Kurt Cobain Converses: Cool or Creepy?

From the Internet Nirvana Fan Club comes exclusive news that Converse will launch a Courtney-sanctioned Kurt Cobain sneaker. This is not part of its forthcoming Dead Alternative Guys Converse Century Icons line:

While the Converse Century campaign is also using images of several other artists, such as Ian Curtis, M.I.A. and Hunter S. Thompson, who they are calling Converse Century Icons, the Cobain is not one of these “icons.”

If there is one thing I have learned about fandom that I didn’t know before starting this blog it’s how rich and serious the world of sneaker fandom is. My posts about the effort to get Nike to make the sneakers from Back to the Future II seem to have the most longevity of them all.

So I get the appeal, and yes, Cobain was totally identified with his Converse shoes.

But am I the only one who so vividly remembers the photograph of the suicide site where all of him that you could see was the bottom of his legs and his Converse sneakers? Part of the reason he’s so identified with those shoes is that he killed himself in them and in that iconic picture those shoes were all that was left.

It just seems a little sick to exploit it with targeted niche marketing for the “punk rock means freedom” demographic. But maybe that demographic doesn’t remember what a punch in the gut it was to first see that photograph.

Update: Quick scan o’ the web shows a lot of moral indignation and outrage from Nirvana fans and other observers. Not sure what the sneaker fan perspectives are.

MIT’s Convergence Culture Consortium

In 1992 when I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation about rec.arts.tv.soaps, the Usenet fan group that talked about soap operas, I was told to get ahold of Henry Jenkins, who had just finished a book about fandom. Henry was generous enough to send me the page proofs of the not-yet-released Textual Poachers, to read my work, and to provide encouragement.

I knew he was destined to be one of my favorite writers and thinkers when I got to the chapter (#2) about “how texts become real,” and saw how he used the relationship between a boy and his favorite stuffed animal in my favorite children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit (a story that moves me to tears every time I read it, and which I can get choked up just thinking about) as a metaphor for the fan/text relationship.

In a child’s room, the stuffed animals that look the best are the ones that haven’t been loved. The ones that have been loved the hardest are all beat up. It’s a brilliant way to think about how very critical fans are, yet how the “damage” they do is evidence of the depth — and magically transformative potential — of their love.

All of which is a very roundabout way to provide some deep background for how pleased I am to now be a “consulting researcher” with the Convergence Culture Consortium Henry’s put together at MIT. Many regular readers of this blog already know C3, but those who don’t will recognize many of my core interests in how they describe their focus:

The logics of convergence culture are quickly becoming ubiquitous within the media world. Audiences are being encouraged to participate in a wider range of sites, transmedia principals are being adopted by content producers in a broad range of fields, and ‘engagement’ is being discussed as crucial to measurements of success. Housed within MIT’s uniquely cross-discipline Program in Comparative Media Studies, C3 has the experience and expertise to help make sense of the interplay between media platforms, media producers, and media consumers. These elements interact dynamically with each other, reshaping the contexts of consumption and generating new trends in the process. C3 extrapolates the insights gained from studying these leading sites of cultural consumption to understand current developments and future trends.

C3 researchers seek to answer the following questions:

  • How has the intersection between old and new technologies affected the ways people consume entertainment, relate to branded content, and experience mediated culture?

  • How can the behaviors of bleeding-edge media consumers (such as fans and brand enthusiasts) inform us about new ways to engage more general audiences?

  • What new methods and models can be used to build lasting emotional connections with brands? (e.g. product placements, advergaming, and viral marketing)

  • How can content producers adapt to the global environment entertainment content circulates within?

  • How can content producers be prepared to respond to newly emerging events and a rapidly changing media landscape?

  • Where do companies “cross the line” in their efforts to attach themselves to particular entertainment franchises through product placements and tie-ins?

I look forward to the opportunity to talk more and work more closely with all the researchers involved in the consortium.

Quick Richard Thompson Followup

The other day I wrote a post praising Richard Thompson for encouraging the voices of his fans rather than just steamrolling them with his own. The post was inspired by the performance I’d seen him give the night before. [and two Davids left really interesting thoughts about how it plays out in academia]

Within 48 hours, I was getting incoming hits from his official website, where someone had found my post and added it to the list of concert reviews posted on the site. For the last week it’s been the top source of incoming traffic to this blog.

I was awfully impressed that someone behind the scenes at an official site was actively scouring the web for fan responses (I assume it’s automated, but still) and updating the website that quickly. Exemplary behavior! How neat to be brought into his dialogue without even targeting a message directly to him. It makes me want to say everything I said in that post all over again.

Kind of funny though since it wasn’t really meant to be a “concert review.”


p.s. sorry about the flaky site performance. My web hosting service, Dreamhost, has been misbehaving these last few days. I’d change providers but am not convinced others are better for a small scale operation such as this. Opinions?

Mesh Conference in Toronto May 21-22

I’ll be speaking this spring at Mesh, “Canada’s Web Conference” as part of a panel looking at the increasingly blurry boundaries between public and private. Today they launched registration. Here’s how they describe Mesh:

mesh-logo.gifCanada’s premier Web conference, being held in Toronto on May 21st & 22nd, 2008, is a chance to connect with people who are as excited about the potential of the Web as you are — people who want to know more about how it is changing the way we live, work and interact with the world. And you won’t just connect with them in the hallways — at mesh, every panel and workshop is interactive.

The Web is disrupting virtually every industry and marketplace. mesh is a chance for you to hear real-world examples of how the Web and social media are affecting you as a marketer or public relations professional, as an entrepreneur or investor, as a member of the media or just someone interested in the world around them. Share your insights and learn from those of others like you at mesh.

The evolution of the Web as a social medium is dismantling old business models, but it is also creating new ways for us to communicate, collaborate, entertain and inform. At mesh, you will hear from people who are using these tools in creative ways. We believe that by connecting and sharing our ideas, we can help inspire each other to do something great, whether it’s running a startup or building a community.


Among the other speakers are two people I’ve long been following: Ethan Kaplan, CTO for Warner Brothers, and founder of the hugely successful REM fansite Murmurs.com is one of the keynoters. He was one of the first people I interviewed when I started this blog, and he is a great exemplar of how the internet provides fans a platform that can reshape fan/label relationships (see, for instance, the keynote I gave at the Norwegian music conference by:Larm).



I’m also looking forward to seeing Michael Masnick speak — his Techdirt blog is by far my favorite source of insightful technology news analysis. Somedays I think I could lazily write half of this blog by pointing to his coverage of the music industry and saying “what he said.” I expect to learn a lot from all the speakers and those who attend, and really look forward to being there myself.


Why I Haven’t Been Blogging This Week


Back next week!