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SOCIAL MEDIA & PARTICIPATORY CULTURE

Social media and the affordances of digital technologies have made it possible for new possibilities of participation to emerge. People are no longer just consumers or users but also producers as well. Hinton & Hjorth (2013) explains that social media sites support many kinds of offline actives and have real social, economic and cultural consequences. First, exploring fan community crowd funding projects and then looking at citizen journalism and fashion blogging as an example, it will be visible how social media and the internet has driven a new era of participatory culture and communication.

With the internet and the networked society that social media platforms allow, crowd funding activities are a form of participatory act that is common. People are now able to “…participate in activities that were once beyond them,” (Hinton & Hjorth 2013). I would like to use the example of Kickstarter, a social crowd-funding platform to discuss ideas of new forms of participation for people and how fans communities use it. What already is comprehendible is that especially for fan groups “…the internet [has] created a new space for social interaction…” (Hinton & Hjorth 2013) and social media fosters community for them. Fans are now able to partake in huge projects that they, as a single person could not do. For example, fan films and videos are common for shows like Star Trek. However quality fan films and videos can be difficult for many fans, even if wanted to create them. Fans of Star Trek and a small production company named Axanar Productions used Kickstarter to crowdfund a short fan film (view here)  Fans of Star Trek were able to participate, donate and become part of the project. As Hinton & Hjorth (2013) explains, there is great value in applications such as crowd sourcing, as people perceive they are helping a community. In the case of Axanar Productions, fans were able to actively be acknowledged and credited for their participation and contribute to the film. Below is the trailer to the crowd funded short fan film. Fans individually alone would not have been able to make this possible but because of social crowd-funded platforms like Kickstarter, it has made it possible. Below is the trailer of the crowd-funded short fan film.

Social media is changing the way people can publish their own opinion and also have their own voice. Platforms such as Twitter allow anyone to converse on any topic and have their perspective heard. Using the Sharri Markson case of the student indoctrination claim that was discussed during the course as an example, what can be seen is how diverse communities of people ranging from key people involved to ordinary citizens were able to be partake in expressing opinion on the issue. Twitter gave an opportunity for people to have a debate and discussion. Before the internet and certainly, social media, traditional print news stories would not have such a viral impact, even for a matter that is making such an implicated allegation. People “…are no longer silly consumers of media: they have become participants, “(Hinton & Hjorth 2013) that are able to communicate their own standpoint freely and easily with social media and not feel restricted to be heard. What is surfacing in society today with social media, is “… the rise of the citizen journalist – a phenomenon that is challenging conventions around press media and journalism…”(Hinton & Hjorth 2013). Especially with the growing rise of portable “…devices like mobile phones that can capture images and video,” (Hinton & Hjorth 2013) people are able to create their own content and report news themselves anywhere and anytime. Furthermore, the hashtagging system on social media additionally adds another dimension for people to able to search and follow certain conversations and debates that they want to participate or want to keep track of.

There are also other forms of journalism that have been influenced, besides the news. This includes fashion journalism, where bloggers have completely transformed the industry. Many fashion bloggers began writing a blog as a hobby and they wrote commentary on fashion trends, reviewed products and clothes they bought and also had DIY photoshoots of their interpretation and their take on style. Fashion blogging has become extremely popular, surpassing the interests of traditional fashion magazines because the fashion bloggers’ “…amateur images taken…hav[e] more of a raw and unpolished feel..giv[ing]..a more intimate and trustworthy affect” (Hinton & Hjorth 2013) for interested readers. A fashion blogger’s “…private musings, opinions [give] authenticity…” (Deuze 2006) unlike paid fashion journalists who may have to write in a certain way that may be influenced not by their interests but as a job.

Fashion bloggers first started becoming popular, because of their unfiltered opinion on fashion, and it attracted many people to read them. It has become so popular that many bloggers are now seen as style icons, social influencers and are even invited to fashion shows, which were once an exclusive to top-notch traditional media. Some even were given seating front row. Also because of the instantaneous opinions that could be written straight away without having to go through processes of approvals and editors like traditional magazines would, many publicity companies saw the value and the immediate press coverage they would receive. As discussed by Wilson (2009) bloggers are able to post images and review fashion collections before the last model exited the runway whilst magazine editors were noting down clothes to feature that would be published in their magazine months later. Below is an example of where bloggers are sitting front row amongst traditional media with their computers. The image is dated and with technology advancements blogging is easily written via devices such as mobile phones or tablets. However, the image is a great visual of the bloggers juxtaposed totraditional media.articleLarge

In 2015, of course magazines have adopted blogging on to their website as well and given focus on online content as much as they would print, if not more. There is increasingly an “…incorporation of citizen journalists and their views into mainstream… media” (Bruns 2008). Many magazines have even enlisted bloggers to contribute to their website and have created an area of their site that has content created and written by a network of prominent bloggers with allegiance of existing readers, so that their audience would be brought to a magazine’s website, benefit their readership.

