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Mendosch argues that ‘Piracy, despite being an entirely commercial motivated activity carried out on black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions.’


I am in agreement that piracy fulfills culturally important functions, specifically towards financially disadvantaged families with little or no means to buy legal content and that piracy allows for distribution of content that is politically suppressed by censorship.


With regards to the first point, we first examine the digital divide because it illustrates access to content of two very different socio-economic groups. The concept of the  digital divide is what Pascual (2003:32) refers to this as ‘the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communications technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities.’


More importantly, the digital divide means that there is a percentage of a nation’s population that is unable to legally access cultural content that is available.


I’ve created a diagram on the left that illustrates the breakdown of a typical content distribution system. At the very top, there are the content creators who number a few, before content is licensed to authorised distributors who in turn retail the product to end users/consumers.

It is important to note that consumers are not to be considered a homogeneous flat body of people. In this context of the divide, we have to take into account the affluence of consumers, in particular, the lowest level of income that will allow for access to ICT and the internet.


To understand where piracy comes in to close this digital divide and thus provide cultural content to the financially impoverished, we have to examine income statistics and prices of legal and pirated material. The average Chinese upper-middle income family that has 17,175RMB for disposable income as compared to a low-income family that has just 5153RMB. (Farrell, Gersch and Stephenson, 2006:63) The average cost of a legal Hollywood movie DVD is 145RMB while the cost of a pirated counterpart is 5RMB in China. (Tosa, 2006:43)


While the affluent have no problem in purchasing legal copies of content, it is the lower class that is at a disadvantage. The purchase of legal material alone is 29 times the price of pirated material. From these statistics, we see that piracy allows them access within their economic means to cultural material that they would otherwise be priced out of.


The second part of this post contends that pirates subvert traditional censorship structure to provide alternative content to audiences, sometimes with unintended cultural consequences. In China, for example, independent film-makers feel that they benefit from the pirate distribution system because it offers an opportunity to reach a wide audience that they would never enjoy because of state censorship. Film Critic Hu Yuan writes that ‘the circulation is far more effective. Piracy can reach every common person.’ (Cheung, 2007)


Because of this far reaching distribution, piracy revived the declining cinema culture in China. Zhang (2007: 27) writes that ‘the revival of a cinephile culture in China is in large part made possible by the primitive or pirated form of postmodern technology of the VCD.’


The pirate industry, on the other hand, can so easily evade state quota and censorship, and its profit margin is so high that it can afford to release many less known and peculiar arthouse titles to a niche audience, and thus offers consumers with much wider choices than the legitimate market.


Hence, we have seen how piracy fulfils cultural functions distributing content illegally at prices in reach of lower income families and how it circumvents conventional censorship systems.




Cheung, E. M. (2007). ‘Dialogues with critics on Chinese independent cinemas.’ Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, (49) pp 27


Farrell, D., Gersch, U. and Stephenson, E., (2006), “The Value of China’s emerging middle class,” The Mackinsey Quarterly, pp 61 – 69


Pascual, P. (2003) ‘E-government, E-Asean Task force, UNDP-APDIP,’ pp 32


Tosa, M. (2008), Public significance of cultural piracy in the global flow of popular culture, pp 40 – 46


Zhang, Z. (2007). The urban generation: Chinese cinema and society at the turn of the twenty- first century. Duke University Press.


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Explain why you choose creative commons license and the relevance or non-relevance to your blog.


I chose Attribution-Sharealike license for my blog. To summarise, the license allows for users to share (copy, distribute and reproduce) and adapt (use in part for creation of new content) content that I’ve created for commercial purposes. However, restrictions apply, specifically, all content used must be attributed to its creator (in this instance, me) and that all content being shared or adapted must be done so under an Attribution-Sharealike license. (Creative Commons Australia, 2011)


The first reason as to why I chose the license was because of Timothy Berners-Lee’s (1991) vision of the World Wide Web. (W3) He originally meant for the Web to be a tool that created and gathered knowledge through human interaction and collaboration for academics. Each existing version of information on the web was meant to be worked on by different groups to produce a better and more refined version of the last, and it is this aspect that runs afoul of copyright law. While the web has come a long way, copyright laws have essentially remained unchanged except for a few notable exceptions, the most relevant to this post being the extension of copyright for another twenty years. (Garcelon, 2009: 1312)


Herein lies the conflict between copyright law and the web with the notion of collaborative sharing: copyright emphasizes on control to limited entities while collaborative sharing is about the decentralization of control to multiple users. Hence, for a ‘second-tier’ author like me, Creative commons allows for me to alternatively distribute my works without approaching major publishing houses while still allowing for some rights over my work.


