- Journal Details
- First Published
- 15 Dec 2013
- Publication timeframe
- 2 times per year
- Open Access
Rethinking Participatory Culture: Introduction
Page range: 2 - 5
- Open Access
Letter from Ukraine
Page range: 6 - 6
- Open Access
A Medium Is Born: Participatory Media and the Rise of Clubhouse in Russia and Ukraine During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Page range: 8 - 28
Clubhouse is a social network allowing only real-time oral communication. While its 2020 worldwide launch went largely unnoticed in Eastern Europe, it took countries such as Ukraine and Russia by storm in February 2021. Users were enticed by the platform’s exclusivity (invitation only and limited to IOS users), unusual format, and compatibility with post-covid social life. For some time, Clubhouse was the dominant theme of discussions on other social media, mainstream news media organizations started launching daily talk shows in the app, and early adopters engaged in a plethora of participatory activities ranging from propagandist broadcasts to 24/7 rooms where bots would recite Russian classical poetry, from fervently seeking ways to monetise their participation to creating the somewhat unexpected genre of audial fakes.
In this article we intend to analyse the turbulent arrival of the new app in Russia and Ukraine from the perspectives of media ecology and media archaeology. Focusing on the app’s mediality and remediation, the social media discourse about it and particular content in some of the notable rooms, we highlight the conjunction of social environment, the already existing and novel technological affordances, as well as users’ perceptions and expectations in the emergence of a new niche in the ecology of participatory media. Based on this, we will also try to outline some possible scenarios for the new platform in Eastern Europe’s dense mediascapes. We argue that the prompt rise of Clubhouse’s popularity was not thanks to its special authenticity, as some suggest, but rather because of the normalization of group long-distance conversations (e.g., via Zoom), coupled with the intentional monomedia poverty of affordances and clearly delimited boundary between the roles of broadcasters and listeners, which was perceived as liberating in a produsage-saturated environment. This actually limits the participatory media potential of content creators and influencers, increasing their power and reviving monological models of communication that suggest a passive audience.
- participatory culture
- Open Access
Witnessing in Participatory Journalism: Siege of Aleppo and Narratives of Authenticity
Page range: 30 - 45
This article explores witnessing within and as participatory journalism (participatory witnessing) based on a case study of narratives of the Aleppo siege created by amateur content producers, professional journalists and commenting audiences. To analyse the nuances and challenges of participatory witnessing as a practice and a field, I examine the narratives of all parties (tweeters in Aleppo, news outlets and people commenting below the news articles) as well as their visual and textual strategies for gaining “trust” by claiming authenticity. While news outlets were largely sympathetic to tweeters and amplified their messages, the commenting audience distanced themselves from the suffering and refused to bear witness by responding with four narratives: “tweeters are fake,” “tweeters are terrorists,” “the media is lying” and “collateral damage.” Many elements from the “post-truth” narrative repertoire were utilised to create distance from the scene of suffering. Therefore, empowering vulnerable parties to participate “in journalism” (inviting the audiences to “bear witness”) does not necessarily lead to participation “through journalism” (audiences “bearing witness” in response to these calls).
- media witnessing
- distant suffering
- participatory journalism
- Aleppo siege
- visual narrative analysis
- user-generated content
- Open Access
Where We Go One, We Go All: QAnon, Networked Individualism, and the Dark Side of Participatory (Fan) Culture
Page range: 46 - 51
Participation in online spaces has afforded new fan cultures (Baym, Burnett 2009; Jenkins 2018) and enabled new communities of networked individuals (Rainie, Wellman 2012; Burgess, Jones 2020). Online participation also generates participatory cultures, which allow audiences unprecedented opportunity to connect with each other and with the media they share. However, it has also generated some decidedly anti-social and anti-democratic movements, such as QAnon (Amarasingam, Argentino 2020). In this commentary, we argue that QAnon can be thought of as a participatory fan culture gone awry. Using QAnon’s entry into mainstream culture in 2020 as a case study, we explore the darker implications of online participatory culture, including misinformation, conspiratorial- thinking, and an undermining of shared realities. Lastly, we propose that these issues are made more explicit and difficult to attend to in a media sphere characterized by dominant neo-liberal corporate control of participatory media, and digital dualism.
- Open Access
Laugh in Case of Emergency: Framing the Pandemic Through Memes in Italy and Russia
Page range: 52 - 72
During the COVID-19 pandemic, meme culture prospered. New topics, styles and problems emerged from meme-sharing, resulting in a specific genre – quarantine memes. Although some of the possible causes could be linked to the lockdown boredom and consequent increase in screen-time among internet users; we argue that the other cause has to be sought in the complex role memes had (and still have) as instruments of symbolic framing.
