This post will explore participatory cultures, media convergence or divergence in relation to Facebook. Indeed, Participatory culture, has hidden conotations and paradoxical terminology. In addition, scrutinizeing the word itself – wheather it has become a term of conveniences? On the one hand, one has to also examine how participatory is it by nature- the participatory culture or is it imagined? On the other hand, beneath the surface there are lurkers -those who do not contribute back on face book. Howrowitz’s pyramid will shed light on creators of content and syntheisers
Social Media Culture
The first paragraph briefly engulfs how the concepts of user generated content, global convergence and how audiences are engaging with each other on social media platforms.
The second paragraph will gear the reader towards the free internet . Raising the awareness on media convergence challenges and that it was not sophisticated technology that was causing the convergence.
The third paragraph refers to the producers of media content and it is they who have to take certain responsibilities on how media content is spreading.
The fourth and fifth paragraph makes a reasonable attempt to explain fans and fardoms as multiple media flows of participation are happening simultaneously.
The main device will be the mobile (smart) phone as a technological medium.
Then the essay takes an enigmatic turn as it explains the ambiguity of the word itself. The complexity of the question remains, because the saturation point by the developers, and the users have not caught up. Finally, the interwoven character of human and machine relationship will be explained to draw a conclusion as to what extent Facebook (FB) can be an example of media convergence.
User generated content
Facebook YouTube, Myspace, twitter are few examples of User Generated Content websites. All these sites are characteristic examples of social networking in the digital environment. These sites have transposed new ways of communication thereby deliberating a process of mass communication and mass self-communication instantly. The user-friendly approach of these sites based on web2.0 technology and the popularisation of free internet have made the compatible grounds for convergence culture to flourish.
Convergence culture and media convergence
The convergence of modes on Facebook has blurred the lines of communication. Convergence culture relies upon the relationships between two concept’s participatory culture and collective intelligence. However, media convergence on Facebook differs from other approaches of convergence.
Media Convergence defined as the “flow of content across multiple platforms.”(Jenkins 2006a: 63). It is not as a consequence of the intermingling media forms themselves through digital technologies, but rather as a new level of engagement with media by its users, “the social media encourage customers to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content.”(Flew,2008:63). In another way- advancement on a social, technological level has altered the “modes of convergence” between point to point communication and media industries. (Jenkins,2008:10).
Historically, services were provided by a – medium. Such as press, radio and television have been replaced by “several different physical ways” on social media. Thereby, “eroding the one-to-one relationship of media that existed between the medium and its use.” (In Jenkins,2008:5).” Technological digital platforms enable the same content outflows through multitudinous channels and assume many different forms at the point of reception.”(In Jenkins ,2008:11).
The change triggered by the popularization of the Internet has helped media convergence on Facebook in some ways because the internet has led to a shift in the global knowledge economy.
The ease with which media devices such as computers, mobile phones, and i-pads act as versatile transmitters of information allowing consumers to access Facebook anywhere anytime wherever there is internet access.(Flew 2008:23).
Although, these appliances and the internet have been beneficial, but convergence does not occur through media appliances or technological devices by itself. On the contrary, the easily accessible and sophisticated media appliances act as “conduits” and integral for convergence to happen on Facebook.
The fact that, when the brainwork and thought processes within the individual and consumer align, as a result, of “social interaction” with others-. It facilitates the process of convergence on Facebook.(Jenkins, 2008:3). The new media landscape is an amalgamation of some grassroots and amateur – some commercial producing and circulating content.(Jenkins, 2013:223).
The complex range of activities enhanced by Facebook users and the interactive media technology available on this platform allows a person to “construct their own personal mythology. “As bits and fragments of information “get posted, this information is extracted and pulled out by the numerous participants according to their own individual belief or tradition.
Furthermore, communication settings positioned on Facebook may not be fully understood can pose a problem between the various participants. From the multiple media, flow to multitude participants who interact with each other on Facebook can be affected in multiple ways. (Jenkins, 2008:pp3-4). Nonetheless, “The current media environment has become increasingly conducive to the spread of media content and facilitating motivating and sharing. (Jenkins, 2013:298).
Media divergence and audience interaction
If Facebook is considered as an example, of the “flow of media content then- producers of media content on Facebook should consider how audiences will create divergences from official systems of distribution, listening, to such practices may provide new models for content creation.
