KNOCKING OFF YOGI BEAR :Take A No.2 In The New Woods?

Any platform that can be used to trade cat pictures can bring down a government – Ethan Zuckerman. The fundamental questions are all about what this new participatory and convergent culture will be like.

Is participation the new consumption? It is helpful to try to better understand how engagement with participatory culture, especially with fandom, may be teaching the skills and creating identities which can be applied to campaigns for social change; the relations between participatory culture and public participation are collapsing. An example: “Well, say an Avatar fan group became interested in doing some work for social change, work that maybe addresses an issue brought up by the show, such as the environment or native land rights and this could translate into how people who organize around a story they love, can then decide to take some kind of public action.

Russ Fischer:If you’re like me, you’ve got zero interest in seeing Yogi Bear. Which is no big deal — it’s a movie expressly for kids, after all. But what if it had a more adult tone? Hit the jump to see how the end of the film might have played out if Yogi Bear was powered by a more dramatic and violent plot. Paul Scheer informed the world of this clip via Twitter, and lore already going around, in part due to Scheer, is that it is an in-house alternate ending made by the film’s actual animators. But the end of the video clearly says that’s not the case. As the final credits announce, this parody is the brainchild of RISD-educated animator Edmund Earle. A tip of the hat, then, to Mr. Earle, for mixing one of the least interesting films of 2010 with one of the best of 2007.

“Does Yogi Bear lend itself to participatory culture? These complex interrelationships provide the context for public awareness and response to amateur digital cinema production around pop culture figures, no matter how incoherent they may be. This filtering and distortion process has been explored in novel ways almost as a collaboration. For example,  Star Wars fan filmmakers have negotiated a place for themselves somewhere between these two competing trends, trying to co-exist with the mainstream media, while opening up an arena for grassroots creativity. In such a world, fan works can no longer be understood as simply derivative of mainstream materials but must be understood as themselves open to appropriation and reworking by the media industries.

---We hear about people worried about losing control – the reality is you lost it long ago. Consumers can take your content and remix it and share it and publish it almost as publically as you can. You can sue, and shut a few people down, but the genie is out of the bottle. The ability for “us” to control and remake content and republish it at an equivalent quality and fidelity as large media brands is fundamentally and radically different than previous eras of media. But large media and brands have a place as well -all the parodies of the mac ads circulate in part because everyone knows the original. There’s also great innovation going on here in terms of fan practices and how they are cocreating value.---

What is participatory culture ? Patterns of media consumption have been profoundly altered by a succession of new media technologies which enable average citizens to participate in the archiving, annotation, appropriation, transformation, and recirculation of media content. Participatory culture refers to the new style of consumerism that emerges in this environment. If media convergence is to become a viable corporate strategy, it will be because consumers have learned new ways to interact with media content. Not surprisingly, participatory culture is running ahead of the technological developments necessary to sustain industrial visions of media convergence and thus making demands on popular culture which the studios are not yet, and perhaps never will be, able to satisfy. The first and foremost demand consumers make is the right to participate in the creation and distribution of media narratives. Media consumers want to become media producers, while media producers want to maintain their traditional dominance over media content.

"In Convergence Culture, Henry describes how popular culture can function as a civic playground, where lower stakes allow for a greater diversity of opinions than tolerated in political arenas. "One way that popular culture can enable a more engaged citizenry is by allowing people to play with power on a microlevel ...popular culture may be preparing the way for a more meaningful public culture."

There a potentially important third space between the two positions.  Shaped by the intersection between contemporary trends toward media convergence and participatory culture, these fan films are hybrid by nature — neither fully commercial nor fully alternative, existing as part of a grassroots dialogue with mass culture. We are witnessing the transformation of amateur film culture from a focus on home movies toward a focus on public movies, from a focus on local audiences toward a focus on a potential global audience, from a focus on mastering the technology toward a focus on mastering the mechanisms for publicity and promotion, and from a focus on self-documentation toward a focus on an aesthetic based on appropriation, parody, and the dialogic.

There is a way to talk back to the dominant media culture, to express oneself not simply within an ideolect but within a shared language constructed through the powerful images and narratives that constitute contemporary popular culture. There are ways to tap into the mythology of  known cultural archetypes as Harry Potter, Star Warrs, James Bond, etc. and use it as a resource for the production of  personal stories, stories which are broadly accessible to a popular audience and which, in turn, inspire others to create their own works . Jenkins:Much as Lucas created Star Wars through the clever appropriation and transformation of various popular culture influences,ranging from Laurel and Hardy to Battleship Yomamoto and The Hidden Fortress.

