I'm a text guy, a loving diviner of the messy complexities of the formal object--whether a novel, a pop song, a photo, a film. I get kicks from hermeneutics.
And I found my pleasures amplified when, in grad school, I began digging around in what goes into shaping that text (ye olde production questions) and who and how it gets read, viewed, used (ye olde consumption questions).
But even with these new factors added into the interpretive calculus, too often ideas about meaning tended to collapse into rigid schools of thought, banked on rigid foundations in one of those elements. Production trumped all (the text as commodity, the reader a dupe), consumers triumphantly made hay with the stuff of the market (and reworked anew, again and again, great art), and so on. I caricature here--there are obviously a lot of great, contradictory, hotly-debated nuances and parsings. The calculus of interpretation remains more algebraically open-ended than geometrically precise. (And thank god.)
Which is all a longwinded way to introduce how Jenkins--in this as in other works--kind of blows my mind by really, really, *really* thinking with astonishing creative rigor about how the social act of meaning-making occurs out there in the world. His point in this work seems to hammer home a thesis developed through much of his criticism: those old neat boundaries (production, text, consumption) mean little now, maybe never meant as much as we thought but especially not now. He's not merely a new-media cheerleader, and he's far from the gloomy critical pessimist, and he's never less than fascinating about subjects (Survivor message-boards and spoiling, the duelling and divergent attempts to control the fan-fiction readers/writers of Harry Potter) I might not normally give a whit about.
And his last chapter, on the convergence of popular and public culture in the 2004 election, outlines how our theories and understandings of how people engage with(in) these new media/cultural worlds are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible. It's prescient stuff, reading his take on 2004 when we're knee-deep in 2008's election.
Really dug this.