Assessment 3 · Uncategorized

Web 2.0 and Participatory Culture

(Tutorial: Kai Soh – Wednesday, 5:00pm – 8:00pm)


Web 2.0 and Social Media

Before the introduction of Web 2.0, the internet was built upon an old school model where computers were connected to each other through a common basic data transfer protocol called Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013). With the constant need for improvement and advancement in technology, the Web 2.0 model was introduced where computers were able to take over more cumbersome tasks such as formatting and presentation, thus allowing users to concentrate solely on their content. Australian new media theorists Anna Munster and Andrew Murphie (2009) saw the Web 2.0 culture to be “dynamic, participatory, engaged, interoperable, user-centred, open, collectively intelligent, and so on”.

Furthermore, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) believe that the Web 2.0 model adopted and encouraged an environment where technical barriers were removed, thus allowing the emergence of social networking sites. They help understand this concept by giving the example of a blog. Websites such as ‘WordPress’, ‘BlogSpot’ and ‘Tumblr’ provide the user with an easy to navigate and user-friendly platform, where they can worry less about the ‘look’ of their content and instead focus on the written material.

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 12.30.54 amFuchs (2014) explained key distinctions between the various web models where “web 1.0 is a computer- based networked system of human cognition, web 2.0 a computer-based networked system of human communication, web 3.0 a computer-based networked system of human co-operation”. Elaborating on the Web 2.0 and 3.0 models, Shirky (2008, p. 20f) states that

Social media and social software are tools that increase our ability to share, to co- operate, with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutional institutions and organizations” (cited in Fuchs, 2014).

Participatory Culture

Participatory culture is quite the opposite of a traditional communication model, where a small amount of mass media outlets speaks to a large group of people, mostly generating a one-way conversation (Fuchs, 2014). Henry Jenkins (2008) believes that “participatory culture is mainly about expressions, engagement, creation, sharing, experience, contributions and feelings”. Making up the crux of the participatory culture is social media. Hinton and Hjorth (2013) consider the tool to be a participative medium where users are constantly and actively providing information of their daily activities, their lives and even their thoughts and opinions.


As stated above, the Web 2.0 model has allowed room for increased participation by making content creation and distribution less challenging, and with the emergence of social media, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) feel that in many cases, it is also free. Participation can take place in various forms, it could be either through a ‘like’ button on Facebook, or through User Generated Content (UGC) where users forward content made by others, or even User Created Content (UCC) where the content is created by the user (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Examples of online platforms which encapsulate the essence of participatory culture are websites such as Wikipedia, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, where a smaller community comes together to share their knowledge and experiences with the broader community (Fuchs, 2014).

Jenkins (2008), Bird (2011), and Costello and Moore (2007) share similar views on participatory culture and user generated content – or ‘produsers’ as Bruns coined the term (Bird, 2011). They believe that online communities, and fan communities in particular, while bonding and shaping each other’s views and opinions, have the potential to form a powerful bargaining unit. Due to the ever-increasing impact of these communities in today’s online world, several large corporations have begun to change their perception and means of interaction with their fans. Companies now seek to establish a stronger connection with their consumers by giving the opportunities to participate and shape new content on their behalf, particularly through their online or social media platforms.

Example #1 – Share A Coke Campaign

Coke_metro3A significant example of participatory culture where a large corporation turned to their consumers, inviting them to participate and help create a unique product, is the Share A Coke campaign initiated by the Coca-Cola company. In 2012, Coca-Cola (Coke) noticed that the brand “had lost its relevance and cool factor with Australia” (Ogilvy Australia, 2012). The company thus decided that they needed to come up with an initiative which reaches out to the local population of Australia and “reconnect” (Ogilvy, 2013) on a personal level rather than commercial. This iconic brand then proceeded to print 150 of the most common Australian names on Coke bottle labels and distributed them to stores over night.

Coca-Cola’s stunt pulled in an overwhelming response across both social and traditional media, with consumers rushing to either purchase a Coke with their name on it, or gift it to a friend, or both. “Australia had fallen in love” (Ogilvy, 2013) and Coke had over thousands of requests for additional names flooding their social media platforms. Coca-Cola, took into account the volume of participation they garnered across their social media channels, and left a mark amongst their consumers by launching 50 more names on Coke bottles as well as setting up booths across cities where consumers can print their own names on Coke bottles.

The Share A Coke campaign secured record statistics for their stunt with over 76,000 ‘virtual Coke cans’ shared, along with an 870% increase in Facebook traffic and 5% increase in customer base (Ogilvy, 2013). Conceptualised and executed by Ogilvy Australia, the campaign displays key characteristics of a participatory culture where a company invited its consumers to participate and voice their opinions to help shape the company’s image. In addition, the launch of 50 additional names upon popular demand displays how consumers came together on an online platform and worked together to form a ‘powerful bargaining unit’.

Example #2 – Jimmy Kimmel Live

Another example which utilizes the concept of participatory culture is popular talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s YouTube challenges. Focusing primarily on the sub-concepts of participatory culture, several segments of the show largely depend on user-generated content by its audiences.

maxresdefaultTo give an example, running in its sixth year, the ‘Halloween Candy YouTube Challenge’ (Jimmy Kimmel Live, 2016) is an annual segment in which parents record their children’s reaction while they are told that their Halloween candy is gone. The segment is light, fun-filled and humorous where parents then submit videos to the show through YouTube, with a select few being aired during the episodes (Hamedy, 2016).

C6BuVduU8AA1NqZIn addition to the Halloween Candy prank, Jimmy Kimmel Live also has similar segments lined up for Father’s Day and April Fool’s Day (Hamedy, 2016). The late night talk show however not only focuses on YouTube challenges to be ‘in sync’ with today’s digitally buzzing participatory culture, it also hosts a ‘mean tweets’ segment where celebrities read out unpleasant tweets about them that are sent in by the audiences through a dedicated hashtag on twitter (Jimmy Kimmel Live, 2014).

Jimmy Kimmel Live’s user generated content segments showcase the importance of including a consumer to build upon their relationship with brand. Mashable reports that since the launch of these segments, the show’s YouTube channel has built a massive audience with over 8 million channel subscribers and growing (Hamedy, 2016).

From the above case studies, it is clear that in today’s digital age, social media plays a significantly large role in shaping a consumer’s opinion, as well as to garner their attention and loyalty. A participatory culture enables the consumer to feel valued, and leads to the creation of not only a local network, but even a global network, where one may not have existed in the first place.

(WC: 1,248)




One thought on “Web 2.0 and Participatory Culture

  1. I think this is an excellent overview of participatory culture and produsage.
    I think that one of the most interesting parts of participatory culture is the scale of participation. Users are able to participate in campaigns, social media and advertising at various levels, whether by merely ‘liking’ a post, or by investing time in making and uploading a video. Similarly, the act of buying a soft drink is a small act towards participation, but the posting of a photo or other social media engagement with the campaign is a much larger scale of participation. I think this efficiently demonstrates the ways in which all users, both online and offline are able to engage in communities and the participation culture. Users do not need to vigorously engage in order to have participated. Often, merely presence and acceptance of others engagement is sufficient. Users are able to choose the medium that they are comfortable with, and participate at this level. I think that this allows for a broader amount, and type, of user to be a part of this participatory culture in social media, as well as both offline and online.


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