Today’s digital products: merely 1 Hit Wonders


(A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269)

Eggo Mueller’s effusive description of the Internet’s dissolution of “barriers between producers and audience, professionals and amateurs” (Mueller, 2009) alludes to the seemingly ‘endless’ possibilities offered to ordinary citizens by online publishing and video-sharing sites such as YouTube (Fine, 2008: 92). Or so the popular myth goes. While our digital era democratises cultural production through greater access to interactive digital media, it also evokes the common assumption that online media has become an open ‘platform’ for DIY celebrities to expose their creative works. Burgess and Green, in their article ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’, explore the mainstream media’s popular discourse: YouTube’s plethora of amateur videos and raw talent, coupled with digital distribution, converts directly to media fame (Burgess & Green, 2009: 21). If this is the case, can any YouTube user become an instant music star or celebrity? Attracting more than 112 million U.S viewers to its site, together with an estimated 6.6 billion video’s streamed alone in January 2010 (Olufunmilayo, 2010: 432), YouTube has certainly emerged as a pivotal player in the mainstream media landscape (Burgess & Green, 2009: 14). However, if ‘real’ celebrity is defined by the individual’s ability to hold power and earn an income, it is apparent that DIY celebrity, with its huge exposure but no support, is a very different experience.


Perhaps you are familiar with YouTube vlogger Lonelygirl 15 whose diary-like accounts of a troublesome relationship with her parents and everyday teenage angst between 2006-2008 relished a strong currency amongst YouTube viewers and generated an estimated 300,000 views per episode (Burgess & Green, 2009: 272). Or perhaps your niche for entertainment lies with the amusing parodies of singer-song writer Dave Days?

Each candidate was, in many ways, successful in using YouTube as an outlet to expose their creativity and concerns. However, their transition to celebrity status, along with many others, was limited due to their inability to access the modes of representation by the mass media (Burgess & Green, 2009: 22). Online sites have in many ways facilitated avenues for ordinary citizens to be hauled into the spotlight and receive temporary recognition by mass media outlets. Yet this access and visibility touched on by media outlets is more or less a transient and fleeting type of fame, which underlies the power of ‘demoticisation’ on everyday lives. The level of notoriety achieved by such YouTube celebrities is clearly limited in its nature, defined by Turner as “ordinary celebrity”, and confined to a small niche of on-line media users for a distinct period of time.

As Burgess and Green point out:

“YouTube has its own internal system of celebrity based on and reflecting values that don’t necessarily match up neatly with those of the dominant media.”  (2009: 24)

In these ways, individuals that manage to achieve a degree of fame on YouTube fail to achieve the ‘transfer of power’ evident in the process of ‘democratization’.

So how do individuals transcend the limitations of the ordinary media to achieve a more lasting celebrity status? Burgess & Green observe the ways YouTube’s international character and networked social medium offer a vehicle for self-promotion, commercialization and a potential launching pad to stardom. Celebrity YouTuber Dave Days, with his YouTube Channel ‘Hi Let’s Kick It Kick It’, confirms Burgess and Green’s statement that “a star youtuber can only be achieved by ongoing participation in Youtube.” (2009: 24) By being able to transcend YouTube by developing an external website, he is able to establish a separate identity and potentially segue into a more commercially viable existence through advertising. Yet it must be remembered that YouTube offers only a potential rather than an actuality. Whilst the production and exposure of vernacular video enables users to break away from YouTube’s internal system of celebrity, the myth of DIY celebrity truly manifests itself in the need for YouTube videos to pass through the “gate-keeping mechanisms” of traditional media. This was indeed applicable with teenage singing sensation Justin Bieber and Greyson Chance’s rise to fame, where each respective artist achieved revenue, recognition and prominence through attracting the eye of industry professionals and subsequent record contracts.



