BuzzFeed: The Democratic Revival

A theory is a supposition that has explanatory powers and attempts to provide plausible and rational reason for an observed phenomenon. When it comes to media, there is an array of theories that endeavor to explain how we communicate and discuss within the media, and how media involvement influences the outcome of said discussions. A theory that best describes this notion, by way of integrating democratic views, is known as The Public Sphere, coined by German Sociologist, Jürgen Habermas.

The Public Sphere aims to answer some of the following questions:

What is “the public” and what kinds of power does it have in a representative democracy?

-How does “public opinion” shape political power and policy?

Habermas’ Public Sphere was a place where individuals and government members could meet and produce critical debate over societal matters. This was done in physical, face-to-face meetings in coffee houses, cafes and public squares. Habermas saw the public sphere as a positive force for discussion and liaising between two opposing groups.

The original concept of the Public Sphere was a realm within social life, in which, public opinion could be formed and was accessible to all. The engagement within the public sphere, according to Habermas, was blind to class positions. This, however, was not necessarily the case, as almost all gatherings in the sphere were open only to men of the working class/ bourgeoisie, excluding women from any noteworthy discussion and also excluding lower class patrons from debate that could well have impacted them. Now days, the public sphere is open to anyone, regardless of class, race, gender, age and other such discriminatory factors.

Many Millennials would state that their public sphere revolves around Facebook and social media outlets. Whilst my public sphere is also on Facebook, I credit BuzzFeed as a significant platform, on which, social debate is circulated, being open to all and free of discrimination and seclusion. Although this particular public sphere is heavily mediated, like others, such as Insight and Q&A, both airing on SBS, it is at the forefront of increasing the accessibility of social debate. Covering topics inclusive of the LGBT community, HIV and sex, Buzz feed takes controversial topics and allows them to be discussed in an open and accepting environment, making evident the transformation of the notion of the public sphere since its founding in 1962.

Where is your public Sphere?


Down the Rabbit Hole

When it comes to media consolidation, there is vast anxiety surrounding the diversity of media ownership, which seems to have declined both globally and within Australia. With a multiplicity of media sources it would be expected that those who control the media would also be variegated. However, when considering media ownership within Australia alone, the concentrated possession of media outlets is made evident.

Australian media mogul, Rupert Murdoch’s company, News Corp, owns 44% of the Sky Network, and some 150 national and local newspapers in Australia alone. The Sky Network also owns 50% of the Premier Media Group, which operates nine Fox TV channels in Australia. Murdoch’s companies also own stakes and shares across Asia, Europe, the US, and the Middle East. Murdoch’s ownership of such a large variety of media sources, iterates his editorial and ideological control of a large portion of the world’s media interaction, providing a, therefore, significantly one sided and prejudicial viewpoint on all news and media presented to the public.

It may be considered bold to make the comparison between Rupert Murdoch and Adolf Hitler, yet when taking into account Hitler’s use of propaganda during Nazi power and his employment of Joseph Goebbels as his ‘Propaganda minister’, we expose the correlation between the two. The journalists that Rupert Murdoch employs at his various news corporations are merely publicizing propaganda of Murdoch’s choice to the, ill aware, masses. That being said, we begin to comprehend the abuse of media power upheld by Murdoch, much the same as Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930’s, who successfully indoctrinated the German public to concur with Nazi beliefs. Whilst Rupert Murdoch is no Nazi, he is, however, subtly forcing his opinion upon those who consume the media sources he owns, therefore, engaging in Nazi behaviour of sorts.


Source: Adolf Im Whanderland – James Dyrenforth & Max Kester

With the modern world lacking in pluralism and, in an effort to subdue the apparent abuse of media power, Produsage has become a popular form of media expression as users can also produce their own media content, perhaps in an effort to overcome media consolidation and allow for self-expression. Produsage can potentially combat the mindless media consumption that we, as members of the public, endure, by way of providing an outlet for individual thought and encouragement of research in order to publish fact driven information.

So with these ideas in mind, I pose the questions, who owns and controls the media you use to access news sources and how do you know if you can you trust them?





Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Culminated by Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Peirce, Semiotics is defined as the study of signs as elements of communicative behavior. It presents us with the ability to interpret the complex images encountered within the media. Through utilising Semiotics to interpret complexities, we are able to comprehend both Signifiers, of which, are encoded with messages, and Signifieds, which are understood, only after decoding these intended meanings.

Alternatively, this same idea can be explicated through denotation, that is, the literal meaning of something, and connotation, which is concerned with what is evoked conceptually. These methods allow for arbitrary signs to be understood through the possibility of more obscure meanings, in association with a particular image.

René Magritte’s, The Treachery of Images, is of utmost importance when attempting to exemplify the intricate proposition of Semiotics. Depicted, is, what seems, a foolproof image of a pipe, when in fact, it is merely the representation of a pipe. This is where the famous, ‘This is not a pipe”, originates. Semiotics, therefore, assists us in understanding this somewhat unsettling notion.


Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images

When attempting to make sense of an image, we frequently skip the denotations as they are often transparent , leaving us vying to discern the intended meaning. The knowledge of an individual may influence one to interpret an image quite abstractly in comparison to others. This notion is enhanced when exploring my personal interpretation of, a said, ‘complex image’.


Above is an image by Eric Drooker for The New Yorker, published on December 14th 2015, titled, ‘Shopping days’. The signifiers appear to be a man and a woman displaying merriment whilst grocery shopping, made evident by the trolley, of which, contains a carton of juice and some unexpected items, inclusive of machine guns. In the isle, the woman is selecting a gun whilst the man has one slung over his shoulder.

While the signifiers seem quite pellucid, it is when we take into account the Signifieds that complexity begins to arise.

I interpret this image to be a resounding comment on the constant controversy surrounding Americas contentious gun laws. This image, to me, represents how easy it is to purchase a gun, as if you were doing the groceries.

Whilst similar, my interpretation is not exact, to that of artist Eric Drooker’s explanation of his work. He questions, “What would it look like if I took America’s obsession with firearms to its logical extreme?” The image portrays the proliferation of guns and the too-easy access to military-grade weapons.

Thus, having varying knowledge allows individuals to produce different interpretations of any one image, and it is Semiotics that helps us to engage with complex images in a vast and meaningful way.


From Production to Produsage: From Social to Anti-scoial

Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage”  – Amy Jo Martin

In light of the above quote, I pose the question; do we as a collective audience use social media in the interest of engaging or withdrawing?


It is indisputable that the nature of media audiences has changed over time, not only as a result of technological innovation but also due to the growing usability of media platforms that allows individuals to become ‘Produsers’, ultimately leading to the increasing prevalence of user-led content production. But how does this relate to the prevailing absence of somatic interaction?


It can be said that we as human beings, place grave valuation on the concept of face-to-face contact and socialisation. At least…I know I do.  Yet with the rapid development of produsage in the modern world, the notion of social interaction without intervention of technology is fast becoming obsolete.  Produsage, a concept devised by Australian media scholar Axel Bruns, suggests media users play the role of producers whether they are aware of this role or not.  In doing so, people have become engrossed with creating and maintaining an online presence, paving the way for the domination of social media, in comparison to the growing subordination of corporeal interaction.

Subsequently, the evolution of media platforms, from the first black and white television set to, the ever so fashionable, smartphone, has allowed for the current lack of barriers surrounding the usual working day, thus, providing influence upon social interaction, or rather, the lack there of. Now days, those who work in media/ technology based jobs are given the opportunity to take their professions home, in turn, creating a decline in gregarious interaction within the household.  This concurs with, and reinforces the idea, that development in forms of media does so happen to impact upon the need for physical networking.

It is the utopian viewpoint, that a strong connection to media sources, whether that’s television, radio, print, or social, creates a sense of enlightenment amongst a modern audience. This view can, however, be scrutinised when considering the dystopian alternative that suggests an addiction to media outlets is somewhat of an unhealthy obsession.

With all this in mind, it is up to you my friends; to decide what stance you will take. Will you let the rapid advancement of produsage turn you into an anti-scoial media user? Or, will you be a social butterfly and conversation producer?