Cultural production, cultural intermediaries and social media

The media audiences practice has been changing over the time with the transition from old media to new media, and also changing under the media environment where traditional and new media collide. The changes have been reflected on not only the way that audiences receiving or consuming information, but also the way the audiences actively produce and spread information. Audiences are acting more and more actively now and their roles are shifting from merely consumers to producers and intermediaries. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google + enable new media audiences to deliver information via Internet.

The concept “Cultural Production” and “Cultural Intermediaries” were firstly brought up by Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher. According to an article by Kathryn Exon Smith, “Cultural Intermediaries in the Wikipedian Age,” Smith described cultural intermediaries as “aggregators.” “They are those who collect seemingly disparate bits of data and combine them into a coherent and meaningful whole.  I believe that all this technology makes cultural intermediaries – the trusted, popular, consistently competent ones – more important than ever. Career counsellors and management thinkers in the “information age” are constantly pointing out that with all of the information being thrown at us, the need increases for those who can rise above it all and provide an intelligent layer of analysis to help others sift through it and realise what is important.” (Smith, 2010)

Also, cultural production and cultural intermediaries are involving two other concept— high culture and low culture. By using social media, the cultural producers and intermediaries are producing and disseminate all kinds of culture. The “high” in the “high culture” could be interpreted as “aristocratic”, “noble”, “elegant” things, for example operas, symphonies and theatre.  In contrast to the high culture, low culture is a “disparaging term for some forms of popular culture the have appeal to the masses.” (Ferdaws, 2014) Examples of low culture are toilet humour, yellow journalism, pornography, exploitation films.(Ferdaws, 2014) In addition, “hybrid culture” is a mixture of different types of culture. People who enjoy so-called high culture, such as operas and classic music, also find some kinds of low culture or popular culture are interesting, such as pop music.

In addition, these two concepts, cultural production and cultural intermediaries are also relating to the concepts of participatory culture and consumer culture. Rather than merely consumer culture, where audiences act only as consumers, participatory culture is where audiences, or the previous consumers, participate in cultural production and creation, help produce and contribute to culture.

According to an article named “From participatory culture to public participation,” the participatory culture are having five main features- 1. it has relatively low barriers for audience to engage and express; 2. it has strong support for sharing other’s creation; 3. it involves “informal mentorship”, means that people who have the most experiences are passing on their knowledge to those who have no experiences; 4. the participators believe that the things they are doing and the products they are producing are meaningful; 5. the participators care about what others think of their creation and productions, and they feel been connected to the public. (From Participatory culture to public participation)

One example of cultural intermediaries and participatory culture could be the manga scanlators, or fan-translation and fansubbing. They are usually manga fans, who understand more than one languages, for example, person whose first language is English, and also understand Japanese, at the same time is a fan of Japanese manga, trying to translate the manga into English by adding subtitles, then produce and provide the translated version to other audiences from  overseas such as US, UK. These manga fans are considered as cultural intermediaries. They are doing the scanlation for free, and enjoy their reproductions been spread and seen by more audiences who share the same interesting with them.

Social media has impacted on the cultural production and cultural intermediaries by impacting the mainstream news, by “managing and coordinating artistic production, gate-keeping, curating, cataloguing, editing, scheduling, distributing, marketing/advertising and retailing.” (Lee, 2012) Journalists usually follow the people in the public to understand the next controversial and newsworthy topics. A research conducted by the PewResearchCenter shows that 39 percent of teens share their artistic creations online, one third of teens have their own websites, blogs, and 26 percent teens remix the content they find online into their own version with creations. (Lenhart, Madden, Smith, Macgill, 2007) The cultural intermediaries are impacting both the production and consumption sides. By doing the social media campaign, I think I became a cultural intermediary, the one who in the middle of the two groups, which are my chosen organisation that I am doing the campaign for and the targeted audiences, and trying to understand both of their needs and perspectives, trying to know what kinds of information will appear to the audiences, and engaging both of the groups.

In the era of “we are all cultural intermediaries”, media audiences has transformed from passive consumers to active producers and intermediaries. This is a positive reflection of the development of Internet and technologies; however, at the same time, as media audiences, we should also make efforts to become better media producers and intermediaries, try to act more professionally and accurately.


Maguire, J. S., Matthews, J. (2012). Are we all cultural intermediaries now? An introduction to cultural intermediaries in context. http://ecs.sagepub.com/content/15/5/551.full.pdf+html

Smith, K.E. (02/22/2010). Cultural Intermediaries in the Wikipedian Age. https://posthistorical.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/cultural-intermediaries-in-the-wikipedian-age/

Lee, H.-K. (2012) Cultural consumers as ‘new cultural intermediaries’: manga scanlators. Arts Marketing: An International Journal, 2(2), 231-143. http://www.intermediation.gr/myfiles/repository/articles/1.cultural.consumers.as.cultural.intermediaries.pdf

Wright, D. (2005). Mediating production and consumption: cultural capital and ‘cultural workers’. https://www.academia.edu/310654/Mediating_production_and_consumption_cultural_capital_and_cultural_workers

Ferdaws. (05/02/2014). Difinition of High Culture, Low Culture, hybrid culture and popular culture in depth. http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/definition-high-culture-low-culture-hybrid-culture-468640

Lenhartm A., Madden, M., Smith, A., Macgill, A. (12/19/2007). Teens and Social Meida. http://www.pewinternet.org/2007/12/19/teens-and-social-media/


One thought on “Cultural production, cultural intermediaries and social media

  1. Interesting article that I found informative and elucidated several concepts clearly. I wonder if the concept of High and Low culture mentioned in the article is as a result of the notion of the ‘produser’. Axel Bruns’ term seems appropriate in this regard based if we consider that consumers can now be producers, irrespective of their qualifications or expertise, then anyone with an internet connection create and distribute content. Perhaps because social media allows for the produsers of today to easily transmit content across the globe that we have such an abundance of content-whether its high or low culture. I found the incorporation of the idea of hybrid culture into the article an interesting idea that perhaps embodies Henry Jenkins conception that culture is today one of convergence. I think the five main features of participatory culture mentioned in the article are an interesting topic for discussion, in particular the first feature of there being relatively low barriers for audiences to engage and express. I wonder if Cultural Intermediaries should have a more pronounced role in deciding whether users should have such easy access to publish content. Perhaps intermediaries are needed to ensure that low culture doesn’t completely override society in the long term.


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