Burgess, J & Green, J (2009) ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press

Fine, G (2008) ‘Everybody’s Business’ The Wilson Quarterly 31(1): 92-94

Olufunmilayo, B (2010) ‘YouTube, UCG, And Digital Music: Competing Business and Cultural Models in the Internet Age, Northwestern Law Review 104(2): 431:450

Muller, E (2009), ‘Where Quality Matters: Discourses on the Art of Making a YouTube Video’, in Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau (eds) The YouTube Reader, Stockholm: National Library of Sweden




Has blogging become merely a vehicle for self-expression?

Week 7: B)

Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a blog. Specify chosen argument in your answer.

Are blogs anything more than diary entries, in which people can openly document their thoughts about personal experiences? In many ways, blogs confirm this assumption of popular discourse, functioning as an updated web archive of unedited personal reflections and insight into the author’s internal state (Boyd 2005: 7). As public and private realms fuse with the rise of the blogosphere and Web 2.0’s widespread interactive culture, commentators ponder the motivations behind blogging? Do blogs offer an easy platform for exhibitionism? (Gurak, 2008: 64) Or are they a vehicle for self-expression? Counter to contemporary rhetoric that blogs offer a communal space for users to collaborate freely, Lovink observes that they deny community ideals, by concentrating principally and self-consciously on the author’s self (Lovink, 2007: 28). It is no wonder that Foucault cynically describes blogging as a “technology of the self” (2007: 6).

According to a 2006 Pew Internet Report, the most popular topic among bloggers was “me” (Gurak, 2008: 63). Just take a look at the post-adolescent blog by 20 year-old Jessyca, entitled ‘Forever Miss Vanity’. Written by an ordinary person, for a small audience, this blog appears to be driven by the Jessyca’s desire to showcase her new ‘look’ having battled teenage weight issues. However, her social inadequacy is apparent by her self-conscious references and photographs in various poses and outfits. Built out of negative impulses, and an exclusion from social norms, she indirectly expresses her desire to fit in with the consumerist values of contemporary teenage society. In fact, much of her content is derived from individualistic impulses, to shop and dress like a celebrity.

This blog is inspired by her need to work through emotional issues. A closer look at Jessyca’s About Me page reveals how we get to know “the real” her by following her passions for fashion and beauty. Certainly, in today’s global Internet culture, there is a strong desire for users to have a voice and step into celebrity’s shoes. Nardi states that blogs have come to symbolize radio shows (Nardi, 2004: 1). Has the blogosphere become part of wider celebrity cult culture? (Lovink, 2007: 28) In one aspect of her blog, Jessyca interweaves a shot of her wearing underwear with images of bikini models. The contrasting images reflect her own inadequacy and invoke the rhetoric of self-help manuals, where she states, “I’m pretty confident with my body”, (Forever Miss Vanity Blog). While the overriding tone of the blog is upbeat, there is a darker undercurrent of failure that runs through her postings. Thus, Jessyca’s blog illustrates West’s “somber picture of personal depression” within today’s Youth Culture, showing how media platforms ignite a form of escapism (Lovink, 2007: 30).

In strengthening the argument that blogs are a tool for the self, it must be remembered that blogging services offer the possibility of switching off comments. (Lovink, 2007: 28). While Weinberger states that blogs are “better understood as conversations”, Lovink counters that this ‘conversation culture’ consists merely of messages posted by the irrelevant ‘Other’ (2007: 28). The negative impulses that drive blogging, such as insecurity and narcissism do not recognize community values. Driven by individualistic impulses, much blog content is emotional rants about mundane experiences. McIntosh builds upon Levink’s concern for blogging’s neglect of the communal space, by stating that blog topics are of little interest to people other than the blogger and their immediate family (Mcintosh).


