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This article offers a critical analysis of the relevance of convergence culture to the field of media audience study, opening up new ways to see audiences as active cultural producers. At the same time, I argue that the enthusiastic embrace of Web 2.0 practices as the new model of audience activity may hinder a full understanding not only of the importance of non-web-based audience practices, especially in non-Western countries, but also of the continuing power of media industries.
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Cultural Studies
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S. Elizabeth Bird
Published online: 15 Sep 2011.
To cite this article: S. Elizabeth Bird (2011) ARE WE ALL PRODUSERS NOW?, Cultural
Studies, 25:4-5, 502-516, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2011.600532
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S. Elizabeth Bird
Convergence and media audience practices
This article offers a critical analysis of the relevance of convergence culture to the
field of media audience study, opening up new ways to see audiences as active
cultural producers. At the same time, I argue that the enthusiastic embrace of Web
2.0 practices as the new model of audience activity may hinder a full
understanding not only of the importance of non-web-based audience practices,
especially in non-Western countries, but also of the continuing power of media
Keywords audience practices; media power; Web 2.0; convergence
Mediated ‘convergence culture’ has been described in several ways (Knight
and Weedon 2009), and a common understanding of the term is still
emerging. However, the point of agreement for many scholars is that the rise
of digital media, specifically the Web 2.0 environment, has profoundly
changed the everyday interactions people have with media today (Nightingale
and Dwyer 2007). As Gross (2009) writes, ‘web-based media have made
multidirectional, audience-generated communication a reality, giving citizens
the opportunity to join the party as producers rather than merely consumers
...the topdown tyranny of the media has been effectively challenged’ (p. 67).
Jenkins’ (2006) use of Bruns’ (2005, 2006) term ‘produser’, representing the
merging of the producer and consumer in an interactive environment, has
been widely embraced as representing an entirely new way of seeing the media
From a position as a media audience scholar, I want to explore some
questions raised by this new model of audience participation. These include: Is the
media-creating, Internet-savvy produser indeed the new norm for media
consumption? Has the emphasis on Web 2.0 crowded out considerations of
other mediated practices and activities? And what are the important issues of
power and control that need to be addressed in the Web 2.0 environment? These
Cultural Studies Vol. 25, Nos. 45JulySeptember 2011, pp. 502516
ISSN 0950-2386 print/ISSN 1466-4348 online 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2011.600532
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questions are relevant not only in the West, where Internet penetration is intense,
but also on a global scale, where completely different media environments may
present both gross inequalities and unexpected creative opportunities.
Audiences as interactive fans
The notion of the active audience
of course predates the current
understanding of convergence; there is now a significant literature
demonstrating the myriad ways people engage with all kinds of media, from
talk about and around media to actually reworking media messages by creating
fan fiction, zines, and so on. Scholars, myself included (Bird 1992) have long
explored intertextuality, through which audience engagement with one
medium is enhanced and amplified through others (e.g. tabloids/TV/movies/
fan clubs and so on). Devoted fanactivity was just one of the many ways
people were seen to be actively engaging with media.
More recently, however, the once despised fan has moved to centre stage in
audience studies, led by the early work of Jenkins (1992), and burgeoning with
the rise of digital interactivity. As defined by Bruns (2006) the produser
phenomenon is specific to the Web 2.0 environment, representing the
collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in
pursuit of further improvement. Key examples for such produsage can be seen in
the collaborative development of open source software, the distributed multi-
user spaces of the Wikipedia, or the user-led innovation and content production
in multi-user online games(p. 2). Jenkins (2006) more explicitly equated
produsagewith fan activity, as fans were able not only to communicate
amongst themselves about media but also to participate in the creation of digital
content, problematizing further the notion of the audience (Livingstone 2003).
Thus convergent media have been hailed as creating a cultural shift,
which has realigned the roles of audiences and producers in profoundly new
ways. Furthermore, Jenkins (2007) argues that online fans essentially represent
the way all audiences will interact with media from now on, an attractive
notion that created a moment of optimism reminiscent of that which followed
the discovery of the active audiencein the late 1980s. Nikunen (2007) refers
to this as the fanificationof the audience (p. 111). Evidence abounds that fans
in particular and new, connected audiences in general can be and are
extremely active (see e.g. Bailey 2002, Cover 2004, Shefrin 2004). The new
conception of the active, participating audience member has been widely
discussed not only in the academic literature but also (maybe even more) in the
popular press and trade book market (Lessig 2004, Tapscott and Williams
2006), culminating in 2006 when Time magazine named youits Person of the
Year, celebrating the power of ordinary people to change the world through
convergent media.
