Jay Rosen’s The People Formerly Known as the Audience, asserts that Big Media do not “own the press, … don’t control production on the new platform, which isn’t one-way. There’s a new balance of power between you and us” (15). Rosen positions the audience in a position of power, nodding to Tom Curley’s view that “The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be – what application, what device, what time, what place” (qtd in Rosen, 14), which to a certain degree, is undeniable. However, implying that the position of audience has shifted so drastically that an almost level playing field between those users who choose to create content and Big Media would be naive. The Big Media that Rosen refers to may focus on television networks (ABC, CBS, etc.), print media/journalism (New York Times, The National, etc.), but the reality is that Big Media has come to include a vast network of digital applications, social networks and digital communities.
Rosen is correct to identify “a new balance of power” (15) between audience and Big Media, but fails to question this new balance of power beyond the assumption that “the people formerly known as the audience” are taking charge of their engagement with Big Media. While we are continuously creating, collaborating and contributing to media, art and digital culture, we are still constantly consuming and engaging with material produced en masse by Big Media. We have not (and I suspect we will never) discarded our role as audience, but have caused Big Media to reevaluate our role as an audience. Big Media can no longer interact with audience as users who only consume, but as a group who also contributes, creates and wishes to collaborate.
The freedom afforded to audience in “deciding what the point of their engagement will be – what application, what device, what time, what place” (14) is the ability to choose which Big Media platform we would like to access information. Choosing to distribute digital photography using Instagram on your iPhone to your profile on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc., all involves engaging and using Big Media. Rosen suggests that we’ve leveled the playing field, offering equality between audience/creator and Big Media, when the reality is, as creators and contributors we still rely on Big Media platforms. Big Media hasn’t lost the fight, the rules of engagement have changed.
Mandiberg, Michael, Ed. The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2012.