5. The Role of the Amateur/Individual – New Challenges in Screen Media.

As modern media becomes ever more a part of our modern living many individuals are increasingly finding themselves shifting from a consumer of media and becoming a producer of it. In The Social Media Reader, Michael Mandiberg stresses the dramatic effect the invention of new media forms have had on media consumers (1). Creating photos and videos posting them on Facebook would count as creating media although most people would not consider themselves to be “making” media just enjoying the interaction they have with the platform. This new relationship we have with media is one which is transforming the casual user or amateur into a content creator as part of the online experience. We respond and interact with others having the frequent result of creating opinions and videos of a personal nature thus creating content however minuscule it may appear.

Henry Jenkins in his Ted talk discusses the online participatory culture which has low barriers for engagement and where contributions matter. It is not a far step from posting on Facebook to joining in a protest march or even as seen in the example in Jenkins’ talk of the HP Alliance, who access Harry Potter fans to create social change “we’re changing the world by making activism accessible through the power of story.” The role of the amateur is changing the way people are communicating, organizing and expressing themselves creatively.

Easy access to education online has allowed the amateur to break through barriers which might have impinged on their ability to learn the professional media techniques in the past.  Online videos can instruct the curious on a variety of subjects relating to media production and coupled with easier access to technology and platforms such a Youtube the amateur can enjoy creating media and find an audience for their creations.

YouTube started off as an amateur-based site, where any user could upload their content. Through the Youtube partner program individuals are starting to earn money from the site and are dedicated to creating content for the site. The variety of video styles from let’s-play videos to reaction videos is ever increasing and new territories are emerging all the time.

New technology has a history of becoming more affordable thus allowing the public to interact with it and examples in the past can be seen in the music industry where tape cassette allowed people to create their own mix-tapes and record demos in their garage. The software that allow us to edit video at home means that there are many amateurs creating new media as the mash-up culture is evidence of.

Many amateurs have been able to make a living from their online content and the Youtube partner program has many success stories such as Casey Neistat, a vlogger and filmmaker who over the years has built-up his profile and creates professional content as a result.

The lines between the professional and the amateur have become increasingly blurred as incomes can be generated by amateurs with no official media qualification and thus may not have the ethical training which would prevent them from exploiting those featured in their videos, as parents do with their children in many of the toy review videos. Standards of safety are also a concern as the ever competitive field of prank videos elevates the stakes to get the top views possible.

Bibliography:

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

Jenkins, Henry. “Tedxnyed – Henry Jenkins – 03/06/10”. Youtube, 2010, https://youtu.be/AFCLKa0XRlw.

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

 

4. The Role of the Professional – Engaging the Public through Popular Screen Media.

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.

 

2. Citizen Journalism: Its’ significance and media dissemination.

In the beginning there were cave paintings telling the story of the days’ hunt and from those humble beginnings we have advanced rapidly across the pages of time to a place where the citizen is once again reporting the “news” from their perspective.

Considered the founder of citizen journalism a South Korean website, “Oh my news”, began what has become a global phenomenon whereby, the ordinary person can wax lyrical on their topic of choice sometimes with knowledge of the topic but mostly in a manner to be found by people discussing topics around the dinner table. The real value in citizen journalism can therefore be found by reading between the lines.

When viewed with a critical mindset the road to truth can be personally navigated by the reader, opinions can be  dismissed or even included into ones’ own argument, and a general sense for and against the topic being discussed can be appreciated from different perspectives from sources around the globe.

The ability to report from the ground into a global audience cannot be undervalued. This type of reporting can be exemplified through the work of Salam Pax, an Iraqi blogger who chronicled his life in the years 2002-2004 voicing his anti-Sadam sentiment, a point of view which would otherwise have been punishable by death in his native country. Salam himself comments on the dangers he flirted with in using his blog to share his views in an article he wrote for the The Guardian newspaper highlighting the fears he felt when his blog was picked up by the media and used for quotes in other articles further spreading his message but also increasing the attention being drawn to himself and his family.

