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Bastard Culture. User participation and the extension of cultural industries

Bastard Culture. User participation and the extension of cultural industries

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The computer and particularly the Internet have been represented as enabling technologies, turning consumers into users and users into producers. The unfolding online cultural production by users has been framed enthusiastically as participatory culture. But while many studies of user activities and the use of the Internet tend to romanticize emerging media practices, Mirko Tobias Schäfer steps beyond the usual framework and analyzes user participation in the context of accompanying popular and scholarly discourse, as well as the material aspects of design, and their relation to the practices of design and appropriation. Schäfer argues that participatory culture is rather a dynamic interaction of users and companies, discourses and technologies. The availability of computers and Internet expand the traditional culture industry into the domain of users, who actively participate in cultural production, either by appropriating products from the commercial domain or by creating their owns. But while user activities constitute a significant loss of control for certain sectors of traditional media industries, especially in the area of distribution, the larger culture industry benefits from user driven innovation through the appropriation of corporate design. Furthermore, the media industry undergoes a shift from creating content to providing platforms for user driven social interactions and user-generated content. In this extended culture industry participation unfolds not only in the cocreation of media content and software-based products, but also in the development and defense of distinctive media practices that represent a sociopolitical understanding of new technologies.
The computer and particularly the Internet have been represented as enabling technologies, turning consumers into users and users into producers. The unfolding online cultural production by users has been framed enthusiastically as participatory culture. But while many studies of user activities and the use of the Internet tend to romanticize emerging media practices, Mirko Tobias Schäfer steps beyond the usual framework and analyzes user participation in the context of accompanying popular and scholarly discourse, as well as the material aspects of design, and their relation to the practices of design and appropriation. Schäfer argues that participatory culture is rather a dynamic interaction of users and companies, discourses and technologies. The availability of computers and Internet expand the traditional culture industry into the domain of users, who actively participate in cultural production, either by appropriating products from the commercial domain or by creating their owns. But while user activities constitute a significant loss of control for certain sectors of traditional media industries, especially in the area of distribution, the larger culture industry benefits from user driven innovation through the appropriation of corporate design. Furthermore, the media industry undergoes a shift from creating content to providing platforms for user driven social interactions and user-generated content. In this extended culture industry participation unfolds not only in the cocreation of media content and software-based products, but also in the development and defense of distinctive media practices that represent a sociopolitical understanding of new technologies.

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Published by: Mirko Tobias Schaefer on Dec 02, 2008
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Mirko Tobias Schäfer

Bastard Culture!

User participation and the extension of cultural industries

by Mirko Tobias Schäfer

This text is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-
No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share, copy,
distribute, transmit the work.

Printed by All Print Utrecht, The Netherlands

ISBN 978-90-393-4973-1

Bastard Culture!

User participation and the extension of cultural industries

User-Partizipation und die Ausweitung der Kulturindustrien
(mit einer Zusammenfassung in deutscher Sprache)

User-participatie en de uitbreiding van de culturele industrie.
(met een samenvatting in het Nederlands)

Proefschrift

ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor aan de Universiteit Utrecht op gezag
van de rector magnificus, prof. dr. J.C. Stoof, ingevolge het besluit van het
college voor promoties in het openbaar te verdedigen op maandag 1
december 2008 des middags te 12.45 uur

door

Mirko Tobias Schäfer

geboren op 15 maart 1974 te Tübingen am Neckar, Duitsland

Promotor: Prof. dr. F. E. Kessler

Co-promotor: Dr. J. F.F. Raessens

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments...............................................................7
Introduction........................................................................................13
Yet another media revolution?.........................................................13
Don't believe the hype!....................................................................21
Analyzing participatory culture.........................................................25
Structure........................................................................................38
1. Promising revolutionary change........................................................41
Cisco Systems: Empowering the Internet Generation..........................52
2. Cultural critique and media technology.............................................59
2.1 New Media, new participation?.................................................69
2.2 Domains of user participation....................................................77
2.3 Explicit and implicit participation................................................85
2.4 Tracking technology in media practice........................................89
3. Enabling/averting participation........................................................93
3.1 The Computer..........................................................................97
3.2 Software................................................................................109
Software is in-material..............................................................110
Software is modular.................................................................115
Software is tentative..................................................................118
3.3 The Internet...........................................................................125
4. Bastard Culture............................................................................135
4.1 Hacking electronic consumer goods.........................................139
The Trail of the XDK.................................................................144
A Penguin on Bill's black box: the Xbox Linux Project....................160
Hacking the AIBO and teaching Sony to back off........................167
Heterogeneous participation.....................................................178
4.2 Participation as default design.................................................183
Managing information and social interaction..............................188
Floating archives......................................................................198
Hybrid participation..................................................................209
5. The extension of the culture industry................................................215
5.1 Confrontation: Fighting participation........................................223
Modchips, gray markets and big business...................................233
Open-source software, from hobbyists to business.......................236
Music and movies, the unbearable lightness of P2P.....................242
5.2 Implementation: designing participation...................................255
Trapped on Death Star. Let the fans do the work.........................259
Hosting File Sharing, Thriving on Piracy......................................262
Participation inside: the Web 2.0...............................................264
5.3 Integration: embracing participation.........................................273

Developing software: Google Maps...........................................274
Spreading music: Last.fm..........................................................278
Creating knowledge: Wikipedia.................................................282

Conclusion:
Challenges for a participatory culture.................................................289
Understanding Participation...........................................................289
Shaping Society............................................................................292
Resources........................................................................................299
Literature.........................................................................................301
Appendix A, Abbreviations.................................................................317
Appendix B, Glossary........................................................................319
Zusammenfassung............................................................................325
Samenvatting...................................................................................327
Curriculum Vitae...............................................................................331

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