Futures of Entertainment Conference Examines the Entertainment Landscape

Futures of Entertainment 2006

MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program co-hosted a free public conference on Nov. 17-18 with the Convergence Culture Consortium, one of the program’s research groups.

The Futures of Entertainment brought together a variety of speakers from throughout the media industry in a collection of five panels which were focused on the futures of television, user-generated content, transmedia properties, fan cultures and virtual worlds.

Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics, joined Big Spaceship CEO Michael Lebowitz and Ice Cub3d Studios founder Alex Chisholm (who is co-director of the Education Arcade at MIT) on the transmedia properties panel. He said that he found the time he spent at MIT that weekend to be invaluable and attended not only for his panel but a variety of the other speakers.

“One of the most interesting—and challenging—aspects of the media world is how technology is changing storytelling’s venues and opportunities,” he said. “It was fascinating to listen to diverse experiences, interpretations and prognostications of those changes at MIT this weekend.”

‘Unique Perspectives’

The first panel of the conference on television futures featured FlatWorld Intertainment founder and Smallville writer Mark Warshaw, CBS Senior Vice-President for Digital Media and CBS News General Manager Betsy Morgan, GSD&M Planning Director Andy Hunter and Forrester Research Vice-President Josh Bernoff.

Warshaw said that he wanted to speak and spend two days at MIT for the chance to engage with others, from both within and outside the media industry, about the questions raised by the various panels.

“I was interested in coming to MIT for the exchange of ideas,” he said. “There is so much change occurring right now in entertainment, and the unique perspectives the conference assembled truly helps to illuminate this mysterious and exciting new landscape.”

Hunter said that understanding and working with perspectives from throughout the media industry is essential for a time when the technologies and business models are in flux.

“With the disruption happening throughout the media and entertainment world, working your ‘niche’ and sticking to what you know just doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “Getting the perspective of others from varied expertise and opening up a collaborative dialogue works to everyone’s benefit, including those speaking at the event. It’s a tremendous opportunity to apply new thinking to our business.”

The free-and-open-to-the-public conference had to close registration a month early due to strong interest not only from students and faculty at MIT and throughout the Boston area but from students and faculty, industry representatives, reporters and entrepreneurs from all over the world.

The conference audience provided a nice mix of academic and industry perspectives.

For instance, Jesse Walker covered the conference for the Reason Foundation.

“A jargon-dense question from a grad student at Brown, complete with at least two references to “late capitalism,” was followed shortly by a query from a man employed by World Wrestling Entertainment,” Walker wrote. “At the Friday night reception, I found myself seated between an officer in a small gaming company and an anthropologist studying Firefly fans. A couple chairs down was a fellow journalist—she was interviewing people for Spellcast, a podcast devoted to the Harry Potter fan community.”

Also, Rachel Clarke came to the conference from the United Kingdom and live-blogged the event on her site Licence to Roam.

I helped live blog the event on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog.

Sam Ford

About Sam Ford

Sam Ford is Director of Cultural Intelligence at Simon & Schuster, a ViacomCBS company, as well as a research affiliate with MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and a Knight News Innovation Fellow with Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Previously, he was VP, Innovation & Engagement, with Univision's Fusion Media Group; a director at strategic communications firm, Peppercomm; and a co-founder and project manager of the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium. He has consulted with a range of companies and projects in the media and marketing industries, academia, and the non-profit and public sectors. Sam is co-author, with Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green, of the 2013 NYU Press book Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, and co-editor, with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington, of the 2011 book The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era. Sam lives in NYC, with wife Amanda and daughters Collins, Harper, and Emma. More at his site. Thesis: As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture


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