The participation by consumers in multi-platforms of social media have fuelled massive increase in the supply of news content material on Facebook. It is crucial here that those content creators to realize if the audience is going to take upon themselves to spread media content or discussion about that content. Then it is because it serves some communicative purpose for them and because it fits in their conversation they were already having (Jenkins, 2013:297- 300).
Nevertheless, the real development has not been an expansion of content but the insatiable demand of new content. A significant change has been the mainstream news sites translation of news into entertainment. Facebook has been a medium by reinvigorating the public sphere to cyber sphere through the participation of groups. An American study found that 48% used social networking site such as FB to assist in reporting and to engage with their audiences.
The conclusion was that the younger generation of journalist understood how to use the digital technology effectively in their work. Supported by the growth in content by the citizens mobilized by strong ideas from the grassroots. Citizen journalists have reinvigorated the public sphere by collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news information online. (Turner, 2010: 81-88).
Throughout the broadcast era, PC remained marginalized. Many communities (particularly fan and activist group) developed a strong sense of social solidarity and a deep understanding of their common interest and shared values, and they have carried these over to their interaction with web2.0 companies (Jenkins,2013:53). Here the emphasis is that there are different types of PC. For instance, the values associated with fan communities may differ dramatically from those of other kinds of cultural participants-activists, members of religious groups and collectors Hence these different types of PC do not command equal levels of respect and attention from the media industries. (Jenkins, 2013:54).
For the media industry, much as viral media pushed was towards embracing a false model of audience behaviour. The web2.0 discourse assumes that the fan participation is highly generative-yielding new insights, generating new values.
However, many web2.0 companies have sought to assert total ownership over content generated by their fans. In other cases, platforms too quickly sell out users interests in order to placate the contested assertion of intellectual property claims posed by other commercial interests. All of this has contributed to the instability and insecurity about the promises of Web2.0 (Jenkins,2013:84).
In the past media producers took steps to protect the rough handling of their franchise from their fans. As fans could potentially depreciate the value of their intellectual property by changing the essence of the message based on their own understanding. In contrast, Jenkins suggests the opposite-that retro fans appreciate media properties in the sense they like them and thus make them a site of emotional investment (Jenkins,2013:104).
As well as ordinary people’s participation in the media has generated citizen empowerment (Turner,2010:171).
As, fans interact on the spur of the moment online (Jenkins,2006:142). Here, I will explain “Fans “and Fandoms meaning in convergence culture as they differ. “Fans are “individuals who have a passionate relationship to a particular media franchise.”
Fandoms are groups. The members consciously identify as part of a larger group or community. They demonstrate similar traits of publics bound together through their shared sociality and shared identity. Fandoms can get the attention of media businesses and shape their decisions.”(Jenkins,2013:166)
The power of the Fandoms, amplified because of the access of networked communications on Facebook. However, some researchers have advised caution about optimistic projections of political empowerment. Despite the Internet amplifying the number of voices heard, the link between the two is weaker.
Lev Maniovich (in Turner, 2010:129) agrees that the drawback is academic activists using an activist approach to champion and defend their rights on Facebook. Even though collective intelligence refers to the power of “networked communities” as a result of the impact of new media in particular web2.0 technologies (Flew, 2008:64).The ability of the internet has enhanced the extent of human interaction enabled by communication that can generate new knowledge and enhanced the capacity to codify, store and retrieve such knowledge(Flew,2008:21). Whereas, Pierre Levy contrasts “collective intelligence with the dystopian image of the hive mind.
Moreover, the individual voices suppressed because of bureaucratic hierarchies, media monarchies, economic networks due to asymmetrical network. However, another alternative is “The new knowledge culture is enlivened by multiple ways of knowing.” Rapid many-to-many communication has enabled broader participation (Jenkins,2006:136-140).
For, Jose van Dijck the definition of PC is an ambiguous concept for various reasons. Firstly, the cultural complexities theorizing the current trends indicate that people using Facebook have a strong desire to share their judgment, observation and knowledge in communities (Van Dijck, 2009:45). As a result because of the complexities, not everybody is participating on Facebook.
A recent American survey showed that people who joined social networking sites were not contributing any content. The majority of end users were ‘passive spectators.’ Therefore, users agency comprises different level of the implementation of web2.0 technologies participation from creators, spectators and inactive. (Van Dijck, 2009:45). The participation on Facebook is limited and is time consuming as data scattered. The second problem was that coherence or non-coherent aspects of Facebook which may “steer users” in a certain way (Van Dijck, 2009:46). The third problem is that the end users are unknowingly providing personal information by revealing their personal behaviour patterns to site owners. Oblivious, to users information traced minutely by databots on UGC sites unwillingly linking the IP addresses connecting the customer’s name and address. The owners of Facebook find such information useful and profitable. The pragmatic utilization of this information is then used for various purposes by targeting advertisements to make a profit.
