Monday, May 5, 2008

How has the Internet transformed media and communication industries?

New media and the transformation of the media industry can be directly linked to the introduction and development of the Internet. Furthermore, the Internet can be seen to directly promote change within other media, social and business environments. This post will evaluate and analyse online communication and will also discuss corresponding matters such as policy, audience interaction and convergence.

The impact of Internet is at the core of our growing ‘information society’. This has resulted in the rapid expansion and ubiquitous nature of new communication technologies. Flew (2005, 1) believes new media technologies exemplify convergence, digital networking, reach, interactivity and many-to-many communication. Consumers have also learnt how to use these technologies to interact with others. Rather than passive, online audiences are now active and socially connected and have shown declining loyalties to other media forms (Jenkins 2004, 38).

We all know the Internet encompasses a variety of communication platforms; email, discussion forums, blogs and social networks. For many individuals and businesses however, these are now essential forums of communication. Such mediums are being incorporated into many commercial media sites and online news pages. Furthermore, many recognised journalists, political leaders and social commentators regularly blog through such websites and generate discussion.

The desire for Internet users to correspond with each other has been evident for years, however, new social software such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook have transformed the way in which we choose to interact. These virtual cultures are based around ongoing interactions among those participating in “computer mediated communication” (Flew 2005, 61). According to Rheingold (1994, 14) these virtual communities build social capital and enable those involved to share knowledge and information with ease.

The introduction and development of broadband and wireless Internet services are also key factors in this rapid expansion. These connections have promoted ‘digital culture’ even further, with fast upload and download speeds for easy access to peer-to-peer applications. The broadband evolution is sure to continue with the guaranteed support of both state and federal governments.

Possibly the most influential force behind the popularity and growth of online communication is convergence. Cunningham and Turner (2006, 3) believe convergence dissolves the distinctions between media systems and media content. Another concept linked with convergence is the idea of digitisation. According to Cunningham and Turner (2006, 2) “We no longer have to turn on the radio to listen to programs produced by our favourite station; we can listen on our home PC”. As such, convergence is more than just a technological shift as it alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences. 

The Internet has also had direct implications on mass-media legislation. The Online Institute for Law and Policy has raised concerns regarding; intellectual property, freedom of speech, privacy, and security (Flew 2005, 201). Despite this, a major factor that complicates legislation is the decentralised nature of the Internet and its global infrastructure (Flew 2005, 201). Within the Australian context, authority over technological legislation has been entrusted into the hands of broadcasting authorities such as the Regulation of Online Communication. The problem is however, that policy lags behind technological developments, and as van Dijk (cited in Flew 2005, 202) suggests, “legal responses have been fragmentary and are based on outdated assumptions”.

In conclusion, the developments that surround the Internet and the digitisation of content have resulted in the reproposing and reinvention of societal media interaction. Online communication has raised issues and generated debates that are not in themselves new. We have always had successive waves of new media, from the broadcast era of print, radio and television and now the digital era of the Internet. Each has presented issues of policy control for our legislators, issues of adaptation and restructuring for the media industry, and new and exciting challenges for audiences. As new media technologies continue to converge and become increasingly user-friendly, the communication industry, and the broadcast mediums within it have been and will be constantly reformed and restructured by its vast application.


Cunningham, S. and Turner, G. 2006. The Media and Communications in Australia. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition.

Flew, T. 2005. New Media An Introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2nd edition.

Jenkins, H. 2004. The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7 (1), 33-43.

Rheingold, H. 1994. The Virtual Community: Finding Connection in a Computerized World. London: Secker & Warburg.



Thursday, May 1, 2008

Public Opinion and the Internet

In his essay ‘Public opinion and the internet’ Peter Murphy argues that rather than merely democratising public opinion, the Internet fundamentally changes the way that public opinion emerges. The following post seeks to explore Murphy’s arguments and assess their accuracy with regard to today’s new media economy.  

Firstly, communication is essential to the business of everyday living in the twenty-first century. In light of this reality, it is important to understand that the Internet is arguably the most significant form of communication to date and influences the lives of people around the globe. The impact of this technological advancement is immeasurable and it has become a vital ingredient of contemporary culture.

