Who has time to become ‘media literate?’ I want the Internet now!

I had to learn to use the Internet, social media and deal with applications all by myself. Surely, some of you have experienced the same. Even if you have been lucky enough to get ‘Internet tutored,’ I think you will agree that no one has either the time or willingness to become ‘media literate’ beforewards.

Let’s face it: we want those services and we want them immediately.

However, does it not make Kellner’s (2002) idea of exploiting the concept of ‘media literacy’ for the creation of a new generation of Internet users unachievable? As poetic as ‘solving the world’s problems’ through a more educated user may sound, nobody can force you to ‘use media intelligently’ (Kellner, 2002, cited in Allan, 2013).

More importantly, nobody can tell you exactly what that means.

The definition of ‘media literacy’ is a bit general: ‘knowledge about how to use a computer alongside the Interned and its applications effectively and efficiently’ (Kellner, 2002, cited in Allan, 2013). OK, fair enough.

But how can this ‘effectiveness’ and ‘efficiency’ be practised for the fulfillment of a greater cause: ‘speaking on behalf of the voiceless’ and ‘achieving social equality and justice’ (Hobbs, 2010, cited in Allan, 2013)?

The idea of a digitally skilled and literal user is an ambitious one. Especially when we consider its scale. In the US alone, users aged 14 and over are expected to become almost 280 million in 2020.

Who will educate them in being ‘media literate?’ Who can ensure their future engagement with social, political and economic issues? No one. In fact, no one would bother to.

And that is exactly why Kellner (2002)  might be considered too idealistic.

We are living in a network society, no doubt. But how we choose to participate in it, for what purposes we use the Internet’s services and for whose advantage is something the individual user decides on a daily basis.

A choice, which does not necessarily take into account his ‘media literacy.’

 

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Copyright threat: ‘locking away’ millions of artistic and cultural treasures.

We transform the world with culture! We want to build on Europe’s rich heritage and make it easier for people to use, whether for work, for learning or just for fun.

This is the mission Europeana-host of  one of the world’s largest cultural heritage collections- has been dedicated to since its foundation. Working closely with the European Union, the site gives access to more than 50 million artworks, books, sounds, videos etc.

It operates under a Creative Commons license, which gives free access to all content. However, with increasing changes to the Terms and Policies, ‘giving credit where credit is due,’ both to the artist and the institution and arising complications regarding the modifications of content, concerns over the possibility of going under copyright restrictions seem more vivid than ever.

What is with the sudden shift? Why deny the public access to their cultural heritage? Admittedly, its online-based database needs to rely on some sort of protection, but is ‘locking away’ the answer?

The case of Europeana is an interesting one when it comes to licenses and copyright. Although the majority of the content is in the public domain, there are also orphan works, ‘out of copyright’ and ‘rights reserved’ ones.

Operating under a Creative Commons license has influentially positive outcomes: promoting cultural awareness, encouraging creativity through knowledge, increasing the interest in art by simplifying access to it, fulfilling educational and informational purposes.

Going under copyright restrictions might be justified by acknowledging the necessity for such works to be appropriately protected, but, without any doubt, would ruin the idea of the site: popularizing Europe’s rich cultural heritage through professional arrangement and free access.

Ultimately, such restrictions would not only destroy a safely stored database of artistic and cultural treasures, but would also limit knowledge.

Something, which should never be allowed.

Visible, exposed or nude: what are we online.

It is almost impossible to have ‘a presence’ somewhere online without giving away some sort of personal information. Privacy, as having the right to be left alone, is a concept impossible and harmful in contemporary society. One simply cannot work, learn, socialize or live without close encounters with other individuals, both online and in reality.

This is how it has come to work.

And while privacy is likely to remain an issue worth to be concerned about, we should consider when, how and why we lost track of our data.

Control and visibility: that is what changed but that is also what keeps us talking about online privacy.

To a certain extent, control has been transformed into a selective freedom of action. Even if you put nothing else on Facebook, you have to type in your date of  birth and name. They are now a requirement for the usage of this service.

