Dissertation Series: Introduction

An investigation into how audiences shape cultural objects,using social media to generate convergence andparticipate together in new ways







Why does it seem that it is necessary to have a Facebook or Twitter account, what exactly does social media really enable people to do, other than to ask your friends to go out tonight or to have embarrassing pictures of yourself made public. Social media in this context may appear trivial and at times pointless, but there is more to social media than simple status updates, and random bubbles of ‘followers’. Social media is increasingly used by businesses, community groups and even politicians to reach their potential voters and to promote themselves. In order to discover if social media is a powerful tool, we must first look at the relevant ideas and theories that attempt to explain how humans interact with the technology, and what the result of this interaction might be. In this dissertation I will explore how social media and the

people using it can transform and change cultural objects by converging and participating together, forming virtual communities. I will research how social media has changed the way communities and fan groups can communicate and how this interaction is affecting and shaping the way videogames are developed and merchandised.



Social media played a central role in the US Presidential election campaign of 2008, this role may provide some insight and answers for some of the aforementioned questions. There are several different key theoretical frameworks that are important as a means of examining the interaction between new (social) media technologies and human communities making use of it.  I acknowledge from the outset that a technological viewpoint alone would be inadequate for this research, as well as

human determinist outlook.  To uncover how people interact with technology, we look at how they shape and change each other through the process of interaction. To achieve these aims I will use case studies. I will look in detail at the election

campaign conducted by Barack Obama.  Secondly, the study will explore in detail the video game Team Fortress 2 (TF2) and how the relationship it has developed with its audience is very different to other videogames of the same videogame genre. The main focus of this study will be centered on social media elements and the important role they have played in each example. Currently the theorist with the most complete understanding of this field is Henry Jenkins. His work on participatory and convergence culture provides the best explanation of the trends currently being seen
in social media. Therefore, I acknowledge and draw on his theoretical framework throughout. This dissertation is organized in three chapters, a literature review, an exploration of participatory and convergence culture in society as seen by Jenkins. In the final chapter I explore this cultures and their effect on election campaigns and video games.