Last week, in part one of my interview with Henry Jenkins, we talked about how he and his coauthors came to write Spreadable Media and what it means that the "participatory culture" of the Web focuses so much of its attention on broadcast properties like Lost or, more recently, The Walking Dead. Today, in part two, Henry takes on some of the basic metaphors we use to describe the things we do online.
In the book, you argue that a number of the terms we've used for years to talk about Internet-related activities are in fact misleading and outright damaging. You object in particular to the infection metaphor of phrases like "going viral." Does this really damage the idea of participatory culture?
A key assumption in this book is that words matter, that the metaphors we use shape the assumptions we make and thus the actions we take, all the more so in the context of an emerging and still ill-defined phenomenon. We argue that the term "viral media" consistently strips agency from the participants within networks of circulation. Infection metaphors lead many to think of those who spread videos as the "unknowing hosts" who are acting "irrationally," and we think of the content as somehow "self-replicating."