As media is being consumed on ever increasingly different platforms and devices, citizen journalists can use blogs and youtube channels to reach a wider and more sympathetic audience. The wide range of platforms operating today have become ever more important for the decimation of information to those for whom literacy of language can be a barrier and thus bringing those to whom access to the argument might have been difficult, to a place where they too can share in the debate.

The advent of fake news has shone a spotlight on the dangers of citizen journalism . Citizen Journalism has recently become a platform for those who wish to spread propaganda and slander as highlighted by “echo chambers”.

“The echo chamber effect that occurs online is due to a harmonious group of people amalgamating and developing tunnel vision. Participants in online communities may find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. This is happening because the Internet has provided access to a wide range of readily available information and people are increasingly receiving their news online through untraditional sources. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have established personalization algorithms that cater specific information to individuals’ online newsfeeds. This method of curating content has replaced the function of the traditional news editor. (Wikipedia)”

The ethical responsibility to report news in a factual manner is being deliberatly sidestepped in place of political agendas and interest groups supporting or confusing events for their own gain.

An example of the negative results that can come from the abuse of citizen journalism reporting can be clearly seen in the resulting 10 point stock dip Apple’s shares suffered in 2008. A fake news report posted on CNN’s iReport ( a site that lets anyone put up posts and videos about the news. Its tagline is “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.”) went viral as the writer posted a fake story regarding Steve Jobs suffering a heart attack

“Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER just a few hours ago after suffering a major heart attack. I have an insider who tells me that paramedics were called after Steve claimed to be suffering from severe chest pains and shortness of breath. My source has opted to remain anonymous, but he is quite reliable. I haven’t seen anything about this anywhere else yet, and as of right now, I have no further information, so I thought this would be a good place to start. If anyone else has more information, please share it.”

The report found its’ way into the mainstream media resulting in temporary damage to the share price of the  Apple stock as well as the further embarrassment to CNN’s credentials for vetting news stories. The decimation of fake news through this type of unvalidated citizen journalism is clearly contrary to the type of reporting practiced by Salam Pax but it does hoist a red flag warning about how citizen journalism can be abused.

 

 

 

1. Social media in 2017: Dangerous or Progressive?

The Oxford Dictionary word of the year 2016 was “post truth” in a shocking reflection on the way the internet has changed from an information platform into a war machine spouting disinformation and misdirection. It is indeed a sign of the times when a dictionary is validating the concept that truth is a thing of the past.

How does this affect the world? One might think that we are all capable of deciding the relevance of information in its’ context, be it in regards to facts as found on wikipedia.org or in relation to politics but it is in the latter area that the use of “fake news” to misdirect a voting public, that the word “post truth” has gained notoriety and an avid audience.

You might ask does post truth have to do with wikipedia? Surely this site is being used as an online encyclopaedia for the purposes of information gathering and could be relied upon for facts? But in truth, this is not the case, as further investigation into the mechanics of the website reveal that any user can add content into the online pages and alter the information on the topic thus being able to change the validity of the information searched for.

Human error can account for many things in information processing and well-meaning “fans” of certain topics zealously updating pages on their favourite topics can enter dates of events in error, but it is when these errors are the deliberate, a “hacking” of a site can occur. This hacking is more common than would be expected with determined individuals deliberately hacking the sites to blur the lines of what is truly to be regarded as fact and what requires further investigation to validate.

Truth and “post truth” are rapidly becoming blurred reflections of each other and as social media proliferates into our daily lives sites like facebook.com have created a space where our “friends” are reccommending content and articles (led by advertisers and focus groups for our attention) but from which the source of the truth behind them is increasingly blurred. The unreliable content is inserted into our social media streams through friends we value and have an established relationship of honesty and trust.

The dangers of social media and its’ subversive influence quickly becomes apparent to the informed person as they will ever increasingly look to shared content coming form social posts as unreliable one is now shifting from a position “trust” to “post trust” in relation to how social media informs us.