Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CORE RESPONSE: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Media Convergence

According to Henry Jenkins in The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence,the new consumer is active,” “migratory, showing a declining loyalty to networks or even media,” “more socially connected,” and “noisy and public.” (37 - 38) No where is this idea of the new consumer more readily apparent than in relation to the popular web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a video-blog adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride And Prejudice, but it is so much more than that. It is the winner of the Creative Arts Emmy for Original Interactive Program, and the Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Interactive Media Peer Group. It is also a multi-platform serialized storytelling experience. 

According to a press release, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries consists of “over 150 video episodes across five different YouTube channels with over 9.5 hours of video – amassing over 40 million views.” The series is a popular success that engages its audience through the use of social media sites, books, and interactive videos. Not only can you tune in to Lizzie’s weekly vlog, you can also follower her, and other characters on Twitter - not follow the show, but follow the actual characters in the show. Lizzie also responds to actual viewer’s questions on the vlog after every ten episodes. 

The press release goes on to describe the integrative experience: “Transmedia elements provided parallel views of events across 35 social media profiles and created a unique bond between the characters and the audience. With over 200,000 subscribers, 800 pieces of Lizzie-inspired fan fiction and a whole world of web art, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has inspired a passionate, engaged following.” 

Like game companies such as Riot Games, producers of one of the internet’s most popular games, League of Legends, who holds contests for user-generated videos, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has “seen the value of constructing, rather than shutting down, fan communities around their products and building long-term relationships with their consumers.” (40) The shows producers recognize that viewers posting gif sets from the show don’t encroach upon intellectual property, instead, they build, encourage, and reward the dedicated fandom. 

Jenkins said, “For the foreseeable future, convergence will be a kind of kludge – a jerry- rigged relationship between different media technologies – rather than a fully integrated system.” (35) I would argue that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has found a way to integrate that system with their cross-platform use of Youtube vlogs, books, and social media. 

With the success of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it would seem that the future that Jenkins predicted is here, and it’s working. 

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