Thursday, May 15, 2008

Does gender dictate our place in virtual cultures and Internet use?

No matter what part of the world you are in, how old you are, the job you have or the life you live, you are always going to encounter a gender debate. Gender has often been a key point of difference and inequality in access to online media (Flew 2004, 75). In the online/virtual cultures debate, “men have traditionally dominated the technology and have compromised the majority of users of computer networks since their inception” (Herring, 1994). However, in recent years women have begun to ‘catch up’ to men in the world of virtual cultures and new media technologies, and, especially in terms of Internet access, the ‘gender gap’ seems to be diminishing (Flew 2004, 75). I myself have experienced this lack of ‘gender gap’ first hand. As a female partaking in a Media and Communications degree, attending many classes based around virtual cultures, new media technologies and the creative industries, I have not once felt outnumbered or intimidated by male fellow-students. In most classes I have taken, the female to male ratio is relatively equal, and some are even predominantly female.

In December 2001, Neilsen/Net Ratings found that female Internet users made up the majority (52%) of the Internet population in the USA (Flew 2004, 75). A 2005 study by
Deborah Fallows of the Pew Internet and American Life Project entitled How Women and Men Use the Internet found that although the percentage of women using the Internet was slightly lower than men, “women under 30 and black women outpace[d] their male peers”. From this it is clear to see that, as Terry Flew (2004, 75) suggests in his book New Media: an introduction, the ‘gender gap’ in virtual cultures, the Internet and ICT’s is diminishing, and at a rapid pace.

However, although women are closing the gap, and in some cases overtaking men, are men and women using the Internet for the same reasons and with the same motivations? Or does our gender influence the way in which we use the Internet? When I consider the ways in which the men I know use the Internet, compared to the ways in which I and fellow females use it, my immediate thoughts are quite simply – no.
How Women and Men Use the Internet proves this, highlighting the many differences between male and female Internet use. One aspect that particularly interested me was women’s response to online communication and virtual cultures. The report states that “men like the internet for the experience it offers, while women like it for the human connections it promotes” (Fallows 2005). It goes on to say that women are more enthusiastic online communicators, and use email more frequently, on a more personal level than men. Women are also more likely to experience satisfaction with the role email plays in their lives, especially when it comes to nurturing and enhancing their relationships (Fallows 2005). Furthermore, a large-scale social networking study conducted by Rapleaf found that overall, women spend more time than men on social networks, building and nurturing relationships, and in turn making more ‘friends’. Alternatively, the study showed that men are mainly “acquiring relationships from a transactional standpoint” (Rapleaf 2008).

And so it seems that gender does play an influential role in virtual cultures and Internet use. However, doesn’t it always? To me the role of gender in online environments simply mirrors the role of gender in the ‘real world’ - the ‘gap’ between men and women has been rapidly diminishing in recent years, and in many cases, women are becoming the more dominant sex. And no matter what the activity or task at hand, men and women are almost always going to behave and react differently. I feel that if new media technologies are a reflection of the way in which society and human behaviour has advanced, then it is only appropriate that online human behaviours reflect this advancement too.


Flew, T. 2004. Virtual Cultures. In New Media: an introduction, ed. T. Flew, 61-82. Melbourne: OUP. Queensland University of Technology: Course Materials Database (accessed April 8, 2008).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How are new media technologies transforming the way in which we use media? Part 2: Mobile Communication