Boyd, D. (2005), Broken Metaphors: Blogging as Liminal Practice, 28 May [date accessed]

Forever Miss Vanity (2010), Forever Miss Vanity blog, 2 June, [date accessed]

Gurak, L. (2008) ‘The Psychology of Blogging: You, Me, and Everyone in Between’, American Behavioral Science, 52(1): 60-68

Lovink, G. (2007) ‘Blogging, The Nihilistic Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp.1-38

Nardi, B. (2004) ‘Blogging as Social Activity, or, Would You Let 900 Million People Read Your Diary?’ CHI Letters, 6(3): 222-231

Pew Internet and American Life Project. (2006), Internet penetration and impact. 2 June, [date accessed]

Got that itching desire to login into Facebook when you turn on your computer? It’s time to get some ‘self control’.

In today’s digital metropolis, where social networks, online-sharing video sites and updates to our blog consume most of our daily attention – do we have the self-control to stop, and say no? In his article ‘Cyber war on hearts and minds’ found in Thursday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Bill Keller argues that “the most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions”. In many ways, he is correct. Endowing users with the opportunity to contribute, communicate and participate, and through various modes of digital technology, such as Iphone applications, Keller observes how our network society no longer holds an ambient presence (Keller, 2010: 2). I agree. Personal information and relationship updates on Facebook have indeed become a social currency and form of hierarchy (Boyd, 2008: 17). It’s similarly hard to ignore live Twitter updates about Gillard’s predictions for the budget. Think how compelling it is to be constantly switched on and never logged off.

In an increasingly common moment of distraction from my ever-growing mountain of university work, I came across the application ‘SelfControl’. Steve Lambert’s free-to-download Mac OS X application might just have the answer to our addiction. The software, available to Mac computers allows users to block access to websites, whatever your poison might be, for a predetermined period of time. While still able to use other websites, this application gives us that little self-control which the web ultimately steals from us. In an obscure way, it is interesting to consider how the technology, which ultimately disciplines us to resist our online distractions, is ironically created by the very same technology that tempts us.







Boyd, D (2008) Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14(1): 13-20

Keller, B (2011) Cyberwar on Hearts and Minds Accessed hard copy May 22, 2011


Today’s digital landcape: how ‘online communities’ are really formed?

Week 3

While discussing YouTube, Jose van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’?

The impact of user-generated content (UGC) platforms on today’s new digital landscape has positioned users as ‘internet contributors’ (van Dijck, 2009: 41) with the power to participate within a collective culture and play an active role in the shaping of media content (Jenkins, 2006: 24). Video-sharing sites, such as ‘YouTube’, in many ways confirm this ‘new technological paradigm’ offering users a platform to produce, share and comment upon videos. As such these sites build a sense of ‘community’ and social network amongst its users. Yet, Jose van Dijk breaks away from this popular discourse that power rests with user agency, by suggesting that the notion of ‘online community’, based on democratic ideals and shared interests, is in fact a manipulated forum, vulnerable to promotional tactics and the influence of coded mechanisms, such as ranking tactics, that direct individual choices.

So what constitutes a community within the digital culture? On the surface, we can identify ‘community’ as a group, who share and coincide in a common interest. These groups, that manifest themselves in both online and everyday contexts, are structured around cultural experiences, tastes in entertainment brands or a specific tie with a particular social group (Hennion 2007).

Van Dijck acknowledges that the much-celebrated Web 2.0’s facilitation of a participatory culture and user-led experiences of sharing and interacting with media content have assisted in the formation of group identities. However, she theorizes community engagement is something of a misnomer, as it is the site’s interface that really facilitates the experience of community, operating as a significant player in steering users and manipulating the formations of ‘online communities’ (van Dijck 2009: 45). Burgess similarly attributes YouTube’s dynamic participatory culture to the site’s underlying architecture  (Burgess, NF). Digitally designed within an algorithm rating and coded system, the site’s largely co-created media space is facilitated by coded properties, which in turn measure download counts, rankings and ratings of each video (van Dijck, 2009: 45). As such, this enables YouTube’s content to be re-produced for the interpretation of users, (Burgess & Green, 2008: 2) while at the same time structuring the site’s interface into series of categories to influence the popularity of videos: ‘Most Viewed’, ‘Top Favourited’ and ‘Top Rated’ (van Dijck, 2009: 45).

