Participatory Culture: Harming or Helping Journalism?

The ability, which has now become a cultural expectation, to participate and be involved in New Media, and to create media content, is known as Participatory Culture. This phenomenon adds a whole new layer to the idea of “Media Convergence,” or the combination of an old media and a new, into a single media product.

Many “new media scholars” argue that participatory culture actually creates a more democratic media field. By inviting the audience to create, respond to, and produce media content, the true opinions and feelings of America are being shown to a larger degree than ever before.

The flip side of this, though, is whether or not this kind of expression can be considered journalism. On one hand it promotes democracy, it resembles a more grassroots style of information production that avoids playing into the political economy of the media, and it creates a unique center of cultural convergence. On the other hand, it demands a new way of consuming information: one taken with a grain of salt.

The best known example of participatory culture is Fan Fiction. This is yet another way users can get even more involved with media. Reading books or watching a TV show is no longer the only option: now entire profiles and websites are designed to prolonging the story, creating fan-bases, and bringing stories to life in different ways. This kind of convergence is not only possible, but demanded.

Media companies love this, and have added a new layer to horizontal integration: Transmedia Exploitation. Perhaps the best example of this is Marvel Comics. Marvel took a comicbook story, like Ironman, and flew with it. Now Ironman has 3 movies, spinoffs, more comics, clothing, action figures, shows, amusement park rides, and more. And that is only the product created by Marvel. Ironman’s fan base is creating even more: new comics, new stories, new websites, everything…and for FREE.

This idea can be translated directly into the world of journalism. The amount of people creating content for free, hoping to be noticed and picked up by a larger company, may encourage more work and ethics to go into the work, or may do the exact opposite.


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