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Final Seminar: Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow October 7, 2008

Posted by Tama in : Seminar , trackback


Your core reading/viewing:

[X] Axel Bruns. "Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation." Paper presented at Creativity & Cognition conference, Washington D.C., USA, 13-15 June 2007.  Also see the interview of Axel Bruns recently conduct by Henry Jenkins: Part I; Part II.

[X] Jane McGonigal, ‘Saving the World Through Game Design’ [20 minute video presentation], 2008 New Yorker Conference, 28 May 2008. And once you’ve thought about the video, please visit the latest socially ‘game’ McGonigal and her colleagues are running, Superstruct.  Explore the artifacts on the Superstruct pages, delve into the material created and edited by players (allow yourselves at least thirty minutes to really look at Superstruct).

[X] Cory Doctorow, ‘Giving it Away’ and ‘World of Democracycraft’ in Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future, Tachyon Publications, 2008, pp. 71-75 and 201-206 respectively. (There are plenty of different formats of the whole book available online – feel free to read as much as you like, but please at the very least read the two very short essays I’ve suggested.)

Axel Bruns’ notion of ‘produsage’, where the concepts of producer and consumer collide in a world on increasing user-generated content creation, in some important ways updates or extends the idea of participatory culture discussed in the early weeks of this course.  Bruns’ essay gives us a sense of the heightened role users play in the creating content, but it is also aware of the limitations of such an idea (something often forgotten as the selected examples of participatory culture and collective intelligence are continually rehashed).

In contrast, the video from Jane McGonigal gives a far more optimistic take on the world, where the participatory culture surrounding socially meaningful games can act as the perfect focus on collective intelligence.  More to the point, the latest socially-aware gaming experience from McGonigal and her colleagues is being played right now, so looking at Superstruct will, hopefully, let us see how well these ideals are working in this world of meaningful play.

Finally, Cory Doctorow’s two short essays (and other writing in Content) return to two key questions in relation to digital communication: ‘How can copyright be meaningfully situated within an informatic economy, especially in relation to older media forms [such as books]?’ ; and ‘How will the social fabric of virtual worlds be governed?’. Also worth considering is the fact that the book Content is itself licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Questions to Consider:

[1] Is Bruns’ model of ‘produsage’ a more accurate and realistic version of participatory culture as it operates today (and tomorrow)?  How well does the idea of produsage reflect aspects of your own life, and what role do you think produsage has in our increasingly digital communities?  How well does produsage describe the examples of participatory culture examined throughout this unit?

[2] How well does Superstruct work as an example of collective intelligence in the real world?  Are socially-responsible games good learning tools?  Is so, are they still fun (or do you think they’d be fun)?  Where is the boundary between play, learning and activism in Superstruct?  (Do you think this style of meaningful gaming would be useful to investigate other political or social issues?)

[3] Returning to the question of copyright, looking at Doctorow’s example and the unit overall, is there a future for copyright in the era of digital communication, and if so, how do you think it should operate?

[4] Finally, how have your own ideas about participatory culture and digital communication changed since the beginning of this unit?  What surprised you the most?  What worries you?  What makes you hopeful and optimistic about our digital future?

The Last Blog Comments

As well as making your last comment or two about the topics raised in this seminar, can I ask everyone to please make one additional reflective comment detailing your thoughts about this unit overall: did it work as a coherent unit for you? What was most interesting or enjoyable? What didn’t work as well? Any suggestions about things that should be changed?

And that’s the final seminar done.  Now you’ve just got your major projects to complete – and to post to the blog – and that’s your iGeneration experience done (at least in the formal sense)! :)

[Image ‘Wake up!’ by Eddi 07, CC BY]


# Alvin - October 15, 2008

Well, I’d start off by saying that user-led content generation is already happening. Whether this will continue to thrive is not certain as things (and technology) change very rapidly. What is more likely to happen, is the continued ‘struggle’ between traditional media content owners and produsers – which I deem ‘bread and butter’ issues. Produsers are increasingly encroaching into the sphere formerly ruled by traditional media content generators, sometimes affecting profits.

However, personally, I feel that traditional media content owners/generators haven’t actually ‘lost’ money. They simply ‘could have earn xxx amount more’. Therefore, everytime I read that ‘music industry loses xxx dollars due to whatever’, I’d feel that they haven’t actually ‘lost’ money, they simply haven’t made as much as they would otherwise have – they’re still making profits!

On the other hand, collective intelligence works well in the realm of produser content generation. After all, two brains work better than one (of course, there are more than 2 brains at work here). However, I wonder whether the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ apply here?


This unit has certainly enriched my knowledge and understanding of communication particularly in the context of new media (well it’s called igeneration anyway). For example, before I attended seminars for this unit, I didn’t even know that ‘Creative Commons’ existed. I was very adamant about protecting copyright. In fact, I still am (but only for my own works). On the other hand, creative commons has allowed me to legally use content/material that others have created. That way, it opens up an option – i.e. If I can use material legally, why do I have to break the law and infringe copyright? For that matter, I am also increasingly forthcoming in placing my works (not that I have many) under a creative commons licence. Well, we have to “pass on” the benefit right? Everyone contributes a little to keep the practice alive.

