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DIY Days with Henry Jenkins: If It Doesn't Spread, It's Dead

03.20.12 @ 1:00PM Tags : , ,

We’ve covered DIY Days a little before, mainly because our own Koo was one of the speakers at the recent New York event. DIY Days for those who don’t know is basically a gathering of creatives and focuses on the future of media and sustainability for those who create it. This presentation from Henry Jenkins was recorded at DIY Days in Los Angeles back in October, 2011.

Here is a description of the presentation from the DIY Days website:

Distribution has historically described a process for spreading media content which is top down, planned, and controlled and which independent filmmakers had trouble entering. Circulation refers to an emerging, hybrid system where the spread of media is partially shaped by the authorized and unauthorized behavior of consumers. What new opportunities does this still evolving world of spreadable content pose for those who create media outside or on the margins of the established industry? How can indie media makers more effectively court online communities who may be invested in their work? And what is the value of sharing content rather than seeking to tightly control its afterlife?

The full video presentation from Henry Jenkins:

Here are some highlights from the video:

  • People are more engaged when they can participate and claim ownership
  • Unauthorized distribution can help the product (constructive) vs Piracy that exploits the product (destructive)
  • Independent artists: obscurity is more of a problem than piracy
  • There are bigger audiences than ever before, but building a market for our products is less guaranteed than it ever has been
  • People who engage in something small like kickstarter are more likely to engage in a larger social media campaign sometime in the future

Though it feels a lot like some Communication Theory classes I’ve had, it’s an extremely informative presentation and it brings up a lot of interesting points. As I said before, we really need to have conversations about piracy, and I particularly like that Jenkins makes a distinction between unauthorized distribution and piracy. There is a fine line between constructive distribution and destructive distribution, and independent creatives need to explore ways that they can engage audiences through constructive distribution. We need to find ways to give that audience an opportunity to take ownership. Transmedia is at the forefront of this process, and many of its ideas are based around getting the audience engaged and letting the work spread organically through ownership.

As he says in his talk, the biggest problem that independents face is obscurity. Getting noticed is actually more of a problem than having our work pirated, so our conversations as independent creatives should focus on how unauthorized (constructive) distribution can actually help us in the long run, rather than on how we can tightly control our work from being shared.

Link: Henry Jenkins – DIY Days

[via Sheri Candler @shericandler]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 10 COMMENTS

  • Great piece — relevant, important, good stuff. The Film Collaborative has good resources at

    • I agree, The Film Collaborative is a fantastic source of information for independents.

  • I have great respect for Jenkins. I got into him and his work while working on my bachelor thesis on Transmedia Storytelling. He’s got a massive understanding on the way media should be spread nowadays, and how interaction with the viewership works, the way I see it. Always interesting to listen to him, thanks for this, Joe.

    • That’s pretty interesting that you got a degree in Transmedia Storytelling. I have to imagine that’s a bit like film school was in the 70s, where it’s a relatively new subject for schooling, but it’s right at the cutting edge.

  • If it doesn’t spread it’s dead? Oh, my! I guess films on itunes have no future! And what about cable VOD? That content doesn’t spread either! It just sits there! And what about this new film “The Hunger Games”? It just sits in theaters on an 80 foot screen and doesn’t spread anywhere? That thing is doomed! I guess there is no future for filmmakers unless they post their films on youtube for free! Thanks Henry Jenkins…we’d be lost without you!

  • Russell Steen on 03.28.12 @ 12:47PM

    A USC professor extolling the virtues of the Occupy Movement is enough of a disconnect to explode my head. Every film crew member in Los Angels joked USC meant University of Spoiled Children, and if I’m not mistaken, it is the most expensive Film School on earth. Funny, because this lecture is sort of like film school on a No Film School website, but please take that as amused and not upset or angry. My experience is that those who do quality work and have the determination to pick up and go on when knocked down will not only succeed, but last. If you create quality entertainment, or in the case of No Film School, a valuable resource for information, or a really good piece of equipment, you’ll find demand for your work and generate income as long as the marketplace is free. By the way, without a free market there would be no such thing as independent films. If Dr. Jenkins wants to redristribute wealth, I wish he’d send me a check. I have five kids and I can’t send them to USC.