Blogging that was once seen as an alternative to mainstream traditional media is also in a way becoming mainstream as well. Many fashion bloggers are getting into the spot light. Due to the abundance of readers and followers of fashion blogs and their social networks, many fashion brands and a vast amount of companies have also started to work and collaborate with bloggers in a variety of marketing and also advertising strategies. These people with social influence are important to brands when marketing fashion brands. When developing my own social media campaign design, I actually incorporated the use of a social influencer for the jewellery brand my social media project. A great example of where a fashion brand worked with a fashion blogger is the Forever 21 collaboration with Rumi Neely who wrote a blog called Fashion Toast. Below is an image of Rumi Neely infront of her billboard campaign. Known for her cool edgy youthful style, who is the target audience of Forever 21, the company collaborated and utilised her for advertising and marketing purposes. Readers that enjoy looking at her style would therefore also enjoy Forever 21 and the brand cleverly incorporated Rumi Neely in the brand to further build their following and customer base. This is just one of many brand and fashion blogger partnerships and there are increasingly more and more, especially with the wide variety of bloggers and brands.

rumi neely forever 21,omgeemag

In Australia,a reality television show that documents some affluential fashion bloggers was launched last year. It’s interesting that these bloggers are being recognised in mainstream media and on television. The teaser video below delineates a modern fashion blogger’s day-to-day activities and their content creation and at the same time how brands have collaborated with them.

What do you think of fashion bloggers and how they have transformed traditional fashion journalism?

Refereneces:

Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.
Deuze, M. (2006). Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture. The Information Society 22(2), pp.63-75.

Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Understanding Social Media. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Wilson, E. (2009) Bloggers Crash Fashion’s Front Row, viewed 28th May 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/fashion/27BLOGGERS.html?_r=0

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4 thoughts on “SOCIAL MEDIA & PARTICIPATORY CULTURE

  1. This is a really interesting piece on the evolution of participatory culture and how it is impacting and merging with more ‘traditional’ forms of media. The two ideas I found most interesting were the power of crowdfunding to support cultural production pursuits and the adoption of blogging and citizen journalism by mainstream media outlets.

    For cultural endeavours I’d argue that the power delivered to produsers from social media is incredibly important in both cultural development and personal development and expression.

    The other side of the coin as I see it is where people are able to create a profile, brand and celebrity for themselves on a subject they don’t have any formal skills or qualifications in. This is relatively harmless if the subject is say, model train design. However, there are plenty of examples in the ‘health and wellbeing’ space where social media personalities provide rivers of misguided advice to a willing audience. While often simply inaccurate or incorrect, there is also a real danger to personal and public health. Case in point: Belle Gibson of ‘The Whole Pantry’, Vani Hari, ‘The Food Babe’, and the entire anti-vaccination movement.

    I was wondering if in your readings on this topic you came across this cultural production issue, and if so, how it was dealt with in the literature? Also, whether mechanisms exist in online communities to address and rectify dangerous content that masquerades as being good for you?

    Thanks! – Justine Mackay

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  2. I enjoy reading your article as you raise the issue on fashion journalism, I love everything related to fashion and love to read the fashion blogs, too:). In my experience, the presence of fashion bloggers has become inspiration for fashion lovers. Started with their hobbies to mix and match clothes, share their photos and review through their blogs, they have turned their existence as the new icon in the fashion world. Through their amazing sense and passion in fashion, writing and photographs, also regular post through their social media account, they own an important role in fashion industry and may have bigger influence to the market (especially fashion lovers) rather than traditional fashion journalism.

    By the way, did you know about the application called ‘polyvore’? I am thinking if you can include little story about this apps in your article. It is like ‘home’ for fashion bloggers to share their best style so that every day we got hundreds of ideas to dress.

    Here is one of my favourite fashion bloggers in Indonesia (http://www.soniaeryka.com). She has started blogging since 2005 and has attracted heaps of followers in her social media account. In last 2013, she was selected to cover New York Fashion Week by Fimela.com (online fashion & lifestyle magazine) and report it through her blog, twitter, Instagram and Fimela.

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  3. You provide spot-on examples about the new possibilities of participation that are emerging because of social media. Crowd sourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Pozible are the new methods of fundraising. You mention fashion magazines enlisting the help and following of popular fashion bloggers for their own websites. An example would have been helpful. I think your fashion blogging examples are really strong but I would’ve loved to have seen you delve further into the topic. You mentioned there are fashion bloggers who write for magazine websites but are there examples of bloggers who have written for the print publication itself? Or fashion bloggers who have a strong Instagram presence who have done photoshoots for print magazines? And what about when the opposite has happened, when established magazine editors have left the print world behind and moved into the online blogging sphere? A conversation for another time, perhaps. I love the focus on fashion and your closing question is compelling, however your article gives some other really fascinating examples demonstrating how social media has changed journalism, fundraising and collaboration that would have been nice to end with. Otherwise a great read (and now I’ve got a couple more bloggers to check out!)

    – Melania Berehovy

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