Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Week 12: Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow

Welcome to your final seminar for iGeneration! This week we've got two large case studies and three short(ish) articles to look at. The first case study focuses on the citizen media responses to Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath mainly from US commentators and mainly from a left-wing perspective. There are lots of links in the five-part Aftermath post, but have a look at as many as you can. The second case study is (shock, horror) looking at the way the film Serenity was marketed and promoted both from the production side and by fans. Read "That Serenity Post..." first, and then take a look at the other media listed (one produced by fans, one by Universal). Finally, you've got three readings which will help us sum up the course (a few questions about these are below).

Case Study I: Citizen Media Responses to Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath
[X] Katrina: The Aftermath, The Politics & Citizen Media [Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV] [Part V]
[X] Kayne West Political Mashup: "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" by The Legendary K.O.
[X] George Bush Don't Like Black People: The Music Video

Case Study II: Citizen Media/Fandom & Finding Serenity
[X] That Serenity Post...
[X] The Signal Podcast (listen to any episode, or part of one at least)
[X] Fifth & Final Serenity/Firefly Viral Movie Clip: Session 416, First Excerpt (watch at least one of the clips)

The Final Readings
[X] Sonja Haller, "iPod era of personal media choices may be turning us into an iSolation nation", The Arizona Republic, Sept. 12, 2005.
[X] Danah Boyd, "remix is active consumption not production", apophenia, October 08, 2005.
[X] Chris Anderson, "The Long Tail", Wired, 12.10, October 2004.

Some Questions to Think About for the Seminar:
[1] Is participatory culture, mashing up and citizen journalism really all that new? What does Danah Boyd think?
[2] Does participatory culture online offer a wider world of individual choice and expression or is it being subsumed as a marketing model? What does the selling of Serenity tell us? How different is the producer-released material (or "guerilla marketing" stuff) versus fan-created cultural items (the "grassroots media)? Should we fear "astro-turfing" (the attempts by big media to manufacture a fan 'buzz' where one does not already exist)?
[3] Does the Long Tail reflect a more dynamic system of media, consumption and production or it is just capitalism finally figuring out the internet?
[4] Finally, how large a role do you think citizen journalism and citizen media will play in the next ten years? (Why?)

Final Blog Post:
When you make your final reflective post this week, can you please also comment on the course as a whole: did it work as a coherent unit for you? What worked best? What didn't work? Any suggestions about things that should be changed?


Blogger Hilary said...

I take it our comments for this seminar go here...but do you want our final reflections to be in seperate posts on the blog, or here in the comments?

Wed. Oct. 19, 06:01:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Tama said...

All comments, reflections, suggestions for change are welcome here! :)

Wed. Oct. 19, 07:32:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Hmm, ok thinking over todays seminar.
The Long Tail is an interesting effect, that is definately far more economically viable on the net. However, as Tama said, it will no doubt have an effect on copyright law and could give reason for its further extensions. However, I don't really like to be so pessimistic as that, and one would hope with the amount of lawyers in America (where I expect most of this would be argued out) to also argue from the angle that copyright can be modified and changed in the same way as we see varies on the Creative Commons copyright licenses. This could then hopefully account for copyrights which either need to expire, or those that need to be kept in order for the original producer to benefit from the long tail effect on their product.
Grassroots journalism- From what we have seen of the Katrina coverage, it can both have negative or positive results. Yes, it can spark action due to its use of alternative sources and information channels other than the big media conglomerates. People can critique the US governments poor handling of the situation, and as we discovered, we can have access to footage that would previously be cut off (such as the George Bush dont like Black people comment which was aired on the east coast since it was live, but not on the west). Then again, there is also the potential for quite negative and not constructive politically commentary which can be given far greater circulation due to the nature of grassroots.
In general, I stick by my original summary in the seminar, that participatory culture has the potential to take old media to the next level. Technology is changing literally every minute, there are more possibilities and at times culture and media are falling behind and not taking advantage.
Its the classic "Move with the Times" saying. And I think this move will be prompted by grassroots activits and other forms of participatory culture we have studied in this course (such as mashups/blogs/gurillamarketing/wiki's /podcasters etc). I think its these actions, and the people who will reform traditional views. Its to hard for these changes to start at the top...because those at the top are the 'best at their field' etc, and have no doubt spent a long time doing whatever their profession is. They may in fact be to close to the situation, and too immersed in traditional see the benefits of new changes.
Its everyday people, who are reacting directly to new technology and how it may affect their lives. And these are the people who will use it for greater inclusion in the production of culture and its consumption. People have increasingly become more active in their consumption of much so, that it is inevitable they will make the transition into production, which is what is occuring today as we speak.
ANyway....this is what will make the major cultural producers sit up and take notice, and pick up on the need for change and updating old systems. These old systems wont simply be chucked to the side and forgotten, that would be silly. They have afterall worked and succeeded for a number of years so they must have something going for them. No, they will just be adjusted, improved, reformed, and take advantage of new technology thats on offer.

