Participation and User Created Content

Dingxin Huang/SID:450282939 

Tutorial: Kai Soh/Thursday/12.00pm 


Core Concept


The key difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 is the ‘participation’ of users (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). The emergence of Social network sites (SNSs) is the main driver of the phenomenon that people are increasingly participative online. Social media is widely open for participation while mass media in Web 1.0 era is a one-way medium that only allows users passively receive information rather than actively creating and generating the contents.




Hinton and Hjorth (2013) examined the concept in the Chapter 4 of their book Understanding Social Media. They not only discussed and expanded the idea that has been conceptualized by pioneers, but also combined it with some practical examples and proposed several critiques as well.


Firstly, the importance of users’ participation was deeply examined, which is arguably generated by social media. They nominated two forms of participation, user generated content (UGC) and user created content (UCC). UGC means users simply ‘forward the content made by others’ (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013), UCC means users create their own content.


Secondly, Hinton and Hjorth discussed the implication of the emergence of social network sites, especially the occurrence of participative modes of use about the study of media and society. Due to the variables in elements, the results are different. Consequently, they proposed the idea that ‘rethinking the relationship between participation, agency and media’ is the most important part when discussing politics of social and mobile media (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).


Thirdly, the term ‘produser’ of Burns (2008) was deployed and related with user created content, including the definition of these terms and moved on to their implications in the Web 2.0 era.


Lastly, these concepts were put into grounded practice. This article demonstrated Crowd Souring, Citizen Journalism and Online Activism, which can clearly show how the ‘produsage’ is influencing the people and the society by engaging people through cyber. Meanwhile, some critiques of each concept were included.




The development of Web 2.0 and the popularization of smart electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets have significantly engaged people into the online world, in which they are able to share the content they are interested in and create their opinions when surfing the Internet. The interaction and communication with other people offer them the opportunities to change their roles from purely using the web, receiving information to participative modes of using the Internet. The shift from listeners to participants allows them to immediately present their views and preferences. As mentioned by Hinton and Hjorth (2013), Facebook users can simply press the ‘like’ button while some others can open their own blogs, where they are able to upload articles, videos or pictures therefore reply the comments written by their followers.


However, some critiques of this concept still exist. Crawford (2009) proposed that if everyone participates online in the form of talking, the listeners would not be enough, but the problem has just got attention recently. In addition, Flew (2008) issued that people live in rural areas and the Third World are likely to have difficulties with getting access to social media. Some of them are facing basic living issues everyday because of the inadequacies with the infrastructure, not to mention the access to the Internet or smart electronic devices. If they cannot speak online, who can listen to them in the Web 2.0 era?


In relation to our own group work of the promotion for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, we noticed the majority of the concerts’ attendees are the aged after we did some research and interviews with the audience and the staff. According to Sensis Media Report (2016), from age 18 to 65 plus, the segment of younger generations is using social networking more frequently than the older people. There are only about 20% of people above age 65 who use social network sites at least once a day. Therefore, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s concert did not gain much publicity. In this case, our objective is to make more people aware of the SCM’s concerts and increase the attendance of the concerts through social media platform. Thus, we decided to pick campus students and staff in USYD and white-collar workers work around the Botanic Park as our target audiences. Young and middle-aged people are more likely to participant in our campaign, comparing to the elderly. They are willing to spread, share the information that related to our campaign and they use social network sites more frequent.




Burns (2008) is the first person who brought the term ‘Produsage” forward. According to him, in the Web 2.0 era, users are playing a hybrid role because they are not following a traditional way of content production — passively receive the knowledge and information. They are involved in produsage — the process that they are collaboratively and continuously creating and stretching the original version of the knowledge and information and make it into their personal version. The process itself is building on the environment that electronic devices and Internet are widely accessible (Burns, 2008).


However, the process has side effects. It is an ‘invisible’ process because people probably can not realize they are processing the information. The processed information is artefacts, and we must distinguish the artefacts from the ‘products of the industrial model’ (Burns, 2008). We have seen plenty of fake news online recently. Some of the news creators are unintentional while it still would have influence. Some might even deliberately make profits from what they have created and the people who spread the information for them.


