Circulation     vs.Distribution
“The radio would be the          finest possible  communication apparatus in public life, a vast networkof pipes. That is ...
“FOR THE FIRST TIME IN  HISTORY, THE MEDIA ARE MAKING POSSIBLE MASS PARTICIPATION IN      A SOCIAL AND SOCIALIZED      PRO...
"The multiplication of communicationand information technologies extendthe terrains of struggle, modifies theforms struggle...
“What
is
disturbing
about
the
"free"
                                       model
of
fan
labor,
in
which
fans
"get"
to
   ...
**Research by Lori Kido Lopez**
"We are all susceptible to the pull of viralideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune thatgets into your head that you keep onh...
Content                                            Cultural Resources   We don’t share clips just because of what we have ...
Text
**Special Thanks to Arely Zimmerman and           Sangita Shresthova**
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  • Against Henry Jenkins. Remarks on Henry Jenkins’ ICA Talk “Spreadable Media”.

    Blogpost by Christian Fuchs from: http://fuchs.uti.at/570/

    I have watched Henry Jenkins’ virtual keynote presentation “Spreadable Media” that he gave at the 2011 conference of the International Communication Association. I do not like it and here are some reasons why this is the case.

    Jenkins says that he has learned from and that his analysis is now deeply informed the criticism of Critical Studies scholars, who stress aspects of exploitation and free labour on web 2.0, and that it is important to take these criticisms into account. He wants to stress the “expansion of participation on the one hand and the expansion of a new business model, which tries to court and capture that participation on the other”.

    Jenkins says that he wants to stress both structure + agency, pleasure +exploitation, whereas Critical Studies scholars would mainly stress structure and exploitation. He says that these scholars tend to conceive users as isolated, passive consumers, whereas for him they are a networked collective close to a Habermasian public sphere.

    The question is how much Jenkins has really changed his analysis and how much he has really taken into account and engaged with the arguments of Critical Studies?

    Jenkins simply constructs a dualistic “both…and”-argument based on the logic: “Web 2.0 is both …. and … ”: both pleasure and exploitation, both a space of participation and a space of commodification. He wants to focus on the aspects of pleasure and creativity and wants to leave the topic of exploitation to others and does thereby not grasp the dialectics at work and the relations of dominance we find on web 2.0. The question is not only what phenomena we find on social media, but how they are related and to which extent and degree they are present. It is no doubt that web 2.0 users are creative when they generate and diffuse user-generated content. But the question is also how many web 2.0 are active and which degree of activity and creativity their practices have. So for example in Sweden, one of the world’s most advanced information society, only 6% of the population have their own blog, only 8% of all Internet users blog occasionally, and only 16% of all Internet users upload video clips occasionally (Findahl 2010). Cultural Studies Scholars like Jenkins tend to overstate the creativity and activity of users on the web. Creativity is a force that enables Internet prosumer commodification, the commodification and exploitation of the users’ activities and the data they generate. Creativity is not outside of or dual to exploitation on web 2.0, it is its very foundation.

    Another problem I have with Jenkins’ work is his use of the notion of participation. He has defined and continues to define a “participatory culture” as a culture: “1.With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement 2.With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others 3.With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices 4.Where members believe that their contributions matter 5.Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created)“ (Jenkins 2006, 7). Jenkins has argued that increasingly “the Web has become a site of consumer participation” (Jenkins 2008, 137) and his ICA talk confirms that he holds on to this assumption and understanding of participation.

    The problem with concepts like “participatory culture” is that participation is a political science term that is strongly connected to participatory democracy theory and authors like Crawford Macpherson and Carole Pateman. I have in contrast to Jenkins and others argued against a vulgar use of the term participation and stressed that Internet Studies should relate the usage of the term to participatory democracy theory, in which it has the following dimensions (Fuchs 2011, Chapter 7: Participatory web 2.0 as ideology):

    (1) The intensification and extension of democracy as grassroots democracy to all realms of society
    (2) The maximization of human capacities (Macpherson: human developmental powers) so that humans become well-rounded individuals
    (3) Extractive power as impediment for participatory democracy: Macpherson (1973) argues that capitalism is based on an exploitation of human powers that limits the development of human capacities. The modern economy “by its very nature compels a continual net transfer of part of the power of some men to others [for the benefit and the enjoyment of the others], thus diminishing rather than maximizing the equal individual freedom to use and develop one’s natural capacities” (Macpherson 1973, 10f).
    (4) Participatory decision-making
    (5) Participatory economy A participatory economy requires a “change in the terms of access to capital in the direction of more nearly equal access” (Macpherson 1973, 71) and “a change to more nearly equal access to the means of labour” (73). In a participatory society, extractive power is reduced to zero (74). A democratic economy involves “the democratising of industrial authority structures, abolishing the permanent distinction between ‘managers’ and ‘men’” (Pateman 1970, 43).
    (6) Technological productivity as material foundation of participatory democracy.
    (7) Participation as education in participation.
    (8) Pseudo-participation as ideology.

