Oct 07 2008

Final Seminar: Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow

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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.)

[X] Tama Leaver, ‘Building Open Education Resources From the Bottom Up’ [18 minute video], Tama Leaver dot Net, 23 September 2008.

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 released 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] After watching Tama’s video, how do you feel about Open Educational Resources and your role as participating in their creation via this course?

[5] 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 remix 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]

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Final Seminar: Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow”

  1.   Tamaon 13 Oct 2008 at 4:58 pm     1

    PS Jo, I forgot to say THANK YOU for bringing cupcakes etc along to the last seminar: they were delicious! :)

  2.   Kirion 17 Oct 2008 at 4:08 pm     2

    I think the Superstruct game is such a fine example of collective intelligence working well, since it feeds directly into real life experience. Even if it didn’t, it would still be useful as a kind of resource for expanding our individual capabilities to think creatively for the future. At the very least, Superstruct should make anyone who finds out about it start thinking about how we can all make a difference for the future. But, this MMPORG is not just a fantasy, and that’s where it’s different, I guess. Gamers use their imagination, but their tools are real-life experience and observation. This is at least as good a learning tool (if not better) than many similar games that create scenarios that aren’t very identifiable to our current lives. Because those involved can apply what they learn and create in the game to their thoughts, if not actions, in real life. Not that Superstruct is an exact replica – the creators and users still employ creative license to think about the future. That in itself is the fun part, I would think. Sure, it’s different to a fantastical game, but imagining the future, telling stories and creating superstructures – that’s gotta be fun!

    (Having said that, I haven’t actually played the game. I just won’t have anything like the time in the next few weeks.)

    In addition, it’s kind of an example of produsage. Even though the game and its boundaries and frameworks were made by McGonigal’s group, users are then creating the content within that. Then they’re ‘consuming’ other’s work, and then maybe working with it, and creating something in response. Over the course of the six-week experiment, players create their own content, and they also have input into other content on the site, not simply producing a finished product (even what the Institute ends up presenting to the government, or whatever will not be complete and static).

  3.   stopheron 21 Oct 2008 at 9:33 am     3

    What you say is definitely true there Kiri, I think it exemplifies many other things that we’ve looked at in this unit as well.

    There is a definite community of people formed around this platform, united by a common focus against a “threat” which, even though it is not happening in the actual world, we’ve seen that hardly matters for the formation of a community.

    The whole principle the game is based on is people telling stories – the game explicitly uses the word story, and these are organised in a very non-linear fashion. I’ve not had a chance to look at the game too closely since its opening days, but I would definitely assume that since that time people have commented on each others’ stories, forming chains of information, and possibly telling new stories that intertwine ideas of old ones, remixing them if you will, while at the same time creating a narrative.

  4.   stopheron 28 Oct 2008 at 8:00 am     4

    So I recently came across a pretty good video that relates to the course and in describing it I think I can pretty well sum up my thoughts on the course as well.

    It’s called Good Copy Bad Copy, and is available at http://www.goodcopybadcopy.net and has interviews with a who’s who of people from the course – Girl Talk, DJ Dangermouse, Laurence Lessig, Henry Jenkins, people from piratebay.org as well as some case studies of participatory culture in Nigeria and Brazil. What it’s essentially about is the state and relevance of copyright law in this modern, digital era, as well as some investigations of various artforms that digital technologies have afforded people.

    Which to me is what this course has been about, looking at the ways the world changes when new technologies bring about a fundamental change in what can be done with information, how it is created, stored, transmitted, and so on.

    As I sort of touched on in my previous comment, I think the Jane McGonigal style of game also exemplifies the course pretty well – it is based on the internet, encourages peer built and maintained content, effectively remixing each others’ work and so on, all topics of the large area that the course has examined.

  5.   alexpondon 03 Nov 2008 at 9:14 am     5

    “Its never been easier for users to be part of the media landscape”

    Wow, Chris I also found a video that relates to the course.
    It’s called Epic 2015 and it can be viewed at http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/epic. It details how news, reporting and media are predicted to change up to the year 2015 based on changes that have happened so far, from the viewpoint of the fictional ‘Museum of Media History’.
    And it’s also licensed under creative commons!!!
    It was created in 2004 (so everything up to that time is fact, and everything after is hypothetical). It ends with focus on individual podcasts (eg. PARTICIPATION in the digital age).
    Not only does this video promote thoughts about how far technology and media has come, which also makes you think about where and how the future will go.
    I think it a really interesting video to watch at the end of this course – almost everything that we’ve done up to this point has been based on the past and of the present, but using everything that we’ve learned we can evaluate the video and decide how likely/realistic these predications are and what they would mean if they came true!

  6.   Shemilaon 07 Nov 2008 at 3:04 pm     6

    I have a question, does participatory culture equals to produsage?

    I raised this question because it seems to me that everything we have talked about in this unit are more or less produsage of some sort. We, internet users, contributing what we have produced to the internet, and the others look at, or even make use of what we have contributed. I do agree with what is it said in the video that Alex suggested, that people will eventually get a share of revenue from what they have put up. We are evolving to an era that even the lowest level of the society can have a say, because of the huge ripple effect of the internet. I am not quite sure if the predictions in that video would come true, but what matters is, we will have a lot more choices on getting what we want to get and know.

