The general impression of the internet is usually a sea of cynicism and negativity. Many would discuss the golden days of when Web 2.0 (aka, when broadband became available and the internet actually blew up due to faster speeds in surfing and uploading web content) did not give birth to social networks, forums, video streaming services and whatever evil shenanigans that allowed people to share verbal vitriol, porn and what they had for breakfast.
Except the internet or more accurately the Web 2.0 revolution was never designed to degrade or make others suffer. It was a tool that allowed communication on a global scale and as far as human communications go of course problems will arise. People use the web as a mask to vent their frustration, a scamming tool, a scandal feed palace and a host of badly made kitten-related media. Much like how we back talk, gossip and lie to each other in real-life expect even the introverted are much more open on the internet. Beware the internet is a scary place and full of negativity.
Except that’s what most news media outlets and disapproving parents likes to tell in between their article browsing. As with any tools designed the internet could be used for both selfish and selfless reasons. The latter should get more coverage in web safety guides; to teach kids how to be safe also requires them to understand how to use the web for social change and positive activities. There’s value in teaching people how not to be pessimistic and sardonic about the internet, otherwise it’ll really turn into a whirlpool of snarky comments. One thing to start with is the concept of participatory culture.
“Social media spark a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.” – Brian Solis
Participatory culture is a term detailing the phenomenon that consumers or fans are not just being passive media-holics: they participate in discussions, produce fanwork and taking inspirations from what they like to promote social change. Henry Jenkins, the biggest supporter of participatory culture, sees online communities and subcultures as critically engaging and encouraging civil change. Not all fans are apathetic and he used the Harry Potter Alliance as a prime example of a fan community utilising the web and social media to actively help others and driving social awareness.
Jenkins was not dismissive of fandoms because he believed that the passion exerted on particular media sparked people’s creativity and made them more aware of the society they inhabit. That’s where fan works and collaborations really come into play. We are no longer living in a world where only large corporations have the power to create work and share them with the public. Youtubers, bloggers, Wiki contributors, fan-artists, tutorial-makers, indie game makers are all dishing out products that are both fascinating and culturally diverse. When creativity is not based upon business projections and financial gain but rather passion and self-motivation, the result is a diverse range of work. Whether bad or good quality there will always be at least one fan article, video, game or fiction that have the same critical, entertaining or inspiring qualities that any company produce has on you. And there’s no better place to share them than on the internet via social media.
And the amount of stuff netizens make and share are never ending…
People are in their bedrooms are drawing, editing, teaching, coding, writing and uploading them for the world to share and consumer. Without the Web and social media their works would remain a niche amongst family and friends but the worldwide audience unobtrusive broadband lent them allowed to find a bigger and shinier purpose in creating. Making stuff for fun is an achievement in itself but knowing that others can enjoy them is another story after all. Unfortunately these kind of people who media or others like to label as ‘sad’. Well what’s wrong with being ‘sad’? What’s wrong with contributing to human expression and sharing rather than plainly consume and be aimless? Fandom’s obsession may seem extreme at times but I will never say stop to people actually wanting to make something and putting an effort into any fields of interest.
“You are what you share.” – Charles LeadBeat author of We-Think where he wrote about the potential mass innovation that derives from people on the web sharing ideas and opinions.
Charles Leadbeater always believed in the potential of the web in giving birth to ideas rapidly due to its conversational nature. Indeed forums and online tutorials have been a great resource in improving standards of people’s work in the creative sector; anyone in the interactive/digital media sector can vouch for that. Which indeed does lead to equality (as stated in we think) as people no matter their background can have access to help and knowledge so long as they are connected to the internet. In most cases a lot of these resources were created by fans in whatever area they’re interested in. The internet isn’t just full of trolls who have too much time on their hands but also those who want to openly help others improve too- whilst somehow finding the time to do so.
A mass of what’s been brought up here is related to being involved with a topic or subject with other people (aka fandoms) which acts as an initial driving force for all the sharing, helping and creations. Unlike before where finding someone with similar interests required some luck now it just requires pressing the search button. When people are enjoying themselves and having fun they are much more likely to exert their energy on it rather than their parents/teachers bragging them to do so.
“So I guess I’d ultimately say being a fan is a wonderful feeling, but we should all be more than fans.” – Bobduh (an articulate anime blogger) on fandoms.
The internet (or more pedantically: Web 2.0) is a tool, that rather than dismissing it with cynical news titles or school blocking systems should be highlighted for its positive uses as well. How else do we expect people to improve online culture if all we yapper about is why not to use the internet or calling those who do use it in selfless ways ‘sad’. Being on such an open platform requires a strong head (I’ve had my fair share of regressive remarks and many would have suffered more). Therefore it’s natural to become cynical, but cynicism is not what makes the short films or the accessible education libraries or the social changes. Throughout this piece I’ve referenced Gatchaman Crowds (which I’m blatantly obvious a fan of) so I’ll leave with a brief scene from the show: