The development of the idea of ‘User Generated Content’ (UGC) in the first ten years of he Century demands serious critical attention. As one of the three core research themes of the Digital Cultures Research Centre, we believe UGC represents a key realm of inquiry. Access All Areas focuses upon the first stage of this analysis by mapping the use of the term and its historical development. UGC has different inflections in the media fields of Television and Journalism and is different again in the discourse of participatory or social media and Web 2.0, and, of course, whatever these technologies become through their use and development.
Introduction to Day – Prof Jon Dovey
User generated content field has settled down a little bit, today is a project for mapping the field and beginning to think of the questions and areas that we should be thinking critically about.
First panel: 9.30-11.00
Janet Jones, UWE: The BBC and UGC: Turning the News Chain Upside Down
The untouchables, working on a local Bristol project with the BBC. There has been a big contraction in local titles and televisions. ITV is wobbling on the boundary of abandoning local news. News media may be forced along a path which could corrode the scope and diversity of civil society – Andrew Currah, 2009
The current crisis is creating opportunities. “Things are getting better because they are getting worse.” – reinventing journalism from the bottom up (Utopian vision)
DB report came with a warning – p151 impact of content revolution is demolishing existing structures before they had a chance to reinvent themselves. Sudden dismise in the regional news sector.
News needs competitions to stay relevant. We could not invent the BBC nowadays. The cultural revolution needs to happen by supporting their public. BBC is extremely vunerable to criticism. Most of it’s credibility is build from the top down.
“The Digital Upset” – Traditional and Safe vs Difficult and Scary
Hyperlocal media publishers, passionate about their area but frustrated about existing operations. Community orientated – Bristol focus but over the whole country.
DB report p150 – “They show that grassroots media can provide an accurate, reliable popular source of news and information without regulation or subsidy.” – are an army of amateurs filling the void that regional news left behind – can they do it without subsidy.
JJ argues that these groups are very vulnerable and fragmented stage right now. Some are driven by campaigns, activism or motivations. Where is the trouble? De-professionalism – there is a passion but news value can be lost. The BBC can add value to the bottom of the pyramid. Local stories grounded in local knowledge – this group is never really exploited by the BBC news teams. The BBC may be ignoring a rather rich source of news.
There is a major attitude problem – the BBC sees themselves as the top of the caste system and struggle to interact with the bottom of the pyramid. Slowly they are thinking about embracing the situation.
A solution: The BBC is in the strong position to take on a meta mediation role. The grassroots area is very vulnerable and if the BBC wants to use this source there should become a catalyst to this space.
Jessica Crombie, WaterAid – Voices from the field? The democratization of communication and the challenge to NGO evidence
Begins with LiveAid – representation of reciprocity of aid as a silent voice. NGOs have been trying to break this stereotype.
The research is a form of ethnography. The ethnographer is capturing the material but the narrative is in the hands of the participants. Traditionally the research for narrative gathering for NGO campaign is set before the researcher begins, they must fit the campaign and the stories outside of this are simply not captured. Citizen journalism changes this as stories/narratives exist because the participant is simply there. NGOs are looking for opportunities to look at this story telling device to create more “believable” narratives in the field. Combating compassion fatigue.
Case Study: Guardian Project in Katine http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine
The concept is about giving the community a voice, however the ‘voice’ is mediated by a journalists and JC argues that the device is patronizing and did not match the readers expectations. The site removed discussions after complains. There was a tension between the project and the participants. The Guardian had to step in and mediate the expectations.
Case Study: Kakuma News Reflector – Refugee Free Press, created to give the community a voice and develop a platform of debate of refugee affairs.
“In exercising a refugee free press, we speak in respect of human rights and the rule of law in order to create a more open society in refugee camps and to develop a platform for fair public debate on refugee affairs.”
Restrictions include a level of literacy – we expect to see the image of the refugee camp, but we do not expect the power to influence decision making and community organisation.
Case Study: Ushahdi http://www.ushahidi.com/
The platform allows for anyone to aggregate information to create a crisis response.
One to many to many to many – using data to target response. NGOS needs to think about changi
ng their funding model as they will be a growth of similar projects as the control of representations change.
Amanda Degand/Christine Habersin, University Catholique Louvain (Belgium) Journalists who Boycott User-Generated Content
Case Study: ihavenews.be – A channel directed by citizen generated media.
A problematic press dispatch – media hijacking and hoax stories being sent by journalists to test the system. The information now arrives in the editors inbox and there is a level of mediation.
Participative culture: “one should be careful with launching claims of novelty when discussing cultural participation..” (Carpenter, 2010) – Roots in public journalism in the eighties.
