Active audiences in the 21th century
this article would like to probe the idea of active audiences in the light of the social and political tensions arising around the world, the discussion will gyrate around the systems interconnected to the new media; politics, culture, technology and economy as needed. the challenges facing the active audience in relation to media have been constantly evolving and developing in response to influence from various pressure sources, now as clusters of society with relevant interests are ever so capable "voicing/projecting " their concerns and gather more "followers" and "likers" for aiding their causes.
this paper aims to discuss some of the relevant ideas in active audience research and the transformation that the active audience underwent from being active to being interactive in the light of new developments in the field of information communication technologies. By starting from the future and moving to the past this paper aims to resurface some of the historical ideas relevant to the development of active audience research while peering more and more onto the essence of the matter .
the current situation
Today a tweet from lady gaga(@ladygaga) reaches the timeline of 23 million of her followers instantaneously and effortlessly. however, this tweet although quite widespread in distribution, only occupies the same space in a shared timeline with all the average users on twitter, whom many of which do not posses such an expansive follower base. This shared time line has become a hub/home for celebrities, politicians, radicals and many members of society with their conflicting or opposing interests and point of views. the sharing of this mentioned "timeline" has caused a transformation in the author-text-audience relationship in the web, whereas the author and the audience have meshed into a new figure that represents both, yet is neither separately. This is a new development which is contrary to past times where the lines were still thought of and were represented as blurred with each role separately defined (Cover, 2006 :140) so it is therefore maybe a valid assumption that this will add further complexity and tensions between the parties and users present in media sphere.
The idea of struggle could be tracked back historically to previous discourses visible in the following example from CNN "In a recent televised advertisement for CNN.com, it was pointed out that the average computer has 101 keys’. It goes on: ‘We say, you only need three – CNN’" (Cover, 2006 :145). The evolution of the nowadays ICT have caused audiences to become more interactive with the mediums of choice (Livingstone, 2004:85) which also becomes a platform for conflicts as consumer grade cameras and video devices can now compete on a production level with industry standard production output seen in news and even movie studios, specially when both the consumer and the corporate media producers use similar software to output their "content" which ends up in various distribution points in the web and other places but also in many instances finds its way to the same the twitter feed previously mentioned. and although keeping track of user internet practice is a difficult task (Livingstone, 2004:82), in the case of the social networking, sites like twitter provide new tools for analyzing social networking behavior and can provide insight on what people value and consider of importance (Tumasjan et al. 2011:406).
inevitable fights for intangible power
in 2011; every minute, 48hours worth of video uploaded into youtube.com, while people have watched more than 200 billion videos by October, with 100 billion photos uploaded to facebook, in a web which has 225 million twitter accounts tweeting ~250 million tweets per day (pingdom :2011).
This stream of digital information populating the web is a contribution of the human populous and some artificial intelligence which automatically generates content, but it rather goes without saying that moving this torrent of "information" is no longer a problem in the 21st century as Neil Postman argues in his book Building a bridge to the 18th century
" The problem to be solved in the twenty-first century is not how to move information, not the engineering of information. We solved that problem long ago. The problem is how to transform information into knowledge, and how to transform knowledge into wisdom. (postman; 1999)
What he said has been confirmed by the figures thus far, but something rather interesting comes up from that quotation; Postman has eluded to the new arenas where the battle for control will take place. The prioritizing, distribution, promotion, framing, contextualizing of the data hosted on the web is now to become a hostile ground between all parties involved (Castells, 2007:238). This however brings unique challenges for researchers, for example; researchers whom intend to verify effectiveness of supplied information as in the case of the Gaza conflict (Zeitzoff, 2011:942-943).
What is unique about the current state of connectivity today is although it's unrealistic to assume that just because people have the capacity to access and use the internet they will effectively be able to voice out their matters (Tang and Yang, 2011:676), people have indeed nowadays claimed a new ability; the ability to give/project/influence symbolic meaning, the difference between the symbolic meaning initiated by an active audience and the symbolic meaning set by the author although both a reactive kind of expression, their direction may be different but the final outcome is ultimately the same. by carefully manipulating and "spinning" information the new media framing can drastically alter the course of events to even a degree in which criminals can be made into statesmen (Mahony and Fair, 2012:41) In the past, while trying to penetrate and gain a stake in the mass expression digital space users were faced with obstacles and resistances (Dijck, 2009:43), the said obstacles may have probably transformed and encoded themselves into the design and foundation of the new web as a self defense mechanism from unaccounted information outbreaks. This is evident in the how some websites like YouTube would tailor the catering of the content based on algorithms and rankings of videos that are performing well in accordance with YouTube policies (Dijck, 2009:45), Also the embedding of intricate copyright enforcing acts on sites like YouTube specifically or on the wider internet level where service providers can send Cease and desist orders to users amidst distribution of copyrighted content or websites and account deactivation, additionally Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption has become adopted in games and digital books alike. These techniques ensure some level of security for corporate interest and businesses but undermine the agency and intervention powers of the end user in order to conform users to an accepted and agreed upon mode of behavior (Gillespie, 2005;653).
