Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture

Moderated by Louisa Stein

Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Online Roundtable on Spreadable Media, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, with participants Paul Booth, Kristina Busse, Melissa Click, Sam Ford, Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li, and Sharon Ross. Section 1 first published as the article "Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture", by Louisa Stein, from Cinema Journal Volume 53 Issue 3, pp152-177. Copyright 2014 by The University of Texas Press. All rights reserved.

[0.2] Keywords—Digital culture; Fan studies; Popular culture; Scholarship; Transmedia

Stein, Louisa, moderator. 2014. "Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture" [roundtable]. Paul Booth, Kristina Busse, Melissa Click, Sam Ford, Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li, and Sharon Ross, respondents. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 17.

Section 1 first published as the article "Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture", by Louisa Stein, from Cinema Journal Volume 53 Issue 3, pp. 152-177. Copyright 2014 by The University of Texas Press. All rights reserved.

Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. New York University Press. 2013. $29.95 hardcover; $12.10 e-book. 352 pages

1. Introduction

[1.1] The following roundtable discussion was organized and moderated by Cinema Journal between June and July 2013 as a form of book review of Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Josh Green's Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. The first section of this roundtable has already appeared in Cinema Journal. We are happy to be able to include the full, extended conversation here in Transformative Works and Cultures. The contributors responded to a series of prompts that asked them to consider Spreadable Media's engagement with questions of transmedia, digital culture, fandom, and online social activism more broadly. Participants explore Spreadable Media's relationship to fan studies scholarship (note 1) and ask whether Spreadable Media represents a shift in the way we think of fans in relationship to popular culture.

2. Cinema Journal roundtable

[2.1] Kristina Busse: Although Spreadable Media is ultimately not a fan studies book, nor does it try to be, it purposefully engages the concept of the fan and thus gets read in conjunction with fan scholarship, including Jenkins's previous works, Textual Poachers and Convergence Culture. Given that trajectory and the way the book repeatedly deploys specific examples of fan activities within its larger project, it raises the question as to how Spreadable Media uses the fan and how it engages with fan scholarship. Looking at the way Spreadable Media stretches the concept of being a fan to a point of seeming unrecognizability, I would suggest that the book is ultimately not interested in fans, except what they tell us about larger audiences.

[2.2] There are obviously strategic reasons to expand the term fan from the narrow confines that Henry Jenkins's earlier Textual Poachers set out. In the intervening years, many aspects of fandom have mainstreamed, a move that Henry has both described extensively and partly helped bring about. There are many benefits to conceptualizing active audiences as fans, but I'd like to look at some of the drawbacks. In particular, I'd like to look at what happens when the definition of fan changes from one based on identity to one based on action. I'd like to look at what gets left out when the definition of fan is as broadly conceived as it is in Spreadable Media, when any "like" click on Facebook, any forwarding of a YouTube link, constitutes a fan activity. I am concerned that such a broadening of the concept facilitates a shift from the fans studied in Textual Poachers to general audiences. Such a shift moves the focus away from the marginal media fan, who was mostly commercially nonviable, often resistant, and uncooperative, and whose dedication to a gift economy was often in spite of capitalist alternatives and not because they didn't exist. In its stead, the fans who take center stage in Spreadable Media are the commercializable audiences, who happily seem to collaborate in their own exploitation, free laborers creating value of which they cannot even assume ownership. What gets excluded and marginalized in Spreadable Media, then, are the very founders of the concept of fan, the unruly and aggressively anticommercial, the queered and sexually explicit, the anticapitalist and anticopyright. What gets excluded are the audiences whose practices may have been adapted and adopted and celebrated but whose presence is ultimately not desired in this brand-new, commercially viable fan universe.

[2.3] Spreadable Media acknowledges this danger: "We all should be vigilant over what gets sacrificed, compromised, or co-opted by media audiences as part of this process of mainstreaming the activities and interests of cult audiences" (note 2). But when reading through the chapters, I am distressed by observing that very compromise the authors warn against. I fear the actual driving force of the book is how things do get monetized and commodified, how fans can be interpellated and how user-generated content can spread—and all with the assumption that such monetization and commodification is a good thing.

[2.4] This exclusion, of course, seems fundamental to the argument when I think of the primary audience as industry professionals. Given the style, citation practices, and authorial affiliation of two of the three authors (with other media scholars, especially of various minorities, relegated to the online extension of the book), I can't help but read Spreadable Media as a book primarily geared toward media industry. And as such, it lays out beautifully the many and myriad ways in which media spreads, often against all odds and all too often in unpredictable and exciting ways. What concerns me, then, going back to the question of what constitutes a fan, is the way Spreadable Media elides the entire question I just laid out.

[2.5] By presenting itself as universal, the book can take particular examples that proved successful, particular audiences with certain privilege, particular practices that benefit neo-capitalist ideology if not business and frame them as universal and general. In so doing, the book ignores the very audiences that not only established these practices but also whose study brought about fan scholarship in the first place, most notably in Textual Poachers. In so doing, Spreadable Media seems to frame a procapitalist approach as neutral, ignoring and sidestepping not only the risks and costs of the actions described but also many of the alternatives that may not fit as neatly into a commercial framework. I wish the book had not presented itself as an academic engagement with the issues but instead had been more open and self-reflexive about the compromises it had to take for the industry audience it ultimately seems to be written for.

[2.6] Paul Booth: Kristina's points here are really interesting, and from a fan studies perspective I think her assessment of the book's absence of specific fan voices is spot on. This is especially true in the "Web Exclusive Essays": the essay writers are either from the industry or from academia; none is (at least in their bios) identified as "fan" (although of course I'm sure some of them would self-identify as fans of one type or another) (note 3). Hearing from some fan creators would open up the text to even more audiences and creators as well—and would certainly complicate the industrial emphases of the text.

[2.7] To augment what Kristina was saying, I agree that the book has a less critical eye when it comes to interrogating the commercial media environment, perhaps as one of the consequences of the multiple audiences we've been discussing. The concept of spreadability seems linked, for the most part, to commercial enterprises rather than to the emotional resonances of fan identity (with some notable exceptions, of course; steampunk being an obvious one, but, even then, steampunk is always being commercialized anyway…) (note 4). With fans crowd-funding Veronica Mars: The Movie (Rob Thomas, 2014) and Amazon's Kindle Worlds semilegitimizing a form of fan creativity (whether or not it actually is fan work has been discussed by Karen Hellekson, among others) in the months after the release of the book, Spreadable Media at least got its finger on the pulse of the industry (note 5).

[2.8] But I wonder if it also pegs a particular type of fan audience that tends to go underrepresented in fan literature—the mainstream fan, or the fan who doesn't want to subvert the status quo. Kristina's points speak to how the particular representations of "fandom" in Spreadable Media go against previous fan literature's emphasis on the ignored or derided, and yet rarely are "nontransformative" fans cited in fan literature either. This "mainstream" fan is the target audience of Amazon's Kindle Worlds, Creation Entertainment convention-goers, and the proud owners of a (nonironic) Star Wars retro T-shirt. They don't read fan fic, don't watch vids, don't really want to "create" as much as they want to "receive." This "mainstreaming" of fandom is something I've been thinking about a lot, especially given the way fans are being represented today. When I teach classes on fandom, many more of my students today are self-identifying as fans than in the past, I think partly in response to the rise of geek culture and the "sexy nerd" stereotype. They proudly wear comic book T-shirts and sport Doctor Who stickers on their laptops. Geek culture is hot right now, and I can't help but see that as important.

[2.9] Kristina Busse: I agree that the mainstreaming is important and that the question of whether it is an actual expansion of fans, a coming out of previously unacknowledged fans, or a simple renaming is an important one. I keep having the image of punk in my mind, which was a movement; a way to be; a subcultural identity that became popularized, commercialized, watered down. Maybe it's normal. I'm not sure that should keep us from retaining a sense of the ethos, however, of what it means to be a fan. And at the risk of sounding way too hipster, you can't just buy a Sex Pistols shirt and listen to the Ramones a few times and be punk! Making geek culture popular doesn't keep the kids-formerly-known-as-geeks from getting harassed, nor does it keep those pesky transformational fans from being endangered by the media industries, now doubly so, because why can't we play nice like those other kids called and self-defined as fans?

[2.10] Paul Booth: Spreadable Media is certainly an alternate exploration of fan audiences, but it's one that depends on changing paradigms in fan culture itself. Fans are more visible than ever and have been told by the industry (and academics!) that they are more powerful than ever. Sure, sometimes it's condescending (as Matt Hills has pointed out), but it also creates fans who are more aware of their own place in the media environment (note 6). I also don't think we can discount the impact of Fifty Shades of Grey's move from fan fiction to commercial success—the possibility of making money from fandom is certainly still alien to some, but not to all anymore (note 7).

[2.11] So I think this brings up a great question, which is, is spreadability (as it's being defined in this book) an inherently neoliberal approach to media? Maybe part of what defines spreadability is its monetization, and just as fans have always reacted to mainstream media with alternate voices, perhaps the monetization of spreadability creates the opportunity for those fans who do want to create negotiated readings to react against its monetization as well. Fans may or may not participate in a "spreadable" environment; maybe there's a fannish form of spreadability that is generative in different ways. Although Henry, Sam, and Josh caution against the exploitation of fans ("we are not suggesting here that every fan activity lends itself well to 'monetization'") (note 8), they never truly break out of the commercial paradigm: "we are suggesting that companies need to get much better at truly listening to their audience and at understanding their various audience's motivations for spreading their content" (note 9). If capital is necessary for spreadability, then perhaps spreadability is not the right term for discussing subcultural (affective) fan audiences.

[2.12] Henry Jenkins: I want to thank Kristina and Paul for their frank and provocative assessments of the strengths and limits of how we describe fans in the book. The issues you raise here are ones that have troubled me throughout the writing process and subsequently. Please understand that I am never fully satisfied with the answers we offer on any of these issues, given the contradictory and dynamic nature of the topics we are discussing.

[2.13] The term fan has from the start been a challenging category, as any number of us have written about. Textual Poachers was torn between a publisher mandate to write a general theory of fandom (that might have included soap fans, sports fans, comics collectors, fans of specific stars and performers, et cetera) and a more specific study of a particular community of fans with their own distinctive subcultural practices. Even writing specifically on the primarily female fan fiction community, I end the book by describing a range of different layers we would need to address to adequately describe the identity and practices of that community—as a "particular mode of reception," "a set of critical and interpretive practices," "a base for consumer activism," "particular forms of cultural production," and "an alternative social community" (note 10). (And this was never intended as an exhaustive list.) What Poachers did not address was what would happen if these layers were split apart—if some aspects of fandom gained broader visibility while others remained more marginalized. And that seems to be where we are at right now in terms of the ways fans are understood by industry, within popular discourse, and to some degree, within some more broadly defined fan communities (such as, say, San Diego's Comic-Con). We may give industry too much credit if we believe it has somehow resolved these contradictions, successfully separating out compliant consumers from resistant fans, whereas I think these contradictions are actively being fought, day by day, by communities who are raising expectations about meaningful participation and who are growing sets of social connections through which to lobby for their interests. Often, these battles get staged around terms of service within platforms, but increasingly, they are also fought in terms of efforts to create alternative mechanisms for producing and circulating content, such as, say, the "fan-created, fan-run, non-profit, non-commercial archive" [known as] An Archive of Our Own (note 11).

[2.14] From the start, Spreadable Media raises questions about the blurring of these boundaries, and I think it is vital that fan studies as a field continues to explore these issues from the most diverse possible range of perspectives. We use the word fan throughout the book to refer to people who would self-identify as fans, who are actively and critically engaging with the media (through a range of mechanisms), who are socially connected to one another through their shared tastes and interests, and so on. And we've made a conscious effort throughout to diversify the range of fan communities we discuss in terms of gender, but also race, ethnicity, and nationality.

[2.15] My own interest in participatory culture starts in fan studies, but my own goal here was to acknowledge the broad range of different groups that have historically engaged in struggles to expand access to the means of cultural production and circulation, and so we explicitly address other grassroots communities that clearly would not fall under my definition of fandom but that are actively pursuing their own interests in this new environment.

[2.16] Perhaps not surprisingly, some of you see this book as more pro corporate than I do. Ultimately, I care much more about broadening the communication capacity of grassroots communities and diversifying the range of media we have access to than I care about any corporate agenda, but corporate policies are what have to change if we are going to bring about a more participatory culture. My goal is to expand the resources the public can deploy to pursue its own interests—some of which involves shaping corporately produced media or supporting the development of transnational and independent media, some of which involves operating within counterpublics with carefully policed borders and keeping all corporations at bay, and much of which fall in between. The debates within fandom over Fan Lib, in particular, had forced me to adopt a much more complicated perspective on Web 2.0, and these debates, around fan labor in particular, were included in the book (note 12). Yes, we point to some examples where fans and producers have worked together, where fan practices generate economic value for the industry, but we also describe a range of other goals that grassroots communities pursue in their attempts to spread media content—for example, the use of circulation by church groups or activist groups. We discuss relationships between independent media producers of all kinds and their followings, which are also not reducible to a monolithic conception of the media industry. We raise questions about how the mainstreaming of fan practices often involves the industry embracing some kinds of fans and excluding others, concerns that were very much informed by the work of Suzanne Scott, Julie Russo, Gail De Kosnik, and others (note 13). So, I clearly would not agree that the term spreadability describes "an inherently neoliberal approach to media" or only speaks to those forms of fan practice that can be capitalized and commodified.

[2.17] Melissa Click: While I respect the concerns that Kristina and Paul raise, I have to say I rather liked Spreadable Media's focus on "audiences" instead of "fans." At its core, I think Spreadable Media expresses a deep respect for participatory culture and also an acknowledgment that the digital media environment has made participatory behaviors more visible, popular, and accessible. I like the assertion (useful for media professionals and scholars alike) that we shouldn't discount audiences' online activities, whether "minor" or "over the top." I certainly wouldn't agree that liking something on Facebook is an equivalent practice to "vidding" (fan video remix); however, as someone who often studies people who self-identify as fans but who wouldn't meet the definition of "fan" used by many of my colleagues, I appreciate the sentiment that all media "spreaders" are engaged in active processes of appraisal.

[2.18] I don't agree with Kristina's assertion that "the fans who take center stage in Spreadable Media are the commercializable audiences, who happily seem to collaborate in their own exploitation, free laborers creating value of which they cannot even assume ownership." I think Spreadable Media usefully explores the complexities of audiences' engagements with content producers—and endeavors to acknowledge that it's difficult to parse out what is exploitation and what is true collaboration. To see the audiences Spreadable Media discusses as oblivious to their own exploitation overlooks the arguments the book makes to adjust our approach to these folks. The opposite of "fan" shouldn't be "dupe"—there's a lot of important work to be done here to understand how audiences are engaging with and through digital media, drawing on tools and motivations with direct lineage to participatory cultures.

[2.19] So while the mainstreaming of participatory behaviors might rob fan cultures of their cult or niche status, I don't think it's inevitable that such a mainstreaming will dilute the value or importance of fan practices (or fan studies). The study of fan cultures developed, in part, to explore the identification, collaboration, and democratic deliberation in such cultures. Spreadable Media is driven by the desire to see audiences shape the media environments they inhabit, and it suggests that this will be accomplished through digital tools that have evolved from participatory cultures. Fan culture is not the limited domain of those who have found their way out of the capitalist system—fans are not outside of power, although they may have a different relationship with it than other media audiences. I think Spreadable Media asks us to consider that media audiences, in varying degrees, have begun sharing media in ways that reshape our media environment and to imagine what it might look like if mainstream audiences became even more engaged. I (and I may be alone here) find this to be a very promising and hopeful vision that encourages us to see all audiences as critical thinkers and agents in their own right.

[2.20] Paul Booth: Thanks to Henry and Melissa for the responses! Just to clarify, I agree completely with Melissa's sentiment that while mainstreaming participatory cultures might rob fan of their niche status, it's not necessarily diluting the value of fan practices (or fan studies). I think that there are multiple types of fans and fan audiences—some more mainstream than others. My larger point was that Spreadable Media focuses nicely on audiences that are fans but are not studied under traditional fan studies literature. Fans are always imbricated in the commercial and/or industrial system, and, in part, it's their relationship with that system that helps define how fan studies scholars have analyzed and described them in the past. Spreadable Media offers a different type of analysis—one that looks at fans from a more industrial point of view but offers a not-unrealistic image of styles of contemporary fandom.

[2.21] Kristina Busse: Unlike Paul, I actually do disagree with Melissa's statement that mainstreaming won't negatively affect minority fan practices. I think the point of contention may be that I indeed think of "fan" as a critical subcultural practice whose actions may be imitated by media industries "creating" or, as Louisa describes it, interpellating fans, but whose value as a critical concept gets all but erased when we expand it to the point of universality (note 14).