Mobile communications and mobile phones have also played a significant part in the transformation of media and communications. The mobile phone started historically as communication device for carrying the human voice, however it is beginning to open up a world of entertainment, used to access a variety of media and communications (Tooth et al. 2006, 1). Much like the Internet, mobile communications technology has grown significantly over time. Although consumers are slowly beginning to use mobile Internet, Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), media and communications industries were powerfully affected by the phenomenon of short-message services (SMS) (Goggin cited in Cunningham and Turner 2006, 274; Flew 2002, 4). SMS allowed non-verbal text communication which could be read at leisure and saved for future reference. It was also seen as cheap, fast and effective, and was wholly embraced by young people, creating a new form of media use (Goggin cited in Cunningham and Turner 2006, 274). Further to this, multimedia messaging services (MMS) were developed shortly after, allowing mobile phones the capacity to send and receive pictures and short videos. Gerard Goggin (cited in Cunningham and Turner 2006, 274) notes that these mobile communications technologies had an unexpected impact on the media and communications industries, as SMS and MMS services have become an important and lucrative “path for interactivity” in television, offering voting in reality television programs, text strap-lines and video downloads. Much like the Internet, mobile communications devices provide television audiences with a tool for interactivity. As well as voting and downloads, audiences have the opportunity to respond to questions and topics via SMS or MMS, again with programs such as Sunrise. Mobile phones are of course also still used for traditional calling in to television and radio shows, being more convenient than a landline as calls can be made almost anywhere, at almost anytime.

Although mobile communications are not directly related to virtual cultures, I decided to make reference to the way in which they have transformed new media technologies in conjunction with the Internet as they play a relatively equal role in today’s society. I don’t think I know anyone without a mobile phone – even my 10 year old cousin has one. Also, people are increasingly using their mobile phones to access the Internet, particularly with the introduction of the 3G network,
BlackBerry and iPhone.


Flew, T. 2002. New Media: An Introduction. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Goggin, G. 2006. Chapter 15: The Internet, online and mobile cultures. In The Media and Communications in Australia, ed. S. Cunningham and G. Turner, 259-278. NSW: Allen & Unwin.

How are new media technologies transforming the way in which we use media? Part 1: The Internet

In the field of media and communications, advances in new digital media technologies are continuously transforming the way in which we use media. Traditional media industries, such as print media, radio, cinema and television are all being influenced by new digital media, such as the Internet, and vice versa (Flew 2002, 4). New media conglomerates are beginning to have controlling interests over the entire entertainment and media industry. Viacom is one media company which has spread itself over a variety of media and entertainment, producing “films, television, popular music, computer games, websites, toys, amusement park rides, books, newspapers, magazines and comics” (Jenkins 2004, 34). The content of digital media is often derived from already existing, traditional media, and reproduced in digital form, generating new content (Flew 2002, 96). For example, audiences have traditionally been invited to call radio stations via telephone during talk-back programs to respond to comments and offer their opinions. Today, using a similar idea, audiences have the option to call, or alternatively email or SMS their responses using the Internet and mobile communications. Similarly, television programs such as Sunrise and Today allow audiences the opportunity to respond directly to the topics and questions of the day, giving viewers the freedom to interact and react to the program from the comfort of their own home. Consumers now have more choice in regard to how and where they spend their time and money on entertainment and media, and they have a voice (Tooth and Liebmann 2006, 3).

Perhaps one of the most influential digital media technologies is the Internet. The Internet has greatly influenced media and communications industries, opening up a world of opportunities in a variety of fields. Although the Internet was officially launched in 1969, it was not until the 1990’s that the Internet began to be the international networking system and communications technology that it is today (Schell 2007, 1-18; Goggin cited in Cunningham and Turner 2006, 259). By the beginning of the 21st century, the Internet was not only a highly useful and important new medium, but became a significant factor in the transformation of media and communications (Goggin cited in Cunningham and Turner 2006, 259). Today the Internet is being used for a variety of uses, including email, shopping online, and recently, as a new source of traditional media. Consumers are now able to receive local and international newspapers, listen to podcasts of a variety of radio shows and stations, download movies and stream television programs, all via the Internet. Furthermore, the Internet has developed a variety of other technologies allowing consumers to communicate and view media. Apart from the traditional uses such as email and search engines, consumers can also use the Internet to access chat rooms, use instant messaging, blogs and peer-to-peer applications (Goggin cited in Cunningham and Turner 2006, 265-272).

