Participatory Culture

Image Source: Clique Media Group/Dash Hudson

The Internet, or especially social media, has integrated virtual communication into almost everyone’s ordinary life.  Technology not only allows individuals to communicate instantly with one another but also allows these online participants to build a vibrant range of spreadable content on the public platform.  According to Jenkins, the involvement of creating and circulating content amongst online users is expressed as participatory culture.  Jenkins believes that participatory culture on the media offers an equal environment for content creators and users to meaningfully produce and consume new ideas.  Nonetheless, Fuchs criticizes that Jenkins’ culturalistic understanding of participation does not clearly address the aspects of participatory democracy and ownership rights.  This blog post explores Jenkins and Fuchs’ notions on how individuals’ interaction on social media influences the creation of content and participatory culture.

One of the crucial concepts that Jenkins points out is the equal power of content creators on social media.  The online world allows individuals to spread their innovative outputs and meaningful materials to media fans without the high production costs.  The invention of social media has allowed individuals to be their own publishers, directors, advertisers, and content creators with lower costs of production.  Since Youtubers can earn commissions by the numbers of viewers per video, they want to make sure that the media contents they create are unique, engaging, and trendy.  One way to grow the media revenue is to develop frequent interaction with followers on social media.  When influencers actively replies to their followers in the comment section on Instagram, they considerably increase their account views; therefore able to spread their content at a much faster pace.  The communication amongst online users indeed shapes their perspectives on what are considered to be the norms in participatory culture.  This virtual interaction is also an example of Jenkins’ view on how media participants have the similar chance in the decision-making process.  What seems to be acceptable and trendy depends on two factors within the participatory culture, how online individuals view the content and how content creators influence followers. 

In regards to Fuchs’ critique on Jenkins’ equality aspects, Fuchs shows examples of how bloggers secure their intellectual property by attaching the copyrights label on their post.  By claiming the copyrights of their original work, these media creators protect their content from potential privacy violations from other online users.  In contrast to Jenkins’ harmless perception of participatory culture, Fuchs examines that participation needs the clarification of ownership democracy.  Under Fuchs’ lens, competition among users on media can turn into a “structural feature of capitalism.”  For instance, some zero-waste bloggers use social media to sell their own products and promote sponsored products sent from companies with sustainable missions.  Some of these products can be compostable bamboo toothbrushes, reusable water bottles, and package-free body/shampoo soaps.  While their declared mission is to protect the environment from pollution, these media influencers also use their credible “labels” or online reputation to earn better incomes.  Gaining high followers is one of the most common strategies that media influencers use to represent their professionalism.  Is the line between amateur and professional defined by a combination of numbers of followers and amount of income?  With the rise of social media and freelancers, it is unclear to identify the difference between these two labels, amateur and professional. 

Creating a positive culture where every individual has an equal power to exchange new content is probably a goal that not only media but also the outside world tries to achieve.  Jenkins’ approach to participatory culture is practical if individuals do not desire to explicitly claim their ownership rights nor to participate in the media culture heavily.  Online communities and media cultures have been impacting in our daily lives more than ever.  For this reason, further cultural and media studies need to extensively address on Fuchs’ dimensions of class inequality and participatory democracy existed on social media.

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