Assessment 3

Citizen Journalists: Participation And UCC In Web 2.0

Hongding WANG (SID:460291673)

Tutorial Time: Thursday,12:00-15:00, Kai Soh

Core concept

Web 2.0 is a new stage of Internet development. It doesn’t refer to an advanced technology but emphasizes an attitude as well as a new trend on the Web (O’Reilly, 2005). During this process, the role of users has shifted from passive audience to fully involved participants and producer. In the age of Web 2.0, everyone could be regarded as media. User created content(UCC), which strongly promoted by a variety of SNSs like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, becomes the mainstream of online information. In another word, social media is fundamentally a participative medium, which differs from mass media (Hinton&Hjorth, 2013).  The new kind of media context pushes forward the rising phenomenon: citizen journalist. The form of social media platform is no longer important but the content posted by netizens and the way they use SNSs instead.  Through a number of online mass incidents in recent years, the significance of citizen journalists stands out and challenges the privileged position of traditional journalist and news media(Hinton&Hjorth, 2013).

Framework

Actually, the conception of “citizen journalism” is defined as “an alternative form of news reporting beyond mainstream media institutions” by Radsch(2012).  In chapter 4 of the book “Understanding Social Media”, Hinton and Hjorth(2013) explained the conception of “citizen journalist” in the context of participation and UCC. They first pointed out that the essence of social media in the age of Web 2.0 is “participation”. Netizens could manage user generated content(UGC) in different ways, then transform it to user created content(UCC) with their own creative and emotional labor.

Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of using different modes of participative media to a broader media and society study. They also listed many classic examples of so-called “click activism”, such as the Occupy Wall Street campaign and the Arab Spring in 2011, which were all launched and supported by the network strength. According to these examples, we witness the rising group: citizen journalists. They post their experience on SNSs for the first time, which is much quicker than mainstream media and would challenge traditional media as well as their professional journalists to some extent. Although social media are not the determinant of this phenomenon, they really provide a new context for distributing and participating.

Case study

People have been dabbling in video live streaming since the early days of the Internet. Facebook Live, Twitch and Periscope are some of the bigger platforms at that moment. However, due to a different culture and a more mobile and tech-savvy society, China has taken video live streaming to a totally different level. Now, using online live-streaming platforms has become a popular trend in China. Ingkee is one of the most popular live streaming platforms, which occupied the first place on Apple’s China App Store many times in the past few months, and nearly 50 million people download it.

Figure 1. A screenshot of Ingkee

Users can sign in and have a “room” for themselves or just scan others’ live show as “passerby”. All the “rooms” will be shown and sorted by click-heat on the home page. As performers, those who create their own “rooms” would share their real-time activities and chat with the followers meanwhile. Many young people regard live streaming as a huge business. They spend the whole day on these apps talking about anything to hundreds of thousands of people and getting gifted huge amounts of money. During the process, people not only record their own life but also witness news around them and express their opinions. On the other side, the audience gets tired of the affected official news and lose trust in mainstream media because sometimes they could be restrained by government. They prefer to know what others think about it especially celebrities they followed.

Among these live streaming apps, Douyu and QQ Live are two typical ones especially for gamers and sports fans. When matches start, there will be many presenters in their own “rooms” broadcasting same or different games with the live program and holding variety of positions. Unlike those sports commentators on TV, they are more emotional and casual, and most of them have a clear personal inclination as common sports fans. The clear-cut attitude attracts more audience than traditional sports broadcast. By following specific grassroots commentators on live streaming platforms, the audience can easily find people who are in the same camp and hold a common belief. When watching matches on these apps, they can type their opinions on the screen and interact with each other at any time. The host of the room will also select some interesting comment and exchange idea with audiences the real time. To sum up, live streaming platforms and their presenters provide a more attractive and highly participative atmosphere for fans, which challenge the situation of normal commentators from traditional media.

Figure 2. The main interface of Douyu app

 

Figure 3. The main interface of QQ Live

Another case is from Weibo of China. During last several years, a number of group incidents happened on Weibo. Many of them broke out because of the inaction of the local government. People use the way of UCC to record the whole thing, update the process with photos or videos, which could be regarded as the first-hand source and to some extent replace the role of traditional journalists. In that case, all of the relevant users are “journalists”. Their comment could usually lead to widespread social repercussions and encourage others to participate and share their suggestions and experience, and finally, catch the attention of the superior department. In this process, participants play the role of journalists: they follow up the truth and spread it to more and more people.

