Posts Tagged ‘Media conglomerates’

Today we are in the middle a digital revolution, a technological shift which threatens the survival of many industries. In my latest post I have been discussing the possibilities to how industries can join the new online market and how they might adapt to a technological age. As of today many industries, especially the media industries seem to refuse to let go of their old business models. Personally I find myself thinking a bit like a technological determinist, we have to accept cultural and social changes which comes with new technologies, it makes no sense to resist. We have always invented new things that have changed our way of behavior and communication, very often to the better, so why not this time?

Power and control; probably the key words to why this revolution is met with so much resistance. Politics and news have walked hand-in-hand for a very long time, and both politicians and media owners have become very powerful through such cooperation. The Internet builds a foundation for a true democratic society, good for the consumer, but bad for authorities.

But let us look at the possibilities. I am not going to focus on the possibilities to maintain control, but the possibility to maintain business and revenue. The problem with industrial media is that it has always been centralized. The collection, production and distribution of news were built on a one-to-many model which gave these industries advantages through gatekeeping. They were able to filter and decide what was the news of the day, they had the power to judge what was important and what we were supposed to think. This screams propaganda, doesn’t it?

Today we are citizen journalists. We also decide what is the news of the day, judge what is important and influence what people should think. The Internet decentralized the news-market; it took the control out of the authorities’ hands. For democracy, this is a victory, but I still think that we need these media industries. We need them for quality control and distribution.

Many people can write a very convincing and important blog about a certain issue, but most people do not have the resources to check the accuracy of this information, I am sure many citizen journalists do, but to be honest, most of us do not. Most of us write and publish, without having researched the facts and background of the content.

With platforms like Twitter information can be aggregated into topics. When I post this blog to Twitter, no one will probably notice it, but if I use the hashtag #gatewatchers, it is a very different matter; my blog will end up in a very interesting search, which suddenly enhances the value of my blog-post.

What media-industries could do is to change their way of finding information. Instead of being told by editors: “Today we should be focusing on the U.S election”, journalists could use these aggregation-platforms to search for interesting and important news. Not only will we be a part of what the news is, but originally the news would be written by citizen journalists and the content would be made out of our opinions, not the editors. The role of the media industries would be quality control, to improve an already good piece of journalism as well as to distribute it to make sure it gets attention from the right people.

At least I would find the news much more trustworthy in the way that I know it is not just a piece of propaganda, it is something someone out there really cares about. In this way, I can see a very much improved public sphere.

In the traditional manner the content-industries found information for us by controlling access to it. Due to limitations of time and space these distributors have created a hit-driven culture, serving us a fruit-bowl of popular content to choose from, also called the mass-market. But with the rise of online aggregators (e.g. google), the control have shifted from monitoring access of content to monitoring the attention of content. One way of doing this is by the use of search-algorithms.

This week I was introduced to this article; “The long tail” by Chris Anderson. In short, Anderson suggests that because we are no longer constrained by limited time and space, and because the cost of distribution and production declines (online),   there is no longer a reason to only focus on a small number of “hits” or mainstream products. A local book-store in a small town will only keep a limited selection of the most popular authors because they know this will be sold, the niche-markets are neglected because they do not have enough space or money to distribute products to these minorities. In the online world this has becomes a different story. Here, there are always someone who likes something, somewhere, and it costs nothing to distribute it. When the top 20% of the popular content is sold, the sale continues throughout millions of niche-markets, and this revenue actually overcomes the commercial business of the mass-market.

I am very surprised that I have never heard talk of this “long tail” before. Maybe it is just appearing now because we are shifting into an information-era, but I am still surprised that the content-businesses are not embracing this more. Aggregators and algorithms have opened up the nieche-markets to the world. So many people seek other content than what is served by the mass-market, and it is only logic that industries ought to take an interest in this and discover the possibilities.

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, Into the cloud: the long tail and the attention economy, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 2 September.

