboration is the MMORPG game Ragnarok Online where, instead of paying monthly for access to the official game server and all the limited that come with it, people have been creating their own free servers customized with special mods to fit their needs and interests. For example, some free servers make it easier for users to “level-up” while others have new special maps not available in the official server.

With the recipients of messages now able to customize what they see and hear,  and (with the help of the Internet and mobile technologies) are able to make their own influence on products, I do think that a strong argument could be made for the shift of information/communication control from the traditional elite to the everyday man.

Nov. 4 Readings

Deuze’s article on convergence culture was interesting and it’s striking to think how far the global digital culture has come since this article was written in 2007. The creation of the Bluffton Today newspaper is definitely an intriguing “experiment in citizen journalism.” Bluffton is a small town and I’m wondering if, in the future, this type of newspaper based on user-generated content could work in a larger, urban market?

It was fascinating to read about the Nollywood industry and to think of how this world exists (quite successfully) outside of the realm of Hollywood. The article brought to mind the discussion of media globalization in the Silvio Waisbord article from a few weeks ago. One quote had come to mind: “The maturation of media industries in several countries and audiences’ preference for domestic content suggest that Hollywood’s undisputed reign could be just a specific phase in the historical development of media industries.” (p. 379) More and more, international audiences are seeking culturally-specific entertainment. An interesting example to illustrate this point is the Panamanian film Chance, released in 2009, about two housekeepers who stand up to their employers after constant exploitation and disrespect. This film was so popular with local audiences that it surpassed the mega-blockbuster film Avatar at the box office. The film’s story of class struggles resonated with the local citizens and is an example of how critical culturally-specific entertainment can be.

Miller’s article discussed how the Nollywood industry’s major global economic connection is via the supply chain (by purchasing equipment from multinational brands such as Sony). But, on the subject of distribution, I wonder if there would be any interest in the future from major media streaming providers, especially Netflix? I’ve noticed that Netflix’s selection of Indian and Korean movies has greatly increased over the past few years and, given the moneymaking potential (in my opinion),  perhaps there could be a market for Nollywood movies as well?

Castells 116-136, Nollywood, and Convergence Culture

Recently the media has been reporting that government officials have been bashing online journalists, by saying that they are not real journalists, because they are not a part of one of the major well known news sources. I was happy to read this interesting quote from Culture Convergence; “journalists online are gate watchers, monitoring rather supporting news, managing rather than filtering information”. That’s basically how I see the flow of internet journalism, I feel that there is an unprecedented amount of fact checking going on, at such a rapid pace and I don’t know why any organization should feel threatened by this, unless they themselves are misinformed and or are trying to hide something. I feel that those who are currently criticizing it, should embrace it fully and use it to their advantage as well.

“In our society the protocols of communication are not based on the sharing of culture but on the culture of sharing”. This was found in Castellls reading. I really feel that this quote gets to the center of all of our misunderstandings in society. I feel that more than anything, people of all cultures want to share, because it feels good to share, it feels right, and that expansion in life exists when we share and feel good about ourselves. However, there is social engineering that exists and displays just the opposite and is not representative of the human spirit at all. That failed social engineered experiment I believe is being described to us again and again as the major media players. In Convergence Culture they are depicted as being “5 corporations that control most of the media: Time Warner, Disney, News Corp, Viacom, and Bertelsmann.”

At the end of the Nollywood article, it states “We have to train people to stay inside the  Truman Show, and make the best of it”. Is this what is really best for society, why would this be good, who benefits most from this, and suffers most?

During the Nollywood article, Michael Curtin mentions that: “logics of media flows can no longer be mapped onto a geograph based on the shape of the nation-state, but rather media as a product of global media capitals, hubs of media production that can be understood best at the city level” I found this to be really interesting, especially since I have lived in 2 major cities (NYC & London) of the world and have spent considerable amounts of time in other major global metro areas as well.  I actually see our world in the same way as well. NYC to me is like living in another world, it is so diverse and so different. Outsiders and tourists would never understand that community can be very strong here, because it seems so divided, but actually we have communities within communities, that stretch beyond oceans, it is a very interesting place and can be very confusing for others to understand it they never spent a significant amount of time there as a non-tourist. I see more of the rest of the world, becoming like this, because people have a more easily accessible opportunity to levitate towards their unique backgrounds and interests (via the internet and living in a more transient world) but a finite amount of time (which causes the confusion of being rude or divided).  New Yorker’s can be some of the most caring and understanding, people I have ever met. They are just misunderstood and too far ahead of the rest of the world in many respects.

