Just a little bit of my midterm project

I don't feel like it would be necessary to write another reading response when part of my midterm project deals with some of the reading from last week. So here is an exert from my project:

It is believed that part of the new media revolution will take place when the gap between the author and the reader are shorted or blurred so that in some cases, the distinction between the two can not be made. Hans Enzenberger takes up a Marxist argument that the ability for the consumers of media to be able to become producers is necessary to liberate the people from those who currently control the media. Through the use of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, Improv Everywhere is able to create a new form of "the news," making people who were once consumers now producers. An integral part of Improv Everywhere is the ability for people to leave comments, because this is often how other parts of the missions that were not documented in the main body of the mission blog are added. Yet, others have taken a stance contradictory to that of Enzenberger. Enzenberger claims that in order for the media revolution to occur, there needs to be the ability for reversibility, like being able to turn a transistor radio into a transmitor. Jean Baudrillard counters Enzenberger by claiming that "reversibility has nothing to do with reciprocity" (286). Baudrillard's example is the use of graffiti, which instead of acting as a commentary on the media being defaced, it is a transgression. This seems to be quite often the case with some of the comments left on the Improv Everywhere website or other websites in general. The difference with these comments however is that there is a place left on the webpage specifically for the "graffiti." What is different with Improv Everywhere is that in the more recent blog entries, the additional commentary that the agents provide is added after the main blog entry and before the comments. Thus, Improv Everywhere strikes a balance between the commentary that detracts from the content and the commentary that improves the content.

Bob Stein gave a talk on March 1, 2008 entitled "The Evolution of Reading and Writing in the Networked Era." Stein takes the stance that is similar to Enzenberger's in that the boundary between the producer and the consumer should be diminished. What is different about Stein is that he believes that in some way, the role of the author will never disappear. As he put it, the producer is like the leader of a seminar group and the consumers are like graduate students, people who are able to constructively add to the dialogue. During the question and answer session after his talk, he was asked if he believe that some form of censorship should be used to reduce the effects of comments that detract from the content. Stein took the stance that in general, the beneficial comments will surpass the negative comments. Considering the media that Stein is involved in, I believe that his assumption is true, but anybody who has seen the comments left on the sites like Youtube would have to disagree with Stein. That is why it makes sense for Improv Everywhere to be proactive in separating general comments from the comments left by agents. The agents are like the grad students that have actually "studied" the media. Thus instead of Enzenberger's model of the producers and consumers merging into one form, there is a level of hierarchy where there is a difference between producer and consumer, but there is still interaction. On Improv Everywhere's website, there are different levels of producers and consumers. There is a form of filtering without having to remove any of the content.

I like the thrust of your argument. I thought you did a good job taking the underlying argument from Enzenberger and then applying to one particular online site.

I also agree with your general premise that there should still be a hierarchy (formal or informal) in digital media. Given how much information there is out in the world, it is foolish to think that anyone and everyone has the same knowledge base for any given issue. In reality, while some people have a much deeper understanding of the American political theater, others know much more about sports, or literature, or Turkish pop culture. Thus, although one of the premises of digital media is the blurring of consumer and producer of media, I see good reason for creating an informal hierarchy in the realm of digital media. However, rather than having a centrally-controlled hierarchy, it is possible, and probably preferable, to have a decentralized hierarchy structure. So, in comparison to Amazon.com that has a centrally-controlled algorithm to decide which products should come up first, YouTube and other social networking websites allow viewers to rate videos (or other digital media), and then use the aggregate viewer rating to determine which video should come up first. Such a model of consumer participation in the creation of an informal hierarchy of digital media allows for all the benefits of consumer-produced media, and diminishes the ability of nay-sayers to negatively influence the discourse.