Before starting the BCM112 subject I was very naive; just your average consumer. I may have asked questions about the media or the content that I was absorbing but not in the way that I do today. I wouldn’t have been too bothered going out of my way to investigate what other sources had to say about a particular topic. It’s funny really, because I’ve always been a relatively curious individual – it just didn’t extend to the media. Don’t be concerned though, since starting this subject I have grown increasingly curious about the media and communications and I’ve quite enjoyed exploring each week’s topics.
During the sixth week, my attention was drawn to citizen journalism and produsage. I was particularly interested in this topic as I never considered how much online content is user-led or the importance of produsage and citizen journalists. I was new to hearing these key terms but I can now say that I’m a proud produser, evidenced through my contribution and interaction within the blogosphere.
The most recent topic, identity-based discrimination online, led me to focus on women and the harassment in which they endure. Being a female, believing in equal rights and treatment – I found this topic particularly interesting. This topic didn’t change my way of thinking nor do I think it will change the way I act online but more simply, I found it appealing to engage with because its relevant to me and my gender.
I’ve been reading my peers blogs in conjunction with academic readings and attending tutorials and lectures to gain an understanding of various perspectives relating to the same issues. Subsequently, I’ve become a more active member of the audience, evidenced in my contribution to the blogosphere and my way of thinking about the media and approaching it, has been transformed significantly.
I’ve grown up to know no other world, than one with the internet. Throughout the continual advancements and improvements of technologies, software and the evolution of the internet – cyber bullying has always been a prevalent issue. Despite campaigns and education against cyber bullying, attacks only seem to have gotten worse – becoming more frequent, personal and sexualised.I believe social media is to blame for a great deal of this online bullying and trolling; it has opened a new window to unleash negative behaviour and online abuse.
The online abuse that women receive is particularly gendered, sexualised and threatening – even more so if the victim is believed to be a feminist. Women who work in a traditionally male field or women who work at all, are apparently exceptional targets. ‘Standard’ online abuse include sexually demeaning comments, threats of rape, violence, death and malicious damage to personal possessions and harassment such as, criticism of their physical appearance. Sexualised comments attempt to remind women of their secondary status whilst street harassment acts as “a reminder that they do not have the same right as men to move through the public space” (Filipovic 2007). Comparatively, men do not receive the same sexualised or gendered online abuse, as women do. Instead, men are generally attacked for their ideas or behaviour.
There’s a difference between criticism and slander that in most cases, seems to be understood when commenting on a man’s profession, persona or content creation – this understanding appears to be abandoned when talking about women. In order to enjoy the internet and all that it has to offer, we need to respect the views of others, and provide criticism and credit where it is due.
The notion of Clicktivism has surfaced with the popularity of social networking sites and a more participatory culture online that embraces produsage. Engagement with new forms of media – particularly that of social networking, has led youth’s to become, or at least believe that they’re becoming more politically active. Most who claim an association or involvement with political activist campaigns, such as KONY 2012, tend to be under informed on the issue(s) that they declare to support.
KONY 2012 was a 30 minute video that reached more than 100 million viewers in the first week alone. It was created by a human rights organization – Invisible Children, and aimed to raise awareness about the children soldiering in Uganda. This campaign, like many others spread via social networking, received a massive response and incredible support. However, many of those who watched the KONY 2012 video automatically donated their support, based solely on the information that they had just received. In observing the reactions of people that were my ‘Facebook friends’ – it was evident that there was little to no scepticism or critical thinking employed – they just absorbed the information and accepted it as a horrific truth that might ‘go away’ if they shared the video or purchased KONY 2012 merchandise. “The film drew sharp criticism from many established human rights groups and Africa experts” (Jenkins 2012) and most of those that I know, just like many other supporters, “lacked the information and skills needed to defend their position in the face of… scrutiny” (Jenkins 2012).
Clicktivism has the capacity to raise awareness about political issues, however, content circulated via social media often lacks the substance necessary to inform those who to engage. Although many lack the skills and competencies needed to meaningfully participate and engage with the issues – creating awareness is a great place to start.
Society has seen a massive shift in the culture of mashups. From the music mix tapes of the 70’s and 80’s that illustrate technologies limitations of that era – to the malleable nature of media technologies that we know today. Through technological support individuals can come together and amalgamate their ideas, resources and circulate the results more easily with the aid of social media and the World Wide Web. This adding, editing and creating of content is the work of produsers and citizen journalists. The results – their materials are more accessible, via the internet, often cheaper and at times more reliable than traditional media’s.
