I was fortunate to have attended ‘Media and Communications Special Guest Lecture’ by Zenia Mucha, an executive vice president and chief communication officer at The Walt Disney Company, at Sydney University. The subject of the lecture was ‘the universal nature of storytelling: how stories and characters transcend cultural borders and the role of the public relations in enhancing Disney’s brand’. She explored various ways in encouraging people to enjoy fan culture and experiences, while also explaining how Disney continually leads people to engage with emotional connection via social media. For example, the official Disney Fan club (https://d23.com/) provides active fans with Disney-related content such as comic strips, breaking Disney news and stories, event information and so on. The main impression of the speech was that much Disney’s active fan base were passive consumers. Although this claim may be correct to an extent, this article goes beyond passivity, and explores the meaning of ‘active audiences’ and their main motivations. The concept of user created content (UCC) and remixed culture on social media is also examined, as well as investigating e-citizenship and users as producers and their roles in social media. Finally, this article reflects on the social media campaign of the project and discuss further works regarding project experiences in the future.
Active audiences and fans in participation
In the new digital age, the exponential growth of ‘click-activism’ is generating different results (Nugroho and Syarief. 2012). The definition of ‘activism’ includes, but is not limited to; processing, exchanging, sharing, distributing and producing of information or media contents. Take for example, a particular scene being captured and stored with a smartphone, a tablet, or a personal computer, then being posted on a social network, to be shared among friends, family, colleagues and other general audience. This content can then be stored again on another mobile device or retrieved from the server for future use. Enabled by the Internet, users of the new digital media not only consume those contents, but are also presented with unlimited opportunities to create their own contents or even programme data. This type of audience can be identified as ‘active audience’ – those who put in a “‘certain amount of creative effort’ which is ‘created outside of professional routines and platforms” (Van Dijk, 2006).
In general, an active fan who is enthusiastically and emotionally devoted to celebrities, artists, sports teams and authors may digitally show their dedication. They may promote productions, join a fan club or participate in fan activities. Henry Jenkins (2008) describes fan communities as being self-organised groups, which focuses around a collective production, while debating the meanings, interpretations, and fantasies in response to various artefacts of contemporary culture.
Much of the new media consumers prefer ‘lurking in the shadows’ rather than speaking out – as listening in itself is a form of passive participation (Crawford. 2012). This is the reason behind active audiences and fans as the main leaders in creating and producing new contents on social media.
User Created Content (UCC) and Remixed culture on social media
User Created Content, heavily based on crowd sourcing, is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by producers and contributors from a large group of people, usually free labourers, from an online community. For example, the Wikipedia web site consists of combined user production and is frequently edited by millions of users. The creation of such content by users is often perceived as having major social implications, as it changes the way users produce, distribute, access and reuse information, knowledge and entertainment. This then potentially gives rise to increased user autonomy, increased participation and increased diversity, creating a large cycle (OECD. 2006).
One of the characteristics of the current ‘new digital age’ is the remix of digital contents. The digital consumers freely participate in remixing activities; combining, rearranging and montaging previous media or raw media materials to recreate a content in a new perspective. Digital contents in particular are easy to manage and edit, and with the advances in technology, previous actions of downloading separate software is not required. These do-it-yourself digital technologies also allow sampling and distribution, and most social media platforms offer the management programs for the audiences. Though Lawrence (2008) agrees with the legitimate concerns of copyright holders and need for balanced against public interest and the creative generation of new cultural works. Despite these matters, ‘remixing’ is quickly becoming the new paradigm for cultural media production, and this phenomenon is blurring the boundaries between producers and consumers.
User as producers: Producers and e-citizenship
Hinton & Hjorth (2013) observes that, “the audience are no longer simply consumers of media: they have become participants”. This idea of the audience as media producers demonstrate that internet-based media is a two-way participation between consumers and producers. Traditionally, producers create rich media content; posting blogs, writing e-books, digitally drawing cartoons, and producing music and films. Unsurprisingly, bloggers become journalists, and fans become the authors of extensions to books and films (Jenkins 1992, 2006). However, with the rise of advanced technology and easy applications, the ordinary audience are now presented with limitless opportunities to create video, music, image, movie and books, and freely share and distribute their contents online. This digital environment promotes and enriches available content and transitions passive audience to active consumers and producers.
Active online participation leads to e-citizenship, a concept which is increasingly mediated through digital communication, leading to the fact that technological information is the key to citizen empowerment (Hernon, 1998; Larsen & Rainie, 2002; Temin, 1997). For instance, web blogs provide guides, resources and reviews for the digital citizens to contribute their own ideas, suggestions, and requests. E-citizenship has more responsibilities compared to the resources available, for example, digital citizen engagement attempts to connect others in the same community to overcome common barriers.
Reflection past and future on the social media project
Social media communication is an interesting field in terms of planning social media strategies. I expected to learn about design social media strategies and get to know the different types of social media platforms. This intensive course was quite concise and practical, though it was a challenge keeping up with lectures, as I took up other various theories – exploring social media campaign strategies, social media marketing and brand strategies, and analysing data and creating rich media concurrently. Moreover, the only social platform I use is Facebook. As I was not used to different social media platforms, understanding and adapting to a completely new platform was difficult to adjust to during the five weeks.
I chose the concept of a food curator service for my social media campaign. Food business is one of the biggest markets and people spend considerable amounts of time deciding meal choices in their daily life. Additionally, content curator service has become a trend in the recent years. Though it is near impossible to approach all the plans I presented, I will examine the data analysis of each social media and prepare core key concepts such as collecting food content, reading related food resources, distinguishing the different features and operating function keys in the future. Although I made countless mistakes following social media communication process, this course reminded me what the important key concepts are in the most practical ways.
Yochai Benkler (2006) argues that ordinary audiences are ‘just’ reading, listening and watching the media content available on traditional media. On the other hand, the emergence of the Internet and various social media platforms has dramatically changed the method of communication from a one-way to a two-way or even multiway with the media audiences. Advances in technology with digital devices and online applications enable the audience to create and produce their own contents and opinions to become active audiences. These audiences are always searching for valuable and meaningful media content to share, distribute, remix and reuse with others in the community. This phenomenon is the main reason in the rise of active audiences and fans in participation. It is predicted that, in the future, further development of online communities and social media platforms will give rise to hyper-connected communities with more responsive real-time and on-demand content, allowing every user to become an active audience.
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