The concept of ‘Journalism’, once used to describe a “structured and organised mode of public communication” (Quandt 2011), has changed greatly in recent years due to the increasing participation of online users in generating content. The introduction of new ubiquitous tools and digital mobile technologies has made it possible for anyone to publish and report news from anywhere in the world.
Whilst participatory journalism has assisted many countries, such as Australia, in the reporting of natural disasters (Freeman 2011), what has particularly interested me about the rise in user-generated content is the way in which it is beginning to transform the concept of democracy in countries with strict censorship and internet regulation.
Recently, I read an article on how j-blogging in China has opened up “new opportunities for a multiperspectival framework of news” through the introduction of blogs that poke, watch and mock the “gate” that surrounds mainstream media without challenging the Chinese Communist Policy (Yu 2011, p380). In response to the stringent mainstream media control by the state, the blogosphere allows a feedback loop between the mainstream media and ‘Chinese netizens’.
This type of freedom for users to interact with journalists in a space that is separate from that of the mainstream media has allowed for a greater number of voices to contribute to the online public communication network.
Although online participatory journalism may cause issues in Western civilisations regarding the difficulty of evaluating information from unverifiable origins (Lazaroiu, 2011) we must not look past the positive effects. China is a prime example of the way in which the proliferation of “produsers” has assisted in the development of a more democratic public sphere.
Freeman, M 2011, ‘Fire, wind and water: social networks in natural disasters’ Journal of Cases on Information Technology, vol.13, no.2, p69
Lazaroiu, D 2011, ‘Ethical Journalism and Truth’, Economics, Management, and Financial Markets, vol.6, no.2, pp886–889
Quandt, T 2011, ‘Understanding a new phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’, in JB Singer, a Hermida, D Domingo, A Heinonen, S Paulussen, T Quandt, Z Reich & M Vujnovic (eds.), Participatory Journalism in Online Newspapers:Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex, pp155-176
Yu, Haiqing 2011, ‘Beyond gatekeeping: J-blogging in China’ Journalism, vol.12, no.4, pp379–393