Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Assistant Professor
University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies

Book release: Bastard Culture!

This book analyses the constituents of the emerging participatory culture and provides a perspective that is not blurred by either utopian or cultural pessimistic assumptions. Although new media practices challenge some established business models, it does not necessarily make the industries exploiting those models disappear. In the cultural industries, traditional companies not only adapt and attempt to change business models accordingly or develop new ways of earning revenues; it is also evident that new enterprises emerge and gain control over cultural production and intellectual property in a manner very similar to the monopolistic media corporations of the 20th century. This book describes the consequences of user participation as an extension of the cultural industries.

Analysing the role of technology reveals discursive elements inscribed into technical design and how it can either repress or stimulate certain media practices. These practices are then analysed in case studies, which clarify to what extent users actually participate in design development, and to what extent companies, users, and technology are interconnected. An extensive set of case studies shows how participatory culture unfolds heterogeneously between a multitude of users, various corporations, communities and organizations, and different mindsets and social contexts. It reveals extensions of the cultural industries into the realm of users. The user activities show a twofold meaning of user participation: explicit and implicit participation. The explicit participation becomes most easily recognizable in the deliberate and conscious appropriation of products on the fringes of the cultural industries. Users change software-based consumer goods by altering their original  design. Software design and user appropriation reveal processes of interaction between the many participants in contemporary media practice: the often accidental collaboration or the many conflicts caused by user activities lead to the collisions of old business models with new practices.

While old business models struggle with the explicit participation of users, new business models thrive on the implicit participation of users. Here, user activities are embedded into the software design of web applications benefiting from what users do with and on those platforms. Simply through using social media platforms and Web 2.0 applications users create value and often actively contribute to the improvement of services and information management.

The possible dynamics of user-producer relations are analysed in terms of confrontation, implementation and integration. These dynamics raise debates on the regulation and legalization of emerging computer applications and user activities, and in turn, this regulation and legalization shape society’s perception of these technologies. The interactions between users and corporations, and the connectivity between markets and media practices, are inherently intertwined and constitute something I have brashly dubbed ‘bastard culture’ to indicate how the most heterogeneous participants and practices are blended together.

Download page of Bastard Culture! How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011.

Date February 2011 Category News

Last week Amsterdam University Press released my book Bastard Culture! How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production. Published under a Creative Commons license, the entire book is available as download. The book is an updated and expanded version of my 2008 dissertation and includes a new chapter on the discourse on 'social media'. My aim in this project has been to deconstruct the ideological connotation of participation and to offer a pragmatic view on technology and media practices in digital culture.

2000 - 2022 Mirko Tobias Schäfer

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