User Created Content

In the new media environment, users of social media are creating tremendous content of their day-to-day life and share them online. The necessity that allows them to do this is the easily access to the Internet and huge amount of functions contained by smart phones. For example, high-quality cameras on the smart phones provide people opportunities to photograph, record and film the interesting events happened on them or near them (Mørk Petersen, 2008). Some social media even completely rely on the user created content, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (Burgess, 2007), they do not create any content on their platform, the only thing they need to do is maintain the platform from crashing down and let the users themselves to help them create the content.


There is a good example of UCC, when the passenger was forcibly removed from flight of United Airline a few weeks ago, dozens of smart phones from different angles were filming the footage and then uploaded them online. It was the passengers on that flight who first reported the story, not the professional news agencies.


One of the criticisms of the UCC is that amateur content creators who lack professional training and experiences are taking the place of professional people (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Another is the fake news. It is very difficult for every person to check the facticity, authenticity and accuracy before reposting and forwarding the piece of news or footage.


In our own campaign, we choose Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as our approaches to gain media coverage and promote the SCM. Indeed, we upload our own content of the SCM, including advertising copies, photos and videos, but we want the audience to share, forward our campaign and more importantly, create their personal content through our hash tags, and comment under our YouTube video or our social media accounts.






As we are in the new media environment, the variety of smart devices allows us to participant with the Internet communication in many different ways. Although there are arguably many side effects of this process, we still can utilize the advantages offered by social media by either promoting our campaign as a media practitioner or keeping online with other people as a produser.




Bruns, Axel. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond: From production to produsage. Vol. 45. Peter Lang, 2008.


Burgess J. E. (2007) ‘Vernacular creativity and new media’. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/16378/.


Crawford, K. (2009) ‘Following you: Disciplines of listening in social media’, Continuum, 23 (4): 523–35. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/10.1080/10304310903003270


Flew, T. (2008). 20 key new media concepts: pp.21-37. New Media: An introduction


Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Participation and User Created Content. In Understanding Social Media (pp. 55–76). London: SAGE.


Mørk Petersen, S. (2008) ‘Common banality: The affective character of photo sharing, everyday life and produsage cultures’. Doctoral dissertation, IT University of Copenhagen.


Social Media. Report 2016. How Australian people and businesses are using social media. Released 1 June 2016 http://www.sensis.com.au/socialmediareport.




2 thoughts on “Participation and User Created Content

  1. I liked the recent example you used of the mobile users taking the video in United Airlines. This is an excellent example of citizen journalism, where user generated and user created content through social media posts have spread news and information to a mass audience. The content created has also been distributed to mainstream and traditional outlets, who only had these videos to use in their reporting. If not for the social media content creators, the news landscape would have missed the opportunity to show video alongside their news broadcast.

    This is also an excellent example of a ‘viral’ Internet trend. The sharing and re-sharing of information on this incident has received massive response on various social networking sites and has been distributed in a large scale, making it go viral. This also in turn benefited the society as it shed light on a large corporation, their practices and their approach to customer service.

    Unlike many UCC, most of the sharing of this news was not motivated by monetary benefits. This represents the potential of citizen journalism to benefit the society, as it is a tool that is able to provide alternative journalism to a large audience.


  2. Hi Dingxin,
    I totally agree with you that social media has fundamentally changed the way people communicate with each other and interact with the society. It also definitely shifted the general public’s role from passive receivers of the media’s propaganda and its massive information to active participants that are leading the production of content in the media landscape. I also agree with you that while the rise of Web 2.0 expands the networked individual’s access of information and allows an open participation, it is still unable to facilitate an inclusive participation for those who don’t have access to the internet. Indeed, if people are not able to voice themselves online, there is no point in using social media and considering it as a participative and an inherently democratizing medium.

    Smartphone cameras ease the difficulties for users to record everything that happens around them, which allows users to create content for social media and therefore underpin its existence. The United Airlines case is a good example for the concept of user created content. You are right that there are also a lot of news firstly being reported by users rather than journalists. However, the content created and shared by users on the social media platforms may cause problems such as fake news. Not all users, particularly citizen journalists are trustworthy, objective, critical and professional. Copyright can also be a problem as sometimes users might accidently take other users’ ideas or productions as their own. Since information is shared everywhere by countless users on social media, I wonder how serious users are regarding copyright.


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