A Cyborg Anthropologist’s Journey to MIT

I wanted to write about this before, but I had to wait until everything was secured and verified.

In September, Steve Gehlen invited me to speak about Cyborg Anthropology at Inverge: The Interactive Convergence Conference on September 5th of this year. The conference was a refreshing and entertaining look at where entertainment, art, culture, business, and social media are going. The keynote was Joshua Green of MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium.

After Inverge, Joshua and I compared theorists and research, and had a great time socializing along with all of the other conference attendees and speakers. A month later, Joshua informed me of a conference at MIT called the Futures of Entertainment, and wondered if I would be interested in being on a panel on social media. He said that my analysis and understanding of both the academic and corporate world would provide a useful bridge between two separate fields.

Convergence culture has moved swiftly from buzzword to industry logic. The creation of transmedia storyworlds, understanding how to appeal to migratory audiences, and the production of digital extensions for traditional materials are becoming the bread and butter of working in the media. Futures of Entertainment 3 once again brings together key industry leaders who are shaping these new directions in our culture and academic scholars immersed in the investigation the social, cultural, political, economic, and technological implications of these changes in our media landscape. This year’s conference will work to bring together the themes from last year – media spreadability, audiences and value, social media, distribution – with the consortium’s new projects in moving towards an increasingly global view of media convergence and flow. Topics for this year’s panels include global distribution systems and the challenges of moving content across borders, transmedia and world building, comics and commerce, social media and spreadability, and renewed discussion on how and why to measure audience value.

I very carefully prepared two forms of submission — one on Cyborg Anthropology from the academic perspective, and another from the business perspective.

However, I feel that what I am doing pales in comparison to the accomplishments of those whom I will be participating with. I am both honored and overwhelmed by this opportunity. I hope to be able to add value to some aspect of the conference.

I’ll be participating on the social media panel, which is described as follows:

“Moving lives online, creating conversations across geography, connecting with consumers – how is social media defining the current entertainment landscape? As people not only put more content online, but conduct more of their daily lives in networked spaces and via social networking sites, how are social media influencing how we think of audiences? Video-sharing platforms have changed how we think of production and distribution, and Facebook gifts point to the value of virtual properties, how are these sites enabling other processes of production or distribution practices. Spaces where commercial and community purposes intertwine, what are the implications for privacy, content management, and identity construction of social media? How have they impacted notions of civic engagement?”

Conference Attendees

Kim Moses – Executive Producer, The Ghost Whisperer, Lost, Medium, Yochai Benkler – Harvard Law School, The Wealth of Networks (Yale University Press), John Caldwell – UCLA, Production Culture (Duke University Press), Henry Jenkins – MIT, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (NYU Press), Alex McDowell – Production Designer, The Watchmen, Kevin Slavin – Area/Code, Sabrina Caluori – Director, Marketing and Promotions, HBO Online, Grant McCracken – Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture (Indiana University Press), Donald K Ranvaud – Buena Onda Films, Amanda Lotz – University of Michigan, The Television Will be Revolutionized (NYU Press), Gail De Kosknik – UC Berkeley, How to Save Soap Opera: Histories and Futures of an Iconic Genre, Joe Marchese – socialvibe.com, Amber Case – Cyborg Anthropologist and Social Media Consultant, Hazelnut Consulting, Mauricio Mota – New Content (Brazil), Alisa Perren – Georgia State University, The Media Industry Studies Book (Blackwell Publishing)….more.

Steve Gehlen, Paige Saez (on a grant from PNCA) and Kris Krug will be flying out to join me at the conference. In case you’re in the area too, the conference information is as follows:

MIT’s Futures of Entertainment 3

Friday, Nov 21 8:30a to Saturday, Nov 22 8:30a
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Wong Auditorium, Cambridge, MA


A great big thank you to everyone in the Portland Tech community for being supportive and welcoming of interdisciplinary thought. Special thanks to Joshua Green and Steve Gehlen.


Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and New Media Consultant living in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

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