The current mashup culture exemplifies today’s participatory culture whereby the individuals who interact with online content are no longer just users or consumers but also producers of content – produsers. They are merely “part of an ongoing stream of content development and content improvement” (Bruns, 2010). The notion of content improvement and development suggests that there is already established material(s) in existence that is being manipulated and mashed-up to create a new, improved or different subject and/or perspective.
Let’s examine the art of DJ’ing, which I find to be the most obvious example in the mash culture. It seems as though the desire to DJ is constantly increasing – probably because the resources are more accessible and easier to operate than before. Using various different sounds and music that have been previously recorded or produced and new age technologies, DJ’s redesign, manipulate and mash up the material to create something new. The mash up culture is a model of convergence as music, information and other content is reshaped and shared in a way that was once impossible.
A transmedia narrative is one fiction that has been dispersed over several media channels to form a coherent whole. This process of scattered information means that there are more entry points into a fictional story or world, whether it is through books, online gaming, movies, figurines etc. Multiple entry points can potentially attract different audiences based on their media interests, thus providing a variety of ways for audiences to engage and immerse themselves in the narrative.
Take Harry Potter for an example – one of the most popular transmedia narratives in the world. It all started with the books but eventually expanded across multiple media channels in order to appeal to a larger audience. The increased dispersion of the narrative creates a multidirectional flow of content that breeds connection, interaction, community and excitement thus enticing people to connect with the narrative.
Transmedia narratives represent the notion of collective intelligence through sharing ideas that add value, excitement and further develop the fictional world. In a lot of cases these fictional worlds exist in some way outside the media channels and within the ‘real world’. Speaking in terms of Harry Potter – there is an entire theme park dedicated to Harry Potter and on a smaller scale – just the other night my university accommodation campus held a Harry Potter themed scav hunt.
Media convergence evidently plays a large role in terms of transmedia narratives and the success that they have become. If it weren’t for convergence, Harry Potter and other narratives may never have expanded beyond a few books and movies. Instead we see how interaction between individuals, communities and their collective intelligence has extended far beyond the limitations of traditional media.
Social networking sites, like most online content, are somewhat tailored to appeal to a certain demographic or particular audience. However, the number of these online environments that operate under little corporate governance is ever-increasing. Subsequently online content is created through produsage which is simultaneous production and usage. This means that content creation is largely user-led and new information is increasingly being reported by citizen journalists.
Wikipedia is a prime example of produsage. Unlike traditional encyclopaedias whereby the information and distribution is controlled, Wikipedia is continuously changing and evolving. The existing content may be accessed and modified by anyone and the most recently edited version of the content will be displayed. Similarly, LinkedIn adopts a produsage rather than traditional model of production. The social networking site demonstrates produsage as users create their own content through the construction of their profile, the content they’ve chosen to display (that may be updated regularly), ongoing interaction with other users and engagement in groups and the blogosphere. Linked is a platform whereby adequate governance exists and produsage is maintained at a relatively intellectual, articulate level. I believe the main demographic of those who access and contribute to the platform is reason for this.
The internet and society should embrace produsage and citizen journalists. It is through these notions that collective intelligence is developed which triggers interaction, engagement and ultimately connectivity between people and their ideas.
How does convergence affect the relationship between media technologies and audiences?
Once upon a time the media was entirely monologic; a one way street of information travelling from the producer to the audience. Subsequently, the audience stuck on the receiving end are left with little opportunity to respond or react to the information that they’re being spoon fed. Examples of monologic media include newspapers, TV broadcasts and radio; of course over time these platforms have become slightly more interactive. For example, the comparison of radio today and radio a few decades ago… nowadays the listeners can call or text in their stories and opinions, tweet and even post on the radio’s webpage. Convergence is to thank for these improvements in such media platforms, opening a channel for communication between the audience and the media technology.
Obviously, the continuous nature of convergence hasn’t stopped there. The internet, dialogic by design, creates an open channel for conversational flow between the technology and all its users (the audience). Everyone wants to be heard and the internet is a free platform where people can participate in conversations and broadcast almost whatever they want to the world.
Using LinkedIn, members can broadcast themselves to a large audience in way that they never have been able to in the past. They can showcase their skills, experience and endorse individuals rather than writing up a formal recommendation. Professionals may either post or answer other member’s questions in order to demonstrate their professional knowledge… and much more. Audiences who engage with this social networking site cannot be categorised as the traditional audience of passive consumers but rather as prosumers who actively engage with the online platform. As a result of convergence, the notion of a participatory culture is encouraged through social networking sites that facilitate mobilization, dissemination, civic engagement and coordination.
Convergence has improved the relationship between the audience and LinkedIn by creating an online atmosphere that invites individual expression and involvement.