Participatory Media & Culture: The Spirit of the Human

Send by emailSend by email

Deb Balzhiser, Texas State University
Caroline E. Jones, Austin Community College
Julie Good, San Antonio College

Web Designer: Tate English, National Instruments





We started with a general question about the sense of being human within the technoculture of social sites. We wondered if in relationship to social sites our sense of being human is intensified or if we are becoming spectres of ourselves—mere spirits of the human lost in the media—or, maybe, even, if we are disappearing. We explored our question through a material semiotic perspective (Law) whereby we understand technoculture as continuously generated effects of relationships between media and culture. For purposes of this analysis, we turned to criteria for participatory culture (Jenkins et al.) to help us think about the sense of being human. To conduct this analysis, we began by looking at three sites—Wikipedia, Google Maps, and YouTube—and for each of them identifying one representative concept for each of Jenkins et. al.'s five criterion for participatory culture. Once we had our fifteen concepts to represent criteria of participatory culture in relationship to the three sites, we used Eric and Marshall McLuhan's laws of media as a heuristic for analyzing them. For each concept we explored how the sense of human, expressed as participatory, are retrieved, enhanced, obsolesced, and reversed. In this text, we present these explorations in tetradic and mosaic form, presenting one mosaic, which includes tetrads, for each concept. Then, to demonstrate the complex and simultaniety of these concepts, we present one mosaic for each site that combines its five examples. Because these media coexist, they form a network of effects. Therefore, we also present one mosaic that demonstrates the combined sense of participatory to give an overall sense of human in these three social sites. More than conclude, these forms show the phenomenological nature of human in the networks.




(Full Screen Web Version Available Here)

(Print Version Available Here)




In addition to the reviewers at Technoculture, the authors would like to thank Kevin Brooks and David Beard for their extensive feedback on an earlier version of this work.




Deb Balzhiser is an Associate Professor of English and Writing Center Director at Texas State University in San Marcos. Her research examines intersections of systems, structures, discourse, methods, and media. Her work has appeared in College Composition and Communication, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, and the Journal of Business and Technical Communication, and Technical Communication Quarterly.

Caroline E. Jones teaches writing at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, and she serves as a section editor for The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children's Literature. She researches in the fields of sexuality in young adult literature and culture, dystopian young adult literature, and the life and work of L.M. Montgomery. Her work has appeared in The Lion and the Unicorn, Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, and Cultures, The Children's Literature Association Quarterly, and Children's Literature in Education.

Julie Good teaches in the Alamo Colleges’ Media Communications Department at San Antonio College in Texas. Her courses in the Music Business Program focus on economics, history, law, procedures, standard practices, and technologies involved in the discourse of the business of music. Her research analyzes applied methods of visual rhetoric in new media through user experiences of technical documentation related to production, distribution, and marketing of audio recordings. She holds an MA in Technical Communication from Texas State University.

Tate English is a Staff Technical Writer at National Instruments Corporation in Austin, Texas. His work focuses on the rhetoric and philosophy of tool use and content management. He holds an MA in Technical Communication from Texas State University.


© 2014 Deb Balzhiser, Caroline E. Jones, Julie Good, and Tate English, used by permission

Technoculture Volume 4 (2014)