On the other hand, I am still skeptical about the idea of collective intelligence – that it is better than the ideas of selected ‘experts’. I’m probably a “traditionalist” as I still prefer to place my trust on professors and teachers instead of wikipedia.

Also, the use of a blog to facilitate discussions is totally new to me. After the initial difficulty in navigating the site, the rest is just enjoyable. I’d prefer this to, say, webct. This is easier to use, straightforward and most importantly, does not have so many confusing “sub-trees” or “sub headings”. I’m so confused with webct’s use of “sub headings” for replies to replies…that I’m not even sure who’s replying exactly to who’s post. This is still better.


# ramfelsean - October 16, 2008

The theories we learned in this unit are very useful towards awareness about the modern media. Before this course commenced, I am aware of the existence of the topics being outlined, but theoreticaly unaware. To recap all the discussions, the theory of Produsage as presented by Dr. Alex Bruns is the most concise way of defining the things we have been doing on this course. The Podcast and the seminars were useful to know better the nature of these new media. Participatory culture through Citizen Journalism as manifested in Youtube, Social Network sites were of great interest so as with the mashups. The copyright issues were the most relevant as all the topics touched it.
To sum up on all the topics presented, the main concern is the copyright issues, how we can continue to develop this new media we are now enjoying without jeopardizing commercial interests? (to be continued)

# siyang guan - October 18, 2008

I totally agree with Alvin, I also talk about this unit which is called IGeneration. This is new form of learing style called education blogs pattern, just I think it is , isn’t it? And Ihave no such a experience before. In this unit, I learn lot of new conceptions about this participatory culture, one of the most impression of them is machinema, this new filming partern combine three elements about vedio game, filming charactors and 3D enviroment. it expores new era both film and vedio game. Further, basically, this unit collect all of themes and topics about participartory culture in different angles and different genres likeing blogs, citizen journalism, social networking. Let us understand this free culture deeply and in an extensive way. In fact, I extremely like this unit. for me, I think, after discussing the copyright problem, now i have thought a lot of copyright than before. to be more critical and creative than before.

# annaw77 - October 20, 2008

I’m quite interested in the idea that in the utopian ‘free’ (i.e unpaid) digital world where people don’t charge for their work (citizen journalism is an example); the idealism is damaged by the fact that they undermine the market economy. As I said in class, I am suspicious of the impact of the ‘free’ digital market. If we consider ‘who wins’ in citizen journalism for example: it’s certainly not the paid worker (take recent Fairfax events to illustrate my point). The citizen journalist could win from an altruistic sense, but they do not receive financial remuneration. The consumer can benefit as they receive diverse opinion, but ultimately the winner is big business as they don’t need to pay for contributions. Some food for thought as we sing the praises of the ‘free’ digital world!


This has been a very interesting unit. I made a lot of noise when we did the podcast, but I would like to reiterate my point that there was a substantial amount of assumed knowledge built into the assessment. What exactly was it assessing? Skills in Garage Band? What did I learn? Patience?

On a positive note, I really enjoyed listening and reading other people’s assignments that were posted online. I’ve never had an opportunity to read other students work, and I found it interesting to see how people interpreted and applied concepts of the unit.

# tang12 - October 20, 2008

Before I proceed, I like to clarify something I had said during the seminar. I gave the comment that produsage is something happening in the future. What I actually wanted to say is that it’s happening now but will be further developed in the future. This is because at the moment, there is no regulation system and that it is “free” for all.

I find the idea of produsage one that is similar to the idea of collective intelligence. In this situation, the consumers are also the producers. It is also like a social network system where people share whatever infomation they have within the network. Therefore the issue of submitting ourselves under the regulations or authority of the corporation which came up with the network. I find that at this point one could have the attitude of “take it or leave it”. We cannot expect others to switch to a less ‘friendly’ network when the network most people are using is offensive for us.

Finally, I like to say that this had been a very exciting and refreshing learning journey for me. In all my years of study I have not had the opportunity of conducting a group seminar or post comments on a blog. I find this manner of learning and exchanging of ideas and thought a fulfilling experience. Also as pointed during the seminar, the idea of a participatory culture is one that left a deep impression on me. I find that being able to participate and contribute in terms of comments and observations is the best way to boost ones confidence and test out ones soundness of thoughts.
Hope this culture will continue in other areas of our lives as the course closes.

