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Archive for the ‘Active and Passive Audiences’ Category

Do you ever think “who are these people behind the blogs and opinions on the internet”? Since anyone and everyone can write on the internet, unless otherwise indicated, no one can ever truly know who these words are written by, what age they are, what has happened in their lives to bring them to this opinion.

The Web began as a representing a specific domain of viewers, males. This however has begun to change since women now have a major presence online (Neufeld, 1997, p.5). Sites have become more gender neutral to not single any group of individuals out. This, I believe, is a great advancement in society. Since this is online and already available to everyone, why should not it be something that everyone can be allowed to have some interest in? Not everyone may have interest in the subject but at least it is not directed towards only half of the population.

An age group that does not necessarily dominate the majority of users on the web are seniors. However, in the article, Where are Audiences Going?, we learn that “the percentage of seniors with access to computers has increased almost 50 percent in little over a year” (Neufeld, 1997, p.5). If you thought that mainly only those of this ‘Internet Age’ were the ones providing all of this online information we are not entirely correct. As time progresses even those who did not have access to such electronic devices, when they were growing up, are now learning the many different opportunities and possibilities it allows.

I think that this development is good. If only one age group is expressing their views than the masses are not gaining a correct view of things. Many things change from generation to generation and it takes the contrasting and complimenting views of all to create a well balanced idea of a topic.

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The latest phenomeon to hit the world wide web today is the concept of social networking. It seems as though individuals from all parts of the world are logging on to Internet sites including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter in order to connect and in some cases stalk friends, acquatinces and even celebrities. Social networking allows individuals from opposite ends of the world to stay connected and even communicate messages within seconds. Social networking sites including Facebook allow a member to email other “facebook friends”, post photos and videos for all friends to see, as well as particiapate in online games and instanly chat with others. Social netowrking creates an active audience where members are encouraged to be involved and participate in social events. However mind-blowing programs like Facebook may seem to us, we must ask ourselves an important question: Are sites like Facebook more profitable for society, as they allow friends to reunite and reconnect? Or will social networking become an under cover means for individuals to stalk others and distract people from their everyday lives?

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For centuries people have tried to predict the future, whether it be knowing if next season will yield much crop or if a country will fall to ruin. In modern-day, scholars theorize about the next trend or the direction a certain technology will take, however has this turned into a big guessing game? As mentioned in Dr. Strangelove’s Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement, in the early 1990’s Russell Neuman published a book called The Future of Mass Audience. The central argument of this book was that the masses are a passive audience and they would prefer to not interact with the media. In retrospect, it is evident that Neuman was EXTREMELY mistaken. As time progresses, the media becomes overwhelmed with the audiences active participation.  Just to give you an idea of how wrong Neuman was take a look at these facts about Facebook, the #1 social networking site. According to their website, there are:

“more than 350 million active users, 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day, more than 35 million users update their status each day, more than 2.5 billion photos uploaded to the site each month,  more than 3.5 million events created each month, …” (http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics)

Those are only a few of the facts along with many others. These numbers are astronomical and completely contrary to Neuman’s research. We do need to understand that Neuman was only one researcher however it still poses the question; will they [ researchers, scholars, corporations] ever predict us right? Will corporations predict our future correctly or will it be a guessing game only to be revealed in due time?

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The chance for escapism is explained in Michael Strangelove’s book titled The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and The Anti-Capitalist Movement; “while one is never truly free, in cyberspace the individual experiences a greater degree of expressive freedom than is otherwise made available in the meatspaces of capitalism’s social orders” (Strangelove, 1962, p.22). Since there are so many constraints in today’s world, it can be justified why so many people have the need to create an out for themselves. These online audiences now have more “communicative freedoms not previously available within the confines of twentieth-century media” (Strangelove, 1962, p.22) making it very appealing to the mass.

W. Russell Neuman believed that “audiences prefer to not have to interact with the media;” (Strangelove, 1962, p.4) however, 15 years later audiences were very active and not passive when it comes to participating with the media. The masses are no longer watching the commercials during the television breaks but flipping to another channel and watching parts of a different show. The opportunity to express oneself is not given through commercial media but rather over the internet; but through this example, of viewers making the conscious decision to choose what they would like to do and see, we can see that a change is occurring – individuals are taking matters into their own hands.

There are two sides to every coin; therefore it is always in constant debate whether or not this unconstrained expression will be beneficial or harmful to the community. The term, unconstrained expression, is used to describe “a lack of corporate and state control over the production of online content and disclosure;” however, there is not total freedom to express everything that one means because it “is limited by prior socializations, but it is also freed from institutional constraints” (Strangelove, 1962, p.22). Some researchers believe that this unconstrained expression will not last long because the “Internet community will diminish in significance as control is gradually re-established by state and market forces” (Strangelove, 1962, p.10) and therefore it is ok to allow this expression for now. However, the other side believes that the Internet community has been observed for long enough to “safely conclude that it is indeed very difficult to sensor” (Strangelove, 1962, p.10). The difference in opinion is where we will find difficulties in determining what should and should not be expressed and even if that is established, will society to able to enforce this believe onto the whole mass population.

Over the next month we will be discussing both the benefits and weaknesses of allowing the mass the opportunity to express their own opinions over the internet. We shall determine whether or not this is aiding society to grow as a whole or further discontinuing the unity of the masses.

A completed documentary will be enclosed on the Documentary page.

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