Jenkins: Hello Professor Fuchs. How are you doing today?
Fuchs: Hello Professor Jenkins. I am doing great! And you?
Jenkins: Not so good. I have a lecture in 15 minutes and I don’t feel ready.
Fuchs: What is it exactly that you will be speaking on? Why don’t you run it by me?
Jenkins: Well I plan on defining the term “participatory culture” and also explaining how social media platforms are an expression of participatory culture. I hope to assist my audience in understanding the many benefits of social media and that we are all equal as Internet users.
Fuchs: How would you define participatory culture?
Jenkins: Participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to enter, strong support for creating and sharing creations with others, some type of informal mentorship where what is known by the more experienced is passed down to the novices, members who believe their contributions matter, and members who feel some type of social connection with one another.
Fuchs: Ah, I see. You seem to display a strong culturalistic understanding of participation. However it seems you ignored aspects of participatory democracy. Do you understand the connection between participation and participatory democracy?
Jenkins: Well everyone is involved equally. Fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content while interacting with each other. Spreadable media empowers consumers and makes consumers themselves an integral part of a commodity’s success. Those who engage in participatory culture bring together resources and combine skills so that collective intelligence emerges as an alternative source of media power
Fuchs: Yeah yeah yeah, I understand that much but your definition of the term “participatory culture” ignores certain dimensions of participatory democracy. Specifically, It ignores questions about the ownership of platforms/companies, collective decision-making, profit, class and the distribution of material benefits.
Jenkins: Well okay? and? What does that mean?
Fuchs: You’re creating an illusion if you believe that everyone has the equal opportunity to create content that will be visible via social media if you haven’t done the research to understand who runs and owns these platforms. Corporate platforms owned by Google, Youtube, and other large companies strongly mediate the cultural expressions of Internet users and users, along with waged employees, do not participate in the corporate platform’s economic decision making. Also, the people at the top of the corporate hierarchy are rewarded more for participants’ creations. Internet culture is not separate from political economy. In fact, Internet culture is organized, controlled, and owned by companies thus making social media a culture industry and not so “free” as you thought it was.
Jenkins: Okay then, how can such diversity be created if this Internet culture of yours is controlled and operated by someone else?
Fuchs: Jenkins, you’re overlooking the fact that not all voices have the same power and that produced content are frequently marginalized because visibility is a central resource in contemporary culture that powerful corporations can buy. You assume diversity is a linear result of prosumption.
Jenkins: Ahhhh! I get it. I accept that the constructs of capitalism will greatly shape the creation and circulation of most media texts for the foreseeable future but those companies will have to listen to their audiences in order to survive and thrive. Do you agree?
Fuchs: Indeed to a degree, there exist this reciprocal relationship between the two. But remember everyone is still not equal in this participatory culture.
Jenkins: Well we do not and may never live in a society where every member is able to fully participate.
Fuchs: You’re essentializing exclusion as if this form of argumentation were fundamental to society. You’re displaying “fetish thinking” by ignoring the fact that since essentialism is a social circumstance, it can and will be changed by humans.
Jenkins: Wow professor Fuchs. You have given me so much insight. I must reschedule my lecture for another time. For now, I must go back to the books so that I may gain a better grasp on what “participatory culture” means.