Online Relationships with Wrestlers

This piece goes to the work I am doing on convergent wrestling.

Writing back in 2006, Henry Jenkins discussed how convergence culture was allowing more fans to have more power. Basically, in this context, convergence culture is this idea that digital technologies like smartphones and the internet have blurred the lines between audiences and producers.

In the past, television and movies would separate out those who produce the media and those who consume the media; in other words, audiences would simply have to take what they were given, and they did not have much say over production. Since the rise of the internet, and especially social media, audiences do have more say: they can talk to producers before, during, and after a television show, or movie, or game, or whatever is produced. As Jenkins (2006) said, “Shows which attract strong fan interests have a somewhat stronger chance of surviving.” That means, if the producers listen to what the fans want, then their productions will do better. Or, at least, that is the idea.

Ten years later, Kresnicka’s (2016) writing reiterates this power of fans by relating it to the “digital empowerment” that has been happening in various areas of life since Web 2.0 and the emergence of social media. With social media, people can connect to one another, control what they consume, create their own content (and thus have their own voices heard), collaborate with others, and curate the information that is out there (dictating what is good and bad in the process). These 5 Cs (Pavlik & McIntosh, 2011) represent some pretty amazing powers given to “ordinary” people, taking away some of the power that had before just been in the hands of producers, politicians, librarians, teachers, and so forth. And this fundamental shift that has led to digital empowerment has been impacting the relationship between media producers, celebrities, and athletes, and their fans.

Let’s look at this in terms of sports – well, sports entertainment, or professional wrestling.

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The Pop Culture Lens on Prowrestling

The Pop Culture Lens is co-hosted by PWSA contributors CarrieLynn Reinhard and Christopher Olson. The podcast looks as past pop culture texts using different theoretical lens to discuss the text and its relevance. The podcast tries to translate academic concepts and theories into language everyone can understand and appreciate.

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Defining Convergent Wrestling

Professional wrestling has been criticized for its emphasis on the fiction of its entertainment rather than the reality of its sport. My partner, Christopher Olson (Seems Obvious to Me), and I argue that professional wrestling functions as a convergent media product, representing a vital text for examining the media landscape of the 21st century.

The true nature of professional wrestling is in how it combines fiction with reality; it exists at the intersection of different identities, realities and conventions, which can seem oppositional to one another. When examined through the convergence of different identities, realities, and conventions, the true dialectical nature of professional wrestling emerges. Professional wrestling succeeds because of its ability to converge these different factors into a coherent post-modern and polysemic text with which an international polyvalent audience can identify and engage. This post will deconstruct this nature of professional wrestling by considering the various factors that are converging to construct the texts, practices and experiences of sports entertainment.

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Smarks and Convergent Wrestling

As part of the project on understanding professional wrestling through the theoretical lens of convergence (i.e. convergent wrestling), I recently wrote out an explanation for how Christopher Olson (Seems Obvious to Me) and I see this concept of convergence being able to describe various aspects of professional wrestling.

Now, being that we are academics, one way we advance our scholarship and our knowledge is by attending and presenting at academic conferences. In order to test out this idea of “convergent wrestling,” we organized two panels that would bring together different researchers whose work on professional wrestling could be considered as using this theoretical lens. We presented the first such panel at the 2015 Central States Communication Association conference. At this panel, I presented this argument for seeing professional wrestling as an example of various convergences, as presented earlier on this blog. Along with my introduction to the idea, several researchers presented their analyses of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), its fans, and its business practices. With their permission, here are these presentations.

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