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20 March 2014

The social dynamics of crowdfunding: An ethnographic study of the crowdsourced movie Iron Sky (2006-2012)

Location: Meeting Room 10, 2nd Floor, JLB
Time: 12:30pm - 13:45pm
Speaker(s): Isis Amelie Hjorth

In 2010, the movie Star Wars Uncut (www.starwarsuncut.com) was the first user-generated production to win an Emmy award. Star Wars Uncut was a shot-for-shot remake of George Lucas’ famous Star Wars IV (1977) feature film, comprising 473 individual fan made sequences of 15-second duration each, produced by volunteer online audiences. Only a decade ago, film industry players and major studios were considered powerful gatekeepers impossible to circumvent, ensuring high barriers to entry, not least because of the financial capital needed to produce and distribute feature films. Since the advent of dedicated online platforms facilitating crowdfunding processes, however, amateur filmmakers have been able to raise significant financial means independent of production companies and national film funding agencies, disrupting the traditional value chain of the film industry. Taken together, these examples highlight the blurring of boundaries between formerly disparate aspects of cultural production: funding, evaluation, mediation, processes of actual production and those of cultural consumption. In this talk, I present an analysis of the social dynamics enabling the Finnish production team behind the production Iron Sky to raise almost €1 million through a diverse portfolio of crowdsourcing activities over a 6 year period. Drawing on the sociologist Bourdieu's theory of the convertibility of alternative capital (social, cultural, symbolic), I present three distinct models and mechanisms shaping the crowdsourcing practices in these virtual production communities, and account for the implications of each. Bio Dr. Isis Hjorth is a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) at the University of Oxford. She is currently working on the project "Microwork and Virtual Production Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia" investigating the economic and social implications of new forms of economic activities in the context of ICTs for development (http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/projects/?id=119). Isis is a cultural sociologist, who specialise in analysing emerging practices associated with networked technologies. Her AHRC funded PhD (Oxford), "Networked cultural production: Filmmaking in the Wreckamovie community", examined the division of labour and the social economies of crowdsourced feature films. Other recent research has focused on learning patterns in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) (http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/projects/?id=121). Isis holds an MSc in Technology and Learning (Oxford), and a BA and MA in Rhetoric (Copenhagen).

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