Digital Media Convergence: Rethinking the Participatory Culture

Seated myself in a Metropolitan line tube, I take out my phone from the pocket, unlock it expertly, and start to check new posts from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Weibo, BBC News, etc. After receiving a load of information and feeling myself as busy as a president, I lock my phone and give a glimpse of what other passengers do. Someone stares at the phone screens as what I did, someone reads a newspaper or a book, and someone just has a rest. While ‘old media’ such as newspaper and television still play their roles, ‘new media’ such as mobile phones and the internet have been argued to create new forms of ‘participatory media culture’, which enable everyone to produce media content and make it visible easily, hereby ‘shift the balance of power between producers and consumers of media’ (Willems, 2003).


In this sense, it is worthwhile rethinking whether the ‘reconfiguration’ of media power will wreck the old styles of social community, diminish our ‘allegiances’ to nation states, and even help alienate us from the physical world (Jenkins, 2004). On the one hand, the large-scale information gathering activities take place in web communities every moment. And this could be argued as a process in which the assemblage of shared goals replaces individual expertise. As cyberspace theorist Pierre Levy suggests, ‘No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity (1997)’. It is obvious that participatory culture creates a new kind of ‘knowledge culture’. However, on the other hand, there leaves several question marks for us: What process do we (audiences) really participate in when we surf the internet? Should we deem ‘participation’ as something that encourages the audiences to affect the production process?


Written by Bingjie Zhai (Lee)


Geiger, A. (Photographer). (2015). SUR-FAKE [Photograph], Retrieved February 24, 2017 from: CC NC.

Jenkins, H., 2004. “The cultural logic of media convergence”. International journal of cultural studies, 7(1), pp.33-43.

Willems, W., 2013. “Participation – in what? Radio, convergence and the corporate logic of audience input through new media in Zambia”. Telematics and Informatics, 30 (3). pp. 223-231.

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