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A Tale of Two Cultures: Participatory or Passive
Q: The Citizen Audience appears to be growing and much has been written in your text and elsewhere about citizen journalism. How does the concept apply to other fields and how does it manifest in the likes of “citizen filmmaking,” “citizen games development,” “citizen public relations,” or “citizen advertising”?
A: The citizen audience is an umbrella term, used to encompass all active consumers in a knowledge economy. According to Burns and Gillmor, a citizen journalist can be defined as an audience member who partakes in the most basic form of digital, self-publishing (as cited by Sue and Cathy (2011)). Citizen journalists do so to tell news stories without limitations or restrictions placed upon them by institutions.
As a consequence, Jenkins (in Miller, 2011) asserted that a particular culture can be generated which is based wholly on participation. This is defined as a ‘participatory culture’ where consumers actively engage with information that they can then diffuse to other readers. Without new media, consumers would have assimilated such content passively. Furthermore, through citizen journalism, the once passive audience members can now write, publish and disseminate their own news stories through blogs, a really simplified syndication (RSS) feed or networking channels.
Interestingly, it is not just journalists citizens can become through online new media but a variety of other roles also. Through blogging, users can think, type, upload and disperse their thoughts, reviews and opinions. With the aid of a microphone and/or camera, users can now broadcast themselves to the masses regarding topics of their choosing and consume the same when time suits them. Furthermore, users can take a step further and showcase their own video blog, or vlog, through the internet for the world to see and consume in their own time. New media can give consumers unprecedented access to self-expression, rivaling traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television respectively.
It is worth noting that this conglomerate of users, producers and consumers can be branded collectively as not just citizen journalists or citizen games developers etc but as a ‘citizen audience’. The citizen audience itself will forever expand as more and more people connect online.
Through this, online collaboration can explode and expand to reach a variety of publics from all walks of life. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt instigated a collaborative online movement for creative minds from all over the world to come together and create. What is produced is uploaded by one person, downloaded by another and ‘remixed’ to enhance it or create something new. This epitomises the ideological framework surrounding a participatory culture.
In addition, citizens can create games also. App developer kits released to the public allow almost anyone with enough technical knowledge to produce their own games or utilities for smartphones around the world. Though, bigger companies such as London’s Media Molecule set out to create a game with 30+ original levels, giving players the ability to create the rest. LittleBigPlanet ended 2009 with over 1, 000, 000 user created levels, with that number doubling in the following year. Presently, LittleBigPlanet2 (marketed as a platform for games) has over 3, 000, 000 user created levels for players to download, play, share and diffuse.
It is movements such as these, which some theorists suggest may lay the foundations for the next logical step in online usage: Web 3.0. Kroeker (2010) stressed the need for interlinking personal data that would develop a customisable web for users to interact with. As consumers (now “produsers”) contribute to the web as a whole, the idea of collective intelligence is revisited. Interlinked ICTs can allow many people to grow by “expanding the extent of human interactions enabled by communications networks that can generate new knowledge” (Flew, 2008, p21).
Conversely, with the rise of internet users in tandem with the increasing range of channels through which people can express themselves, it is unlikely the citizen audience will slow nor cease. Potentially, the citizen audience could pose a threat to already established, traditional media institutions as news stories can be broken by anyone with a camera, instantly and uploaded uncensored. As to whether this is positive or negative is yet to be seen. Regardless, the journalistic skills used by citizens of the Middle East in early 2011 proved to become a force not to be reckoned as the world followed Twitter’s every tweet.
Apple. (2011). Tips for podcast fans. Retrieved from: http://www.apple.com
Bakalar, J., Stein, S. & Ackerman, D. (2011). LittleBigPlanet2 Redefining replay value. Retrieved from: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105- 20028831-1.html
Blight, G., Pulham, S. & Torpey, P. (2011). Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.
Bruns, A. (2009). From prosumer to produser: understanding user-led content creation. Transforming audiences. Abstract retrieved from: http://eprints.
Flew, T. (2008). New media: an introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press
Gilbert, B. (2009). LittleBigPlanet hits one million user-created levels. Retrieved from: http://www.joystiq.com/2009/07/22/littlebigplanet-hits-one- million-user-created-levels/
HitRECord. (2011). HitRECord. Retrieved from: http://hitrecord.org/
Kroeker, K. (2010). Engineering the Web’s Third Decade. Communications of the ACM 53(3). p16-18. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from http://kroeker.