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The notion that, armed with the tools of digital media, we will all eventually
act like produser fans may be appealing, and has produced some exciting and
original work. However, I believe the equation of audience practices with one
specific type of activity online fandom has the potential to stifle a richer
understanding of continuing audience activity. First, it is very clear that the
majority of people, whether by choice or access to time and resources, are not
produsers. When I studied the decidedly uncool fans of the TV show Dr Quinn,
Medicine Woman (Bird 2003), I was delighted with the creativity, enthusiasm and
even erudition displayed by the online community, who wrote fiction, did video
mashups, organized protests and had remarkable discussions on everything from
morality to western literature and history. However, I frequently had to remind
myself that the show was being watched by several million people each week.
Of those, a few thousand joined the fan communities, and of those, maybe a few
hundred participated regularly in the many fan activities. Many more probably
watched the show passionately and thought and talked about it but they are
invisible unless we look for them. Others no doubt watched occasionally but
reserved their passion for some other media form. In our embrace of the
produser, we should not lose sight of the more mundane, internalized, even
passive articulation with media that characterizes a great deal of media
consumption and I believe it will continue to do so.
Indeed, Van Dijck (2009) cites an an emerging rule of thumbthat suggests
only one in a hundred people will be active online content producers, with 10
interactingby commenting, and the remaining 89 simply viewing. And this
simple numeric assessment does not address the nature of the interaction, which
can be wildly variable. For instance, in a class project for my graduate media
anthropology class, student Mike Repici (2008), looked at two online video
contests launched by the bands Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, both of which
had created very direct relationships with their fans through their download and
pay what you canmethod of selling their latest album. After the self release of
Ghosts, Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor issued a call for user-generated
videos to accompany the songs on the album: This isnt a contest and you dont
win elaborate prizes. [...]Its meant to be an experiment in collaboration and a
chance for us to interact beyond the typical one-way artist-to-fan relationship
(Jones 2008). The contest was issued in collaboration with Google and
YouTube, but as Repici writes, there was nothing standing between the artist
and the consumer. His analysis of the postings described a very small number of
people who actually posted creative videos, a few more who commented
critically, but a much larger number who simply posted brief, often
incomprehensible comments that showed no indication of any focused thought
process, but were banal, profane and remarkably uninteresting.
Repici contrasted this with Radioheads contest, which was not run
through a mainstream site like YouTube, but through Aniboom, a site for
animation fans and producers. Their contest required the production of
animated videos, and offered a S10,000 prize. As might be expected, not only
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were the entries more sophisticated, but the commentary was of a totally
different quality, comprising complex arguments and discussion. The point is
not that one approach was better or worse, but that the kind of user-generated
content and audience participation was completely different yet we tend to
lump all participatory activity as similar evidence of a revolutionary change in
our relationship with the media. In fact, much online activity is simply
inconsequential banter. I make a similar point in relation to interactive news
sites (Bird 2010b), in which, depending on context, participation may take the
form of highly articulate debate or name-calling and profanity. We need
more complex explorations of audience practices that take into account the
vast range of online participation, remembering that much audience activity
may remain superficial. I believe one reason fandom and fan-like activities have
enjoyed such an academic boom in the Web 2.0 world is that they produce
large amounts of online content that can be studied quite easily, while less
intense engagement is more diffuse and less obviously visible to scholars.
Second, the celebration of the Internet-connected fan may blind us to other
forms of mediated practices that are equally interesting and relevant. Even fan
activities are not all focused on digital interactivity. For instance,
a recent collection on fandom(Gray et al. 2007) presents an array of fan
practices, most focused on digital interactivity. However, authors also address
different contexts, such as nineteenth century concert halls and backyard
wrestling. In our chapter on wrestling, for instance, my co-author and I
describe interrelated practices around backyardand indywrestling,
practiced by young, white, middle class men (McBride and Bird 2007). These
practices are clearly mediated in that they are inspired by the spectacle of
televised professional wrestling; fans/wrestlers create their own characters and
scripts, drawing on media examples. And the spectacle is also refracted
through fansown media constructions, as they film their events, and distribute
them on the Internet, where others comment and construct new texts. Were
we studying audiences, fans or wrestlers? Web 2.0 is certainly part of this fan-
like activity, but the entire experience is more multi-faceted than this. We
argue, for example, that a key to the attraction of indy wrestling for its
practitioners is a very real, bodily experience of often intense pain, which
appears to alter consciousness. This is some distance from televised wrestling,
often seen as the epitome of fake, inauthentic media yet the original media
text is still a key element in the multiple forms of participatory activities.
