Chances are, if you’re reading this post now, you’re extremely fortunate. Not only do you have Internet access and a certain level of digital literacy, but you have the opportunity to participate, engage and contribute to a deeply rewarding, convivial community which is unrestrained from the tightly regulated and heavily restrictive one-way channels of traditional broadcast mediums (Moore, 2014).
Whilst audiences have always been active – whether that be through writing a letter to the editor or having water-cooler discussions – today’s consumers have access to a dialogic environment which facilitates real-time discussions and the instantaneous sharing of information. This emergence of a participatory culture is not, however, the sole reasoning behind recent surges of user empowerment. Rather, the proliferation of channels has led to a weakening of institutional barriers in the form of gatekeepers, who are involved in vetting and auditing content (Moore, 2014). As a result, and fuelled by the growth of new sites of knowledge production, users are now less controlled and possess greater levels of autonomy.
Consider, for example, the potential for 3D printers to be used in the domestic space. Unlike the traditional highly regulated production of commodities, protected by intellectual property law, 3D printing supports new modes of prosumption whereby such gatekeepers can easily be circumvented (Daly, 2013) . If this user empowerment is accompanied by the development of a user-friendly marketplace, modelled off iTunes, where users can download 3D-printable files (Craw, 2014), then perhaps an innovative, creative, and legally-abiding culture of prosumption can emerge, with consumers producing and sharing ideas that are able to enhance public discourse and contribute to the public sphere.
This type of collaboration and participation is already occurring in other media environments, such as in the incredible coordinated global response to the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, whereby some 2.3 million average Internet users searched more than 24,000 sq km of satellite images for any signs of wreckage (Fishwick, 2014).
In this way, as crowdsourcing projects become more prevalent and consumers exert greater control over the content they encounter, the focus of the future should be on how to make the best use of dialogic mediums to convene and support user’s active participation in knowledge communities.
Moore, C., 2014, ‘Audiences: Power, Access and Participation’, notes from Lecture 5 of Convergent Media Practices at The University of Wollongong.
Daly, A., 2013, ‘Social Aspects of 3D Printing’, Swinburne University of Technology, retrieved 3 April 2014, <http://blogs.swinburne.edu.au/3dprint/entry/slides_from_today_s_presentation>.
Fishwick, C., 2014, ‘Tomnod – the online search party looking for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370’, The Guardian, retrieved 2 April 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/14/tomnod-online-search-malaysian-airlines-flight-mh370>.
Craw, V., 2014, ‘Manufacturing, transport and medical industries set to be revolutionised by 3D printing’, News.com.au, retrieved 2 April 2014, <http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/manufacturing-transport-and-medical-industries-set-to-be-revolutionised-by-3d-printing/story-fn5lic6c-1226865638697>.
‘The Rise of the Prosumers’ 2012, video, Accenture, retrieved 3 April 2014, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNaikEmQmUI>.