Miller, V. (2011). Understanding digital culture. London: SAGE Publications
Perona, M. (2010). LittleBigPlanet: Sack it to me – the “ZOMG, two million levels!” edition. Retrieved from: http://blog.us.playstation.com/2010/02/26/
RAWStifer. (2011). I LOVE HARRY POTTER [youtube videp]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCyoyIm07Sk
Sketchcaster. (2007). RSS for the masses [youtube video]. Retrieved from http://
Sue, R. & Cathy, D. (2011). Citizen journalists and their third places. Journalism studies 12(5). p642-657. doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2011.557559
Wikipedia. ICT. Retrived from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_and_
Wikipedia. Web 3.0. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_3.0#
Wordpress. (2011). Home. Retrieved from: http://wordpress.org/
Worldometers. (2011). Society and media. Retrieved from http://www.worldo
Leicester Strike March
On 30th November 2011 thousands lined the streets of leicester in protest of the Government’s public sector pensionc cuts. Here is a short clip of a few people I spoke to.
#SOPA is being voted on now.. I’ll keep you guise updated.. if you don’t update me first. Reports are saying that twitter was shut down this morning I dont know how long but it had to do with #NDAA. This might be one of the saddest days in American history.. We were citizen journalists, bloggers, human rights activists… now we are wanted, now we are war criminals, now we are terrorists. I truly hope that I am misinformed and being overly dramatic.. either way enjoy this song, whilst you still can.
Occupy Oakland's New Media Star
While Mills, 29, claims to hate being called an Occupy celebrity — “it gets in the way of my reporting” — in the space of little over a month, he has become a phenomenon, perhaps the most well known of a new class of citizen journalists rising to national attention through their coverage of the Occupy movement.
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We're Not So Anonymous
Some governments are requiring Internet companies to collect more data and keep it for longer, said Katarzyna Szymielewicz, executive director of Poland’s Panoptykon Foundation, which campaigns for human rights in light of modern surveillance.
“Government agencies throughout the world are pushing companies to collect even more data than is needed for their business purposes,” she told the conference.
“For example, we have a very controversial data retention regime which is currently under review. This requires people to store data for a period up to two years so it can easily be accessed by law enforcement agencies.”
The ease and cost of surveillance are at an all-time low, Soghoian said, with Google charging an administrative fee of $25 to hand over data, Yahoo charging $20, and Microsoft and Facebook providing data for free.http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/30/us-internet-security-idUSTRE78T2GY20110930 <— whole article
Google Transparency Reports are http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/ here
So, how long until we hear that knock on our door. Race and religion won’t be the deciding factors anymore. Intelligence and bravery will. If you’re too smart, too fearless you are a threat to them. Disable the GPS in your electronics, there are plenty of instructables and tutorials showing you how to do this.
The Citizen Journalist
Due to social media the news industry has changed dramatically. Online publications are beating out print publications. This has lead many to believe that print journalism is either dead or dying.
Another change in the news and journalism industry is the difference between traditional journalists and citizen journalists.
Blogging and microblogging sites (Tumblr, Word Press Twitter, Facebook,) have opened the floodgates to multiple opinions.
Erik Qualman author of Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms The Way We Live And Do Business states that, “power is being transferred more and more to people via social media mechanisms.”
Defining a citizen journalist is quite difficult, there are many different definitions. A suitable definition of a citizen journalist is “someone without professional journalism training that uses tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others.”
twitter blogs & revolution
Twitter, Blogs & Revolution
Use of the Internet has been a breeding ground for new trends in global communication with a particular boom in the last decade. One can video chat, call landlines, exchange photos, download applications, listen to books, rent movies, and a long list of other innovations on the way humans interacted, but did anyone think the Internet could be a center for social movement? Social movement can loosely be defined as any ‘group of people with a common ideology aiming to achieve certain goals’, hence it’s a natural conclusion that the Internet be a fulcrum for ideological aggregation. The Internet has a global reach which diffuses information at a rate massively higher than any magazine, manifesto or pamphlet could, and in countries where oppressive governments suffocate the media, the Internet has proven itself an efficacious outlet for those who would be persecuted for speaking out. That is when social movement can become coined as cyber dissidence.
Many movements, from revolutionary to reform to literary, were able to exist and expand due to widespread publishing and word of mouth dating back to centuries where pervasive media were more or less non-existent. A much abridged history between the advent of the printing press and modern use of the Internet would demonstrate the increased need/desire to communicate, the only means for which subsisting in newspapers, radio and television. When all of human knowledge is being devolved by the means of one to three media, one can imagine how much of it is being left out—not solely for its immensity—but for reasons of censorship, media monopolies, propaganda, controls, etc. Without digressing into who controls what appears on TV, who publishes, how fast information is relayed (or delayed) to the public, a decision concerning the content of the “news” is always made. There is someone behind every newspaper, every television newscast, every radio program who has someone behind him or her who is deciding what is on the front page, what gets more coverage, what will be heard and what will be suppressed—which means there is always going to be bias, censorship, control of the masses in mainstream media.