[2.22] Michael Kackman gave a great talk a couple of years ago at Flow 2010 in a panel on quality TV and pedagogy, where he sketched out the history of media studies as having grown out of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and voiced the concern that the heavily Marxist and feminist thrust of the initial project was getting lost in the aesthetic turn. The field that keeps hovering for me at the horizon of fan studies is, of course, queer studies, for so many reasons. We have always drawn heavily from its methodology, and I think it is useful to think of fan studies in terms of queer studies, as Mel Stanfill does in her work. Like her, I want to retain "fan" as an "analytic," as a way to critically engage, which in turn requires a constant commitment to critical analysis that cannot ever celebrate the status quo or not be suspicious of its collaboration with "the powers that be," be they creatively or economically in charge.

[2.23] And like "queer," "fan" also has much to gain from becoming more inclusive, but even more to lose from becoming all-inclusive. At the point where everything is queer, the model can all too easily end up including the picket-fence, straight, married couple with kids where the wife has a lesbian fantasy once in a while at the expense of the ace trans youth or the kinky leather bear. Likewise, I fear that Spreadable Media is a symptom of this same phenomenon: class and gender, sexual orientation (and let me throw in race and ethnicity, of course, as well!), can easily separate the "good fan" from the "bad fan," the compliant consumer from the one who isn't. That's my concern with Amazon's Kindle Worlds, for example, and I feel Spreadable Media is complicit in this mainstreaming of the acceptable and the exclusion of the unacceptable—all in the name of fan inclusion.

[2.24] Paul Booth: The key point, for me, is what Henry says: "We use the word fan throughout the book to refer to people who would self-identify as fans, who are actively and critically engaging with the media (through a range of mechanisms), who are socially connected to one another through their shared tastes and interests, and so on." In what I've observed in online fandom, these categories—self-identifying as fan, active engagement, social connection—have themselves become more fluidly applied to fan audiences by fan audiences themselves. It's not that just the "industry" is changing its perception of fans (although I do think that's the case; people's ideas of what it means to be a fan are being adjusted as fans become represented more often in different ways, in large part because there has been a generation of influential creators who read Textual Poachers and other fan studies literature), but in turn more people are thinking of themselves as fans, perhaps lowering the bar of what it takes to be a fan (fandom's version of "slacktivism," as Jeremy Sarachan writes about) and therefore opening up the category to new audiences and new "methods" of being fannish (note 15).

[2.25] So I don't think Spreadable Media misrepresents what's going on in the fannish world; I do think that the book offers a take on fandom that depends on the industry being affected by fans and fans being affected by the industry.

[2.26] Melissa Click: Paul, I think we agree on this. I do wonder, though, if more mainstream audiences are thinking of themselves as fans or whether mainstream folks' identifications as fans have become more visible.

[2.27] And I've been ruminating on Spreadable Media's suggestion that "those who are most prepared to embrace spreadability have often been the people with the least to lose from changing the current system" (note 16). I believe this sentence references industry professionals and media corporations, but in light of Kristina's comments, I wonder if fan communities (in the Textual Poachers sense) have something to lose here, too, now that participatory culture has become a source of power, or at least distinction? Perhaps this is an area worthy of further exploration?

[2.28] Sam Ford: I appreciate Kristina's concern here about not losing the distinctiveness of what it means to be a fan. In the book, our criticism of the many ludicrous statements that come out and around the description of "brand fandom" was an attempt to do just that—to look at how, in the process of mainstreaming the idea of the fan, marketers all too often try to distort what fandom means.

[2.29] On the other hand, though, I'm sensitive to what I feel has been an inclination within fan studies since the origin of the "field" to often prioritize certain types of fans—and fan activities—over others. Without intending to, Henry—through exploring a case study of a particular community of fans in Textual Poachers—laid out what some have taken as a definitional criteria of what "being a fan" means, which doesn't apply in whole or even sometimes all that much to the fans who originally brought me into the realm. The practices of the fandoms I've studied—in relation to pro wrestling and soap opera texts, for instance—are ones that don't neatly fit the mold of how the mainstream of fan studies has framed the idea of the fan, and many of the practices of these fan communities challenge the notions our field has had of what fans predominantly do.

[2.30] This prioritization among fandoms in fan studies includes a prevalent bias toward producerlike activities—and certain forms of production activities—that leave us making a distinction of who is ultimately worthy of the mantle of "fandom." For instance, to again go back to Textual Poachers, the book is organized in a way that moves from more deliberatory fan practices toward more production-based activities. While the book at no point claims so, it may be deduced that this is a pyramid or scale of participation, with fan vidding or fan fic positioned as more active and some ultimate expression of fandom. Yet the core expressions of soap opera fandom in particular have been the discussion board, the conversation, and so on. For texts like wrestling and soaps—with five hours or more of new programming each week and without an off season—there isn't the time or the room for some of the longer-range fan production practices we may see from the sorts of fan communities that have more often been the focus of fan studies research. But these fans are far from model "consumers" in a corporate-driven world, either.

[2.31] In looking at the practices of post-Wrestlemania Monday Night RAW (USA Network, 1993–2000; TNN, 2000–2003; Spike TV, 2003–2005; USA Network, 2005–present), fans and how they behave at the live show in ways that run counter to the script the producers have lined out, for instance, or of soap opera fan debates about TIIC ("the idiots in charge"), it's clear that these fans aren't necessarily playing the role assigned to them by prevailing corporate interests (note 17).

[2.32] I'd like to think that no one type of audience is the focus of Spreadable Media. I see this book in part as a corrective to the type of research we were working on in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT in the lead-up to and the wake of the release of Convergence Culture, which perhaps overly prioritized fan production practices. One of our hopes with Spreadable Media is to look at how the activity of circulation involves significant creative labor and to move away from or challenge some of our collective prior work that put inordinate focus on "content creation." This work of circulation includes everything from intensive production practices all the way down to clicking "Share." That in no way means to imply that clicking "Share" means you are necessarily a "fan"; but to imply that everything other than the production of a video or audio text, or a long-form piece of writing, is "passive" or an insignificant activity dismisses a lot of creative labor as just "consumption." (Of course, even the process of so-called consumption involves quite a lot of labor, hence our connecting to Dallas Smythe's writing about the work involved in media spectatorship) (note 18). I fear that in celebrating fandom (whether so-called transformational or affirmational), we are dismissing a range of active audience practices beyond fandom and stripping agency from those audiences. So we hope to challenge the very idea of the passive audience in this work.

[2.33] Per both Kristina's and Melissa's points above, I'd also be concerned if only a certain type of spreadability, or even spreadability itself, becomes a criterion for what we consider worthy of attention as scholars, or a criterion within the media and marketing industries for defining what they consider "a success" from a business perspective. Henry, Joshua, and I have criticized ourselves for occasionally falling victim to one of the myths we were trying to dispel with this work: that success in spreading content can only be reached by "going viral," defining success in terms of reaching a certain quantity of audience members. At times in the book, we cite examples to illustrate how far, and on how broad a scale, spreadability can reach. In retrospect, I fear this risks undercutting the much more transformative potential of smaller-scale spreadability, which we illustrate throughout the book as well. Even if spreadability can occasionally lead to something reaching a mass audience, one of the messages we hoped to convey is how important audience circulation activities are surrounding media content that doesn't "go viral" but that deeply resonates within a particular community, as well as some of the complications that happen when content spreads outside those communities' borders…when content moves outside the original social context under which it was circulated and thus brings certain risks back to the community from which it came.

[2.34] Henry Jenkins: Kristina, I share your concerns about what happens to the subcultural dimensions of fandom as some forms of fan participation go mainstream, and I still very much value forms of fan studies that maintain a critical edge, that ask hard questions about industry and academic practice. But, keep in mind, we are back to dealing with the terminological confusion that has always surrounded the term fan. There was never a moment when the word would have referred exclusively to a particular subculture and its practices. We could go back a hundred years and the word in popular usage would have referred to sports fans and movie fans, both of which were closer to the groups we discuss in Spreadable Media than to anything I discussed in Textual Poachers. Recent works, such as After Subculture, identify several problems with our classic formulations: subcultures were historically defined against a dominant culture, but increased fragmentation makes it hard to define the "center" against which opposition is directed (note 19). Subcultures were historically marginalized because they lacked the means to communicate with larger publics, whereas a key point of Spreadable Media is that all subcultures now have much greater communicative capacity.

[2.35] Fandom is one of those spaces that has had the most intense and generative debates about what constitutes meaningful participation, about the borders between subcultures and the mainstream, about how public or private they want their cultural production to be, and about the values of remaining a counterpublic that builds consensus within itself, or being engaged in the larger public conversations that influence cultural production. There is clearly much space between being totally marginalized and being totally mainstreamed; fans have rightfully protested both, seeking above all the right to self-determination. For sure, some fans have historically found safety in flying below the radar, in escaping any attention (or regulation) of their activities, but others have long sought ways to actively influence cultural production (a distinction I documented in my discussion of the Gaylaxians' struggle to insert a queer character onto Star Trek: The Next Generation [NBC, 1987–1998] rather than writing slash as a form of subcultural appropriation) (note 20). If, as Textual Poachers argues, fandom is born from a mix of frustration and fascination, we need to avoid reducing fans to purely "resistant readers," emphasizing the first at the expense of the latter.

[2.36] I still have deeply ambivalent feelings about Amazon's Kindle Worlds. This example certainly illustrates the limits of the "free labor" frame for talking about the intersection of fan and commercial creativity. Often, describing fan production as "free labor" implies that if we just paid people, the problems would go away, yet we insist in Spreadable Media that this is not the case, given how many fans do not want to see their "gifts" commodified in any fashion. One key difference between Amazon and FanLib is that fans are getting paid for their creative labor; we might agree that the terms of their contracts are still exploitative, though not notably more so than the terms of our contract with New York University Press. As Gail De Kosnik notes in the extended book, male science-fiction fandom historically had a close relationship with the commercial institutions that support speculative fiction; most major science-fiction writers, editors, and artists were recruited from fandom, and fans saw their amateur production as a means of gaining skills and exposure which might pave the way for professional status (note 21). De Kosnik also notes that female fans have historically not enjoyed any such easy scaffolding and support. As a much smaller number of them sought to publish professionally on the basis of the skills they had developed within fandom, many had to erase their roots in fandom rather than maintain them, which meant that they often could not be supporters of the next generation of fans who sought to go pro with their work.

[2.37] So, you can argue that the new Amazon model specifically addresses these concerns: it recognizes that 50 Shades has made it possible for female fans to go pro while not erasing their past within fandom, and it may pave the way for a more fluid range of possible relations between amateur and professional writers. There will be many women who have the chance to become authors as a result of these mechanisms, and many more may discover fan culture through these publications. That said, a more commercialized form of fan fiction loses the quality Catherine Tosenberger claims is central to its alternative status—its "unpublishability," or the fact that it is largely free of constraints on what can be said or done with the characters because it exists outside the commercial marketplace (note 22). We should be sharply critical of the constraints that these guidelines place on what fans can write and what their larger implications may be in terms of who gets to be an author under this arrangement.

[2.38] Kristina Busse: I am not trying to suggest that fan ever referred to only subcultural poachy fans, but I do firmly believe that fan research needs to remain conscious of that aspect and its political and social implications. After all, Textual Poachers all but established the subdiscipline of fan studies, even when acknowledging that Henry didn't set out to do so. But it is a fact that the book was very much indebted to the politics of recognizing and analyzing socioeconomic imbalances. Consequently, the field has a critical orientation—whichever lens any given author chooses—through which there remains a focus on systemic inequality. Sports fan studies, for example, does not have that center of gravity; that's what makes us unique.

[2.39] We can call this an analytic, as Mel Stanfill does, or I think of it as an ethos, but it was clearly present both in the types of fans Textual Poachers studied and (as a result) in the field that has grown around them academically. And my focus on which fans are studied primarily really is a way to address what critical ethos this study has taken. Clearly, given the diverse audiences, this book has to look different as to focus, tone, and analytic than a "purely" academic one, but I am concerned that this did not take the form of inclusivity but swung too far the other way to focus only on the most palatable.

[2.40] Sam Ford: I think you are certainly right, Kristina, that a focus on imbalances of power—and social, economic, and cultural "capital"—has always been, and must remain, a key aspect of a fan studies approach, or ethos.

[2.41] Our hope with Spreadable Media was to look at positives, negatives, and potentials of how new and expanded cultural processes of communicating and circulating content—ways in which active audiences (including, but far from only including, various fandoms) are communicating with and around media content—are addressing those imbalances. And, as well, we wanted to question how those working in the media and marketing industries might likewise seek to create methods that allow them to have greater respect for, and better serve, their audiences. (I'd offer that, in many cases, that "service" might be to leave them alone and not interfere with subcultural processes in which those audiences have every right to engage.)

[2.42] We begin and end the book by saying that there are both new potentials for creating a more participatory media environment that respects all participants' interests to a greater degree and also long-standing imbalances that remain. And our hope was to illustrate those issues of systemic inequality, power imbalances, and marginalized cultural practices throughout. Obviously, this was the purpose of sections like "But Which Fans?," "The Problem of Unequal Participation," and "The World Is Not Flat," as well as a range of examples sprinkled throughout the book. But we look at those examples alongside other cases where the interests of audiences and content creators align, or where there are people within the media and marketing industries who advocate for companies that are more responsive to the needs and interests of the audiences they seek to reach with their texts.

[2.43] I am certain that, for some readers, we will be seen as having leaned too far toward looking at ground gained and positive potentials—and toward ways in which ground can be gained within the economic realities of the logics of the world in which we live. But I'm invigorated by projects that look at ground gained and at potentials right alongside looking at tensions and imbalances that remain or even are at the risk of expanding, for instance, as logics like that of Web 2.0 seek to create a narrative of perfect alignment between audience autonomy and business practices. As we explore studying active audiences (including fandom), I think there is room in the field for optimism about the potential for greater equality in participation and for interventionist sorts of work that seek to engage with media companies and with marketers to listen to and empathize with (or leave alone) various audiences, depending on desires and dynamics. But I agree that it has to be situated within a critical perspective—to not be blindly optimistic.

[2.44] One area I feel we broached but didn't give enough space in the book itself—and which I hope subsequent work will focus on more—are some larger questions about the negative potentials of spreadability: concerns around the implications of data mining and other violations of privacy, the spread of rumors and untruths, and a whole host of troubling behaviors that come alongside an expanded capacity to circulate media texts broadly. Certainly, our consideration of data-mining practices in Spreadable Media and our incorporation of work like Whitney Phillips's examination of troll culture did a bit of that, but it's a rising concern for me in terms of how spreadability functions alongside our roles as neighbors, as community members, as family members, and as citizens (note 23).

[2.45] I want to return in particular to an observation that Paul brings up: that the book includes media scholars and media and marketing professionals but not voices from fandom. While we list active audiences (including participants in fan communities) as one of the desired readerships for this book, they are not represented as official contributors to the project, even if texts from activists, fans, and "customer protesters" (for lack of a better term) are cited throughout. This is perhaps a distinct failure on our part as primary authors on this project. Maybe it represents an unstated assumption that the academic readership (including both scholars and classroom use) and the media and marketing industries readership would be larger than a nonprofessional readership for the book—but it also represents a concern as to how we could accurately represent those readerships, given that the "active audiences" we seek to address represent such a diverse range of interests that it might be hard to "address them" in any direct way. Now, of course, it would be quite false to say that "the academy" and "the industry" are monolithic entities with singular viewpoints either, but it is especially difficult to think about how to represent the perspectives of "the active audiences" involved in circulating spreadable media texts in any direct way.

[2.46] I was coeditor of The Survival of Soap Opera, with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington (note 24). That book took a similar approach in its aim to be read by soap opera fans and audiences, the US soap opera industry, and a television studies, media studies, fan studies readership. Similar to Spreadable Media's online portion, that book included contributions from both soap opera scholars and industry professionals, including soap writers and one soap actor. However, crucially, the book also included a range of pieces from soap opera fans of various sorts: multiple soap opera bloggers, a fan site moderator, a fan historian, and a soap opera fan who writes about how her relationship with her soaps connected with her relationship with her mother. Further, in The Survival of Soap Opera, we framed the short bio of each contributor by indicating his or her own personal relationship with US soap operas, trying to explicitly demonstrate how the boundaries between fan, industry professional, and scholar were often blurred, from the soap opera writer who left academia to take a job in the industry to soap opera bloggers who have moved from fan to industry professional to industry critic or observer.

[2.47] The difficulties of taking a similar approach with Spreadable Media were multiple (as evidenced by our failure to do so, I suppose). First, in the case of The Survival of Soap Opera, we were talking about a particular genre of text. So—while there is significant diversity of perspectives and community types within "soap opera fandom" and also among fandoms of various shows within the genre—it was still easy to see how to bring fans of varying types into the conversation about the past, current state, and future of the genre. Because Spreadable Media lacks that degree of specificity, it left it less clear how to bring active audience voices into the conversation. And, further, because this isn't a book primarily about fandom but rather about various sorts and degrees of active audiences, the question of who to bring into the conversation is a complicated one as well.