    The problem is that for Jenkins participation means that humans meet on the net, form collectives, create and share content, etc. He has a culturalistic understanding of participation and ignores the notion of participatory democracy, a term which has political, political economic and cultural dimensions. Jenkins’ definition and use of the term “participatory culture“ ignores aspects of participatory democracy, it ignores questions about ownership of platforms/companies, collective decision-making, profit, class and the distribution of material benefits. The cultural expressions of Internet users are strongly mediated by the corporate platforms owned by Facebook, Google and other large companies. Neither the users nor the waged employees of Facebook, Google & Co. determine the business decisions of these companies, they do not “participate” in economic decision-making, but are excluded from it. Internet culture is not separate from political economy, but is to a large extent organized, controlled and owned by companies (platforms like Wikipedia are non-corporate models that are different from the dominant corporate social media model). Social media culture is a culture industry. Jenkins’ notion of “participatory culture” is about expressions, engagement, creation, sharing, experience, contributions and feelings and not also about how these practices are enabled by and antagonistically entangled into capital accumulation. Jenkins has a reductionistic understanding of culture that ignores contemporary culture’s political economy. Furthermore he reduces the notion of participation to a cultural dimension, ignoring the broad notion of participatory democracy and its implications for the Internet. An Internet that is dominated by corporations that accumulate capital by exploiting and commodifying users can in the theory of participatory democracy never be participatory and the cultural expressions on it cannot be an expression of participation.

    The most popular YouTube videos stem from global multimedia corporations like Universal, Sony and Walt Disney. Google and Facebook are based on targeted advertising models and a commercial culture, which results in huge profits for these companies. Politics on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are possible, but are minority issues – the predominant focus of users is on non-political entertainment. Web 2.0 corporations and the usage they enable are not an expression of participatory democracy. As long as corporations dominate the Internet, it will not be participatory. The participatory Internet can only be found in those areas that resist corporate domination and where activists and users engage in building and reproducing non-commercial, non-profit Internet projects like Wikipedia or Diaspora. Jenkins (and many others) continuously ignore questions of who owns, controls and materially benefits from corporate social media.

    Jenkins says that social media users are like a Habermasian public sphere. One wonders if he has ever read “Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit” (Habermas 1962/1991), the book, in which Habermas stresses that the bourgeois public sphere has created its own limits and thereby its own immanent critique by a) limiting the freedom of speech and public opinion in those cases, where persons who do not have the same formal education and material resources for participating in the public spheres are facing unequal conditions of participation and exclusion (Habermas 1962/1991, 227) and by b) limiting the freedom of association and assembly in those cases, where big economic and political organizations dominate the public sphere (Habermas 1962/1991, 228). In the corporate social media sphere, attention is unequally distributed, big companies, celebrities and well-known political actors enjoy attention advantages and the most active prosumers come from the young, educated middle-class. Is this a Habermasian public sphere? No. Corporate social media are an expression of the limits of the bourgeois public sphere that Habermas has pointed out.

    Jenkins says that now in contrast to his earlier works he has engaged with the arguments of Critical Studies scholars. But one wonders when listening to him misnaming Hans Magnus Enzensberger “Hans Mangus Eisensberger” and Mark Andrejevic “Michael Andrejevic”, if he really has engaged with Critical Studies. He furthermore attributes the quotation from Enzensberger that he uses (without giving page numbers, source and publication year; a practice he uses for all quotations in his presentation) to the 1960s, whereas Enzensberger published the work, from which the quotation stems (“Baukasten zu einer Theorie der Medien”, Enzensberger 1970) in 1970. In it, Enzensberger not only talked about “emancipatory media usage”, but distinguished this concept from “repressive media use” and made clear, in contrast to Jenkins, that emancipatory media negate and aim at the emancipation from capitalism. In contrast to Enzensberger, corporatism and participation are co-existent for Jenkins.

    One is surprised that when Jenkins talks about media and politics that he does not talk about how the contemporary new student rebellions that resist the hyperneoliberal attack on higher education make use of social media, what the role of the media and social media has been in protests like in Madison, Spain, or Greece and in the rebellions and revolutions in Northern African countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, or Libya. There is also no discussion of WikiLeaks, the most important online medium talked about in 2010. Instead, what are the “political” examples of struggles that Jenkins comes up with like? The prototypical example he gives is that 400 fans demonstrated the power of consumption when they “resisted” the planned ending of the NBC programme “Chuck” by buying (“buycott”) “foot long sandwiches” at Subway as a sign of “protest”. What does it tell us if a leading scholar simply ignores discussing the role of the media in political rebellions, protests and revolutions and instead focuses on the old Cultural Studies hobbyhorse of the rebelling TV audience that is constantly “resisting” in order to consume ever more?

    Media and Communication Studies should forget about the vulgar and reductionistic notion of participation (simply meaning that users create, curate, circulate or critique content) and focus on rediscovering the political notion of participation by engaging with participatory democracy theory. There was a time, when Cultural Studies scholars were claiming about others that they are economic reductionists. Today, it has become overtly clear – and Jenkins’ works is the best expression of this circumstance – that cultural reductionism has gone too far, that the cultural turn away from Critical Political Economy was an error and that Media and Communication Studies needs to rediscover concepts like class and participatory democracy.

