In The Social Media Reader, Michael Mandiberg discusses the effect that the invention of new media forms have had on media consumers(1). Media consumers are no longer the passive audience for the professional to hock their wares to but rather they are now the active creators of their own media. This turnaround has put the professional into a new space one where they must adjust from their aloof position to one where they must engage with the media coming from the audience they one saw as a silent absorbing mass. The role of the professional is now one where they must communicate with these communities and encourage their participation on an equal playing field.

As the tools of production have become cheaper the gap between the amateur and the professional have closed. The amateur can now easily access online tutorials and educate themselves in various areas such as journalism or video production removing the methods of production from the “elite” figure of the professional. Michael Mandiberg  points to the need for the professional to “engage” consumers through the building of communities and stresses the need for “real-time contact”(2) positioning themselves within as opposed to outside becoming one of “them” accepting the “strange” to this new world.

The  creators of the “The Walking Dead” t.v. show quickly became aware of responding to the fan base in their need for inclusion on the progression of the show. The creation of the “The Talking Dead” a show about the show itself is a clear example of how the producers respond to the fans need to interact with the actors and people involved in the creation of the show.

It can be seen clearly from the opening credits of the show that the presenter, Chris Hardwick, encourages the viewer to contact the show to share their comments etc. in what Alison F. Slade calls an encouragement of the “technoprosocial” online engagement with the show (190). The emphasis of the show has been to extend social surrogacy to other mechanisms for interaction, namely Facebook, Twitter, Skype, telephone and its’ own websites  using the “second screen” provided by the internet via cell phones, tablets etc. to encourage fans to interact with each other in “real time” (Slade, 190).

A barely restrained Hardwick breathlessly opens the show with the number to dial etc. positioning himself as a fan as excited for the latest news and gossip as those at home part of the fan culture himself and one with those sharing the “conversation” and blurring the line between the presenter and the consumer. The fans can thus identify with him and be part of “their” show (Slade 191).

The show creates competitions for the fans where they can win a walk on part on the show as “zombies”, competitions they can only enter online with the winning entrants judged by the shows’ producers bringing the fan directly into the show and sharing the professionals’ world in what Kevin Roberts refers to as “lovemarks” (qtd. Hills, 185). Roberts suggests that these are aspects of the professional’s labour which belong to the consumer because they love them (Hills. 185).

This  example highlights how the role of the professional has changed as a result of digital media. The professional now recognises the agency of the consumer and encourages their active engagement with the show. By interacting with the consumers the professional partners up with them to create the success of the show. In communicating with them and treating them as part of the process and encouraging their “real time” participation they give the amateur an outlet to feel part of the world the show is creating.

Bibliography:

Hills, Matt. “Veronica Mars, Fandom, and the ‘Affective Economics’ of Crowdfunding Poachers.” New Media & Society 17.2 (2015): 183-197. Print.

Mandiberg, Michael (ed.). “Introduction.” The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2012. 1-12. Print.

Slade, Alison f., Narro Amber J., and Givens-Carroll Dedria. “Television, social media, and fan culture.“London:Lexington Books, 2015. 190-191.Print.

 

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