Similarly, there is a whole array of practices that certainly articulate
around media, and may employ Internet communication, but involve many
other forms of creativity. Melchionne (1999) argues against the neglect by
Cultural Studies scholars of home crafts and do-it-yourselfprojects, including
car customization, home improvement and sewing. As he points out, with
cultural and media studies in the thrall of defiant youth culture(p. 254), do-
it-yourselfing simply does not possess the political e´lan of these cultural
practices(p. 254). Internet connectivity is important; it has allowed millions
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of people to communicate with others who share their interests, and cable
television has provided material in the endless array of programmes devoted to
home and garden improvement, collecting, crafts and so on. There are
fascinating questions to be answered about how media images (including
advertising) play into the products of these practices, but the product itself is
not more media. Consider, for example, the Jane Austen devotees studied by
Thompson (2008), who knit, crochet, sew and otherwise craft items inspired
by their heroine. Practices like this clearly illustrate convergence culture at
work, but they point to the need to think beyond the virtual world and
continue to develop rich ethnographic accounts of offline audience activity.
The produser is powerful?
It is argued that in this new mediascape, fans are flexing their muscles against
the power of media producers to define the terms of their engagement. As
Costello and Moore (2007) write, online fan communities have the potential
to produce unified centers of resistance to influence the global industries of
cultural production(p. 140). Jenkins, in defining the produser, argues that
there is a new kind of cultural power emerging as fans bond together within
larger communities, pool their information, shape each others opinions, and
develop a greater self-consciousness about their shared agendas and common
interests(2007, p. 362363). Media producers have been pushed to modify
their products in response to fan demands: we might think of these new
knowledge communities as collective bargaining units for consumers(p. 363).
The concept of the produserevolved from prosumer, a term coined by
Toffler (1980) to describe his projected shift from a passive consumer society
to one in which many more people will prefer to provide home-grown services
to themselves and others, selectively producing and consuming depending on
their interests and expertise. Kotler (1986) considers some of the implications
of this: If Toffler is right about a swelling wave of prosumption activity, then
marketers face a challenging, if not frustrating, future. They will find fewer
customers for mass-produced goods and services and less consumer interest in
brands(p. 511). At the same time, alert marketers will discover new
opportunities in the areas of marketing research, product, price, place, and
promotion(p. 511). Kotler does not dwell on prosumption as it relates to
media, but draws on Tofflers predictions that electronic communication will
change business and social practices: They [prosumers] will search for others
with kindred interests, finding them and communicating with them through
electronic media, such as computer networks and CB radios(p. 512). The full
implications of that could not have been foreseen in the 1980s, but Bruns
development of the term produserdeliberately invoked the democratic,
grass-roots notion of the newly-powerful audience, to whom industry had to
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respond and accommodate. We, the people, will own the digital mediascape,
and will be able to share, if not completely dictate the terms.
Yet this optimistic scenario inevitably raises questions. First, as I discuss
above, is the outlaw(Costello and Moore 2007) produser really the
dominant model of the media audience in the twenty-first century? And
perhaps more importantly, has this shift in power really happened, or does the
celebration of the online produser simply mask the ever-increasing power of
the media industry? My concern is that the focus on fan produsage and local
agency downplays the power of media producers, who while they certainly
respond to fan demands, have also learned quickly to co-opt fan activities and
viral media. In 1986, Kotler urged marketers to work with prosumers to meet
their goals; today, marketers have simply found creative ways to harness the
enthusiasm of active media audiences in order to sell to them more effectively.
This of course is not a new observation; Sundet and Ytreberg (2009), for
example, lay out the industrys opinions on exactly how best to do this,
concluding that As established media institutions expand from their original
base in the mass media into the digital realm, they seem to have adopted this
discourse of active-ness and turned it into a tool for expansion(p. 388).
Indeed, there is a rapidly growing list of such case studies. Some involve the
careful manufacture of viral phenomena, in which industry representatives hold
out the possibility of a grass-roots produser going mainstream. Such was the
rise of the singer Marie´Digby, who appeared to be a genuine viral
phenomenon a young girl who in 2007 posted what appeared to be
home-made videos on Youtube, and became a sensation. Later the Wall Street
Journal (Smith and Lattman 2007) revealed that she had already been signed to
a Disney-owned record label, and her video, supposedly made on iMovie, was
professionally produced. Certainly, no one forced all the Youtube consumers
to respond so positively to her music but was her rise really a result of
genuine participatory fan action? Web sites are springing up all over the place
to help advise companies on how to use social networking sites to place their
products effectively for instance how to get on the front page of DIGG and
other similar sites.
Indeed, media industries are becoming very adept at disciplining
produsage. One key way is to impose terms of serviceon fans participating
online, so that anything they post becomes the property of the company.
