Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blogging... it grows on you.

As I said in my profile, although I had read many blogs in my study of Media and Communication, I was new to being a producer of the content. I did not know where to start or what to blog about. I can now say that blogging has grown on me and I am very fond of it. It is empowering being a produser. The blogging format allows comments that either validate my perspectives, add additional thoughts or dismiss ideas. All comments are constructive and broaden my knowledge on the issues surrounding virtual cultures.

So, if anyone out there is thinking of starting a blog about virtual cultures, politics, gaming or even their pet bird, do it!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Getting Involved: Democracy, Politics and Virtual Cultures.

In several of my previous blogs I have expressed my views on how the internet and other new media technologies seem to be changing the way in which politicians and society communicate. Another related issue that I believe is relevant in the current political landscape is how new media technologies are enabling ordinary people to participate more actively in the democratic process. Being twenty years old, I have not had the chance to vote in many elections, and have found that my interest in politics has only stemmed from my new democratic participation. However, my study of virtual cultures has led me to discover that people like me can participate in much broader forms of political and democratic participation than simply voting in elections. The amount of political activist sites and blogs online seems to be ever increasing, and many people seem to be utilising the interactive and collaborative capabilities of Web 2.0 to make sure that they are heard, as “for the first time, punters and politicians can talk, blog, and vlog directly with each other” (Coutts, 2007).

According to Flew (2005), “the internet and other new media technologies have been strongly connected with new forms of political activism” (p. 182), and I have found that activists are using sites such as to voice their opinions, and capabilities such as video sharing sites and mash-ups to hold politicians accountable for their actions. As a result, I believe that politicians have to take notice and embrace this new shift in democratic participation, as up until now democracy has been spectatorial (Jenkins, 2007), however "we now have ... the opportunity for it to be a fully participatory practice that is a lifestyle that we live with everyday" (Jenkins, 2007).

An example of how ordinary citizens from around the world are “harnessing the power of the internet for global campaigns” (VOAvideo, 2008) is the website facilitates “people-powered politics” (, 2008), as members are polled online, asked what issues they would like to address and what action should be taken (VOAvideo, 2008). This excerpt is taken from the Avaaz website:

In just hours we can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders telling them to save a crucial summit on climate change, hold hundreds of rallies across the world calling for action to prevent a genocide, or donate hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars and yen to support nonviolent protest in Burma.

(, 2008)

This short YouTube video by Voice of America explains the kind of political actions that is taking, how and why:

Online, there seems to be so many diverse political ‘places’ that people of all political perspectives can find a virtual community to actively participate in. Blogs are another example of ordinary citizens having a voice on political issues. People who have “left of centre perspective” (Larvatus Prodeo, 2008) can participate in the blog Larvatus Prodeo, and for those with a more conservative perspective there is Callaxy. For people concerned about the environment there is Greensblog, the official blog of the Australian Green’s Senators, with its purpose being to “engage as many people as possible in constructive discussions about Greens issues, policies and politics” (Greensblog, 2008). All of the blogs that I have encountered are open to comments and feedback, which allows a range of diverse perspectives to be expressed, which “in turn allows political debate to move beyond left-right political point-scoring to a more complex, nuanced, interactive process” (Saunders, Wilson & Bruns, 2007).

Wikipedia describes political blogs as “a common type of blog that comments on politics” (Wikipedia, 2008). In a way then I suppose my blog could be considered a political blog, as I comment on the ways in which new media technologies are changing democracy and politics. Although I believe it to be likely that other KCB201 Virtual Cultures students will view this blog, I think it is quite unlikely that anyone ouside out of that virtual community will encounter this blog and read my perspectives. This leads to an issue that I have mentioned in a previous blog that people within specific online cultures may get stuck in ‘echo chambers’ (Leadbeater, 2007), only reading blogs that reinforce their perceptions and ideas. This does seem to be an issue that has arisen in many online spaces, however as Saunders, Wilson and Bruns (2007) explain “overall, the participatory and interconnected network of the blogosphere … provides an invaluable space for hosting inclusive policy discussions”.

