Online Identity

There are many advantages when you become a part of the online world.  In saying that, there are many disadvantages too. The internet provides us with this amazing ability to create an online identity – to share, discover and discuss almost anything. However; posting about whatever you want can surface a lot of controversy, of course. Just like when you speak to someone in person – no two people are the same, so not everybody will agree with what you have to say. This stems from our unique individualities between differing values, morals, belief systems, and cultural lifestyle.

More to the point – prime examples of controversy on the web usually carry a similar theme, which is anonymity. By having the option to be anonymous, this removes a user’s complete identity and a lot of the time this is used to verbally harm others or post unnecessary materials. This is an advantage to the anonymous, because there are no repercussions for them and no further responsibility for the act(s). There are many sites which give the opportunity to not show your identity when posting things. The disadvantage to the latter is obvious; receiving uncomfortable questions or content as well as bullying, abuse and threats. The frustrating thing is it happens too often for every single case to the dealt with. Two sites which bestow these sorts of actions or ‘cyber hate‘ include Tumblr and Formspring. Of course these sites are not run for this purpose, it is purely up to the user. In my opinion, by signing up for sites such as these you are also signing up for the harmful and upsetting comments or images which you may receive. There is no way to control what each and every person does on the internet, especially those who are hidden, i’ve personally come to accept that and move on. Though sometimes it’s not that easy, and can lead to extreme cases of oppression and exclusion. On the other hand, anonymity can sometimes work in everyone’s favour. For example, a victim of violence or rape who is too afraid to come forward but wants to share their story online and get the support they need without revealing themselves. I think that anonymous users think that because they have the right to hide their identity this also gives them the right to use it in a derogatory way. I feel we are fortunate to be able to have an online identity and that this idea of being hidden shouldn’t be muddled with.

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Citizen Journalism

Media convergence has challenged the way journalism has been operating over the past few generations. Citizen journalism is when participants of information play an active role by gathering, analysing and distributing news. This is now integrated into our culture as society is changing the way we receive information by transferring from print media to digital media. Why? Because it’s convenient. Instant. Free. The best part about it all is – you can interact. We as consumers are becoming the producers through blogging, vlogging, and even social networking. Media platforms (i.e. YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, SoundCloud, Vimeo) allow us to contribute to collective intelligence in the comfort of our own homes, if desired.

I like to receive my news online because it’s usually from people which I know personally. There is no thorough editing process for the information presented to the public. One click and boom. It’s there, online for EVERYONE to see, at any time. I feel information online can be more reliable because you can discover more about an issue by commenting on the source, and there is usually multiple web pages where the story will overlap, OR alternatively you may know the source personally. For example there was a car crash near my house a few months ago. Because many of my Facebook friends live in my area, or pass through here on a daily basis, I knew about this crash within minutes after it had occurred, before I had even gotten out of bed that morning, and before any news station journalist had written or even knew about it. I read details about the car and passengers on various status updates from people who had driven past, or knew the people in the accident. This is where citizen journalism differs from traditional journalists – reading about incidents online from locals you somehow have a connection to – whether it’s someone you knew from school, a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend… you get my drift. Traditional journalists are struggling to keep up, and I am interested to see what citizen journalism can do in the future.

I’ve got the power

To upload and share almost anything I want through this WordPress account, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and various other media platforms. We are all citizen journalists. Isn’t that extraordinary? Today, we don’t think about it that much. But in comparison to say, a decade ago, we have come a long way into a very different, amazing and continuously evolving form of communication. We are active prosumers, participating in mediated culture more than ever before. Why? Because we want to be heard, and we can.

There are little to no gatekeepers monitoring what you share online and this is why social networking, blogging and vlogging have become so popular. Monologic media journalists have to be very cautious about what they write and how they present their information. Everything stated in newspapers, magazines, television or on the radio goes through a rigorous editing process. This ensures that the media can control what and how we receive information, although now this control is shifting. An example of this would be Han Han, a chinese blogger who became extremely popular online so he created a magazine, which was shut down after the first issue (selling over a million copies) because there was too much controversial information.

A case study in ‘The mobile Phone and the Public Sphere’ by Janey Gordon investigates the London bombings. Gordon states that those involved were providing “direct accounts from their mobile phones” of information and images through phone calls, SMS, MMS and social networking. I’m quite intrigued that it has actually come to this; being surrounded by danger a horrific event and yet the first thing people do is upload and share what they can see/what is happening. I personally think it’s a way of reaching out. All humans want to be heard and seek interconnection.