In recent lectures we have discussed platforms and interactivity. In this blog post I will be responding to points brought up in these lectures combined with my own individual reading and research on the topics.

“The medium is the message” – Marshall McLuhan

Media platforms are simply methods of showcasing media content such as cinema, tv series, web series, games, print literature, social media etc. Each platform should be treated differently as they have different uses and can achieve different things. Marshall McLuhan even claims that the “medium is the message”, effectively meaning that the platform you use to distribute content contains more meaning than the content itself. As a whole I disagree with this statement as I personally believe that the content is the most important thing however I do understand that the platform the creator decides to use does also hold significant meaning and completely changes the way the content is recieved by the audience. Different platforms have different audiences for consumption as well as allowing different levels of interaction between the product and the audience. As media practitioners, we have to be aware of these differences as well as the limitations they hold in order to use different platforms to their full potential. It is widely established that the different media platforms need to work together in order to reach the widest audience possible and to take advantage of the positives for each platform. For example, film releases will also have multi-platform advertising campaigns in order to market the film and spread it into the public knowledge. This is an example of convergence in mainstream media.

Media convergence is the idea of mass communication outlets merging across various media platforms. As stated in The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence, “convergence alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences” (Jenkins, 2004) so it is important that we are aware of what it means and how it affects us in our work. While convergence was originally seen simply as old media converging into new media (newspapers moving from print to online etc.) sometimes it also works in the opposite way, for example many online influencers are often moving from YouTube to television, radio and print literature, which can be seen as a back-step when it comes to new media platforms. This shows that even as some media platforms can be seen as ‘old’ or outdated, they still have their uses and can achieve things that cannot be done on ‘new’ media platforms. This also comes back to attributes and limitations as while YouTube has a huge audience it can be difficult to make huge amounts of money from ad revenue, especially with the rise in adblockers, so many YouTubers have brought out books in order to make money from their fanbases. Media platforms have changed constantly over time and the convergence between old and new media is one of the most interesting things to happen in the industry in recent years. All successful newspapers and magazines have online counterparts, radio shows often also have online features such as a live video feed and many television shows and film franchises have social media accounts. One of the biggest aspects of this change is how it alters interaction with the audience. The book Here Comes Everybody states that “thanks to the Web, the cost of publishing globally has collapsed” (Shirky, 2008) effectively meaning that anyone who has something to say now has various platforms to choose from to share that message instantly and globally. 

“The term “prosumer” has transformed from meaning “professional consumer” to meaning “product and brand advocate.” Rather than simply “consuming” products, people are becoming the voices of those products and significantly impacting the success or failure of companies, products, and brands, particularly through their involvement on the social web.” (Gunelius, 2010)

With the rise of prosumer generated websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, there has been a significant rise in interactivity between brands and audiences. A big part of this is down to trust. People often feel that they cannot trust media advertisements and instead turn to bloggers and vloggers for reviews and advice. It’s easy for people to believe that these ‘influencers’ (as they are often called by businesses looking to exploit their marketability) are just regular people, which you could maybe even consider a friend, whose opinions are always honest and balanced. Many influencers help encourage this type of attitude in a multitude of ways, for example usually filming in the mise-en-scene of their bedroom helps create a sense of intimacy. But because of this the often also try to avoid referring to themselves as a brand to their audience and don’t mention a lot of the businessy sides of what they do. This brings an element of performance to these online personalities which, in a lot of ways, defeats the entire idea behind them as being trustworthy and down-to-earth sources of media consumption.

The ability to be interactive with our media is a fairly new concept, in old Hollywood actors and directors would be seen as untouchable stars whereas now there has seemingly been a breakdown in the barriers between celebrities and us. We can interact with our favourite stars via social media or reality TV which feels a lot more personal than TV interviews. As well as making celebrities seem more like regular people, social media and reality TV can turn regular people into celebrities which relates back to vlogger/blogger culture and the rise of the microcelebrity. Marwick, A. (2015) states that “as media changes, so does celebrity” and defines a microcelebrity as “a self-presentation technique in which people view themselves as a public persona to be consumed by others, use strategic intimacy to appeal to followers, and regard their audience as fans”. When put plainly like this, it sounds to me awfully clinical and strategic and while I agree with the points being made I think it’s also important to remember the people behind the microcelebrities. Many of these people fell into this ‘fame’ by accident, starting by just making vlogs or blog posts to share with their friends and at some point ending up a revered figure in the public knowledge. Many of the biggest YouTubers today started back at the sites conception in 2006 and have steadily been improving the quality of their videos as their fan-base slowly grows and spreads. However it’s easy for people to believe that these ‘influencers’ (as they are often called by businesses looking to exploit their marketability) are just regular people, which you could maybe even consider a friend, whose opinions are always honest and balanced. Many influencers help encourage this type of attitude in a multitude of ways, for example usually filming in the mise-en-scene of their bedroom helps create a sense of intimacy. But because of this the often also try to avoid referring to themselves as a brand to their audience and don’t mention a lot of the businessy sides of what they do. So this does bring an element of ‘performance’ to what these people do which, in a lot of ways, defeats the entire idea behind them as being trustworthy and down-to-earth sources (as opposed to untrustworthy advertisers and out-of-reach celebrities).

Bibliography

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Durham, M.G. and Kellner, D.M. (eds.) (2001) Media and cultural studies: Keyworks. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Gunelius, S. (2010) The Shift from CONsumers to PROsumers. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2010/07/03/the-shift-from-consumers-to-prosumers/#4ca3d79933df

Marshall, D.P., Marwick, A. and Redmond, S. (2015) A companion to celebrity. Hoboken, NJ, United States: John Wiley & Sons.

Shirky, C. (2008) Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Group (USA).

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