Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Problematic of Participation

In Henry Jenkins' treatment of emerging digital culture, I felt that the operating definition of participatory culture was both highly limited and ill-defined. Jenkins alternately defines participatory culture as "grassroots cultural productions" that fostered "self-expression and creativity," and an encouragement "to see ourselves as active participants in the world of fiction." These definitions are on the same page.

The problematic presented by Jenkins' definition of participatory culture is one of disjunctive realities. "Grassroots cultural productions" seem to come from the reality of the everyday and present themselves as alternatives to the system. In fact, Jenkins defines this "grassroots" space as "space for various minority groups to tell their own stories or to question hegemonic representations of their culture." But alongside this definition of participatory culture, tied to critique experienced political realities is the world of fiction, and enacting and re-enacting of establish fictive practice to escape the experienced reality of Jenkins first definition.

How we do reconcile this discrepancy? Is fan fiction both about escaping a world of fiction and simultaneously examining the social issues of experienced reality? How does participatory culture relate to identity? What do widely circulated cinematic costumes, t-shirts, catch-phrases, and quotable language games say about the ability for individuals to form a sense of self within a culture of fandom that is predicated on capitalistic forces of production, arguably narrating the very variables with which participatory culture and fandom try to free themselves.

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