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The User Created Content Concept in Social Activism

By      : Shally Lydia Nainggolan
SID    : 470235607
Tutor: Cherryldene Baylosis
Tutorial time : Thursday 3PM – 6PM
Word count: 1375 words

In this modern era, social media has been used as one of the communication instruments to interact with other party. Considering it as a two-way communication tool, social media is unlikely to be separated with participation. According to Hinton and Hjorth (2013), social media is basically a participative channel which is different from mass media. The principle of Web 2.0 creates a developing understanding that audience have shifted their roles as participants. One form of participations is user created content or UCC which means the contents made purposefully by users and generally for the consumption of other users (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).

As creators of the content, participants become the foundation of the novel material which is called the media producer. They produce writings, images, videos, and other substantial then share all those materials online (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Further, Bruns (2008) calls them as composed user and producer which entwines both roles of participation to be produsers.

Afterwards, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) also explain that social media is perceived as empowerment to commercialise the communal, creative and emotional efforts of the user. According to Hinton and Hjorth, social media is also empowering since it might work efficaciously to rise the user’s power and agency to command and connect with the environment. In the online environment, participants may also take part in online activism which supports participants as produsers to express notions and opinions (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).

The existence of social media can emphasise the function of internet in democratic activism and practices, it brings people to create and share content regarding issues easily (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013).  As Hinton and Hjorth have discussed, social media can be an influential communication technology that may alter the information dissemination across platforms which potentially encourage and mobilise public in new instruments.

One of the successful social media campaigns by utilising the UCC concept was the #FreeAJStaff campaign created by Al Jazeera English and Olgivy Public Relations as produsers. The objective of the campaign was releasing Al Jazeera English journalists named Peter Greste and his two colleagues who were prisoned by Egyptian authorities. They were captured while they were doing their job as international correspondents and were accused as part of terrorists in Cairo. Then, they were found guilty for assisting and funding an organisation of terrorist and for disseminating misleading news by the Egyptian judicial system (ABC, 2015). Therefore, this campaign was made to protest the conviction, and the ultimate goal was to release the journalists.

The #FreeAJStaff campaign employs various platforms namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. In the Facebook campaign, Peter Greste’s family participated directly by creating a ‘Freedom for Peter Greste’ page to gain supporters to free him.  As produsers, Peter Greste’s family made images and writing about Peter Greste’s condition as vernacular creativities (Burgess, 2017) and then share them online.

Picture1
The Facebook page of Freedom for Peter Greste

Predominantly, Peter Greste points out the effectiveness of Facebook use in his social media campaign:
I understand as well as anybody just how effective Facebook can be. My own family used Facebook as a way of organizing supporters, and keep them informed. It became one of the most vital tools in the campaign that ultimately got me out of prison (ABC, 2017).

As an Australian journalist and an international correspondent of Al Jazeera English, Peter Greste has cultural capital to attract the attention and gain the public supports. His 25 years’ experience (The Sun Daily, 2017) as a journalist showed his credibility and loyalty in doing his job as a news writer. According to ABC (2015), releasing the journalists developed a big movement by many people on Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, their users on those platforms participated by creating new content as shown on the following picture.

Picture2
One of the supporters of Peter Greste @ajimran created a new picture with the same hashtag #FreeAJStaff

Furthermore, Marketingmag (2017) explains that Al Jazeera English and Ogilvy PR generated 357,000 tweets in support #FreeAJStaff and reached 112,2 million Twitter users. The campaign also created 1000 bits of international and national media publicity. Additionally, Australian politicians gave 186 speeches on the problems in all governmental levels.

Next, for Instagram, the Al-Jazeera English collaborated with Amnesty International by uploading the image of their mouth taping journalists’ photos as the background of the image to carry signs with the hashtag #FreeAJstaff, as well as the Amnesty’s statement ‘journalism is not a crime’. As shown on the following image.

Picture3.png
Al Jazeera English collaborated with the organisation of Amnesty International on Instagram

For the Youtube campaign, Al Jazeera English created video which presented Peter Greste’s family telling stories about him. According to Marketingmag (2017) this way filled the absence of Peter’s voice in this campaign while he was in prison. Additionally, the voice of the family may evoke empathy from the audience which means can create more public engagement.

Picture4.png
Peter Greste’s parents took part on the campaign

The #FreeAJStaff campaign received huge supports from the public and politicians worldwide who forced the diplomats to engage Egyptian authorities for the freedom of the journalists. According to Greste, the hashtag was very effective by reaching 3 billion impressions and was incredibly powerful. After international pressure and much campaigning, he finally freed on February 1st, 2015 (The Sun Daily, 2017).

