Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Can Produsage Environments Separate Valuable Information from Trash?

Sifting through the various blogs and comments posted throughout our KCB201 online community, it has become evident that while produsage has resulted in numerous benefits for the wider community, the issue of separating valuable information from ‘trash’ is a recurrent issue. As Bruns (2008, 106) states, this concern ‘provides one of the core hurdles to a mainstreaming of produsage processes in partial replacement of traditional production models’.

In my first blog, ‘User-led Organisation’ I endeavoured to explore Shirky’s views on the topic. With regards to online organization, Shirky explained how through the utilization of tagging ‘value is created by grouped classifications over time’ (2008). This idea of communal evaluation has been explored again by Bruns (2008, 101-136) in his article Wikipedia: Representations of Knowledge.

As stated by Bruns (2008, 102), Wikipedia ‘has become… by far the most successful online encyclopaedia both in terms of its user base and the breadth of its coverage.’ For this reason, it is a perfect example of how a compilation of communal knowledge can be made valuable in an open participation context.

One of the main reasons why Wikipedia has become so successful is because of its ‘ability to encapsulate the current state of accepted knowledge itself’ (Bruns, 2008, 103). It is therefore ‘particularly effective in its coverage of current, unfolding events’ (Bruns, 2008, 104).

At the same time, it has also been subject to various criticisms due to ‘perceived inaccuracies and mistakes in its content, especially also in the context of errors deliberately introduced by malicious contributors’ (Bruns, 2008, 124). Despite these criticisms, Wikipedia’s producers have been able to implement effective policies that act as a guide for all users. It has also been debated that even without these policies, Wikipedia is quite self sufficient in filtering its content. As Pink suggests (Bruns, 2008, 129), ‘it turns out that Wikipedia has an innate capacity to heal itself. As a result, woefully outnumbered vandals often give up and leave. What’s more, making changes is so simple that who prevails often comes down to who cares more. And hardcore Wikipedians care. A lot’ (Bruns, 2008, 129).

In conclusion, it is evident that produsage environments can create valuable collections of information. In these environments, value is not created by the individual but rather a collective group of educated minds. While inaccuracies and mistakes may occur, these are swiftly amended as can be seen in the case of Wikipedia. Wikipidia is undoubtedly a very valuable resource and for this reason there is ‘a wider need to educate both active contributors to Wikipedia and more casual users of its content about questions of quality and accuracy in the resource and about the available tools to examine that quality’ (Bruns, 2008, 130).

Till next time,
Annelise

Reference List

Bruns, A. Wikipedia: Representations of Knowledge. In Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. 101-136. New York: Peter Lang.

Shirky, C. 2008. Ontology Is Overrated: Categories, Links and Tags. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Shirky (accessed 4th April, 2008).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Web Friendly Or Not?

Its 7.30pm on a Tuesday night and my mother has called for me to come up for dinner at least three times. Despite the rising frustration in her tone, I respond for the third time that “I’ll be up in just a sec”. Glued to my laptop screen, I am busy updating my facebook, downloading on ITunes and bidding for a dress on Ebay. Fed up with her unsuccessful attempts, I hear my mother stomping down the stairs. Bursting into my room she finds me with my laptop and shouts “What do you find so fascinating with that thing?!”

Where do I start? There is an endless list of things I find fascinating with the Web but it’s no use trying to explain this to my mother. The truth is, I easily spend at least 4 hours a day surfing the Web and it has become such an integral part of my everyday life, I would find it hard to function without it! My mother on the other hand, has an email account which she hardly ever checks and that’s about it.

This common scenario highlights two realities. Firstly, my ability to act as a ‘produser’ on the Web (Bruns, 2008) and secondly, the digital divide that exists between my generation and that of my mothers.

This divide exists not because of my mother’s hostility towards produsage but rather her lack of knowledge and familiarity with the relevant practices. Not long ago, a traditional production process existed whereby customers remained ‘at a significant distance from the original producer’ (Bruns, 2008). Because of this drastic evolution and subsequent digital divide, Bruns (2008) points out that ‘it is necessary (especially for educational institutions) to ensure that a wide cross-section of society is capable of participating effectively in produsage environments’.

