past & future
This page considers user generated content (UGC), sometimes
claimed as distinctive of the net.
It covers -
UGC has been embraced by a range of enthusiasts, including
proponents of Web 2.0 and
blogging, populist supporters
of Wiki journalism and encyclopaedia
projects, critics of globalisation and capitalism (UGC
as a solvent that will free the world from the evils of
'big media'), and academics who have embraced buzzwords
such as 'vernacular creativity', 'produsage', 'crowdsourcing'
Examples include Axel Bruns' Produsage: Towards a
Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation (PDF)
and Jean Burgess' 2006 Vernacular Creativity, Cultural
Participation and New Media Literacy: Photography and
the Flickr Network (PDF).
It has also been embraced by a range of entrepreneurs,
who envisage business models in which 'users' - whether
amateurs or professionals - create video and other content
that appears on sites such as YouTube or Gawker and thereby
generates revenue for the site operators although not
necessarily for the author.
Seth Finkelstein critised visions of user-generated content
(and more broadly, new media) as politically liberating,
all the hype about empowering citizens, the individual
[is] utterly powerless, except to try to please and
serve the interests of the gatekeeper and thereby obtain
some attention (but not remuneration).
The online self-publishing with which people are most
familiar is the blog (ak web log or weblog). It is discussed
in detail in a supplementary 19 page profile elsewhere
on this site.
Blogging has attracted more attention than wiki, both
a collaborative online publishing technology and a movement
that has resulted in large-scale (albeit very uneven)
resources such as the Wikipedia.
Wiki is discussed in a discrete Wiki
In discussing blogs and other publishing genres such as
podcasting - and in the
broader discussion of metrics
and demographics - we have cautioned against some of the
more enthusiastic claims about self-publishing. In 2004
the Pew Internet & American Life Project announced
44% of Internet users have created content for the online
world through building or posting to Web sites, creating
blogs, and sharing files
over "53 million American adults" supposedly
having used the net to "publish their thoughts, respond
to others, post pictures, share files and otherwise contribute
to the explosion of content available online". The
Pew figures are reflective of a small sample of US users,
rather than the global internet population, and should
be treated with considerable caution.
Pew claims that "44% of the nation's adult Internet
users (those 18 and over)" report that they have
done at least one of the following -
have posted photographs to web sites
have posted written material on sites (2% maintain blogs)
have posted artwork on sites
have contributed audio files to sites, 3% have contributed
maintain their own sites
have posted comments to an online newsgroup (a smaller
fraction has posted video, audio, or photo files to
have contributed material to sites run by their businesses.
have contributed material to sites run by religious,
professional or other organisations
have web cams that allow other internet users to see
live pictures of them and their surroundings
have contributed material to sites created for their