1/2013 WiderScreen 16 (1)

You, Me, User – Introduction / Johdanto

user-generated content

Outi J. Hakola | Editor | University of Helsinki | Finnish Society for Cinema Studies

WiderScreen volume 1/2013 approaches the user-generated culture, or in other words, multiple situations where culture becomes modified, produced and distributed through everyday practices, social and new media from different perspectives.

WiderScreenin numerossa 1/2013 käyttäjien tuottamalla kulttuurilla viitataan erityisesti tapoihin, joilla sisältöä ja kulttuuria jaetaan, tuotetaan ja/tai muokataan käyttäjien toimesta hyvin moninaisilla tavoilla.From social media to video games and from online fan production to machinima – the phenomenon of user-generated culture has secured its position in the mainstream. This shift has resulted from the blurring boundaries between media production and consumption as well as between professional and amateur authorship. This WiderScreen volume approaches the user-generated culture, or in other words, multiple situations where culture becomes modified, produced and distributed through everyday practices, social and new media from different perspectives.

Although it is not a recent phenomena or typical only for the contemporary culture, the amateur productions and audiences’ or consumers’ cultural participation have become extremely visible within the past ten or twenty years. For the most part, social media and media technology – including computers, mobile phones, internet and wireless connections, as well as digital cameras, camcorders, music studios – have brought both the production equipment and ways to distribute closer to the consumers of culture. We have YouTube videos, MySpace accounts, Facebook groups, blogs and social media advertisement of events – and so on. As a consequence, any cultural production can now be shared with others. This phenomenon is not limited to the media cultures, but for example different pop-up practices, such as Restaurant Day, can be seen to be part of the same trend.

The phenomenon is claimed to be characterized by collaboration, accessibility and democratic potential. Especially the early research on user-generated contents, such as the internet discussion pages, emphasized the democratic and participatory role of the phenomenon. For example, Jan van Dijk describes the theoretical discussion in the beginning of the 21st Centry ”as hype after massive spread of the Internet in society”. The hype included ideas of ”new democracy” and ”prospect of mass participation in politics and policy making via the Internet”. (van Dijk 2013.) However, soon after the enthusiastic writings of democratization, different voices started to emerge to the discussion. For example, political scientist Jodi Dean discussed the virtual space as a new civil society, but instead of idealizing it, she reminds that social media and internet are included to the public discussions, and as such they do have participatory potential, but instead of using this potential for rational debates the public discussion is often irrational and emotional. For example, internet discussion pages are not necessarily reasonable or rational, but “at worst, a set of irrational and often demeaning rants”. (Dean 2001.) Therefore, the idealistic definitions of public sphere have been forced to face the human nature.

Whereas the idealization of the media users’ gaining of the voice did not last too long, also other aspects of the user-generated culture started to become questioned. José van Dijk criticizes that in the theoretical discussion over user-generated culture the users are often seen as active participants in contrast to the “passive recipients” of the “old media”. However, as cultural studies scholars have shown, audiences have never been passive, but actively engaging with the media. Digital technologies have just made this engagement more visible. Also, van Dijk argues against the optimism that participation would always relate to common causes. Instead, often the participation is directed into productions, consumption and promotion of certain companies. (van Dijk 2009.)

Indeed, the researchers see that most of the cultural and media contexts are still produced by companies, and even the user-generated culture uses the technological possibilities provided by large international companies. Thus, the power and hierarchies still remain, and the financial benefits go rarely to the users, but to the mediating companies. As David Buckingham argues, the researchers of user-generated cultures have started to question the media revolution which would have transferred the power to the people, to the users. Instead, power remains with Facebook, YouTube and other companies that promote their products. Although these companies offer the platform to the users, these same companies are reliable for the users to provide the content and while the users give they work for free, the corporate are making the money by exploiting these user-generated contents. (Buckingham 2012.)

Furthermore, as Reijo Kupiainen’s article in this volume brings forward, only small proportion of the audience is participating and familiar with user-generated contents. Thus, the user-generated cultures are not necessarily as wide-spread phenomena as it is often claimed to be. Instead, it remains selective and the contents are in the hands of people already familiar with the technologies. Thus, the user-generated cultures should not be generalized. Instead, user-generated cultures are parts of the wider culture, and furthermore, these cultures are often mundane and part of the everyday life.

