I enjoyed Nicola’s recent blog post (http://digitalculture-ed.net/nicolao/2009/09/28/film-festival-and-twittorial-reflections-dystopia/), particularly the discussion of The Gathering Storm ad in the context of debates about the risks of user-generated content being removed if deemed in breach of the service agreements.
It made me think of some of the arguments Henry Jenkins (2006) has made around the “hybrid media ecology that has emerged as groups with different motives and goals interact through shared media portals” (290).
He writes that:
The advent of new production tools and distribution channels have lowered barriers of entry into the marketplace of ideas. These shifts place resources for activism and social commentary into the hands of everyday citizens, resources which were once the exclusive domain of the candidates, the parties, and the mass media. These citizens have increasingly turned towards parody as a rhetorical practice which allows them to express their scepticism towards “politics as usual”, to break out of the exclusionary language through which many discussions of public policy are conducted, and to find a shared language of borrowed images that mobilize what they know as consumers to reflect on the political process. (Jenkins 2006: 293)
One of the interesting things about The Gathering Storm example was that the spoof ad seemed to have as much, if not more, resource behind it (in the form of recognisable actors and scriptwriting talent) than the source ad it parodied. So, a pro-gay marriage group with money and creatives to work with used the culture jamming tactics of much less well-resourced groups. Really fascinating stuff – like a Hollywood star doing fringe.
BTW, the posting, removal, reposting and removal of video content reminds me of earlier struggles – e.g. the suffragettes’ tactic of hunger strikes which the government responded to with legislation (the “Cat and Mouse Act”) imposing force-feeding, which led to public revulsion which, in turn, led to the government modifying its strategy to one of releasing prisoners who, it was assumed, would resume eating once free and spare government embarrassment. Although it looked like the government came out top, their treatment of the suffragettes lost them public support.
I can see how user-generated content – e.g. a video on YouTube – can be removed if there are objections to it but can also see that ‘containing’ such media presents tremendous difficulties too. Once posted, it can be copied and reposted somewhere else, sent around as an email attachment or MMS. It’s really hard to put that particular genie back in the bottle as Nicola’s example shows
Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture. where old and new media collide. New York & London: New York University Press.