Participation within Contemporary Digital Culture

My blog for this week will reflect on my experience thus far in the course with regards to participation within contemporary digital culture. Today, technology is inevitable because of its services available and convenience, which has caused a shift in culture so that we are now active participants rather then passive audience members. Individuals are constantly using smartphones or computers to send texts, emails, face-time, social network, and share their own information via blogging, podcasting, or creating videos. As Shafer states, we are now capable of creating and sharing our own content, rather than simply taking whatever content is available to us (Shafer, 2011). Being an active participants can include reading news online, watching videos, networking, blogging, podcasting, uploading their own videos, etc, which has given users the ability to get involved in the culture by creating their own media content. Users are also active participants when they comment and like other users status’s, photos, blogs, etc. Not only are users participating on one platform, but multiple platforms, which also allow users to share their information between each of their platforms. For example, Instagram allows users to share their photo on their Facebook page. According to Henry Jenkins, participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one individual’s expression to community involvement by creating discussion (Jenkins et al., 2006, p.7). When individuals are active participants they are experiencing peer to peer learning and tend to develop useful skills for the workplace.

I perceive myself as a highly involved participant within contemporary digital culture as I participate daily by using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my hotmail. I also have a smartphone, which allows me easy access to the web and each social network. I am an active produser of content, especially through my many social media platforms in which I interact with my peers, post pictures, and update my status. I believe almost everyone is an active participant, but to a certain degree. Depending on the level of use one can be classified as avid user, moderate user, or apathetic user. Participants, like myself, can be considered avid users when they partake in social media everyday and quiet often, even it just means checking your social networks for a few minutes. Whereas, moderate users tend to participate with social media daily, but may not as often as avid users. Last, apathetic users are generally users who barley engage with social media and do not have much knowledge with it. I believe majority of the public tend to be moderate users who participate daily, but do not spend hours on end sitting on the Internet. In Shafters article he claims, not only are people participants using technology, but by using it we are helping create the next generations technology (Shafer, 2011). By this, Shafter means, since companies are continuously updating our gadgets and creating newer generations the public are more inclined to keep upgrading and adapting to the rapid change in technology. As these companies create “newer, faster, and better gadgets” people continue to want better because they believe something more efficient will eventually come out.

Social media platforms are very emancipatory as they allow users to provide personal information and express themselves with the ability to share it with the rest of the world. However, there are trade-offs to participating in the digital culture. For example, Twitter restricts users to 140 characters per tweet, also Facebook and Instagram only provide a ‘like’ button rather than love or dislike, they also only allow individuals to like something once.  Most websites have the ability to flag or take down anything that they feel is inappropriate, and they also give everyone the opportunity to report something that they feel is inappropriate too, which can then be taken down by the company. Also, I often tend to use online shopping websites, however they only allow discounts and sometimes the ability to shop on their website to individuals who like their page on Facebook. By doing this these companies are capable of posting what you have looked at on their website onto Facebook, which is free advertising for them as it exploits my use of the Internet. Even though Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc, are free they are still all profit driven, which occurs through the way they collect information from us as we use their networks. Critics have argued that our participation is equivalent to free labour because we are trading our personal information and developing new content with new users (Zeffiro, Week 6).

Schäfer, Mirko Tobias. “ Introduction” & “Chapter 1: Promoting Utopia/Selling Technology .” Bastard culture! How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011. 9-23, 24-39.

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