Digital Cultures and Practices

by Thom Kiraly

As I mentioned earlier today I’m taking a course called Digital Cultures and Practices. For our first week on the course we were assigned to read and comment on Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture by Mark Deuze and the first two chapters of Axel Bruns’ Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond. We were also supposed to re-read chapter eight (Postmodernism, Indie Media and Popular Culture) of Practices of Looking and watch this video:

If I have to pick one thing I reacted to I would look at the almost utopian and overly positivist way that the essays conveniently skip the fact that a lot of people still aren’t connected to and participating in the great clusters of creativity that the authors seem to champion. This was something I was constantly annoyed by while reading these texts. Only in Practices of Looking is this attitude challenged and the idea that we are living in a world not yet fully post(modern/human/national/industrial etc.) put forward. Rather, we are living in a world wherein traces of what has been and fragments of what will be coexist and continually affect each other. It is easy to become enamored by the wonderful possibilities presented by new technology and to forget that the conditions of the majority of the world’s population may not mirror the conditions of the average blogger or contributer to wikipedia.

This is not to say that the texts were useless only that they lacked that certain perspective I’m always looking for. In the second text mentioned there is a focus on what the author has dubbed “produsage” (production+usage) and even though his points about this new kind of “produser” [sic] are all valid and well-presented I can’t help thinking about all of the people not participating in, for example, wikipedia. Only a very small fraction of the people who visit the site actually end up writing and article or editing an existing one. Why? This question is never considered in the two chapters I have read so far and the role of the casual surfer is explained as one of leaving a trail of data that can later be mined and used to subtly change the experience for subsequent visitors. What I would like to know is why so few choose to become active participants in these online networks. Is it due to poor design of the structure for interaction/participation? What is to be considered the difference between the two? Is it enough to simply visit a site to be considered an active participant?

Is these thoughts seem like they´re a bit on the undeveloped side, that’s because they’re not supposed to be much more than that. Expect a lot of questions and few answers. For those of you only interested in my posts related to the Digital Cultures and Practices course, you can follow the digcult11 category feed instead of getting all of the other stuff I put up here.