Nov 4 reading “Global Nollywood” and “Convergence of culture in creative industries”

The first reading for this week IC class is a research paper title “Global Nollywood: The Nigerian movie industry and alternative global networks in production and distribution” by Jade Miller from Tulane University.

Through this reading, it opens door to Nollywood, Nigeria’s flourishing video industry which is largely separate from Hollywood’s global network of movie distribution.

As I read it through, I visualize the region’s unique environment to develop its own version of Hollywood based on local demand. Although the author explore the Nollywood’s production and distribution pattern, it does not recount the history and development of how Nollywood has become as it is now.

It is understandable that the region’s lacking of movie screening infrastructures like theaters led to home based movie watching practices and the growth of pirated movies on VCDs and DVD. Learning from previous readings, the rise of Hollywood’s movies industry is the results of establishment of major movie production studios in Los Angeles in 1950s. However, in Africa, with no possibility to make such massive investments from both government and private sector, it would led to SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) production of movies and the distribution targeted for local market only.

I think, the next phase of development for Nollywood is largely due to Nigeria’s large population.

As the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria’s entertainment industry would have largest collection of audiences within the national boundry and it would grew faster than that of other African countries. The same is happened in Mumbai, which has become center of movie industry of India that based on massive South Asian audience and also in Hong Kong, which has become the heart of Chinese entertainment industry.

In this reading, the most perplexing thing for me is why Nigeria or West Africa or even all of Africa is left out in Hollywood’s global distribution network. Africa is the not only second largest continent but also has the second populous continent. It should be definitely the focus for Hollywood’s movie producers, or even at least for Foreign policy makers of United States because even with little prospect for returning revenues Africa’s population should not be left out in US’s strategic communication policies.

Secondly, I am not clear what is the lingua franca of Nollywood movies since the author does not explore the language aspect of Nollywood movies. African countries are known for having diversity of tribal groups and myriad of local languages. We should not forget the unique African history that Africa’s national boundaries were drawn by their colonial masters rather than their ethnicities. In most African countries, lingua franca is the language of Colonial rulers such as English, French and Portuguese. I am curious how the Nollywood movies overcome the language barrier to attract the audiences from different countries, especially those of French and Portuguese speaking regions of Africa.

Next, in the second reading for this week, “Convergence of culture in creative industries” by Mark Deuze, it explore the emerging practices in Communication field to adapt the new global culture, which is, according to author, characterized by increasingly participatory media culture. The author point out examples in different branches of communication field, the “citizen journalism” bandwagon in news publication, two way symmetrical communication in public relation and upstream marketing in marketing and “interactive advertising” in advertising industry as examples of phenomena for converging trend. But, I think, the author underestimates the role of cultural forces that keep the people around the world apart. So my question here is: What is the role of culture in uniting the different communication industries as it is driven by profit making objectives?

Convergence, Culture, and Creative Industries

This week’s subtopic on “Convergence, Culture, and Creative Industries” gave an insightful view on how alternative markets  and globalization are adjusting media relations. In reference to the Nollywood article, Jade Miller argued how the Nigerian movie industry has connected ignored populations of people by redefining what it means to produce in a global network. Do you agree that success in this network can be defined as global exposure instead of million dollar profits?

Convergence, also poses a threat to traditional hierarchal standards, but can also empower a small amount of programmers and restrict the influence of switchers. Who decides when to converge and when not to?

Based on Castells’ chapter, how does diversified communication practices reflect diversified ownership, especially since the concentration of network power in the media has become more concentrated?

Nov 4th Readings

I really liked the readings this week as I feel they finally breached a subject that I have been interested in for the length of this course: the role of the consumer in these globalized media networks.

The consumer’s role and the personalization of media was a theme found in Deuze’s, Miller’s and Castell’s pieces this week.

Deuze highlights that there is a convergence occurring between media production and media consumption. He provides examples from across the media scope, from gaming to advertising to journalism. When he used the term “Interactive Advertising” I instantly thought of online videos — particularly on Hulu — that now prompt viewers with questions and/or choices as to what advertisement the viewers want to watch,  whether or not the viewer would like to take a quiz, or whether or not the advertisement content was relevant to him or her. More and more, viewers are having a choice to personalize their media experience, or at least are given the impression that they have one.

Castell’s wrote about the shift from “prime time” to “my time,” another example of this customized consumer relationship with the media. With the age of the Internet, viewers are able to record their favorite shows or watch their preferred content on their own time.

My question is: If the consumer is becoming increasingly capable of demanding personalized media, if their role in the production of media content (from advertising to journalism) is growing,  where are the lines being drawn between what people demand and what they need?

To what limits can consumer demand distort and or limit media production?

Or to the contrary, is this personalized media really providing the world with an abundance of diverse produced options?