Pushing around Henry Jenkins: YouTube Criticism as Cynical Circling (October 14, 2008)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
This 2008 blog post refers to ideas we were debating and videos students made in Fall 2008 after reading Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture and Paul Willis's Common Culture.
"The Hills is an MTV television series that premiered on May 31, 2006. The show uses a reality television format, following the personal lives of several people living in Los Angeles, California."[cit]

According to MarxWiki: "The idea of textual poaching is explored in Jenkins' book, Textual Poachers in reference to fan cultures that create new texts and communities based on existing texts, such as Star Wars fandom or the phenomena of the 'Trekker' culture. He attempts to consider the appropriation and poaching used within these communities as subversive forces."[cit]

According to Henry Jenkins: "'Textual poachers' is a metaphor that runs through the book, and one that has a certain resonance in many academic communities, but I've found that fans don't always know what to do with it. It comes out of the work of a French sociologist, Michel de Certeau, who argues that reading, essentially, is a matter of appropriation. As we read, we take up materials that someone else created for their reasons, and we make them our own. We take them over and reallocate them, to speak to alternative interests."[cit]
We had a really interesting class yesterday.

I wanted to share some of our class discussion about Henry Jenkins' book Convergence Culture. When I say we were pushing him around, I use this both as a catchy title but also to note something more meaningful, something about the linked tone, content, and process of our YouTube studies. Which is to say that with Jenkins' ideas, like seemingly everything else my students think about, the approach and take-home conclusions are a kind of cynical circling: the students hover near his ideas, prodding at them gently through parody, or perhaps sarcasm, while offering their own criticisms ambiguously, circuitously.

Analysis as ironic presentation. Criticism as parodic replay. I keep asking them to STATE their opinion, and this is their opinion: unsaid, smug, vague, readable both ways. Like the YouTube videos they learn from, their point of view is expressed through self-reflexive and soft satire (Note: the videos I linked to here, under soft satire, are from others students' research on Jenkins, you can see more of these projects on our class page.)