What Is Participatory Culture? Henry Jenkins

I was introduced to Henry Jenkins’ work by my MAEd supervisor at the time, Andrew Manning. Dr Manning shared with me Jenkin’s book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era and encouraged me to read it which I did. A couple of years later Jenkin’s concept of participatory culture made it to my Master thesis and since then I have read several of his works. 

Mr Jenkin’ s insights in the area of emerging technologies and media theory have immensely shaped my own views regarding our interaction with these technologies. If you are doing or planning to do research on a topic  related to media literacy, media theory, or  emerging technologies, Mr Jenkin’s work is a must read. 

What is participatory culture?

Participatory culture is a concept popularized by Henry Jenkin through his many books. The participatory and collaborative nature of emerging technologies is what provides the hatching environment for the uptake of this concept. The internet and the new media technologies have introduced a new type of content known as user-generated content, one that is freely produced by users from all around the world , voluntarily, and with no control from traditional gatekeepers. This collaborative and shared practice of knowledge production and sharing is at the core of participatory culture. In participatory culture,  users are free to express their artistic talents, share their creations with others, and engage in various collaborative and creative practices. 

To learn more about the concept of participatory culture and how Henry Jenkins theorized  it in the context of the new media landscape, check out this collection of his books:

1. Participatory Culture in a Networked Era: A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics, by Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito, danah boyd 

Participatory culture in a networked era

Participatory Culture is a book Mr Jenkins co-authored with two other leading scholars in the field: Ito and boyd. Participatory Culture is an exploration of how emerging technologies have shaped our personal as well as professional lives. “Stressing the social and cultural contexts of participation, the authors describe the process of diversification and mainstreaming that has transformed participatory culture. They advocate a move beyond individualized personal expression and argue for an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself.”

2. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, by Henry Jenkins 

Convergence culture

Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide is a book about how media and technology are changing the way we think, talk, play, work and buy. The book examines convergence from a range of perspectives – legal, industrial, economic and cultural – revealing how far-reaching these changes are. This is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding contemporary culture and the future directions of media.

3. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford , Joshua Green 

Spreadable media

Spreadable Media discusses how user-generated content introduced by the web technologies has transformed media landscape. Established corporate control that used to mark the pre-Internet era is diminishing giving rise to a crowd source participatory culture. The authors also “The authors challenge our notions of what goes “viral” and how by examining factors such as the nature of audience engagement and the environment of participation, and by contrasting the concepts of “stickiness”—aggregating attention in centralized places—with “spreadability”—dispersing content widely through both formal and informal networks. “

4. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, by Henry Jenkins

Textual poacher

“Supplementing the original, classic text is an interview between Henry Jenkins and Suzanne Scott in which Jenkins reflects upon changes in the field since the original release of” Textual Poachers. A study guide by Louisa Stein helps provide instructors with suggestions for the way Textual Poachers can be used in the contemporary classroom, and study questions encourage students to consider fan cultures in relation to consumer capitalism, genre, gender, sexuality, and more”.

5. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, by Henry Jenkins

Fans bloggers gamers

“Bringing together the highlights of a decade and a half of groundbreaking research into the cultural life of media consumers, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers takes readers from Jenkins’s progressive early work defending fan culture against those who would marginalize or stigmatize it, through to his more recent work, combating moral panic and defending Goths and gamers in the wake of the Columbine shootings. Starting with an interview on the current state of fan studies, this volume maps the core theoretical and methodological issues in Fan Studies. It goes on to chart the growth of participatory culture on the web, take up blogging as perhaps the most powerful illustration of how consumer participation impacts mainstream media, and debate the public policy implications surrounding participation and intellectual property.”