Unknown customers on Facebook become subservient to the platform owners autocracy as they have no power on data distribution. (Van Dijck,2009:47). The other limitation on Facebook is its top-down push from the owners may be different to the bottom – up pull from grassroots.
Jenkins culminated a different notion of new media and media convergence from the perspective of its users and PC (Flew,2008:62).Ideologically, FB can be an example of convergence as Jenkin proposes. PC is a system of mass communication based on one too- many message transmissions.
Both the producers and consumers of media interact with each other is enabled rather than driven by technologies themselves (Flew, 2008:63). On the other hand, Marwick & Boyd say that every participator online has an imagined audience in a communicative act as previously mentioned. They explain that the understanding of – the following (crowd) on FB is potentially limitless.(in Boyd,2007:131).
Consequently, this raises questions of the uncertainty of participation on Facebook. As the perception and incomprehension of imagined audience might be entirely different from the actual reader of a profile, blog, post or tweet. Therefore, the understanding of Facebook fans and social media in general is limited.(Marwick & Boyd 2011:115).Thus, the ambiguity of PC remains and in this sense as not everybody is participating media convergence interaction is reduced to what it potentially could be. This example also highlights the extent of participation. How participatory is PC? If we examine, Howrowitz’s pyramid went so far to label 90% who were not actively producing content as “Lurker.” This model suggested they wrench on the community without contributing back. Although, a complex process yet, Lurkers may provide value to people sharing commentary or producing multimedia content by expanding the audience and potentially motivating their work, while critics and curators generate value for those who are creating material and perhaps for one another. Jean Lave and Etienne Wegner describe this process as “legitimate peripheral participation,” Because newcomers integrate faster if they are able to observe and learn from more skilled participants.”Furthermore, As Susan Bryant, Andrea Forte, and Amy Buckman writes that as a result “through peripheral activities,” many cultures are becoming more participatory in relative terms than the previous configuration of media power (Jenkins, 2013:156-159).
While, sociocultural anthropologist Arjun Appadurai(1990) argues that the International social economy can be understood by examining the disjuncture and differences that arise between the various landscapes through which culture travels(In Jenkins, 2013:271).
Even though, the analysis starts with media convergence. They are diverted, often without authorization, from their country of origin. As a result, they are also diverting in so far as they are engaging meaningful and valuable to new audiences that engage them for their own reasons, and may have little or nothing to do with their original reception (Jenkins, 2013:271-272). If, for example, Asian culture is shaping American entertainment.
Global media convergence may have the opposite effect as the media changes. So this can be destabilizing. As the media changes, it exerts an influence. Thus having two effects one of exhilaration or exaltation the other of panic or despondency. “In almost every sector of popular culture there has been innovation and sparkling” creativity of talent. (Jenkins, 2006:156).However, the intersection of global convergence on Facebook gives rise to cosmopolitanism. As a result, when cosmopolitanism embraces cultural differences by those Facebook users interacting seek to escape the gravitational pull of their local communities.
Media convergence through Facebook allows these end users broader spheres of cultural experiences. Ethnographers have found that the same media may be read and interpreted different ways radically. The context how messages perceived in different regions or national contexts according to their own familiar genres and values can have opposite reactions to the interpretation of media flow(Jenkins, 2006:156-157). For instance in 2001 “Filipino American high school student created a Photoshop collage of Sesame Street. Bert interacting with terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden as part of a series of ‘Bert is evil’ images he posted on his home page. Others depicted Bert as Klu Klux Klansman or having sex with Pamela Anderson.
The unpredictable and contradictory meanings ascribed to those images as they were de-contextualized and re-contextualized at the site of consumption. This story suggested that teens and youth circulating teen’s websites become centre of an international controversy in a global network culture as the lines may get blurred across boundaries”(Jenkins, 2006:154)
PC is not new. In fact, open-ended participation has been part of “society and can be traced back” to the 19th century. However, social interactions take different forms and participatory activities differ substantially. Today, some people have confused participatory culture as corresponding with Web2.0. However, Web2.0 is a business model.