    References

    Enzensberger, Hans Magnus. 1970. Baukasten zu einer Theorie der Medien. Kursbuch 20: 159-186.

    Findahl, Olle. 2010. Swedes and the Internet. Stockholm: .SE.

    Fuchs, Christian. 2011. Foundations of critical media and information studies. New York: Routledge.

    Habermas, Jürgen. 1962/1991. The structural transformation of the public sphere. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Jenkins, Henry et al. 2006. Confronting the challenges of participatory culture. Chicago, IL: MacArthur Foundation.

    Jenkins, Henry. 2008. Convergence culture. New York: New York University Press.

    Macpherson, Crawford Brough. 1973. Democratic theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Pateman, Carole. 1970. Participation and democratic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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  • So if content spread when it can be appropriated to meet the expressive needs of individuals within social systems, the question becomes, how do you create content that encourages this type of personalization?\n\nJohn Fiske’s proposed that texts became popular when they were producerly, when they gave up some control over its meaning, and left structures open-ended enough to allow diverse excess of potential interpretations, with which communities to appropriate them and leverage them to express local meanings and articulate their specific concerns. \n\n
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  • \nIdentifies movement participants as heroes, heroines full of courage, merit, self-sacrifice, and good citizenship\n\nCollective identities come to form part of an individuals’ self-identity through both a process of identity convergence and identity construction. That is, an individual may already have a self-understanding that resonates with the movements’ dominant identity. Identity construction refers to the process through which personal and collective identities are aligned, such that individuals regard engagement in movement activity as being consistent with their self-conception and interests. If not, the individual can engage in various processes of incorporating that identity into his/her own.\n
  • Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0p9pMX-0lA&feature=related\n \n“Trail of Dreams”: \nWebsite: http://www.trail2010.org/\n4 students; 1500 mile journey Florida-Washington DC\nInspired solidarity walks in California, New York, & Arizona\nDocument journey through blogs & video\n
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  • Ica -af edits

    1. 1. Circulation vs.Distribution
    2. 2. “The radio would be the finest possible communication apparatus in public life, a vast networkof pipes. That is to say, it would be if it knew how toreceive as well as transmit, how to let the listener speak as well as hear, how to bring him into a relationship instead of isolating him. On this principle the radio should step out of the supply business and organise its listeners as suppliers."
    3. 3. “FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, THE MEDIA ARE MAKING POSSIBLE MASS PARTICIPATION IN A SOCIAL AND SOCIALIZED PRODUCTIVE PROCESS, THEPRACTICAL MEANS OF WHICH ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE MASSES THEMSELVES. SUCH A USE OF THEM WOULD BRING THE COMMUNICATIONSMEDIA, WHICH UP TO NOW HAVE NOT DESERVED THE NAME, INTO THEIR OWN. IN ITS PRESENT FORM, EQUIPMENT LIKE TELEVISION OR FILM DOES NOT SERVE COMMUNICATION BUT PREVENT IT. IT ALLOWS NO RECIPROCAL ACTION BETWEEN TRANSMITTER AND RECEIVER."
    4. 4. "The multiplication of communicationand information technologies extendthe terrains of struggle, modifies theforms struggle may take, and makesit even more imperative that peoplegrasp the opportunities for strugglethat the multiplying of technologiesoffers."-- John Fiske
    5. 5. “What
is
disturbing
about
the
"free"
 model
of
fan
labor,
in
which
fans
"get"
to
 increase
the
worth
of
mass
media
 products
without
receiving
pay,
in
 exchange
for
the
relief
they
feel
at
the
 prospect
of
never
being
sued
for
creating
 value,
is
that
it
settles
for
too
little,
too
 soon,
in
the
ongoing
negotiations
between
 the
culture
industries,
capitalist
markets,
 and
individual
consumers/laborers.
“
‐‐
 De
Kosnik"Free
labor
is
the
moment
where
this
knowledgeable
consumption
of
culture
is
translated
into
productive
activities
that
are
pleasurably
embraced
and
at
the
same
time
often
shamelessly
exploited
[
.
.
.
]
The
fruit
of
collective
cultural
labor
has
been
not
simply
appropriated,
but
voluntarily
channeled
and
controversially
structured
within
capitalist
business
practices."
‐‐
Terranova
    6. 6. **Research by Lori Kido Lopez**
    7. 7. "We are all susceptible to the pull of viralideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune thatgets into your head that you keep onhumming all day until you spread it tosomeone else. Jokes. Urban legends.Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matterhow smart we get, there is always thisdeep irrational part that makes uspotential hosts for self-replicatinginformation." Neal Stephenson
    8. 8. Content Cultural Resources We don’t share clips just because of what we have to say about the ad or film, but also because of what the ad might have to say about us.
    9. 9. Text
    10. 10. **Special Thanks to Arely Zimmerman and Sangita Shresthova**

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