Once something goes out there, nobody can take it down. Partially, because nobody really knows where it goes. Yet, we continue to ‘upload’ and ‘update.’

The amount of control over one’s personal data has been reduced to the mere option of choosing what to ‘feed’ to the data-machine.

It is, in its literal definition, inapplicable.

What about visibility? To illustrate how this term can quite accurately be replaced with ‘exposure,’ I will discuss Facebook. However, not what you might have predictably thought.

Facebook hosts an enormous quantity of sites, applications and games, which may complete users’ experience, but, in their turn, would like a share of your privacy.

This is how I discovered this.

Just your average Facebook check-up experience when I stumble upon an interesting quiz: ‘How did you die in your previous life?’ Instantly, I click. Soon, I witness a more horrifying scene than whatever was the cause of my previous death: ‘scanning your Facebook profile.’

When did I allow that? Or maybe it was somewhere along those ‘Terms and Conditions’ I never bothered to look at?

I have been killed. So has a part of my privacy.

But, after all, in our online based existences nowadays, who would mourn for that?

 

DeviantArt: ‘we welcome artists of all levels.’ Oh, really?

Arguably, the most popular kind of online community is the one based on shared interests. From music (last.fm), photography (Flickr) and videos (YouTube), to business (XING) and motherhood (CafeMom).

They are millions and all aim the same thing: to get you to want to ‘join.’

However, what is the case with more extravagant types of communities, which have traditionally served specifically defined audiences? When they decide to move online, how do they attract and sustain the levels of participation?

They ‘open their doors’ to everyone. I have chosen to discuss DeviantArt’s community because I consider it highly problematic in its purposes and users’ profile.

DeviantArt is a community that has been around for 16 years. It is aimed at artists, professionalists or amateurs, who want to share their work online. Nothing wrong with that. I think its users benefit mostly by the visibility they receive. In the art’s world, recognition and wider visibility may grant you success, especially when it only requires a registration and regular uploads.

What is better than being among your own people? What DeviantArt offers is a collective platform for creative individuals worldwide, which are supposed to contribute with constructive critique and original works.

This is where the problem stands.

Scanning through the community’s ‘Etiquette Policy’ page, a certain controversy becomes quite evident. The ‘open doors’ do not seem to be so wide any more.

Although the initially stated aim of the community is to promote the distribution of original art work, regardless of its quality, ‘users are encouraged to submit only the very best of works.’ Otherwise, they might get moved.

Now that seems to me a breach of the ‘artsy freedom.’ The limitations, which DeviantArt seems to impose on its users are questioning the community’s entire purpose.

How do you freely express your creativity within a community, which sets boundaries to it?

How participating can wipe somebody’s tears away: Google Person Finder

Audience participation is so mundane in contemporary media environment that it had stopped being an issue. It is not new, it is not extraordinary and it is definitely not something that could get you excited or ‘touched.’

But guess what, Google knows better.

It launched a project called Google Person Finder to enable people to ‘let the world know they are looking for someone,’ for whom ‘individuals and organizations provide information.’ The service has been constantly proving to be incredibly effective in the event of natural or humanitarian disasters, when the demand for knowledge is at its peak. During the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, people became more engaged than ever.

Google Person Finder was labelled as a remarkable success. With users’ information reports reaching record numbers, it celebrated participatory culture at its finest.

Could it be that we, the tireless online wanderings, have finally found a greater purpose? Was this the revolution of participatory culture: both in nature and aim?

Perhaps.

Gathering such a colossal ‘database’ may have been under the ‘guardianship’ of Google, but what ‘fuelled’ and popularized it was the user. For within the context of this online service, he has underwent a revolution.

It could be argued that this is the supreme end of ‘media literacy:’ the knowledge about how to use the Internet and other online services effectively and intelligently (Kellner, 2002, cited in Allan, 2013). Given the opportunity to contribute to dealing with a serious global issue, users prove to be surprisingly responsive.