At the moment, the focus of the research is on the (celebration of) mundane. In other words, researchers have acknowledged the everyday life quality of user-generated culture, or even the banality of this culture. Most parts of this culture is lost, or not watched at all, as David Buckingham (2012) argues. Indeed, it is difficult to find audience for the user-generated cultures, as there are several blogs, sites, contents to choose from. However, the user-generated culture still holds the potential for (free) expression – whether this is used for common good, entertainment, or for some other motivation – although the potential, according to the current research, does not materialize in most cases. Thus, idealization or talks of revolution are now long gone, and the user-generated culture is not seen to take over the media or culture. Instead, user-generated culture is seen to be diverse and accessible, for those who choose to participate. Furthermore, most of the users do not engage political debates or cultural citizenship, but instead they chat on social media, share food recipes, comment videos and hide beneath anonymity. Still, it is important to notice that the researchers of this field have highlighted that there is nothing wrong with this kind of use of digitalized possibilities. Instead, the user-generated cultures should be appreciated and studied as they are. Instead, what has been criticized is the desires and expectations of the researchers’ themselves as in the early years of the phenomenon they wanted to see the phenomenon as something different than it actually was. In this volume, the everyday diversity of the user-generated culture is discussed from different viewpoints.

In May 2012 the Finnish Society for Cinema Studies (SETS) organized an international two-day conference ”You, Me, User” on user-generated culture. This journal number is a selection of some of the presentations given during those two days. Whereas half of the presenters came outside Finnish borders and half of the participants were Finnish, also the articles in this number follow the trend as the articles are published in two languages – Finnish and English.

The volume starts with Petri Kupiainen’s article on diginatives. In this article Kupiainen challenges the assumption that certain generation(s) would automatically feel at home with digital technologies and possibilities they provide for user-generated cultures. Veli-Matti Karhulahti, on his part, discusses the relationship between art and the videogame through philosophical arguments. He argues that single player gaming can be approached as the art of secluded expression where through playing the individual can express himself. In Jacob Groshek’s, Cheng Heng Hsu’s and Rudolf den Hartogh’s article “Music in the eyes” the role of music is studied in the user-generated culture through re-created trailers of Twilight. Virve Peteri, Jari Luomanen and Pertti Alasuutari challenge the assumed demateraliazation of cultural artefacts in the digital age in their article on materiality of digital environments. The discussion continues on the article on the domestication of iPad. In this article, Virve Peteri and Jari Luomanen go through the cultural mechanisms through which iPad became a familiar object for users and consumers. All the articles are peer reviewed, and I want to thank all the writers and reviews for their contribution.

Käyttäjälähtöistä kulttuuria pohtimassa

Viime aikoina käyttäjien tuottama kulttuuri on vakiinnuttanut itsensä osana valtakulttuuria. Erityisesti uusmedian ja teknologisen kehityksen tuottamat mahdollisuudet ovat tulleet jokaisen ulottuville aina kotivideoiden julkaisemisesta omien blogien kirjoittamiseen. Toukokuussa 2012 Suomen elokuvatutkimuksen seura (SETS) järjesti aiheesta kaksipäiväisen ja kansainvälisen konferenssin käyttäjälähtöisestä kulttuurista otsikon “You, Me, User” alla. WiderScreenin numeroon 1/2013 on valittu muutamia konferenssissa pidettyjä esitelmiä. Koska noin puolet esiintyjistä oli suomalaisia ja puolet muualta tulleita, ovat myös nyt julkaistavat artikkelit joko suomen- tai englanninkielisiä. Artikkelit ovat kaikki vertaisarvioituja.

Tässä numerossa käyttäjien tuottamalla kulttuurilla viitataan erityisesti tapoihin, joilla sisältöä ja kulttuuria jaetaan, tuotetaan ja/tai muokataan käyttäjien toimesta hyvin moninaisilla tavoilla. Tutkimuksen kentällä ilmiön on sanottu edustavan yhteisöllisyyttä, saavutettavuutta ja demokraattisuutta, mutta samaan aikaan näitä näkökulmia on myös kritisoitu, sillä käyttäjät eivät tunnu useinkaan tavoittelevan poliittista vaikutusvaltaa, vaan omia tuotoksia ja tuotteita tehdään hyvin erilaisista motivaatioista ja päämääristä käsin. Numero keskittyy pohtimaan käyttäjälähtöisen kulttuurin erilaisia ilmentymiä.