Napolitano:What can participatory culture do? Quite surprisingly, participatory culture is likely to grow faster here than in other countries: that is one of the conclusions of a recent study showing that Europeans' social networking use is accelerating. According to the study, Italy is the country with the highest number of people who comment (25% of the users) and creates new content (23%). The Berlusconi-Joker picture has started to circulate on blogs and and social networks, also used as profile picture on Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed. The reactions of people varied, Cosenza explains: “Some people said that they wanted to use the picture but they were afraid, others wrote me because they want a t-shirt with that image on it. Maybe I should print posters”.

“The old either-or oppositions (co-optation vs. resistance) which have long dominated debates between political economy and cultural studies, approaches to media simply do not do justice to the multiple, dynamic, and often contradictory relationships between media convergence and participatory culture. Approaches derived from the study of political economy may, perhaps, provide the best vocabulary for discussing media convergence, while cultural studies language has historically framed our understanding of participatory culture. Neither theoretical tradition, however, can truly speak to what happens at the intersection between the two.">

The result may be conflict (as in ongoing legal battles for access to or regulation over intellectual property rights), critique (as in the political activism of culture jammers who use participatory culture to break down the dominance of the media industries), challenge (as occurs with the blurring of the lines between professional and amateur products which may now compete for viewer interest if not revenues), collaboration (as in various plans for the incorporation of viewer-generated materials), or recruitment (as when commercial producers use the amateur media as a training ground or testing ground for emerging ideas and talent). In some cases, amateur media draws direct and explicit inspiration from mainstream media content, while in others, commercial culture seeks to absorb or mimic the appropriative aesthetic of participatory culture to reach hip media-savvy consumers. ( Henry Jenkins )

Napolitano:This event has been analyzed by journalists and researchers in the US: some of them pointed out how this was the first time that user-generated content was used to produce an anti-Obama image that went viral online. Others highlighted how the combination of a disturbing image with the word 'socialism' created a political message, probably more faceted than expected by the anonymous author, as it had evoked danger, deception and even racial implications.

So how does the dimension of popular culture fit into our understanding of citizenship and participation within the broader socio-political context?  Voting, joining a political party, or doing community service are concrete, measurable activities that have long been defined as civic. What does loving a television show have to do with any of this? It’s helpful here to consider two opposing views of democracy described by Stephen Coleman in Civic Life Online. Although he’s talking specifically about youth e-citizenship here, he offers a useful model, describing the conflict between democracy viewed as “an established and reasonably just system, with which young people should be encouraged to engage” and as “a political as well as cultural aspiration, most likely to be realized through networks in which young people engage with one another”. The second view is expansive; it describes a realm where citizens are empowered not only to participate in the public arena, but to shape it. It’s a view that does not contain activity within a strictly political sphere, but embraces cultural citizenship. This aligns well with Peter Levine’s definition of civic engagement as not only political activism, deliberation, and problem-solving, but also cultural production, or participation in shaping a culture.

--- some might say Save Chuck is a far cry from civic engagement, but it's interesting to note that the skills and strategies being used are so similar. We began to wonder if participants in campaigns like Save Chuck might stand to gain some of the skills and knowledge needed to become active citizens. With so many young people so engaged with popular culture, this potential is critical to understand. ---

We are witnessing the emergence of an elaborate feedback loop between the emerging “DIY” aesthetics of participatory culture and the mainstream industry. The Web represents a site of experimentation and innovation, where amateurs test the waters, developing new practices, themes, and generating materials which may well attract cult followings on their own terms. The most commercially viable of those practices are then absorbed into the mainstream media, either directly through the hiring of new talent or the development of television, video, or big screen works based on those materials, or indirectly, through a second-order imitation of the same aesthetic and thematic qualities. In return, the mainstream media materials may provide inspiration for subsequent amateur efforts, which, in turn, push popular culture in new directions.

"It's intriguing to think about how fiction and fantasy can captivate us on an emotional level, providing a narrative structure that can motivate us to seek change in the real world. We're also curious about how individuals develop their identities as citizens - is it possible that participants in the Save Chuck campaign were developing a sense of empowerment and efficacy in the world - exercising their civic muscles, as it were?"


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