Online and offline, I believe that politics is an issue that will always be central to discussion in many cultures and communities around the world. “Technology and the internet have allowed citizens to connect and mobilize like never before” (, 2008), and consequently people can participate more actively in the political process. Being twenty years old I am excited at the prospect of voting in many elections in the future. However, there are many people who do not live in democratic countries and therefore will never get the opportunity to vote at all. has members in every country of the world (VOAvideo, 2008), and I believe that this shows that the internet allows many people to participate in democracy and politics, and have their say on political issues worldwide.

References (2008). – the World in Action. Retrieved May 15, 2008, from

Coutts, S. (2007). Politics and the internet. [Radio transcript]. Retrieved March 22, 2008, from

GreensBlog. (2008). GreensBlog – The Official Blog of the Australian Greens Senators. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from

Jenkins, H. (2007). Henry Jenkins@Beyond Broadcast 2007. [Interview with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast]. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from

Leadbeater, C. (2007). Social software for social change. Retrieved April 6, 2006, from

Saunders, B., Wilson, J. & Bruns, A. (2007). Club Bloggery pt 1: Consulting bloggers as citizens. ABC News: Opinion. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from

VOAvideo. (2008). Global Activism on the Web. Retrieved May 15, 2008, from

Wikipedia. (2008). Political blog. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from

Wikipedia as an example of how online communities evaluate quality.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” (Wikipedia, 2008a), and it can be used as an example of how online communities evaluate quality. As Wikipedia is maintained by users worldwide who constantly update and revise (Bruns, 2007) the content of articles, I feel confident (most of the time) that the information I gather from Wikipedia is reliable and valid. However, there have been concerns that politicians, large companies and even bands are using the collaborative and multi-sourced nature of Wikipedia to change information in order to “polish their image” (National Public Radio, 2007). An example that I can recall from a couple of years ago is that an American Senator changed the Wikipedia article about him to read that he had voted against the Iraq war, when in fact he had voted for it. The Wikipedia community was quick to pick up on this inconsistency and revise the page, however this example shows that the concept of ‘anyone can edit’ can raise some problems.

National Public Radio (2007) gave the below example of how Wal-Mart changed information on Wikipedia in their program Scanner Tracks Who's Changing What on Wikipedia.

Wal-Mart changed the page dedicated to them from this:

Wages at Wal-Mart are about 20% less than at other retail stores. Founder Sam Walton once argued that his company should be exempt from the minimum wage.

To this:

The average wage at Wal-Mart is almost double the federal minimum wage (Wal-Mart). However, founder Sam Walton once argued that his company should be exempt from the minimum wage.

After visiting the Wal-Mart article on Wikipedia I discovered that neither of these statements exist anymore, and I believe that the information has been reviewed and revised by produsers to make it more reliable. While exploring the Wal-Mart page, I came across the discussion page for the Wal-Mart entry. The discussion page is described as “the talk page for discussing improvements to the Wal-Mart article” (Wikipedia, 2008b). By skimming this page I found that produsers are constantly evaluating the quality of their own and their peers’ work, and I believe that this collaboration leads to the information being more reliable and valid. Therefore, if any questionable changes are made to articles by companies, I believe that produsers who are active in the Wikipedia environment would quickly question the neutrality and quality of the article, collaborate via the discussion page, and re-enter more neutral information.

To counteract this problem of companies editing their own pages, Virgil Griffith created a database called WikiScanner (National Public Radio, 2007), which “list(s) anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations” (Griffith, 2007). I used this database to discover that Wal-Mart and its subsidiary ADSA had indeed made changes to the Wikipedia article in 2005 and 2006 (Griffith, 2007). The invention of this WikiScanner is another example of how online communities evaluate quality, creating their own instruments to do this.