Reinhard (2009) discusses several such exampled, including the elaborate
marketing strategies around the 2008 blockbuster movie The Dark Knight. She
characterizes these trends as a move from audience-as-agentto audience-as-
pusher, as viewers are coopted to do the work of marketers. She asks:
Why would fans be willing to give producers such control over their
creative work? Part of this cooptations success lies in establishing a feeling
of magnanimity by creating the sense that the producers are encouraging
fans to engage with their favorite media product to ultimately help shape it
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... To capture this desire, the producers create ways in which the
consumers can feel they are making a difference for the object of their
affection, even if that impact is minor. (p. 11)
Furthermore, as Van Dijck (2009) points out, by channeling it carefully, the
industry can track online activity for the purpose of targeted marketing:
the users role as a data provider is infinitely more important than his role
as a content provider ... the real value added by users generating
metadata on the social behaviour of a profitable consumer segment
remains highly invisible and unaccounted for. (p. 49)
So as the industry asserts its control, true online freedom becomes more
elusive: Technology may actually work against ‘‘activity’’ by narrowing
perspectives and the possibilities to act outside of the realm of the computer
and it may nurture more repetition, rules and routines than freedom and
creativity(Nikunen 2007, p. 114). Tofflers vision of prosumers saw
autonomous individuals able to free themselves from allegiance to adver-
tiser-driven brand names. Indeed, the offline practices of the crafters, greens
and others discussed above fit better with his vision of the prosumer, and the
interesting areas for audience research are the extent to which these offline
practices are (or are not) both facilitated and articulated through media. When
it comes to online produsage, there seems to be increasing evidence that the
surveillance and disciplinary functions of those controlling the online
environment may be outweighing its liberatory potential.
Media influence and the audience
Furthermore, I fear that an overemphasis on online audience creativity not
only underplays the role of the media industries in specifically controlling
produsers but also may lead to neglect of the larger question of media
influence on audiences. This influence is not a simple cause-and-effect
relationship, but a much more subtle issue. Media producers have the power
to inscribe privileged representations of the world that place constraints on
actual audience practices, and may actually shape those practices. For example,
Ruddock (2008), using an updated cultivation approach, analyzes a successful
advertising campaign that through use of contemporary imagery and indeed,
viral media, transformed cider drinking (specifically Magmers cider) into a
cool, edgy consumption choice. Working with young people, Ruddock argues
that indeed they are active, informed audiences, but they are also very much
aware of and even irritated by their own realization that they have been
successfully manipulated. Elsewhere (Bird 2010a), through a discussion about
contemporary wedding practices, I argue that media provide scripts for
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behaviour. Brides, while encouraged to consume in media-structured ways, are
at the same time provided with a pervasive script that every choice they make
is individual and unique. The narratives told by the media are powerful, if
unpredictable in their precise effectmedia narratives may be the only way
key issues like war are framed for audiences (Bird and Dardenne 2008).
Convergence also refers to the increasing consolidation of media power that
tends to narrow the range of stories and scripts from which audiences
construct their views of the world. We need more scholarship on how
audiences, whether produsersor not, negotiate and manage the complex
interaction of structural media power and individual/community agency.
The produser in a global context
The questions I have already raised are especially pressing when we move out
of the context of the West. As I have discussed, it is questionable whether
online produsage really is the model of audience practice for most people,
given that it requires a level of media saturation, affluence and time and
technological access that is not equally distributed. This is even more true in
the developing world. In many parts of the world, engagement with popular
culture is certainly significant, and becoming more so. The reach of the global
media industry, and the dynamics of the interaction between global and local
media, pose key questions about audience activity. But for millions of people,
produsage, as defined within a fan model of online interactivity, is essentially
meaningless. I think, for example, of a 2007 field visit I took to rural Gujarat,
India, visiting villages without running water or consistent electricity, and
where extended families lived in one part of the house and cattle in another.
Taped on the walls of houses and silos were photos of Bollywood stars (as well
as Hindu deities), and some families had small televisions. These are media
audiences too in different economic circumstances no doubt many could be
creative producers of media content, as their more wealthy compatriots
already are. They certainly are not right now, and yet their experiences as
audiences are complex and worthy of exploration. For instance, how has
Bollywood imagery permeated traditional custom and ritual? Much has been
learned about the complex relationship between traditional popular media (like
television) and questions of identity, gender and nationhood (e.g. Mankekar
1999), and it is likely that for the foreseeable future, a focus on offline
mediated practices will continue to be most useful and relevant.
And, just as in the West, digital media convergence is producing practices
that are related to fan produsage, but are not dependent on the online
environment. In many developing countries, it is highly likely that the web-
based infrastructure that facilitates produsage will never reach western levels.