As Murphy (2005) comments on the specific role of the Internet, it is first necessary to understand and briefly explore its function and impact in a more generic sense. The internet has not only revolutionised communication; reshaping society as we once knew it, but it has also altered the way people network within society via one-to-many and many-to-many interactions. We have never before been faced with such a magnitude of information or such efficiency of communication, fundamentally shifting the way individuals live and express themselves. Furthermore, the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult to censor, providing freedom of speech, and dissolving both geographic and political boundaries (Flew, 2004).

It is undeniable that an increasing number of opinions are being expressed thanks to the freedom of the Internet. The internet’s evolving impact on public opinion originates from its initial role as a powerful document delivery system, enabling a fresh way of producing, collecting, altering, and distributing documents and information (Murphy, 2005). This system has grown into a provider of communication and media, and is fundamentally changing people’s interaction with society and in turn, the emergence of public opinion.

Not only has the Internet provided a haven for freedom of speech, but it has also provided the facilitation of likeminded communities, providing social and cultural power to its users. Murphy (2005) argues that self-expression on the Internet is often mistaken for discussion. Furthermore he suggests that online dialogue is inconsequential as it is short lived. However, the information gathering and processing activities that have emerged in Internet communities are of great significance. Pierre Levy refers to this as ‘collective intelligence’ (Jenkins, 2004). Levy believes that “No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity”, arguing that individuals utilise their personal strengths towards mutual goals and objectives. As such, society itself is being redefined by shifting cultural norms and expectations, breaking away from more traditional forums of social interaction. Therefore, Murphy’s assessment appears inaccurate, as open dialogue between individuals and communities is evident, and is not simply a one-way stream of opinion.

As argued by Murphy (2005), the Internet’s primary function is an archive for information, identifying that even posting is archival transmission rather than a peer-to-peer interaction. Contrary to Murphy’s opinion, online communication can lead to functional discussion as individuals read one another’s postings and commentaries as well as respond to each other. This is exemplified by news blogging whereby online discussion is monitored by mainstream media outlets who often take on board information in order to reflect audience opinions (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). 

According to Murphy (2005) the self-censorship encouraged by governments such as China in relation to their citizens’ Internet use is evidence that it has not been able to succeed in acting as a tool for liberation. Murphy (2005) is suggesting that this is another way in which the Internet has failed to act as an agent for democratising public opinion. This assessment appears to be accurate, however, only for countries whose governments insist on political and ideological censorship. For more liberal nations, the Internet acts as a forum for individuals to present their opinions and views within the public arena. Murphy (2005) also believes that the large ‘world wide’ nature of the Internet makes it unsuitable for peer-feedback. This statement however, neglects to take into account the countless number of discussion forums, blogs and user generated content which function on constant discussion between community members.

Although Murphy (2005) draws on a number of interesting points, he does not entirely acknowledge the strong virtual communities that the Internet contains. These forums thrive on discussion and the exchange of information and knowledge. Murphy has in fact identified that rather than merely democratising public opinion, the Internet fundamentally changes the way that public opinion emerges. Despite this, it appears that he does not fully appreciate the avenues through which public opinion now surfaces. It is essential to note that the Internet is now the backbone of public opinion, which is largely formulated through the intrinsic operation of virtual communities. Furthermore, it is apparent that the democratic nature of the Internet will strengthen in proportion to its size and influence on the day-to-day lives of its users.


Bruns, A. and J. Jacobs, 2006. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang.

Flew, T. 2005. New media: an introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, Henry. (2004). The cultural logic of media convergence. International

Journal of Cultural Studies.

Murphy, P. 2005. Encyclopedia of multimedia technology and networking: Public opinion and

the Internet. VIC: Monash University. 

Monday, April 28, 2008

Producers, User Generated Content and the Emergence of Produsage

With the introduction and development of social software and new media technologies, significant changes have occurred with the way in which audiences consume media. Audiences now have a more substantial relationship with media producers, having more choice and influence over which media they consume and how they consume it. ‘Produsage’ highlights the fact that there is a shift towards user generated content within online media that has increased the cultural and social power of these virtual communities. Axel Bruns, refers to these individuals as the new, hybrid, produser.