Mukana on Reijo Kupiaisen artikkeli diginatiiveista, jossa hän pohtii sitä, keitä nämä ”käyttäjät” tai ”tuottajat” oikeastaan ovat. Veli-Matti Karhulahti kirjoittaa pelaamisesta pelaajan tuottaman taidekokemuksen kautta. Jacob Groshek, Cheng Heng Hsu ja Rudolf den Hartogh tutkivat musiikin vaikutusta käyttäjien uudelleen luomissa elokuvatrailereissa. Virve Peteri, Jari Luomanen ja Pertti Alasuutari haastavat oletuksen digitaalisen ympäristön materiaalittomuudesta. Numeron viimeisessä artikkelissa Peteri ja Luomanen pohtivat lisäksi tapoja, joilla iPadista tuli käyttäjille ja kuluttajille tuttu ja jokapäiväinen käyttöesine. Haluan osoittaa kiitokset kaikille WiderScreenin tekijöille, kirjoittajille ja tekstien arvioitsijoille.

WiderScreenin numero 1/2013 on myös ensimmäinen numero uudistuneessa julkaisussa. Tämän numeron myötä WiderScreen muuttuu vertaisarvioiduksi tieteelliseksi verkkolehdeksi, joka keskittyy multimediaalisesti ja monitieteellisesti audiovisuaalisen ja digitaalisen kulttuurin tutkimuksen julkaisemiseen. Vertaisarvioitujen artikkelien lisäksi lehti julkaisee myös katsauksia, haastatteluja ja kolumneja, joiden tehtävänä on avata monipuolista tutkimuskenttää laajalle yleisölle ja alasta kiinnostuneille. Tervetuloa uudistuneen WiderScreenin pariin!


Buckingham, David (2013) Media Power to the People? Understanding amateur media production. Keynote lecture at You, Me, User – Conference on User-Generated Culture, 25.5.2012, Helsinki.

Dean, Jodi (2001) Cybersalons and Civil Society: Rethinking the Public Sphere in Transnational Technoculture. Public Culture vol. 13:2, 243-265.

van Dijk, Jan A.G.M (2013) Digital Democracy: Vision and Reality. In I. Snellen & W. van de Donk (eds.), Public Administration in the Information Age: Revisited, IOS Press.

Van Dijk, José (2009) Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content. Media Culture Society vol. 31:1, 41-58.

1/2013 WiderScreen 16 (1)

iDeal machines and iDeal users: Domesticating iPad as a cultural object

co-creation, discourse analysis, iPad, technology domestication

Jari Luomanen
School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere

Virve Peteri
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh

Viittaaminen / How to cite: Luomanen, Jari, and Virve Peteri. 2013. ”iDeal machines and iDeal users: Domesticating iPad as a cultural object”. WiderScreen 16 (1). http://widerscreen.fi/numerot/2013-1/domesticating-ipad/

Drawing on qualitative data gathered from public online discussions in which people account for their ideas about the iPad’s relevance, the paper addresses the question how the meanings of the device are constructed and negotiated. These discussions are motivated by the need to understand the new piece of technology and to grasp its legitimacy. The paper discusses these empirical findings within the framework of domestication of media technology. The meanings of different media and technology and their legitimate use are challenged and changed with the arrival of new technology. The data illustrate how people are negotiating the cultural place of the new device, and in iPad’s case, a design concept. iPad in particular is interesting because it defined a whole new category of technology design interfering with the traditional technological landscape. Two key discursive strategies are identified and a model of the iPad domestication process is presented in the article, which contributes to the studies of co-creation of technological artefacts by revealing the role of the users in finalizing the design and concept of the product.


Apple introduced a new product called iPad in 2010. This “tablet computer” is a platform that can utilise the Internet as well as a host of other types of media and communication technologies. The device has a multitouch display and no traditional keypad. Its size and shape seem to place it between smartphones and laptop computers. The iPad, already in its fourth generation, has been a corporate success, aiming to define a whole new category of mobile devices. Many brands are now developing and marketing their own tablet computers in order to further solidify (and capitalize) this new category of devices. We chose to analyse the iPad domestication process due to the great number of users and the quick adoption of the device.

Domestication of technology is a process in which the user has an active role in the outcome of the technology and in challenging the traditional notions of designer and user. The meanings of different media and technology and their legitimate uses are challenged and renegotiated with the arrival of new technology. Hence, the iPad does not enter everyday life in isolation but, rather, is “born” in a network of relations between, say, other e-readers, print media, desktop computers, television and the Internet. Such a disruptive, nomadic product category warrants scientific inquiry: in this article we chose to analyse iPad as it has in a short time become a known brand and thus has generated a lot of rich data in various online environments.