For example, Nigeria, where I am currently conducting fieldwork (see www.
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wealth from oil production, yet is crippled by a decaying infrastructure, gross
inequalities, ethnic violence and corruption (Smith 2006). Most of the
population does not even have reliable electricity (Connors 2009), and only
16.1 percent of the population uses the Internet regularly (internetworldstats.
com 2009). The bestsecondary school in the Eastern town where I am
working has only one, old, donated computer in the headmasters office; the
pupils have no access to the Internet.
This would seem a bleak place for produsage as it has come to be
understood in recent scholarship. Yet in Nigeria, the grass-roots industry
known as Nollywoodhas become an international phenomenon. The industry
relies on cheap digital technology to create video movies, using amateur actors,
writers and home-made or outdoor sets, often completing a video in two
weeks (Ugor 2009). Copies are sold and exchanged everywhere, and
consumed eagerly both in Nigeria and the worldwide diaspora. Some are
posted on websites like Youtube, but the Internet is not the primary way they
are disseminated. Abah (2009) argues that these videos have become an
important site of social critique, exploring issues of politics, gender and race.
McCall (2002) points out that these film-makers, while influenced by
Hollywood conventions, are completely free of global corporate influence,
often exploring highly local issues such as traditional religion and medicine.
Ugor (2009) concludes that the emergence of new small media technologies
like the digital video and music mixing resources have reduced the once
monopolistic power of the state over ownership and access to mass media
forms in postcolonial national settings like Nigeria, resulting in the widening
of the public sphere, where youth, through cheap, portable, and yet efficient
mass media forms ... infuse and stamp their own independent subjective
positions(p. 403).
Thus in the developing world, as in the West, first, we cannot allow
excitement about fan-like produsage to blind us to the broader question of how
audiences interact with all kinds of media forms; and second, we should not
assume that the online environment is the only form of evolving digital
technology that facilitates creative, even subversive media practices.
Convergent media can and have transformed the traditional audience
experience, especially in the West, where even many people who are not
really produsers are still taking advantage of multiple media platforms to
extend their mediated practices. And although the vast majority of produser
activity seems to be directed around entertainment genres, perhaps the most
exciting possibilities lie in the opportunities for active engagement with crucial
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issues of citizenship. As Bruns himself suggests, if produsage becomes the norm
among people, this could rekindle a desire on their part to once again become
active produsers of democracy, rather than mere passive audiences(p. 9). It has
been argued that the ascendancy of citizen journalists and bloggers has created
an unprecedented opportunity for democracy. Rosen (2006) claims that the
new context has finally destroyed the concept of the audiencefor news:
The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the
receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting
pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very
loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one
another and who today are not in a situation like that at all. (italics in
Perhaps we finally can speak truth to powerand have our voices heard,
perhaps in cooperation with those journalists willing to share their professional
authority (Gillmor 2006). Indeed, traditional news organizations have opened
their doors to citizen journalists, although gate-keepers still filter what gets
through (Harrison 2009). New media practices have helped citizens break-
through repressive government controls, first in Myanmar, Iran and China, and
most recently in Egypt and across the Middle East, bringing stories and images
that professional journalists could not obtain. And they have facilitated instant
mobilization of donations to Haitian earthquake relief and a range of political
causes. Stengrim (2005) offers a powerful case study of the effectiveness of
indymedia in advancing democracy.
At the same time, in 2009, we saw how what was billed on Facebook as a
dramatic, major demonstration against government power in Iran eventually
failed to materialize. Organizers had not understood that not only were most
of the online activists physically in the diaspora, not in Iran, but also that real,
offline organizing had not happened on the ground in Iran, for a variety of
reasons, not least government intimidation.
The scale of the setback closely tied to the specificity and grandiosity
of the visions that were being cultivated in the preceding weeks via blogs,
forwarded emails, and social networking sites ...Reassured by their own
online echo chambers, activists and participants allowed their optimism to
grow like a market bubble .... (Abadi 2010)
Similarly, while new media have been crucial in the mobilizing of protest in
Egypt, brutal government repression in Libya has at the time of writing
minimized their potential impact. The reality seems to be that there is no
single answer about whether online produsers and other activists can necessarily
make a real difference; it all depends on the complexities of any given
situation, a point suggested by Bennett (2003). Most important, it means that
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we should never be looking only at online practices, but always at how those
intersect with the realities of the offline world.