Yet, a closer look at YouTube’s ranking tactics system, reveal the unwittingly pivotal role played by the site’s users as contributors and mediators of content (2009: 45). Burgess and Green argue that whether uploading, viewing, commenting or ranking, online users unconsciously assist in the network of creative practice and sharing (Burgess & Green, 2008: 2). Think about the many times you have been searching for a title or tag on YouTube, and are subsequently teased into exploring the ‘Videos recommended for you’ or ‘Related videos? (Rodrygo et al, 2006: 2). It is this automated update of similar videos that appears to the right of the video, which highlights YouTube’s indirect control over the formation of its online network.

Certainly, the significant role played by a site’s interface will inevitably limit the organic creation of a community. The algorithmic functions and systems are mechanisms that link users and manipulate their connections But is this a “profound problem”, as suggested by van Dijk? I think we can all agree that the formations of communities often require some degree of facilitation. If this process is ultimately driven by individual choices and preferences, what is the problem?


Burgess, J and Green, J (2008) Agency and Controversy in the YouTube Community 2 June, [date accessed]

Burgess, J and Green, J (2009) YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, 1 June [date accessed]

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hennion, A (2007) ‘Those Things that Hold Us Together: Taste and Sociology’, Cultural Sociology 1(1): 97-114

Santos, R et al (2006). Characterizing the YouTube video-sharing community 24 May, [date accessed]

Van Dijck, J. (2009) ‘Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content’ Media Culture Society 31: 41-58

Do we have any control over our identity on Facebook’s social networking site?

Following three high profile AFL players’ recent and unconscious decision to be added to Facebook group, ‘The Brocial Network’, concerns surrounding Facebook’s vulnerable privacy settings have once-again come under scrutiny (The Age). The highly publicized “men only” group, which attracted 8000 members during its two-week long course, featured erotic photos of young women without their consent (Brisbane Times). In an effort to attract a widespread membership, members were asked to “trawl friend’s social media sites for salacious images of women”. Once criticized for having too complex privacy settings, (where it was necessary to click more that 50 buttons) in order to make sure your information was secure, the new ‘simpler’ privacy controls, created by Zuckerberg in May 2010, have one-again miscalculated an important factor: the way that friends may be added to groups without their knowledge, thereby associating them with particular values and social mores.

According to online website ‘’, Facebook users can be added to a group by those designated as friends at the social network. As the new group functionality does not facilitate the control of approving a group membership, we could find ourselves unwittingly conscripted to a group, just like these players. Perhaps its time to get on the bandwagon and voice our concerns to Zuckerberg!

Lecture 2.0 YouTube and online video: merely a platform for ‘self-promotion’

Lecture 2.0 YouTube and online video: merely a platform for ‘self-promotion’.

This blog post engages with the idea that ‘Youtube’, contrary to what most believe, is merely a platform to ‘broadcast yourself’ and does not guarantee celebrity status in the mainstream media and industry. The author puts forward an interesting argument. She states that whilst ‘Youtube’ has the ‘potential’ to launch ordinary citizens into the spotlight, via online amateur videos, they ultimately don’t achieve celebrity status until they pass through the mainstream media and earn a revenue. In many instances, these online creations remain within the system of ‘native celebrity’. She cleverly uses the example of teenage singing sensation Justin Bieber to support her argument. Bieber successfully used ‘Youtube’ as a tool for self-promotion, but as the author observes, needed to pass through “the gate keeping mechanisms of the old media”, such as record deals to receive true celebrity status. Overall, I thought this was an informative and engaging argument about the quite marginal role ‘Youtube’ plays in facilitating ‘true’ celebrity status.

Check out the blog:

Am I on record? Zuckerberg’s struggle to balance sharing with privacy.

 Analyze critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices. 


‘When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable sharing more. When people share more the world becomes more open and connected. And in a more open world many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.’