The struggle between the various ends here is reinforced by capitalist ideology which has been against intervention policies from the government (George, 2009) , now the capitalist systems faces consumers whom possess growing powers of intervention, while the active audience now to become active mimic the role of the content producers (Castello and Moor, 2007;139), so maybe as a growing response to this trend the portrayal of Happiness in media as an abundance of wealth is to normalize the idea that an individual`s worth is measured by their consumption/purchasing power rather than anything else, which if is accepted as a norm would be considered as a handicap for the powers of intervention that the audience has producing even more pressure on media participants as their social profile of acceptance and credibility is tied with their social status and visible material position and that extends into these notions translated into the virtual space where individuals are ranked by their reach and are even targeted by larger organizations to be representatives or bouncing boards for their products and services as they would serve as a bridge to twitter followers, facebook fans, or Blog readers.
“Someday, in the distant future, our grandchildren's grandchildren will develop a new equivalent of our classrooms. They will spend many hours in front of boxes with fires glowing within. May they have the wisdom to know the difference between light and knowledge.”
- Aristocles, son of Ariston, of the deme Collytus (plato)
Plato, and formerly postman drew emphasis to a difference between what is to be considered as information and what is to be considered as knowledge. Understanding what is the primary unit which is later defined as either knowledge or information is important in order to be aware of any inherited systems bound into it, and as the web space develops this primary unity is what is now referred to as "content" which is a term inspired from the mass-media industry (Fortuano, 2005).
This unit according to Plato falls under an either or definition whereas some content will be absorbed as information and some other different kind of content will be absorbed as knowledge, for its time it is quite an interesting insight, however the rigidity of a binary system to judge something that is mediated via the field of spectrum which has more an abundance more than 2 possibilities, does not serve the content justice, especially in the case of multimedia which can be a hybrid between both knowledge and information and could even harbor the potential to react to user input. I would propose that information and knowledge cannot be separate from one another. Additionally, this reception and organization depends on numerous factors in which the definition could change drastically by exposure to content from different relative positions in society, or in the ability to mobilize this content to be used as a tool to build or collapse symbolic meaning, all which may tie in with Knowledge Gap Theory
In his book (Almeizae` - الميزياء : Merit-ology ) Hassan AlAjami introduces a philosophical concept of an implicit world which exists via extrapolation from any given entity of information in the real world (Al Ajamai, 2008:53) this notion proposes a very interesting approach once applied to audience research, as it instead of researching the visible and the material focuses on the hidden, it would equate to studying the dark matter in the universe in order to understand its relation to the celestial objects. However, away from the stars and space The equivalent of the dark matter in audience research may be the "Inter/active limits". What I mean by inter/active limits are the set of restrictions that in the case of media manifest themselves in things like the differences between the repository of acquired knowledge between members in society which drastically affects their ability to interact with information…
During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.
This mentioned space of human sense perception if illustrated may look like this :
Figure 1 : illustration of Walter Benjamin's Quote
So what is contested now by and large is the setting of "definitions" which in turn determine both Human/audience interaction and sets their perceived/hidden limits. However due to the nature of the Audience today (interactivity) these limits have also inherited the interactive nature. Commodification of cultural objects therefore is tampering with the Human sense perception in order to influence action/reaction, this motion if we follow [figure:1] starts from World then moves to definition and ends with human, However as active audiences respond, a new motion begins from the opposite direction wherein the human is now reproducing his own definition and projects it to the world, in here there may be a case for ideas like [ if enough people believe A = truth, then A = truth, even if A is actually false] The obvious example here is the previous misconception that the world is Flat.
Numbers in this equation is a form of inter/active limit, and what is unique about numbers in this example about the world is that it wasn’t just a matter of which position of the conflict held more followers, it was the case of convincing the right individuals with the truth of the matter in the right time and circumstances to allow for a systematic propagation of a new idea, although the right individuals only represent a marginal figure and even though that the majority of the populous were against it.
In modern times audiences have received a level of sovereignty and they are able to project definitions, conceptions and assumptions about the world, that also turns them to important elements in the shaping of culture, and as key players they often times fall into the definition of what is regarded as a "celebrity" which would as a status grant a boost in information integrity and could positively influence the opinion of (fans/followers) as the source credibility model suggests (Erdogan, 1999).
The definitions of what is information and knowledge will continuously expand as new interfaces and modes of interaction develop and technologies like touch sensitive surfaces and virtual reality apparatuses like the new Google glasses. This will further more require a reexamination of the boundaries as these developments will also herald the arrivals of new forms of individual types like this rendition of technological advancement brought forth presumption as a blend of production and consumption.
And finally the quarrel over human attention for gaining benefits will hopefully one day in the near future be replaced with a quarrel on matters that will bring us closer rather than separate us.
Knowledge Gap Theory : as the infusion of mass media information into a social system increases, higher socioeconomic status segments tend to acquire this information faster than lower socioeconomic-status population segments so that the gap in knowledge between the two tends to increase rather than decrease. (Tichenor, et al. 1970) Merit-ology as the author defines it is the school of eastern philosophy that regards every object, thought or idea to possess a singular essence or merit that sets it apart from everything else.
هذا والله أعلم.
تم بحمد الله
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