There is a famous instance of the function of Weibo as a citizen journalism channel. On April 3rd of 2016, a girl was attacked and dragged by a strange man in the boutique hotel she stayed in Beijing but got no reaction from management or the police. Finally, she was rescued by the people lived nearby. Afterward, she posted whole course of the incident on Weibo, which caused a great uproar: over a million people reposted and focused on the incident happened on the ordinary girl and urged the hotel as well as government to give their response and solution. This disclosure provoked criticism of the public security department over the inaction in such a long time and the skepticism of the hidden security risks of the hotel chain. The heated discussion finally caught the attention of the superior government to arrest the criminal and push the hotel manager to apologize and take the blame.

 

Figure 4. The video material of the “hotel incident”

In this case, all participants play the role of journalists. They exposed the details, spread to the public and expressed the comment about their feelings and demand. However, the mainstream media here were more lagging than netizens since they neither appealed in the first place nor pushed the situation ahead.

Evaluation and utilization

In Web 2.0 era, citizen journalism has become a huge force. Obviously, the phenomenon satisfies audience’s right to know and demand of expressing and participating. The trend shows that citizens today prefer to select news by themselves instead of receiving it passively, which provides new thinking for mainstream media about how to choose news. Moreover, the emergence of citizen journalism broke down the barrier between reporters and audiences, and fundamentally changed the status of the audience in the dissemination process (Bruns, 2009). They are actually not only in an equal position, but could also interchange sometimes. As for the whole society, the participation and UCC activities changed the situation that the supervision of public voice is undertaken and completed by traditional news media. As citizen journalists, they supervise the government to make its work more democratic and transparent.

However, citizen journalists also have their limitations. Many also argue that citizen journalism always faces the issues of ethics, norms, and routines compared with professionalized news media (Atton, 2009). Due to the lack of professional training, it is difficult to ensure the objective and authenticity of information. Some participants even concoct and spread the fake news in order to catch attention and get famous.

Overall, due to the development of Web 2.0, citizens achieve their goal of self-expression and information transfer, which also promotes traditional media to create their official accounts on SNSs and interact with audiences. The phenomenon of citizen journalism, as a valuable attempt, encourages people to participate, communicate and create useful content. Even a concert could be more well-known and attractive by an effective online promotion campaign. We can also predict that the future of citizen journalism should stay coexistence with traditional news media, cooperate to seek development and share information together in the age of Web 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Atton, C. (2009). Alternative and citizen journalism. The handbook of journalism studies, 265-278.

 

Bruns, A. (2009). News blogs and citizen journalism: New directions for e-journalism. e-Journalism: New Media and News Media, 101-126.

 

Deutsch Karlekar, K., & Radsch, C. C. (2012). Adapting concepts of media freedom to a changing media environment: Incorporating new media and citizen journalism into the Freedom of the Press Index.

 

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

 

O’reilly, T. (2005). What is web 2.0. (pp. 225-235)

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2 thoughts on “Citizen Journalists: Participation And UCC In Web 2.0

  1. Well done! it is happy to find a classmate who has the same interests as me! combining the phenomenon of citizen journalism with the theory of UCC and Web 2.0 is a great way to explain the principle of citizen journalism. Just like you mentioned in your article, citizen journalism boost some democratic demonstrations around the world and it promotes an idea that anyone who has access to the internet could be the journalist. furthermore, the smartphone is an important tool for the citizen journalist to break up the monopoly by the government or companies. however, I’m quite lost in your case study part. It is a good way to explain the web 2.0, but live streaming that you mentioned is for commercial use. In a nutshell, even the citizen journalism is an important phenomenon in this modern age, it still has some ethical issues and problems, such as accuracy and objective.

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    1. Glad to have the same interest as you! I strongly agree that participation and UCC are two of the core concepts of Web 2.0. They both promote the development of citizen journalism. As for your argument, I think most of SNSs such as Facebook and Weibo are commercial. The point is how they could be used and what kind of service they provide for users. Live streaming gives the approach to record what is happening and release the privilege of professional reporters to normal people. So, I think live streaming is also a very typical example of citizen journalism.

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