Bastard Culture. User participation and the extension of cultural industries

6 12 2008

Bastard Culture. User participation and the extension of cultural industries

The computer and particularly the Internet have been represented as
enabling technologies, turning consumers into users and users into
producers. The unfolding online cultural production by users has been
framed enthusiastically as participatory culture. But while many studies
of user activities and the use of the Internet tend to romanticize
emerging media practices, Mirko Tobias Schäfer steps beyond the usual
framework and analyzes user participation in the context of accompanying
popular and scholarly discourse, as well as the material aspects of
design, and their relation to the practices of design and appropriation.
Schäfer argues that participatory culture is rather a dynamic
interaction of users and companies, discourses and technologies. The
availability of computers and Internet expand the traditional culture
industry into the domain of users, who actively participate in cultural
production, either by appropriating products from the commercial domain
or by creating their owns. But while user activities constitute a
significant loss of control for certain sectors of traditional media
industries, especially in the area of distribution, the larger culture
industry benefits from user driven innovation through the appropriation
of corporate design. Furthermore, the media industry undergoes a shift
from creating content to providing platforms for user driven social
interactions and user-generated content. In this extended culture
industry participation unfolds not only in the cocreation of media
content and software-based products, but also in the development and
defense of distinctive media practices that represent a sociopolitical
understanding of new technologies.