Fuchs defines participatory culture relying on Jenkins defiition of this phenomenon : as a special configuration of social media in which the individuals collaborate, participating, combining their skills in order to make emerging a form of collective culture « as an alternative source of media power ». He then enumerates various criterias taken from Jenkins analysis such as a low barrier of expression and engagmrent, which are on the contrary encouraged and supported thrugh informal forms of mentorship and experiences transmitted. In this sense there is a special form of social connection embedded in such a process
For instance, it can be a space for the development of a new form of participative democracy.
Here Fuchs qualify such a statement and the enthousiasm that gravitates around this perspective. Indeed participatory culture through Facebook or Google relies on private capitalists corporate with their own economic interests, which are therefore non-neutral spaces. Participating is a thing, but understanding the real issues behind participation and participative platforms is another.
Indeed, participation and involvment in social platforms can mean consuming popular culture, but not necessarly involving oneself in a political act of resistance, protest or at least involvment. The actual participation into the production of content is much more reduced than what Jenkins expected according to Fuchs, and sometimes biased toward extremism with antisemitism or fascists ideologies. Participation is limited and not always constructive.
Platforms like Youtube are analyzed as capitalists structure that eventually will experience crisis between capital and consumers/workers. Furthermore in the case of blogs, only mainstream ones tends to obtain enough popular visibility, providing a one-sided vision of information without critical approach for the one who does not take the time to check sources.
For Fuchs, we do not have to reduce the conept of « participation » to the cultural dimension, but rather refocusing this approach on the political and critical level, which are two dimensions that are not necessarly linked together.
This criticism is reminiscent of the one of Van Dijck that unveils the risk of participation as hiding economic benefits and production models. If the value of community-building carried out by the Web 2.0 is undeniable, it is also carrying out « the biggest business opportunity ever for corporations ». The risk is here the naturalization of the internet market, consumerism and business as a normal structure and an hegemonic condition.
Actually the majority of the internet user is « passive » and do not produce content : the mass is not equally creative and it is a mistake for Van Dijck to think so. Furthermore, just like Fuchs remarks, Van Dijk states that the content produced is often biased by social motivations of « top rank » rather than learningful content. Once again it respounds to a form of marketization of the content, and marketization of the self as well.
This marketization is pushed even further since the involvment in platforms such as Facebook require the user to give personal informations, that eventually will end up favorizing business compagnies and advertising models. The interst of those platform lies in the « activity » of the user, not his « creativity ». The private becomes public and commercialized.
Finally, the risk is a form of convergence of the content, since the real aim of the platforms that allows such content to be widespread is economic profit. While the participation concept conveys the idea that everybody’s opinion obtain the same weight, we can see here that it is often not the case because of economical biases : capitalistic interests remains at the end of the story the very core of the system.