Change is HERE!

Wed. Oct. 19, 09:01:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Ok, so in conclusion of my conclusion of the course.
I really enjoyed this unit as part of the Communications side of my honours program.
Why you ask?
Because it was well organised, and I had a clear idea of what I was learning and what I was expected to do.
Every seminar was engaging, and the readings were all interesting. Wats more, they were clearly connected to each seminar topic, and even when we were learning about something I had no knowledge about previously, I found I developed a understanding of the topic.
I loved using this blog, and it offered the opportunity to talk and continue ideas after the end of our two hour session. Which, I feel is often not enough to really get into a subject.
I also felt that the blog allowed everyone to have a say, and also FORCED everyone to talk and engage with an issue in some form or another if they were too reserved in the seminar.

My only negative comments, and even then they arent actually negative are these:
I think we should of been introduced to podcasting earlier. The podcasting seminar should have been kept before the midsem break (regardless of when the person presenting wanted to have it) because it naturally gave us some background info on what our major assessment is all about.
I know the podcast and audacity was mentioned...but you know what students are like...we often dont think til we need to.
So maybe in the week before the mid sem break, we could of had our 'podcast concept' meeting and also an hour session in the mac lab looking at audacity.
Other than these minor points, which are simply teething issues for a first time seminar I give a 90% thumbs up.
I do hope that other students have the opportunity to do this unit, as I found it thought provoking and intellectually stimulating. Plus, thoroughly enjoyable.
(naturally if my podcast turns out crap...I might not like it so much :P) *jokes*

Wed. Oct. 19, 09:11:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

When I say 'Wat' I actually meant to type 'What'

Thu. Oct. 20, 10:00:00 am 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Suuure you did Hilary. We no wat ur like *immature sniggering at own sad jokes*

But seriously.

I agree that the Long Tail offers an interesting perspective upon copyright law. When the monetary value of any one product may be peaking much later than expected, or not peaking at all, but continuing to hold a constant rate of profit over time, the idea of shortening copyright life is unlikely to attract any takers among those holding the corporate strings.

At the same time, I believe allowing greater usage of copyrighted products, (by fans, artists, etc.) may in fact increase the staying power of the particular materials within the Long Tail. For example, you might have a TV show, such as Firefly, which, for whatever reason, doesn't do so well when first released. Acknowledging the presence of a Long Tail demand and allowing fans to appropriate the material in various ways will give positive reinforcement to the fans and increase their likelihood of maintaining an enduring fan base over time. Perhaps it isn't a matter of length of copyright, but the extent to which copyright can be loosened in response to an increasingly participatory audience culture. It is, after all, the audience who ultimately control the success of any product.

