“The beauty of UGC is that anyone can come and make what they want. Sell it. Distribute it. Whatever. So it keeps going without anyone needing to maintain it. The UGC becomes the appeal” – A consumer of UGC.
User generated content – or to put it in layman’s terms, stuff that’s contributed by the public – is constantly being hailed as a fantastic, all inclusive, undeniably positive force for good. Praise is heaped upon it in all directions, look here , here , here , here and here for just a few examples.
So just who is this ‘user’ then? Technically speaking, we’ve all got the ‘ability’ to contribute, but that’s exactly the point, technically we can, it’s there, it’s free, it’s (relatively) easy to use, but in reality, “we” is probably a restrictive term.
Let’s look at this very medium, blogging. Obviously this is not something I can know for definite, but judging from my own use of blogs, every one I’ve ever read has been written by someone fairly well educated, with something interesting to say and written articulately (so probably middle – upper class then). Hopefully, if you’ve got this far in this, the same applies to every blog you’ve ever read too.
So why aren’t we finding stuff from lower down the class scale? Well, maybe it’s an intellectual confidence thing. People might be stuck in the mindset that “I am not a writer” and so therefore my opinions aren’t wanted.
What about who’s reading these blogs? Is it more middle-class educated people, or is that reaching a wider audience, because if not, we’re not interacting between the groups, and we’re probably just talking to ourselves.
Last week I said that journalists don’t like Web 2.0 because it’s taking away from their job. But perhaps that statement was a bit too general. Thinking about it again, if certain sections of society are indeed shying away from blogging, then, surely, there’s always going to be the role of the journalist.
But why am I banging on about blogging? UGC is so, so, so much more than that. Perhaps what is truly the most democratised used element of UGC is citizen photography/video. We’ve all seen images – both online and in the traditional media – from users, and indeed some of the most poignant images come from them. Not only that, but they’re instant, and more importantly, they’re real, almost like a point of view.
Should we encourage more media interaction? It has the potential to educate and inform and make people become more involved with the news, removing the (probably) undeserved God-like status of the journalist – and these are no bad things. But then again, who am I to tell people what to do?
N.B. Special thanks to Luke, Jon, Hannah and Sarah for coming to the pub with me to discuss all this stuff – your contributions make me what I am 😉