Individuals’ use of wed-based interactive websites isn’t just restricted to social interaction and wikipedia.. The shrewder of Internet users out there can now become globally recognised, a familiar face in the sea of faces, if you like. There are several ways of doing it. The first would be to make a video of yourself and post it on a video hosting website, something which is accessible to millions of people worldwide and nearly always free- therefore a way of getting instant recognition.
Like Facebook, this is only a recent phenomenon, but one which is becoming increasingly popular amongst Internet users.
The range of videos you can make is seemingly limitless and these so-called video blogs (or vblogs for short) can make stars out of the people who are in them. A famous example is Chris Crocker, a young American kid who defended Britney Spears after she was on the receiving end of worldwide negative press. He became a star overnight; he was interviewed on CNN and ABC, he has been on various American chat shows, and he even has his own line of “Leave Britney Alone” merchandise.
It is ironic, of course, that the unwitting star of this cult video should be interviewed by well-established American news stations- the sign of just how big vlogging has got and an indication that the media pendulum has swung somewhat- suddenly, it is the people who make the second-hand media, the vloggers, that are now stars in their own rights. Surely this is a true symbol of people truly embracing, truly “becoming”, the media.
In one of his interviews he says
‘I actually had no idea that any of this was going on. I went to the grocery store after I posted it, not even five hours afterwards. An old woman in the grocery store said she saw it on (TV). From then it kind of snowballed’ (4) (Chris Crocker interviewed on MSNBC website). It took just five hours for this everyday American teen to gain national and global recognition, a clear indication that people have truly embraced the media.
Another way of getting fame and fortune via these Web 2.0 applications is sharing music. Napster, a web 1.0 P2P file-sharing website was the first to share website to allow people to share music, but recognised artists were generally the only ones who were shared on a regular basis. Then MySpace came along. Some of the biggest acts of in recent years started off on myspace promoting their music in order to move up the ladder to possible global superstardom. One band who epitomise the MySpace music sharing generation is The Arctic Monkeys, who were just four everyday young lads from Sheffield who started off sharing their music on MySpace.
They went on to have the fastest-selling debut album of all-time, largely due to the following they amassed as relative unknowns using the Internet to promote their material. Louis Collard writes: ‘MySpace represents a huge marketing opportunity for artists, and given the essentially zero cost, this is an avenue available to both signed and unsigned artists. Many well known bands, as well as thousands of lesser known and unsigned artists have a MySpace homepage.’ (5) (Collard, date unknown, page 3).
And what he says is true; MySpace is definitely a huge marketing niche for the average soloist/band, to promote their music to millions of people, for free, and perhaps make it big. That is an opportunity more and more people are going to grasp, as long as MySpace remains free the market is going to widen, because more and more bands will want to exploit the benefits, but the niche will get smaller because there are so many bands about who sound the same. Innovation is the key in this type of technology, if you can release something unheard of, like the social realism of the Arctic Monkeys, then you are half-way to making it; you’ve just got to promote your work enough and work hard to achieve goals.
Is the fact that these Web 2.0 applications are so successful, and so globally utilised, a sign that the motto “Don’t hate the media, become the media” is being employed a lot more, (maybe not as consciously as the Indymedia organisations but probably as much as them) as more people see the benefits of the media, and not the drawbacks? There are, in my opinion, several factors that are benefiting the average person- the fact that these utilities are free, the fact that these utilities can be used and recognised globally and the fact that these utilities are highly interactive make them an ever-popular medium.
Finally, after years of living in the producers’ spotlight, the consumers have a say how things are ran, and the line between producer/publisher is becoming more and more blurry by the day. Paradoxically, the consumer becomes a producer, whilst still remaining a consumer too, when promoting their music on MySpace for example, a clear indication that the line between producer and consumer is sketchy. An IBM report states: ‘Media consumers, to varying degrees, will be increasingly involved in the creative process. These shifts toward a pervasive media environment will evoke major changes in media and entertainment companies by 2010. Media companies will need new strategies to respond to emerging media experiences and consumption behaviours.’ (6) (IBM report, various authors, 2004)
Even the large companies are acknowledging that there is going to be a gradual change in the future and that the consumer will become increasingly involved in the near future. The trends certainly show no sign of declining, as more and more people gain access to the Internet, and sign up for interactive satellite TV., newer applications will be made available. Who truly knows what lies in store for the media in the future?
It is too difficult to envisage what new interactive mediums people will dream of next, but there is no doubt that the next big phenomenon to take the Internet by storm will involve an element of interactivity. Not always made by the people but powered and popularised by them, interactive forms of media are a true sign that people have listened to what Jello Biafra said all those years ago and instead of showing animosity to the media, they have truly became the media themselves.
(1) “Cyberactivism”, Martha McCaughey, Michael D. Ayers, Routledge, 2003, page 60)
(2) Nyland, Marvez, Beck, “Myspace: Social Networking or Social Isolation?”, 2007,http://www.gentletyrants.com/wpcontent/uploads/2007/03/Nyland_Myspace%20isolation.pdf, (accessed 17/11/2008)
(3) Maness, Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and Its Implications for Libraries 2006, http://www.webology.ir/2006/v3n2/a25.html, (accessed 17/11/08)