In reference to Hilary's point that change will have to come from grassroots movements rather than the "top" of the power pyramid, I agree. I would now like to refer to the film Strictly Ballroom. Please stay with me, it was the last text we studied in my Australian Cinema class and it's themes are still ringing in my mind. For anyone who hasn't seen it (and you should), it is about the struggles of a young ballroom dancer to dance his own steps, rather than the strict regulation steps of the ballroom officials. I found it portrayed the difficulties of change very well, the desperation of those "in charge" to prevent change in order to preserve their own position of power. A world where information is free and available for everyone to access and use however they wish not only removes much of the income of big companies, but questions the hierarchical ideologies upon which they are based. There is bound to be more conflict before things get better, and I think they will.

In relation to citizen journalism, I still think there is going to be a backlash against "amateur" sources and reporters. It seems inevitable that someone is going to report inaccurate information in a serious case, as foreshadowed by the Hurricane Katrina case study. Everything will balance out in the end, but not before more trouble.

Sorry to inflict doom and gloom, but I say it's better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised than expect the best and get a nasty shock... So can you tell I'm doing my podcast?

Fri. Oct. 21, 09:39:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

OK, summing up the unit. I also liked the seminars, they covered a lot of information and I thought the discussions went very well. I liked the way the blog supplemented seminar topic discussions and fostered our very own "online community." Always good to have some practical experience of what you're talking about. Even though we had no idea what the unit was even called when we signed up, I haven't been disappointed at all.

And yes, if my podcast also turns out crap I will rethink my remarks. Heh. Right now it's sounding like Days of Our Lives on crack so the chances are pretty high ;)

By the way, if Andrew cruises by, I'd like to know what you have decided to do... hopefully a Lara Croft intro audio, eh? Can't wait to hear them all, it's going to be so hilariou.. I mean.. really educational :)

Fri. Oct. 21, 09:58:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Oh.. and yes. Audacity seminar sooner in semester. Only real criticism.

Fri. Oct. 21, 09:59:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Gwen, I like the way you phrased that comment on the Long Tail/Copyright.

I havent seen strickly ballroom. But yes, people at the top never want change, unless its the kind of change that directly involves them getting more power...(Reminds me of Gladiator).

See, you knew WAT I mean't ;)
BTW, if your podcast sounds like Days of Our Lives on Crack, you will be guarenteed one listerner for sure...haha...just for the comic value ;)

I've officially come to the conclusion that my voice sounds horrendous on audio!

Sat. Oct. 22, 04:40:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Me too. I sound really bored and sarcastic, even when I'm trying to be 'excited'. Kind of like Eyore. I think if I did a 'borecast' for people to play in bed at night I could cure all the insomniacs.

Sat. Oct. 22, 06:20:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

I'll do something different and try to think of how long tail came about eh?

Long tail....fancy word for the 'underdog' stuffs. Perhaps they are doing so well because everyone(maybe) is so sick of the popular stuffs. There will be times that people will want a change, a great change! You can see it happening now. Flimsy podcasts, yet have its charm. William Hung? Go figure.

Since everyone is using a movie as an example. I'll use one as well, mainly 'the ugly duckling'. Yessssss, the longtail can be the ugly duckling, deep tresures hidden underneath those dark muddy stuffs? Do some careful rummaging and u might reveal some funky beautiful swan (i.e good stuffs)

Okay....not sure if that makes any sense...but moving on!

citizenry journalism. Technology will allow an even bigger doorway for curious bored citizens to attempt their life long dream of being a journalistttttt! Yes very fascinating. ;P

Sun. Oct. 23, 12:45:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

Here's wat i think about this unit.

Classes are engaging, since its so small, everyone HAVE to chip in ideas to keep the ball rolling until the class finish. So yes, keep the class small :)

The readings was great, since they are interconnected in many respects, hence an easier grip on issues at hand.

blogging is a nice addition. It acts as a permanent(?) archive for wat we discussed earlier on the semester. It is also one of the only tool that I can think of that wasn't too rigid. Not sure if its meant to be, but having occasional dilberts, movies, games, pictures posted up is a nice change, compared to the other mundane units that i'm doing.

Podcast, I agreed with Hillary that it should be introduced WAY earlier in the semester. Given that its a 50% assignment(ack!), there should be alot more emphasis on it.