Am I on record? Zuckerberg’s struggle to balance sharing with privacy.

Can privacy exist in our media-saturated, socially-orientated network society? Although Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg sidelines this precise issue in his May 2010 on-line statement, he does attempt to reassure us all that information can be “controlled” even while it is being “shared”. In a somewhat paradoxical statement, he compellingly argues that ‘sharing’ information facilitates an open and connected society to allow us to solve many of the world biggest problems together. Do we buy it, or is this merely a publicity stunt prompted by the criticism leveled at Facebook’s invasion of basic privacy rights?

In many ways, Zuckerberg’s direct address of privacy concerns defies the basic ideology that drives Facebook. Since its inception, Facebook has celebrated the premise of openness and connectivity as the cornerstones of the most effective social networking site ever conceived (Zuckerberg, 2009). This ideology remains enshrined in the network’s functioning. As Zuckerberg would have it: if personal information has become a currency of social connectivity, then why do people want to hide?

Zuckerberg believes that most people want to share more about themselves online. He’s almost paternalistic in describing the trend.”


For this reason, Facebook’s default setting makes most of its information public, thus forcing users to ‘opt out’ if they wish to keep this information private (Bilton, 2010: 1). The negative connotations of this set-up make the privacy-seeking user feel they are an outsider, somehow failing to embrace the social milieu. Apart from this more emotional concern, protecting one’s privacy is difficult and as Bilton argues, not entirely effective either, as certain pieces of information, such as ‘Account Settings’ and ‘Community pages’, require further action if they are to be protected (2010: 1). Although Zuckerberg suggests that he has made the protection of privacy “simpler” and “more effective”, the onus remains on the individual user to seek out this protection, and activate it.

A critical examination of Zuckerberg’s statement sheds light on the larger matrix of privacy concerns exposed, by the explosion of online social networking sites (SNS’s) onto Web 2.0’s participatory platform. Although SNS’s endow users with the opportunity to communicate and ‘stay connected’ in an ‘open’ and interactive culture, it also potentially exposes them to a barrage of privacy concerns including online scrutiny, identity and reputation theft, within largely open but obscure frameworks. Perhaps you are familiar with the recent controversy surrounding ‘The Brocial Network’, a Facebook group, dedicated to the circulation of young women’s exposed photos (Iriving, 2011: 1). Zuckerberg’s address certainly alludes to an area of vulnerability, invoked by need for a greater control over information within today’s network society and online social networking collaborative practices.

How is control lost in the process of social convergence? Boyd (2008: 18) argues that the nature of today’s new technology and ‘open source’ software has in many ways disrupted traditional social dynamics and norms. As users have little control of the constant flow of data, they are susceptible to patterns of exposure, and accessibility to social information on their profile pages (Boyd, 2008: 16). This in turn, creates a rift in peoples’ sense of private and public spheres (2008: 14). Upon the launch of Facebook’s 2006 ‘News Feed’, levels of privacy were ruptured, not because the information was now visible, but because the ‘knowing’ was no longer limited or controlled (2008: 18). Facebook users felt exposed and invaded by the architectural shift, with 700,000 people voicing their frustration through ‘Students Against Facebook News Feeds’ Group.

Of course, the situation has evolved considerably since 2006. Yet even after the privacy-protecting changes introduced in 2010, privacy concerns remain. Indeed, new privacy concerns have mounted, following the inception of third-party application, which allows its developers to retrieve user’s phone numbers and addresses” (Cheng, 2011: 1).

Photo taken from

Yet we can’t place all the blame for these privacy concerns on the shoulders of Mark Zuckerberg. Although he has become the pin-up boy for social networking and open communication, the controversy surrounding Facebook is really the symptom of a far greater convergence of public and private worlds within a networked world.