I love media convergence! Suddenly we all became these nerdy civil journalists that were able to speak our minds to the world. To me this ongoing dynamic is great and I get to exploit it in many cool ways. I now have a smart-phone which allows me, not only to make phone calls, but to check my g+ account, send a tweet, capture a photo instead of a mental picture and even film it if I need to! Obviously that is just a few examples of what I can do, my point is that convergence has made my cell-phone become this multimedia platform compared to what it used to be 10 years ago.

I cannot remember the exact model of my first cell-phone. It was year -98 or -99 and the phone was very yellow, very heavy and very cool. With it, I was able to text and talk basically 🙂

With today’s cool new technologies, and of course with the Internet onboard, we become “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers, meaning that we are able to produce new content or modify already produced content: Rip, mix & burn (I did not say we were allowed). This used to be a privilege for only the wealthy industries given that the production used to be very expensive, that was also the time when I used to pay a heavy price to watch a good movie at the cinema. But the Internet changed this. It is now free for a person like me to produce content online as well as publishing it, this obviously also makes me able to watch content for free online – great huh? Not so great for the big conglomerates though. Scarcity is money for the industries. Ownership and control of content is the key in their business-model, so the concept of media convergence is not speaking to them as it does to me.

We should not underestimate these big industries. As the world become more convergent they see the need to protect their content through patenting and stricter copyright laws, and we are definitely witnessing this today; license agreements (EULA), patent-wars and user content being removed from the web due to copyright infringements.

Convergence is also challenging to old business models. Take the good old bookstore! Although we see a survivor here and there from time to time, this business is basically dead, replaced by Amazon’s kindle and online book outlets. The same happened to photo-shops which also moved online. The list of obsolete business models is only getting longer. That fact that I find media convergence to be great is a statement made by looking from my own perspective. Many people lose their jobs due to this dynamic, it is hard to adapt and modify a whole society into a technological era, but it is happening, and personally I think it is for the better. Our options are increasing, our knowledge is shared and to be honest, having things online just makes things easier and more convenient.

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, Transglobal entertainment and media convergence, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 27 August.

Introduction

Convergence is defined by Henry Jenkins (2006) as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences.” The ongoing process of convergence is creating a more participatory society for the user by changing the dynamics of media technologies and opens up for new business-models for the industries, like it did with the idea of Transmedia. New technologies enable us to take pictures, record sounds, write and film, and because of the Internet we also have the opportunity to upload, download, remix and share content that are already flowing online. We have become more like “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers.

The audiences’ future is looking bright, but convergence also carries negative baggage. With these new technologies we have started to act as we please online, and thus a fight for survival between audiences and industries has emerged. In this essay I argue that convergence has affected the audiences’ use of technologies and respect for copyrights, the audiences’ choice of technologies, and the emergence of censorship due to the audiences’ use of new technologies. I will use Flickr as an example of technology throughout the essay.

Copyrights

The Internet and our new media platforms enable us to create mash-ups and remixes of the content online, and currently we are actively taking advantage of this. At the same time the copyright rules we have today are very strict, and because of our increasing level of participation the Media Industry keep lobbying for even stricter laws. Many users are frustrated with the copyright regulations, because the things that they create are removed from the web and sometimes the user even gets sued, but we should not forget that copyrights are a necessity and that they are made to protect our intellectual properties as well from being used as others.

We should think twice about using copyrighted material and give the industry another reason to fight for their content, instead we should embrace the solutions that are already out there. Maybe the media industry softens as time goes by, and realises that we are only using their work for new ideas and creativity. It is actually interesting to see how some users complain on copyrights, but still their own work is guarded and cannot be shared or copied.

Trey Ratcliff (2012) says “a pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.” If we want to use other peoples’ content to create new material, we need to allow other people to borrow our content as well. By committing to Creative Commons (2012) anyone can use your content as long as they acknowledge you and ask for permission if it is for commercial purposes.

The photo sharing site Flickr has enabled Creative Commons licenses (Flickr 2012) for a long time and it shows how sharing and attribution can be practised. You can choose which images you want to keep as private and which ones you want to share with the public, this way you provide images and videos for other people to use freely. With an open sharing ideology your content can travel all over the world via other peoples’ blogs, newspapers and online albums, and can even result in actual revenue! Although there will always exist thieves we must believe that most people are honest and willing to pay for the work of others, and most importantly this must start with ourselves and our own ideologies.