Gwyneth, It will be so funny to have my voice as lara croft. But then again, prior to the release of the actual movie (the one with angeline jolie) lara in the games doesn't actually talk. (its one of those game that is short on storyline and more on mindless gun-totting) perhaps some grunts and puffing and ouching sometimes, but no voice really. Having a squeeky lil voice will surely change player's perception on her eh? not so sexy anymore i'll bet! :P

Sun. Oct. 23, 01:00:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

You are probably right Andrew:)

By the way if anyone is interested... I just saw on Lateline that those guys who made the full adaptation of the Indiana Jones movie are in Australia doing showings of the movie, details at But guess what... not coming to Perth. Yeah it's a big desert. Real Indiana Jones could make it though!

Tue. Oct. 25, 12:08:00 am 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

I've only just noticed other people have pics next to their names. Now I have picture-envy.

Tue. Oct. 25, 12:10:00 am 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

Its alright. i don't have a pic either ;)

low profile is good

Tue. Oct. 25, 12:47:00 am 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

I really enjoyed the Kayne West Political Mashup: "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People"! It is always amazing how creative people around the world come up with amazing for me, I had never listened to a music that was designed to convey a certain message...probably except for "We Are the World" by Michael Jackson...:( As for citizen journalism, I understand many people are fascinated by the concept that us citizens can take part in actually creating the the form of blogs etc., but as Gywneth mentioned in class, you don't really know where they are coming from. They can lie all they want, pretending the information to be true! But again, because of the rapid pace in newsreporting nowadays, the sources that the professional (or traditional) journalists use might not have gone through enough check-up't know what to trust:( Well hopefully the two types of journalisms will be a good stimulus for each other and they will co-exist in an ideal way!

Thu. Oct. 27, 11:55:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

As for the whole unit, I really got a lot out of it. Had it not been for this course, I would never have known about the very existence of blogs, the concept of citizen journalism, how big participatory culture has become, the special characteristics of wikipedia, and last but not least, the podcast. It was fascinating to come to know and listen to different opinions about these phenomenons which are gaining momentum each day! I thoroughly enjoyed creating my podcast; it meant a lot to me:)

Thanks everyone!

Fri. Oct. 28, 12:03:00 am 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

Phew! I just read everyone's comments and feel the pressure to come up with something just as insightful as what I just read (and no, I'm not being sarcastic). I have a dissertation meeting now but I promise to make my mark on this blog asap! I have really enjoyed this course and will express that properly when I have more than five minutes to do it!

Fri. Oct. 28, 12:51:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

do you have a picture?
You could put pictures up? its only something you do on your profile page thingy.
just use a site like this:
to host an image of about 100x100 dimensions from your own computer, and then copy the link to that image into your profile page where it says something about having a user image.

Thats a bad explanation I know, but I'm sure you can understand if you put your mind to it...unlike me in this explanation :P

Fri. Oct. 28, 05:38:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

Aaah... but what picture would I use Hilary? As you've probably noticed from my way of discussing stuff in our seminars and on this blog, I find it very difficult to commit to anything concrete without attempting to also state that there are 1 million other possibilities out there! If I leave my pic option blank I feel I am acknowledging this. Either that, or I'm overthinking this explanation and just haven't gotten round to it yet.

Anyhoo, how to sum up my thoughts on this course, where to begin, what pop culture references to use? hmmm...

Well, I now feel less intimidated by new media technologies and am thinking of starting a blog (or livejournal Hilary!:), which is quite cool considering I didn't know what they were 6 months ago. I've had the good fortune to be acquainted with new net resources which serve as first-ports-of-call in finding stuff I'm interested in on the net eg. Wikipedia, podsafe music network. I've had my mind blown wide open by the possibilities of new technologies and the extent to which they have already affected our lives and the way we consume cultural products. ('Products' sounds so cold, doesn't it?)

