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section heading icon     UGC

This page considers user generated content (UGC), sometimes claimed as distinctive of the net.

It covers -

     introduction

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' and folksonomy.

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, commenting that

despite 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).

     blogging

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.

     wiki

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 profile.

     activity

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 that

44% of Internet users have created content for the online world through building or posting to Web sites, creating blogs, and sharing files

with 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 -

  • 21% have posted photographs to web sites
  • 17% have posted written material on sites (2% maintain blogs)
  • 6% have posted artwork on sites
  • 5% have contributed audio files to sites, 3% have contributed video files
  • 13% maintain their own sites
  • 10% have posted comments to an online newsgroup (a smaller fraction has posted video, audio, or photo files to a newsgroup)
  • 8% have contributed material to sites run by their businesses.
  • 7% have contributed material to sites run by religious, professional or other organisations
  • 7% have web cams that allow other internet users to see live pictures of them and their surroundings
  • 4% have contributed material to sites created for their families.



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