To run a blog about citizen media, one must first consider what is citizen media. In many ways it is media produced by amateurs. Much of the time citizen media is not for profit, but if someone running a YouTube channel puts ads on their videos for profit does that disqualify them? Citizen media is often distributed through different channels than is mainstream, because it is people without access to large media channels that are producing the content. That is until the mainstream picks it up, such is the case with viral videos and reporting on news events using footage recorded by people who witnessed the event. Popular sites that foster citizen media would be media sharing sites such as, YouTube, SoundCloud, blog sites, Twitter, and indymedia publications. These platforms are all relatively low barriers to entry (usually computer and internet access) and allows anyone with these tools to create and share their own content with the public.
This brings about the question of public spheres. Now, none of these platforms or channels for distributing citizen media are perfect. The ideal public sphere is a disputed point. Habermas argues that in a public sphere all people are completely equal and in this space public opinions are formed. Obviously complete equality and equal accessibility are practically impossible, and disregarding people’s social status and the unique perspectives and contributions resulting from this experiences is perhaps foolish. For example, a straight person’s input on queer issues should perhaps be a little less important, or a white person’s opinions on racism in North America is perhaps less valuable than the contributions of a black person. Not to suggest that people shouldn’t be able to contribute, but to perhaps at times give more weight to some voices than others.
Another question would be if these (mostly online) platforms for citizen media are truly public spheres. There are in fact barriers to access, and people with greater followings will therefore have more influence than others.
So, citizen media is media mostly by amateurs, spread mostly through online platforms with low barriers to entry. These platforms are not perfect, and they arnt exactly equal however many are close to some form of a public sphere. I would argue that these online platforms have given ordinary citizens greater opportunity to have a voice than ever before.
2 thoughts on “Start at the Start”
I think your point concerning the impossibility of complete equality within the public sphere is an important one. It seems that no matter where we go or what we do, we will always be affected by our position and status in society. I do, however, think it is also important to note that opinions concerning issues such as homophobia and racism are not necessarily more or less valuable when stated by people who are not directly affected. Those who may not be directly affected by such prejudices play a large role in fighting against them. In many instances, it has been much easier for those individuals to stand up for those who are directly affected. In some of these cases, the results have been more influential than they may have been had the “victim” stood up against the issue. For an example click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf9QBnPK6Yg. Some individuals with racist or homophobic opinions (or other problematic opinions) demonstrate a narrow-mindedness and in turn are not open to listen to those victimized. They choose instead to listen to those they can relate to, which would include those that are not directly impacted by the victimization. Overall, it would appear that the people who are not directly affected may be taken more seriously by many, as they are going “out of their way” to defend something that does not necessarily impact them.
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Great example with the video. With your comment we’re getting into the idea of what it means to be an ally to underprivileged groups. My point had been that in the context of the public sphere it is difficult to achieve equality and that at times there are some voices that may carry more weight to them on a given topic. The video is a great example of being an ally in a situation and leveraging privileged to aid others. In the public sphere though where the issues are being identified it may be more important for the privileged to listen to the underprivileged to understand, and then act according to what they have been told, instead of speaking over others. That being said your point about how people are sometimes more likely to listen to those they identify with is very true. When discussing the problems that minorities face in the public sphere I believe it would still be the responsibility of those with privileged to ensure that first they listen to the minorities who have experience with the issues and then speak based on what they learned and do their best to be an ally.