What Is Media Convergence? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:04 What Is Media Convergence?
  • 2:39 Categories of Convergence
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Have you ever watched TV, surfed the internet, and texted a friend at the same time? Welcome to the world of convergence! In this lesson, you'll learn more about media convergence in all of its forms.

What Is Media Convergence?

Not so long ago, if you were going on vacation, you'd need to drag out a litany of devices and resources just to get you there and help you enjoy and capture all the best moments: a GPS for routing you the right way; a camera and camcorder for taking pictures and videos; a CD player (or, if you're old enough to remember them, a cassette player) stocked with all your favorite tunes; a book or portable DVD player to keep you entertained; and your wallet for purchasing mementos from your trip. Today, you need only one device: your smartphone.

Smartphones have rendered most of these other object obsolete, doing the job of—by some estimates—up to 50 different things in one portable, ultra-powerful package. This process in which some technologies are no longer useful and others are simply changed in the way we use them, is known as media convergence.

The smartphone has taken away the need to carry a camera and so much more on trips.
no need for camera on trips

Media convergence is the joining, or ''converging,'' of distinct technologies into one. It takes completely separate ideas and smashes them together, so that we're left with one big idea. Take, for example, the smartphone from the lesson's opening. The smartphone is the convergence of computing, communication, and content, frequently referred to in convergence theory as the three Cs. Now, one tool gives us the opportunity to communicate while functioning as a computer on which we view and share content, whereas before we would have needed multiple devices to accomplish each task individually.

But media convergence isn't only an end result like a smartphone, but also a process in how we create, consume, and distribute media. Think for a minute about how you found out about the latest big event in the news. Were you watching television? Reading a newspaper? Probably not. Most likely you were informed thanks to convergence, perhaps reading it on a social media feed on your smartphone as you commuted to work.

Media convergence has even changed the way we receive data. Instead of getting a news report from TV, we're getting that same report from a television station by way of the internet and social media, in particular. For people who work in media, convergence has changed the way they do their jobs. Instead of reporters simply writing a story to appear in tomorrow's newspaper, they're filming short video clips and tweeting about it, too—a smash-up of different digital technologies.

Communication and technology are just two of the areas where convergence has been impactful. Media scholar Henry Jenkins theorized that there are actually five categories of convergence that we see today.

Categories of Convergence

Let's take a look at the five categories of convergence.

1. Technological

This is a big one, and one we've covered a bit already. Technological convergence is the merging of technologies that allows us to access previously inaccessible technologies on one device. For example, you now have the ability to watch television or movies on your smartphones. You can also play video games, which previously were only available on a separate home gaming device. Now you can literally take your television, Blu-ray player, and Nintendo with you in your pocket.

2. Economic

Economic convergence in recent years has been most visible in company mergers. This type of convergence is apparent when small media companies are gobbled up by media conglomerates, creating a large organization whose media outreach spans multiple products or services. An example of this is Comcast Corporation/NBCUniversal, whose holdings include Xfinity (a cable and internet provider); Bravo (a television station); DreamWorks Animation (a film studio); the Philadelphia Flyers (a sports team); and BuzzFeed (an online commentary provider).

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