Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Week 2 Seminar: Participatory Culture 101

Your core readings for this seminar are:

[X] Anita Blanchard, "Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project." Into the Blogosphere. Ed. Smiljana Antonijevic, Laura Gurak, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, and Jessica Reyman, 2004,, accessed 14 November 2004.

[X] Henry Jenkins, "Interactive Audiences?: The 'Collective Intelligence' of Media Fans" in Dan Harries (ed.), The New Media Book, (London: British Film Institute, 2002), pp. 157-170.

[X] J.D. Lasica, "Darknet mini-book: Introduction", "'Darknet' foreword" (by Howard Rhinegold), and "The teenage filmmakers" in Darknet: Hollywood's War against the Digital Generation. John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

The article by Henry Jenkins looks at interactivity and audience agency, giving a sense of where culture has been in terms of participation and ownership, and then looks to how culture is shifting facilitated, in part, by digital communication. Anita Blanchard's piece takes a more focused (and more sociological) look at a specfic blog and explores how a community can (or can't) emerge from their engagement around one blog. Finally, the excerpts from J.D. Lasica's Darknet look at what immediate changes and battles are happening in the Western cultural context due to immediate challenges made by digital communication and interaction tools.

While this seminar is meant as a general overview, you might want to keep these questions in mind when doing you reading:
[1] Is participatory culture a brand new idea, or does is have historical precedents?
[2] How are the terms 'ownership', 'community' and 'culture' actually used in these readings (and are these stable terms, or do they mean something different for each author)?
[3] How open and accessible is cultural production in the twenty-first century? What are the trends, and where do you think things are headed?


Blogger Hilary said...

I found a lot of what we discussed in the Seminar really interesting this week. Firstly, the Blog discussion and the notion of 'virtual communities' was very interesting in that our opinions and experiences brought up an important point about what a 'community' actually is to individuals. Blanchard produced some very clear definitions by which to judge whether computer mediated communication fitted the ‘community’ criteria. I think our discussion proved that this criterion does not suffice. Kaori mentioned that her use of msn, like mine, would clearly include what was considered a ‘community’ simply due to the emotional benefits and the ability to talk to numerous individuals at the same time through the software. The Blog that Blanchard chose was I think a weak representation of a Blogs potential in general to be a ‘community’. If she had perhaps used a few different ‘styles’ of Blog she might have found that they fitted her more ‘specific community’ criteria. Another point which I thought was valuable and emerged from our discussion was the idea that much of this criteria for judging online communication comes from real life situational analogies. Gwen, Liz and I brought up an instance which clearly identified that the internet and its various communications is far different than ‘real life’ scenarios.
The other interesting idea that came forward was the discussion on ‘intellectual property’ on the net and the idea of how new technology has allowed fans to produce and distribute fan works. I thought it was interesting that as Tama said, Lucas allowed (or was possibly forced to) accept that fan work, ‘troopers’ which it endorsed and put on its DVDS and then set up strict guidelines on fan works in order to allow fans to maintain interest etc etc. However, I thought the example rather defeated his previous point about the “Raiders” fan film and the reasons why this could not be included on the DVD. Maybe there should be some more formal guidelines set up in the legal system and arranged with members of the film community allowing fans to honour they favourite films through fan films and yet still keep within guidelines that allow respect for ‘intellectual property’ and copyright. Such as what was mentioned about the star wars fan film setup through atom, but on a larger more official legal scale. Maybe ideas such as this would also address some of the problems that Lassica was so concerned about in his ‘Darknet’ book.

Thu Jul 28, 08:11:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

I shared similar views with Hilary (hi!) that indeed virtual community is still an ambiguous term; despite all the research and the attempts to differentiate it from ‘virtual group’. However we did discussed that a sense of community normally involves the feel or ambience of being surrounded by other people, be them friends or strangers. The act of staying ‘connected’ and ‘reachable’ by other people (via MSN for example) can be an example of an active participation in a virtual community; even if they are not chatting or having a conversation.

Interestingly enough, I have a hunch that communities can be more transparent and hence easier to evaluate, in online gaming, particularly those that are Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) The most obvious similarity is that these games normally comprise of a virtual world. Gamers are logged into such world as a single entity, represented by an avatar that allows interactivity with other such gamers. The similarity does not end there. Gamers can never achieve god-like powers, and thus in order to truly explore such world requires them to mingle with others, form parties and guilds and mutual help.

Also personally from experience, the sense of community in such games had risen to such heights that a lot of people will log into the game just to ‘be there’ and talking to others, rather then talking using proper chatting programs like ICQ or MIRC. Weird huh? ;)

Wed Aug 03, 04:45:00 pm 2005  

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