Here’s your tag, do with it what you will

Platforms and permissions

In a lecture you’re not supposed to talk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation. All it takes is a symbol and six letters and you’re in, you’re talking with 300 people about #slothlife, feet and any other unrelated topic that seems to be trending…Yes, welcome to #BCM112, where we tweet what we want, when we want.

Visual representation of the Twitter BCM112 hashtag. Image: http://goo.gl/02ZIfY

Visual representation of the Twitter BCM112 hashtag. Image: http://goo.gl/02ZIfY

But let’s explore the implications of such freedom. Jenkins (2004) talks about the altering relationship between existing technologies and audiences by introducing the ‘new consumer’. The ‘new consumer’ is one that is active, more socially connected, resistant, and takes media into their own hands with work that is now much more public (Jenkins 2014, p37-38).

But with these new forms of use comes new points of interest. Jenkins (2004) identify these as ‘sites of tension and transition’ shaping the media environment for the coming decade, two of which include the negotiation of globalisation and digital citizenship.

Looking at how social tagging has changed the nature of the classroom environment, we have created one that is instant, ongoing, and unpredictable. Through a simple hashtag, we are united through ideas, themes and topics on a 24/7 basis, overcoming previous barriers of space and time (not to mention the social awkwardness of face-to-face interaction).

So it’s clear that tagging’s freedom of use has led to new forms of participation and knowledge. It’s this use however that has forced the technology to evolve with new meaning. Keyword tagging is no longer a closed system used only by webpage designers, bound by a controlled vocabulary (Wikipedia, 2014) but has become an open one, used freely by its users.

Just like any free-flowing digital content, it’s the users who add the tags, which are now clearly visible. It’s the users who decide how to use them.

Take the Arab Spring for example, activists used social networking to organise region wide uprisings of 2011, forcing the government to block Twitter and eventually internet networks. The hashtag ‘Egypt’ had 1.4 million mentions in three months (Huang, 2011), and with hashtags such as ‘Jan25’ and ‘protest’, citizens were able to quickly disseminate uncensored information world wide, using that connection to coordinate, protest and form underground communities (Kassim, 2012) (how’s that for digital citizenship and overcoming barriers?).

And for those not using the tag? Sorry, you’re left out of the conversation.

 

Reference list

Huang, C (2011) ‘Facebook and Twitter key to Arab Spring uprisings: report,’ The National, http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/facebook-and-twitter-key-to-arab-spring-uprisings-report

Jenkins, Henry (2004), The cultural logic of media convergence, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 7(1): 33–43.

Kassim, S (2012) ‘Twitter Revolution: How the Arab Spring Was Helped By Social Media,’ PolicyMic, http://www.policymic.com/articles/10642/twitter-revolution-how-the-arab-spring-was-helped-by-social-media

Wikipedia (2014), ‘Tag (metadata)’ Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_(metadata)

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