The Attribution-Sharealike license is the truest to Tim Berner-Lee’s vision of collaborative sharing. It allows for other users to use my content, and to correct it instantly or filling in any gaps in my knowledge (a la wikipedia), and I see my blog as a collaborative sharing space which remains true to the vision of Tim-Berners Lee.


The second reason as to why I chose creative commons instead of copyright is because of the limited exposure that Creative Commons gets. Garcelon (2009: 1322) writes that “Creative Commons remains obscure to many American citizens, both due its limitation to the internet as well as the legal complexities of the positions it advocates and the major media companies’ refusal to present such positions to the American Public.”


I agree with Garcelon that Creative Commons requires a lot more exposure to be less obscure, and through the adoption of Creation Commons license on this blog, I hope to help raise its profile amongst my readers. Herein lies one of the issues that Garcelon writes about, about Creative Commons being limited to the Internet, but I feel that the relevance of creative commons to this blog is still very much so as the internet is one of the few forms of media that isn’t dominated by conglomerates which suppress the exposure of Creative Commons.




Creative Commons Australia (2011), “Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia (CC BY-SA 3.0)” retrived from, accessed 18th May, 2011


Garcelon, M. (2009) “An information commons? Creative Commons and public access to cultural creations,” in New Media Society 11.8 pp 1322



Lee, T (1991), “WorldWideWeb: Summary,” retrieved from: accessed 18th May, 2011

Youtube and Fame

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Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (2009: 22)


This post agrees the argument that Bugress and Green makes, but also argue that we have to take into consideration of ‘new media’ as they start to become more mainstream and more accepted. For a start, let us examine common metaphors for where we see people of fame (defined as the level of recognition amongst the public) or celebrities. ‘On the big screen,’ ‘in the papers’ and ‘listen to them live on air.’ all spring to mind for a start. There is this pre-conceived notion that fame and celebrity is very much associated with the traditional mass media.


I take slight in which Burgess and Green define mass media, instead preferring to segregate them into two forms, the first being traditional mass media and the other being ‘new media.’ I will define the term ‘new media’ as anything from the advent of the internet onwards, while pre-existing media before the advent will be terms as traditional media.


In terms of new media, online video platforms serve as a great springboard to get audience exposure. The audience that they can potentially reach is theoretically anybody with access to the internet, which ITU (2011) estimates to be 70% of the world’s population. Yet, for Burgess and Green, they state that the ‘true marker of success is not only based on online popularity but also on subsequent ability to pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms of the old media.’


I disagree with this as the internet decentralises control of content and hands power over to its users. The implications of this for “ordinary people who become celebrities through their own effort” simply equate to the logic that they no longer have to rely and be entrapped by the system of the media simply because they now have power to “broadcast themselves” instead of asking for scant opportunities to be broadcast by the media companies.


As the internet as a form of medium is relatively new, Jenkins (2006:10) argues that any initial form of new media takes on the conventions of the older media that it might derive from its genealogy to establish itself. This is further complicated by the fact that the internet is a form of “convergent” multi-media platform and has strong roots in traditional media which has a top-down control method. I argue that it is the relative youth of the internet that makes people measure fame in terms of traditional media exposure, and as the internet gradually ages, we will see that people who become celebrities through their own efforts finally break out of the traditional system of celebrity as content distribution and promotion is no longer limited to media conglomerates.




Burgess, J. and Green J. (2009), “YouTube and The Mainstream Media” in Youtube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp 15-37


ITU (2011), “Internet User Statistics,” ITU, Retrived from:, accessed 09 May 2011


Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York

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While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation of online ‘communities’?