Was it their spare time or had they felt a transitory urge to fulfil themselves as citizens of the world?

It is arguable. What Google has doubtlessly managed to achieve here is the creation of a large global community, assisting people to discover the whereabouts of their lover ones during disasters. Promoting togetherness and connectivity with such efficiency is indeed a rare occurrence worth cherishing.

Audience participation has been displayed here at its finest: time and effort correctly spent.

Let’s see if participatory culture can sustain it . . .

 

Media protip: the smartphone

This turned out to be way harder than expected. Do you agree?

All examples of convergence seem to be too obvious to even bother to discuss. What to do then? I decided to pick up the absolute cliché: so obvious and mundane that it is almost impossible to miss. Still, one that is completely overlooked.

I give to you: the smartphone.

I told you it was too obvious to consider. But I believe there is something else to this example of media and technological convergence. Something that might be useful to us as media specialists but also something that might cost us our future jobs.

The smartphone is indeed an extraordinary product of convergence. It has changed both how audiences treat themselves and how the media treat them. However, the occurred changes and implications differ.

What has changed for users? Simple. Everything is now within the convenient reach of one’s pocket. Users are granted access to technologies used by the media (audio recorders, good quality cameras, microphones etc.) in order to make news. The gap between media producers and media consumers has narrowed dramatically, if not disappeared. Something remarkable happened: the audience could finally be its own news provider (Allan, 2013).

What about us? For those working in the news industry, this convergence brought the wonders of ‘mobile reporting:’ a faster, more effective way of getting content back to the newsroom.  News gathering, content production and distribution became easier than ever. The smartphone was now our camera, recorder, microphone and notebook. We were our crew. Twitter was our sharing platform.

The primary implication: we can now produce news constantly and in larger quantities. Exactly what the ‘news machine’ needs. Or, is it?

Smartphones are available to everybody. Therefore, everybody can perform ‘mobile reporting.’ Where does that place us? Will we be left unemployed?

Maybe converging was not such a good idea after all . . .

Network society? (#whyarewedoingthis)

So, we are studying about network societies . . .

Writing blog posts and preparing for essays, while in our heads there is probably just one simple question that needs to be answered. What in God’s name is that?

Well, my fellow colleagues, today I would like to share with you one journal article. A complicated academic text, nonetheless one that might get you thinking. About what you will ask?

Up to this point, I thought I knew what a network society is. Now, doubts have been ‘planted’ in my head about its very existence. Or, at least, about its simplicity. It challenges the perspective of the Internet as the ultimate tool for social integration. On the contrary, it seems to be dividing us far more efficiently that bringing us together.

Some might argue that by proposing such ideas I am dismissing the significance of the module or even worse- ceasing your interest in it completely and irreversibly.

I aim no such thing. Instead, I challenge you to rethink your knowledge about anything to do with the word ‘network.’ For there is nothing simple about it.

To trigger your curiosity, I shall discuss the main points in favour of the argument. Was that a heavy sight? Fear not, this shall be brief.

There has been an ongoing decline in social participation, which can be interpreted differently: as a damaging tendency or a breath of fresh air for governing bodies worldwide. This marks the shift from civil society to ‘social differentiation’ (Lievrouw, 2001).

The idea of increasing ‘social differentiation’ can also be justified by looking at the way the media have treated content and audiences. Mass media have aimed to deliver ‘general-interest information’ and to serve the largest possible audience (Lievrouw, 2001, p5). New media, however, have adopted users’ demand for more subject-specific content. They have ‘conveyed a sense of distinction and identity’ (Lievrouw, 2001, p6).

Therefore, we as users are also responsible.

In our eager for a more customized environment suiting our individual interests, we began to ‘seek out our people.’ New media proved to be incredibly efficient when coming down to this. They ‘aided’ us and contributed for the process of ‘boiling down’ larger audiences. In other words: socially differentiating what has been integrated.

OK, maybe not so brief. This is academic literature, after all. Presumably, it should make you ponder over things.

Hope it did . . .