A/N: Essay written for my subject; MED104 – Engaging Media.  I received a High Distinction grade.


This essay aims to show that the idea of the ‘active audience’ has changed modern media and the power is now held by the audience instead of media institutions.  In order to demonstrate, this essay will discuss the shift in the way we consume media, how the ‘active audience’ can change media through remix and remediation and finally show that some contemporary institutions are participating with their audience and producing work that caters to them.
In recent years it has become apparent that humanity as a culture has changed the way it sees media.  We now have the ability through the internet to pick and choose what we want to see. We are no longer just an audience we are participators in media.  We can mold and create a space that is catered personally to us as a consumer. This can be done using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This shift in the way we view and consume media will be discussed in the next few paragraphs. Media in the form of print, television and radio has declined in the recent years; this has obviously worried many media institutions.  However they have not considered the steep incline in online media consumption as a result of the digital age and the convergence of technologies. (xplainvisualthinking, 2009) In the new media age we are no longer spectators of media but participators. We as the audience can now control and create media through the internet, something that was not possible as little ten years ago. As more people begin to participate in the creation and distribution of media, the audience begins to hold the power over the media institutions. (Jenkins, 2009)

It has been said that the “World Wide Web is an exercise in replacement”(Bolter, 1999, p. 44). This statement has never been more true as it is today in the new media environment. This replacement is happening everywhere, traditional media forms are declining; people are no longer buying the newspaper or CDs they are now reading it online or downloading it. This dynamic shift in the way we consume media leads the way for the audience to be able to have power over what we choose to see. The convergence of media in the digital age worries these large corporate institutions as they are afraid of being wiped out, instead they should understand that this union of media is an ongoing process, it is something that they can easily adapt to. (Jenkins, 2006) Media institutions seem to believe that because there is a decline in the traditional methods of media consumption that is something to be worried about, that this decline will somehow make them extinct. They claim things like “we can’t compete with free” (Lemley, 2011, p. 125) and “we have to stop this or people will no longer make movies ” (Lemley, 2011, p. 125). Instead of trying to stop audiences from changing their ways by shouting copyright laws until the cows come home they should be considering ways in which they can benefit from the new media environment. (Lemley, 2011) In the digital age it was inventible that the audience would gain power over the media institutions, however instead of trying to fight it they should be embracing it, remediating it to suit them.

Remix and remediation are two of the most valued forms of how the active audience can change and alter today’s media.  This gives the audience the power to create new meanings for any desired subject giving them a unique power over media institutions. This will be discussed in the next two paragraphs. Remediation is “the representation of one medium in another”. (Bolter, 1999, p. 45) This is one of the greatest ways in which the audience has power over media institutions. These organizations have been challenged as audiences have turned to new media technologies. Audiences are no longer just viewers of media but have become users of it. (Lievrouw, 2006) There are many groups who have come together and remixed or remediated different works, there are forms of video remediation, fan fiction, the list goes on. This is a distinctive space in which media institutions have no power over their audiences. Audiences who are dissatisfied with endings can make up new ones, generate different love interests for characters or even take the characters from their original setting and create a whole new world (AU or Alternate Universe).  This type of remediation brings people together from all walks of life and creates an entirely new culture of participatory audiences.

As remediation continues to give power to the audience, media institutions are attacking using the outdated copyright laws.  This however is a futile effort as remediation and remix technically come under the fair use clause in the Copyright Act (2006). It is difficult for people to abide by copyright laws when they don’t make sense, they are vague and people find themselves wondering why on Earth we have such a ridiculous law. (Collins, 2008) When faced with change the large corporations will do anything to stop the people having the power. However audiences continue to make and distribute through the internet remediated works of large films, music, television, games just about anything. Remediation has the power to turn one person’s ordinary experience into a public culture. (Burgess, 2006) Through social media, places like YouTube and other websites we can continue to share our thoughts, experiences and creations. We have created more social groups through our common love of a television show or a movie or a book or game and through this an audience can socially discuss, change and remix media to achieve a common goal.  In this space the institutions do not have the power, they cannot change our views. They can listen and learn from them but they cannot stop them, they cannot regain that media power. “Remediation is a defining characteristic of the new digital media”. (Bolter, 1999, p. 45) There is nothing media institutions can do stop it, the digital age is upon us and the active audience holds the power. The organizations must work with us as a culture in order to keep up with this new participatory age, this is essential for media to prosper and grow.

Some contemporary media producers and institutions have begun to see the advantages to participatory culture. They see that the new digital age will not destroy them but rather it is a unique opportunity to get inside the audience’s minds and figure out what they really want. They can cater directly to their fan base, which can then through social media encourage others to view and participate. This essay will explore this idea in the next paragraph. A perfect example of the producer working with the audience is the epic super villain musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog created by Joss Whedon.  This was an effort to work with the audience to create something small and inexpensive, yet professionally done and was designed specifically for internet streaming. It was a fantastic piece of work by a great producer and is one of this author’s favourite movies. It went on to win seven awards which was more than anyone believed possible at the time. Joss Whedon originally created the idea and put it out there to the audience.  Being a participatory culture in the new digital age we were not only able to see what was going to be created but we could contribute to it. We did what any active audience would do; we spread the word, created fan pages, wrote about it on Twitter and Facebook, “rocked some banners” (The Master Plan, n.d., para 17) and generally had fun with the idea.  It turned out to be a huge success which in itself proves that if you work with your audience to create new things catered to them, not only will they ‘love you forever’ but they will support the work any way they can. This type of work shows that as an active audience we do hold a certain measure of power over the large media institutions; however this power can be overcome by working with the audience instead of against them.

This essay aimed to show that the idea of the ‘active audience’ has changed modern media and the power is now held by the audience instead of media institutions.  In order to demonstrate, this essay has discussed the shift in the way we consume media, how the ‘active audience’ can change media through remix and remediation and finally show that some contemporary institutions are participating with their audience and producing work that caters to them.


References:

Bolter, J.D. (1999). Remediation: understanding the new media. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.

Burgess, J. (2006). Re-mediating Vernacular Creativity: Digital Storytelling. First Person: International Digital Storytelling Conference. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/3776/1/3376.pdf

Collins, S.(2008). Recovering fair use. M/C Media Culture, 11. Retrieved from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/105

Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. n.d. Retrieved from http://drhorrible.com/

Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog – The Master Plan. n.d. Retrieved from http://drhorrible.com/plan/

Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog Facebook Page. n.d. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/drhsingalongblog

Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog Twitter Page. n.d. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/drhorrible

Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog Wiki. n.d. Retrieved from http://drhorrible.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Horrible%27s_Sing-Along_Blog

Jenkins, H. (2009). Henry Jenkins on Transmedia. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://cinematech.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/great-video-w-henry-jenkins-on.html

Lemley, M. (2011). Is the sky falling on the content industries? Journal of Telecommunications and High
Technology Law, 9, 125-313. Retrieved from http://www.jthtl.org/content/articles/V9I1/JTHTLv9i1_Lemley.PDF

Lievrouw, L. (2006). Oppositional and activist new media: remediation, reconfiguration, participation. New York, USA: ACM.

xplanevisualthinking. (2009, September 14). Did You Know 4.0. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ILQrUrEWe8

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