Due to the rate of convergence moving rapidly, there are new opportunities for audiences to engage with content and participate with media platforms. It has resulted in a new type of audience appearing, the traditional passive consumer is evolving into an active consumer, producing and distributing its own content. Gone are the days of just listening to the radio, watching TV and reading the newspaper wishing your opinion could be heard. We are witnessing something dramatic; it’s the transition from monologic media to dialogic media.
Who wants to be told you can only listen? We all have opinions and we openly want to be able to share them. The internet allows for individual voices to be heard. Everyone can participate online and contribute to content without any costs. The internet provides an environment where there is no gatekeepers and is extremely difficult for governments to implement their power. This has led to the rise of the participatory culture.
We are no longer just the audience; we are “citizen journalists” according to Gordon (2007). Since the introduction of the smartphone, users are able to make calls, send messages, capture photos and film videos. We have the ability not only to produce our own content but now distribute and share it with the public sphere. Mobile phone usage is contributing to the public sphere, witnesses of the London bombings in 2005, shared mobile phone images to the mainstream media. However, the images were still subjected to gatekeeping. So called “citizen journalists” also posted their images in the public domain via personal blogs (Gordon, 2007). Therefore, the public domain has allowed active consumers to distribute their own content.
The rise of the participatory culture has been heavily encouraged by social networking sites; it has allowed active consumers to aggregate knowledge. The Egyptian revolution in 2011, generated a Facebook group “We are all Khaled said” which permitted the audience to have an active role in openly criticising the regime of its time. Similarly, in this same event the Twitter hashtag effectively was used by active consumers to coordinate mass demonstrations. Also YouTube was used in a way to disseminate video footage of police brutality in Egypt, to encourage further protests. It was essential for active consumers to play an important role in contributing to social networking sites. As a result the rise of the participatory culture was successful in overthrowing the Government.
Audiences believe if they don’t get given the information, they will go ahead and produce it themselves. This was the exact case when gatekeepers in the Chinese media gave no explanation why Bo Xilai was sacked in 2012. The active consumers took it among themselves to post outrageous rumors and photos of military tanks invading the main streets of the capital on Weibo. However, the downside to participatory culture is whether the information is fact or fiction. Due to the internet having no gatekeepers, there is no quality control. We have to question the credibility of the source because participatory culture encourages the dissemination of content.
Ultimately, I believe the internet is largely responsible for allowing us to voice our opinions. Social media platforms and mobile phones have enabled us to consume, produce and distribute content. An active consumer has more power than ever to aggregate ideas and broadcast any message to the World Wide Web. As long as the internet is around, our voices will be heard.
Gordon, Janey (2007), The Mobile and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations, Convergence 13/3 Pages: 307- 319.
Unknown, 2012, Facebook is my friend, YouTube is my profile Facebook covers, image, First Covers, viewed 5 April 2013 http://www.firstcovers.com/userquotes/97361/facebook+is+my.html
Unknown, 2012, My response to ignorance: one voice, image, The Princess and the pump, viewed 5 April 2013 http://www.theprincessandthepump.com/2011/02/my-response-to-ignorance-one-voice.html