As De Rycker (2018) put forth, a crisis is a human activity carried out knowingly and intentionally. Understanding the COVID-19 pandemic as a crisis, we aim to analyse quarantine memes as a participatory practice of ‘doing crisis’ – in particular, by framing its meanings and making sense of changes in everyday life.
Quarantine memes exist in the context of uncertainty, risks and fears about people’s health, restrictions of freedom, stress and changes in daily routines. The creation of memes that emerged from this context frames the pandemic and the virus in a variety of ways, not only suggesting different points of view but also establishing norms, encouraging (dis)belief and satirically or creatively commenting on new COVID-related practices.
Using a combination of digital ethnography and content analysis, we observed the meme-related participatory practices of quarantine memes on the most popular webpages in two countries: Russia (VKontakte) and Italy (Facebook). Temporally covering the first wave and the subsequent pandemic containment measures (February-October 2020), we distinguished a set of framing strategies that are suggested via memes by online audiences: alienation, avoidance, awareness-raising, critique, domestication, subversion, escapism and acknowledgement of emotions. Comparing and contrasting the topics and symbolic strategies that emerged in those countries, we showed that symbolic framing via memes is not a straightforward phenomenon, but a long-nuanced process in which different perceptions of the virus overlapped each other and changed through time.
- Open Access
Participatory Cultures of Digital Games: The Double-Edged Sword of Being a Reddit Community Moderator
Page range: 74 - 94
Volunteer community moderators are at the centre of a multitude of conflicting views in the media and society, while being continually exposed to inappropriate content and risking their mental wellbeing. On Reddit.com, their specific interest in a topic drives them to volunteer for moderation responsibilities to nurture the participa-tory community; however, this puts them in the uncertain position of being neither a member of the community nor a representative of the social media platform tied to the community. By adopting Nico Carpentier’s concept of participation as a site of political–ideological negotiation, this article explores the precarious conditions and expectations of community moderators around digital games after the 2020 COVID-19 struggles, with more people turning to social media, which increases demand for platform moderation. The study is based on semi-structured interviews with community moderators associated with online media communities (subreddits) of different games on the social media platform Reddit. It draws two conclusions: Firstly, the field of subreddit moderation involves multiple actors, such as content creators, content generators, moderators, and game studios. Here, moderators hold an assumed absolute power in two processes of decision-making: (1) ensure that content abides by the sitewide rules and subreddit specific rules; and (2) promote content that is sensitive to the subreddit’s cultural context. In decision-making moments, the tools that are afforded to moderators from the Reddit platform put moderators at a disadvantage, as they are forced to implement their decisions using negative reinforcement as opposed to achieving change in the subreddit through positive reinforcement. Secondly, community moderators exist within a participatory process of checks and balances, making any moderation actions a double-edged sword where any intervention by moderators can result in backlash or disagreement from content creators and content generators, and material advantages largely determine actors’ involvement in these participatory processes.
- Participatory Culture
- Digital Games
- Open Access
When is a Poet an Instapoet?
Page range: 96 - 120
Through professional social media accounts, poets can become actors in the ecosystem of Social Media Entertainment (SME). In this article, using an ecological perspective, the accounts of five poets are treated as exhibits of processes they take part in, both platform-specific practices related to content creation in the SME, and practices showing the interlocking and overlapping of the SME with other ecosystems of cultural production. By doing this, the article aims to show how platformization as a socio-technological process is shaping the practice of being a poet. The article identifies the platform-specific practices the poets partake in that make it possible to say when they are being instapoets on Instagram. For the concept of “instapoet” to be fruitful when referring to poets, it is not enough for them to merely be on social media. A poet is an instapoet when they take on the platform-specific tasks of a social media creator, which is more than just producing content. Often, poets are not only instapoets. Rather, how much of an instapoet you are depends on how platform-dependent you are.
- Open Access
Reuse and Appropriation: Remediating Digital Museum Collections and Digital Tools for a Participatory Culture in Transition
Page range: 122 - 138
Museums have always used different media to communicate, widen perspectives and bring new knowledge, but in the era of digital media, their various offerings are increasingly part of the media ecosystem. Our research interventions explored the possibility of reusing existing digitised material in a participatory setting. The aim was to explore the object-centred audience participatory method in digital settings. We held a series of digital and in-person workshops that invited the participants to “imagine” narratives about the provenance of the museum’s objects and journeys to Sweden in a playful and creative exploration. We could observe how the virtual workshop setting supported focused discussions, and allowed zooming, drawing and remixing of digital photographs to facilitate conversation. The workshop participants on-site worked with the museum objects on display to remediate them through photos, drawings, clay modelling, and writing down thoughts and questions about the objects on discussion postcards. The participants’ contributions were included in the virtual collection database (Carlotta), under the same collection as the other museum objects, making the remediation process circular. We argue that object-centred methods enable audience participation in digital media ecosystems both in museums and with other media makers.
