This final blog post will be all about participation — something I think is a crucial component of everything we’ve talked about up until this point. Remix culture, anon/occupy, international communications and revolutions, everything we’ve talked about in how democracy and social media have intersected has come about because people decided to participate in something bigger than themselves.
The approach that media scholars take toward participation has to change, I think. I want to frame this post around that.
Both papers address participation in a general sense as something involving the media process that people not associated with the media (As an out-group, almost) actively take steps in doing. However, the way that the two authors seem to vary that does have its differences. Jonsson, when qualifying what “high participation” meant, used a system that said that it was content made for the news process by someone in the out-group without being asked to — yet, that information can/will fit within the boundaries of the news agency. Tacchi, however, points out that participation needs to be more than simply a marketing buzzword. It must be an action that empowers those without a voice in the world of “news.” And deeper than that, participation needs to step out of the traditional bounds of frame within the standard news process.
Tacchi’s approach is something I firmly agree with. Assumptions of what participation means has got to change in media studies. We cannot assume the early 2000’s “CNN iReport” model as what participation means. Because it’s not really participation in the greater scene of what news is. It’s participating in CNN’s news process. Which is still participation, I guess, but with how connected everyone is through social networks It’s simply not a realistic model for the current age.
Perhaps this is where I’m personally far too nieve, but I feel like the Jonsson model, which I’ve seen used a dozen times in other studies, far outweighs news as a noun and underweights news as a verb. Just like boyd talked about celebrity as an abstract process, I think, moving forward, that news needs to be seen in its stripped down classical dynamic. News needs to be seen as the act of taking information and distributing it to a wider audience for the greater good of society. That’s it. “Participation” needs to be studies as the contribution to that process, not as fitting in to existing hegemonic systems. What’s really more powerful, in the long run? Tweeting something live from a scene as an “untrained” journalist and having your info seen by hundreds of people directly? Or sending in the photo and hoping that some editor somewhere and hoping it gets shown somewhere on an obscure corner of a traditional site?
The media world has changed. And so the academic approach to participation needs to as well.