This brings me back to my central purpose in joining the debate about
media convergence and produsage to consider how these processes affect
our understanding of media audience practices. There can be no doubt that in
the West, as well as affluent sectors of the developing world, the nature of
media consumption has been transformed. It is harder than ever before to
define specific acts of media use; being a media audiencemember is basically
what people do continually. As Deuze (2005) notes, some new studies report
that people find it almost impossible to accurately state how much time they
spend with media.
Does that mean that we are indeed all produsers?I think not, unless
we regard every twitter and facebook update as an act of creativity. True
produsers are a reality, but they are not the norm, and can often seem to
be so in thrall to big media and technological coolnessthat they accept
the disciplining of their creative activities. And furthermore, we must not
forget that online produsage is not the only way to engage actively with
media; action spurred by media takes many forms other than the creation
of more media, and will continue to do so (see for example Bird 2008,
Simmons 2009). Prosumptionwas envisaged by Toffler as the multiple
ways in which people meld commercial commodities with personal
creativity, and it has not universally been replaced by online produsage.
Popular culture is experienced and lived in many different ways and the
Web 2.0 environment is not the only one that matters, especially outside
the West. Today, audience scholarship needs to be informed by critical
analyses of media economy (Murdoch 2000), as well as rich, ethnographic
studies that explore the complexity of interrelated online and offline
practices in specific global circumstances, and continue to interrogate the
influence that media have over us, even as we can now talk back more
actively than ever.
1 Exactly who or what the audienceis has been hotly debated for decades,
with conceptions of the audience ranging from a definite, static group of
people ‘receiving’ a message, to arguments that there are no distinct,
identifiable audiences, because we all interact with media in continually
shifting ways. I certainly place myself at the latter end of the continuum (see
Bird 2003). Nevertheless, until someone comes up with a better term, I find
that ‘audience’ and ‘audience practices’ are still useful ways to discuss
engagements with the media.
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Notes on contributor
S. Elizabeth Bird is Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of
South Florida. Her books include For Enquiring Minds: A Cultural Study of
Supermarket Tabloids (1992), Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in
American Popular Culture (1996), The Audience in Everyday Life (2003), and The
Anthropology of News and Journalism: Global Perspectives (2009), and she has
published over 60 articles and chapters in media studies, popular culture, and
Abadi, C. (2010) Iran, Facebook, and the Limits of Online Activism,FP:
Foreign Policy Magazine, 18 May, [online] Available at: http://www.
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... Individual's information set has been dramatically enlarged through Internet utilization. At present, people become producers who both use or consume information from Internet and also produce or create information for others to use online (Coleman et al., 2009;Bird, 2011). Internet coverage has tightened the world, strengthened users' social connectedness, and thus mobilized civil engagement (Parks and Floyd, 1996;Rheingold, 2000). ...
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The world has witnessed an important and dramatic transition during the past decades, with social and economic challenges related to the advancement of digital technologies. Meanwhile, inequalities of distributions of resources and opportunities obstinately exist around the world. This study innovates by utilizing household survey datasets to empirically evaluate the impact of Internet utilization on individual’s perception toward social justice in China. Estimates suggest that Internet utilization generates a significant negative effect on perceived social justice (in general, −5%). In China, there are 1.032 billion Internet users by the end of 2021, accounting for 73% of the total population (China Internet Network Information Center). It suggests that 3.65% of the population, around 5 million people, might consider the current society is injustice if all circumstances remain unchanged. For robustness checks, we not only run multivariate regressions, implemented different model specification, and used alternative measures as well as datasets, but also approached instrumental variable estimation with regional rainfall for causal inference. Consistent conclusions are found. Also, we found stronger negative effects among male, eastern provinces, and urban area samples. To the end, our results shed lights on policy implication, for example, Internet associated public interventions can be focused on justice cultivation and information transparency.
... As Dean contends, networked media practices 'emerge and persist as components of a vast commercial entertainment culture that has found a way to get the users to make the products they enjoy and even pay to do it' (2010: 37). Therefore, in prosumer economy the main role of marketers is not to promote products and services, but to cultivate the enthusiasm and the active participation of prosumers in order to sell (to) them more effectively (Bird, 2011). In fact, the active entrepreneurial consumer is an integral element of prosumption as cocreation constitutes a form of neoliberal governmentality that aims to 'bring about particular forms of life in which consumers voluntarily provide unwaged and exploited, yet enjoyed labor' (Zwick et al., 2008: 176). ...
