Published in the Los Angeles Times
Can a bench tell a story?
Professor Henry Jenkins raised this topic in his very first class at USC three months ago.
The benches refer to advertisements for "District 9" placed at bus stops nationwide, with the tag line "Bus bench for humans only," playing on the science-fiction film's apartheid allegory. Jenkins argues that the benches are also examples of "transmedia storytelling," the topic of the course and a reason why the media scholar moved to USC after a high-profile run at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"I spent the first 20 years of my academic life at MIT in the midst of the digital revolution, and I thought it would be fascinating to spend the second 20 years in Hollywood, observing the other side of the equation," he says. Jenkins -- officially the provost's professor of communication, journalism and cinematic arts -- researches how audiences engage with media through the Internet, fan fiction and video games. In books such as "Textual Poachers" and "Convergence Culture," he delves into various audience subcultures, from heated online forums that try to predict the winner of "Survivor" to "slash fiction" stories that interpret "Star Trek" characters as bisexuals. He is writing a book on "spreadable media," touching on phenomena like Susan Boyle and Twitter as a protest tool in Iran.