With the emergence of social software and the 'Web 2.0 environment’, participatory culture is breaking down the barriers between producers and consumers. Traditionally, there has been no relationship of any substance between media producers and audiences. In fact, this process has actually enabled media audiences to act as users, producers, or both. According to Bruns (2008), this new brand of producers do not engage in traditional content production, but are instead involved in ‘produsage’ or, “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement”. This process has also changed with the rise of peer-to-peer media forums and has enabled audiences to respond to producers at an unprecedented degree. Bruns (2008) suggests, “As this trend continues and the balance between mass and networked media shifts further in favour of citizens, it is increasingly likely that the traditional model of politics is no longer sustainable”. As such, new media consumers now have the opportunity to delve even further into online participation and increase their cultural power within the ‘produsage’ democracy.

Media producers have also embraced this concept, ensuring that audience loyalty is consistent. Additionally, these networks provide producers with an insight into how audiences feel about the content of the program. This variation of control provides audiences with cultural power over the media they consume, allowing the expression of personal opinions and criticisms of media content, and inturn, a sense of authority over media decision making (see Media Spy). Over the past decade, online communities and user generated content have “granted audiences control over media flows, enabled activists to reshape and recirculate media content, lowered the costs of production and paved the way for new grassroots networks” (Jenkins 2002, 167). By doing so, media producers have given audiences a degree of social control over media by allowing them to produce their own content via mediums such as YouTube. This has also led to various social opportunities and economic benefits. As such, the relationship between media producers and audiences has indeed changed, as the two entities network and overlap responsibilities. has identified four key principles that can be applied across all produsage environments:

  • Open Participation, Communal Evaluation
  • Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy
  • Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process
  • Common Property, Individual Rewards

These principles are further explored in the book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, and on the accompanying Website

Some examples of ‘produsage’ include open source software development, citizen journalism, applications such as Wikipedia, and Second Life, alongside a wide range of other sites of collaborative content creation.


Bruns, A. 2008. The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage

Jenkins, H. 2002. Interactive audiences in Harries, Dan, The New Media Book, London: BFI Publishing, pp.157-170.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Virtual Communities and Social Networking Systems

Virtual communities vary greatly in function and purpose. However, they each entail interaction through an online medium bringing their members together through common interests or situations. One such virtual community is that of news blogging where members of the public sign up to news forums and comment on content of specific news broadcasts (See's official Blog). They comment on the substance of reports whilst discussing with and responding to fellow boggers. This form of blogging is often seen as the direct expression of news audiences providing feedback on which the mainstream media can take on board and make use of (Bruns and Jacobs, 2006).

Other forms of virtual communities are in place primarily as social tools such as MySpace, where individuals give themselves a virtual identity with which they interact with others, sharing files and photos, leaving messages and interacting with new people. This is in essence is a ‘friends’ network, whereby people make form relationships as well as meet people who share similar interests. Aditionally, the expansion and popularity of virtual gaming communities such as Second Life allow for similar interactions between users. Virtual communities and the subsequent online relationships that follow are however blurring the line between real and virtual life.

According to Foth (2006), there are a number of differences that need to be taken into account when building social networking systems for place-based communities as opposed to geographically dispersed communities. As such, Foth has identified that place-based and geographically dispersed communities differ quite significantly. Geographically dispersed online communities are groups of web users who share a common goal, purpose, interest or support need (Foth 2006).  The presence of these unifies the group and motivates users to continually interact. Here the system designers need not focus on why users should interact, but rather how, as a basis of meaningful interaction already exists. This is central to place-based communities, where users live close enough to each other to met up if they wish, but have the immediate common ground of location rather than anything else. The difficulty which must then be taken into account when building social networking systems founded on geographic proximity is fostering interaction not directly related to place but rather interest. Individuals within a place-based environment generally only truly experience meaningful interaction when they find that they share interests, histories, hobbies or jobs etc (Foth, 2006). Without an influential social networking system these meaningful interactions are based on chance rather than intention as roles other than that of neighbour are not obvious in neighbourhoods as they are in geographically dispersed communities.


