Social Media & Participatory Culture

Participatory Culture, in my own words, is when we use each other to create, iterate, improve, and finalize ideas – ideally to improve the world we live in today. We have a great tool at our disposal with the internet and the ability to share ideas has become unbelievably simple. Henry Jenkins made some great points in his TED Talk on the subject, stating that when we have access to public information, the ability to interact with others easily, and everyone (children and adults alike) is treated on an even playing field we have a great system for world improvement called Participatory Culture (Jenkins, 2010).

In networked communication environments the audience are no longer simply consumers of media: they have become participants (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). This is very true nowadays with social media. Look at Twitter, for instance, and let’s talk about the recent accountability we’ve see on police. Without people’s cell phone videos and constant social pressure, it’s not easy to say that these police officers would be in jail. This is just one example of how Participatory Culture works.

A huge part of Participatory Culture is one where a collection of individuals work together to form incredibly intelligent movements or creations. [U]nder the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). An example I can pull on to show how this works comes from a Reddit group I’ve joined called WallStreetBets. Earlier in the year, a group of nearly a million people collectively analyzed the market on a stock called GameStop and decided there was a huge opportunity to make a ton of money at the expense of overconfident and bearish corporations. These users worked together in a legal way to raises the price of this overly-shorted stock to unprecedented levels (~$2 to $483 in a very short time period).

This reddit group is one of many social media communities I am involved in, but it is one of my favorites. It’s so great for me due to my extreme interest in the stock market and I learn something new from this crew of non-professionals every day. It is a free way to learn about a topic of interest and I have fun while doing it. This draws me to my final conclusion about Participatory Culture, which is that a group of individuals dedicated to learning or improving upon a subject in a fun way goes a long way for everyone involved. It is an environment for continuous growth and improvement and I believe Participatory Culture should be a mainstream way of learning.

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