  7.   jhfsamon 07 Nov 2008 at 8:01 pm     7

    Shemila, I don’t think participatory culture equals to produsage instead it contributes to it. With reference that what Shemila has pointed out that even the lowest level of society can have a say, its something that is inevitable. Superstruct, as mentioned by Kiri, is a fine example of produsage… other examples would be political forums, blogs and many more. I’m sure there are some forms of produsage, such as a particular section in a newspaper for discussions that have existed before technology set it. Technology has just accelerated how information is disseminated, stored and remixed. Needless to say, remix projects stem from produsage. However, due to produsage, copyright issues have somewhat been reinforced, as people are afraid of using what they have produced. In comes Creative Commons which tries to solve the copyright issues and efforts are on the way!

  8.   jhfsamon 07 Nov 2008 at 8:30 pm     8

    Overall, the course has given a solid foundation and insightful information about what is participatory culture and digital communication. Our projects are highly relevant with the course. The use of student seminars demonstrates OER. It would have been great it citizen journalism was mentioned in further depth. Perhaps, Creative Commons could be incorporated into citizen journalism???

  9.   Shemilaon 08 Nov 2008 at 3:48 am     9

    The experiences of doing the two projects have been very enjoyable (and painful!), I guess we all have learned a lot from this course. Frankly I have never been speaking that much in my previous tutes (still not quite much in our seminars…), and the seminar that i have done was a very valuable experience for myself.

    I agree with Joanne that citizen journalism would be a good topic to be included in the unit, together with the effects of blogging and the wikipedia, which I think they have constituted the citizen journalism.

  10.   alexpondon 08 Nov 2008 at 10:47 am     10

    All up I’d have to say that this was one of my favorite units – I love how we all were able to design our own seminar and get a chance to explore topics in our own way, which I think helped make a highly relevant course even more so.
    Perhaps maybe at the end of each seminar it would have been good to spend a few more minutes tying the current seminar to the previous ones – just so we could get a better idea of how everything ties together as we go, instead of leaving it mainly to the end of the unit.
    I think this unit covers a lot of important things/activities/issues/etc that we are all involved in during our everyday lives, yet without this course we never would have delved that deeply into them (such as p2p networks, privacy online, fandoms, youtube)

  11.   stopheron 08 Nov 2008 at 5:08 pm     11

    I agree pretty well wholeheartedly there Alex, this has definitely been one of my favourite units, due equally to our input to its contents, and how it’s so relevant to life in a pretty raw sense, in that we can see everything as it happens.

    One of the changes I would make is have the assignments cover a broader scope – they were all (both) basically about community and so on, which I guess is sort of an overarching concept tying all the threads of the unit (our seminar topics) together, so I can see why this was the theme. Maybe that was an aspect that I really only learned myself, and the fact that I did it that way, rather than have it signposted is what increases its value as something learned. Either way, it’s an area of the course I feel like talking about a little bit.

  12.   Kirion 11 Nov 2008 at 9:03 pm     12

    I was trying to explain to my mum today what participatory culture is, why it’s important. And my mum is relatively computer savvy, but the idea that how culture is now built is changing, that the ways in which people interact are changing (I didn’t use those words, but this is one way I think about it)…her confused looks made me realise something that I occasionally forget in the Comm Studies environment, and with my peers: that there is a fundamental shift in culture and technology that requires a new kind of literacy. That the actions and methods by which gaming, entertainment, education and/including community are approached, created and participated in are vastly different to how they were when books were only in hard copy, audio and video cassettes lost quality as they were copied, and you couldn’t chat to/play with someone on the other side of the globe instantly. Because of the tools provided by digital technology.

    Now, some might disagree with me on the ‘literacy’ thing (we’ve had this conversation, right, Chris?), but one of the things that iGen has made clear to me is that this is not simply about learning to use this or that software, or just discussing creativity. It’s made me see my part in the world of digital media, and how the internet is so revolutionary. I wasn’t in the dark about this before, but I have the ‘tools’, so to speak, to better understand the digital world and the impact it has on actual life.

    There was some overlap between the podcast and remix projects, but I think I felt that my topics were different enough that I wasn’t repeating the theme of community too much. When I was creating and analysing my video remix, however, what I kept returning to was how this seemed to be a crux of participatory culture. Taking other people’s stuff and making it your own, insofar as giving it a new/revised meaning in a new context, is a whole other level of sharing. A remix is possible because of communication technologies, because of distribution ‘by the people, for the people’. And it enables further creativity, further education.

    An (interesting) aside is that, in the seminars, by the requirement to produce, create, etc. our own seminar, we each were able to contribute to the overall ‘meaning’ of the unit, more than just by being a student responding to questions. (And in having input into the assignments as well, of course.) It’s like a little image of participatory culture – where the hierarchy of producer/tutor and consumer/student is evened out somewhat. Which is not to say that Tama had no authority and didn’t guide our learning…

    I’ve found creating and theorising a good balance. I am perhaps left a little unsure about distinctions between participatory culture & produsage, and other terms like sharing, remixing, p2p, social networking, etc. I know what they are, but sometimes they merge into a big ball in my head. Perhaps there’s truth in this, that they bring us to a single understanding. Or maybe I need to read and understand it further first.

    Overall, this has been one of my favourite units in my university career (it’s not a long list, so lucky you) and has demonstrated some vital information to me.

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