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meyler.mass.media

Participate, Broadcast Yourself

As I wrote in my second post, ‘Putting the “You” in “Tube,”’ the phenomenon of YouTube is an interesting one. The site describes itself as a place where “people can see first-hand accounts of current events, find videos about their hobbies and interests, and discover the quirky and unusual.” While all of these qualities are true, the significance of YouTube is that it enables people to participate. YouTube is part of a participatory culture.

In his blog, professor Henry Jenkins mentions how YouTube was used during the American election. For the candidates’ debate, citizens were given the opportunity to send in questions through YouTube. This allowed for people to ask questions that were particularly important to them that might otherwise go unasked by journalists. Subjects like gay marriage, Darfur and Iraq were brought up through a more personal light. YouTube being a part of the debates directly involved people in what was happening. It explicitly showed that they were part of the event, that they were part of their government, that they were part of their democracy.

Because YouTube lets anyone upload their videos and lets everyone watch those videos, it creates a space where people are encouraged to express themselves. The public can change from simply being consumers of a medium to being producers of that medium. Just like Walter Benjamin wrote, “an increasing number of readers and became writers … the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character.” This melding of creator and consumer is what defines a participatory culture.

Sources:
Benjamin, Walter.  “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” 23 Sept. 2008. http://grace.evergreen.edu/~arunc/texts/frankfurt/benjamin/benjamin.pdf.

Jenkins, Henry. “Manufacturing Dissent: An Interview with Stephen Duncombe.” 23 July 2007. Confessions of an Aca/Fan. <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/07/manufacturing_dissent_an_inter.html&gt;.

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