[2.48] However, the fact that it's complicated isn't justification for not doing it. Our idea for the site is that it could be an ongoing project that perhaps includes additional voices over time. We know not only that there are a range of angles the book only touches upon but also that there are many angles not yet covered at all. Perhaps most important among them is this question of how to provide more of a platform for active audience members themselves to be part of the dialogue. On the site itself, we've tried to link to just about any and every reaction we've seen to the book thus far, but perhaps there's a way to bring voices more officially into the conversation the book intended to start. To that end, while it's rewarding to participate in discussions related to the project for a venue like Cinema Journal, I'd really be eager to find ways to bring fans, activists, independent cultural critics, and other "active audiences" into the conversation.

[2.49] So, let me just baldly ask—does the panel have any suggestions as to ways we as book authors but, as importantly, coeditors of this larger project might open whatever platform the site has created to expand the range of contributors? What would be the best way to bring on a mix of contributions from the perspective of multiple fandoms or positions in fan communities, as well a range of other active voices?

[2.50] Kristina Busse: I want to be clear: I am concerned here with systemic issues surrounding race and gender as well as academic and fan labor issues. Though I may name people directly as I comment on identity issues, I really mean to primarily address structural issues in academia, publishing, and public discourses and how we tend to replicate "kyriarchical" privilege. I think the fact that the primary authors of this book ended up being three white guys, two of whom are working in industry, has pretty much foreclosed the wide-openness the book claims and desires. The extended version offers a multifaceted and expansive dialogue on convergence and transmedia culture, especially in its intersection of audiences and industry. But when I hold the book in my hands, it is you three on the cover, your bios on the dust jacket, your names, I'd assume, on the royalty checks. The web expansion importantly expands your book, but that ultimately can't erase that the book is by Jenkins, Ford, and Green. So, yes, you may bring into the online expansion more different voices, such as fans writing about themselves, but that will not even have informed the book in the way the other essays that you reference within the print version have, nor will it give any of them actual author status.

[2.51] Sam Ford: I will let Henry speak to the question of how we envisioned this project as a balance between monograph and anthology. But I want to address the professional affiliations of the primary authors, since you've raised it a couple of times. We explicitly make the varied affiliations of the authors a key part of the book and its ability to address various academic and industry readerships, so I think it's especially valid and helpful that you ask critical questions about what that means. However, I'm not quite as clear on how my job affiliation—or my coauthors'—"forecloses the wide-openness the book claims and desires."

[2.52] First, where we were affiliated when working on this project is not a straightforward designation. All three of us were employees of MIT when this research project started. I had been a graduate student in the Convergence Culture Consortium research group and stayed on the project as the project manager after graduating. Joshua had joined the project as research manager as part of his postdoctoral research position. And Henry was the project's principal investigator. After all three of us left MIT, Joshua helped run a research project at the University of California–Santa Barbara for the majority of the duration of our writing the book. In the latter stages of the project, he accepted a position at Undercurrent. Meanwhile, though I've spent the past six years (roughly five-sixths of the time we worked on this project) working at Peppercomm, a communications strategy firm, I have also held a research affiliation with the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT during that full-time period and, since spring 2009, have acted as an adjunct instructor in the Popular Culture Studies Program at Western Kentucky University (including serving on the curriculum committee for that program). The press took only the first line of my bio for the dust jacket, but my complete list of affiliations is in the author bio. Further, in my position at Peppercomm, I am given a third of my time to pursue academic writing, teaching, and so on, with no oversight from the agency and with me retaining intellectual property. Part of my time is also set aside for speaking and writing about how the marketing industries might better respect their audiences, outside of my work consulting with various companies. And particular to this discussion of fan studies, it's worth noting that 70 percent of Peppercomm's clients are "business-to-business" companies, and that I have only worked with media and entertainment clients at the firm a handful of times.

[2.53] Now, certainly, my larger work in marketing makes me complicit in the neoliberal logics of a capitalist society, and so forth. I entered this field with the hope of taking issues I care about from my media studies—and fan studies—work and translating or applying them to how companies of various sorts could more respectfully understand and communicate with their various audiences. After spending the past few years in this role, I'm quite sensitive to what I feel is a tendency within the media studies academy to flatten the wide degree of tensions, competing priorities, and conflicting philosophies within companies' orientations to their various audiences. I feel that often gets amalgamated into "corporate interests," when, of course, the corporation is far from a single-minded entity but comprises tens, hundreds, or often thousands of individuals who negotiate meaning and orientation on a daily basis. I particularly appreciate the work of Mark Deuze, Vicki Mayer, and others, who have—through a production studies lens—helped explore those tensions to a greater degree (note 25).

[2.54] Henry Jenkins: I feel awkward saying this, but the reality is that my name on a book at this point in my career guarantees a certain amount of attention, and yet I believe deeply that the best scholarship right now is apt to emerge through collaborations across disciplines and with people from diverse backgrounds. My ethical commitment is to try to redirect as much attention as I can onto other scholars whose work I admire and whose careers I want to support. Many senior scholars make similar choices when they agree to coauthor with a younger scholar or contribute to an anthology because their "name value" may increase its likelihood of being published. We began the project at a time when publishers were actively discouraging anthologies because they lacked a strong through-line and thus were unlikely to be reviewed, because they were so easy to cherry-pick for course packs. We experimented with a hybrid approach that combines elements of the anthology and the monograph, and we worked hard to achieve an ideal balance between the two, using the shorter pieces by our collaborators as something like the sidebars in Convergence Culture. With this goal, we brought together researchers at all stages of their careers—from graduate students finishing their dissertations, to senior scholars who are as well known as the primary authors, to activists and industry insiders who operate in a totally different reputational economy. Part of how we got this array of contributors was by promising them that their commitments would be low, writing only 2,000 words each, often drawing on existing work, whereas the three of us would do the heavy lifting of constructing the core arguments and getting the project across the finish line.

[2.55] Part of experimenting with new approaches is that they do not always work the way you expect. Many who read the draft felt that the central arguments we were posing were hard to follow through the various shorter pieces, and embedding them in the manuscript seemed to dictate that the reader stop and read them at the point we reference them and only as related to our arguments. We were running up against entrenched expectations about what counts as a coherent and cohesive manuscript and against the linearity of the printed book. We were at the same time trying to do too much—write to multiple audiences, engage with critical perspectives, diversify the range of examples—and so the length expanded well beyond what the press was prepared to deal with. So, faced with a choice, we decided to split the functions between the two platforms, giving the book fully over to the monograph and using the web to create a larger space of conversations. Because of the ways the sidebars were integrated into specific chapters, moving some of those chapters to the web would still have created inequalities among the contributors. I don't see web publication as inherently second class, even if some may still ascribe greater prestige to the book.

[2.56] Having made this choice, we have done everything in our power to ensure that the other contributors received the recognition they deserved. We refer persistently throughout the book to these other essays, introducing their authors, addressing their arguments, and acknowledging their influence on our own thinking; we have organized sessions at major conferences, such as the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and Media in Transition, which introduce some of the contributors to the project; and we consistently pay respect in our individual presentations to the other contributors.

[2.57] Kristina, you know how much I admire the work you and Karen do on Transformative Works and Cultures, which is an online publication, so I am a bit surprised that you seem to feel that digital publication denies people the status of authors. As far as I am concerned, what's online is an active part of the book, one that will continue to evolve while the hard-copy book remains static, and one that is open to further contributions.

[2.58] Xiaochang Li: Most everything has been said about the particular challenges, tensions, and political and analytical stakes of how we define and classify "fan" identities, activities, and interventions. Therefore, I want to just note that alignment between certain fan practices and political tendencies might not be categorical constants elsewhere in the world. The kinds of values and investments we associate with fan participation in the West are not necessarily the same as those present in practices that operate transnationally or occur under different historical conditions. This is not to make some broad cultural relativist sweep that undercuts the value of maintaining a level of analytical specificity around the definition of fan, but to suggest that we have a tendency to assume that certain kinds of activities and inactivities are indicators of particular kinds of investments or types of identity, which does not necessarily hold true once you start to traverse borders of various kinds. To use a generic example, "the unruly and aggressively anticommercial, the queered and sexually explicit, the anticapitalist and anticopyright" audience practices might, in some media environments, signal a particular kind of political position. However, these same "anticommercial" practices take on a different tenor in places where "piracy" necessarily constitutes a logic of everyday media engagement, and they can apply to the appropriation of material goods and infrastructure as well as media content, such as the examples of Ravi Sundaram's work on "private modernity" in India or Brian Larkin's discussion of Nollywood referenced in Spreadable Media (note 26). Similarly, fan subtitling, which is undeniably transformative and certainly unruly, while technically anticopyright, nevertheless remains deeply entangled with a history of transnational commercial markets, both authorized and unauthorized. I tend to agree with the point that Melissa and others have made, that Spreadable Media focuses on audiences that are perhaps less classically "fannish" in an effort to acknowledge the agency and productivity of other, often less explicitly productive practices in order to "usefully explore the complexities of audiences' engagements with content producers." That is, I don't see it as necessarily diluting existing definitions of fan so much as suggesting that practices and identities outside that definition can also be complex, nuanced sites of intervention. And I think it's important to engage "fan" and other forms of audience practice as mutually informing categories, or we otherwise run the risk of fan being defined not only in terms of a set of important critical and ethical commitments but also in terms of an unspoken configuration of geographies.

[2.59] I will say also that while I agree Spreadable Media isn't as critical or as attentive to structures of capital as I might like, if we are to mount these kinds of critiques, it becomes even more important to look closely at those practices that seem at times complicit in a neoliberal orientation while also being sources of individual and collective affect and pleasure that can't be dismissed as "mass distraction." As Sharon points out, capital is always already a part of the conditions from which fan and other audience practices emerge; we must understand the intricacies of how value is being produced and extracted, by whom and for whom, and how these processes and power relations become formalized in institutions, policies, and technical arrangements. For instance, if we are able to see acts of sharing content not as a part of generalized media "consumption" but as a productive activity, we might more readily come to understand corporate data measurement and analytics practices as forms of labor extraction. As such, far from foreclosing a critique of capital, the appreciation of the productive capacities of commercially viable audience practices may lead us toward a better, more granular understanding and consequent critique of its applications.

[2.60] Kristina Busse: Great point, Xiaochang! Yes, you are totally correct that we need to look at the specifics not just historically but also geographically, if we are to maintain a socioeconomically astute and critical point of view. I hope that my elaborations below make a bit clearer that while my personal stakes are very much in the "old skool media fandom" of Textual Poachers, my critique is attempting to be broader. But yes, thank you for the much-needed corrective!

[2.61] Sharon Ross: Throwing in here, as I understand Kristina's passions and points: What follows are my two cents based on my own "fan" research. One of the things I was fascinated with in Beyond the Box that I could only give slight space to was how the Internet was changing notions of fans and fandom—in all sorts of competing realms (note 27). I'll echo Xiaochang here and note that even back in the early 2000s, fans who responded to my surveys (and they did call themselves fans) were telling me that there was some kind of spectrum with fandom in this age of the new millennium. Nuances emerged further with the issue of crossing geographical distribution boundaries (fans getting a season of a show one year later, for example, which led to great social community, but ultimately they'd rather have the show at the same time). So in general, for me, as I battle the academic need to classify and define with the equally academic need to refute that first imperative, I have adopted (based on self-identifying fans telling me what they think cult and fan actually mean) the following framework: The meaning of fan, cult, and so on, varies with context. This context includes history. A fan from the 1800s isn't the same as the fan from the 1940s from the 1980s, ad nauseam. And on the basis of what I've researched and seen anecdotally, the definitions will continue to shift all the more. Let's not get bogged down in notions of the "true fan" without considering historical shifts (while admittedly not falling into a trap of "it's all copacetic now").

[2.62] Today, like it or not, some form of capital(ism) is necessary for fandom. Most pointedly, there must be a product of labor for fandom to coalesce around. There is also the same in fandom itself—social capital, cultural capital, relational capital—and more importantly, for me at least, the dynamics surrounding different forms of capital are often the same. In many fan communities, there are rules of exclusion and limitations. If you talk about a text for five hours a week (exaggerating here for effect!), you might not "count" if you don't do that talking online and with an original creation attached to it. Or, God forbid, you post your comments at the top versus the bottom of the thread! From a political perspective, such rules (from fans themselves) are disenfranchising and have often been especially so for female fans and fans of non-sci-fi or fantasy texts. My point is that as much as industries rooted in an economic imperative exclude fans who can't be controlled and monetized, so do fans themselves. It might not be about strict monetization for fans, but that dynamic of control over the product and over the results is the same.

[2.63] So for me, to some degree, an attention to mainstream cult, mainstream fandom, and so forth, is a necessary part of the conversation. I do not think it should displace "classic fandom," but it is necessary. Too many people I've talked with have felt disenfranchised more by "core" fan bases than by the industry to discount the value of conceptualizing fandom along a spectrum.

[2.64] Let me bring into our conversation the question of the "burden of representation" in academia and publishing. As a parallel, The Cosby Show (NBC, 1984–1992) can't equal "the black family of the 1980s," but so many saw it as representing that concept. So we have in academia a similar tension: Textual Poachers can't equal what fandom is (or even what it was at that time), yet the fact remains that many see it as such (note 28). Is this fair to Henry Jenkins? No. But one of the big things I have discovered in trying to tackle a common phenomenon with multiple audiences is that "reality" often doesn't matter so much as the "perceived reality."

[2.65] In short, I don't think we can expect Spreadable Media as a book to do more than it can. But that doesn't mean that we can't take it to task for gaps. I simply believe (as an academic who only has so much time and energy) that the value of a forum such as this is that we voice the concerns, gaps, and questions. As I stated earlier, I see this book as a primer for further work.

[2.66] Sam's point regarding bringing in fans' voices is a tricky one, to be sure, given the parameters of publishing and given all the power plays within fan communities noted above. But one of the most fun things I enjoy in my reception research is finding those moments when you can break through and give space to other voices. You have to realize you'll never provide space for all—but that doesn't mean you can't damn well try. So, let's use the power of the authors and the resources of the online contributors. I had the most fun when I asked various self-identified "fans" to tell me what a fan was. With a book as broad and expansive as Spreadable Media, it's not quite so easy. But perhaps (especially via the online pieces) we can just flat out solicit. I wrote in my online piece about a number of shows recently on the air and could hit the fan boards with "read this excerpt and give me your two cents" (note 29). One of the most significant end results of Spreadable Media, designed as it was within the strictures of publishing, is that we can leverage the name value of the authors to invoke the input of additional voices. If we don't truly try to spread Spreadable Media, what's the point?

[2.67] Melissa Click: I totally agree with Sharon on the value of this forum. Clearly, the definition of fan is contentious, and it's perhaps even more so because of the evolution of fan identities and practices online. While we may never agree on a definition of the term, I think the debates we're having around it are really important.

[2.68] I tend to side with Spreadable Media's more optimistic evaluation of mainstream fans' online engagements with media producers: "Indeed, companies are often profiting from this audience labor, but it's crucial not to paint this wholly as exploitation, denying the many ways audience members benefit from their willing participation in such arrangements" (note 30). I'm not comfortable assuming that any engagement with industry gives the industry all of the power—I don't think that's fair to audiences (even the mainstream ones!), and even more, it doesn't recognize the benefits (if only internal or relational) that audiences take from such engagements with industry material or on industry terms. I also think the suggestion that the authors of the online content on Spreadable Media's website are being exploited denies the history many of these authors have had with Henry, Sam, and Josh through MIT's Convergence Culture Consortium. Certainly, even those without these connections will benefit from their association with the book, which is likely to have a robust audience. And we are here, in this forum, working for free also. But we are doing it because we want to—and we will all benefit, in varying degrees, from our collaboration.

[2.69] And in line with my belief that mainstream audiences have some agency in their engagements with the media industry, I'm not so sure we need to keep those pesky transformational fans from being endangered by the media industries. Transformational fans are nothing if not resourceful and will continue to do what they do, even though their tactics will likely evolve along with the media environment. I think Kristina's ire around these topics demonstrates that! I absolutely agree that the threats are real, and I think it's important that we remain vigilant as each new case plays out. I don't think Spreadable Media is blind to this debate, but its optimism is likely frustrating to some.

[2.70] I really like Kristina's (and Mel Stanfill's) use of fan as an "analytic." I worry, though, that a commitment to this kind of constant vigilance might keep us (scholars, fans, and acafans) from seeing how we might take the opportunity to gain a bit more control over our media environments if we were to engage more with media producers—to give them a sense of what they have to gain by being more open with us (note 31). I think this is what Spreadable Media is about, and I don't think it needs to be a slippery slope; it can certainly evolve through tiny steps and big retreats, if need be. I think we have more to lose if we don't try!