The concept of domestication originates from anthropology and consumption studies and has been developed particularly by cultural media researchers interested in the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the household (Haddon 2011, Morley and Silverstone 1990, Silverstone 1994, Silverstone and Hirsch 1992, Silverstone et al. 1991). Silverstone and Haddon (1996) present a model they call design/domestication interface to explicate how design and domestication form the two sides of the coin of innovation. This model is the starting point of this article. The model proposes that domestication is always anticipated in the design, and the design is completed only when people domesticate the design. Certainly, there are several economic, cultural, and political processes that constrain and enable the possibilities of users to define the meanings of a specific technology, but Silverstone and Haddon’s model highlights the activities of the users as agents who complete and rekindle the design.

This act of collective creativity shared by two or more people has been referred to as co-creation (Sanders and Stappers 2008). Our article is a part of the developing field of design research which considers design as a social and interpretative practice and analyses how design concepts and ideas are produced in interaction (Danko et al. 2006, Ganoe 1999, Glock 2009, Luck 2009, McDonnell 2009, McDonnell 2011, Oak 2010). Our contribution is in elucidating the ways in which the users act as co-producers and “finalize” the design concept.

The main point in our article is that domestication must also be studied as discursive practises focusing on the ways the devices are domesticated in and through language use and interaction. Here the focus is on the micro-level practise of language use: the analytical emphasis is on the linguistic strategies and cultural resources invoked in interaction. Such an approach resembles the methodology of discursive psychology: we identify speaker positions, praise and blame that is attributed to various actors and the premises for building an agency in the iPad related accounts. The focus is on scrutinizing these discursive strategies rather than trying to grasp some broader structures of meaning related to technology.

This kind of a context bound, micro-level discursive aspect of domestication process has largely been neglected in domestication studies. A few recent exceptions include Maren Hartmann’s article on Wi-fi cafes where she analyses the context also as a discursive environment that is being shaped by media reactions (Hartmann 2009) and an article by Helle-Valle and Slettemeås (2008) which has developed a point of view emphasizing that domestication perspective should pay more attention to how technologies fit and are fitted to language-games that are an integral part of domesticating technologies (Helle-Valle & Slettemeås 2008). In addition Livio & Weinblatt (2007) suggest that when the focus is on investigating the domestication of technologies analysing the related discursive practises should not be considered less relevant than analysing the related actions, routines and rituals.

This article deals with the iPad domestication process through examining naturally occurring online discussions (April 2010 until April 2012) related to the device. It takes into account the discursive work through which people position themselves and the device as they talk about the uses of the iPad. Identifying justifications for purchasing and using the device is of key importance in our study: these justifications reveal the culturally shared and acceptable ways of domesticating such a device. The users may speak from various positions such as a “techno-geek”, a book lover, a businessman or a woman, a parent, and so forth. Various positions afford different critiques and possibilities to endorse the new technology. Hence, it is important to see what kinds of positions the iPad activates and to which effect; not only is the iPad given various roles and objectives but the users also are being shaped and placed into various contexts.

We consider every discussion about technology as a mini-intervention to the culturally available resources that can be invoked in order to make sense about one’s uses of technology. Domestication of technologies involves various things that people do and say just to show to other users that they are active agents who participate in completing the innovation and design as noted by Silverstone and Haddon (1996). However, this aspect of domestication has not been empirically studied to a great extent. This article elucidates the kinds of questions and approach to data that enable the analysis of this day-to-day co-creation. The users comment on the device, defining and discovering the boundaries of the attractive and legitimate uses, thus completing the design in the process of domestication as co-creators of the device (Bakardjieva 2005, Katz and Sugiyama 2005, Lie and Sørensen 1996).

This article explores how the iPad is being domesticated via discursive efforts. It will identify the key discursive strategies through which the innovation is recognised and then made sense of. The paper is organised as follows. Domestication studies as well as data and methodology are discussed in their respective chapters. Empirical analysis is then presented with subsections on 1) the discursive production of future potential and expertise concerning the iPad and 2) articulation of the individual uses and the collective comprehension of the design concept. Finally, the conclusions are presented.

Technology domestication processes

Whether and why a technological device or service does or does not become popular is not an easy question to answer. Donald A. Norman provides thoughts about the “success” of technology products in his book The Invisible Computer (Norman 1999). Norman set out to understand the ways in which technology is adopted and why it is that some products are successful while others fail regardless of how “good” they might be. He was particularly interested in the personal computer and how it has fared on its way to becoming a mundane household commodity. He notes that every technology has a life cycle and as they “progress from birth, through troubled adolescence, and on to maturity, their characteristics change” (Norman 1999). Such transformations in the way we understand a certain technology can likewise be studied.

