The term of participatory culture was introduced by Henry Jenkins who studies it and social phenomena which are connected to participatory culture. Jenkins describes participatory culture as culture “”in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content” (Jenkins 2008, p. 331). There are large number of features which are common in participatory culture.
First of all, this type of culture has low barriers to artistic expression and civil engagement. This means that almost everyone could express themselves in different ways. Jenkins studies fandoms which are the fanbase of some popular event like film, series of musical band. According to this point, fans, for example, could express themselves with fanfiction, fanart or other ways. Second important point is strong support for creating and sharing creations with others in participatory culture. This means that there are a lot of platforms where people could show their creations. Nowadays, in twenty-first century there are such social net platforms as YouTube and Tumblr where anyone could share their creations. Jenkins believes that such platforms are necessary for participatory culture.
Third point of participatory culture is some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. As it could be understood, people who has more experience should be supportive and teach or guide newcomers. Fourth feature, according to Jenkins, is that there should be members who believe that their contributions matter. This is one of the main arguments for these people to create something. Last but not least point is about members who feel some degree of social connection with one another. Connection with other people and care about creations is also an argument to create and to share (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton and Robison 2009, 5f) .
All in all, Jenkins ideas about participatory culture are about expressions, engagement, creation, sharing, experience, contributions and feelings ( Fuchs, 2014,p. 57). Nevertheless, there is some critical analysis from different authors. For example, Fuchs says that Jenkins concentrates only on creation and sharing but not on “how these practices
are enabled by and antagonistically entangled into capital accumulation” (2014, p. 57). Also, Fuchs mentions that Jenkins does not analyse culture’s political economy and ignores important negative aspects. For example, Fuchs uses the case of online hate groups as right-wing extremists who discuss their ideas in Facebook groups. According to the notion of Jenkins, they are also the part of participatory culture but negative part. However, according to Fuchs, Jenkins avoids this kind of discussion and concentrates mostly on fandoms and other expression of fan culture.
Another argument in critics of Jenkins is lack of connection with politics. Jenkins is sure that sharing without profit is not just a special feature but could also be a position against some political statements, Moreover, fans of concrete fandoms also could be carriers of specific political worldview. There are many contemporary examples of that. For example, fans of USA’s Late Night show are mostly democrats and their position is against Trump. It happens because in 2017 the comedians and not only journalist show the situation in the country and criticize actions of a new president. Nevertheless, Fuchs is sure that belief in political position of fans is over-rated.
On the other hand, Van Dijck (2009) looks on the area of economics and criticises Jenkins’s idea from this point. First of all, Van Dijck questions the non-profit goal of participatory culture. Van Dijck’s main point concentrates on economics of social platforms. The argument against Jenkins is that social platforms like YouTube and Facebook are based on making money. Their advertising suggests that they want to connect people and let them share their thoughts and experience but Van Dijck is sure that mostly they try to connect people with advertisment (2009, p. 865).
Second argument of Van Dijck is in analysis how many people are actually the creators of unique content. According to studies, “of those people who use the internet regularly, 52 percent are inactives, another 33 percent are ‘passive spectators’ and only 13 percent are actual creators” (Van Dijck, 2009, p. 861). This data questions one of the main principles of participatory culture and shows that most of people are just the viewers and not co-creators.
All in all, participatory culture is rather new term which is about culture where people create new content and share it with each other without any profit. Nevertheless, critics of this term shows that there are problems in participate culture on different levels as social, political and economical.
Fuchs, C. (2014) Social Media: A Critical Introduction. London: Sage. (chapter 3)
Van Dijck, J., & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its Discontents: A Critical Analysis of Web 2.0 Business Manifestos. New Media & Society, 11(5), 855-874.