[2.71] Kristina Busse: When I mentioned the "three white guys" I felt that I was calling out the elephant in the room, but seeing everyone's responses I feel like I need to expand a bit more on my comment. Clearly, I feel that online publications are academically equitable and eminently worthwhile, or I wouldn't be coediting Transformative Works and Cultures, as Henry points out. However, at the same time the existence of a hardcover book published by New York University Press, called Spreadable Media, with the three named authors, available at Amazon for $22.09 right now, produces a difference between virtual and hardcover publication. So, regardless of how crucial the book's online extension is—regardless of how important Henry, Sam, and Josh as people regard the online additions—as far as reception is concerned, I fear, those three remain "the authors." So, to distinguish them from the people we know and love, we could abbreviate the metonymic "Henry, Sam, and Josh" as HSJ, a function of the final published book and the surrounding discourses of authorship at play here. The significant differences in economic status, form, and circulation of the print book versus the online paratexts all contribute to a sense of two classes of authors—and it just happens to be that the three who are more equal than others are white and male. Again, this is not a critique of Henry, Sam, or Josh as much as it is a systemic critique that the end result looks as it does. Given what Henry says about attempts to be more egalitarian and more inclusive about authorship, it is all the more telling that this is what was ultimately published, as opposed to putting the other scholars in the book and more HSJ online. The fact that the contributions from the non-HSJ authors weren't given the same platform (either print or online) produces inequality between them, and the book version is authored by three white guys. I agree with Melissa that there clearly is value for authors in the extended online version, and my somewhat blunt reproach did not mean to suggest that they are not also benefiting, but we should not ignore the inequality between print book (center) and online extension (periphery) authors.

[2.72] Henry Jenkins: I remain uncomfortable with how you describe our goals and motives throughout this discussion, but you are right, Kristina, that whatever our intentions, we cannot fully determine how the press promotes our book or how critics and readers respond to it. A culture of academic celebrity and traditions about single authorship can damage the collaborative spirit with which we have conducted this project. As Jonathan Gray and Amanda Lotz stress in their contributions, the name of the author still carries enormous value and often gets ascribed unjustly at the cost of other contributors to the process (note 32). Certainly, there are institutional forces around the promotion of a book that turn authors' names into commodities that may attract a presold audience. (And yes, there are all kinds of systemic privilege that ensure that some of us are more apt to be granted "celebrity status" than others.) For Spreadable Media, for instance, several reviewers have not only ignored the web-based essays but also unfairly focused on my contributions as the author whose name appears first at the expense of Sam and Josh (who are at different points in their careers and less well known to some readers). Putting the names of all of the contributors on the book's cover would not have rectified the problem you identify here. I struggle every time I want to collaborate with a younger scholar or graduate student, wondering whether he or she gains more from any attention my name will attract or loses more from having his or her contributions devalued by people who assume—no matter how we position it—that I am the primary author. I am pleased when people value my work but not when it comes at the expense of other collaborators. I suspect these are problems we as a field need to work through: the academic celebrity phenomenon may have a toxic impact on decisions at every level, from publishing and promotion to reception and recognition, and it may run counter to the goal many of us have of producing more diverse, multidisciplinary, engaged, and collaborative modes of scholarship.

[2.73] Kristina Busse: The field of fan studies has been around long enough for us to do some soul-searching. We have been soul-searching throughout this discussion, but there are two questions: Who are the fans, and whom should we study? Why are we studying this? We've been asking that first question for a long time, but we haven't addressed the second one. A lot of the pushback I have gotten for my argument about marginalized fans has been around the first question, asking who or what "counts" as a fan; but in fact, I think, the real mode of interrogation should focus on the second. Are we just describing a phenomenon in the world, or do we have an ethical position? What is our job as researchers? That's what I was trying to get at when talking about the ethos of fandom, which, by extension, means the ethos of fan studies. I'm not sure we need a third discussion on Henry's blog, but maybe if there were one, that might be a worthy topic—not so much just describing fan activities or even debating fan identity politics but instead seriously interrogating the purpose of the field itself. Why continue to define a field called fan studies if all audience members are now fans? What does fan studies let us see? In other words, what critical lens does it afford us that broader audience studies may not? And this is where I believe the attention to inequality that founded the field needs to stay central.

[2.74] Paul Booth: I think there's still a place for defining affect and understanding audience interpretation within the larger field of audience studies. And I do still think there's a difference between the casual viewer and the fan, and a difference between the way the media industries market to casual viewers and the way they market to fans. And I think the lines that demarcate between these (always) artificial categorizations are porous. I'm a fan of some things and a viewer of others. That distinction is meaningful to me, but probably not to other people, who would self-define differently. So in that sense, fan studies as a field will always have a purpose, even if the way that people who define themselves as fans changes, because there will always be people who see themselves as "fans," that is, as distinctive from other viewers in particular and specific ways.

[2.75] It might be useful here to tie our discussion back into the concept of transmedia. Fan studies has always thrived because of its flexible boundaries; it is the very definition of transmedia scholarship, as it represents fluidity between outlets and entities. It necessarily draws from so many interdisciplinary connections that it's fairly difficult to find a "home" discipline (media studies may be the closest that I've seen, but even that's a contested discipline as well; plus it leaves out other types of fandoms, like sports fandom). The transmedia scholarship we've discussed is linked through spreadable knowledge, just as disparate elements of narrative are spread in a transmedia story, just as multiple genres and media are spread in a transmediated franchise. (Maybe they're spread in different ways, but they are spreadable nevertheless.)

[2.76] So maybe it's not that we need to redefine fan studies to encompass all audience members but rather that we need to rework the spreadable connections that we're making between the disciplinary lines of fan studies itself, seeing the field articulate finer distinctions that are applicable to more lines of inquiry. When I explain fan studies to my review board, I have to frame it in much larger terms, and spreadable media gives researchers the platform to reach those multiple audiences. Spreadability therefore becomes a communicative tool rather than a descriptive category.

[2.77] Henry Jenkins: Kristina, thanks for clarifying your perspective. I would have said that my contributions to Spreadable Media are very much governed by my ethical and political commitments as a fan—by what you are calling the ethos of fan studies. First and foremost, my work is governed by my belief that the movement toward a more participatory culture (having agreed that we need ever more precise definitions of what this means) is the best mechanism we have for promoting democracy and diversity within our contemporary culture. My goal is ultimately to expand the power, voice, and influence available to a broad range of communities who are differentially situated in relation to the dominant institutions and practices of the broadcast era. Some of this commitment leads to a focus on media literacy, where we seek to ensure the broadest possible access to the skills and opportunities necessary for meaningful participation. (And there are large numbers of active and visible fans who are teachers and librarians who see promoting media literacy as an important part of their professional identities.) Some of this involves struggles over policy, for example, around intellectual property law or net neutrality, but also around terms of service from companies that can strongly influence our ability to meaningfully tap into what constitutes expanded communicative capacities. Some of this involves struggles over representation as we push media companies to be more responsive to the public and to embrace a broader range of different forms of content that reflects the diversity of our culture.

[2.78] For me, this genuinely is work in the service of Textual Poachers kinds of fans, who, to be clear, want a range of different things and should have the freedom to pursue those interests through every medium that is accessible to them. For some fans, this may involve seeking to influence mainstream media content. For some, it may mean finding ways to gain professional opportunities that build on the skills they developed within fandom. For some, that may mean being free of cease-and-desist letters that would block them from creating and sharing their own productions. For some, it just means for everyone—industry, academics, general public—to leave them the fuck alone. I am calling for a larger public conversation about what kind of culture we want to live in and that does involve making a case to industry for why it is in their best interest to allow people to have a range of different relationships with their content. At the same time, the Textual Poachers kinds of fans offer powerful examples, because they have such a long and rich history in their deployment of alternative media practices, which can prove helpful to other groups that are seeking to exert greater influence in this new media environment. As we open up that conversation, it is important to bring diverse stakeholders to the table and create a context where their perspectives can be heard. As we do so, we need to help people recognize ways they can speak from a more powerful position within the context of a changing media environment, as well as recognizing the constraints that still work to marginalize or exclude some people from equal participation in those conversations.

[2.79] Yes, I am more optimistic than some others are about our collective capacity to change the system, and I make no apologies for that. I see myself as offering a counterbalance to perspectives that often foreclose any possibility of meaningful change before they have really thoughtfully examined and explored new conditions. But my optimism should not be mistaken for a blindness to the challenges we will confront if we are to get anywhere near my goal of a fully participatory culture. We are moving toward a more participatory culture, but we still have a long way to go and many obstacles to confront before those ideals can become a reality. For that to work, we all have to keep issues of inequality central to the field, and we all need to call out blind spots in our research that might make us less effective at speaking to those concerns.

3. Audience, method, and process

[3.1] Q: Spreadable Media positions itself to speak to multiple audiences at once—academic, industry, and interested cultural participants. What is the value or importance of this multiple address? What are the challenges involved? What does it mean for work to straddle this line and to speak in part to the industry, and how does this change what we argue and how we frame our arguments? What are the risks, possible pitfalls and rewards of industry address and straddling these multiple audiences? How does this multipronged address impact the book's methods, style, and arguments? How did the peculiar challenges of the academic context impact the project?

[3.2] Paul Booth: The issue of audience seems to be crucial to the book, not just of Spreadable Media but in Spreadable Media as well. That is, Henry, Sam, and Joshua have positioned the book from the get-go to be about audience. It opens with a chapter called "How to Read This Book," and the very first sentence—"We envision three readerships for this book"—positions the book already at a nexus point of audiences. At the same time, they structure the book in a network of authors as well—this networking metaphor extends to the multiple Web-exclusive ancillary essays, which attempt to network authorship in the same style as the book networks audience. In this way, at least to me, Spreadable Media engenders a readership of spreadability—is this a [nonspreadable] book written in spreadable form?

[3.3] At the same time, much of the content of the book seems to stem from producer-centric issues as seen through audience-centric paradigms. There is a focus on the audience, consumers/fans of media products, as part of the same system in which sits the industry, the creators of media texts: "The media industries understand that culture is becoming more participatory, that the rules are being rewritten and relationships between producers and their audiences are in flux" (note 33). In effect, we see each group filtered through the lens of the other. What do audiences look like to producers in a spreadable media environment? What do producers look like to audiences?

[3.4] The result of this dialogue is a book that attempts to both broadcast and narrowcast at the same time. As they cite Doctorow, "we might reimagine our current intellectual property regimes as they might operate in a world dominated by dandelions. The dandelion is playing a law of averages" (note 34). But this dandelion metaphor at the end of the book (and on the cover) actually harkens back to the early metaphors at the heart of mass media studies—the broadcasting paradigm (itself a metaphor of the farm) is an attempt to scatter seeds as far and wide as possible, hoping some of them will stick. To my mind, spreadability is more focused on the more contemporary narrowcasting paradigm, as more niche interests develop in smaller communities through individually spread messages. The question then becomes, in this attempt to broadcast to multiple audiences at once, can a message like Spreadable Media even narrowly focus on any one audience in its entirety?

[3.5] Finally, as a work of media scholarship, the book also has to take a step back to define how each group appears to media researchers. But of course these aren't separate categories at all. I am at once an audience member, a producer of text, and a researcher looking at these fluid categories. I may emphasize one over another at different times (depending on the contextual situation), but "I am large, I contain multitudes" (as per Whitman). One of my "selves" may find a discussion of fandom fascinating while another finds it problematic. In speaking to multiple audiences, more points of rupture between analyses can emerge.

[3.6] The multiple audiences of Spreadable Media speak to multiple interpretations too. This brings to my mind the conversation 3 years ago (!!) on Henry's blog about acafandom and the twinned roles of the academic speaking to the fan as well as the fan speaking to the academic (note 35). Spreadable Media reminded me of that debate writ large—not actually any specific outcome of that discussion, but rather that the acafandom itself is a problematic category, with multiple meanings to multiple audiences, and with multiple conclusions. The larger concern, to me, wasn't what the definition of an acafan is (or should be), but rather that the notion of categorization itself is problematic. To me, Spreadable Media does this same thing—my initial question was, "Is it even possible to speak in an effective manner to multiple audiences today?" I wonder if a better question is, "How do we as media researchers even define multiple audiences when we are also some of those audiences?"

[3.7] Spreadable Media attempts to answer this question through example. Spreadable Media is a book that speaks to multiple audiences by (a) utilizing multiple authors; (b) redefining the languages we're using to describe media production/consumption; and (c) addressing changes in technological paradigms. But it does not turn the same interrogatory lens onto media research. What would media research look like if the taxonomic categories that have long defined scholarship are themselves undermined? I think it might actually look like Spreadable Media itself—a book both broad and narrow, both comprehensive and specific. Saying too much to some groups, not enough to others, and just enough to many. Spreadable Media might just be the Goldilocks of media research!

[3.8] But this isn't a criticism of the book, because I think the underlying concern that Spreadable Media raises (in the very fact of its being) is that by researching a media system we as researchers are always already imbricated in that very system. Spreadable Media is a book about the relationship between audiences/authors/texts. But it's also a text, written by authors, within a network of audiences. It is what it is about. And in that sense, I think the way that the "risks, possible pitfalls and rewards of industry address and straddling these multiple audiences" within Spreadable Media (the book) tells us something about spreadable media as a new paradigm of academic research.

[3.9] Sharon Ross: First, I bemusedly realized that I did spreadable right after I read Paul's response. I jumped onto another server with this one open and began bouncing all over the Internet (what I call radical oscillation, a term I believe I found in Jennifer Hayward's work on seriality) (note 36)…I went to the Spreadable Media site (and all its internal links and those links' internal links…) (note 37), and then after somehow ended up bouncing out to some Mad Men (AMC, 2007–2015) theories and reviews of Frances Ha (RT Features, Pine District, Scott Rudin, 2012), and that somehow made me think of the process of writing my dissertation way back when and how you always feel like "there's just one more important connection to make!" (I'm pretty sure Janet Staiger still rues the day she agreed to be my advisor given the ridiculously lengthy end result)…and then that made me think of an odd little set of resources I used for that project: a book titled House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (2000), the plot of which defies description (but suffice to say it had extensive footnotes, some "true" and others not, in different fonts, some pages sideways…). I found this "novel" useful as I discussed Internet fandom for Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB, UPN, 1997–2003) and Xena: Warrior Princess (syndication, 1995–2001)—especially if I wrote while listening to the author's sister's simultaneously released CD (Haunted, 2000, by Poe—highly recommended). This combo wasn't spreadable media, but it was a form of transmedia.

[3.10] I think I got to this bizarre place in my head and on my computer via Paul's prompting of what media research might look like if viewed through a spreadable paradigm. Paul suggests it might look like the book Spreadable Media, "both broad and narrow, both comprehensive and specific." This fascinates me because I have found this tension to be the bane of most media academics I know: how do you address everything important when everything is important? If I can extend the dandelion metaphor, it makes me think of how my first crazy-ass garden this summer is operating. I was attempting to teach my son about growth and rebirth. In my crazed attention to learning about different plants and growing them from seed, I missed the attention to detail in terms of actually labeling the plants in my garden very well, and I have spent more than a few hours trying to figure out if I have peas, beans, marigolds, and—yes—dandelions. I finally gave up trying to really map it out, and talked with my not very rapt preschooler about how much fun it was going to be to see what happens when you mix together all sorts of different kinds of plants and weeds.

[3.11] So for me the book Spreadable Media is much like this. And it's very much my idealized version of the ultimate classroom. A lot of chaos, attention to some details and being okay with missing others, and discovering the amazing things you can get when you present (as I recently suggested to my dean about plans for a new major) a NASA scientist, a filmmaker, a novelist, a violinist, and an MBA with the same problem to solve—together. I think it's no small accident that the book's philosophical design, if you will, refracts the media it discusses. After all, one of the book's larger points is that spreadable media exists within a larger cultural shift that may in fact be a major paradigm shift, or may instead by an evolutionary one, or is most likely both. I see the value of the book, therefore, in both its broader discussions and its more specific examples; and we can add on the value of the scholarly model at work as well. What might happen if this model was transposed into a media analysis classroom, or a media production classroom, right along with the book's content? How do we convince students and faculty and administrators that there is value in breaking down traditional academic walls when studying and making media? And how do we balance the need for focusing on the general and the big patterns while also attending to the nuances and the variations on themes?

[3.12] In my own work, I do find that when I research multiple audiences for the same project (network execs, media practitioners, scholars, critics, fans) I adopt different voices and even personalities, dare I say it. It is a psychological practicality of trying to get to the meat of things by working to converse in the linguistic context of groups with varying dialects. You don't teach Freud the same way to first years as you do to grad students; you ask for soda in one area of the country and pop in another, right?…Then you have to try to deal with the practicalities of the worlds of academia and publishing (among oh so many others). Academics like categories; publishers like completed works that fit into categories. However, I find the most stimulating works to be the "unfinished" ones—which is how I view spreadable media content and Spreadable Media the book—they are priming agents that prompt more. This doesn't mean I don't want the more specific and narrowly circumscribed—and I don't see why we as academics can't find room and respect for both…and in fact why we shouldn't push for the same more often.

