Online Communities

“The most useful impact is the ability to connect people. From that, everything flows” (Anderson & Rainie 2014, Difital Life).

Bloggers are active readers in that “they take part in the editorial function of selecting newsworthy and interesting topics, they add analysis, insight and commentary, and they occasionally provide a first-person report about an event, a trend, [or] a subject” (Tremayne 2012, p.261).

Blogging gives the average person a voice as it provides the platform for bloggers to create “networks for sharing ideas, trends and information” (Lofgren 2013, Food Blogging). They create a space for people to create something new, receive feedback, and develop their ideas.

The Internet has drastically expanded the availability of these spaces, where most of what amateurs create is surprisingly good (Lofgren 2013, Food Blogging). For instance they are becoming a popular medium for citizen journalism, turning users into produsers such as the site called The Domain, which hosts some of Australia’s best political blogs.

Online communities are enabling many young people to spend a great deal of their time in new media environments where they write and publish more than ever before. These online communication channels turn any computer user into a potential produser who can create and “publish texts, alter texts, write, and write back” (Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak 2009, Mapping The Terrain).

64% of 12 to 17 year old teens are engaged in at least one type of online content creation. They are “especially active in keeping blogs, playing multiuser online games, sharing files, and contributing to online journalism as well as to various creativity websites like Flickr or YouTube” (Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak 2009, Mapping The Terrain).

These new possibilities for creating content elaborate the discussion of the merging roles of producers and consumers in the larger context of media convergence. Where “user-led content production, collaborative engagement, evolutionary development, heterarchical community structures, and alternative approaches to intellectual property are all the common traits of produsage” (Kalmus, Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Runnel & Siibak 2009, Mapping The Terrain).

For example, Wikipedia is “a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project based on an openly editable model” (Wikipedia: About 2014). This means that anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to almost any Wikipedia article. It is a live collaboration that is continually created and updated, allowing articles to appear within minutes, rather than months or years. Some are more comprehensive and balanced than others depending on their age and how frequently they’ve been edited.

Vandalism rarely affects the articles as Wikipedia has many experienced editors and makes it simple to correct errors. “There are more than 76,000 active contributors working on more than 31,000,000 articles in 285 languages” (Wikipedia: About 2014).

Editors can be anyone of any age, race or gender, who help contribute to the article’s prose, references and images. Wikipedia’s focus is on content that is free from “copyright restrictions and contentious material about living people, and whether it fits within Wikipedia’s policies, including being verifiable against a published reliable source, thereby excluding editors’ opinions and beliefs” (Wikipedia: About 2014).

Reddit is another example of participatory culture where users play an active role in collecting and producing online content. Reddit is an open source community of users who vote on the importance of stories or discussions. They can add comment to any story to provide information, context or humor.

The stories are updated regularly and anyone can contribute, provided they abide by reddiquette, their informal set of values. A downside to these user-generated content sites is that they are becoming increasingly subject to intellectual property claims and conflicts (Meese 2014. It Belongs to The Internet).

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