Class & Lecturer: Fiona Andreallo 9 -12 p.m Thursdays.
Student: Kristina Djikanovic 460431730
Traditional media such as print and television places the user as an observer, where little or no participation is evident. However, through the development and expansion of social media, the prior status quo of content production, distribution and selection of shared news is being challenged. Thus, observers are becoming more participative and to a certain extent, adapting the role of the media (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). In addition, ‘Death of the author’ further supports the rise of UCC, questioning the position of traditional producers of content and their function as creators of meaning.
User created content
User created content (UCC) can simply be explained as content, which is created by the users of the produced content (Vickery & Wunsch-Vincent, 2007). The term ’produser’ discussed by Bruns is worth mentioning, referring to the producer also being the user, much similar to UCC. Within this category, we find websites such as Wikipedia, where any individual with an Internet connection can edit, write, and view the content of the site. Other examples of UCC are YouTube, citizen journalism, and Internet memes, where the latter are digital images shared online by other users (User Generated Content) (Nissenbaum & Limor, 2015). This can be through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or websites like 9gag to name a few.
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There is considerable evidence that display the positive effects of UCC. The Arab Spring is a relevant example of the potential impact online activism and citizen journalism can have in situations where traditional media is experiencing challenges to perform its work (Howard et al. 2011). By the use of social media, content is more easily shared, where the reach has next to no limit. In comparison, traditional media does not necessarily posses the mass distribution qualities of the Internet. Where UCC aids in creating an easily accessible public sphere inclusive of all opinions and angles on a matter, traditional media does not. It is frequently biased to a certain degree, depending on various variables such as who owns the channel, what their political stance is, and etcetera.
Despite its favourable characteristics, UCC is found to be the subject of considerable critique among scholars and professionals. As anyone that has access to the Internet can produce content, it is of importance to keep in mind that such content does not go through the vigorous fact checking that traditional media is subjected to. It can also be exploited in the sense of individuals twisting information to suit their own personal beliefs. Thus, UCC is often linked to issues of quality, and transparency.
Death of the author
In addition to UCC, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) mentions the ‘death of the author’, a recognised theory developed by Frenchman Roland Barthes in 1966. He argues that by assigning an author to a text and therefore, giving it a lone meaning, is to set a limitation to the text. The audience of the writing should be free to decide how they wish to read and view the work. Barthes further critiques the notion of the author as the sole actor in literature and highlights that ‘the birth of the reader’ as an active participator and creator of meaning is only possible through the ‘death of the author’ (Barthes, 1994). The statement is supported by the claim of the reader as the place where different parts that make a text are imprinted. The entity of a writing lies in its destination (the reader), and not the original producer of it.
Historian and philosopher Umberto Eco extends on Barthes argument, claiming that the author is not to give the audience his/her explanation of how the work should be interpreted since a book is a source that aims to stimulate interpretation among its audiences. Thus, literature seeks to stimulate the mind, not force it to think a certain way. (tvtropes. 2017).
I do agree with Barthes reasoning to a certain extent. However, one should note that despite the fact that the reader is to interpret literary work however he or she seem fit, I still believe that one shall not fully ignore the aim of the author in writing the story.
The above-discussed theory can be linked to UCC in the sense that it challenges who the producer is and the role of the meaning creator. With the rise of Web 2.0 and social media, it is evident that how we communicate and who distributes and creates content, is shifting. As discussed throughout the essay, there are both positive and negative aspects of UCC. What ‘side’ one chose to lean towards is a matter of personal preference, which I will not discuss further in this essay.
Much of the content covered during the semester has been useful not only for the group assignment where we created a social media brief, but also in terms of knowledge that may be applied in professional situations. For example, UCC and ‘death of the author’ has opened my eyes towards digital as a status quo challenger. There is a considerable amount of examples that support the claim of the positive benefits social media can have, such as simplified communication, higher connectivity and greater diversification of information. Given this, I believe that the knowledge that I have gained throughout the duration of this course is both valuable and relevant in my everyday life. As mentioned in the paragraph above, a shift is happening. Therefore, to be able to stay in the loop, especially as a professional in the field of communication, one must acknowledge the power of Web 2.0, social media and in addition, the death of the author as we know it.
The most interesting aspects of the course according to me was the topic of ‘petworking’ since I have personal experience with it and the topic of digital influencers as meaning makers. During recent years, digital influencers have gained great momentum and it is now common to observe individuals building their entire brand through platforms like Instagram as their main channel for audience reach and brand promotion. As it is know, I personally believe that we will continue to see a rapid growth of digital influencers, their reach, and more importantly, their position as meaning makers.
The concepts that have been discussed in this essay will most likely not be subjected to severe change in the near future. However, the landscape of digital and social media is fluid, constantly changing to suit the need and desires of its users. Certain concepts have proven to be highly successful, some reach great popularity for a short period of time, and others barely gain any recognition. It is a highly dynamic environment to act in, both as a producer and user. Furthermore, I believe that timing is everything and the term ‘survival of the fittest’ is a great explanation of the world of digital.
To conclude, despite some uncertainty surrounding the course, I believe that it has been successful in providing students with information about social media communication. The gained knowledge is relevant in today’s highly ‘online’ society and in addition, reading materials provided have held a stance of both objectivism and critique. I find the latter of significant importance since often it is easy to overlook the downsides of innovative services, products etcetera. Where a great example is the issue of Internet safety, which has received considerable publicity with the expansion and development of Web 2.0.
Barthes, R. (1994). 11 The Death of the Author. Media Texts, Authors and Readers: A Reader, 166.
Hinton, S. & Hjorth, L. 2013. Understanding Social Media. Sage Publications Ltd, London.
Howard, P. N., Duffy, A., Freelon, D., Hussain, M. M., Mari, W., & Maziad, M. (2011). Opening closed regimes: what was the role of social media during the Arab Spring?.
Nissenbaum, A., & Limor, S. (2015). Internet memes as contested cultural capital: The case of 4chan’s /b/ board. New Media & Society, Oct., 1–19.
tvtropes. 2017. Death of the Author. [ONLINE] Available at: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathOfTheAuthor. [Accessed 21 April 2017].
Vickery, G., & Wunsch-Vincent, S. (2007). Participative web and user-created content: Web 2.0 wikis and social networking. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).