Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dark Side of Social Networking Sites

I may have to rethink my position on facebook - it seems its more foe than friend

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What's the buzz??

There is a lot of buzz around the term citizen journalism. It is not new, (it played a part in the American Revolution) nor is it an exclusive area which is only accessible by the qualified journalists of society. From my research, citizen journalism, in a nutshell, is ordinary people compiling multiple forms of multimedia such as photos, articles, videos and even blogs, to tell a story. Stories which may not have been told without the level of technology we have today. The thing is now that technology has been developed to a point where most people can access the internet, in one way or another, which has opened up this whole new channel for communication. The internet also has far less gatekeepers than traditional media which allows for easier publishing (Bruns, 2008).

Having fewer gatekeepers on the internet is both a positive and a negative aspect of citizen journalism. The positive is that, as stated before, more people can publish their works and, as a result produce more hyperlocal content targeted to a certain group which can be distributed to a large network of people who care. The downside of fewer gatekeepers is the quality and accuracy of the content which is distributed. However, there are many blogs and websites which are run by uneducated individuals but are updated by successful business people, entrepreneurs and even ex American government field agents.

But, by having a limited supply of people to check the work and correct in a lot of cases, there are many articles out there in cyber world which are completely useless. This is due to the lack of evidence which is needed in traditional media to support claims, and simply, just to be considered a credible source of opinion and information. This online community is relying on the members of these communities to be the gatekeepers (Bruns, 2008).

Although this lack of gatekeeping can be seen as negative, it also allows more viewpoints to be presented (Bruns, 2008). This type of journalism can also be seen as less biased than the main stream media due to most media companies and publications having a certain set of news values which they follow in order to possibly retain readership and even to potentially appeal to advertisers (Wilson, 2008).

This citizen journalism movement is not overly popular within the professional journalism industry. It is apparent that academics welcome this type of journalism with online publications like the Nieman Report whereas journalists who participated in the ABC Nyheter debate were not particularly enthusiastic about it, with good reason as well. Professional journalism will never disappear but will mainstream publications consider publishing more articles written by citizens? If so, the need for professional journalists will diminish accordingly.

There is a lot of useless information out there which is still deemed as citizen journalism. It includes blogs about elections, world news, local news even the conspiracy theories which have been proved false time and time again. The concept is important and is relevant to the changing needs of 21st century media consumers but there are issues which need to be addressed before we can fully understand the potential of the citizen journalist.

Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage.
New York: Peter Lang

Wilson, J. (2008). KCB201 Virtual Cultures: Week 10 lecture notes. (accessed
May 8, 2008)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Facebook - Friend or Foe?

I recently read Axel Bruns’ blog titled ‘Social Networks on Ning: A Sensible Alternative to Facebook’ and even though I found he put forth good points about the social networking site Facebook, there are still has to be something that appeals to users when the numbers show they just keep going up.

Axel does bring up a valid point about the fact that so many people want to become your ‘friend’ when you have neither heard of them or spoke to them once at a party 3 years ago. This is one thing that does bug me about Facebook. I have people I went to high school with, who I either never spoke to or had a mutually relationship of dislike yet they still have sent a friend request to me. I can’t ignore them either because I do have some manners plus they would probably work it out after a while that I rejected them. I’ve had this conversation with several people before and while I think it’s stupid to do this, people say it is just out of their own curiosity that they add me. I suppose this is logical although the cynic in me suggests it is simply to gain more friends and look more popular within this social network. However, I believe this is a small price to pay when I can easily contact friends from around the globe at any time without having to wonder if they ever received the message.

Another point Axel presents is that Facebook is the ‘Net’s Hotel California’ referencing The Eagles song, Hotel California. However, it is not only Facebook which is difficult to get out of. There have been many stories where users on MySpace have not been able to delete their profile but have simply been told to put it onto the private setting. So really it is not only Facebook who is the monster out of the social networking sites….it’s many of them. The whole point of these websites, once they have become successful and have corporate sponsors or owners, is to retain membership so that their advertisements may be shown to the maximum number of people within their target markets. It’s a smart move when looking from a business perspective.

These websites are just another business but while this is true, they still serve the purpose of social networking on the internet. They have functions which allow you to chat with friends, email them, send friends flowers or gifts and even send them a fish for their aquarium. They are not simply traps for every person who decides to join. Yes, there are issues surrounding these sites but they still serve the purpose for which they were created – to connect people.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Consumer, Producer or Produser?

The consumer has changed in recent years. No longer are we a passive audience which sits back and watches television or simply surfs the internet (Livingstone, 2008). We have a need to engage, be it with a person thousands of miles away through the use of instant messenger or someone right in front of us. Media and the way we use it is reflecting this need for interaction.

For example look at television. Google any television show being broadcasted right now and most of the time you will be staring at thousands of websites with the show as a topic. There are sites ranging from the official page to fan sites to forums and even fiction involving the characters of the show. This type of interaction would have been inconceivable before the internet.

This ability to interact through technology has established online communities which share interests such as a favourite television show or computer game. These communities allow people to collaborate (Flew, 2005). Fans in communities can share ideas and ultimately create.

Consumers are no longer just consumers. In the 21st century, consumers can produce content and share it around the world by using online communities. This concept of the consumer being the producer has been termed ‘Produsage’ by Axel Bruns (2008).

Bruns' (2008) definition of the term is “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement”. The internet has enabled this concept to flourish to the point where user created content is actually being incorporated into mainstream corporate games (Banks, 2002).

