Collaborative Networks and the Franchise

collab

CC image courtesy of Official GDC on Flickr

Derek Johnson’s Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries delves into many different aspects of franchising, recognizing the roles that political economy and cultural studies have played in analyzing the reproduction of shared culture through these franchises. I think what I am most interested in looking at in terms of franchising are the roles of collaborators in the creation of the franchise and its surrounding paratexts through networks. There are the more old-school networks of creation like CBS and NBC which distribute content over their broadcast networks (Johnson 16). But more recently there has been more of a focus on online media:

“Networks have attracted attention not just as means of delivering content digitally, but as social relations shared by users that can support collaborative, peer-based content creation… as an emerging alternative to industrial modes of production” (Johnson 16).

These collaborative networks can operate similarly to the the broadcast networks in the creation of and sharing of content. Peer-based collaboration can encompass a vast number of people globally who together, or separately, create content. This content, when using the shared cultural products of franchises, becomes itself part of the franchise and part of the franchise’s paratexts and/or transmedia. These networks of people, sometimes fans (and sometimes maybe not), have the power to produce culture through the acquisition and subsequent alteration of resources, which are then shared and once again exchanged for further collaborative alterations.

Looking at these collaboration communities:

“It is not direct interaction that defines the industrial communities engaged in and to some degree constituted by media franchising, but instead the communicative exchange and use of shared cultural resources” (Johnson 16).

computer

CC image courtesy of Official GDC on Flickr

The collaboration networks, which are now primarily seen in online settings, do not rely on face-to-face interaction to be successful in cultural production. They do not need direct interactions in order to be successful. The most important aspect of these communities is seen in the sharing of their cultural resources in order to continue on with the production and reproduction of cultural materials.

In recognizing the importance of cultural exchange in these collaboration communities, I would like to bring up the role of fan creation and fan power in the altering of these resources and the creation, and re-iterations, of paratexts relating to the franchise. In any fandom, fans play a large role in cultural creation, whether these creations are recognized as part of the “official” culture or not.

In my multimodal project for Digital Culture last semester, I examined the paratexts of The Hunger Games franchise, and in one section I analyzed the role of fans in the creation of franchise paratexts. In that section, I used a fan-made parody trailer as an example of a fan-created paratext that was able to reach a large audience (1.3 million viewers), demonstrating the notion that even unofficial cultural products can be part of the franchise culture. This spoof trailer was purely orchestrated by a collaboration fan community, but their production was able to be shared with an audience. This audience was most likely an audience that was already familiar with the franchise, allowing this cultural product to become part of the franchise.

cosplay

CC image courtesy of davidyuweb on Flickr

Johnson asks “who has the power to produce culture [and] in what ways” (10)? Media conglomerates are not the the only ones who hold the power of creating part of the franchise culture anymore. Fans in the age of the internet have a growing power over the creation of franchise cultural products, using the power of collaboration and exchange. Fans have the power to create and add to any number of products from movie posters to parody trailers to fan fiction to fan sites, etc. Although these fan-made cultural products do not necessarily hold the same weight as the official ones, they still can have an influence on the fandom.

I see the production of these cultural fan-made products as very important to the overall cultural production of media franchises. Their participation in the fandom culture is an important and essential experience of being an active fan. As the primary viewers/readers/consumers of the official franchise, the fans should have a say and should have the power to add to and collaborate with the existing cultural products as an integral part of their experience as fans in the overarching fandom.

Johnson, Derek. Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries. New York, NY: New York Univ., 2013.

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