Generative platforms

A media platform today is expected by the user to grant us constant and immediate access to the world. It must enable us to multitask, and provide a place where everything can be produced, stored and shared. If a media platform cannot follow up on all of these “minimums”, it will be replaced by a more innovative technology. These technologies have “become interfaces to the flow of content” (Mitew 2012) that comes with convergence.

What I think few people realise is that we should choose wisely when we decide which platform to use for participation. There are several industries that fight to regains control of both users and content, and thus construct the platforms to do so. Facebook and Apple are both examples of media platforms that are locked appliances. Everything you post on Facebook are owned by Facebook, and by using it you agree to give them the rights to distribute “your” content as they wish. Apple provide a “walled garden” (Mitew 2012) for its users, a garden where Apple has already decided which applications you are allowed to use, and it is not possible to explore anything else.

I believe that in an era where we are fighting for Internet freedom and milder copyright laws, we should we be aware of ideologies where the Industry controls everything we can and cannot do. There are other media platforms which operate in freer environments, where the users own their own material and are even welcome to explore and improve the operation systems. In a Top Ten (2012) review of Flickr it was said that Flickr “want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as [they] can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software [the users] are using to manage their content.” In addition to this, Flickr also invite users to construct their own applications via their Application Programming Interface (API) (Flickr 2012).

I believe that by choosing a media platform or technology which is open and generative, we build an environment for ourselves where the flow of content between us and our media platforms flow freely.

Censorship

We are “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen 2006), and with our media technologies and platforms today we now have the ability to use these technologies to freely express our opinions and share our knowledge with the world, it is the closest we have ever been to democracy. Social media platforms are increasingly popular in our daily lives; even the industries are finding new and innovative ways to implement these platforms into their businesses. For advertisers sites like Facebook act like a buffet of what is popular and what is not (Li 2012), some newspapers welcomes citizen journalism through to their news via blogs, images and videos (CNN-IBN 2012), politically Twitter has been used efficiently to organize demonstrations in the world and lately news have travelled faster via social media sites than anything else.

As it get more difficult for the media conglomerates to maintain control, they now try to lobby our Governments for a more definite form of control; censorship. Bills like the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA)keep sneaking up on us, claiming that they are there to protect against online theft, but the intended result is to set us back as pure consumers by gradually blocking social media sites which will be blamed for hosting infringing links.

Our new media technologies and platforms can be used for creative purposes, but now more than ever we must remember what they are fundamentally constructed to do; spread messages. Several social media sites have demonstrated against these bills, Flickr for instance, was part of the campaign where they blackened, or censored, a lot of the pictures online to demonstrate what SOPA would look like. So far, the Internet and its users have won the battles, but given the different interests between the media conglomerates who wants to be the sole producers, and us who wants to participate, the war is far from over.

Conclusion

Flickr is a photo sharing site which enables its users to share “objects, knowledge and resources” (Weiss 2005). It was one of the first websites constructed to function in the web2.0 era, and for a very long time it was a revolutionary website. As a member on Flickr you create a profile, you connect with friends and people you choose to follow and you can comment on your own as well as other images. Flickr is a brilliant host for pictures; it is perfect for sharing and having your images discovered, but lately the photo sharing site seem to suffer by a lack of innovation (Dimech 2012). As the ongoing process of convergence continues, we are constantly presented to new technologies and innovations, and the contest is hard between the components. The one which is the most user-friendly and up to date wins the audience. I find it ignorant to choose a media platform or media technology solely on its design and functions, when there are many other important things that should be considered: Are you the owner of your own content? Are you allowed outside of the “walls” of your technology? Is your media platform supporting CISPA? Sites like Flickr, supports our freedom as users and that ought to be a strong argument for choosing it.

