While I agree with both Castell and Nicole Reynold’s that social media is a form of mass self-communication, I also believe it is a form of self-advertising. As said by Livingstone, “Internet is a means of managing one’s identity, lifestyle and social relations” (PCH 239). Even though by nature, important elements of participatory culture are self-expression and collaboration, some take it too far.
We all know that person who uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for shameless self-promotion. Whether this promotion is held in a positive or negative manner, it influences the narrative surrounding the emergent media self. There is a fine line between sharing and sharing too much, as the Internet has made self-promotion increasingly available and for better or worse, transparent. However, it can be incredibly fruitful when individuals not only share their own content, but the content of others, thus contributing to and engaging in conversation.
Furthermore, here is my response to your question- If social media, which has the potential to shift the structure of power, is not used for that purpose, has it really shifted society’s power structure? I believe the stratification of power lies predominantly in user intention. Whether a user owns, curates or promotes content, greatly affects the power structure. Although access certainly attributes to many instances of power, interpersonal communication and traditional media are still very much in effect. While mass media communication certainly has the ability to reach wider demographics, I believe it is not the sole or best means to spread information, and as a result, does not shift the power structure. Since social media does not stand on its own, other forms of media still have the capacity to permeate through society and access individuals.
Both cultures of participation and conceptions of democracy in social movements are greatly affected by communicative mechanisms. Thus, these communicative mechanisms have great importance in the construction of relations within the power structure. Communicative practices may also be sustained through media as technological support enables the exchange of information between individuals. Depending on the culture of participation at stake, media may be used in different ways to sustain communicative practices. Different forms of media are selected for based on what will best stimulate and organize mobilization. As proven, social media can greatly enhance and expand social movements.
In relation to Twitter specifically, I believe that it is still very much a public sphere. Granted that certain accounts are owned and privatized, thus generating revenue, their content is still widely available to the public. The public can go ahead and engage with content however they may choose. Yet, Twitter as we know it, is built on the fundamental objective to generate capital. If a derivation of Twitter were designed in a non-capitalist enterprise, users’ agency would not be influenced by monetary incentive. Rather than assigning a numerical value to content, its compensation would instead be measured in terms of informative value and contribution.
On another note, I loved Chapter 23 in PCH. I think it’s important for the incarcerated youth to have access to digital media and more so, the opportunity to expand and promote civic engagement. Incarcerated or not, the younger generations should be empowered through access to academic information. However, there is much concern around the question as to whether participatory culture can be created in an institution where self-expression is discouraged. Ucreate’s and Edge’s plan was to work with America’s incarcerated youth to develop their digital media skills in order to tell personal stories about critical choices they have faced. Many issues of privacy came up since the incarcerated were communicating in a public forum. I believe that is imperative for this demographic of people to have access to digital media education as it provides vital skills for the modern workforce. Lastly, such exposure can only help these youths to better themselves upon being released.