[3.13] Some of the "more" that Spreadable Media the book prompts will be narrow in focus, and some will be broader, but hopefully it will all be networked in such a way that various audiences can find the connections they need at any given point in time. (When you have a heart murmur, you want the heart surgeon—but it's also nice to have a team that looks at the whole body and person from time to time.) This is a book best returned to and added on to. Media is likely as well at its best when you can savor the niche and/or contained and also glory in the broad and/or never-ending. So I'm all for a little schizophrenia in the garden. (And I promise when I respond to the prompt on transmedia/digital media I'll aim for the more mentally stable approach…)

[3.14] Melissa Click: I had questions about the book's audience, too, that (I think) overlap what Paul and Sharon have already discussed. I really like that Spreadable Media's preface suggests that it is designed to put media scholars, communication professionals, and citizens who actively produce and share media content in conversation with each other. Yet it seems a bit like the book draws from scholarship and participatory culture to school media professionals about why and how to create media content that spreads. This is an observation, not a criticism! I think the book has and will inspire and motivate scholars and participatory culture members (two groups that no doubt overlap), but I'm curious to know what lessons we think are important takeaways for media scholars and media spreaders?

[3.15] Henry, Sam, and Josh argue that those with the most to gain from spreadable media are also the ones who have the least to lose. I am invigorated by Spreadable Media, but I also already agree with its major arguments—and I would guess that many other readers from the media scholar and producing citizen camps will too. So I'd argue that Spreadable Media is definitely oriented toward putting the three groups into conversation with each other—but it is through a language familiar to only two of the three groups. I think they're talking mostly to producers—and likely should be [because] they are the missing link in the democratic vision for our contemporary media environment that Spreadable Media lays out. This is not to say that there aren't important lessons in Spreadable Media for scholars and citizens—there are. But I think those takeaways are less obvious than the takeaways for producers. What do you think? What are the main points you've taken from the book?

[3.16] Henry Jenkins: To address a core question above, my experience is that many (if not all) texts today speak to multiple audiences whether we want them to or not. I had written Convergence Culture with the goal of producing a teacherly book, seeking to use accessible language and concrete examples, but in the process, I had produced a book that spoke to multiple audiences beyond the academy. From the start, the book had a large audience within the creative industries, some drawn to the reconsideration of the audience, some to the concept of transmedia storytelling, but there were also audiences of policy makers and educators who were drawn to the discussion of new media literacies or media politics. We had sought through the Futures of Entertainment conference and the Convergence Culture Consortium to actively enlarge the space of dialogue between academia and industry; through my blog, as well as some experiments as a columnist for mass market magazines, I was experimenting with how we might enlarge the public around debates impacting media policy; and through the Comparative Media Studies program, we had experimented with approaches to research and teaching that served multiple kinds of students. Spreadable Media was produced within this same spirit. Whatever book I put my name on after Convergence Culture was likely to have a diverse audience, so the question was to figure out in what ways we could use that platform to consciously speak to those various constituencies. If industry people were going to read the book, what did we want to say to them?

[3.17] From my perspective, the old broadcast paradigm often assumed that there was a lowest common denominator, a shared message, that could speak to all audiences, whereas the spreadable model suggests that multiple constituencies may be drawn to the same work for different reasons, may circulate that text through a range of different conversations, and may thus create their own meaning and value around that content. In some cases, this may wrench the original outside any intended context, yet I would argue the more we recognize and value this process, the more we can engage with it in more meaningful ways as people who have ideas we want to communicate. In that sense, I see enormous value in exploring modes of scholarship that are self-consciously dialogic and acknowledge that we are trying to speak to multiple audiences at once. And yes, each of us are multitudes within ourselves (part of the point of the Mad Man and Twitter example in the introduction, where participants were at once fans and industry insiders). It helped in this case because both the primary authors and the many different contributors were each multiply situated in relation to their objects of study.

[3.18] That said, there are places where the multiple voices work better here than others. There are places where I still wince a bit reading the book because chunks of writing aimed consciously at different kinds of readers slam against each other in ways that feel a bit uncomfortable to my ears. Some readers seem hyperconscious of the segments that do not seem to be addressed to them, so we see people either complaining that the book is not sufficiently academic (if they are scholars) or too academic (if they are laypeople). I am not sure we've totally gotten this business of multiple address down just right yet.

[3.19] If it seems that we have a more direct address to the industries, this may be because we were most conscious of the challenges of writing to this particular constituency, because it is the least familiar to academic ears. I think that there is also enormous value for the general public in seeing the issues this book addresses placed in more concrete and accessible terms, and we are already seeing groups like librarians and educators, who were not consciously identified as core readers for this project, sketch out what they saw as core insights for their field within the book.

[3.20] Also, given the history of academics conducting their conversations in ways that are cut off from other audiences, there are going to be certain discomforts that emerge within the academy around this project. Should we be talking to industry? Does this make us complicit within the mechanisms of neoliberalism? Do we lose our critical distance?

[3.21] These are important conversations we should be having at a time when academics are going to be playing multiple roles and where our students are apt to have multiple careers, sometimes in radically different sectors, over the course of their lives. We need to become more comfortable as code switchers and shape-shifters while seeking to find a core set of values that govern our work. For me, that core has always been in promoting a more participatory culture, grounded in struggles over democracy and diversity.

[3.22] Xiaochang Li: What I found most productive about the concept of spreadable media is that it's intended to offer an account of media circulation that runs counter to models in which casting remains the dominant metaphor. Both broadcasting and narrowcasting proceed from the assumption that the site of production is central in defining the movement and reception of content, and differ mainly in terms of the scale and specificity of the audience being targeted. A metaphor of spread, however, complicates both production and reception as distinct and coherent practices by taking the process of circulation as its departure point. The focus seems to be less how the media is sent out and to whom but [rather] the stuff that happens in between, the mechanisms and motivations by which it moves, leading to Henry's point about the circulation of texts through multiple constituencies and conversations. The spreadable model seem to be one in which circulation becomes a participatory and collective act in which individuals and groups have the potential to divert and orient the material to suit audiences, interpretive frameworks, and cultural agendas that exist outside the intent and imagination of content producers and marketers. Even in instances of broad circulation in terms of numbers, the spreadable model describes not an aggregate mass but a concatenation of diverse groupings, interests, and social goals. My interpretation here is, obviously, a particularly utopian ideal. It optimistically and unrealistically describes audience practices removed from a consideration of how existing conditions circumscribe the set of available actions for media engagement. But, for me, what makes this model useful as a tool for thinking is this foregrounding of circulation as the starting point for mapping the complex entanglements among the various participants within the contemporary media networks.

[3.23] "Spreadable" has become a fairly slippery term." Since the "what" of spreadable media is rather ambiguous, the term has been used to describe content forms, circulation practices, modes of address, methodological approaches, relations between audiences and producers, technical, regulatory, or ethical standards, and various combinations of any or all of the above. And the concept seems something slightly different in each case. It's actually fascinating that in the first two responses to the prompt, we already have instances in which "spreadable" is used describe everything from media production and outreach strategies to individual habits of multitasking and concept association (the latter of which, I have to admit, I'd never thought of in terms of spreadability before!). While I would certainly not advocate policing What Spreadability Means, I am curious as to what kinds of interventions it makes when used to describe different aspects of thinking and doing media. Or to put another way, how does where we locate spreadability within a media system affect how we understand what it means and does? I suspect that the diverse audiences, both for the book and in the book, see spreadable tendencies at different stages or levels of the media circulation process, and thus have varying views on its precise operations and outcomes.

[3.24] This also leads me to wonder whether the model of spreadable media changes as we consider changes in scale. As a function of the range of audiences it addresses and describes, the book often employs these slides in scale, from sharing music in a dorm room to the massive transnational movement of content by millions online. These moves in scale imply that there are distinct attributes by which we can identify spreadability as logic or form, beyond any particular contents, conditions, and practices being described. I suspect that if we can begin to identify the attributes that make spreadable media recognizable as such across different stages and varied scales of media practice, it might direct us toward understanding spreadability as a set of ethical commitments or political stakes.

[3.25] I think too that this links up with the question about Spreadable Media (the book/project)'s varied audiences. I'm not convinced that the book is entirely successful in addressing the different audiences it names in the "how to read" section, but it does highlight some of the challenges and tensions in the effort to do so. Putting aside questions of whether or not it is sufficiently academic, too academic, sufficiently practical, etc., I think what a project like this makes explicit is the difficulty in trying to determine and prescribe what your content is supposed to do for your diverse audiences, all of whom have different goals and investments and expectations. From a tactical perspective, I think the use of contributors and references from various positions within academia, industry, and elsewhere doesn't necessarily work together in the sense that Henry described above. But they do seem to work insofar as they act as invitations for those who identify with various positions to take, use, interpret, and intervene upon the material gathered. In that light, I tend to look at the book (and expanded collection) not as a sort of sustained scholarly argument but as a rich repository, a set of concepts and cases, some of which are more thoroughly developed than others, that can be taken up and deployed elsewhere.

[3.26] With regard to the question of the opening up of media scholarship more generally to incorporate or acknowledge different sectors or types of media engagement (e.g., fans/industries): Having done a little bit of shuttling back and forth between academic and industry worlds, I'm personally a bit conflicted as to what extent I would like to see them open to one another. But what I will say is that I think rather than a question of whether or not these sorts of enclosures should be dissolved, there needs to be a lot more clarity regarding the specific stakes and considerations that shape the work of either side. Just looking generally at academia and industry for the sake of simplicity, I think there is an enormous amount of misapprehension about what each side does, and the forces at work in shaping the assumptions and actions of those involved. There seems to be a general tendency to assume that conflicts arise out of one side not getting something that the other does, when in some cases, getting and agreeing with a concept doesn't change the material and organizational realities—whether budget allocations or peer review—of how things get made. And as a result, it becomes difficult to make considered decisions about how to engage productively across these practices and set expectations about what might come out of these engagements.

[3.27] Sam Ford: Henry, Joshua, and I spent a lot of time haggling over the question of language and how to make the text simultaneously inviting enough to all audiences involved but also specific enough to engage each of the very broad, imagined categories we had for the book. As Henry has suggested, I wouldn't advocate that we necessarily got it right, but I'd also argue that you can't get it right. And I don't mean that in any way defensively, as I don't feel we sent the final version off to NYU Press feeling like we had struck the balance. Putting different sorts of thinkers from various professional paradigms (or, as Paul and others point out, who wear multiple hats simultaneously)—or at least citations of their work—into dialogue doesn't eliminate the difference in approach and concern among them or create some sort of homogenized sense of a phenomenon. In fact, as with so-called spreadability itself, my sense is that the chaos of the book and the project—the fact that it isn't making some single, sustained through-line argument—is a microcosm of the complexity of the world we live in today.

[3.28] If we ask why, of course the answer is quite diverse, and what we sought to do with the book project is provide various vignettes that help illustrate some common themes but ones that can't be locked into a metaphor that is all that neat. I have all sorts of consternation about spreadability as a metaphor taken too far, and I think—as many have pointed out here—part of the challenge is just understanding how no sense of categorization particularly works—defying a core tenet of what both academia and media/marketing industries alike have long hoped for/relied on.

[3.29] More than anything else, I saw the book as a means of translation—hopefully, translation through drawing on a wide range of interdisciplinary academic work to complicate prevailing notions in the media and marketing industries, presuming the book would have a strong readership from those sectors. But also for academics, both in terms of drawing on interdisciplinary cultural criticism and of bringing in a range of industry thought leaders (to use that awful term) to show how these issues are being taken up by people in media and marketing roles. We wanted to complicate some of the generalizations that sometimes get made about industry practitioners within media studies scholarship. Throughout the process, it led to our challenging our own assumptions often, and I still feel that all sorts of slippages, contradictions, and glossing over of key issues or imbalances occur throughout the book.

[3.30] In particular, I'd like to pick up on the challenge(s) facing a project of this nature…interdisciplinary, multiple-authored (in both the main text and the range of authored pieces), and focused on contemporary issues and systems constantly in motion around us. As Xiaochang can well attest in all her work on and around this project these past few years, academic publishing cycles certainly don't align with the sorts of issues we were trying to understand. That was part of the fun in this, but it was also what led to so many aspects of this project being published and discussed years before the book came out. It also lends to a certain degree of self-referentiality in the book itself, in that there was significant marketing industry reaction (for instance) to some of the ideas in the book that we were subsequently able to weave into the book before publication. That process itself lent itself to a certain degree of messiness, especially as some of the authors of those reactions, or material surrounding the project, were moving from academic jobs to industry positions, or back and forth across those lines. In fact, the imagined audiences we start the "How to Read This Book" out with are, as Paul alludes to, fictions: market segmentations that the three of us created to imagine addressing, in ways that were sometimes helpful but also perhaps sometimes not, especially if and when they caused us to make the distinctions among those audiences too finite, or that may have caused us not to (at times) account for the diverse array of people that such a broad categorization might encompass within each category (note 38).

4. Transmedia and digital media

[4.1] Q: What does the term transmedia mean (industrially, from a recruitment angle [parents and soon-to-be students], and academically)? How does transmedia as a concept connect to spreadable media? How can we understand the role of technology and the particular affordances of digital and traditional media in the creation and circulation of spreadable media? How does the shape/format of the technology help to determine the type of media produced and spread? How does Spreadable Media (the book and larger project) itself function along these lines as transmedia spreadable media? How do the different dimensions of Spreadable Media (hard copy, Kindle, online essays, digital extensions such as interviews, even this review) coexist and impact this project and our understanding of it?

[4.2] Sharon Ross: I have been grappling with the term transmedia from an academic administrative place. At Columbia, every possible form/element of media has its own department—in our School of Media Arts, there is film, TV, radio, journalism, interactive arts and media (where the gaming program lives), marketing.…There's a long history to this, and it has its benefits (TV typically being the stepsister to film, and in turn radio being swallowed up by TV—in academic settings). But increasingly the benefits are becoming obstacles, in my mind, as we move further into a spreadable media world. Our school is engaging in some small experiments of combination, but in general what concerns me as both an associate chair and as a scholar focused on reception is that more and more students are graduating into a world where one cannot separate out the media strands so neatly. Thus a conversation has begun in our little world about how best to prepare our students for the shifting realities of media production today. (Columbia's media students for the most part aim to emerge as working content creators—writers, directors, editors, etc.) We have been busily trying to figure out how, in an academy that favors silos of specialization, you create pathways for students that engage with our spreadable media world (not using that phrase, of course).

[4.3] The current place we're at involves a debate over the term transmedia in terms of naming programs/majors/etc. Is it an adjective (transmedia storytelling? transmedia producers?)? Or is it a noun (I do/make transmedia)? Do you go with a crazily narrow definition (one story, told across multiple forms of media, that make up "the" story) or a broader one (stories connected in some way, sometimes tightly and sometimes loosely, with some sense of more than one form of media being at work in the audience's experience)?

[4.4] I throw these current debate points out because I figure this is a good opportunity to get varying perspectives on the idea of a student graduating with a degree in something called transmedia. Would that mean anything to prospective employers in the industry? And what would it mean, exactly? What would it mean to students (and their parents) as they seek programs of study? (In my own experience, the term means pretty much nothing to teen girls so far.)

[4.5] I guess part of what I'm trying to suss out here is a conceptual map of sorts (a little like Henry did in his August 2011 blog entry) (note 39). If we were to visualize it in some way, how do we see the relationships between convergence culture, participatory culture, engagement, transmedia, spreadable media, etc.? How does that map then look when we try to apply it to studying the story/making and the telling and the engagement; finding ways to teach story making in this world; and finding the best ways in higher education institutions to allow students to learn and practice the skills they'll need to make stories in this world? (Because I'm pretty sure my suggestion at our last Columbia meeting of "no departments when it comes to media" won't fly…).

[4.6] (By the way, I'm in the TV department. My most local goal right now is to find a way to make sure our TV majors don't get out the door without learning about and playing around in this shifting landscape. I also want, on a less local level, to find a way to create a learning space for creative students who really want to jump into the intricacies of this media landscape. I can manage eventually the hurdles of institutional silos—there's always a way. I'm not so sure what to do about the practical need to name things in colleges and universities when it comes to departments and majors and such. So I'm hoping some mapping of the terms used so often in Spreadable Media could help with this.…)

[4.7] Paul Booth: Thanks, Sharon. These topics you raise are things I've been thinking about incredibly recently, as I've been (a) designing a new course for our Media and Cinema Studies track in transmedia culture; (b) working as grad director in a new Digital Communication and Media Arts MA program, which uses a transmedia approach to studying digital technology and communication practices; and (c) have encountered (and been tempted by) no fewer than three CFPs (calls for papers) in the last week about different issues in transmediation. So I too have been dealing with these issues of how to best formulate pedagogical and scholarly conceptions of spreadability and transmediation in various contexts as well.