Van Dijck (2009:45) defines communities as ‘a large range of user groups’ with a large diversity, for example, ‘groups with a communal preference in music, movies or books.’ (Hennion, 2007: 104) or ‘people who happen to by the same brand of toy cars or follow the same diet: brand communities.’ (Arvidsson, 2005: 243) This definition would be the segregation of users based on their preferences or interests, but van Dijck also mentions the breakdown of another aspect of Web 2.0 that is critical to the Youtube community: the ratio of ‘produsers’ (Bruns, 2008) and consumers. This post aims to understand the impact of ranking tactics on the ratio of produsers and consumers and aims to explore that relationship between them by examining specific sub-communities relationships between the two.

The concept of the produser as termed by Dr. Bruns (2008) is a consumer of content that also actively contributes and produces content in addition to consuming it. While all produsers are consumers at the same time, the reverse is not true. Statistics by OECD (2007) shows that of all users of User-generated content (UGC) sites, 13% are ‘active creators’ of content, 19% are critics, 15% are ‘collectors,’ and 19% are joiners.

The ranking system on Youtube promotes content creation through rewarding its contributors with titles, e.g Most Viewed videos or Highest Rated video. In this form, it is a form of social recognition amongst the contributors peers that the content that they are posting are accepted and widely viewed by others. This is a view which is corroborated by Tedjamulia et al. (2005) who writes that social recognition is one of the reasons as to why content produsers constantly contribute to Youtube.

The issue that I can identify is that with the promotion of certain content through highest rankings or highest viewings, it is bound to echo the mainstream view of the general internet public and may alienate certain communities who contribute to alternative cultural content that do not echo mainstream views. However, the reverse may also happen. Take the hypothetical example of “Taste communities.” (Van Dijck, 2009:48) If a particular taste is enjoyed in small numbers, and then, all of a sudden, a video that highlights them goes viral and attracts a huge number of viewers, eventually then the alternative has become mainstream as a result of these ranking tactics.

Finally, while there is a lack of formal research, one pertinent point for the future is to consider the amount of political clout that commercial entities have in influencing them. We have to consider the fact that Youtube has become commercialised in the years that it has been taken over by Google, and that these conglomerates that pump in revenue affects how Youtube promotes certain videos.



Arvidsson, A. (2005) ‘Brands: A critical perspective,’ Journal of Consumer Culture 5(2), pp 235-58

Bruns, A. (2008) ‘Users like you? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content,’ Media, Culture and Society 31

Hennion, A. (2007) ‘Those Things that Hold Us Together: Taste and Sociology’ Cultural Sociology 1(1), pp 97-114

OECD (2007) Participative Web: User-generated Content, OECD committee for Information, Computer and Communications Police Report

Tedjamulia, S, Olsen, D, Dean, Conan, A. (2005) Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory

Van Dijck, J. (2009), ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’, Media, Culture and Society 31. pp.41-58.

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Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.


This post agrees with Russell et al that bloggers are more effective at informing the public with their editorial independence and collaborative structure, especially in the case when the elite media and institutions are state run. This post examines in particular, media in Singapore, comparing the national broadsheet The Straits Times with a political blog, The Online Citizen.


Jurgen Habermas (1989: 20) envisages the role of the media in his theory of the public sphere as an entity that is non-biased and providing information to educate and inform the general public on the government. This is so that citizens can make their own choice towards choosing the government of their choice in a democracy.


Herman and Choamsky (1984: 9) allude that there are one of the five levels of content filter is ownership, and a quick check of the ownership of The Straits Times (SPH, 2010) show that the principal owner is the Singapore Government. Hence, there is a tight control on editorial content, a view supported by George (2007: 138) who wrote that ‘the government firmly believes that the press should play a subordinate role and not harbour any Forth Estate ambitions.’


Furthermore, print publications are governed by a statute, which is the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act which expressly state that legal operation is only granted with the permission of a government minister from the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts. Currently, at this time of writing, the government consists of 95% from a single party.


Consequently, editorial content is very heavily influenced by the government who use the media to promote themselves and marginalise news from alternative political parties. Simmons (2006) states that content is very much self-censored by journalists themselves if they are not in line the company values. In the case of Singapore, the implications are greater as the state owns and runs the media company.


