The BLANK Page Will Not Be Blank: User Created Content and Produsage

The BLANK social media campaign was initially intended to provide it’s community with an equal amount of inspirational and distracting content — posts to help motivate people to get out of bed in the morning, along with posts to let them know it’s perfectly fine to stay in their pyjamas after noon. The issue was that there was quite a low level of engagement across each of the social media platforms. What occurred to me was that these posts alone would not be enough to encourage the community to interact with the content. It is one thing to be part of a virtual neighbourhood, to have a virtual assembly point (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013), but what more can a follower of BLANK on social media gain on top of connecting with people who have similar interests and habits? What is in it for them?

The Early Social Media Strategy for BLANK

The concepts I was constantly reminded of were user created content, as defined by Hinton and Hjorth (2013) as content produced by users for other users’ consumption, and produsage, as defined by Axel Bruns (2008) as a hybrid of the terms user and producer that interweaves the two kinds of participation. I wanted to expand on the idea that “social media is fundamentally a participative medium” (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013: 55), only BLANK wasn’t receiving that level of participation at all. These theories led me to develop my social media strategy by reevaluating how BLANK could encourage engagement, not just in likes and retweets but through the creation of actual content where audience members are no longer passive consumers. A 2014 article written by Evan LePage for the Hootsuite blog suggests “turning customers into advocates” which got me thinking and is a point I’ll come back to later.

When BLANK was first established it was intended to be a print publication, however, as we move further into the digital age, print magazines seem to be less popular. The solution to this problem, I feel, lies in the creative contribution of the community to the magazine’s content particularly through their engagement on social media. The BLANK Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms will act as a means of sourcing user created content. For instance, live Twitter forums with industry professionals and local creatives will be recorded and curated for the magazine itself. Followers who “are no longer simply consumers of media” (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013: 57) can engage with and use the social network sites (SNSs) by participating in the online conversation. Their questions, responses and comments will then be published in the next issue of BLANK as a curated Twitter feed feature.

Another idea that developed from Bruns’ theory (2008) is using Instagram and the ‘procrastibaking’ hashtag as a means of sourcing original photographic material. Users, that is those audience members who actively engage with the social media platform, will be able to upload their pictures and share them with the community not just online but in a published section of the magazine dedicated to the procrastibaking creations of BLANK users across the country. “Armed with nothing more than their laptop or desktop computer, [or in this case their smartphone], some technical skill and a clever idea” these users will become the “source of the original material” (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013: 58). Their snapshots will fill the pages of the BLANK publication.

The Battle Ground to Being Published in BLANK

The same thing can be done for aspiring artists, whether they are photographers, illustrators, painters or designers, even writers. Call outs for content can be announced on all of BLANK’s social media channels and each quarterly issue can feature two or three Australian creatives who are given the opportunity to showcase their work. As Jean Burgess points out in her 2007 PhD thesis, creativity is an activity that everyone can engage in, not just trained artists and professionals. It is this idea that strengthened my own ideas about the direction in which BLANK could move. Everybody has the capacity and potential to be creative and the printed publication of BLANK will exhibit this notion. Henry Jenkins’ concept of participatory culture (2006), where members are made to feel as though their contribution to the online community matters, is another theory that will be put into practice through the BLANK social media campaign

I was further inspired by the idea that as times change, social media has changed the world of the arts. The role of the art realm’s gatekeepers has been challenged (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013). Art galleries, museums, publishing houses and media corporations are no longer the sole arbiters of culture. Daniel Palmer (2012) suggests that the proliferation of applications like Instagram has meant that images taken from a smartphone are no longer viewed as inferior to those taken from a professional camera. Amateurs can deliver content that is of a satisfactorily high quality and BLANK will encourage produsers to create content that meets this standard. Yet here lies the implication of sourcing user created content. As this practice raises issues of quality, BLANK may be viewed as just another art gallery filtering the content that comes through the social media platforms. What desire is there for produsers to have their work published in print when the whole world can see their work on the internet? A fair thought to indulge as issues of intellectual property come into play. In the first minute of this interview with Laurie Cubbison (2012), the questions posed are centred around the idea of who owns the intellectual property. Is it the user who created it, or the magazine that selected it? Could the magazine survive without the engagement of users on social media? BLANK may meet these challenges in the future. My belief is that people still appreciate and highly value work that has been singled out from a vast pool of content, and that users will continue to perfect their writing or photography skills in order to see their work in the printed magazine.

Social media will not only act as a channel for sourcing BLANK magazine’s content. It will also act as a means of gathering attention for the magazine itself through the creative and social efforts of users (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013). By publishing their work in BLANK, these users can spread the word to their own networks and communities. This brings us back to LePage’s idea of advocacy. Followers will not only be users and producers, they will also be publicists and advocates of BLANK. Social media will function, like Hjorth and Kim (2011) suggest, as a modern extension of the old postcard, a kind of ‘look at what I’m doing’ gesture. It is my hope that members of the online BLANK community will see the value in creating a collection of work made by more than just a group of writers, editors and graphic designers, and that they will want to be the owners of such a work and feel proud that they helped to bring it into existence.

The modern day postcard

Over the last six weeks I have learned so much about creating an interesting and engaging social media strategy and campaign. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t seem to work and I can only hope that as time goes on I continue to refine my social media communication skills. The most valuable piece of information that I will take away from this course is undoubtedly the value of creative collaboration both inside and out of the classroom and hangouts. The live Twitter forums have also inspired me to do something similar with the magazine. Being able to bounce ideas off my peers and friends, as well as industry professionals, has given me the confidence and support to move forward and experiment with BLANK as a print publication.

– Melania Berehovy

(but annoyingly, or maybe appropriately, authored as BLANK Magazine)

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

Burgess, J. (2007). ‘Vernacular creativity and new media’. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding Social Media. Croydon, UK: SAGE.

Hjorth, L., & Kim, Y. (2011). ‘The mourning after: A commentary on crisis management in Japan post 3.11’, Television & New Media Journal, 12 (6): 552-59.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Intersect. New York: New York University Press.

Palmer, D. (2012). ‘iPhone photography: Mediating visions of social space’, in L. Hjorth, J. Burgess and I. Richardson (eds), Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone. New York: Routledge. pp.85-97.


One thought on “The BLANK Page Will Not Be Blank: User Created Content and Produsage

  1. It’s interesting to see you highlight what you perceived as unsuccessful elements of the magazine, and that you look to break out from social media to explore a print publication. I would be interested to see if moving into print actually impacts the produsage and creative contributor culture that you are looking to cultivate from your research. By bringing the magazine into print, won’t you have to eventually limit the content contributions, thereby limiting the influence circle of your user created content? Furthermore, might the inherent restrictions of editorial requirements of a print publication (due to limited page space/quality requirements you won’t be able to take everyone) limit the real nature of the UCC and make it more UGC – as the content is filtered and distributed by you as a publisher? Again this may limit your social interactivity. I think the solution here is to maintain a robust social media strategy behind any pursued print publications. After all, it’s a magazine about procrastination! What kind of representation would it be if it wasn’t on the internet!


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