Research on the ways in which technologies become a part of the everyday life does not have a long tradition yet (Lie & Sørensen 1996, 2). It is true, following Norman’s thinking, that as technologies age and mature, their characteristics change – as technologies become commonplace, people become increasingly familiar with their presence and various routines and habits develop. As technologies are adapted they are both shaped and shaping as they form a multiplicity of relationships in the culture, manifested in the practices of individuals and institutions (Silverstone et al. 1992). The users of technology likewise change; technology in use can be understood in multiple ways as people accumulate experiences with it and share them in social interaction.

It follows that products of technology can change everyday practices but a product such as an iPad is never adopted as such – people never use it quite the same way the designer intended it to be used (Lie and Sørensen 1996, 8–10). Usually people refuse to use some of the product’s features, which the designer views as sophisticated, or they find innovative ways to use it differently, perhaps in a thoroughly unexpected manner. Products, then, are socially shaped but we must also remember that the “social” is itself shaped by the products.

In domestication studies it is emphasised that adopting a technology is a process rather than a single event. Using and consuming various products is, in itself, a production of meanings and culture instead of just mirroring the meanings and significance already inscribed into products and technologies. (Haddon 2003, Haddon 2007). Domestication can also be seen in connection with cultural media studies where e.g. television has been studied as part of social practices and family relations (Peteri 2006). According to Peteri the idea of domestication might suggest that technologies are domesticated once, after which they simply exist, resisting change over time. However, the role of technologies, for example in the context of home, is constantly evolving, and even familiar technologies may assume new characteristics. Thus, Peteri (2006) notes that domestication is not a process with a clear-cut beginning and end. This is easy to understand, particularly in the case of information and communication technology such as the iPad, which has multiple uses and is connected to various spheres of social interaction. Furthermore, it is also connected to virtually all “traditional” forms of media, such as newspapers, television and radio.

Domestication has to do with concrete artefacts, devices and practices that enable negotiations regarding home, family and everyday life (Jokinen 2005). Furthermore, through their uses they contribute to our understanding of private and public, gendered division of labour and work, family and private life. According to Lie & Sørensen (1996, 3) the routines and functions of everyday life signify stability and reproduction of social patterns. They note that introducing technology into this context necessitates a review of the notions of both everyday life and technology: everyday life is not so stable and technology is not so revolutionary after all. New technology such as the iPad may provide a stimulus for change but it may also serve to further consolidate the routinised actions of everyday living.

Katz & Sugiyama (2005, 79) refer to consumers of technology as “co-creators” in their analysis of users innovating novel ways to use their mobile phones. As Lie & Sørensen point out, consumption of technology leaves considerable room for action at the user’s end instead of making the user adapt to whatever properties technology may have. Bakardjieva (2005, 25–26) too notes that the term consumption could be replaced with the term use as it “subsumes consumption of both technology and content, but it also encompasses a wide set of significant practices that remain invisible from the perspective of the standard production-consumption dualism”.

A key point is that in the introduction of technology into people’s lives, the categories of the designer and the user need to be understood and explored in broader terms than rigid a priori facts. Studying the role of technology in everyday life reveals how human actions shape socio-technical relations and how people make technology meaningful in their lives. Instead of studying the “impact” the focus shifts to understanding the innovation occurring after the technology leaves the drawing board. This is a central idea in the constructionist turn of technology studies roughly since the late 1980’s. Thus, “taming” new technologies, domesticating them and their capabilities is seen as a process in which the user, the consumer of technologies, has an active role that contributes to the outcome and the role of technologies in the context of everyday life, thus challenging the traditional conceptions of designer and user. (Lie & Sørensen 1996, 4–9). This latitude for user innovation proved a core element in the discursive strategies presented in this paper.

Data and methodology

As members of the society, people have internalised various shared understandings concerning technology. It is necessary to the way in which people function, as it is not possible to always reflect in detail everything we come across as a part of daily life (Alasuutari 2004, Heller 1984, Tannen 1979). Rather, people have a cultural understanding about perceptibly normal actions, such as shopping in a grocery store or having a phone conversation. Deviation from this normative order is subject to social sanctions (Garfinkel 1967). Hence, people have expectations regarding the events that the mundane practise of everyday life consists of. The only way people can make sense of the world is to see the connections between things, experiences and past events (Tannen 1979). As soon as people encounter new things, they also begin dealing with expectations. As people account for these things and events, they also construct frames of expectations that they may find adequate or deviate from.

Through the analysis of the data we contribute to the understanding (Alasuutari, Luomanen and Peteri forthcoming) of the ways in which people relate to the new situation: what conceptual resources they use to make sense of them, and whether they consider a form of action justifiable or morally problematic. Thus the analysis will shed more light on what forms people’s iPad use is likely to assume and why, because the meanings associated with the action tell us about its motives and about the ways in which iPad user identities are attached to it.

