Journalism’s face and phase is changing exponentially; there are more journalistic ‘actors’ than traditional journalism could ever conjure, thanks to the rapid evolution of social & digital networking, allowing any single one person to be a part of this inexhaustible digital information network. Today’s audience has gone beyond being mere consumers of media products and have themselves become producers insofar as new social & digital mediums of information sharing allows one contribution to any digital community on a global scale. As a result of this ease of information dumping, social & digital media is one of the main mediums through which morality, foreign information, and politics are commented on or controlled. It has also become an ever more important engine for protest and mobilisation.
Both popular and scholarly discourse seems to reveal a general, almost paradoxical trend in a fight for free access to information, specifically regarding social & digital media. On one hand, a growing number of countries are attempting to tighten their control of the Net, but at the same time, increasingly inventive netizens demonstrate mutual solidarity by mobilising when necessary.
Unsurprisingly, authoritarian leaders have been taken aback by a proliferation of this evolving hyper-interconnectivity, and it has raised ears. Government and private industries are consciously making an effort to ‘protect’ their country and citizens by way of regulation, though it is ultimately the government that determines the quality and quantity of censorship. One could argue the implications this has for a liberal democracy, where the consumer has the right to view content of their choice, seem dangerously paradoxical.
In authoritarian countries in which the traditional media is state-controlled the Internet offers a unique and mobile space for discussion and information sharing. Granted, it has become an ever more important platform for protest and mobilisation. Times have changed since the Internet and new media was the exclusive province of dissidents and opponents. The new media, particularly social networks, has given collaborative tools with which digital-communities can change social order. Here, economic interest intertwines with the need to defend free circulation of information.
An epitomical example between the recalcitrant back-and-forth between web 2.0 and control is the widely known WikiLeaks. Foundations were really shaken with the arrival of WikiLeaks, a non-profit organisation that publishes information on the Internet that’s embarrassing to officials and arguably harmful to governments. Immediately cited as an alleged threat to national securities, the organisation WikiLeaks was ordered to acquiesce abandonment. A web phenomenon in itself, WikiLeaks has consequently undergone rigorous debate and controversy from a dichotomy of pro-censorship and pro-freedom activists.
Coproduction denotes the joint production of Web-accessible digital materials by disparate actors, wherein the duality of Web production and consumption is emphasised. For an organisation such as WikiLeaks to continue thriving, despite acquiescing in abandonment, is a fundamental characteristic of information sharing on social & digital media.
Initially, coproduction generally occurs through social networking services, mirror sites, torrents, and blog forums, eventually reaching citizens, candidates, and journalists. The information is traversed through production of features, production of sites, across Internet applications, and through links. WikiLeaks is itself a Web sphere, so it is important to acknowledge the power of coproduction; despite political pressure, WikiLeaks continues to thrive and boom. The content initially uploaded on the home domain is now well down the path of immunity as it is continuously being re-uploaded and made available through mirror links, blogs, and torrents.
A simple Google.au search of Julian Assange results in pages of political and social conversation about the history of the campaign, the numerous offences and extradition Assange has been charged with, and continued media links to mainstream news sites all well-equipped with text, image, and video multimodality. Dig a little deeper with a cluster search engine and things get more ardent; on the left, socialist journals and blogs preach justice for Assange, on the right, more stiff-collared actors demand reprisal. Both sides of the argument have multiple actors that coproduce features on a variety of sites. The socialist renewal site, links.org.au/node/2029, demonstrates coproduction by clearly having links ‘Needs your support!’, ‘Join the brigade’, and propaganda for socialist movements and organisations down the side of the page; there is an email subscription available, as well as an option to subscribe to the weekly newspaper Green Left.
Mobilisation is a persuasive action in an attempt to persuade someone to persuade others to act in a particular way, and after the ashes of WikiLeaks settled here arose a pocket of passionate activists united through sharing ideas beyond cultural and geopolitical boundaries in the spirit of the open source principles: Anonymous, an online community existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain.
Having made numerous widely publicised protests and international hacktivism, Anonymous’ subculture is getting worldwide reputation through their civil disobedience, protesting, and hacking through the digital world. Although not necessarily tied to a single online entity, many websites are strongly associated with Anonymous. This includes notable imageboards such as 4chan, Futaba, their associated wikis, Encyclopaedia Dramatica, and a number of forums.
A solid example of mobilisation through social & digital media was OccupyWallStreet (#occupywallstreet, occupywallst.org) which was an endeavour being rapidly publicized through digital mediums. Occupy Wall Street was a ‘leaderless resistance movement with people of many colours, genders and political persuasions’, and was an extension of Anonymous. Herein, mobilisation was used to spread the resistance movement through the digital world, planting pages and links and visual propaganda across blogs and social networking sites. The home page had visual propaganda, information on the event with share and commenting options, and even a map for the protest. Adbusters.org has recent blog posts of rousing art for #occupywallstreet, sporting the Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask amongst much visual propaganda.
Coproduction and Mobilisation in our Social Media Project
A good way to discuss coproduction and mobilisation more casually would be to discuss how they were utilised in our social media campaigns, as for a company to have a successful and pervasive online presence it must establish an identity and engage with netizens through these two paradigms.
Major SNS platforms use coproduction and mobilisation to bring people together in certain networks and to push forth a certain message or identity, the paramount goal I’m sure the majority of social media campaigns aim to achieve. This could be on the scale from simply establishing and recommending a local restaurant, to something much more radical as we’ve seen with Wikileaks and #occupywallstreet.
My social media campaign was limited by the fact it was a ‘fake’ launch, and ideally I would have liked to have had more opportunity to establish a real entity and watch it evolve. Over the semester, however, I have learnt how exponential and ever pervasive social & digital media is. Whether this is a positive thing or not, is purely subjective.
FOX, L. 2010. Killing the Messenger: Corporate Media and Politicians v. Julian Assange and Wikileaks [Online]. News Junkie. Post. Available: http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/12/04/killing-the-messenger-corporate-media-and-politicians-v-julian-assange-and-wikileaks/
MORILLON, L., JULLIARD, J.-F., 2010. WEB 2.0 VERSUS CONTROL 2.0 [Online]. Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom. Available: