Media and participation

Making is Connecting

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David Gauntlett argues that there is a power in making and that we connect through creating.  You connect not only one material to another, but there is also a social dimension to it, and when we make and share we engage and connect with our environment. When you share what you have made, others can also perhaps sense a presence of the maker, which can give a sense of shared feeling and cause.

Gauntlett means that when we make something it gives us agency and possibilities in the world. It can also give us joy, more so than what we usually do which is working and earning more money or consuming more.

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His main point is that he is seeing a shift from a “sit back and be told” culture, where we are passive for instance in school and education, we sit and listen to a teacher telling us what to know and believe, to the TV as a medium letting us passively sit and be told what to like and be entertained by, to consumerism where someone else makes and tells us what to buy. Instead we are going into, he hopes, a “making and doing” culture, where amateur creativity or everyday creativity is giving us power and makes us participants instead of just viewers. By working with our hands we become active instead of passive, and inspire others to do the same. And this is a crucial point; making things is a part of the process of thinking about things. Making and sharing is a political act itself. And the new digital platforms are great tools to share this creativity and connecting with others.

Gauntlett reasons that even though some things might seem trivial, the choice to make something yourself rather than buying it from a big supplier, is significant. It leads to a new way of looking at things and potentially to a political shift in how we deal with the world. Making helps us build resilience and a creative capacity to deal with significant challenges.

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Everyday creativity does not rely on hierarchies of experts or elite to be validated. Instead we should celebrate humans imperfections, that we are not machines. It’s the imperfections that encourages others to make something themselves by showing that the threshold doesn’t have to be too high; “I can do this too!”

Criticizing present realities is important but insufficient. Making things can inspire to see new ways. And, you can also share knowledge and ideas to your environment.

If you would see this in Carpentier’s minimal/maximal media participation scheme, Gauntlett has a maximalist view on how the Internet can be a great tool for the participating, a very postivie approach on how we can use the Internet. He believes that one person making something and sharing is participating and making a difference in society. He talks about Couldry’s “Why Voice matters” and how having a voice and listening to different voices in society is crucial, and how making and sharing on the Internet can do that.  Society is stronger when we take time to listen to the voices around us.

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It’s easy to criticize Gauntlett, as Zygmunt Bauman would probably say, that this is a part of capitalism, we are made to believe we have a choice when in fact we don’t. More radical left theories would likely state it’s the elite going “Let the people be occupied by their craft projects, while we have the real power”. And of course this assumes a stable society as an environment. Also, is there always an audience?

Personally, I enjoy his perspective and reading an academic text that tries to simplify and allows himself to be naïve and optimitstic about the human self, while he is really pinpointing something that can be a very important way of dealing with life issues. Being creative and inspirering others is perhaps a much better way of dealing with problems than other much more destructive ways.

His ideas in some ways can be linked to hackers who developed the Internet on a gift economy, how people can use the Internet as a tool. Alike other Internet optimistic academics, of one Manuel Castells is a brilliant example, Gauntlett has a very positive take on how the Internet can empower and engage people in participating in a community.

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