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Web 2.0 has placed prosumption at the very centre of economic value creation. Digital prosumption has been usually associated with user-generated content. However, recent studies argue for a need to also treat user generated data as a form of prosumption labour, as it is the appropriation and exploitation of these data that fuels digital capitalism. In this paper I analyze self-tracking as a form of digital prosumption. When people use the increasingly popular self-tracking devices, they produce huge amounts of data about themselves, referred to as self-quantification, which firms draw on to create value. The paper aims to expand on the notion of data production as prosumption labour by focusing on self-quantification. I draw on Dallas Smythe's concept of the 'audience commodity' to analyze the commodification and valorization of life through self-quantification practices. I argue that through the generation of data the quantified-self becomes the 'prosuming self' that generates value through her own tracked life, but also the 'prosumed self', an active and entrepreneurial subject that is governed to produce the kinds of data that can create value for firms.
... While participatory tools indeed offer unprecedented creative potential, the actual number of people whose consumption practices surpass their user activities remains higher (Bird 2011;Jenkins 2018). Also, with direct participation, implicit participation cannot be ignored (i.e., serving as conduits for more sophisticated data collection regarding users). ...
In this day and age, it is increasingly important to ask how the cultural industries adapt to the evolution of communication technology. Recent technological changes influencing our understanding of media communication processes are discussed in various fields, with western traditions often predominating. However, the particular impact on industry dynamics is hardly universal. Specifically, the way such changes influence the dynamics of small, distinct peripheral markets remains largely underexamined. To this end, this manuscript focuses on such questions as they relate to the specificities of Central and Eastern Europe and the Czech Republic, a particularly small industry with distinct cultural proclivities. In ascertaining how media representatives/workers comprehend and engage their audiences, this paper presents a fuller understanding of the microsocial processes by which Czech media audiences are framed and conceptualized within Czech media industries and offers insights into the rationales directing the Czech media industry itself, particularly in relation to mediating the dialectic of local dynamics, international competition, and the evolution of digitalization.
... The early promise of user-generated culture on social media platforms like Pinterest anticipated a democratic online space for users to converge and build community (Baym, 2010;Burgess et al., 2009). However, scholars tempered these claims noting user generated content is easily co-opted as seen by beauty conglomerates on Pinterest (Andrejevic, 2013;Bird, 2011;Van Dijck, 2009). While DIY pins advocate for more accessible and affordable products, they operate within an institution of white male power (i.e. the beauty industry) which capitalizes on female subordination and the empty promise of a cosmopolitan and postfeminist empowerment (Gill, 2007;Talpade Mohanty, 2013). ...
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This qualitative study builds upon previous quantitative new media studies using Bandura’s social cognitive theory of mass communication (SCT) to understand health and beauty content on Pinterest. The thematic analysis investigated Pinterest search results for “healthy” makeup products to contextualize Pinterest’s influence on social perceptions of health, beauty, and consumption among women. Pins were analyzed through the SCT constructs of a) standards promoted and b) behaviors encouraged to users searching for healthy makeup products as conveyed through social modeling, messages, and social rewards in “healthy” makeup pins. Additionally, pins were analyzed for their articulation within Pinterest as a postfeminist media culture and their embodiment of medicalization. Results indicate that pins for healthy makeup products largely encouraged appearance-related standards and behaviors, rather than health-related ones. Pins also enacted a postfeminist media culture to perform “health” through the disciplined application of specific makeup products.
... The Bachelor/ette Australia also has a variety of official and non-official paratexts and potential modes of engagement, as I will discuss below. S. Elisabeth Bird (2011) has persuasively argued against the assumption that all audience members are active, and indeed, only the most dedicated viewer would engage with all of these paratexts and/or on all of these platforms. However, the proliferation of paratexts and modes of engagement suggests that a good chunk of viewers engage with some. ...
The TV recap has become one of the most ubiquitous forms of criticism in contemporary media culture, proliferating across multiple media spheres and domains. At its simplest, it provides an opportunity for people to catch up with what they have missed. However, it is also a space for engaging with reactions to a program: an inherently affective and social experience. This article seeks to theorize the TV recap, its uses, and its pleasures. It considers the recap as a form of paratext, and seeks to unpack its relationship to textuality. Specifically, it considers the practice of reality TV recapping, which often positions both recapper and reader/viewer as consuming the text ironically. This article uses a corpus of recaps of the 2020 season of The Bachelor Australia – including recaps by the author – to answer three questions: how does the recap energize, contextualize, and modify textuality?
... News audience research, which has been gaining interest in journalism scholarship (Costera Meijer 2016), focuses on cultural and anthropological methods of analysis, often delving into the question of how audiences construct the meaning of news (Bird 2011b). News audience research can be more expansive, answering additional questions such as those posed by Bird's (2011a) overview: "How does news consumption fit into everyday life?" (e.g., Bentley 2001;Bourdon 2003;Ytre-Arne 2011, "How do people directly respond to news?" (e.g., Martin 2008;Morley and Brunsdon 1999), and "How do people talk about news?" (e.g., Gray 2007;McCallum 2009). Our study fits within this framework by focusing most directly on the aspect of audience research that probes how people respond to and think about news as they understand journalistic practices. ...