Blogs on the other hand, are exempt from such restriction as they are not legally considered a physical publication. The implication of this is they have the freedom to express themselves in line with their owner’s aims. In the context of this post, The Online Citizen constantly writes content that both criticize and highlight positive points of the government while also giving press to alternative parties whose voices are often repressed. (TOC, 2011)


A content analysis by Maruah (2011) shows that The Straits Times carried over 325 column inches for news on the ruling party during the election while other parties received a little more over 120 column inches. In comparison, The Online Citizen carried 8 stories on the ruling party and 15 stories on the other parties over the same period.


This analysis shows that with regards to state-owned media, blogs are an alternative voice for the opposition parties whose voices are often repressed by the government to suppress political views, and blogs as an alternative news source carry out the democratic functions of traditional media in order to better inform their citizens, much like the ideal of its role in Habermas’s Public Sphere.



George, Cherian. (2007) ‘Consolidating authoritarian rule: calibrated coercion in Singapore.’ The Pacific Review. 20(2):127-145.


Habermas, J. (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere : an inquiry into a category of bourgeois society translated by Thomas Burger with the assistance of Frederick Lawrence, Cambridge, Polity Press pp 20


Herman, E. and Choamsky, N. (1988) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, New York: Pantheon Books


Maruah (2011) ‘Media Monitoring,’ retrieved from:  Accessed on May 24th 2011


Simons, Margaret.   The Content Makers. Ch. 13. ‘Power and its Limits’ pp. 325-374 Melbourne: Penguin Books


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Web 2.0: Interacting with media of other users and other users!

Here, add your details here, guys! 🙂

First Post

Tutorial 3 Group Post Activity: Go to and spend some time looking at its main features, promotional information and tutorials. What features can you identify in WordPress that define it as a Web 2.0 application? (refer to lecture notes and pages 109 and 110 of the Reader – Web 2.0 Design Patterns). How does it manage to be a sustainable model while also empowering “produsers” (refer to page 87 of the Reader – Harnessing the Hive)? Discuss as a group

1.     Users Add Value
– Download WordPress 3.1 button: Lets users obtain wordpress software
– Software is created by hundreds of users, thus allowing users to participate

2.     Software Above the Level of a Single Device: WordPress can be accessed from mobile devices allowing for greater accessibility

3.     The Perpetual Beta:
– Widgets: Allow users to use other websites such as Twitter or Flickr as ongoing services

4.     Cooperate, Don’t Control
– The Facebook ‘Like’ button is available on WordPress to connect the two websites and integrate WordPress into users’ daily web browsing activities
– Users are encouraged to use other date services which are displayed prominently on WordPress’s main page

WordPress’s monetary sustainability models

WordPress utilises the GNU license, which gives away personal rights so long as the usage for these programs are for personal use. However, for commercial use, a charge is levied, and that in turn derives part of its revenue.

For example, WordPress blogs for personal users are free, but for big companies, they charge those companies for usage of the services and for hosting of their content. Sites include CNN’s political ticker.

Furthermore, for casuals readers of WordPress, they are shown ads from Google Adsense, providing that they meet a set of criteria, and revenue is derived from the amount of users who view these ads.

‘Paid Plugins:’ WordPress understands that blogs are frequent targets of spam. For this purpose, they have a plug-in that is free for personal users, but have a fee for corporate customers, and also for professional bloggers who derive revenue from their blogs. Examples of these paid plug-ins include on known as ‘automattic Kismet that has the purpose of filtering out spam comments.

Web hosting: WordPress also provides webhosting services for it’s users. They charge for media storage space for photos or videos that are to be posted on blogs.

Technical support: Lastly, WordPress also derives revenue from support provided to customers experiencing technical diffiiculties with their blogs from the wordpress system, so that downtime for these corporate customers is minimised.

Most of what these examples link back to the GNU license, which means that wordpress is relatively cost-free for personal consumers, but for corporate/commericial entities, they require a fee to keep their blogs up and running.


(Credit to Ayu and Joyce)