Bruns, A. and J. Jacobs, 2006. Uses of Blogs. New York: Peter Lang.

Foth, M. (2006). Inner-City Neighborhoods: Facilitating Social Networking. QLD: IEEE Computer Society.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Social Capital

What does Flew mean by ‘social capital’ and why does he think it is important for virtual communities?

The concept of social capital is recognised by Flew as being multifaceted, entailing “features of social life–networks, norms, and trusts–that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared interests” as identified by Putnam (cited in Flew, 2004, 75). These are quite simply social connections which harbour an interactive environment. Flew has deduced that social capital is an integral part of a functional virtual community as it engages members and harbours interactivity (Flew, 2004).

Flew sees virtual communities and social capital functioning as a ‘two way street’ where the need for virtual communities is attributed to by the lack of opportunities for democratic involvement in existing communities in today’s society. Therefore the existence of such virtual communities creates a framework in which social capital can be realised and developed (Flew, 2004). On the other hand social capital is a vital feature of a successful virtual community as it fosters innovation and information sharing as well as prevents social problems in tangible life, whilst potentially increasing economic outcomes (Flew, 2004). Evidently the benefits of social capital are much the same in both real world and virtual communities.

Flew, T. 2004. New media: an introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The difference between web 1.0 and web 2.0

Web 2.0 was often refered to as the 'future goal' of online development, but the fact of the matter is the change from web 1.0 to web 2.0 is in many ways indefinable. As such, i belive the shift is very much a gradual segway from one platform to another, with various online businesses and communities showing what can be done with the new software.

This being said, it is possible to highlight 10 key differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0:

1. Open standards Base: Ensure service connectivity is reliable

2. Ubiquitious Broadband: The infrastructure is now available to support web 2.0 models.

3. Less investment required: Companies can get far without a massive investment meaning companies can quickly be incubated to spread the risk.

4. Better Browsers: New format support, RSS etc enriches the user experience

5. Powerful development environments: AJAX is young but powerful and holds the promise of being easier to use compared to J2EE

6. Device convergance: Ability to access the web from a multitude of devices means on-demand services are more functional for real everyday use.

7. More Innovation: The de-skilling of the technological requirements mean more people get involved in trying to create, often from a more creative user-base.

8: Change in Use: The focus of the web and web 2.0 is firmly on usefuleness and in many cases commercial basis.

9. Maturity: Resiliance and Scalability are easier to provide with cheaper hardware and better understanding of how to achieve this.

10.History: Lessons from the dot com crash are noteasily forgotten…

See: Jana Technology Services

Like many important concepts however, web 2.0 doesn't have a clearly defined boundary, but rather, a gravitational core. You can visualize Web 2.0 as "a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core" (O'Reilly 2005).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Merci Pierre

Pierre Levy offers us an intriguing insight into what might emerge as citizens more fully realise the potential of the new media environment. Levy primarily explores the theory of collective intelligence and how the web’s fragmentation of knowledge may enable “greater participation in decision making, new models of citizenship and community, and the reciprocal exchange of information” (Jenkins 2002, 158). An interesting aspect of Levy’s philosophy is that he draws an important distinction between “organic social groups” (family), “organised social groups” (institutions), and “self-organised groups” such as virtual communities. He links the emergence of the new knowledge space to the evolutionary changes in communication, the breakdown of geographic constraints and the accumulation of ‘cultural memory’.

According to Levy (2000), the future for knowledge communities will be voluntary and defined by “intellectual enterprises and emotional investments”. Levy’s theories are particularly useful as an example of how members may shift from one community to another as interests and needs change. At the same time, he also tells us increasing amounts of people belong to more than one community at the same time. As such, these individuals are held together through a mutual production and exchange of knowledge (Jenkins 2002, 159). Levy’s book Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace is also relevant resource in relation to participatory cultures; this is due to the fact that he simplistically highlights the transformation that is continuing to occur throughout the world across online cultural platforms.