Produsage is also very social. In order for this concept to work consumers need to connected, networked through communities and societies offline but especially online (Flew, 2005). The concept is to build upon what has already been created. Networks of fans and creators are needed so that the content can be circulated and distributed through many channels and each consumer can tweak it to fit their specifications. What comes out in the end is exactly what a group collectively wants - the ultimate consumer product which every company dreams of having.

Produsage, when used correctly by companies is an enormous success. They are giving what the customer wants by letting them help create a product they want to use. But then this raises the question about intellectual property. Who owns this material and are these consumers informed about what’s happening with their content and their ideas? Should produsers be reimbursed for their contribution? All these questions are valid. What the answers are only time will tell. Although, there is no denying that produsage is thriving in the new economy.

Banks, J. (2002) "Gamers as Co-Creators: Enlisting the Virtual Audience - A Report From the Net Face," in M. Balnaves, T. O'Regan and J. Sternberg (eds) Mobilising the Audience. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press

Bruns, A. (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang

Livingstone, S. 2008. Media Audiences, Interpreters and Users. In KCB301 book of readings. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology

Flew, T. (2005). New media: an introduction. Melbourne: OUP

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nouveau Niche is the New Black

Today’s consumer has evolved from a consumer who is happy with the same product as everyone else. We now want to be an individual more than ever. We want products which are customised from a company or organisation which is transparent, products which cater to our needs and overall a product which is not for the masses (Trendwatching). Even I no longer want something that every single person has, although I must admit I have bought mass products like the iPod. However it is possible to customise the iPod and it is encouraged to do so. You can customise the songs in the library, have it engraved by the Apple Store or buy covers which range from clear all the way through to being studded with diamantes. You could cover it with stickers if you wanted to. We are a group which wants ‘mass by choice, not mass by scarcity’ (Trendwatching). That is why most products have at least one way of changing them to suit your needs and now we expect no less.

There has been a noticeably shift from mass to niche. This is nothing new (Trendwatching). However now there is the technology to tap into the thousands of niche markets out there (The Long Tail). Through the evolution of internet technology, these markets are becoming easier to break into. The internet has revolutionised media and how we consume things (Flew, 2005). Many opportunities have opened up and both consumers and producers are taking advantage of them. Producers can more easily communicate with customers through email or comments. Consumers are now savvier and more demanding in what they want – the internet has just emphasised these traits and has given the consumer a voice among the noise. We want the products we care about to reflect what we represent, whether it is by showing an association to a certain group or just expressing ourselves creatively. The mass marketing concept now only works for products which are not important, the everyday items which we consume without thinking (Trendwatching). We just do not want to be one of the masses anymore.

Next time you are out on the streets, take a look at the people walking past you. More than likely you will see a sea of consumers with products which have been customised, if not by the company but by themselves wanting to be more individual than perhaps the generations before them. From a pair of Chuck Taylors with Nikko scrawled across the canvas to a t-shirt with a home made iron on transfer to jeans which have been ripped and painted on – the reality of it all is that the mass market has disappeared and in its place are millions of niche markets just waiting to be catered. When I think about it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are turning into individuals and the organisations are recognising this – why would we ever go back to being one of the many?

Flew, T. (2005) New Media: An Introduction. South Melbourne: Oxford UP

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Produsage and Web 2.0

The emergence of web 2.0 has brought about a revolution in the way users consume content on the internet. Web 2.0 is about two way communication whereas web 1.0 was about companies giving information to consumers to read. There was no way to interact with authors of articles or websites, but through comments, blogs and examples of online citizen journalism this interaction has increased.

This leads onto Axel Bruns' (2007) concept of 'produsers'. Web 2.0 has given consumers more power before and it has enabled them to start producing content of their own. This creation of content is taking place on a large variety of internet platforms and communities (Bruns, 2007). The computer game, The Sims, is a great example of the use of consumer created content. Player's have created clothes, wallpaper and furniture which are available for download. If the internet was still web 1.0, then this sharing of user created content would not be possible. Web 2.0 has given online communities a chance to build and share information and content through the interactivity on discussion boards and fan websites.

Another difference between 1.0 and 2.0 is that it has given everyone online a chance to voice their own opinion. 2.0 is about writing and creating. Blogs are a popular way to distribute an opinion and most blogs include a comments section which encourages readers to engage with author and share their viewpoints creating a 2 way communication system.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Online Communities

Online communities have reinvigorated a sense of community and try to dissolve the sense of alienation and disenfranchisement which is a result from an industrialist and capitalist society.

These communities have no geographical or physical barriers which can negatively affect offline groups. They are governed by core principles which include an inclusive and supportive culture, a strong democracy and freely available information and participatory media. Some of these core principles are found within the offline world which shows communities are merely taking full advantage of the presence of a better platform.

Participants of these online communities originally come together because of a shared interest. They allow a user to become accepted into a community they may not have had access to int he physicla world. As stated before, the Internet removes physical barriers and through the advancement in email and instant messaging technologies, it is easier than ever before to come into contact with people all around the globe. These communities take these advancements and tailor them to fit the expectations and requirements of users. These allow users to communicate with ease and also in a timely fashion.

The Internet has become more integrated into our lives and the difference between offline and online are becoming increasingly smaller as this integration continues. The networking possibilities which have become apparent since the introduction of online communities, would not been possible without the use of the Internet.