While this platform may offer a new technical affordance that furthers the goals of being friendly. Friction always exists between the desires of producers and audiences – a gap which has resulted in on-going struggles (Jenkins, 2013:297). The makers of Facebook want to make the experience for the user more personalized and social. As well as allowing the individual to connect to game application and other websites simultaneously. Conflicting and contradictory pulls between corporate conceptions of participation making companies more responsive to the needs and desires of their “consumers.” In contrast a political conception of participation which focuses on the desire for all to exercise greater power over the decisions that impact the quality of everyday lives as citizens. The Facebook model based on business interest. The customer demand has apparently shifted away from consuming activities and gravitated towards producing activities. As customer has more power over content because they may add business value beneficial to the owners and may not add any media value on Facebook (Van Dijck, 2009:46).
Both concepts of participation are at stake in the restructuring of media ecology. Grassroots practices of circulation are exerting greater influence on the kinds of media content between networked publics (Jenkins, 2013:156). By adding links, notes, videos, photos, and allowing the sharing of religious and political views. With a Facebook account, members can also access other websites such as CNN with the same password.Plugin on newspaper websites allows the sharing of content, as well as ordinary people’s participation in the media, has generated citizen empowerment (Turner, 2010:171). Since, Levy writes “no one knows everything, everyone knows something” (in Jenkins, 2006:139). Collective intelligence seen as an “alternative source of media power.” Communication on facebook is “dispersed and decentralized.” amThe examining of the same question Poole raised with wider implication on media convergence and participatory culture. Today there is a talk of divergence, as opposed to convergence. In this “age of transition” his argument would be reinforced. As some communications technologies, converged together in supporting diversity and greater degree of participation. The collective power in social media expelled through the recreational life. (Jenkins:2008.4).
The mobile phone is always on. By simply downloading the facebook app on a mobile phone, has facilitated some media convergence at the speeds of lightning. Messages can are sent or received instantly thereby eliminating time lags and space. “The rise of mobile computing intersects with another major trend in new media, which is that access to high speed broadband services. For this reason the cost of internet access associated with usage time network infrastructure constraints, download time and storage device capacity are all rapidly diminishing”(Flew,2008:250). The “black box fallacy” as when we speak about convergence – our discourse is on a single device, for example, today it is smart phone. However, the change of the black box theory is an on-going process. Therefore, eventually it will be left to the consumer to figure out which box will allow the flow of media content. (Jenkins, 2006:154). Therefore to understand media convergence and how far will Facebook be an example is an – evolutionary on-going process as a technological shift “process occurring at various intersections, between media technologies, industries content and audience. Therefore in another sense media convergence” is more than only a technological change as at the same time it is alternating the relationship between different technologies. (Jenkins, 2006:155). As stated at the onset, I have used a mobile phone device as an example. For the broader socio-cultural implications of ever increasing speed and volume of communications or what we termed always on culture for users and the wider communication ecology. As mobile phones compete in their technological advancement the best user- friendly gadget will that will increase business “profit from low-volume sales to a niche consumer based on a wider inventory of ‘virtual’ products”(Flew, 2008:250).
Nevertheless in an era of digital sharing and network culture. Content is more likely shared if it is available when and where audiences want it. Audience members do not want to be stuck in one place as they want their media texts “on the go.” It should be portable. Media producers and media audiences are creating material that spreads, therefore, it should be easily reusable in a variety of ways.(Jenkins, 2013:198) Technology as a driving change is facilitating and keeping pace with the social domain. The will to improve by the audiences on one hand and technology on the other allows that change to occur. In the paradox of technology and culture one cannot determine which comes first. It could be that culture is driving this change or social transformation one is seeing, is, as a result, of technology. Nevertheless, the rising demand from FB users and the converging modes of media production today is driving the change fueled by the new forms of digital media or technology(Turner,2010:129-130).
In conclusion, from a subjective viewpoint of the analysis researchers, in 1990’s found confirmation of the hypothesis that intensive use of media and being online in particular contributed to social isolation. However in years since such services such as Facebook were launched the exact opposite conclusion tends to be drawn in studies on social cohesion and community formations. Sociologists Di Maggio et al., 2001, as well as, psychologist Barg and Mc Kenna, 2004, confirm “ A general conclusion seems to be that the unique even transformational qualities of internet in particular and considering the internet’s assimilation into their media in general” encourages self-expression (which)”facilitates the formation of relationships on other, deeper bases such as shared values and beliefs”(Deuze,2012:91).The sharing of media across cultural boundaries as we can do on the “social networking site” FB because of Web2 is more inclusive, more dynamic and more participatory(Jenkins, 2013:304).
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