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Q9) the Online Age Has Led to Competing Theories of Cultural Change. Which Do You Consider the Most Relevant to the Media, and Why?

In: Film and Music

Submitted By stewie
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There are opposing ideas in the change in technology one is called technological determinism and the other is social shaping. What technological determinism says is that technology is autonomous and also an independent factor that exists outside of society. Whats more it also states that technology causes social change as well as its development is linear and inevitable. On the other hand social shaping says that technology is social in origin and consequence, in addition audience demand, behaviour and feedback is what determines the development in technology. Both of these views are very extreme and therefore you could say that there is a medium that lies in between the two of these theories which is that change happens due to audience demand as well as the needs - such as profit - and control of the institutions. Many theorists that look into cultural change look into areas such as change that benefits the audience, change that has positives and negatives for the audience in what media in the online age offers. However there are so many theories that offer different perspectives that it is hard to actually find one single theory that offers a complete solution or conclusion to how the media in the online age has impacted culture and people globally.
Firstly if we look into the idea of utopian theories, which is the idea that the development in the online age has now started to take down obstacles for audiences which has lead to greater opportunities of them. Jenkins came up with the term ‘participatory culture’ which is the theory that amateur people are now taking part in making professional products are sharing them to an audience. Examples of this are people like Soulja boy who made a song and music video, released it on Youtube and people took notice to it, after which he got picked up by a record company and started to get recognized globally. In the film industry we could look into the work of Fede Alvarez who made a short film, shared it online and again it got noticed by a producer who then offered him the opportunity to work in making professional films. The theorist danah boyd came up with the idea of co-option which suggests that audiences are creating new forms of media production as well as discovering new ways in which to distribute media products. We can see this happening in the way that music can now be downloaded online which has happened due to Shawn Fanning creating Napster which allowed people to file share music and therefore get tracks for free, this posed huge threats for the music industry and even though Napster was sued many more websites with the same idea came about. Therefore instead of battling this the music industry went online as well with online forums such as ITunes and Spotify allowing people to listen to and download music, however even though not free of charge it is still a way of people obtaining music in an easy way. Clay Shirkey feels that institutions should use the audience in order to improve the media products that they are creating or develop them further. We can see this in how crowd funding and crowd sourcing is started to be used, which means that institutions are harnessing the power of the audience - as Shirkey suggests they should. The website Kickstarter is the main source for people to start crowd fund or crowd source, an example would be the film ‘I Wish I Was Here’ were the film star Zack Braff decided to post the concept for a film on the website are asked for the audience to help fund it, then depending on the amount that someone invested into determines what they get in return - so for £10 you could get a T- shirt but for £300 you may get a dat on the set of the film or be allowed to be an extra, for example.
On the other hand there are sceptical theories which feel that the benefits of the online age for audience or institutions come at a cost from the other side. Tapscott and Williams
came up with the idea of the ‘prosumer’ which is where there is a blurring between the professional and the consumer. Howevever not everyone has equal opportunities and only a few artists do have talent and skill to make an impact on a professional producer or artists which will allow them to make a career out of their talent. Whats more is that it is harder for movie makers to create a proffesional product due to the need for good equipment and software being more vital than those that make music, so again we see how not everyone is in with a chance of making it ‘big time’ because of the online age. We can again look at danah boyd and her concepts of localisation and translation which both show how institutions use technology to recreate existing practices. Firstly translation is the idea that old practices are kept intact and imported into the new medium, so for example we can see this is the way that advertisement are put onto the web just like they would be presented on bulletin board, its this idea that most hardware media products are slowing starting to become software media products. Localistaion is how audiences are started to see that it is more more efficient to use online websites to do things, so where as before someone might have gone shopping to a mall they now notices it is easier to shop online.
Lastly we can look into future theories which look into how the online age will bring about a change in the relationship between the audience and institutions. Norris came up with the idea of the virtuous circle which argues that due to the changes in the relationship between audiences and institutions, the information that is now presented to consumers is also starting to be affected. For example traditional news that is shown on TV is more focused on a white, middle aged, middle class audience which means that other ages, ethnicities and classes may loose out. However because of the online ages people are now able to read the news that interests them, whether this be fashion, celebrity, sports or political news, the online world now offers an almost never ending amount of news in different forms which therefore means that audiences can now be more up to date in what goes on in the topics that they find interest in. However as Habermas points out, the fact that people are now engaging in all sorts of different types of news means that there could become a fragmentation due to there being a breaking down in consensus. This poses a threat to the way that people may communicate as not everyone will be ‘in the know’ about information that another might be. In addition to this because of the news going online, reliability in news is now a massive issue - what stories are true and what ones are fake? An example of this is ‘Kony 2012’ where a video went viral about the need to stop the evil man that was Kony because of his involvement in the use of child soldiers and brutal attacks and murders. The video was very believable and at the end it said to give money and invest time into help raise awareness of this, however it came out later that Kony had died many years ago and that in fact this video had been made by a evangelical group who seemed to place money in other areas than they had originally stated. This shows the power of the online world and what kind of ability people have in manipulating and persuading people as now individuals have to opportunity to make videos, websites, etc that can pull people in and make them believe in stories that are in fact not real at all. Castells says that this ‘Public Sphere’ idea can be restored if people use the internet in a way that joins people together in a positive way and helps maintain a environment where issues are trying to be fixed. The website 38degrees shows how this can happen, what teh websites offers is bring an individual together with others and helping make campaigns to raise money and awareness on issues that matter to them, therefore helping people keep an interest in to what matters to them as well as helping others.
In conclusion it is clear that no one theory can help explain cultural change as there will always be opposing views on what the positives and negatives for audiences and institutions are as well as the tensions that arise between the both of them because of the online age. It is fair to say that the subject of cultural change is so complex that it needs challenging viewpoints and opinions to help others understand it.…...

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