5. The Role of the Amateur/Individual – New Challenges in Screen Media

“The lines between media producer and media consumer have become increasingly blurred.”

The role of the amateur or individual in modern media has become an increasingly vital one, to the point where it becomes near-impossible to discern amateur and professional content. The power of the amateur in screen media has the power to spark social activism and to influence and shape the media landscape. This comes about as a result of access to tools and training online.

Social activism is also another major factor with which professional media entice the public to engage with. Henry Jenkins uses the example of the HP Alliancewho state: “we’re changing the world by making activism accessible through the power of story.”But the use of professional mediums to promote mobility in social issues can be used in a variety of ways. Such as Facebook being used by the public to arrange the Women’s March, in January, right down to like-minded people meeting online to engage in political discussion in various groups and forums.

Audience participation in mash-up culture also adds to this question of the role of the amateur. YouTube started off as an amateur-based site, where any user could upload their content. Now, people are starting to earn money from the site and these amateurs are dedicating their work life to creating content for the site. From let’s-play videos and reaction videos, amateur videos start looking like professionally-made videos. This happens as a result of access to the tools and tutorials to teach them the skills they need to create.

Here is an example of this mash-up culture on You Tube.

Here are a group of amateur filmmakers who green-screened themselves as Batman into classic movie scenes. They label themselves as known for making “movie parodies and pop culture mash-ups” and have based a successful You Tube career around it. In this case, the creators themselves went on to become professional filmmakers. A career which was kickstarted as a result of their online participation.

It’s because of high-quality videos such as these that it becomes difficult to discern who is amateur and professional online. Particularly when dealing with YouTube, as Michael Mandiberg states: “In July 2010, only three of the top-twenty videos were nonprofessional, and the majority of the professional videos were studio-produced, high-budget music videos added to the site.” (3)

As a result, this can pass on to issues of citizen journalism and screen consumption where screen media can become overwhelmed with varying content of high quality that leads to challenges when finding what it legitimate content and what is not.

Work Cited:

Mandiberg, Michael (ed.) “Introduction” The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Web. 1-12.


4. The Role of the Professional – Engaging the Public Through Popular Screen Media

It is being increasingly more relevant to say that the line between the professional and the amateur have become blurred in recent years. Professional media users have been taking advantage of Henry Jenkin’s “participatory culture” in order to engage the public through popular social media. This takes several forms. Many of which we are probably unaware about.

The most common examples of how professionals engage the public, is through social media sites. For sites like Facebook and Twitter, without constant public engagement, the sites would cease to exist. Something as simple as a “like” or “retweet” counts as public participation. When one considers how often we scroll past legitimate competitions that require a “like” and a “share” to enter, the level of which professionals encourage public participation becomes more obvious.

Professional media creators take advantage of pop culture. In the video below, Henry Jenkins describes in great detail the extent to which this is true. He uses the examples of comedy news shows and social activism.

Here, he makes the point that professional news outlets engage with younger audiences. The majority of youths nowadays receive their news through comedy news shows, such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. Young people still receive news and are thus encouraged to engage in political discussions. Humorous videos are also more likely to be shared on the internet, thus the news spreads towards a wider audience and the public are sharing professionally-made media. Below is an example of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” An American comedy news show, in which he explores recent news topics.

Even media sites, such as You Tube, which started as a platform for amateur users has become flooded with professional media in which people are encouraged to like and share. By posting a trailer of a film online, the public are encouraged to share that trailer, thus promoting the film. In the case of John Oliver’s news, every week their You Tube page is updated with clips from their most recent episode.

This also serves as an example of professional news outlets engaging with transmedia, taking advantage of the diverse media tools at their disposal to easily promote their own media.

Michael Mandiberg talks about “cognitive surplus” as “the excess thought power available to society when we convert passive spectatorship into participation in social media” (8), something which is highly relevant for several information-related sites, such as Wikipedia which, again, is based solely on audience participation.

Thus, we see the extent of the role of the professional, particularly in regards to Jenkin’s participatory culture, in engaging the public through popular screen media.

Works Cited:

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture. 1st ed. New York: New York University Press, 2006. Print.

Mandiberg, Michael (ed.) “Introduction” The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Web. 1-12.