[4.8] So, just to piggyback on what Sharon said, I've had to navigate these traditional academic silos in terms of transmediation (which, as I will get to, is about the navigation of silos in and of itself). But I find great value in the term because of its flexibility—and (not coincidentally) I've noticed in my administration and in the industry, that same flexibility is problematic. Regarding Sharon's excellent question—that is, "If we were to visualize it in some way, how do we see the relationships between convergence culture, participatory culture, engagement, transmedia, spreadable media, etc.?"—may be in some ways an attempt to formalize definitions that, to me at least, need to remain flexible and open enough to accommodate multiple viewpoints and versions. Looking at the history of, say, television studies, even the term television hasn't remained stable (and don't even get me started on the term communication). Personally, I'd rather see transmedia and spreadability open up in multiple ways to accommodate those multiple viewpoints—although given its placement in our administration as well as its formalization in the media industry, I suspect some of that delicious multiplicity will need to get ironed out.

[4.9] Anyway, at the risk of mixing my metaphors even more, and actually relating this point back to spreadability and Spreadable Media, I see spreadability and transmedia as being linked in the same ways to varying degrees—that is, just as spreadability is a concept steeped in connecting content creators with content audiences, so too is transmediation a concept that must imbricate its users as much as it caters to them. I think Henry, Sam, and Joshua have an excellent quotation on this point:

[4.10] We have questioned the industry's assumption that it can create "brand communities" and "fan communities" around its products, suggesting instead that most of these exchanges occur within existing communities and ongoing conversations. As marketers and other content creators enter these spaces,…they must think about what happens as content travels across cultural boundaries…creating "impure" texts which are not simply distributed from culture to culture but—in the process—often bear the mark of audiences that remake, reinterpret, and transform content.

[4.11] Both spreadability and transmediation are at work at the same time, but in different ways. In this passage, it seems as though media texts are getting spread (via both producers and audiences), those texts are changing via the act of spreading, and that spreadability is (ultimately) creating transmediation of content. The warning that spreadable media creators need to heed—"as content travels across cultural boundaries [it] often bear[s] the mark of audiences that remake, reinterpret, and transform content"—is precisely what I see as the key issue facing transmediation as well, but it's one of interpretation rather than creation. What counts as transmedia? Do fan works fit into a transmedia paradigm? I think Jason Mittell's (2012) new book on Complex TV lays this out really well in his differentiation between "what is" and "what if" transmediation ( "What is" transmedia is a way of deepening the world in an authorized fashion—the complement to "drillable," if you will. There is one story, and "what is" transmedia gets at it. In contrast, "what if" transmedia takes the narrative in alternative directions, exploring aspects of the story unexplored in the core franchise—the complement to "spreadable," and a corollary of seeing the types of alternate voices mentioned by Kristina in her response later in this discussion about fandom.

[4.12] So in a way, spreadable (as an adjective, modifying transmedia as a noun) is one way of seeing how fandom can enter into a transmedia franchise through fan works that expand on the core story. A text can be more or less spreadable within the transmediated story. I like this interpretation, and I like the flexibility that open and fluid terminology and categorization brings. Spreadable is a way of talking about a text from both the reader's and the author's points of view; to me it seems to be a more egalitarian interpretation of a text.

[4.13] But spreadability as a noun, indicating "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" (note 40), seems to be an effective way of limiting audience involvement in a (trans)media franchise. In an environment based on technical resources, economic structures, media content, and social networks, I'd say that content creators tend to have the upper hand. Spreadability seems to be a measurement, which signifies a controlling stake in the material, shaping the way the franchise develops.

[4.14] So spreadable is different than spreadability, and different types of transmedia may react differently in different environments. One of the strengths of Spreadable Media is that it doesn't tether itself to one type or another. I see both spreadable media and transmedia storytelling as linked. One is a mechanism by which information circulates; the other is a narrative structure built on those intertextual moments of circulation.

[4.15] To return to the larger question, then, I think we can interpret the academy through the lens of spreadable media and transmedia. I like to think that the liberal arts are like a big transmedia experience—students take a bit of this here, a bit of that there, and somehow construct their own narrative of the world from these fragments. Spreadable pieces of information [moving] from one class to another is marvelous—who doesn't love seeing students make those connections? And while I'm not in favor of further silos in education, I do think that spreading knowledge from one silo to another is an important step in educational development.

[4.16] Xiaochang Li: I really like the distinction that Paul makes here between "spreadable" and "spreadability" as distinct forces where it comes to questions of decentralization or control in the movement, expansion, and transformation of media materials. The question I'm always led back to whenever a discussion of transmedia crops up, however, is what manner of crossings, linkages, or combinations the "trans" in transmedia is being used to describe. I think the spreadable/spreadability distinction speaks to this insofar as it makes explicit the ways in which "different types of transmedia may react differently in different environments," and I would perhaps also add that it reacts differently when applied to different forms of enclosure.

[4.17] The starting definition of transmedia deals with the development and dispersal of narratives across delivery channels, but as delivery technologies and media practices change, it becomes less and less clear whether or not mode of delivery is the most relevant indicator that there are different media forms being traversed in any given instance. For instance, if we consider a narrative that plays out across novels and comic books a form of transmedia, the "trans" refers not to the delivery mechanism of printed matter bound as a codex, but to the linking of text and visual forms as well as between two recognizably distinct, though not exclusive, sets of narrative conventions. Similarly, we might ask what that "trans" might refer to when considering a film or television show and associated webisodes (or even a game), given that all these forms employ a shared visual grammar, particularly if we consider that a viewer might be encountering all the material on the same screen. We come upon considerations of not only cultural forms, but technical formats as distinct media (I'm thinking here of art historian Rosalind Krauss's treatment of video as a medium), and how that plays out in an environment where media content is not only encountered through a variety of interfaces that have different affordances and limitations (e.g., seeing a film in a theater versus being able to jump to different sections of a digital video), but additionally subject to fundamental transformations in how information is conceptualized, organized, and communicated (e.g., data storage and retrieval, compression, etc.). I'm not advocating that we necessarily narrow the definition of what counts as transmedia (and I'm generally not overly interested in policing what counts and what doesn't) since I too think the term's productivity is tied to its flexibility. But I think that it is worth being specific about which mediatic qualities we presume to be crossing and, by extension, are using as the criteria for distinguishing one medium from another. That is, transmedia describes very different things when we are talking about narratives that are dispersed across genres, forms, formats, apparatuses, and platforms, or even ones that develop through the crossing and bridging of institutional enclosures, industrial systems, or geopolitical borders. A study of transmedia objects or systems might open up the study of media to further questions around not only the content of media, but the mechanisms, techniques, and processes of mediation and the social relations, cultural fantasies, and political possibilities they may animate.

[4.18] To look at the question of the academy, it seems that what a transmedia approach might offer in perhaps more traditionally siloed situations is not only a way for more collaborative or interdisciplinary approaches, but also new objects of knowledge. That is to say, I think that we are seeing more and more instances where traditional categories of media scholarship, which tend to have profound influences on the path and objects of inquiry, are no longer sufficient in describing the conditions and practices in the current media landscape. Such that important objects of knowledge may risk getting overlooked because they do not readily avail themselves to projects that align neatly with an approach to media that takes a particular delivery channel as a starting point.

[4.19] Paul Booth: One of the issues I've come across personally when it comes to "transmedia scholarship" is how protective other disciplines are of terminology and methodology. To assign any sort of nomenclature to a degree program or even to a class always risks stepping on toes. So while I'm in complete agreement that this approach may offer "new objects of knowledge," I wonder if the practicalities of the academic system (either in or out of media programs) would preclude that sort of adventuring. (Not that I think that should stop us or anyone from attempting to make those interdisciplinary/transscholarly connections!).

[4.20] Henry Jenkins: I have clearly thought deeply about all of this, especially having been part of creating and running the MIT Comparative Media Studies program for a decade. I think we were well ahead of the curve in terms of thinking about how our curriculum needs to change in order to embrace more transmedia approaches, and many of the ideas that inform Spreadable Media took shape in that context. Since then, we've seen many other schools try to work through these issues, each adopting a somewhat different mix of disciplines or media dependent on their local institutional histories and cultures, but each pushing toward multidisciplinary approaches and toward approaches that move beyond a legacy of medium specificity in the ways we structure our curriculum. There are no shortages of roadblocks here, and yes, a very big one is whether faculty trained in traditional disciplines are fully ready to accept other people playing with their concepts and materials, whether faculty are prepared to move outside their own comfort zones in collaborating with people with different backgrounds and experiences, or even whether they are ready to suspend traditional prerequisites (in all senses of the term) in order to allow students to mix and match courses in ways which make sense for them given their own distinctive intellectual and professional goals. The other thing I can say, briefly, is that the goal of fostering a transmedia education may look different depending on whether the goal is to train someone in media production (where our students are apt to move across media platforms many times in the course of their career), to train someone to think critically about the interplay of media (where few if any questions today can be answered sufficiently by retaining a narrow focus on a single medium to the exclusion of all of the others that impact it), or some combination of the above.

[4.21] Sam Ford: This is a question that I'd love to see far more engagement on, perhaps outside the conversation surrounding Spreadable Media. As an undergraduate at Western Kentucky University some time ago, I had majors across three different departments. Through my work in each department, I was looking at storytelling of various media types (which made my final thesis an interesting exercise in combining disciplines…including dealing with three different citation styles). Now that I'm back at WKU, I am involved in some way with all three departments again and teaching in an interdisciplinary major, called popular culture studies, that didn't exist when I was a student here. From my limited experience with an interdisciplinary major as student at MIT and as instructor and curriculum committee member at WKU, one of the key challenges faced with any interdisciplinary major whose transmedia focus takes it across departments is that funding structures are decidedly disciplinary within a school, and it is hard to break from that. It seems that such majors have fared better if rooted in one particular program, with small extensions into other departments, or else as a collaboration between two particular departments. For the pop culture studies program, WKU was boldly experimental in having the major lie with the dean's office rather than any particular department, but then the program has suffered without much line of funding, no significant administrative staff, and faculty who struggle to fit (especially upper-level) classes into the course load from their parent department.

[4.22] There is, perhaps, much we can learn from the struggle journalism schools have gone through in addressing some of these questions. They are more explicitly tagged as training people for professional careers in clearly marked disciplines…which means they have faced these questions/issues more acutely and more quickly than many other departments. When I was an undergraduate major in both mass communication and news/editorial journalism within the school of journalism and broadcasting at WKU (note that it changed names while I was a student, as it was print journalism at the time I started, but "transmedia-tion" was already taking its toll), the school was openly engaging its students on how to deal with convergence and what that meant for the students it was turning out. Now, in working peripherally with the school of J&B on the future of their curriculum, I've found them, 10 years later, still grappling with those questions, with faculty and students alike struggling to find the balance between storytelling expertise in a particular medium and a knowledge of how stories build across various audio, visual, audiovisual, and written formats.

[4.23] The tensions of how to balance between the (sexist) notions of renaissance man on the one hand and jack-of-all-trades and master of none on the other has led to all sorts of soul-searching and a lot of tensions along the way from particular tracks that were once more distinct. The problem only gets exacerbated when students are seen as needing skills that lie outside their department. For instance, with the rise of storytelling through visualization techniques, the school of J&B has been encouraging students to take courses in graphic design. They reached out to the graphic design department at WKU for some partnership, but the faculty there was resistant because basic graphic design classes are not general-education electives. Thus, taking on a large number of students from another (much larger) school was untenable when trying to accommodate journalism graphic design students. On the other hand, when WKU explored hiring a faculty member to start teaching graphic design classes within the school of J&B, the graphic design department gave pushback as well, not wanting to see another program offering similar classes. These sorts of absurdities can seem ridiculous from the outside but are perhaps logical from a viewpoint within the system.

[4.24] We say in Spreadable Media, "Corporate infrastructure has created rigid disciplinary divides among these various departments, not only in scope of work but—perhaps most importantly—in budget. Who 'owns' the customer relationship within a company is ultimately a question of who remains relevant and who keeps their job. And, as corporate communicators throughout an organization adjust to a digital age, the tensions and fault lines between departments shape how brands react to the ethos and practices of what we're calling spreadable media" (179–180). Substitute academic for corporate, student for customer, faculty and staff for corporate communicators, and schools for brands…and I think the sentence unfortunately works all too well (which perhaps speaks to the ongoing issues of corporatization of private and public schools alike, but as equally to the problem disciplines create in any large organization).

5. Moving forward (with scholarship and action)

[5.1] Q: Spreadable Media not only strives to offer insight into contemporary culture but also attempts to change industry, academic, and audience perspectives and actions. How might we (and should we) move forward with this agenda? How does the work in spreadable media connect to Henry's (and others') current concerns with new media and activism as it relates to the politics of circulation?

[5.2] Xiaochang Li: Throughout the book and in a number of the pieces in the expanded book online, we see evidence of a broad effort to think about media practices and the concepts and strategies employed in describing, managing, and engaging with them as historically embedded. We might consider an overarching (or perhaps underlying) premise of spreadability to be a call for greater specificity around how we think about media practices, now that models that emerged out of broadcast or conceptual metaphors like "viral" are no longer sufficient (though, I think the book argues, still relevant).

[5.3] Obviously there's been a tremendous amount of work done since the project began in earnest back in, wow, 2007 when we started writing that first white paper. The arguments and cases have been dramatically deepened and expanded, but there's a central conceit of sticky/spreadable at its core that seems to have remained largely intact. This contrast of sticky and spreadable, while not meant to be comprehensive nor exclusive, at least represents the dominant polarity that orients the book/project in terms of its approach to the production and analysis of media.

[5.4] Very broadly speaking, sticky seems to refer to a set of approaches that fall under a regime of measure that is premised on the counting and accounting of viewers/impressions. I don't want to conflate things overmuch, since I think the book does distinguish between concepts of sticky media with actual practices of measurement, but it does acknowledge that quantitative measurement techniques are at least guilty of "echoing the limitations of the stickiness model" (176). Spreadable, on the other hand, signals a push toward some kind of more qualitative reckoning that can attend to the fine-grained textures of association embedded within media circulation and viewing practices.

[5.5] In this light, I wanted to throw data mining and analytics practices into the mix and see if it complicates this sticky/spreadable structure a bit, especially given the amount of attention big data has been receiving the past few years. It's worth parsing out different forms of quantitative practice. Many of those described in the book center around acts of counting, where measurement is the end goal of a process. But we are also seeing a rise in data practices that use measurement as an intermediary step in a process of modeling. Put another way, if we look at data-and-analytics-driven practices, the goal seems to shift from trying to count the audience to trying to model the audience. These quantitative practices begin to look a lot less like the "traditional questions of 'Who is there?' and 'How many of them are there?'" (177) and more like an the effort to understand "how, or why, audiences might want to interact with the company and its contents" (177) that spreadability seems to call for. Yet at the same time, it isn't quite like what spreadable describes: services like Google AdSense or recommendation engines, for instance, seek to automate the qualitative assessment of user interests, intents, practices, and desires through quantitative means, and thus has no interest and account of "why." The model is less concerned with causation regarding current behavior than it is with an approximation of consequent behavior. That is, modeling as a form of knowledge does not subscribe to a determinist view of the world in which cause triggers effect, but a probabilistic one shaped around trackable tendencies and correlation.

[5.6] This is, of course, nothing new. Targeted advertising has been around for a long time in various forms (and statistical modeling for much longer than that), and the traditional broadcast measurement models, though primarily engaged in practices of counting, were also assumed to operate as a model that could forecast future ratings/ticket sale/impressions/etc. But I think the growing interest in data, particularly data at a scale beyond qualitative examination that promises the discovery of information and categories otherwise unavailable to us (or so the rhetoric of big data goes) intersects with models of sticky and spreadable media in interesting ways.

[5.7] My sense is that these practices offer a potentially productive intervention in thinking about models of media use and audience engagement. If nothing else, they complicate how we depict the quantitative reduction that is typically associated with broadcast and sticky models of media. If we think of the traditional impression or what I've been referring to as "count" paradigm, it is one in which individuals are reduced to eyeballs based on a present/not-present binary (as well as slightly more sophisticated measurements of how long you look, how many clicks, etc). The user, or user action, remains a coherent unit, though reduced to an impression, a butt-in-seat, a "unique," and so on. Data analytics pursue a quantification that is not necessarily tied to volume and duration but rather seeks to map associations and patterns across various practices and contents. In these practices, the user seems to undergo a sort of statistical vivisection, in which some parts are then rebundled with parts of others in order to render sophisticated correlations. Rather than a method that reduces individuals to little more than data points, you get a slightly different flavor of violence that hinges on the slicing and dicing of individuals and practices for reassembly into predictive models. Put another way, instead of producing an aggregate, undifferentiated mass, the quantification of users become highly differentiated, to the extent that many of the key debates about data analytics revolve around privacy and anonymity.