In my last blog, I explored the example of the TV show Underbelly and discussed its banning from screens in Victoria. Despite the aim of preventing viewing, this banning led to those who were allowed to watch the show making it available online for those who weren’t. Consequently, the first episode of Underbelly was one of the most downloaded shows online (Sternberg, 2008). For the Generation C that Bruns discusses in Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation (2008), this would seem an obvious outcome and indeed this is an example of how ‘negative efforts to undermine produsage… may also accelerate the prevailing trend towards produsage’ (Bruns, 2008).

In conclusion, it is evident that a large portion of the population underestimates the potential of the Web and do not actively participate in produsage environments. This would seem to be the result of not only hostility but also inexperience. We have seen such a drastic transformation in the ways the Web can be used that it is necessary ‘to ensure that a wide cross-section of society is capable of participating effectively in produsage environments’ (Bruns, 2008). Until this is achieved, produsage will remain a foreign practice for certain groups in society and the ‘present shift away from industrial modes of production and towards collaborative, user-led content creation’ (Bruns, 2008) will be stunted.

Till next time,
Annelise

Reference List

Bruns, A. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. http://produsage.org/files/Produsage%20-%20Introduction.pdf (accessed April 23, 2008)

Bruns, A. 2008. Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation. http://produsage.org/files/Produsage%20(Creativity%20and%20Cognition%202007).pdf (accessed April 23, 2008)

Sternberg, J. 2008. Introduction to Audiences. Brisbane: QUT. [Lecture: KCB301].

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Power to the Audience: Part 3 - The Obstacle of Media Regulation Laws

In one of my previous blogs “Power to the Audience”, I discussed various new media forms and how they have evolved to empower the audience. Amongst the examples listed, I touched on online gaming and how players have taken on a more central role in the production process. I gave the example “The Sims” which was designed to ‘involve its customer’s directly in the process of developing and evolving the product’ (Banks, 2002, 197). As Humphreys (2005, 24) states, ‘[these] investments of players and what they produce are directly economically profitable to publishers and developers’. Despite this, many producers still see user-led content creation as ‘a potential loss of control over their intellectual property’ (Jenkins, 2002, 165).

These issues have raised much debate surrounding the legal mechanisms used to organise control of this medium (Humphreys, 2005, 7). At present, ‘the productiveness of players – their additions to the text – cannot be addressed through a copyright or intellectual property framework’ (Humphreys, 2005, 179). As Humphreys goes on to explain, ‘it must either be ignored or cast as illegal, transgressive activity’ (2005, 179).

As a result of the inefficient legal framework, power is being negotiated through both formal and informal levels (Humphreys, 2005, 34). On the one hand, publishers are exerting their power through structural and formal legal mechanisms and on the other; players are counteracting those forces through informal strategies (Humphreys, 2005, 34).

Clearly there is a lot work that needs to be done in order to effectively adapt current legal mechanisms to the new media environment. As Humphreys (2005, 37) explains, ‘which rights will remain and which will be contracted away’ is the key area where regulation policy will have to be rethought.

Humphreys outlines two problems that exist within current media regulation laws. These are specifically related to the online gaming world but can be seen as relevant in various new media environments.

Firstly, current legal mechanisms maintain a tight control of gaming content. These current legal models also position players as consumers. This positioning indirectly ‘constructs particular and limited practices that can be carried out by the players. The role of consumers is to consume’ (Humphreys, 2005, 178). As a result of this, players are unable to be understood as co-producers of the text and their productive activities ‘have no place in the intellectual property model’ (Humphreys, 2005, 187).

Secondly, conventional media are regulated through mechanisms such as content regulation which rely on a finished as known text (Humphreys, 2005, 180). This is effective with traditional types of literature and television programs because it is possible to view it before distribution. Online games on the other hand are not finished as ‘the content in its ongoing production is supplied by every player. Therefore this medium can obviously not be regulated through the same means (Humphreys, 2005, 180).