The new modes of creativity that participatory culture relies on have been hindered to an extent by rigid copyright law which grew out of a time (as Lessig talks about) when new media technologies and their potential could not be accounted for. Commentators like Henry Jenkins discuss how fans use new technologies to actively engage with and expand a pre-existing narrative universe (like that of George Lucas' Star Wars.) By creating new films, podcasts, animation etc from well-loved and usually widely known texts, fan culture encourages the discovery of new creative tools, creates a motivation to test (and thus push forward) the boundaries of new technologies, fosters creativity and allows artistic work a better chance of being viewed by a net-audience due to its association with a pre-loved mythology.

Lessig in his net-book "Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity" and Lasica in "Darknet Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation" identify the shifting boundaries between 'Big Media' and the new consumers/producers as creating a high stakes struggle which demands all the rhetoric of battle. Jenkins explains this struggle as being tied to the human desire to tell stories about heroes. Now, instead of having oral folk stories delivered to a small circle around a campfire or what have you, we can recreate the epic battles from Star Wars in our living rooms and share them with interested parties around the world. Rather than words being sent out into the air and revisioned and retold and passed around through oral storytelling, we make them concrete souvenirs of our experience of a story and share them through ejecting them into cyberspace. Jenkins says that the motivation is the same. Lessig states that Big Media copyright laws are becoming increasingly restrictive on this process because of the perceived threat it poses to the integrity of the original creative work and the potential for profit within the new horizontal structures of consumerism that new technology creates in the first place. While copyright law is seen as necessary and unavoidable, the debate exists that Hollywood's increasing scope in relation to fanfiction, films etc could strangle the process of engagement that is pivotal to the continuing evolution of participatory culture.

(I haven't finished with my thoughts on the course yet, I'll be back to continue this in a sec. And hopefully I'll use less words.)

Sun. Oct. 30, 05:41:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

Enter Creative Commons Licensing, which attempts to provide a solution to the difficulties of asserting authorship in cyberspace without compromising the fluidity of cultural products in the new creative atmosphere. I think our seminars on copyright were a great way of introducing us to ideas on the malleability of information in the new media environment and how participatory cultures' evolution can be affected by laws which attempt to govern the processes involved in borrowing from pre-existing media texts. These discussions served to help elucidate the particular challenges, relating to copyright and authorship, that different new media technologies were faced with over time, as we discovered in each new seminar.

I agree that the citizen journalism question is a tricky one and I think, when debating this topic, it's important that we make a distinction between first-hand, eyewitness testimonies on net (and the often understandably unabashed emotionalism that accompanies them) and efforts at journalism, which is the attempt to make and communicate the 'meaning' of an event to a society/community, to impose a framework on different experiences of an event and decide on a way to read/interpret/explain/ contextualise it within a particular discourse maybe. I think citizen journalism will work as an accompaniment to big media, as perhaps another watchdog, another way of providing checks and balances and of redirecting emphasis etc. But the debate about the reliabilty of professional vs. citizen seems to come down to questions of authorship and accountability. If a newspaper or TV station stuffs up, they are usually held accountable for their errors and, as a result, less likely to make them. On the net, there is often no way of knowing the source of a piece of information and no particular institution to hold accountable if an error or untruth has occurred. The lesson seems to come down to: QUESTION EVERYTHING! when it comes to journalism, whether Big or citizen.

Mon. Oct. 31, 05:17:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

I think machinima and podcasts have great potential as new creative forms. I don't yet think they will overtake radio, TV, animation and commercially-produced film as the mainstays of entertainment but, as the technology advances and they become easier to use and access, they could grow and grow and grow.

The Long Tail is cool and seems to have the potential to revive interest in cultural products that were thought to be forgotten. The net, and all the variability it allows, can be used as a means by which to create emphasis on, as well as access to, issues/products that may have been lost in Big Media space.

I really enjoyed doing this unit because I honestly didn't have much of a clue about the ideas, communities, technologies and spaces we were exposed to prior to this course. My mind has been totally blown open and I feel like I now have the tools to actively participate in, and make sense of, this thrilling new digital world.

Mon. Oct. 31, 05:35:00 pm 2005  

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