The user is supposed to generate journalistic content, however the UGC is lead by a press agency. There are not free topics.
Trust in the mainstream media is declining – trust as a theoretical framework for studying UGC.
UGC – sense of belonging, virtual community – hypertextual structure, source credibility – expertise and previous knowledge – hybrid roles – producer and consumer of information.
1st part: Methods – ethnography. 60 days of immersions in 11 Belgium newsroom. 2 days, 11 interviews.
Results: + find excuses, request from the media and the public. Receive more information and faster so UGC is good. – no human filter, not informed of UGC role, no distinction between traditional news rooms and UGC source. Decredibilized by their peers, victims of unfairness.
UGC could be prejudicial to agencies, could create a loss of time – 1 information out of 50 is a good one so journalists wonder if moderation is worthwhile.
2nd part: Methods – online search comments, 8 websites, blogs, forums and 70 reactions. Surveillance or sanction. 5% of corpus were reactions of journalists. Most engaged reacted to topics.
Results: Writing adapts to its support. Personal pronouns, I (42%) We (18%) – “I” was the most used pronoun, followed by we – identifying with the community. Thematic content analysis on comments – two emerging topics, agency function and participative system (19%) and Denouncing profession (17%)
The content had a increased focus of sense of humor, sarcasm, the awareness of a filter presence. Lucrative focus.
Q&A – Chaired by Prof. Jon Dovey
Q: How can journalists actually change their practice and their culture? Will it change on its own or will it be dragged kicking and screaming?
JJ – In the professional newsroom is very unlikely to change, but there is a need to be specific about ways to support user generate content. To change dramatically could cause them to lose their brand, their authority.
JC – From evidence gathering perspective, it’s ok for critical and challenging and there should be an awareness for the different voices, consume different views points and allows audiences to make of it what they will – rather than spoon feeding opinion.
JD – Trust generated through debate rather than through authoritative position.
CH – UGC is not going to away, can not be ignored but ways of forming bonds between users and institution.
Q: Is this articulation of trust, is there a danger in this transitional position that trust is formed through financial influence than through debate?
JJ- If local media could be developed from a position that doesn’t lose their firm grounding they’ve established. This is a different tier of UGC, talking about citizen media agencies and there should be a supportive element from the institutions to the agencies in order to spread and support the investigation skills.
Q: The self correction nature of the internet – the fears of wikipedia has dispersed to an extent (for example) – should devices such of semantics and wiki editing be an important factor when thinking of this topic.
JD – There needs to be a bigger habitat of variety and enough of the users for the self correcting mechanism to work.
JC – There needs to be a volume so circumstances of event balances out, example of Haiti.
Q: It will be interesting to find out what will happen when the paywall appears, there will be a reaction from the UGC perspective as it shuts down the access to content…
JJ: I’m not sure that Murdoch has got it wrong, if he can make it pay online, even with 5% of old community, he will make more money. He thinks his brand is strong enough to survive it. Although we would love to see him fail…
JD: Meta question, what will happen with the big media debates – BBC, Murdoch – not at all convinced that there is this enviable move to the wiki/semantic web as big media is not disappearing. 40 percent of youtube content is just recirculation of film/tv content. There is something else going on that we may struggle to articulate. We have no model for understanding this.
Q: All discussion still have old ideas of commercial and economy of the media still has residence now – things that exists way before UGC.
JJ – all down to the funding model, the tories won’t fund the alternative model. Halfing the money going into the system.
JD: Where is the money in UGC?? This economy we are fascinated by relying on free labour. Economics is another big question. How are people going to get paid and resource quality UGC – no answers at the moment.
Session 2: 11.30-12.30
Mandy Rose, UWE Creative Arts Fellow – Tools for Conviviality: Participatory Documentary
Research is what happens when web 2.0, social media comes together with documentary. What is the role of the producer when facilitating the voices that come together in that space? A move from the director as the creator/owner of totalizing meaning to the facilitation of participant observers of their own life.
The postindustrial world, post scarcity, this interest in people being agents in their own life through mediated communications – relevant to what is happening just now.
Example of collaborative piece from 1841 – a quilt constructed by many women on boat trip. Meaning produced from multiple authors. The trip as a facilitator, the need to get something done.
Mass observation as a tool to understand participation culture, anthropology of the self. Set up in 1937, group of people who write diaries about their every day life (archive in University of Sussex – began in late 50s and restarted in 1981) – totality through self-authored diaries.
