EMBRACING PARTICIPATORY CULTURE

My studies in the field of interactive media and design have continuously exemplified the immense power of participation and collaboration; of the great possibilities that can arise when many minds come together.

As a student aspiring to become a professional in the interactive media and design industry, my studies have continuously exemplified the immense power of participation and collaboration; of the great possibilities that can arise when many minds come together. The impact connection can have on experiences has captured my attention time and time again. To me, these are concepts that have the potential to add value to all that I do, whilst assisting with enhancing the meaning of my creations and increasing the likelihood of success in my profession. From users’ perspectives, the ability to participate can allow for a more intimate connection with the product, which is incredibly valuable in competitive markets.
 
The concept of participatory culture was originally defined by the admirable Henry Jenkins. In short, this culture encompasses partaking in activities that shift focus from simply consuming media, to the production of new creations (“Participatory Culture”, 2011). Brand (2018) clearly describes the culture as one where,
“the audience acts not as a receiver, but as a citizen, participating in the tapestry of media life.”

IMAGE SOURCE: RAWPIXEL.COM. (2017). RETRIEVED FROM PEXELS.

Much of what I aspire to do as an interactive media designer involves keeping up with the times in terms of technological development and being aware of the impact digital media is having on society, which is ever so relevant to this idea of users being more than just receivers. In order to benefit from these wonderful new possibilities technology is introducing us to, it’s necessary for us to learn how, “to live and collaborate within a knowledge community” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 134).
 
This reimagined approach to media that has arisen with Web 2.0 and online communities like YouTube is “blurring the boundaries between producers and consumers” (Hodkinson, 2017, p. 213). YouTube has become the focal platform for user-generated content and mashups, whereby users have become empowered by the opportunity to make their own contributions to pre-existing creations. This concept can also be identified within the gaming community with the concept of mods, which is something I will most definitely be allowing if I go on to develop games. No person can know everything, and each imagination is individual; with so many benefits, it seems silly to not allow for others to have the opportunity make positive contributions to creations that are intended to bring joy.
 
As a professional, I would love to utilise YouTube and Twitch by creating my own vlogs with the goal of encouraging viewers to create their own videos illustrating their ideas and opinions on topics of discussion including what they would like to see me do with my work, or how they would like to be involved in the process. This could also include remixes of content I’ve already created. This approach has the potential to open many doors in terms of creating opportunities for collaboration and being introduced to ideas I would not have been able to come up with on my own.
 
Mayfield’s graph exhibiting “The Power Law of Participation”, as cited in Flew (2014), is seen to be integral to our understanding of participatory culture. It provides a visual aid for comprehending the spectrum of “potential user engagement with different forms of online media” (Flew, 2014, p. 30) and indicates that the example of using YouTube as a tool for collaboration is a high engagement activity.

IMAGE SOURCE: FLEW, T. (2014), P. 30.

However, it’s important to note that users won’t always be immediately interested in participating in this way. By first developing a strong social media presence, many of the lower threshold activities featured in Mayfield’s graph can be catered to and embraced. Jenkins (2006, p. 134) speaks of collective intelligence being an “achievable utopia” that needs to be worked for, not just something that is an inevitable outcome of our technological advancements.

IMAGE SOURCE: LOPES, H. (2017). RETRIEVED FROM PEXELS.

By regularly posting thoughts, ideas, concepts and prototypes on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, feedback can be acquired, other people’s opinions can be involved and their contributions can be incorporated into your work. With where I’m currently at in my career, building up from a firm foundation is predicted to the most effective. Having an online presence that showcases my work and potential is necessary to provide content for others to find interest in and desire to be a part of. It would be wonderful for this connection to eventually stretch to organised meetups, where groups of likeminded people can participate in design brainstorming and problem-solving sessions without screens between them. These approaches are predicted to significantly improve my work, resulting it being capable of continuing up the trajectory towards high user engagement and thus having a deeper impact on all of those who are involved.
 
There are already so many possibilities, and they can only be greater if we come together. 
 
It would be amazing if we could begin cultivating a participatory culture right here and now by contributing to each other’s projects. I would love to hear from you in the comments regarding any feedback you may have, ideas for future blogs, collaboration proposals, or any additional ways you think we could leverage participation in our professions.
 
Until next time,
 
Olivia Meredith
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REFERENCES
 
Brand, J. (2018). COMN12-302: Digital Media & Society – Citizen Audiences and Participatory Culture (Week 8) [PDF file]. Retrieved 5 March 2018, from Bond University Student Portal
 
Flew, T. (2014). New Media: An Introduction (4th Ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
 
Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York & London: New York University Press.
 
Hodkinson, P. (2017). Media, Culture and Society: An Introduction (2nd ed.). London: Sage.
 
Participatory Culture. (2011, January 1). Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2 March 2018, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100308452
 
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ADDITIONAL READING
 
Jenkins, H. (2006, October 19). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Part One). Retrieved 2 March 2018, from http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2006/10/confronting_the_challenges_of.html
 
Jenkins, H. (2006, October 22). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Part Two). Retrieved 2 March 2018, from http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2006/10/confronting_the_challenges_of_1.html
 
Jenkins, H., Ito, M., & Boyd, D. (2015). Participatory Culture In A Networked Era (1st ed.). Cambridge: Polity.
 
Longhurst, B., Smith, G., Bagnall, G., Crawford, G., & Ogborn, M. (2017). Introducing Cultural Studies (3rded.). New York: Routledge.
 
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Note: All images were sourced from http://www.pexels.com, meaning they are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, however, links are provided below out of consideration for the creator and for your convenience.
 
Pixabay. (2016). Abstract Beads. Retrieved 2 March 2018, from https://www.pexels.com/photo/abstract-beads-blur-bright-276218/
 
Rawpixel.com. (2017). Cooperation Fist Bump. Retrieved 2 March 2018, from https://www.pexels.com/photo/colleagues-cooperation-fist-bump-fists-398532/
 
Lopes, H. (2017). Group of People Reading Book Sitting On Chair. Retrieved 2 March 2018, from https://www.pexels.com/photo/group-of-people-reading-book-sitting-on-chair-711009/