Have you ever watched a movie and discovered pieces in the plot which did not make sense? Like holes in the story, as if you are missing something to get the full perspective? When that has happened to me I have just rolled my eyes and thought that “they could at least made an effort not to make it so obvious”, but lately another explanation has come to mind; Transmedia!

It surprised me to learn that many movies and TV-shows are produced alongside with another movie or a game which works like an extension of the actual plot. The producer deliberately construct “openings” in the plot, and these “openings” makes the viewer think: “That was weird. Why did that happen? Or why did that not happen?” Only if you in addition to watch the movie also play the game, will this “opening” become explanatory to you. In one way this is kind of sad for people who is not gamers, or who does not spend much time online. To them these plots will always seem overstated, too deliberate or confusing because they never see the whole story, but for people who enjoys the online world and likes to play, this way of producing entertainment opens up a new world.

The industries basically create several entry-points for different groups of people. By creating a movie, a video game, a book, a TV-show etc. the industry can reach a bigger audience, not only the ones who like to for example play video games. Further, because of these “openings” in the stories, it also motivates the users to move between different segments; a person who started watching the TV-show might open up to play the video game to figure out the plot and so on. By creating a story over multiple mediums the users are invited to “play the game” and figure out these senseless pieces of the plot.

Photo: http://www.stallonezone.com/z091405.htm

I have to say I find the slogan of the series “Lost” very clever: “Everything happens for a reason.” That sort of explains that if there is something that happens which you do not understand, the answer to it is hidden somewhere else.

Is this the industries way of merging with the online world? If you look at it, the producers have here found a way to lure the users back into their world of entertainment by giving them exactly what they want. The users get the opportunity to participate, to collaborate and to contribute to the story by engaging in these games, both online and offline, they are invited to play in their most favorite environments like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on using collective intelligence to find the answers. On the other hand the industries are still in control of all the channels. All the content is still controlled and owned by them. Basically nothing has changed except the big conglomerates found a way to let us participate. There are two ways to look at it; either they found a way that opened up for users contribute freely, or they found a way to make us feel like that. One thing is for sure, transmedia is the new digital consolidation model for the big conglomerates.

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“The Arab Revolution / الثورة العربية” is a group established on the website Flickr and is one amongst many different groups. The Arab Spring started in 2010-2011 and became a revolutionary time of protests and demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and more. Although the Arab Spring in itself is an interesting issue, something else rose under this revolution which will have my attention today; Social Media and citizen Journalism.

It is not many years ago since news was received in a “one-way-manner” from mainstream media, to us. At that time we were consumers. Passive consumers relying on the information given to us. The problem with this sort of information is that is has gatekeepers. Publishers, mainstream media and Governments censor the information they provide so that it “fit” in their way of portraying the world.

Social media and citizen journalism has been around for quite a while, but under the Arab Spring it showed the world what kind of power it has. Citizens of the Arab world took use of social media to share their meanings and stories regarding the revolution. They arranged meetings by communicating time and places via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They told their stories by blogging and gave the world an honest and brutal view over what they were up against. In response to this the Egyptian government actually shut down the internet to put a stop to it, but was met with even more resistance when Google and Twitter arranged for a service enabling Egyptians to tweet via their phones. One by one we have seen the regimes fall apart, defeated by their citizens.

What does this tell us? Information is no longer given to us, but it is a shared dialog between everyone who wants to participate. We are no longer consumers but prosumers (Mitew 2012). The Internet has given us free access to an immediate flow of information and there are no filters or gatekeepers to “frame” the stories. I am thinking that if mainstream media is on its way out and the Governments no longer can rely on controlling the media, maybe democracy finally will be 100%. It sounds good, but is it all just positive? The credibility of the stories can be doubtful and it is hard to know if the stories can be trusted or not.

I find it hard to see the best solution. I think it is a relief that we have found a way to challenge our gatekeepers, but I am not convinced we can “be our own bosses”. We need to find a way where we all can participate and have a say, a way where we (the prosumers), the industries and the Governments all have power to influence.

References:

Mitew, T 2012, User empowerment, access and participation, lecture, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 March.