Wikipedia has “introduced the … means for users to themselves enact their responses and change, extend, and correct existing content” (Bruns, 2007), however as it is open for anyone to edit, there is the potential for politicians, companies, brands or ANYONE to enter incorrect or misleading information. While I believe that the collaborative nature of produsers will result in the quality of such information being maintained, there are limitations. While Wikipedia is a great source of information, I hope that this blog shows that it cannot always be used as a source of information to be relied upon. I believe that users of Wikipedia should themselves evaluate the quality of articles by further research of both online and offline resources.


Bruns, A. (2007). The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage. Retrieved April 27, 2008, from

Griffith, V. (2007). WikiScanner: List anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from

National Public Radio. (2007). Scanner Tracks Who's Changing What on Wikipedia. Retrieved May 10, 2008, from

Wikipedia. (2008a). Welcome to Wikipedia. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from

Wikipedia. (2008b). Talk: Wal-Mart. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from

Monday, May 5, 2008

Lucy's comment in response to Kate's blog "Politics and New Media"

Kate, I find this blog to be very well written and interesting, especially as I have a particular interest in how new media technologies are changing politics, political campaigning and democracy. As you say, the general public have been utilizing new media technologies such as the internet to express their political opinions for some time now, however many politicians seem to have avoided these technologies up until the last couple of years. I believe that politicians are now realizing that there is a “credibility attached to amateur media” (Jenkins, 2007) and to get their messages across they must embrace this shift in power from the mass media channels to more amateur new media technologies. Now, when searching for political information on the internet, it seems as though “the same techniques are being used by people who are powerful and the people who are powerless” (Jenkins, 2007), with an example of this being blogs. There are many political blogs such as Larvatus Prodeo and Callaxy which are user-led and cater to people with specific political perspectives; however, there are also political blogs that are run by political parties, such as Greensblog.

GreensBlog is written by ‘SenaBloggers’ or Greens Senators, and allows people “to come and discuss Greens issues, policies and politics with the Senators and their staff” (GreensBlog, 2008) via their comments in response to blogs. I believe that this shows The Greens have recognised the value of the blogging format and have embraced this new platform for disseminating political messages. Other political parties in my opinion are not using the internet to its full potential, being met by social online barriers created by virtual cultures that are skeptical of politicians. While it may appear that politicians and political parties are utilising new media technologies in order to encourage participatory democracy, I believe the main reason for all political rhetoric is to win votes. Therefore, virtual communities have reason to be skeptical of politicians’ attempts to include the general public in online political discussions. With that being said, the internet does allow many people - those who are in power and those who are not - to interact and voice their opinions. I believe this encourages society in general to become more involved in politics which in turn is changing our democracy to being more participatory than it has ever been in the past.

GreensBlog. (2008). GreensBlog – The Official Blog of the Australian Greens Senators. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from

Jenkins, H. (2007). Henry Jenkins@Beyond Broadcast 2007. [Interview with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast]. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from

To view Kate’s original post, click here

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Open Source Software

In his lecture Open Source: Software and Beyond..., Adam Muir (2008) asked everyone what open source software do they use. I scratched my head, not able to think of anything, until my peers started to say "Mozilla Firefox", " Linux", and "Open Office". It was then that I realised that I was using open source software almost every day, I had just taken it for granted that it was free, and don't really have the technical knowledge to contribute to it.

Just last year I interviewed singer songwriter Bobby Flynne for an university assignment, and used the open source software "Audacity" to edit the interview and cut out all of my nervous laughter and silly comments. I did not think twice about how convenient it was that there was a software application online that suited my very needs, and that I could access it with the click of a button, no charge applied.

This YouTube video introduces the watcher to many open source alternatives to commercial software:

"CNET Insider Secrets - Open Source Free Software" - stephenjudge, 2007.

Axel Bruns (2008) has said that "open source software emerged to a significant extent in response to the shortcomings in commercial software development" (p. 69), and I believe that one of the main benefits of open source software is that it can be constantly updated, without the need for new versions and revisions. With open source software, the source code is freely and openly available (Muir, 2008), which to me means that everyone can contribute to the creation of the software, if they know how to. I myself don't know how to, and limit my produsage to more simple areas such as blogging. To those people who do contribute to open source software development, thankyou, my life is much cheaper and easier due to your collaborative work.


