Power and participation
How many times have you watched the news and heard the reporter ask you to ‘join in on the conversation’ or ‘have your say’? If my dad were to have his say, he’d simply say it there and then. So what’s this nonsense of having to jump online and use a particular hashtag to vent your spleen? That my friends, is convergence.
So let’s look at how convergence affects the role of media users and audiences
As much as I love sitting in front of the TV, reading a newspaper, or browsing online and passively enjoy its content, you can’t ignore the endless opportunities before you to ‘share this’, ‘tweet that’ or ‘comment there’. We have evolved into active consumers, or ‘prosumers’, and our role as media users is not only to consume content but to participate in its creation.
The rise of the ‘consumer as the producer’ is very much facilitated by convergent technologies encouraging new forms of content creation and individual expression (Moore, 2014). Unlike a ‘monologic’ environment, (such as those created by traditional media forms) gatekeepers are weak or non-existent, allowing messages to be broadcast directly and accessed with little restriction (Moore, 2014). That said, social tagging can be considered a form of ‘dialogic’ technology, take the Twitter ban in Turkey as an example of its power and use.
But what are the effects of such user-generated content on the established norms of institutional media?
Convergent media has very much changed our relationship with traditional media. Gordon (2007) argues that what we tweet has a clear effect on news agenda. Journalist and audiences rely on keyword metadata (the hashtag) to filter through information, find relevant Tweets and create online communities as users actively participate in the conversation (remember the hype around #KONY2012?).
The rise of user-generated content has also changed the face of breaking news, as citizens document and report events from eye witnesses and those easily involved (Gordon, 2007). Take the Aurora midnight shootings for example, #theatreshooting rapidly became a dominant hashtag appearing in 583, 087 tweets within one month of the incident (Buttry, 2012). By connecting tweets and users, the hashtag helped unfold the story and it will continue to do so. Why? Because the hashtag is still active today.
Buttry, S (2012) ‘Hashtags help journalist find relevant tweets and reach more people’, Buttry Goodness, http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/hashtags-help-journalists-find-relevant-tweets-and-reach-more-people/
Moore, C (2014) ‘Power and Participation’, lecture, BCM112, The University of Wollongong, April 1.