1993 – V
ideo Nation Shorts – Bringing together a group of 50 people across the UK, remit to record aspects of their lifes on video, inspired by mass observation. The business of tools: Camcorders (training was required – technical and forms to shoot) – the beginning to experiment in digital storytelling. Using tools for self-observation – the telling of life stories.
2005 – Youtube. Responding to memes. Many, many copies. Investing the world with meaning. Problem solved as camcorders as an assessable platform – “everyone can invest their world with their meaning” – it’s not as simple as that. Henry Jenkins participation gap is alive and well. Not everyone is comfortable with putting their meaning in the public domain – lack of comfort with the protocols of participation. A confidence of creativity. Refers to Wesch’s Anthropological Study of Youtube:
Recent examples of participation culture – Mapping Main Street http://www.mappingmainstreet.org/ – taking advantage of social media to construct what it American main street means. Working in a space that recognises the limitations of participation, using audio and radio partnership. Using a universal topic with a strength of feeling – local, emotive topic that people feel strongly engaged with. Contributions from submissions but also contributions from local community facilitation.
Until tools are at the stage where anyone can use them, there is a role for facilitation.
Sandra Gaudenzi, London College of Communication: User-generated Interactive Documentaries: An emerging genre
SG Definition of interactive documentary, open for debate however it is a starting point: Any project that intends to document the real and that does so by using a interactive digital technology.
Framework- web documentaties, mobile phones, outside the screen, locative technology – might not even use a screen – if you are interacting with it, through the content of the digital device, that could be an interactive documentary.
If the user generates the content of the documentary, so that the director/producer is not the only author anymore – is it cohort? what models exist? which work? what are the consequences?
How do people collaborate on the web – the open source model is main influence – Eric Raymond “The Cathedral and the Baazar (1998):
The three models of collaboration he suggests:
-the benevolent dictator with his co-maintainers
- the voting committee
- the rotating leadership
The benevolent dictator with his co-maintainers
Case Study: The Digital Revolution
Benevolent Dictator: The BBC Production Team, UGC: Choose name of series, comment & debate, send segment of the remixed video, use open source BBC footage for edu purposes => mind crowd-sourcing in pre-production phase.
Case study: 6 Billion Others (2008) by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Benevolent dictator: Yann and production team, UGC: Add a video or a text answering the same questions that the team proposed to the interviewees – and be part of the final people mosaic “peer-production” in distribution phase. (exhibition and website) When the project finishes, that is when it starts becoming open for participation.
Case Study: RIP: A remix manifesto. (2007)
Case Study: Rider Spoke by Blast Theory UGC: All audible content: each user records his/her answers to Riber Spoke’s questions on a server (via GPS) All content is UG during the distribution phase. (but not open source) A way of documenting your relationship with a city without using video.
The voting committee:
Only one example.
The Echo Chamber (2007) Kent Bye
Collaboration: all users can upload interviews and rate videos on the archive. Consent by vote: it was never finished. Does it work?
The rotating leadership:
No examples to knowledge, does this mean it is not possible?
1. Interactive documentaries are moving out of closed hypertext narrative and experimenting with web 2.0 participation.
2. once the user is involved into the creation of content we add the problem of authorship to the one of the narrative experiences.
3. Most actual user generated content interactive documentaries is Eric Raymond’s “benevolent dictator” model.
The type and positioning of collaboration changes the project:
1. Collaboration in pre-production: the user is the funder – is it ethical? Can/should the user/funder influence the content?
2. Collaboration in production the degrees of authorship of the user – is the user participation meaningful? how open can this be?
3. Collaboration is the distribution phase: the open work – the endless database, the lifetime of the project, narrative logic versus mosaic logic.
Session 3: 13.30-15.00
Jon Dovey, DCRC: An Archaeology of User-Generated Content
Community access media – Utopian moment of media (pre-thatcher). Democratic media was a definite part of the struggle – long march to democracy through media literacy.
Bringing to the conversation – Value. What is value to the system? Where is the value of the lolcat – the revolution of fans becoming production, economic through commerce, political who gets to win.
2nd web bubble – marketing speech. Economic mechanisms being overturned. UGC grabbing eyes away from the public sphere. Creating confusion times.
One set of alleged values are the virtues of social media, the democratic culture. All we are able to establish today is the historical views and reactions to the UGC landscape.
Early discussions of democratic media from the 1970s. Understanding the activist traditional of a call to arms, Frankfurt school. Returning to texts to attempt to understand what these movements were important.
Access to media in the age o
f scarcity has provoked the digital economy in the age of media plenty.
Media utopia statements – rhetoric to access and co-creativity. Flickr, wikipedia, wordpress. The emphasis on the ordinary, the lack of technical skills. Replicated in academic literature. Reflected in snake oil salesmen (shirky, wellbeater, tapscott). The focus on “everybody” – who is everybody?
