When I typed in “convergence culture,” the guy that kept coming up as the expert was Henry Jenkins, author of the “Confessions of an Aca-Fan” blog above. After reading up on what “convergence culture” is, I thought to myself, “why haven’t I encountered this term before?” I had encountered the idea of analyzing non-traditional texts (such as YouTube videos and other entertainment “texts”) before, but no one had ever named it for me. Now I know.
Jenkins description in his “About” of the “Aca-Fan” as “a hybrid creature which is part fan and part academic” struck a cord. In my senior thesis class as an English major, all four of us could have called ourselves “Aca-Fans.” I wrote on my favorite series, history-mystery “popular” fiction series Brother Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters. Casey wrote on The Dark Knight and the character of the Joker. Although Liz and Hannah took slightly more traditional routes (Ron Rash’s “literary” novel Serena, and Alice in Wonderland), they still chose those works in part because they enjoyed them. Discovering a term for us is vindicating of our work.
Switching gears a bit…
The above video, although not a “remix” in and of itself, relates because of the beginning. Heather Dale, the artist, behind the song “Mordred’s Lullaby,” released an mp3 album called “Perpetual Gift” last year (2012), called so because Heather gave full permission for downloaders to give the music away freely. The mp3’s were live versions of both previously released and new songs. “Mordred’s Lullaby” receives my special attention here because in the “Perpetual Gift” recording, Heather discusses the song’s popularity as the background music for “fan videos” of all sorts, saying, “I’m really thrilled that my art is inspiring their art.” Rather than clinging to her rights to the music, Heather Dale actually encourages her fans to incorporate her work into theirs, and an album like “Perpetual Gift,” which is given freely to be used freely, is a clear manifestation of that encouragement.
The below video is actually a mashup of “Mordred’s Lullaby” with the BBC series Merlin. This combination is fairly common on YouTube, but this particular one is a little unusual. The television series does not tell the same story as the song (in the song, Morgana is Mordred’s mother; in Merlin she is not), but most mashups use the characters as themselves (Arthur as Arthur, Morgana as Morgana, etc.). This one employs other characters as older versions of the main characters (for instance, Merlin‘s “Uther” is the song’s older Arthur), prompting the video creator to explain the “casting” in the About section beneath the video. As someone familiar with both Merlin and “Mordred’s Lullaby,” I needed that explanation in order for the mashup to align well enough for me to “follow” the combined story. Viewer familiarity with the sources prior to watching the video could actually have been a hindrance to understanding the mashup, one of the potential disadvantages of mashups (at least compared to a wholly “original” work).
Personally, I enjoy mashups (as long as I “get” what’s going on), so I approve of artists “approving” the use of their work in them. Artist approval (which Creative Commons licenses facilitate) really can be very much an inspiration.