In conclusion, it is obvious that the current media regulation laws cannot be applied to the new media environment. Consequently, there are a number of areas that need to be rethought. As Humphreys (2005, 37-38) states, the crucial question remaining is whether ‘governments [will] intervene to ensure minimum standards in contracts that maintain some protections for citizens or [whether they will] adopt the free-market approach and leave it to the industry to determine?’.

Till next time,
Annelise

Reference List

Banks, J. 2002. Gamers as Co-creators: Enlisting the Virtual Audience – A Report From the Net Face. In Mobilising the Audience, eds. M. Balnaves, T. O’Regan and J. Sternberg, 188-212. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Humphreys, A. 2005. Massively multiplayer online games : productive players and their disruptions to conventional media. http://adt.library.qut.edu.au/adt-qut/uploads/approved/adt-QUT20060317.124818/public/03whole.pdf. (Accessed May 1, 2008)

Jenkins, H. 2002. Interactive Audiences. In The New Media Book, ed. D. Harries, 157-170. London: BFI Publishing

Monday, May 5, 2008

Power To The Audience: Part 2 – The Obstacle Of Media Effects Theory

After a rather dismal attempt at researching the question posed in my last blog “Power to the audience”, I decide to take a much needed break and sit down with my brother to watch his most recent favourite TV show Underbelly. As a loyal fan, he endeavours to provide me with a bit of background to the show which is based on the real events of the gangland war in Melbourne (for more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne_gangland_killings). Amongst his in-depth recount of the events, he explains the controversy surrounding the production and its subsequent banning from screens in Victoria. For those like me who do not know much about this, basically, a judge in Melbourne demanded that the show not be screened in Victoria because he believed it would have been prejudicial to an upcoming murder trial.

This intriguing piece of information led to a bit of my own research which highlighted two things. Firstly, that audiences continue to be spoken on behalf of as a result of existing media regulation laws and secondly, that these laws are underpinned by the argument that the media has the power to influence us (this is more commonly known as the ‘media effects’ theory) (Sternberg, 2008). Despite these regulations, the global nature and user-led content creation framework of Web2.0 (as discussed by Bruns, 2007) has led to those who are allowed to watch the show making it available online for those who are not. As a result, the first episode of Underbelly was one of the most downloaded shows online (Sternberg, 2008).

Such is an example of the struggle between the new media audience and traditional regulation of media content. Due to the global nature of the internet, local change can now only be achieved by denying the entire world (Sternberg, 2008)!

As mentioned before, one of the popular and academic ideologies that exist about audiences is the ‘media effects theory’. As described by Livingstone (2005, 9), within this theory, ‘audiences are seen as mindless, ignorant, defenceless, na├»ve and as manipulated or exploited by the mass media’. Consequently, those concerned with morality have reason to worry, especially when it comes to children who are ‘often considered not so much in terms of what they can do, as what they (apparently) cannot’ (Gauntlett, 1998, 122). This media effects theory, while arguably outdated, is still a very powerful ideology that drives a lot of public and political discussion (Sternberg, 2008). As described by Perse (2006, 166-169) media effects theory has evolved from the ‘magic bullet model’ to the ‘limited effects model’ and finally, since the introduction of the television, we have reached an era often referred to as ‘the return to the concept of powerful mass media’. In short, there is still a strong focus on the media’s power to bring about direct media effects (Perse, 2006, 169).

Yet another controversy highlighting how prevalent this ideology is within society was that of the ‘Shrek 3’ advertising campaign. Following its successful release in 2007, advertisers for a number of low-nutrient foods used the Shrek character in their marketing campaigns. Many of the promotions were targeted directly at preschoolers and young children. Consequently, there was a lot of hostility surrounding the campaigns as people believed that children would be influenced into choosing unhealthier foods. As one oppositionist stated: “[The campaigns] are there to exploit a relationship between a child and a character and to use that relationship to sell products, many of which are less than healthy for a developing young body” (Carney, 2007). This is a typical example demonstrating how ‘media having the power to influence us’ is an ideology that has been ‘embedded in today’s society’ (Sternberg, 2008).

