The Rise of the citizen journalist


 Participatory culture. Now there’s a phrase for you, and whether you know it or not, you are more than likely contributing to this form of collective intelligence. Although criticised for its underlying subjective tone, I believe that it is these subjective and bias accounts which produce this user generated content so as to represent truth through a community of differed ideas and opinions.

An instance when participatory citizen journalism rose to the occasion was throughout the 2005 London Bombings, with assistance from our trusty friend; the mobile phone. First hand accounts of the traumatic attack were captured through mobile phones, collectively framing the initial shock and dismay as what these “pictures lacked in photogenic expertise they make up for in immediacy and poignancy”, in contrast to the mainstream medias use of images and reports which “gleaned from eyewitnesses using their mobile phones, but these were then subject to the usual editorial processes (or gate-keeping). However, later some ‘citizen journalists’, who had captured the images, put reports in the public sphere via personal blogs,” as mentioned by Janey Gordon, 2007.

 The recent incident at the ‘Creamfields’ music festival hit news lines last night, however this footage presented through the media was merely abstracted from ‘raving’ young citizen journalists themselves. Despite how or where you viewed the footage, one conclusion could be drawn; the man was a lunatic so to speak. This, although, is beside the point. The importance of this event highlighted just how participatory citizen journalism can lend itself to numerous perspectives, where at the festival individuals used their mobile phones alike to the London bombings, and filmed/photographed iconic footage from different angles and planes, which by no means can be considered professional/accurate accounts, although as a whole they contribute to citizen journalism’s unique authenticity.

So it only seems necessary that I leave you with two things; citizen journalistic extracts from the iconic London Bombings and the somewhat ‘less iconic’ incident at the Creamfields Music Festival, just as a demonstration of how I believe these amateur accounts in the scheme of things encourage participation and assist in producing a well rounded argument from both a professional and recreational outlook, as editor of the Brownsville Herald, Rachel Benavidez mentions, “it’s vital to engage a community that wants to have more ownership of their local media”.

(Source: Patty Hodapp, 2010)

 (Source: Mirror News, 2012)

(Quick Edit: 10/5/2012)


The ‘habitual’ remix


 We’ve all encountered some form of remix in our lives, whether it being a mash-up of your favourite song, a movie, or a picture. Regardless, whether you know it or not, “Everything is a remix”. So it is here that my argument lies, we can all attempt to create creative original works, but as a matter of fact these new ideas merely evolve from previous ones; it’s human nature.

While I’m on the topic of human nature, I’m going to put my ‘scientific cap’ on for these next few sentences, tracing back 3.5 billion years ago to the single organism that all species were formulated from; LUCA, known as the Last Universal Common Ancestor. In the reproduction of LUCA, its genes proceeded into a cycle of copying, where Kirby Furguson’s ‘System Failure’ video, Part 4 of ‘Everything is a remix’, describes social evolution and the basic elements of creativity as

  • COPY

Now to put all that scientific jargon into five words, it’s human instinct to copy.

Participants nowadays can be referred to as produsers. And no, this is not a spelling error, produsers, as opposed to producers “come to a collaborative space first and foremost as users, but it is also easy for them to become engaged in content creation- they occupy a hybrid position as user and producer at the same time”, as argued by Axel Bruns. Again, it’s human instinct for us to become connected to content creation, wanting a part in this perpetual process.

I for one have fallen victim to this mash-up culture, on occasions remixing my favourite songs together in an act of boredom. Of course, these remixes were by no means professional such as those remixes, mash-ups and covers found on the webpage. Although, having access to the tools to create music mash-ups, just like any individual with access to a computer, I was able to participate and experiment in this remix experience.

As the mash-up artist himself, Greg Gillis (‘Girl Talk’) mentions in Lawrence Lessigs’ ‘Remix’, “we’re living in this remix culture. This appropriation time where any grade-school kid has a copy of Photoshop and can download a picture of George Bush and manipulate his face how they want”. So it only seems necessary that I leave you with just that, images of George Bush that have been remixed in a somewhat humorous, yet amateur fashion, as an example of the ability of all participants to create and build upon content in this habitual cycle which we call the remix and mash-up culture.


(Source: Makefive)

(Source: My Life Is Brilliant)

(Quick Edit: 10/5/2012)

All hail the ‘nerds’


Who ever said ‘nerd’ wasn’t cool has either been a little out of touch or merely hiding under a rock, as the irony of today’s’ modern society lies in the fact that ‘cool’ people are embracing nerdom in order to become ‘cooler’. Take Justin Timberlake for instance, whose charming good looks, if I say so myself, on many an occasion have been complimented by a pair of ‘nerd’ glasses, thus conforming to the entertainment industries acceptance of nerd culture as an act of ‘coolness’.

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 2012)

I for one am a huge advocate of this progression of nerd culture into the mainstream. This intellectual society has established variety and diversity within popular culture, where Grossman, 2005, states it is “as if the economic hegemony of the geek in the 1990’s, has somehow been converted into a cultural hegemony,” in which fan fiction, films and popular television series such as ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ and ‘Chuck’ have harnessed the rise of the esteemed nerd.