The audience’s expectations and experiences from using other media bring them to the digital museum platforms with a willingness to explore, remix and integrate.
- Museum objects
- Audience engagement
- Digital workshop
- Contact zone
- Open Access
Covid-19 Pandemic Coping Strategies in a Complex Landscape of Crisis Communication: A Participatory Study with Disability Organisations in Sweden
Page range: 140 - 161
The article challenges the notion that crisis communication is a matter of outreach of a single message communicated as “one voice” from official channels speaking to the public about how to prepare for and manage crisis situations. The Covid-19 pandemic has made it evident that the general public is accessing multiple channels for crisis information while the crisis situation, the rules and knowledge are constantly changing. An array of different voices, facts, (fake) news and recommendations are channeled via public service, social media, national and international media. Most of this content is accessed and shared via digital channels, but also via communities, workplaces, and between friends and families living in the same country or abroad. This article presents insights gained from a qualitative study addressing disabled people whose everyday lives have always been characterized by extraordinary circumstances, and continuously so also during the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim was to create an understanding of disabled people’s crisis-specific media practices and their ways of coping with situations caused by the pandemic. Through a national online survey study and workshops, it explores how disabled people experience the pandemic, and how crisis information flows affect trust between authorities and the disability movements. The study should be read in the light of the Swedish Covid-19 strategy, which put a strong emphasis on the individual’s responsibility and that every citizen is expected to follow the recommendations and take precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus. This approach requires that both public agencies and citizens are capable of navigating the emerging complex crisis communication landscape and requires them to make responsible decisions and take relevant measures.
- Covid-19 pandemic
- crisis communication
- crisis-specific media practices
- disability organisations
- disabled people
- coping strategies
- participatory research
- Open Access
Imparting Knowledge via Entertaining YouTube Formats. An Explorative Study of Young Media Users in Germany
Page range: 162 - 179
The participatory use of moving images on the Internet, e.g. on YouTube (Fuchs 2014; McMullan 2020), is one of the major trends in recent media history. YouTube is the undisputed leader of the distribution channels and in the top range of social media, although TikTok is becoming increasingly popular (MPFS 2020a, 2020b). In addition to explicitly entertainment-oriented music, comedy and how-to videos, young people use videos that impart knowledge or deal with political topics. It has already been proven that knowledge can be conveyed via YouTube and users are motivated by interest-based learning. There are also numerous offerings that are primarily geared towards entertainment, but nonetheless motivate users in a casual, rather emotional and sometimes unintentional manner to further explore certain topics. This article offers a specific example of the effects this process can have on young people watching YouTube Videos that seem primarily focused on entertainment. The presented study is based on data collected in 2019 and explains which participatory strategies for imparting knowledge via entertaining YouTube formats can be effective. The findings of this study are of fundamental importance, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote interaction, communication, and learning have resulted in a more solitary media usage that raised new questions regarding participatory culture and learning. Can entertainment formats be part of blended learning and thus contribute to imparting knowledge despite school closures, a lack of social exchange opportunities and increased media use (in the sense of media as a window to the world for locked-down people)?
- Open Access
The Mortgaged Miracle Social Stratification in Contemporary Estonian Cinema
Page range: 180 - 192
According to recent OECD statistics, Estonia is the European Union country with the highest income inequalities. Among all the ex-Warsaw bloc states, the Baltic country also has the highest household debt. Despite these dire socio-economic indicators, Estonia’s path to economic development, the adaptation of the purest forms of neoliberalism to be found in Europe, is often hailed among economists. Former prime minister Mart Laar, one of the key architects of what was dubbed by some the
How does inequality, social exclusion and growing social stratification manifest itself in Estonian contemporary cinema? The debut films of three directors, Vallo Toomla, Mihkel Ulk and Toomas Hussar, which all have a contemporary setting, address the neoliberal transformation process to various degrees. All three debut films are genre films:
- Open Access
Hagi Šein, Digiajastu teleraamat: Digiajastu televisioon Eestis 2000–2020 [Television book of the digital era: Television of digital era in Estonia in 2000–2020], Tallinn: 2021, ISBN 978-9916-4-0728-8, 688 pp.
Page range: 194 - 195