Do people really want to be creative? Do they have the confidence? How many people have access? This notion of everybody of mass access is the 21st century is the equivalent of Habermas public sphere. Not everyone affords the lifestyle.
The enclosing image of the sphere is too narrow – think about it as a rainforest. Arguing for a different type of topography. The few nodes will become highly connected nodes and the preferential network will rule. A few big trees get to grow strong. Barabasi, 2003 – complete lack of democracy. Fascinated by the experience, need to be critical.
Media Praxis – highly critical of the field.
“Just as they are not masters of the lands upon which they walk, the meo colonized people are not masters of the ideas which envelop them.”
The system will not create democracy – we still need to be aware of the ideology.
Tony Dowmunt, Goldsmiths College: “A True Reflection of who I was at the time” : Authenticity and Artifice in video diary confessions
The notion of video diaries. The wobbly camera has become popularized by the medium. The video diary is compromised. The appearance of reproducing and the feeling of closeness to the presence of the film maker. Keeping alive the balancing act of media and authenticity. The potential of the diary form is closely aligned to conveying the presence and the process of the film making.
The awareness of the piece to camera and the feeling that throughout that the user is going to be watched.
The video diary as a method of bridging the gap between public and private.
Andrew Clay, De Montfort University: No Laughing Matter: The Downfall of the Downfall Parody
The remixing of the clips from the film “Downfall” – referring to the downfall parody, or the Hitler finds out meme. Informed by Henry Jenkins convergence culture. The take down of the clips and the copyright issues. Worth more trouble than it is worth to monitor the uploads. The issuing of the cease and desist and the selection of take downs and those who degrade other companies such as Microsoft xbox.
The companies decision to take down the meme is seen as being a party pooper, they could have build fan pages, websites to host remix competitions – did not do any of these things.
“Fair use” is a grey area in American legal system. Parody is seen as acceptable – it comments on the work. Satire, on the other hand, comments on something else.
There is little transformation to the Downfall clips apart from the subtitles – they do change the whole new meaning of the text. Creating humour from elsewhere, topical news.
Case study: Talk Swindon, Xbox Live (most watched), Changing Giles Coren (removing the a).
The videos are not amateur practice working with professional – not helpful to think of it this way. Playbour (Kuchlich, 2005) “attention resources” (Stigler, 1994)
The value we create is information as a commodity – the adoptions of computers and digital media contributes to new ideas of consumerism. Little time for reflection as the media speeds up. Being exploited in a complex process.
We’ve been users in the everyday life, we’ve always been mediated, we’ve always been technology – new media studies come from intensification – not the newness. (Grusin, 2009)
We are either made by the content, or make ourselves into content – we’ve always been this way, but it feels novel.
Brandon Hardesty reenacts the Downfall youtube clip.
Q&A: Session 3
JD – The last clip is interesting because he returns the clip to the original performance, drawing the meme back to the original film.
Q: From post-modern perspective, video diary – drawing attention to the medium by editing, what are you trying to do, draw attention to post-production – and is there a contradiction with something that is meant to be ‘realistic’ but there is a selfawareness in the edit cuts?
TD: In the context of the film, it is situated in a 60 minute film – hoping to establish the feel
through piece to camera – it is perfectly possible for the actuality to exist – and we accept that films are “made”. There will always be contradictions and some may be answered.
Q: Is there a sense that this is a mediated rhetoric, 20th century idea that we can do what we want with our tools, but things like DownFall, lolcats, Dave Cameron poster gives us a way to give us something to say.. we are used to the mediums.
AC: We want to socialize, and technology and the way we do it changes – and that is what makes it feel new. What we need to work through is the infrastructure to allow that the flowering of democratized media is allowed to develop value..
JD – .. and what kind of value are we making? People can be talking rubbish, totalizing position – the value of voices talking back to the media can have a value and could be capitalized. Many different kinds of value.
MR: Semiotics, what it means to use the media – and then the import to the subject matter which is trivialized, the further it is away from the original media, makes it quite funny. Taking framing, analyzing, and working out if it is a valuable genre. Critical media literacy. Feeding back to the creatives – what works and what doesn’t – Big brother for example has shot the confession to death. An awareness of mechanisms that we weren’t in the pass and we carry the duel perception. The perception of being watched
JD – if you find a set of tools that work, that will enrich your life. – who are the audience – I’m doing it for my world, but it might go viral and I’m always aware that it might be seen. Content generated users.