The data was obtained by means of sampling naturally occurring online discussions pertaining to the topic. These data have been found simply by doing Internet searches using iPad as a keyword. The data are not restricted to a certain country or region but, rather, international discussion forums have been utilised. The data gathered represents the time right after the device was announced and until people started getting their own iPads and gaining experience with it. This time span is from April 2010 until april 2012. Although domestication is a continuous process, in the beginning the device is particularly visible and “untamed”. Hence, such a new product produces a lot of talk where it is negotiated and defined as a part of everyday life and culture.

In the beginning of the analysis both authors searched for discussions, blog posts and forums about the iPad. On the Internet there is a great abundance of such data: literally thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of comments have been made. We printed out a large number of discussions that we could find and then took our notes and findings together to see whether we had found any similar discursive practices. In the end we sampled 15 forums and 20 blogs for data. The length of the printouts per a blog or a discussion thread varied from a few pages to 120 pages. We did not search for forums or blogs dedicated to the iPad only, but sites of broader interest, usually created around a hobby or some other type of activity (e.g. photography, cycling, TV, literature). These people were then commenting on the iPad spontaneously as they had found it worth writing about. As such, it is a good example of a technology arriving into peoples’ lives, creating controversy and need to discuss its characteristics.

In this article we focus on the ways of building legitimacy for the device and the user against criticism. The samples presented in this article illustrate how the legitimacy is achieved – therefore the criticism against the device is always present as a kind of a subtext. After all, in case there were no critical attitudes towards the device no-one would bother discussing the legitimacy of the device. It is not simply a setting where there are either critical people or enthusiasts. Rather, even people who find the device mostly appealing also recognize the critical arguments and not only need to convince others but also themselves before committing to a purchase decision.

No directly individually recognizable information is published, and possible names and nicknames have been changed in order to preserve anonymity as well as possible. This is why we omit the names of the blogs and forums. On the other hand, the discussions have been posted in public domain and the topic is not particularly sensitive. Due to the restrictions in the length of the article we could not include long strings of discussion but rather we analyse individual comments. However, we did include three samples from a single discussion thread (extracts 1, 2 and 6) to give an example of the way in which people respond to a post in an online discussion.

Social constructionist approach to understanding the data is adopted, and discourse analysis used as the method. In discourse analysis it is maintained that a self-sustaining and coherent self or an identity is an illusion, since people continuously construct their identities in social interaction with various repertoires which, depending on the context, might be contradictory with each other (Alasuutari 2004, Burr 2003, Jokinen et al. 1999, Potter and Wetherell 1987, Suoninen 1992). In this respect, language use is directly linked with the construction of the identity as it affords individuals with various subject positions (Alasuutari 2004, Davies and Harré 1990). The positions are not necessarily non-contradictory, but fragments in the discursive production of personhood (Davies and Harré 1990).

Due to the nature of the data we cannot know who the commentators are and what kinds of motivations they may have. Within our methodological approach there is no need to guess what people “really” think (or in the case of the online data, who the people really are) as the data studied in this article explicitly presents the variety of ways it is possible to talk about technology. Rather than trying to categorise people, the analytic emphasis is on elucidating the ways it is sensible to account for the uses and roles of the iPad, what premises these accounts are based on, and what sort of positions are accomplished and given to the device and also other users. Hence, even if a person initially criticizes the iPad and later confesses a liking for it or finds it very important, the researcher need not wonder whether this person should be put into the slot of iPad “haters” or “enthusiastic users”. The focus is not on the individual but on the cultural (Alasuutari 2004; Burr 1995; Luomanen 2010; Potter 1996).

In our article domestication as a concept does not refer to home or to domestic environments but rather to appropriation and taming of the new device via culturally available discursive means. In the case of our data the “cultural” does not refer to home cultures or national cultures (although we acknowledge the data has been collected from English language forums). In a similar vein as Helle-Valle & Slettemeås (2008) we see this as a pragmatic and analytical decision. It enables us to use data that is not restricted to domestic environments or to certain nations and also to emphasize the meaning of “domestication” as a discursive adoption of and taming the device.

Taming the iPad – in search for legitimacy

The data include not only isolated descriptions of the new device but, rather, discursive work that contributes to and produces the new device. After all a new product is not an innovation unless it is recognized as one. As such an innovation is offered to people there need to be justifications for its existence. A technological artefact does not really stand a chance of success without layers of discursive sense making about the reasons why such a device should have a place in the lives of people. Based on the analysis of the data this task is carried out through two distinct discursive strategies.

