Democratisation of the media?

User Generated Content (UGC) is undoubtedly having a massive impact on the journalism industry.  However, when it was suggested that UGC was democratising our media I was reluctant to wholeheartedly agree. 

Of course there are elements of ‘democracy’ in the development of UGC but it is the parallel progression of the ‘me-sphere’ that appears to be hindering what could be an effective way to give consumers a democratic voice. 

With the introduction of technological tools such as RSS feeds consumers are beginning to personalise their news bulletins – something described in lecture one as being ‘dangerous’. Could this group of very specific people be hindering the progression of the democratic media by, perhaps unintentionally, compartmentalising it?  

According to one report a democracy has four specific requirements – which include: the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. 

But again – can a selective group of people commenting on a selective variety of news really be considered a democracy? Or is it simply freedom of speech? Or is freedom of speech a democracy? 

Freedom of speech and expression, especially about political and other public issues, is the lifeblood of any democracy. Democratic governments do not control the content of most written and verbal speech. Thus democracies are usually filled with many voices expressing different or even contrary ideas and opinions.” 

This idea coincides with the idea that user generated content is encouraging a democratisation.

Surely democracies can exist in smaller, more personal communities and if so a democratisation is certainly occurring – but on a lesser scale.

I had a look at my local paper’s website and found some amusing comments from residents against the building of a proposed ice-rink. 

Is this the voice of a democracy? 

Emu, Torbay, 14-Oct-2008 

Captain Beaky, this is for you. Keep your beak out and go and comment on another article.

Frustrated, Newton Abbot, 14-Oct-2008

Emu, how old are you? You are slagging of the young generation…you were young once, yes it would be a good idea to have an ice rink…Your probably a lot older so no it probably wouldnt benefit you and also if you dont like it in Paignton…move!!

matt, torquay 

Well done “frustrated” who cares what the oap brigade want, they are pretty well looked after with bus passes and special rates here there and everywhere, lets give the young a chance. If you dont like it then move to Bournmouth or such like. This town would benefit from an ice rink and would be a viable tourist attraction.

When I first read these comments they seemed ridiculous. But what these people are actually doing is voicing opinions that would previously have been unheard – therefore fueling this democratisation of the media.

A contributor to a blog by Vanessa Fox on the irrelevance of UGC stated: “I’d agree that most people don’t create content, and fewer create content of any quality.”

When I started thinking about this blog I would have agreed with the above quotation. I didn’t really see how an obvious compartmentalisation of the internet could be informing a democracy.

But if we reduce this idea to its basic foundations, in particular looking at the quote from the US Government above, we might say that informing individual ‘me-spheres’ will in the future make consumers more generally informed and more willing to speak up for what they believe thus feeding this media democratisation.

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