[5.8] In perhaps more immediate terms, we're seeing different approaches in how audiences are being sold (in the sense of the running joke of Web 2.0 that goes something like, "If your service is free, your users are probably your product"), not merely in terms of their numbers but as sites of data extraction. Yet at the same time the rhetoric of big data and data analytics in general seems to echo some of the commitments of spreadability in that the premise of data analytics is the discovery and mapping of complex relations between things, and in particular the discovery of relations that do not necessarily fit predefined categories. Both are premised on the existence of a diversity of users and user practices. These increasingly prevalent data practices seem to at least complicate the epistemological and ideological distinctions that were maybe more neatly aligned in the earlier accounts of sticky and spreadable strategies.

[5.9] I think what I'm trying to say is simply that data analytics, particularly the efforts around big data, don't fit neatly with the accounts of quantification and measurement associated with sticky, nor do they sit comfortably with the motivation-centric account of spreadable. So I wonder if we can start to map where it overlaps and differs from each, and whether that tells us something about either of these models and how they might have shifted in recent years.

[5.10] Sam Ford: Xiaochang, I'm glad you brought big data into the conversation. One of the issues I've been preoccupied with since the book project itself wrapped is the prevalence with which big data as a concept has been on the minds of the business world, and increasingly the public consciousness. Most of us have probably seen the stats about how more data have been created and recorded during the time it took me to write this sentence than in all of recorded history before us. (Okay, so I exaggerate, but you get the point.) And yet there is such a wide array of measurement and modeling practices; of data purposefully gathered or collected without particular purpose; and of debate within companies as to the purpose these data receive.

[5.11] At the Futures of Entertainment conference in November 2012, Grant McCracken made a statement that we are at a particularly crucial moment in which the purpose of big data hasn't been completely defined yet. He suggested that is a moment in which scholars might meaningfully intervene: not solely to praise the qualitative over the quantitative, but perhaps to discuss ways in which the two means of understanding culture and audiences might most meaningfully complement one another, in ways that help organizations better serve their audiences rather than those traditional advertising questions you mention (note 41).

[5.12] If we think of data as only being useful for measurement or marketing purposes, of course, we are missing the sorts of benefits that might most meaningfully impact media audiences and media creators/companies alike. The ways in which data can help companies better understand and serve are crucial, and we're starting to see all sorts of ways in which data analysis can help save lives (literally) in realms far afield from media. The issues it raises, of course, are what we claim the data can tell us, how they're being gathered, how they're being analyzed, etc. Often I feel the danger comes not from the data but from the analysis: after all, measuring whether a TV set was on or not never actually accounted for viewing, and measuring how much time someone spends on a page doesn't really tell us "engagement."

[5.13] For someone who heavily advocates the importance of qualitative methodologies and practices, it's easy to decry that the big data era finds ways to further drown out actually listening to the audiences companies seek to reach. Yet there are a range of ways companies can and perhaps should use data already being gathered to find ways to better understand what their audiences want from them. In many ways, the principles behind design thinking apply here: the idea of companies doing what they can through qualitative and quantitative research to better understand the audiences they are trying to serve and to better enhance their experience. This is an area in which I feel that much deeper collaborative research and thinking should come from scholars, where an intervention can be helpful. Yet it requires—I think—our complicating our view, as you suggest, of what "data" means and what it is or could be used for within an organization. Turning people into numbers is a bad concept, but using data to make more informed decisions about how to serve your audience may be beneficial to media companies and audiences alike. We should be critical of how those interests align, but we also shouldn't dismiss the potentials.

[5.14] I also think the stickiness/spreadability dynamic is further complicated by a range of technologies that increasingly seek to measure content as it spreads. Certainly, the "hearing" strategies the book criticizes in chapter 4 often involve trying to generate data from social media conversations. But we also have services like offering people much easier, everyday access to see how links they share get spread more widely, and a focus on finding ways to quantify exactly how things spread.

[5.15] As you suggest, this allows quantitative data to more easily get at the how, and to do so in a way that doesn't force audiences to conform to the ways in which it's easiest for the company to measure their movements but rather to build data-gathering practices more clearly around how audiences want to interact with content. But it still doesn't address the why, and it still runs the risk of stripping content from its contextual meaning in ways that may distort what it means in the first place. Again, here is a place where I believe scholars can make meaningful intervention. At the very least, we can complicate prevailing corporate narratives that blindly celebrate big data. But perhaps we can also challenge companies to truly think through how these practices—and the complementary possibilities of qualitative and quantitative research—should be used to ask more valuable questions about how to put companies in better service of their audiences rather than how to best measure the results of a campaign or to place the best advertising or create more "accurate" marketing segmentation profiles (note 42).

[5.16] Sharon Ross: I think an important future area of spreadability (be it entertainment, news, or academic scholarship) is the potential use of cyber infrastructure. In a way we've created a miniversion of this here. Imagine what could be studied if we had access to a digital system that posed just one of these questions to not just media scholars and industry professionals, but to fans and heads of NPOs and the mom invested in what her kid watches and the scientist and the musician…I think spreadability, in its grandest sense, has the potential to make people see things in radically different ways (to bring it back to media, think of how the show Dallas [CBS, 1978–1891] was perceived in the United States versus Japan versus Israel…). So who's going to get us a megacomputer system?

6. What's not (in) Spreadable Media?

[6.1] Q: The book's subtitle—"creating value and meaning in a networked culture"—effectively describes the content of the book, but I wonder what we're leaving out; value and meaning are just two of many things created in a networked culture. Are there valuable messages that don't lend themselves to spreadability? Should spreadability be an expectation of all media messages? If so, what happens to those messages in an environment that privileges spreadability? Are there drawbacks to creating expectations for spreadability in media audiences?

[6.2] Paul Booth: I have really enjoyed this conversation—this sort of interactive dialogue is an experience I've never had before, and I feel as though I've learned so much about how to participate in a thoughtful and engaging discourse in an interactive environment. One particular aspect that I've been intrigued by (and, to be honest, a bit addicted to watching) is the different ways each of us have approached this technological mechanism of Google Drive. For example, I prefer to type my thoughts into my word-processing program, edit and change as I compose, and revise my final answer before I post it to the discussion. Others of you write directly into the Google Drive document, fingers flying and letters appearing as if by some magical Harry Potter spell (Lingua Apparere!), only going back later to make changes or edits to typos. I'm sure there's a fascinating study to be had (or maybe there already is one of which I am unaware) on the ways that interacting with the medium in a groupthink situation creates different interpretations of contributions and effectiveness of arguments…

[6.3] I am going on at length about this because I think it's relevant to Spreadable Media, and is one of the topics that we didn't get a chance to discuss much in our first week's interaction. That is, I'm curious about the role of technology in spreadable media (and spreadability), and the ways that different technologies generate, augment, or (even) necessitate spreadability. The possibility of publishing this entire dialogue (all 30K words) online creates, as Louisa noted, spreadable forms of this discussion without us intending it to happen. If it wasn't going to be published online, would we still consider this discussion spreadable? In other words, is the possibility of spreadability enough to make a text spreadable, or does one actually have to spread it in order to make it spreadable? Is it just enough to make something spreadable, or does spreadability emerge from practice?

[6.4] Most of the examples from the book, quite naturally, stem from digital technologies, but I also wonder if there are more examples of spreadability in the past that, in retrospect, we can see as spreadable. (We touched a bit on this in the dialogue about fan practices). Or is spreadability something best seen in a new media environment, as a generative process only applicable with (and for) digital technology? While I don't have any answers, I want to pose some questions and topics that occurred to me as I thought about the relationship between technology and spreadability.

[6.5] For example, I'm typing this in my office right now with a photographed zine sitting next to me. This is a hard copy that was passed to me by a colleague, who picked it up at a fan convention. This fanzine has been spread to me through whatever analog means were applicable to passing it along (although I'm sure digital production went into its creation). This zine is spreadable, but it's a much more limited spreadability than what we see with sharing on Facebook or retweeting on Twitter. Is there a spectrum of spreadability? Some things spread better than others, but for the particular fan community of this zine, it spread pretty quickly (and pretty widely, considering how far it traveled to get to me). Can something spread even without digital technology?

[6.6] One of the main takeaways of Spreadable Media is the "if it doesn't spread, it's dead" phrase—a mnemonic that works quite nicely at distinguishing between types of circulation within contemporary media environments. But I'm also interested in exploring the converse: if it's dead, can it spread? I've been interested in the idea of retro technologies and the cultural return to analog (or even older digital) forms. I saw records for sale in Target the other day! And my wife just got back into Commander Keen, King's Quest, and Quest for Glory—all video games from the 1980s that have resurfaced in glorious 16-color graphics. These ostensibly dead technologies (or, at least, majorly outdated) are making a comeback in our nostalgic return to today's young adult's childhoods. How do retro technologies fit into the spreadable paradigm?

[6.7] Additionally, I'm curious about whether the particular affordances of technology seem to generate spreadability. I mentioned the retweets of Twitter, a functional aspect of the technology that seems to engender spreadable media. The ubiquitous buttons on Web pages that allow people to post to their Facebook wall, construct blog posts, or link to on Twitter all seem poised to promote spreadability within contemporary technology. What worries me about this is how much control the manufacturers and designers of that technology have over individuals' own ability to spread media. It's much easier and faster to spread via Facebook…unless one decides to remain off Facebook. If the designers of technology are enabling the grassroots spreadability, is it a concept rooted in manufactured interactivity? Are we swapping the freedom to print whatever the hell we want in a zine and pass it out to 100 people for the ability to repost a clip of American Idol or Breaking Bad to a thousand? The more that design for spreadability rests in the technology, the less that those without the technological skills will be able to take part in that conversation.

[6.8] I guess I don't really have answers to these questions—perhaps why I posed this larger question in the first place. But I guess the larger issue here is the importance in interrogating how spreadable media works outside of the contemporary, mainstream paradigm. Does it have the same characteristics when looking at spreadability in analog? The spreadable practices of retro technologies? One area for further exploration, then, could be the spreadability of spreadable media—spreading to other arenas of technological usage.

[6.9] Melissa Click: One of the aspects of Spreadable Media that I enjoyed is its connection of online practices today to the history of participatory culture. I think what comes out of that connection is the idea that yes, things certainly spread before digital media—and certainly can continue to spread offline in a digital environment. I think Paul's recently received zine is a good example of that.

[6.10] I was really struck, though, by Spreadable Media's final chapter, chapter 7, and its discussion of transnational media flows. There is a recognition here that content is spreading in places (and amongst folks) where digital media is not readily available. But the book is obviously about spreadable digital media flows, not off-line flows, so I started wondering about the folks around the world who either don't have access to digital media—or who simply don't wish to actively participate in a spreadable media environment. What should we be thinking about these folks?

[6.11] I don't mean to stir up our argument about fans (though I definitely enjoyed it!), but it seems to me that the celebration of online spreadability and its resulting activities has the potential to reassert the preference for active (fans) over assumedly passive (audiences). So to be tongue in cheek with the phrase, are people who don't spread dead? I absolutely value Spreadable Media's recognition of everyday activities online and its suggestion that often we are active and passive in different places/times online. I think that's right on—but I'm concerned about reproducing a hierarchy between "folks who spread and those who don't."

[6.12] I really appreciate Paul's questions about where spreadability originates. The idea that it is hardwired into technology is a bit too deterministic for me, though I think Paul's concerns are valuable. I have been amused by our attempts to make spreadability a verb (spreading) or a noun (spreaders), etc., instead of an adjective—we've invented some great permutations of the term! In the same way I think of fan as a verb and not a noun, meaning that fandom is something you do, not something you are, I think of spreadability as something you do, not something inherent in content or technology (or particular people, for that matter). I think many of Spreadable Media's examples demonstrate this—including examples about retro items getting new life when they're (re)spread. If spreadability is an action, then anyone can do it—with varying degrees of investment and frequency, of course. I think that means anything can be spread, too—on- or off-line. Spreadability just requires someone interested in taking up the task who has the access to do so. Whether others wish to take up and encourage that spreading is another topic process, though…

[6.13] Sharon Ross: I looooved Melissa's query: "Are people who don't spread dead? I absolutely value Spreadable Media's recognition of everyday activities online and its suggestion that often we are active and passive in different places/times online. I think that's right on—but I'm concerned about reproducing a hierarchy between folks who spread and those who don't." I think this is an incredibly important question to ask, and it has deep roots in much of Henry's earlier work. In a sense, dare I say it, if people don't spread, they are in a way dead. Let's consider: if you watch a show, go to see a film, read a book, even receive a phone call…if you in no way feel compelled to share some aspect of what you received, ever, are you participating in human culture? This takes us back, of course, to Paul's notion of a spectrum of spreadability. I just really believe at my core that storytelling is an essential human thing. Storytelling, to me, implies an active listener/reader/what have you who wishes to do something with that story—pass it on, talk about it, react to it in a way that then impacts those around them. (If a tree falls and no one is there, does it make a sound?) Now, this is creating a spectrum so broad as to be irrelevant, certainly. But in a way, saying "if it doesn't spread, it's dead" also creates areas of irrelevancy, as Melissa points out.

[6.14] Perhaps we might ask: What is the actual value in spreadability from a humanistic standpoint? Aside from financial success in the marketplace from an industry standpoint, what do we as a culture/society (noting here there are more than one) actually gain that betters us from spreadable media? Is the value in the media itself, or in the act of spreading? Is it in simply being a part of the spreadability (which could include passive audiences, noting that passive increasingly seems so only by way of comparison to more easily labeled active audiences). Here I'm thinking of many captured live events, for which no planning of spreadability exists. By way of example, the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings was hardly planned as a piece of media, yet it spread (via technology, to be sure—thus Paul's important points above), and yet many people received passively. Still, I imagine the knowledge that this spread (that most everyone knew about it, reacted to it, had an opinion about it) made it a very active media event for people at an emotional level.

[6.15] Xiaochang Li: I love Paul's point about our various uses of the Google Drive platform, since the question of digital technology becomes so critical in light of both Melissa and Sharon's points regarding the tendency to privilege certain activities over others. All of these points, in my mind, direct us to think carefully about the environments and interfaces—the material surrounds—of practices that are often discussed in terms of the immateriality of digital information. To use our Google Drive use as an example: I was one of the people who typed directly into Google Drive, due mainly to the fact that I was working from a laptop while traveling and found toggling back and forth between windows to reference the most up-to-date content to be annoying. Had I been at home or in my office, where I have multiple monitors set up, I may have opted for the cut-and-paste method instead. The physical setup I'm using in order to access content has strong bearing on how I encounter and choose to act in response to it. Similarly, as we think transnationally, passive viewing may become an emphatically active practice as a result of material conditions, requiring interventions on an existing market or even physical infrastructure. There needs to be a kind of technical (or more generally, a medium) specificity applied to spreadable practices as we move forward. This is not to suggest a sort of determinism, but to recognize that our media encounters and actions, the "degrees of investment and frequency" (as Melissa said) with which we spread, are conditioned by the technical and material arrangements available to us.

[6.16] Kristina Busse: Like Paul and Xiaochang, I'd like to conclude my thoughts on Spreadable Media by looking at the role of technology and interfaces as well. But I'm less interested in the way it affects individual interactions or even the spreadability of a given idea as much as I'd like to direct our thoughts in the direction of how and where technology can easily impede access and spreadability. As Xiaochang again reminds us of the transnational component, I want to remind us of the ability of nations to limit, censor, and survey any and all communications. If up to this point I have foregrounded the dangers of neoliberal, postcapitalist ideology as it relates to economic interests, I want to expand the control of interfaces and technological access to these threats.

[6.17] I am less concerned here with the question of whether a given low-income home has broadband (though that certainly is important) or how working in a cloud environment affects our individual work flows (though that is an important theoretical consideration)—what I want to remind us here is that the Internet may be chaotic and free, but it is only as free as our ISP (and, in the end, the laws governing it) allow it to be. Likewise, there remains the continuing promise (threat?) of weighing information by its commercial viability, as with the example in Germany…of provider Telekom proposing that their own online services would retain speed while all others would be throttled. In other words, as a founding member and staffer of the Organization for Transformative Works, I am fully behind its empathic battle cry, and indeed "I want us to own the goddamned servers!" But as important as not getting TOSsed by a Web host may be, for the information to make it to my screen, that it still has to pass a multitude of commercial and governmental sites, all of which can apparently survey and potentially block the transmission. It is here that network neutrality must remain a part of our overall civic project as much as working toward fair copyright laws and transparency of any and all oversight—whether for economic or political means.

[6.18] If we focus on spreadability only in terms of the individuals spreading, we are in danger of overlooking the ways in which such spreadability is all too dependent on sites wanting to allow this dissemination of information. Technological constraints such as Flash can be cracked, of course, but the difference between cracking and having built-in spreadability is vast and vital. Or said differently, as much as Henry believes in the power of fans to be creative and to protect themselves, it remains an ongoing battle, whether collectively testifying for exemption from the DMCA for vidders or individually rejecting a takedown claim from YouTube. Amazon can delete my Kindle account with all the books I "purchased," the new Xbox effectively allows me to play the games I buy without actual ownership, [and] my cloud services can be deleted for any and all infractions, taking with it all my information and data. There have been some wonderful expansions addressing the dark underside of spreadability in the wake of Spreadable Media, and I'd like to add to that a continuing vigilance for a similarly consistent awareness how spreadability continues to spread only at the discretion of entities that could just as easily limit or curb those abilities.