Then out of nowhere arises a broadcasting entity which has no Rupert Murdoch, Silvio Berlusconi or Vladimir Putin—the Internet. For the first time ordinary citizens have a chance at achieving the same transmitting power as large production companies, with a greater appeal to the suspicious reader: unregulated information which cannot be contained. “The sheer pervasiveness of the Internet makes it impossible for even the best-intentioned of regulators to keep out” (Economist) but “it cannot be regulated” (Reagle).[i] The interface of the Internet morphs with social trends at a rate with which governance could never keep up with absolute confidence in its control. The Internet can be (trivially) compared to fashion in this sense; the savvy younger generation decides what is ‘in’ and what it ‘out’ while the old men in Congress have not the slightest inclination about the next trend; they will finally be outlawing lipstick without knowing that the deciding folk have already thrown out their lipstick for lip gloss. What started on the Internet as chat rooms and message boards became social-networking sites, what started as instant messaging turned into futuristic video calling, and what resembled a sort of online diary developed into weblogs, or blogs.
These personal weblogs are becoming a leading source of information as the Internet is being “considered more reliable than TV, radio news” (Kirkpatrick) and they are a hub for the unheard marginalized voices of far-away societies. The curious mind does not have to wait for news coverage; he or she chooses to inform oneself which results in collaboration, by now at an international level. One journalist notes that in order to be receiving the most up-to-date information “forget CNN or any of the major American ‘news’ networks. If you want to get the latest…you should be reading blogs, watching YouTube or following Twitter updates…”[ii] (Berman). This trifecta is a particularly effective combination offering intimate accounts of events recorded in blogs, unedited evidence of these as uploaded home videos and real-time updates by the second on Twitter. The Internet’s general lack of consistent regulation (which varies by country) is just the ticket for people living under oppressive conditions who are literally dying for criticizing their respective authorities. Such is the case in much of the Islamic World and in other regions (China, Burma, Vietnam et al.) whose citizens confront serious censorship laws and serious punishments for violating them.
Engaging in political discussion on the Internet as a member of one of these societies is not merely exercising freedom of speech or inspiring thought-provoking or even controversial debate but can be seen as pure defiance, dissidence or anarchism by local authorities. The case of Iranians’ use of the Internet in their ultimate election is a particularly interesting one which has sparked a great deal of attention toward how the insurgent efforts collaborated. Twitter “what began as a toy for online flirtation is suddenly being put to much more serious uses” (Grossman) resulting in a stream of articles like Iran’s Twitter Revolution, Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement and How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live as just a few examples. Anecdotes and links to YouTube footage whose publication would have been prohibited locally or dismissed internationally spread like wildfire on the mini-messaging service, keeping the rebellion efforts well alive. The urgency of Iran’s tweets did eventually traverse seas inspiring the U.S. State Department to contact the network and request that a scheduled Twitter downtime in the middle of the election be delayed (Grossman), a request to which Twitter responded positively.
Iran’s Twitter activity in opposition to the possibility of a fixed election quickly brought light to the lag in coverage and shameful lack of interest from some of the biggest U.S. news sources, especially CNN who was singled out with the Twitter hashtag[iii] #CNNfail. The hashtag itself refers to CNN’s failure to cover protests in the country mid-election, instead “showing reruns of the Larry King show” (Levy). Coincidentally, CNN upped its coverage of the elections after extensive second-by-second retweets of the hashtag. However, American news and government weren’t the only ones touched by Iranians’ cries for help on Twitter—the Iranian authorities also sought to profit from the service by infiltrating the system to “spread misinformation” (Grossman), choosing not to block the site having already restricted text messaging. This is the downside to relying on information from Twitter and individual blogs as one blogger, Evgeny Morozov, notes that “we have to be very careful about what we read on blogs and Twitter, [knowing] of many efforts where platforms like these have been deliberately abused to spread misinformation and cause panic.” (Morozov)
However, this is a lesser concern of radical blog readers and authors as this sort of Internet traffic is continually monitored and habitually blocked. Browsing through the argosy of politically “dissident” blogs, one will find that links leading to damaging articles are often invalid and blog pages have been deleted or simply no longer exist. Just weeks before the Iranian election, Twitter activity, as well as WordPress, Blogger, Bing and others were being shut down by the Chinese government due to chatter about the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. (MacKinnon) Dissident blogging did not begin in 2009 though; articles as old as one decade testify to the treatment of bloggers: one Tunisian detained for “making fun” of the government and was held in “concentration-camp like conditions” (BBC News), two Maldives users received life in prison for commentary of that ilk (Levinson) and the Burmese are consistently on the frontlines for blogger arrest (Mizzima). These are just a few examples of which cases ironically make the “news,” but some humanitarian organizations are making an effort at keeping unabridged lists of detainees and updating the status of their whereabouts.