Bruns, A. (2008). Chapter 4: News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: Perpetual Collaboration in
Evaluating the News. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to
(pp. 69-99). New York: Peter Lang. Retrieved May, 2008, from Quensland University of Technology, Course Materials Database.

Muir, A. (2008). Open Source: Software and Beyond... Retrieved May 14, 2008, from Queensland University of Technology Blackboard:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lucy's comment in response to Emma's blog "Joining the League of Cyber Nerds"

I agree with you Emma when you say that online communities often appear to be created without boundaries, however I believe that when a person looks beneath the surface, the boundaries can be experienced like invisible force fields. As a result of new media technologies, the geographical boundaries of offline communities are not encountered and people from all around the world can mobilize to deliberate and debate online. People no longer need to rely on physical proximity to be connected, however as danah boyd (2005) puts it, “online, physical place may no longer be the limiting factor, but social space” (p. 200) is.

Much like offline communities, in my experience I have found that people online tend to form tight knit groups with like-minded people. There are norms attached to these virtual cultures and therefore it is difficult for diverse groups to converge. People may find themselves in an ‘echo chamber’ where they only hear from others confirmation of what they already think (Leadbeater, 2007). Therefore, for someone with different views and norms to enter such a group they will encounter social barriers restricting entry. An example of this is former Prime Minister John Howard's attempt to reach a young audience via MySpace during his last couple of years as Prime Minister. After visiting John Howard's MySpace page during his 2007 election campaign, I think it is safe to say that he failed in his attempt to reach young MySpace users, as although he had many ‘friends’, a majority of these people used their friend status to send him abusive messages. I believe that this is because MySpace is a social network with social boundaries, and Howard was seen as abusing this space for political gain. Therefore even though he was not restricted entry on a geographical or technological basis, he was socially outcast by many.

The issue of social barriers and boundaries online is very interesting and I believe can be experienced by anyone who tries to enter a social space where their views differ from the mainstream views of the web space. Your blog Emma has encouraged me to look into this issue further, especially in regard to my interest which is politicians' increasing use of the internet for political campaigning and reaching audiences that are not their core constituency. I have written a blog titled Online Cultures and Politics that you may be interested in.


boyd, d. (2005). Sociable technology and democracy. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from

Leadbeater, C. (2007). Social software for social change. Retrieved April 6, 2006, from

To see Emma's post "Joining the League of Cyber Nerds", Click here.

Lucy's comment regarding Elyse's blog "In an age of online and global media, are daily newspapers still relevant?" (Part Two).

I agree with you Elyse that newspapers are still relevant in today’s media environment. Although there has been an emergence of online news and participatory journalism, I believe that newspapers are still a necessary source of news for many people. What I think is interesting is the different ways in which online news production is changing democracy and the way in which ordinary people not only access news, but produce it. With online news production, many more people have a voice; it is not just journalists in the traditional sense that are creating content. Therefore, I believe that democracy is becoming more participatory. Although, as you say, newspapers are relevant in that they give a person access to many different topics that they may choose to ignore on the internet, I believe that by utilising the internet as a news source people can become increasingly involved in their niche interest.

For example, if a person were to have a special interest in politics and election news, they could access a website such as On Line Opinion, which is an e-journal that “aims to provide a forum for public social and political debate about current Australian issues”. This website provides daily articles on a range of issues affecting the Australian political environment, and users can become produsers (Bruns, 2007) by adding comments to the articles with their own thoughts and ideas, or join in the forum and engage in social and political debate.

I find this topic very interesting and have posted a blog which may complement yours at Lucy’s Blog (


Bruns, A. (2007). Produsage: Towards a broader framework for user-led content creation. Retrieved April 2, 2008, from

On Line Opinion. (2008). On Line Opinion: About On Line Opinion. Retrieved April 28, 2008, from