[6.19] Henry Jenkins: First, let me thank all of you for your intense, thoughtful engagement with Spreadable Media as a book and as larger project. Each of you asked important questions or posed critiques that pushed our thinking in new directions, and that is as it should be. This closing discussion has raised other important issues about the degree to which shifts in technological infrastructure might endanger the kinds of breakthroughs Spreadable Media has sought to describe. Let me be clear that I do not consider there to be anything inevitable (or irreversible) about the current state of the technology. I have long argued against rhetorics of technological inevitability, whether they take the form of arguments that new media will inevitably lead toward a more democratic culture or the form of arguments that capitalism will inevitably overcome and contain anything emancipatory or participatory that emerges in the online world. Whatever happens next is, as Kristina suggests above, going to take struggle—active, day-in and day-out, struggle, which is why it seems important for us to document the changes that are taking place every step along the way and to identify core issues and debates as early as possible and in a language that is accessible to the broadest range of stakeholders.

[6.20] Hats off to all of the different fan activists who have been on the front lines in defending our collective rights to participate in our culture through any and every means available to us. Hats off to the educators who have helped to expand the public's access to the skills and opportunities needed for meaningful participation, to the librarians who have argued forcefully against mandatory filters which might block access to information, to the community centers that have sought resources to ensure that underserved communities can deploy these tools in their own interests, to the independent media producers and activists who have sought to model new tactics for getting alternative messages into circulation, to the human rights advocates who monitor and call out various filtering and censoring mechanisms around the world, and to the producers of media beyond the Global North who are seeking ways to get their productions seen and their voices heard in conversations that are vital to the future of their people.

[6.21] If we need to participate as academics in these struggles, we need to offer conceptual frameworks that are robust enough to serve as resources within these various debates. Part of what we need to do is to define more clearly than most critical studies writing does what we are struggling for—and not simply what we are struggling against. Fan studies has made some key contributions here in helping us to better understand what a participatory culture looks like. And so have scholars documenting a range of other communities that have been on the front lines in seeking to expand popular access to the means of cultural production and circulation.

[6.22] I don't think participatory culture is something that is universal—that is to say, it is certainly not universally available to all under the current system (even if we have seen some expansion of who has access to this expanded communication capacity), and it is also not possible to develop a universal model of what the ideal form of participatory culture should look like. I don't see Spreadable Media as offering the model; I think it points to a range of different models that inform contemporary struggles. We also need to acknowledge that not all forms of participation are progressive or inclusive; for example, the use of Reddit in the wake of the Boston bombings was certainly participatory, but in many cases, it amounted to a collective effort at racial profiling, more collective ignorance than collective intelligence, and so, yes, we need to be "vigilant" as critical intellectuals not only to protect opportunities for participation but also to ensure that we take seriously our ethical obligations as participants to ensure that our speech does not silence others, that we take responsibility for the consequences of the "information" we put into circulation.

[6.23] Paul asks whether spreadable media is necessarily digital media; I think the book includes multiple places where we acknowledge that there was a history of spreadable media before there was networked communication. But I do think that networked communication has fundamentally altered how things spread through culture and has created a context where things that spread digitally are apt to gain much greater visibility and urgency than things that do not spread through these channels.

[6.24] People who do not spread content may not be dead, but the capacity to get messages out into the larger media landscape may increase our collective and individual likelihood to survive the challenges of the future. Several of you in your closing remarks talk about individual spreaders. From my perspective, individuals cannot or do not spread content. For content to spread, it must pass through networks (whether digitally enhanced or the kinds of social networks and communities that we have lived within throughout human history), and as a consequence, spreading is always a collective practice. For that reason, spreading is meaningful in terms of the set of social connections it activates, the processes through which it contributes, even without regard to the content that is being circulated. These sets of social connections are things that cannot be simply captured or commodified by companies, no matter how they might try.

[6.25] Sam Ford: The question posed at the top of this section is about what wasn't in the book. The answer is plenty, but we didn't intend for it to be the book on the circulation of media texts in digital culture but rather a book that brings together a range of examples and scholarly work, provides framework and analysis for what is happening today, and (I hope) drives new dialogue and future work that crossed disciplinary boundaries. The mix of people Cinema Journal brought together for this discussion has certainly helped do that. And since Henry wrote the whole book in a Google Doc (as it was called at the time), it only seems natural to have this dialogue take place via the same format.

[6.26] I appreciate Melissa's question about spreadability as a noun, a verb, and an adjective, and Paul's question about the possibility for spreadability versus actually spreading. This was one key reason we rejected the notion of "virality" throughout our work, as virality is a metaphor that defines spreadability by its result, and in a way that leaves any conscious power in the hands of the creator and her or his text. Instead, I think of spreadability as potential energy, as—to quote Sharon's piece from the project—invitations to spread that may or may not be taken up by active audiences of that text (note 43). Just because the text has the ability to spread doesn't mean that it will. However, creators and distributors of texts can do a variety of things to make texts have a higher possibility of spreading, from making sure that sharing the text isn't overly onerous from a technical perspective, to making texts more "producerly" (to draw on John Fiske's notion we used in the original white paper and in the book), to thinking about how and why multiple communities might want to circulate the work (note 44).

[6.27] Some texts become valuable to us because they act as fodder for social interaction. They transform at that moment from a media text for an individual to some form of social and cultural resource through which we might define ourselves, sustain relationships, build community, increase our own notoriety, challenge others, etc. Indeed, as Sharon writes, this is the classic notion of storytelling—that we value stories because of how they can bring us closer together with particular communities.

[6.28] However, this question of whether people, and texts, are dead if they don't spread is one that is a vital corrective toward any overvaluation of spreadability. Despite the pithiness of the "if it doesn't spread, it's dead" mantra…we have to push back against that statement's oversimplification (and hope that we did, through the course of the book). One of my primary goals in cowriting this book was to challenge the notion that producing "texts" should somehow become the definition of participation and push back against the belief that less visible activities of sharing and circulation can somehow be defined as passive audience practice. In response, though, we also can't define value solely in terms of spreadability.

[6.29] As Melissa points out, we don't want to create new hierarchies that say that audience members who spread texts—or who spread them via certain (online, "surveillable," "monitizable") ways are somehow more important than those who don't, or whose means of circulating are less visible. Also, not all texts that people find valuable as easily lend themselves to spreadability (as Paul's queries point toward). We have to be cognizant that what a person finds valuable to engage with on an individual level and what they choose to circulate to other networks may not always be the same thing. (People may find great value in reading their e-mail, watching pornography, or listening to international news but be more likely to share on Facebook that clip of American Idol or Breaking Bad that Paul writes about. While the former texts may have strong individual engagement, the latter may be perceived as having a greater degree of cultural/social value. We don't want to risk conflating the two.)

[6.30] We also shouldn't primarily think of spreadability in terms of scale—to create a model that defines value solely by how far or how widely something spreads. That again takes us right back to the numbers game of going viral. For instance, Kristina writes about fan groups who share texts within a particular social setting. In this case, the spreadability happens within that community, with little interest in—or even a strong interest in preventing—those texts circulating outside that context. And on [the blog] Ethnography Matters, designer/artist An Xiao Mina wrote about content that is spreadable within Uganda—and ways that the content that circulates, and context of that spreading, have a strong cultural specificity that might naturally contain how intelligible they are outside that context. In both cases, the content might be highly spreadable, but primarily within a particular community or cultural setting (note 45). If we only define "spreadable media" by content that is viewed x number of times, we ignore the vast majority of content that people are circulating (and, I'd argue, most of the content that is the most meaningful to those doing the circulating).

[6.31] Second, this closing discussion has repeatedly emphasized that we can't define the meaning of spreading content by the tools most readily available to share—as these tools are often what's there, not what's ideal. Paul writes about what trade-offs are involved in technologies that make it easy to share. Many have called this "frictionless sharing." It's called that primarily because the goal is to make it as easy as possible for its users to pass content along to their connections via social network sites…but, of course, frictionless has a second meaning as well: to make sure that it's shared in the most palatable way possible for the creator of the content and for the platform on which it is being shared (note 46).

[6.32] We can't take a technological, determinist view of spreadability. Certain technical features and platforms have increased the scale and frequency of how people share, but spreadability is not the creation of a digital age, as we have all pointed out throughout this discussion. As such, we have to be cognizant that the labor and the meaning behind the act of sharing a piece of content with a particular network can't be reduced to the platform. The myth of Web 2.0 is that the goals of the content owner, the platform, and the community of users are all perfectly aligned. We have to continuously challenge that myth, to acknowledge the gaps in technologies and cultures of access that Xiaochang writes about, the participation gap that Paul writes about, and the many less visible forces that shape (and distort) the act of circulation that Kristina writes about.

[6.33] Part of that work is making all of us more aware of technological and cultural inequalities in participating in a culture of spreadability. Part of this work is the crucial need for advocacy surrounding issues like net neutrality, digital privacy, constantly changing terms of service, and—now—research being done on platform users, as was discovered via Facebook's research on its users (note 47). And yes, I believe there's also much work to be done to advocate to commercial forces (from those who produce content to those who own the platforms that distribute it or that facilitate spreadability) that better respecting their audiences' interests and rights—that, to borrow Carol Sanford's phrase, being a "responsible business"—is not incompatible with capitalism, even if commercial and social interests will not (and should not) perfectly align (note 48). I also think it's especially vital to seek new forms of civic education (note 49) surrounding cultural practices of sharing: to increase the abilities people have to participate, to make us all more cognizant of our right not to participate, and—above all—to help us think through the ethics and implications of the everyday sharing in which many of us are immersed.

7. Notes

1. Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers (1992; New York: Routledge, 2013); Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2008).

2. Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2013), 151.

3. "Web Exclusive Essays," Spreadable Media,

4. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 101–102.

5. Karen Hellekson, "Kindle Worlds and Fan Fiction," khellekson (blog), May 23, 2013,

6. Matt Hills, "'Twilight' Fans Represented in Commercial Paratexts and Inter-Fandoms: Resisting and Repurposing Negative Fan Stereotypes," in Genre, Reception, and Adaptation in the Twilight Series, ed. Anne More (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2012), 113–131.

7. E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey (New York: Vintage, 2011).

8. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 111.

9. Ibid.; emphasis added.

10. Jenkins, Textual Poachers; Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 277–280.

11. An Archive of Our Own,

12. Suzanne Scott, "Repackaging Fan Culture: The Regifting Economy of Ancillary Content Models," Transformative Works and Cultures 3 (2009),; Henry Jenkins, "Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib," Confessions of an Aca-Fan (blog), May 22, 2007,

13. Scott, "Repackaging Fan Culture"; Abigail De Kosnik, "Should Fan Fiction Be Free?," Cinema Journal 48, no. 4 (2009): 118–124; Julie Levine Russo, "User-Penetrated Content: Fan Video in the Age of Media Convergence," Cinema Journal 48, no. 4 (2009): 125–130.

14. Louisa Stein, "Word of Mouth on Steroids: Hailing the Millennial Media Fan," in Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence, ed. Michael Kackman and Marnie Binfield (New York: Routledge, 2010), 128–143.

15. Jeremey Sarachan, "Doctor Who, Slacktivism and Social Media Fandom," in Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who, ed. Paul Booth (Bristol, UK: Intellect Press, 2013), 136–147.

16. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 293.

17. Melissa C. Scardaville, "The Way We Were: The Institutional Logics of Professionals and Fans in the Soap Opera Industry," in The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era, ed. Sam Ford, Abigail De Kosnik, and C. Lee Harrington (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011), 58–77.

18. Dallas W. Smythe, "On the Audience Commodity and Its Work," in Dependency Road: Communications, Capitalism, Consciousness, and Canada (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1981), 22–51.

19. Andy Bennett and Keith Kahn-Harris, eds., After Subculture: Critical Studies in Contemporary Youth Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

20. John Tulloch and Henry Jenkins, Science Fiction Audiences: Watching "Doctor Who" and "Star Trek" (London: Routledge, 1995), 237–266.

21. Abigail De Kosnik, "Interrogating 'Free' Fan Labor," Spreadable Media extended book,

22. Catherine Tosenberger, "Gender and Fan Studies (Round Five, Part One): Geoffrey Long and Catherine Tosenberger," Confessions of an Aca-Fan (blog), June 28, 2007,

23. Whitney Phillips, "In Defense of Memes," Spreadable Media extended book, 2013,

24. Sam Ford, Abigail De Kosnik, and C. Lee Harrington, eds., The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011).

25. Vicki Mayer, Below the Line: Producers and Production Studies in the New Television Economy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); Mark Deuze, ed., Managing Media Work (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010).

26. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 265–270.

27. Sharon Marie Ross, Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).

28. Jenkins, Textual Poachers.

29. Sharon Marie Ross, "Television's Invitation to Participate," Spreadable Media extended book,

30. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 128.

31. Henry Jenkins defines aca-fan as a "hybrid creature which is part fan and part academic" ( For further discussion of the meaning of aca-fan, see "Acafandom and Beyond: Week One, Part One," (blog), June 13, 2011,

32. Jonathan Gray, "The Use Value of Authors," Spreadable Media extended book,; Amanda Lotz, "What Old Media Can Teach New Media," Spreadable Media extended book,

33. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 35.

34. Ibid., 291.

35. Henry Jenkins, "Transmedia 202: Further Reflections," Confessions of an Aca-Fan (blog), August 1, 2011,

36. Jennifer Hayward, Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soaps (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997).

37. Spreadable Media,

38. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, iv–xv.

39. Henry did in his August 2011 blog entry:

40. Jenkins et al., Spreadable Media, 4.

41. Grant McCracken et al. "Listening and Empathy: Making Companies More Human," panel discussion, MIT Futures of Entertainment 6 conference, November 9, 2012,

42. For more on Ford's perspective on this, see his writing on big data: Sam Ford, "Technology and Humanity: Creating Cyborg Organizations," Fast Company, February 27, 2012,; Sam Ford, "Without Human Insight, Big Data Is Just a Bunch of Numbers," Fast Company, December 19, 2012,; Sam Ford, "In Marketing, People Are Not Numbers," Harvard Business Review, February 13, 2013,

43. Sharon Marie Ross, "Television's Invitation to Participate," Spreadable Media extended book, 2013,

44. John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 1989).

45. An Xiao Mina, "The Chickens and Goats of Uganda's Internet," Ethnography Matters, March 25, 2013,

46. For more criticism of frictionless sharing, see Robert Payne, "Frictionless Sharing and Digital Promiscuity," Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, January 31, 2014,

47. Robinson Meyer, "Everything We Know about Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment," Atlantic, June 28, 2014,

48. Carol Sanford, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011).

49. Christopher Weaver and Sam Ford, "Learning to Be a Responsible Circulator," Spreadable Media extended book, 2013,

8. Contributors

Paul Booth is Assistant Professor at DePaul University, where he studies fandom, popular culture, new media technology, and time travel. He is the author of Digital Fandom (Peter Lang, 2010) and Time on TV (Peter Lang, 2012), which focus on the ways new technologies intersect with fandom and television, and the editor of Fan Phenomena: Doctor Who (Intellect, 2013). He is currently working on a book about the intersection of media fandom and the media industries.

Kristina Busse is cofounder and editor of Transformative Works and Culture and coeditor of Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet (2006), Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom (2012), and the Fan Fiction Studies Reader (2014). Her work on media fandom has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Cinema Journal, Camera Obscura, and Popular Communication.

Melissa Click (PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Missouri–Columbia. Her research interests include audience and fan studies, as well as ideological analysis of popular culture texts. She is coeditor of Bitten by Twilight (Peter Lang, 2010). Her work has been published in Popular Communication, Popular Music and Society, and Women's Studies in Communication, and in New York University Press's Fandom.

Sam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement with Peppercomm, a research affiliate with Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT, and an adjunct lecturer with the Popular Culture Studies Program at Western Kentucky University. He is coauthor of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture and coeditor of The Survival of Soap Opera. He has written for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, BusinessWeek, and a range of other news and academic publications.

Henry Jenkins is the Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California and the founder and former codirector of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. His books include Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture, and Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the Literature Classroom.

Xiaochang Li is a PhD candidate in media, culture, and communication at New York University. She is currently working on a dissertation examining the history of predictive modeling within media and communications technologies, which she sometimes refers to as "that thing about autocorrect."

Sharon Ross is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Television Department at Columbia College Chicago. Her work includes Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet (Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), and she coedited Teen Television: Essays on Programming and Fandom (McFarland, 2008).

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258, is an online-only Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works. TWC is a member of DOAJ. Contact the Editor with questions.