Bilton, N (2010) Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking, 12 May [date accessed]

Boyd, D (2008) ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence, The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14(1): 13-20

Cheng, J (2011) New Privacy concerns for Facebook over phone numbers, addresses,, 19 May [date accessed]

Irving, K (2011) Facebook Trade in Female Videos, 19 May [date accessed]

Zuckerberg, M (2009) An Open Letter from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, 9 May [date accessed]



Bloggers: a watchdog for media elites. But do they inform us?

Week 4

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

In a society where the truth and credibility of news once lay heavily in the arms of the elite media and journalists, I will argue that the new ideals of freedom and transparency privileged by new media have enabled bloggers to use their collective intelligence to challenge the authority and respective new agendas of the mainstream press (Russell et al, 2008: 46). In fact, media theorist Yoachim Benkler suggests that the network society has taken over the watchdog function of the media institutions (Benkler, 2006: 264). Media theorists Russell et al. assert that with the advent of networked journalism facilitated by the Web 2.0 software, DIY media activists and bloggers have facilitated a shift in news power structures, closing the gap between news providers and consumers (Russell, 2008: 136). While regularly criticized for their narcissism and inaccuracy, I will argue that with the evolution of the blogosphere, blogs have come to assume a vital role in the creation and dissemination of news. The blogosphere provides an alternative, collaborative and dynamic source of information and opinion to that of dominant cultural norms and mainstream news content (2008: 66).

A closer focus of Western media’s coverage of the Iraq war over the past decade has often presented a one-sided analysis and depiction of events, for instance, Howard’s praise for the Bush administration and spin on Hussein’s WMD’s (Lowenstein, 2008: 3). In Lowenstein’s book ‘The Blogging Revolution’, he explores how “journalists had become cheerleaders for the war, not critical skeptics”. With Murdoch Empire’s owning close to 70% of the country’s papers, freedom of expression is at risk, as journalists are pressured to comply with popular discourses defined by corporate conglomerates. It is within this climate of media control, that bloggers take on a vital role shown by their coverage of Middle East issues (2008: 3). Lowenstein states that the “responsive and inclusive” structure of blogs prompted the Western public to criticize and challenge the popular stance of media institutions (2008: 4), with citizens’ diverse opinions: “pro-war, anti-war…and undecided” (2008: 5).

Bloggers become particularly significant within repressive societies, which implement the mainstream media to control and manipulate their people. Lowenstein argues that in hostile societies such as the Islamic Republic, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, “blogs gave a young, predominantly middle class population the change to voice their concerns for the first time”. Are you aware of the manifestations surrounding youth activism in Egypt? Upheavals against exclusion and radicalizing policies towards youth have manifested themselves in an outspoken bloggers movement (Foreign Policy Blog, 2011: 1). In challenging official reports delivered to the international community by mainstream media, blogs are a subversive platform, pivotal in facilitating change and altering perceptions of their audience.


Not only do bloggers complement mainstream news, media commentator Jeff Jarvis describes that networked, or ‘citizen’ journalism assists different media forms in ‘making the news’ (Lowenstein, 2008: 7). Responding to demands for ‘local’ stories, a BBC report has identified blogs as a powerful tool in generating international awareness of the 2007 uprisings in Burma. Specifically, Ko Htike has transformed his “once-literary blog into a virtual news agency” to “tell the outside world what is happening on the streets of Rangoon, Mandalay and Pakokku” (Holmes, 2007). His information, pictures and video footage, collected from eyewitness accounts would not have been accessible without the handful of bloggers capturing it on their technologies and mobile devices (Lowenstein, 2008:  9).


Benkler, Y (2006) The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom Yale. New Haven: University Press

Deibert, A (2011). In Egypt, social media fuels the evolution of revolution, 11 May [date accessed]

Htike, K (2007), Ko Htike Blogspot, 10 May [date accessed]

Holmes, S. (2007), ‘Burma’s Cyber Dissents’ 10 May [date accessed]

Lowenstein, A (2008) The Blogging Revolution Melbourne: University Press

Russell, A et al. (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’ in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press