Right at this moment, many of you reading this probably have a number of browser windows open on several different web pages. Almost everyday I use the Internet to manage my life, for example, right now as I am posting on my blog I have
QUT Webmail, QUT Blackboard, my Gmail account, my Hotmail account, my Facebook page,,, and all open on my taskbar… all of which I am currently using and jumping from back and forth. I now use the Internet to do a large majority of things that I would normally do via traditional media – check my mail, communicate with friends, banking, listening to music, reading the latest news updates, shopping, etc… and I am sure that many of you will agree that your lives reflect a similar pattern. The Internet is clearly influencing, and in many cases, replacing traditional media technologies, and is transforming the way in which we use media.

(Also… see my posts on citizen journalism which add to this!!)


Flew, T. 2002. New Media: An Introduction. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Goggin, G. 2006. Chapter 15: The Internet, online and mobile cultures. In The Media and Communications in Australia, ed. S. Cunningham and G. Turner, 259-278. NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Jenkins, H. 2004. The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(1):33-43.

Schell, B.H. 2007. The Internet and Society: A Reference Handbook. California: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Am I a produser?

Being a student of Media and Communication, I am constantly learning, studying, analysing and basing my university life around concepts and new media technologies such as Web 2.0, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, produsage, etc... and being in my fourth year at uni I feel like I know a whole lot about all of this. However, sometimes I sit back and think... am I really a produser? Sure, I participate in social networking sites, I have a Facebook account, but who doesn't these days? And sure, I have a blog (obviously)... but if I weren't required to do it for this subject, I wonder if I would have ever got around to making a blog on my own terms? Although technically I AM a participating in new media technologies, when I am constantly learning about the wide world of Web 2.0 I realise that MY personal use of these technologies is quite slim. Don't get me wrong, I find it all extremely interesting (otherwise I wouldn't be doing this degree)... it is more so that I have so little free time to participate actively in these sites and technologies. Even something as simple as my Facebook account gets regularly rejected... imagine if I was part of a fandom site or user-generated Creative Commons style project! So tell me people of Web 2.0... how do you find the time to so actively participate in your "real world" and your "virtual world" at the same time? Because I am finding it extremely difficult...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How do communities evaluate quality in citizen journalism?

When individual members of a community are evaluating the quality of citizen journalism, many will hold their own personal opinions on what they consider quality journalism. However, a simple, general way to assess and evaluate the quality of citizen journalism, and any online, information-based content, is by applying the CARS checklist, that is Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness and Support.

Firstly, CREDIBILITY. This should be applied to both the content and information, and the author. In order to evaluate the credibility of the content and information, communities need to consider whether or not the information is based on sufficient, factual evidence; and whether or not enough evidence and information is provided to substantiate a reasonable conclusion. Secondly, communities need to establish whether or not the author is a trustworthy and reliable source of information. Although citizen journalism allows journalists the freedom to express their opinion more openly than mainstream media, quality articles still need to be supported by factual information and credible support. Citizen journalists with a wide collection of articles and archives will most likely be credible sources, especially if they are supported by other credible sources. The
McGraw-Hill Online Learning Centre for Student Success suggests these checks for author credibility:
  • Author’s education, training, and/or experience in a field relevant to the information. Look for biographical information, the author’s title, or position of employment
  • Author’s contact information (e-mail or postal mail address, telephone number)
  • Organizational authorship from a known and respected organization (corporate, governmental, or non-profit)
  • Organizational authorship reflecting an appropriate area of expertise
  • Author’s reputation or standing among peers.
Next, communities need to assess the ACCURACY of the content. The main goal of this is to "ensure that the information is actually correct: up-to date, factual, detailed, exact, and comprehensive" (McGraw-Hill 2003). This relates not only to the information and content, but also to the way it is written, including spelling and grammatical errors. We need to remember that although anyone CAN be a journalist with citizen journalism, that is not to say that everything they produce IS journalism (Wilson 2008). Generally, frequent bloggers will produce higher quality journalism and writing as they have more experience in the field.

