In what way do you see the form of traditional mass-media and so-called personal media as being different? How does it look? How is it structured? What is the aesthetic and why is it important?
The forms of traditional mass media were one-directional and linear. Institutions of many kinds transferred information for the masses to consume in formats that did not readily offer a right of response or other opportunities for interaction (e.g. newspapers, radio, television, etc. to name some recent examples). However, as traditional mass media had to evolve because of the internet and the rapid advent of digital technologies, it opened up the possibility for the masses to collectively or individually interact and participate with these formerly traditional outlets.
Mass communication technologies were now accessible to both groups, enabling personal media to have access to the same mass audiences, either purposefully, or inadvertently. In 2006, Henry Jenkins recognised that a participatory culture had emerged, which contrasted with “…older notions of passive media spectatorship” (p. 3). Lüders (2008) and Jenkins (2006) both essentially elaborated on the same notion: mass media, due to technology and digital access, has opened up new realities that have blurred the lines of former traditional boundaries.
We have witnessed the rise of personal media, which may look like and use the same technologies in this continuum of the digital evolution, but can also be perceived as quite different. This convergence of technologies is often referred to as disruptive, and for good reason. As Jenkins maintained, “Convergence does not occur through media appliances, however sophisticated they become… [it] occurs within the brains of individual consumers and through their social interactions with others” (2006, p. 3).
If personal media is defined by such individuality, it is not hard to see the differences in form between it and the traditional mass media. Lüders highlights that the internet is made up of a variety of “…media forms, which are then characterized further by different genres…” (2008, p. 688) and, goes on to state that blogs are the types of personal media that nicely encompass most of these genres. Since individuals can explore such genres via personal media freely, “… institutional and professional conventions are absent” (p. 688).
Based on these readings alone, I see that personal media looks different – it can convey passions and interests, serve as a space for reflection or activism… the outcomes can be extremely diverse. Even though structures are in place for such personal media (e.g. HTML conventions), these structures are only limited by access and the imagination… for now. I cannot avoid the fact that this sphere is so disparate, that the aesthetic that underpins personal media, freedom of expression and space for creativity and collective knowledge, will not last forever. People have called me a cynic – I prefer the word, realist. The capacity for such amazing, dynamic and dissimilar representations of the self that exist in personal media and all its forms, are extremely important for societies to move forwards and backwards, learning and unlearning as we make our journeys through an, originally intended, open mediascape. There are many parts of many societies that ultimately conform to the pattern of the society within which they are situated. If those who are still free of the digital divide all ultimately conform to such patterns that are emerging in both personal and mass media, doesn’t the individual become the product as well as the consumer? As Lüders speculates in her conclusion, “Mass media have societal functions, which rely on processes of audience identification rather than interaction” (2008, p. 699). Are our personal media and social interactions on the internet, in fact, making us more controllable as we are all monitored whilst creating our own filter bubbles (Pariser, 2011)?
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.
Lüders, M. (2008). Conceptualizing personal media. New Media & Society, 10(5), 683-702. doi: 10.1177/1461444808094352
Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalised Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think. New York: Penguin Books.
NOTE: I am highly doubtful about this response to the question asked. I wasn’t sure if we were primarily asked to discuss the variety of personal media form being utilised (i.e. blogs, mash-ups, YouTube clips and the like, social media, etc.) or if the question was more philosophical. I’m tired and my brain was hurting when I wrote this. I am happy to be corrected. 🙂