AC: UGC suggests it is all about content – but turning it around suggests that content produces users. The commodification of people – a symbolic thing. the medium produces the users. The active audience
JD – What does the term “content” actually mean? Really a product of a post media scarcity age – a system which needed content. More system than there was content. Before that we just called it programs, data etc
AC – Mystifies what is really going on.
MR – Reality television as a mechanism to fill hours on expanding television networks.
Q: A desire to make the medium invisible, but have we came back round to look at the affordances of the medium?
AC: It is linked together with our embodiments of the media -there is content, audiences – it is really just a framework to think about our embodied with technologies and media.
TD: Discussing a public space which projects confessional videos on a wall, we put highly personal stuff on youtube but really projecting it in public.
Q: What if the idea of the user is red herring, but instead it is all about publics? It doesn’t matter what the “something” is but it is about participation within that something? There is no choice, there is just an illusion of choice.
AC – the dream of web 2.0 is based on the participation model – the content is irrelevant, it’s the medium..McLuhan principles.
Q: Worked on Sat programs, buy programs that used to be on mainstream tv or not very good shows – all content from youtube is supplied by the user. When they start to make money from the user, it is a different context from the tv buying in content to put it there.
AC: Can’t cast aside the big media, Sony looking for ways to pump youtube into a TV. There is a notion to push audiences back into the role. Still a battle.
JD: Final thought, we are already mediatised subjects, true as observer- but in the position as artist, producer, there needs to be a push to be better than others – the value.
TD: Proposed technological utopia of web 2.0 – politics change things, not technology.
Session 4: 15.30-17.00
Emma Agusita, UWE/Knowle West Media Centre: Platform futures
Investigate how community/youth media practice could inform democratic practices and agendas. Working as a community media facilitator since 2001, catalyze new thinking within informal education sector.
Community media definition – common characteristics:
- Dedicated to the principles of free expression and participatory democracy
- Made by and for members of communities and networks
- Made by and for members of communities and networks
- Are non-commercial, non-profit, low cost and small scale
- Reflect community need and interest
- Contribute to social change through social action
Community media and informal media education as a forerunner for what we may consider the concept of user generated content. Whilst community media used to be the poor relative of broadcast media, it’s now being pushed to the forefront as the mainstream are beginning to see a use for it. Examples – BBC Blast.
Case Study: Knowle West Media Centre – a social enterprise charity, based in an area with high ranking level of economic and social deprivation. Opportunities for young people to develop creative, educational and social potential.
Platform futures sought to investigate the value of new media in the day to day media practices of young people.
Critical, active methodology- the young people became co-researchers of the project. Online participation saw value in peer to peer learning. Social media became both the tool and the subject of the research,
Outputs of the projects: Platformfutures.weebly.com / mediamashup.weebly.com
Daniel Ashton, Bath Spa University: Positioning participatory production: User generated content and Professional Production Futures
There seems to be a celebratory effect of the technologies – ideas of digital revolution Martyn shes to critique and unpick the gaps in these ideas and move beyond marveling UGC and instead think about where it situated.
Areas of academic scrunity:
- Blurring of production/consumption
- Integration of UGC and social networks into business practices
- Peer production as ‘architecture of control’ to influence and share forms of consumption.
The UGC platforms are permission based, social, measurable and adaptable. All areas for critique – especially the idea of open and the illusion of connectivity.
Consumption as production:
- all users are potential producers and potential consumers. Prosumption – the consumer determines the result (Tapscott and Williams, 2006) Engaging conversational dialogue – personalised content. Youtube as an example.
What is at stake – it is vital that contemporary scholarship considers the relationship between content and commerce. What are the economical motivations?
Broadcast media has reterritorised these platforms and social spaces. Underpinning of capitalism. Need to be aware of potentially ignoring the consequences of economic motivation.
Information is a commodity. Manovich (2001) shift from linear narratives to ephemeral nature and shift to databases. Important pattern emerging. Giving up large amounts of small bits of data.
The motivation is about maintaining social links and letting the network know that we are here. It’s happening everywhere and to gain access we need to give over information about ourselves to be p
art of the network. The outcomes are targetting advertising – as an example.
Social networks as markets – “phatic” culture – integrated into new monitization processes. Unwittingly handing over data. Muller calls this the “conducer” – the Facebook social graph function. Extracting and aggravating data. More contextual.
Unfortunately the final panel discussion did not save correctly on Posterous so I do not have a record of the discussion. The DCRC team were recording the full day for podcast to be released at a later date so the panel will be available there. For more information and to read the speakers’ abstract, please refer to the Access All Area Blog (http://accessareas.wordpress.com) and the DCRC page (http://www.dcrc.org.uk)