  • The first strategy of defining the iPad as a distinct innovation as well as a worthy product is to place its true potential into the future. As it is developing and a “revolutionary” product, not all of its capabilities can yet be known. Thus, within the argumentative logic of the accounts it cannot be legitimately criticized due to this future potential.
  • Second, as every iPad and every user are accounted as individuals, the users’ experience cannot be questioned. Here the argumentative logic builds on the fact that the customization possibilities and individual uses are practically endless, thus making every iPad and every user individual. Therefore, the legitimacy of the device or the uses cannot be challenged.

These are the two key strategies of countering iPad criticism and gaining legitimacy as a user. These strategies are overlapping and thus impossible to explore in total isolation from each other. In the following section we analyse how the iPad’s potential is placed into the future and how the user expertise is accounted about in relation to that. After that we illustrate how the individuality of the uses positions it beyond critiques and how people account about themselves as co-creators of technology.

Future potential and expertise

The iPad is compared to existing devices and technologies in order to make sense of its capabilities. As a result, the iPad is “born” in relation to other competing products and, as a novel concept, other product categories such as laptops. Consider the following example:

Extract 1

Many people are still trying to figure out what niche the iPad fits into; that being said:

The more detailed reviews seem to be pretty clear that that it easily beats out most existing netbooks, but can’t quite compete with laptops (for power) or smartphones (for communication).

Most of the reviewers agree that it’s great for viewing videos, photos, and browsing the web. It makes an okay (but not great) e-reader. Otherwise, the first generation of apps has done a really good job of taking advantage of the screen real estate.

This and the following extract are responses to a query about user experiences of the newly released iPad. The original query was about getting a true user’s perspective instead of more “blue sky talk” and “hype or advertising fluff”. In this reply the characteristics of the device are weighed against its competitors in order to make sense of it. In the technological ecosystem where various gadgets are available any device must prove to be worthy in order to present a viable option to consumers: it would be silly to buy an inferior product. Since the iPad can do so many things, it is being compared to a wide range of competing products.

The argumentative logic in the above sample is derived from two positions that are given to people who discuss and evaluate the device. First, many people are accounted as trying to figure the iPad out: they are not yet insightful. On the other hand, there are the “reviewers”; advanced users that have gained a deep insight concerning the device. The speaker position is not explicitly made but the account leaves latitude for an interpretation that the speaker is also an expert. After all, he paraphrases the experts, and more importantly, he has recognized these groups.

The expert talk about the iPad also includes the apps, the software programs that utilise the capabilities of the device (such as the GPS, the processing power, the large screen). The apps are referred to as belonging to the first generation, which produces an understanding that here we actually have a device that will continue to develop through the refinement of apps. The fact that a reference is made to app generations further solidifies the speaker’s position as an expert.

As a result, the iPad is constructed as a device that not only has great potential but also requires certain abilities from the user so as to be able to fully comprehend the whole technological entity that the iPad is. Consequently, the device is not only domesticated “as is” but, rather, as a future potential yet to be unleashed.

The above sample also invokes the concept of developing software as an integral part of the iPad. The following sample (a response to same original query as extract 1) further illustrates this point.

Extract 2

It’s only been out a few weeks so new software is eking out. People like the above poster who rails against the iPad will likely find iPad clones to be just that, clones with worse support and less available software, the software needs to be different to take advantage of the simple interface.

It is not a replacement for a computer, it is a new type of device its potential is yet to be discovered. The best is yet to come.

Here, a group of people are identified as railing against the device because they have failed to learn enough about the concept. The argumentative currency is derived from a distinction between the refined design and software of the iPad against the poorly executed implementations in the competing devices; the clones. As these competing products are referred to as clones, it is implicated that the iPad is the original, authentic product.

The iPad is constructed as already being a superior product in comparison to the clones, but also as a product that is still evolving at a great pace. The clones are described as being stagnant, cast in stone, failures. Importantly, the iPad is accounted for as setting a task for the users: “the potential is yet to be discovered”. It is the users who must, together with app developers, realize what can be done and what new uses and rewards are to be found. It is like an invitation to adventure.

The argument is constructed around the claim that iPad is so new that we cannot yet criticize it as the potential is still in the future. As the innovativeness of the device is emphasized, it follows that the device is “untouchable” by other categories of technologies, since the users cannot yet define the boundaries for the abilities of the iPad.

Extract 3

iPad is aimed as a ’content’ consumption device, a device which could potentially replace a full PC in many households, a device which will challenge the laptop for certain knowledge workers (including this one), a travelling entertainment device, something to amuse the kids on long journeys, a digital picture frame, a portable email client, a web browser sans compare.