Cyberdissidents.org is specifically dedicated to combating blogger intimidation, internet censorship and promoting online activism, while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is now lending its big name to helping bloggers bypass internet firewalls and speak their views anonymously. In September 2005 Reporters Without Borders published the “Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents,” a 85-page manual available for free download highlighting blogging ethics and providing step-by-step instructions on setting up a computer to use proxies located in other countries, in order to gain access to government restricted content and to blog without getting caught. RSF has also pinpointed countries they consider to be “Enemies of the Internet” including ones not aforesaid, like Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia, Turkey and Egypt among others. (RSF)
Despite these efforts, oppressive authorities are enhancing their ‘cyber-police’ and China employs an unverified number devoted to full-time Internet monitoring, yet it has already been shown that bloggers are ready to react just as quickly, especially with a helping hand from outside organizations. Although the future of the Internet is uncertain, Iran’s Twitter explosion in one sign that “cyber dissidence” will not be stifled and the struggle between tyrant and tyrannized is far from over, but the advantage is started to lie in the hands of the latter.
[i] In an effort to not misrepresent information, the authors or these two quotes do demonstrate a possibility for a censored and controlled future Internet, even though both articles can be perceived as premature (dating back to more than 10 years ago) which in Internet terms is something closer to a lifetime.
[ii] Berman is referring specifically to the Iran election.
[iii] A hashtag is Twitter speak for a way to group tweets into searchable topics.
“Regulating the Internet.” Economist 355.8174 (2000): 18-20. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 7 Apr. 2010.
Joseph Reagle. Why the Internet is good: Community governance that works well, Working draft, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, March 1999. URL http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/reagle/regulation-19990326.html
Kirkpatrick, Marshall. “Poll: Internet Now Considered More Reliable Than TV, Radio News.” ReadWriteWeb – Web Apps, Web Technology Trends, Social Networking and Social Media. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/internet_now_reliable.php>.
Berman, Ari. “Iran’s Twitter Revolution.” The Nation | Unconventional Wisdom Since 1865. 15 June 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion/443634>.
Grossman, Lev. “Iran’s Protests: Why Twitter Is the Medium of the Movement – TIME.” Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com. 17 June 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1905125,00.html>.
Levy, Josh. “Iran, Twitter and the CNN Fail | Save the Internet.” Save the Internet | Join the Fight for Internet Freedom. 15 June 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/09/06/15/iran-twitter-and-cnn-fail>.
Morozov, Evgeny. “Iran Elections: A Twitter Revolution? – Washingtonpost.com.” Washingtonpost.com – Nation, World, Technology and Washington Area News and Headlines. 17 June 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/06/17/DI2009061702232.html>.
MacKinnon, Mark. “TWEET! Twitter Blocked in China – The Globe and Mail.” News from Canada and the World – The Globe and Mail. 02 June 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/points-east/tweet-twitter-blocked-in-china/article1164656/>.
BBC News. “BBC NEWS | Africa | Tunisia’s Dissidents Battle Cyber-police.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. 6 Sept. 2002. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2239270.stm>.
Levinson, Bruce. “Controlling Cyber Dissidents?” CircleID – Breaking Internet News, Opinions and Blogs. 15 Feb. 2005. Web. 07 Apr. 2010. <http://www.circleid.com/posts/controlling_cyber_dissidents/>.
Mizzima/IFEX. “Cyber-dissidents Continue Activities despite Barriers, Threat of Jail.” IFEX. 14 Mar. 2008. Web. 08 Apr. 2010. <http://www.ifex.org/burma/2008/03/14/cyber_dissidents_continue_activities/>.
Reporters Sans Frontières. “World Day Against Cyber Censorship.” Reporters Sans Frontières. 12 Mar. 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2010. <http://www.rsf.org/World-Day-Against-Cyber-Censorship.html>