# yanm - October 20, 2008

Firstly, I thought the produsage is still a quite new concept for me at the moment, but i think it is an important step to develop the digital online culture. Like the Youtube, Blogs, those provide us the opportunity to participate in the activity to perform as the producer sometimes.How valuable thing it is! i am always thinking,Is the produsage as a platform to show our creativity for the common people like us? I do not know how to answer this question actually, but in the mainstream media, we have no chance to take part in the communication compare to the digital communication in our daily lives. Secondly, I thought the copyright will accompany with the developing ear of digital communication all the time. For with the more people involved in this participatory culture, everyone did the contribution to the community. Therefore, it is not fair for someone else to violent their rights. How to protect the copyright in the future, I think the individuals should aware of the consciousness to respect other people’s creativity and achievements; for the government, the copyright issue should not relate to money or profits. Because sometimes, the stricter regulations the less profits they will get.
I always category myself as innocent person for copyright issue, and never touch participatory culture before this unit, when I involved in it, I find I was totally wrong, I indeed the membership of the digital communication in the virtual world, for example, I experience Chinese qq everyday. Overall, I thought this unit is a pretty interesting but challenging course. It not only introduced the broader literacy contents of each aspects of online culture, but also attracts us to try and experience in our lives. For instance, ii want to apply and design a “myspace” to keep in touch with my international classmates. The copyright issue will notice my all the time when I surf on the website and want to download something. I thought every my classmates in this course has got lots gains, not just for the knowledge, and the courage as well. Ok, I would like to say ‘thank you’ to Tama , and say ‘thank you’ for my dear classmates!

# Benedikte - October 20, 2008

Before attending this class I didn´t pay much attention to
participatory culture or at least I did not identify different media with the concept. I thougt of it only as a term used in the production or creation of some type of published media. So my idea about participartory culture has definitely changed throughout this unit.

What makes me both hopeful and worried at the same time has to do with the concept of citizen journalism. This concept has so much potential and can have a very positive effect on society and for the individual. Citizen journalism can in theory enlighten people in a impartial way opposite published media (due to investors etc.) On the other hand what is being produced is uncontrollable which makes me worry about the quality of the it all. Everything can be published online and I worry about racist statements etc. In the bigger picture I even worry that citizen journalism – due to the fact that it is amateurs producing- will have an inpact on everything from peoples vocabulary, spelling skills and language.

I really liked this unit mostly for its diversity. How many units haven´t we all taken part in where all you had to do was to turn up and take notes to what the teacher said. Zzzzz! This unit has definitely kept me awake and on my toes;) Like Anna I have been challenged with the expectations there was using digital media. Both blogging and Garage Band have been a first for me and it has just not come easy to me unfortunately;)

# rouli - October 22, 2008

Right…..,it seems I am the last person who haven’t said anything for our last seminar.
Sorry for delayed response :-)

As I stated in our last seminar, I am one of the person that have an optimistic view about the idea of participatory culture, collective intelligent and produsage. One of my reasons is that instead of relying on big media corporation to determine what we will and should watch, user-led content, in my opinion, is a better proposition. Experiences with traditional media system show that audiences have a weak position in the production-distribution-consumption chain. Audiences are treated as passive consumer that will consume what media provide for them. There are only two choices, to consume media content or not to consume at all. To watch TV and read newspaper or not to watch and read at all. But now, digital technologies open the possibility for the “audience” to involve in the production-distribution-consumption chain. The power is not ultimately in the hand of media corporations, as producer, but now it shares between media and audience. I think it’s part of democratisation of our society.

But I’m also aware of other concerns about the idea of participatory culture, as we already discuss in seminar and also that you guys already stated in your comment. But still, I think media-led content and user-led content can complement each other, just like citizen journalism complement traditional journalism. User-led content will not banish media content, because media content somehow is the material for the “users” to create the new creation. The main different is that audiences or media users have a stronger position regarding what they can do with the media content. So, it will not ruin the economic system. In this case, I agree with Alvin, it just probably will make the media corporation earn less profit than they used to be.

As with copyright issue, I think, we all have to reconsider the application of all right reserved in digital age nowadays. Creative common movement is the better alternative to regulate intellectual property in digital age (like we already discuss throughout our course).

# rouli - October 22, 2008

My additional comment about this unit,
I found this unit very interesting and enjoyable, because the material in this course is kind of new concept for me and I never really explore it in my previous degree. Even though I did come across with several same ideas in last semester, but in this semester, in iGeneration unit, I have a chance to go for further detail exploration.
The course material, the podcast project, the blog, the classmates, all of it is works well for me (and I hope I also can do well with my last major assignment :-) ). But maybe we have to learn more about how to run the seminar to make it more interesting and more dynamic :-)
All in all, I think this unit is one of the best units I have in UWA so far… ((it’s true….:-) ))

# annaw77 - October 22, 2008

A further thought in relation to our discussion about the rules of real life applying to virtual life – I’ve just found this article about school students being convicted for virtual theft. They pinched another students amulet and mask from a virtual computer game. A virtual theft with tangible real-life consequences. Ouch!


# Alvin - November 5, 2008

Annaw77, my first reaction to the article was “what?! It’s incredible!”

After reading the article, I feel that this case is a unique one on 2 fronts – Firstly, real life assault had taken place. Secondly, virtual goods are considered the same as real goods under local law.

So the combination of the 2 aspects probably resulted in the prosecution of the subjects. However, the sentences meted out reflects the Court’s emphasis on such cases. Would the same sentence be given on another case with the same ratio decidendi but involving ‘real’ goods (i.e. wallet)? Maybe they would… :)