#MED104 – The Henry Jenkins reading


The blog post by Henry Jenkins was published in 2009 – do you think all of his arguments remain valid in 2014?

Are we still fearful of new media? Are there stil cultural divides when it come to access and participation? Are we seeing an increase in the power of the citizen journalist? What do you agree/disagree with?


Generally speaking, there are still a lot of us that are fearful of new media. I suppose that if one has gotten used to the rapid evolution of technologies and tools, one tends to embrace new media more readily. But, that is a generalisation.

Many people I work with happily blog and use Facebook on a regular basis, but hesitate, and even outright reject, tools like Twitter and Google+, citing reasons such as the brevity of tweets as being inadequate, or not wanting to be under the Google microscope. The acceptance or rejection of new media based on fear can be generational as well. As they say, old habits die hard. Plus, if there has been some negative coverage of new media in the papers or on television, the fear is sensationalised and further exacerbated. I find that this is usually out of proportion to the many positive stories about the new media in question.

Cultural divides still exist when it comes to access and participation. I remember when Orkut was heavily promoted by Google as a social media tool. I never signed up to Orkut, but I also recall reading somewhere that English speaking users were leaving the Orkut space in droves because it was primarily being used by Brazilians, or Indians? Regardless of which country it was, the problem for the English speakers was that another language was primarily being used in Orkut, and they left the service because they simply couldn’t understand what was being posted by others.

But, I would imagine that “cultural divides” could refer to many types of divides – not just language. Differences in age, level of education, traditions and values would all translate into the online arena and would also affect access and participation. As Jenkins states, “social divisions in the real world are being mapped onto cyberspace, reinforcing cultural segregation along class and race lines” (2009, para. 9). This is evident in political groups, for example. Certain persuasions, left and right wing, will congregate online in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter and rarely engage with the other. Unless, of course, there’s someone out there that wants to troll other groups purely to castigate them and hurl abuse.

However, I think the citizen journalist has increased power these days. If one has a large amount of followers in the blogosphere, an opinion expressed can go a long way, even become viral. This may occur intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless, if one knows how to make sure that their opinion is heard through many channels other than the one primarily being used, it could be picked up by the media and spread even further than within one’s social cluster of followers.

I don’t disagree with anything that Jenkins put forward in 2009, however, the technology has changed markedly since then, so some of what he wrote is no longer quite as valid. Pre-2009, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube were blocked by some schools or workplace networks. Nowadays, it is more common to see full access to these services. Facebook is a good example. Initially, many workplaces blocked access to Facebook, as employers felt that their employees would waste time looking at Facebook and not working as they were paid to do. This has changed somewhat – a lot of employers now recognise that Facebook can be used as a tool for professional development and networking, so many blocks have been lifted.

The Creative Commons too, has developed over time. Even though it was initially developed in 2001/2002, since 2009, much has changed. It passed an estimated 350 million CC-licensed works, which has been steadily increasing since. And, Wikipedia migrated to CC Attribution-ShareAlike as its main content license. So the “crisis of copyright” referred to by Jenkins (2009, para. 11) in his blog post has somewhat dissipated since then. The power to seek attribution, modify and share-alike licenses allows more freedom for creativity in this realm. It is hoped that such freedom will grow even more with time.

However, this is hard to imagine, as corporations like Facebook and Google make it difficult to move away from their networks, almost fully prohibiting individuals to take their data with them. Facebook’s ‘Terms of Service’ keeps changing – it wants to own all of our data. If Facebook folds and is sold to another company, all this data goes with it. The cynic in me can easily imagine an Orwellian future, where we lose complete control over our personal information and another pernicious use of it comes into existence. We almost blindly accept these ‘Terms of Service’ so we can socialise and communicate with others online, partaking of that popular privilege. But, we rarely question what it is we’re signing away by clicking on that ‘Accept’ button.

Reading over Jenkins’ final paragraph, it is still difficult to find the middle ground in all this. We are empowered by all of these technologies, but since 2009, I think it has become more apparent how much we have become slaves to them as we can feel ostracised from the world by not using them. Jenkins refers to a need for “critical utopianism” (para. 18) – such a need still exists. Yet, we seem to be distracted by the acquisition of friends, maintaining our online reputations and social clout while we are losing sight of the price we’re paying, and will be paying, in the end.


Jenkins, H. (2009, April 10). Critical Information Studies for a Participatory Culture (Part Two). [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/04/what_went_wrong_with_web_20_cr_1.html


About Maha @ Uni

Studying online, and want to keep a record of my progress and experiences...
This entry was posted in Citizen Journalism, Creative Commons, Cultural Divide, Facebook, Fair use, George Orwell, Google, Media, Media consumption, Media distribution, Media production, New media, Personal Data, Privacy, Social Media, Social Networks, Surveillance and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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