This study investigates how Americans conceive of journalistic processes and how their conceptions clash with the way journalists construct their profession. We do this by interpreting data from five focus groups to explore ways the public understands journalism, through what are called folk theories. We find that participants broadly interpreted what makes a story biased – seeing common journalistic practices, such as adding context to a story, as avenues of bias. We also found that the public’s understanding of common journalistic practices, such as eyewitness interviews and investigative work, is compatible with the journalistic self-conception, but the public may attribute negative intent if they see a story that lacks these characteristics. The data show participants hold high expectations for journalism that journalists may view as unattainable.
... De este modo quedan establecidos un conjunto de procedimientos particularmente adaptados a las pautas de consumo globales y de comunicación e información de dichos prosumidores no sólo a la hora de llevar a cabo la distribución de los contenidos sino incluso en lo que se refiere a la propia generación de los mismos, en el que una innovación como las redes sociales adquiere particular relevancia (Bird, 2011). ...
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El uso de las redes sociales y de las nuevas tecnologías en general nos expone a nuevos estímulos y sistemas de valores. La forma en que percibimos a las empresas, instituciones e individuos ha cambiado tangencialmente. Es por esta razón que resulta fundamental educar a los usuarios en competencias mediáticas dentro de este ecosistema que les permitan actuar como prosumidores inteligentes y eficientes en el consumo y producción de información. Asimismo, los contenidos digitales están indisolublemente vinculados a la comunicación mediática, que tradicionalmente se encargaba de la transmisión social de información y la generación de opinión pública. Esta confluencia entre medios de comunicación, audiencia y prosumidores como nuevos agentes informativos requiere el interés del sector académico e investigaciones en esta línea que promuevan una transmisión de información veraz, contextualizada y argumentada a través de las nuevas vías digitales.
En los últimos años, Wattpad se ha convertido en una de las plataformas de lectura y escritura colaborativa de referencia en la que jóvenes escritores publican sus trabajos, algunos de ellos enmarcados en la tradición de la fan fiction, historias derivadas de un texto fuente de la cultura de masas. El presente artículo tiene como objetivo principal explorar cómo se articulan las competencias transmedia de producción y de reflexión narrativa y estética de los adolescentes que leen y/o escriben fanfics en Wattpad. A partir de un marco teórico en el que se integran el alfabetismo transmedia, las comunidades de fan fiction como espacios de afinidad, y Wattpad como aplicación para el fomento de lectura transmedia, se ha llevado a cabo un estudio cualitativo con datos procedentes de talleres, diarios mediáticos y entrevistas con adolescentes en 5 comunidades autónomas. Los resultados destacan un juego de identidades en la producción de los relatos, en los que conviven fanfics sobre las celebridades reales que protagonizan los universos mediáticos de los jóvenes, e historias originales inspiradas en las vidas personales o inquietudes de los autores. Asimismo, se observa una tendencia hacia la hibridación de la fan fiction con lenguajes y formatos propios de las redes sociales, como Instagram, y una aplicación superficial de las competencias transmedia de narrativa y estética vinculadas a la práctica de la fan fiction.
This chapter introduces the topic, reviewing, and explains why it matters, underlining the importance of re-synthetizing the field that has during recent decades become more complex. It includes a review of previous academic research on reviews and reviewing at large, and localizes user reviewing as a specific form of online communication practice. In addition, the chapter presents the methodological background including data collection and analysis methods for the original research on which the findings in this book are based, and presents the structure and outline of the book.
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Traditional discourses of the relationship between media producers and consumers have been challenged as of late in post-industrialized countries. The blurring of established consumer/producer identities has changed how both academics and media professionals characterize the role of the audience. The initial conceptualization of “audience-as-commodity” was challenged by increased recognition of the audience as active consumers, or “audience-as-agent”. Recently this recognition has led to the Hollywood media industry’s co-optation of these consumers, conceptualizing the people who engage with their media products as a combination of the previous two, or "audience-as-pusher". This paper is an account of this discourse readjustment through the description of case studies that demonstrate the utilization of interactive marketing schemes to co-opt pre-existent and emergent audience activity(s).
Changing Media, Changing AudiencesThe End of “the Audience”?Conclusion
The emerging video-film pop culture in Nigeria is examined for its potential to stimulate social change in the society. Three video-films from the industry were analysed for social commentary and options for change in the society. The study concludes that the industry has a potential to stimulate social change in the society, but its commercial nature and its melodramatic content may create impediments.