Speaking of television series, here is a name that will most likely ring a bell; Seth Cohen. Although, just incase you aren’t all OC fanatics like myself I’ll give you a quick run down. Basically, if you could describe the iconic OC character Seth Cohen in one word it would be ‘nerd’, though a more accurate description would be something along the lines of the ‘coolest’, most attractive nerd you could possibly imagine. Unalike to that of nerd Napoleon Dynamite, or on the opposite side of the spectrum the traditional male American character whose priorities consist of football, girls and more football, Seths’ irresistible   charm is derived from not only his looks and fashion but his innocent dorkiness and humour, capturing audiences hearts through his witty remarks and neurotic take on life. Seth, the comic obsessed nerd himself as seen in this clip, is just one example of a character apart of this transition from traditional marginalization of nerds to their welcoming acceptance within mainstream popular culture.

 (Source: Polaroid Picnic Tumblr)

The rise of the nerds is an ongoing process, an extremely successful process at that, which has lent itself to an increased interest and popularity in the geek community as “Nerds themselves have become more savvy, more self aware and more able to poke fun at themselves,” as mentioned by self confessed nerd Ethan Gilsdorf. I would  also think of myself as a self confessed nerd, there, I admitted it. But then again, in this day and age who isn’t? I believe that there is a little bit of ‘nerd’ in all of us; just give it an opportunity to take flight and I’m sure you will enjoy the ride.

(Quick Edit: 9/5/2012)

Modern day storytelling


It seems it is time to bid farewell to you dear multimedia; your single story presented through its single medium looks as though it is beginning to reach its use by date. I’d like to make a huge welcome, however, to you, transmedia project, whose ability to present multiple stories across multiple media platforms has become “the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence.” –Henry Jenkins 

Transmedia storytelling see’s the media conglomerates aiming “to spread brand franchises across different media platforms”, creating a World that embraces corporate, grassroots and global convergence through establishing numerous points of entry. For instance the ‘Spiderman’ franchise produced comics focusing on the love story between Mary Jane and Spiderman to attract and satisfy a female demographic, in comparison to the manufacture of Spiderman figurines and colouring books intended for a younger demographic.

“If you create one channel, you are not giving this newly empowered audience a playground to play in”, as mentioned by lecturer Ted, however if you create a ‘World’ as such, there are far more opportunities for the participatory audience to engage with and explore. Yes, these prospects of transmedia succeed in creating a coherent narrative and engaging audiences on a global scale, although the question is..

Won’t I get left behind?

The topic of debate in regards to transmedia projects is finding the balance between

  • creating stories which articulate to first time viewers
  • building upon stories and content to enhance the audiences experience.

Take for instance, ‘The Matrix’, one of the most popular transmedia projects of our era whose creative content/entry points include a trilogy of three films, Anime entitled ‘Animatrix’, graphic novels and games such as ‘Enter the Matrix’. Individuals who choose to engage in a single point of entry or platform, such as simply playing one of the related video games without having seen any three of the films, may find it difficult to comprehend the plot, thus potentially feeling left behind and bewildered, becoming a detriment to the potential for collective intelligence and audience participation.

In reality, this individual limitation of transmedia has to be weighed up against the over powering positives. Are you willing to, at times, be ‘left behind’, in order to be apart of this transmedia culture? I know I certainly am.

Make ‘Kony’ famous, or make ‘Phony’ famous?


It is no surprise that the Kony 2012 campaign became an immediate phenomena and instant topic on Facebook and Twitter. Being the emotion crammed video that it is, the short film manages to truly tug at the heartstrings of individuals worldwide, lending viewers to a belief that they have the power to make great change and ‘Make Kony Famous’. “Who are you to end a war”, I’m telling you “Who are you not to”- Jason Russell, Co founder of Invisible Children, KONY 2012 video

Recent debate, however, has shifted the media’s representation of the Kony cause, moving from the initial ‘Wake up call’ of Ugandan Joseph Konys inhumane practices, towards a far more pessimistic portrayal; the idea that the Kony campaign is a phony. The invisible children organisation is “being attacked — not by Kony, but by critics whose voices are raised louder about this video than they ever were by Konys atrocities.” -Dan Pollotta (2012), Harvard Business Review, “The Kony 2012 Controversy”

Being a part of this participatory culture, I am sure you have all heard about the criticsm and reasoning behind the Kony missions label as a phony, such as its neo-colonialist agenda and the mystery of where the proceeds are going, therefore I have refrained myself from merely stating the facts and will endeavor to entice you through briefly exploring the channels of media used in the representation of this so called yet debatable scam.

(Image Source: Steven Rudd, Twitter Post, March 31st 2012)

Not only this particular image which was posted on Twitter, but numerous images of the same structure have gone viral on the Internet, becoming a somewhat outlet for presenting the campaign in a negative light, drawing back to the title of this post: “Make Kony famous, or make Phony famous?”. This statement simply recognises the far greater effort being placed into proving that the Invisible children organisation is a fraud as opposed to focusing on the slogan make Kony famous to stop social injustice.

Face to face communication has also portrayed the Kony cause under this negative light, in which I overheard a conversation between two teenagers on the train to University relaying phrases such as “I swear this Kony dude isn’t even in Uganda anymore” and “the whole thing is a dud”. On social networking site Tumblr an anonymous blogger has provided an insight into her negative take on Kony 2012; “Can we rank the problems of the world in order of importance? I think that the news seems to do this for us. Kony 2012 is now more important than world hunger, lack of clean water, rape, murder.”

Fraud or not, the Kony movement has set a benchmark for social media use, enabling all citizens of modern participatory culture to engage with and form their own opinion on the Kony matter itself. Make Kony famous, or make Phony famous? With the tools and ability to execute both perspectives, the choice is yours.

(Quick Edit: 3/4/12)