Thirdly, to evaluate quality we need to assess REASONABLENESS. This is difficult to assess in citizen journalism because, as mentioned earlier, a major appeal of citizen journalism is that it allows journalists to express their opinion and be biased. However, the journalist still needs to present a fair, objective, moderate and consistent argument (
McGraw-Hill 2003). The argument should be balanced and reasonable, and although authors can voice their own opinions, they should also consider the other sides of the story, especially when presenting to a mass audience.

Finally, we need to assess whether or not the journalism has been SUPPORTED by reliable sources and information. Links to other stories or sources supporting their opinion and information are proof that they are presenting reliable, quality information. All major claims should be supported by citations and references, and documentation of these sources should be supplied. If a citizen journalist has sufficient support to there argument, then it will most certainly be a quality source of information.

By applying this general assessment, communities will be able to differentiate the quality citizen journalists, from those that BELIEVE they are journalists, but really really aren't....


Wilson, J. 2008, May 08. Week 10 Lecture: Citizen Journalism. Brisbane: QUT. [Lecture: KCB201].

NB: this may not be the correct name for the lecture… when the slides are uploaded I will change it accordingly!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How are today's youth engaging with news media?

Young people’s engagement with news media has come a long way from simply reading a newspaper or watching the news on television. Since the introduction of Web 2.0, news has become available in a variety of forms, including blogs and podcasts. However, contrasting to traditional forms of media, audiences are now able to not only absorb news in a one-way relationship, but comment on and respond to news, and even develop and compose their own news stories, forming a two-way relationship. Web 2.0 has transformed journalism into a practice that anyone can engage in, not just a profession. A university degree or employment with a media institution is no longer required – all that is needed is something as simple as a computer or a video phone.

One example of this is citizen journalism - media made by non-professional journalists, and can include things such as blogs (such as
Investigative Blog and Online Journalism Blog), podcasts (such as The Pod Lounge) and the use of YouTube. Although there are many criticisms questioning whether or not citizen journalism is real journalism, I believe that it helps young people to engage with and develop a better understanding of the news and public information, especially journalism which recontextualises and reversions existing information. This is what Saunders refers to in his 2006 thesis, Citizen Media and Investigative Journalism as Hartley’s notion of redactive journalism - journalism that is made by editing, and makes sense of publicly available information. This may include anything from the cut-and-paste of bloggers to the remix news of political satire programs such as The Daily Show (Saunders 2006). Not only do the creators of redactive journalism engage with the news, but readers and those participating also engage with it, perhaps gaining a better understanding of the information than they would with a more conventional news source.

I believe that although it may not always be the most RELIABLE source of news, the new wave of citizen and redactive journalism can be far more informative than traditional news sources. Not only are they more easily accessible and cheaper to produce, but they allow audiences to ENGAGE with the information, responding, recontextualising and editing information, providing their personal opinions and interpretations.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

How is open source work (as an example of community produsage) different from commercial production?

In the world of media and content production, open source software has provided an entirely new and open platform, allowing users to collaborate, share and remix content to produce new or alterted content in an online environment. Axel Bruns (2008, 37) comments that "open source software development provides one of the earliest present-day examples for produsage in action". Open source software gives users the freedom and power to collaborate, alter and build on the work of others.

Bruns further comments on open source software as produsage, identifiying four key principles:
  • open participation, communal evaluation
  • fluid heterarchy, ad hoc meritocracy
  • unfinished artefacts, continuing process
  • common property, individual rewards

From this we can see that open source production as an example of community produsage is social and holds little structure, with all content being open for interpretation, editing, or completely altering.

Alternatively, commercial production holds very different principles. Production often complies to a rigid, closed structure with defined goals, coming to a very final conclusion. Participation in commercial production is only from those directly involved in the project, and owned solely by a certain group of people. Quite simply, as open source software and community produsage are very 'open' in nature, commercial production is very 'closed'.

My two previous posts expand on this thought, and discuss the ways in which the community produsage and commercial production are becoming interlinked with open source software and Web 2.0.

Bruns, Axel. 2008. Open Source Software Development: Probabilistic Eyeballs. In Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, ed. A. Bruns, 37-68. New York: Peter Lang.