In conclusion, effects theory still remains a very powerful ideology which continues to drive a lot of public and political discussion. However, in our new media environment, the audience has been realized as being more active rather than passive which brings new elements to the debate. In any case, Livingstone notes that (2005, 24), ‘we will not find a single definitive study which resolves debate’. Instead we need to realize that media preferences have connections to who we are and how we construct our identities (Sternberg, 2008) and therefore we need to ‘ask not what the media do to people but what people do with the media’ (Livingstone, 2005, 21).

Till next time,
Annelise

Reference List

Carney, S. 2007. http://youthdevelopment.suite101.com/blog.cfm/the_shrek_controversy (accessed 18th April, 2008).

Gauntlett, D. 1998. Ten Things Wrong with the ‘Effects Model’. In Approaches to Audiences: A Reader, eds. R. Dickinson, R. Harindranath and O. Linne, 120-145. London: Arnold.

Livingstone, S. 2005. Media Audiences, Interpreters and Users. In Media Audiences, ed. M.Gillespie, 9-50. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Perse, E. 2006. Models of Media Effects. In Mass Communication: Volume One, ed. D. McQuail, 166-169. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Sternberg, J. 2008. Introduction to Audiences. Brisbane: QUT. [Lecture: KCB301].

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Power To The Audience




The relationship between media producers and audiences is undergoing a significant transformation. No longer is there a gap between media producers and consumers whereby tight control over the flow of information is in the hands of producers (Jenkins, 2002, 160). Instead, we are seeing the introduction of a new ‘participatory culture’ where the audience has greater power and autonomy over what, when and how they interact with media (Jenkins, 2002, 157-158).

These shifts in producer and audience roles have provided audiences with greater social and cultural power over the media that they consume. In relation to cultural power, there are two trends which have enabled new forms of cultural production. Firstly, the selection and quantity of new tools and technologies available have enabled consumers to engage and express their creativity with a lot more ease (Jenkins, 2002, 157). Secondly, a range of subcultures are promoting do-it-yourself media production which is shaping how consumers are using the available technologies (Jenkins, 2002, 157). For example, the game The Sims was designed to ‘involve its customers directly in the process of developing and evolving the product’ (Banks, 2002, 197). This has made it ‘one of the biggest selling PC titles of the past few years’ (Banks, 2002, 197).

In relation to social power, the World Wide Web has become a ‘powerful distribution channel’ giving all types of media content a degree of public visibility (Jenkins, 2002, 163). Consequently this has created additional life opportunities and economic advantages for those who would otherwise not have had access to any. This is particularly evident in the amateur film culture which has now been able to make an impact on the commercial mainstream (Jenkins, 2002, 163). For example, thanks to Amazon.com and YouTube an amateur Star War production titled, George Lucas In Love outsold Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in its first week of circulation (Jenkins, 2002, 163).

Big brother and Idol are another two examples of new media forms that have facilitated the access to better life opportunities and economic advantages for those involved. These shows have been phenomenally popular amongst the general public as they follow the story of real people. Because of this, viewers find it much easier to relate to the contestants. Fans are also much more attached to the storyline as they are able to control it and at the same time, fuel part of a community. These shows have also created wider social power for those who have been previously excluded within society. For example, a number of the contestants on Idol have been of indigenous background or come from underprivileged families. This has resulted in greater cultural and social diversity within the media environment.

In conclusion, our new media environment has led to the rise of an interactive audience. This interactive audience has the ability to not only consume media but also produce, distribute, publicise and critique it. These new found abilities have been adopted readily and this has resulted in a lot more user-produced content. Consequently, audiences now have a much greater social and cultural power over the media that they consume. Despite these drastic technological developments and subsequent role shifts between producers and audiences, the new interactive audience still has not become autonomous and continues to operate alongside powerful media industries (Jenkins, 2002, 157). There is still a lot of power vested in media ownership and many producers strive to keep it this way, as to them, ‘fandom represents a potential loss of control over their intellectual property’ (Jenkins, 2002, 165). The coming years will be particularly interesting for all those participating in the new media environment, as the power struggle will continue. As the new media environment appears to be lending itself towards a more integrated community the crucial question still remaining is ‘how far will media companies be willing to go to remain in charge of their content or to surf the information flow?’ (Jenkins, 2002, 166).