The case study showed that the concept of UCC in social media worked well in social activism. Peter Greste even highlighted that he would not be able to get out of the Egyptian prison if it was not because of the extraordinary social media campaign (ABC, 2015). This aligns with Hinton and Hjorth (2013) who said that the produsage in online activism emerges to be empowering usage of social media. Also, online activism affords chances to participate in democracy and transformation although in places with strict regulations regarding the political difference.

In conclusion, the concept of user created content is one of participation forms evident effective in social activism. In democracy, the involvement of the audience in social media campaign is one of the main weapons to evoke the movement that influence the authorities and parties in charge to change their policies or convictions.

During the semester, my group and I worked together to organise a social media campaign named “Unusual Instrument Challenge” for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music by using the user created content theory to engage the audience and attract them to participate in the campaign. In the production plan, we mentioned the involvement of lectures of the University of Sydney to join the campaign, as figures who have social and cultural capitals. Hinton and Hjorth (2013) believe that social capital is about social connections with people who they know, rather than what they know. Meanwhile, cultural capital can be specified by education, background and lifestyle. In our opinion, lectures are popular and may bring significant influence on their students so they may inspire students to participate in our campaign.

Afterward, to employ the right platforms based on our target audience – 18 to 24 years old – we used Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube to increase young followers who can create more imaginary contents. According to Burgess (cited by Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 61), “creativity has always been an activity that everybody engages in”. Therefore, the more the public engage with the platforms the more creative they will be in creating the content.

In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the social media communication course is the concept of user created content. As an amateur social media user, I never realise the power of engagement that can attract users to participate and even create creative content which makes them be called produsers in social media. In the future, I would like to apply this theory in my workplace. For the time being, my organisation merely utilises social media as the tool of information dissemination so we lack public engagement. The concept of UCC could be one of the solutions to solve this problem.

In the upcoming six months, the concept of UCC may still be utilised in social media campaign since it is one of the effective social media tactics to engage public participation that leads to social activism, as in the example of my case study. In fact, another new campaign has been undertaking with the UCC concept by using hashtag #FreeTurkeyMedia as a protest for the same issue which is the freedom of speech for journalists, but this time is in Turkey, and Peter Greste is currently also involved in this movement (Amnesty, 2017).

Reference list:

Al Jazeera. [@ajenews]. (2015, August 29). Three Al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste convicted of “spreading false news” have been sentenced to three years in prison. #news #aljzeera #aljzeeranews #egypt #cairo #freepress #journalism #not #a #crime #freeAJstaff #ajnews #aj #arab [Instagram post]. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.instagram.com/p/691_K1g300/

Al Jazeera English. (2014, January 21). Parents call on Egyto to free Peter Greste. [Youtube post]. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OgOt_uHIOg

Amnesty. (2017). Turkey: Journalists around the world demand release of 120+ jailed colleagues. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/04/turkey-journalists-around-the-world-demand-release-of-more-than-120-jailed-colleagues/

Arukesamy, K. (2017), Journalist should unite and talk as one: Peter Greste Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2017/04/19/journalist-should-unite-and-talk-one-peter-greste

Burgess, J. E. (2007) Vernacular creativity and new media. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://eprints.qut.edu.au/16378/

Bruns, A. (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

Greste, P., Cohen, J., & Davies, A. (2017), Cracking the code Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2017/04/10/4649443.htm

Greste, P. [@FreedomForPeterGreste] (2016). [Facebook page]. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.facebook.com/FreedomForPeterGreste/

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

Khan, I. [@ajimran]. (2015, January 31). Tomorrow marks #400Days in jail 4 journalists @MFFahmy11 @PeterGreste @Bahrooz #JournalismIsNotACrime #FreeAJStaff pic.twitter.com/VInb4bHkji [Twitter post]. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://twitter.com/ajimran/status/561525081730334721/photo/1

Marketingmag (2017), Case study: fighting for freedom in the #FreeAJStaff campaign Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.marketingmag.com.au/hubs-c/fighting-freedom-freeajstaff-campaign/

Wilesmith, G. (2015), Peter Greste: Australian journalist released on brink of hunger strike after 400 days in crowded Egyptian jail Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-28/peter-greste-reveals-hunger-strike-plan-last-day-imprisonment/6651246

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