Digital Media and Convergence Culture
“Convergence culture” is a term used to describe the ways in which digital media has changed the relationship between institutions and their patrons, governments and their citizens, and storytellers and their audiences. Digital media technologies provide interactive and networked communication that accelerates the feedback loop between these groups. Digital media did not create active and creative audiences, but this technology has amplified and enhanced activities that previously had been popular with ardent fans and subcultures with strong social ties. The proliferation of digital media corresponds with marketing and messaging strategies designed to entice people to interact with companies and organizations. These groups encourage people to seek information on their own, “join the conversation,” and “take charge” of their lives through the capabilities of digital devices. In convergence culture, the boundaries between work and leisure, professional and amateur, and artist and audience have blurred. These changes have inspired research on the potentials and limitations of interactivity, immediacy, and interconnectedness. Some work focuses on the effects of these changes on democracy, including the status of journalism, the ability to organize social movements, and the effects of Balkanization in an era of algorithms. Along similar lines, research on privacy and surveillance warns of the darker side of networked technology. Claims about the social impact of digital media build on analysis of the technological affordances of the platforms, software, hardware, and code that governs participation. Many have detailed the ways in which the technology and culture of computing is laden with ideology that shapes its uses. Arguments such as these are especially relevant to the forward-thinking work done on what is referred to as the “Internet of Things,” which theorizes what life will be like when computer chips network all objects in an attempt to organize the chaos of the world through “big data” initiatives. Research on digital media and convergence culture relies on case studies, institutional analysis, theoretical exploration, and software studies. The variety of methodological approaches and the inherent interdisciplinarity of this work speaks to the ways in which digital media has affected all corners of modern life. The enthusiasm, creativity, and rigor of the research on convergence culture demonstrate the dedication of academia to bring clarity to a world reeling from a seismic shift.