Till next time,
Annelise

Reference List

Banks, J. 2002. Gamers as Co-creators: Enlisting the Virtual Audience – A Report From the Net Face. In Mobilising the Audience, eds. M. Balnaves, T. O’Regan and J. Sternberg, 188-212. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Jenkins, H. 2002. Interactive Audiences. In The New Media Book, ed. D. Harries, 157-170. London: BFI Publishing

Saturday, April 26, 2008

User-produced Organisation

The rise of networked technologies such as the internet, have sparked a turning point in the role of audiences. Rather than participating solely as individual consumers; we now have the ability to collectively act as fans, producers, distributors, publicists and critics (Jenkins, 2002, 157). Consequently, we are seeing the rise of virtual communities within which we have the tools to build social networks and social capital; share knowledge and information; and enable new modes of democratic participation in public life (Flew, 2004, 62). In addition to this, the internet’s breaking down of geographical constraints has allowed users to easily search and select the users they wish to interact with based on a commonality of interests and goals rather than having to interact with those within a close proximity (Flew, 2004, 63).

The increased speed, frequency, and ease of communication that high speed networked computing has brought about has resulted in a phenomenal increase in the amount of information produced and therefore accessible. This new ‘library’ is bigger than any other before it and as a result, the following question has arisen: how can all this newly created information be organised?

Traditionally, ontological classification or categorization has been used to organise information (Shirky, 2008). By definition, this approach involves ‘organizing a set of entities into a group’ (Shirky, 2008). While this may have been an effective way to organise material information in the past (such as books in a library), it is ‘overrated in terms of its value in the digital world’ (Shirky, 2008).

As indicated by Shirky (2008), ‘in the digital world, there is no physical constraint that’s forcing this kind of organization on us any longer’. Rather than grouping information into a top-down organisation scheme, the Web allows us to create a unique identifier for everything, and once this is done, anyone can label or tag URL’s in ways that make them more valuable. This means that there are ‘no fixed set of categories or officially approved choices’ (Shirky, 2008).

On first thought, you might argue that this will create an incredible amount of ‘trash’ mixed with valuable information, making it hard to distinguish between the two. The thing is, by utilising tags, value is created by grouped classifications over time (Shirky, 2008). In the end, these grouped classifications will become ‘more valuable than professional categorisation schemes, particularly with regards to robustness and cost of creation’ (Shirky, 2008).

So as you can see, we are slowing creating a collaborative form of organisation that effectively allows us to manage such a powerful source of information like the Web. As stated by Shirky (2008), ‘by letting users tag URL’s and then aggregating those tags, we’re going to be able to build alternative organizational systems, systems that, like the Web itself, do a better job of letting individuals create value for one another, often without realising it’.

There are a lot of new ideas that I have tried to summarise in the above paragraphs. Clay Shirky’s article is particularly interesting with regards to new ways of organising information. I have done my best to summarise his main points, but it would be really worthwhile to read it yourself if you want to get a better grasp of the points I have outlined.

Till next time,
Annelise

Reference List

Shirky, C. 2008. Ontology Is Overrated: Categories, Links and Tags. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Shirky (accessed 4th April, 2008).

Jenkins, H. 2002. Interactive Audiences. In The New Media Book, ed. D. Harries, 157-170. London: BFI Publishing

Flew, T. 2004. New Media: An IntroductionI 2nd ed. Melbourne, QUP.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Welcome

Welcome to my blog... finally! Its taken me a little bit longer than everyone else to get it up and running but thanks to a bit of delicious network contact stalking, I'm finally getting on the right track. I never had my own blog before so am a little aprehensive about our second piece of assessment. Then again, I had never had a delicious site before having to do our first assessment and I think I managed that ok so hopefully this will work out too! Anyways, Im already a bit behind and should probably start writing my scholarly entry on Web2.0 vs Web1.0 so that's it from me for now! Till my next entry... Annelise