By referring to the aim of the designer without any hesitation the argument gains authority. The “content consumption device” is a recurring notion in the accounts where the iPad is depicted as a revolutionary novelty. In a way, he translates the design goals to fellow users and to those who do not yet comprehend the technology.

Again, the full potential of the device is accounted for as existing in the future as more people come to grips with its abilities. Various iPad use cases are identified and users such as “knowledge workers” are mentioned. Many of the described uses take place in movement; these users are active and able to tailor the iPad to suit their needs, in a way to facilitate their active lifestyles and demanding careers.

Based on the data, the domestication of the iPad is largely about defining it as a representative of a new genre. Likewise, it is accounted for as a device that is somewhat elusive: it must be seen as an existing product as well as one that is soon-to-be due to its enormous potential. Furthermore, an integral part of the domestication project is the effort to define the users of the device, their abilities, and characteristics.

The mainstream of these accounts depicts these people as active users who want a device that facilitates their work and leisure in equal measures. Not necessarily “nerds” but people who get the rewarding user experience through the seamless amalgamation of contents and a smooth platform rather than from dwelling with endless technical intricacies for the sole purpose of being able to master them. Consider the sample below as an example.

Extract 4

There’s been so much hype about this device, so many previews, and shared online experiences, that when I finally unboxed and activated mine, it was almost as if it was something I’d had for years. It felt surprisingly comfortable and familiar.

There are definitely things that it could do better. But, for now, I’m having a lot of fun exploring it and how it will fit into my life.

My biggest surprise is that it wasn’t at all disappointing. So often when I get a new device it somehow doesn’t live up to expectations. It’s too slow, or it doesn’t work the way I thought it would. The iPad works exactly as I expected — which, in itself, is surprising. And, in fact, it’s even faster than I expected!

There are several distinctions made in this sample. First, the speaker addresses the amount of iPad related talk online. Due to this he has been able to evaluate the device together with other people: the co-creation of the device has begun prior to actually getting it. He differentiates between hype and more substantial contributions such as previews and actual user experiences. To further consolidate his position as an educated consumer (as opposed to someone who buys into the hype) he describes the iPad as not being perfect but having some things it could do better. After this, he is able to praise the device without appearing to be a “fanboy”. The device is constructed as something that has to be fitted into one’s own life without necessarily knowing what roles the technology can actually take. This process is described as fun, motivated by the fact that one can facilitate his or her interests on a very personal level.

By implication, new technology normally is cumbersome and awkward to use. The fact that the iPad was not disappointing is against the norm; people expect the technology to fail expectations. This is a good example of building a frame of expectation (Tannen 1979, Tannen 1993) and then utilising it as a resource of illustrating how the experience of using the device deviated from this frame. This creates a dramatic departure from the frame of expectation and is narratively efficient: the uniqueness of the device is emphasised.

The comment “The iPad works exactly as I expected” not only constructs the device but the user as well: he was able to accurately anticipate the user experience, thus positioning him as an expert. The extract has many conflicting elements such as surprising and expected features, being able to anticipate the device accurately and yet be surprised by it. In a way he was not surprised and yet surprised at the same time. Through the elegant discursive management of these elements an account is created where the device and the user match each other perfectly. Through this work expertise is assigned both to the device and the user.

The fact that the device was not deemed disappointing contributes to the mainstream effort to place the iPad in a category of its own. Even though the device is constructed as something ground breaking, there still are users who have been able to anticipate it. Thus, these users emerge as highly competent and a good match to the device, almost in a category of their own as well.

Individual uses, collective comprehension

In this chapter we further elaborate the discursive work that is geared towards managing the legitimacy of the accounts. When producing descriptions about various issues and objects, people may assume various positions such as an expert, enthusiast, novice, and so forth. As users of technology, people can accomplish various positions that can, for example, gain them legitimacy. On the other hand, some positions can be uninviting and thus rejected as is illustrated in the next sample.

Extract 5

I am not an Apple fanboy”, I don’t possess any Apple devices thus far, not even an Iphone. But I have to admit this device has me drooling. All the negativity about what the Ipad can’t do, is centered around the fact it’s being compared to a laptop. Those who have watched Steve Jobs’ keynote speech will know that this was not the intention. The Ipad was intended to fill the (most definite) void between laptops and smartphones that has certainly not been filled by netbooks.

People can’t make a mistake in their perception of a product. They’re the ones to buy it, they’re the ones to review it, and they’re the ones to use it.

The commentator refuses the position of a “fanboy” in order to ward off any accusations of being overly biased towards Apple products. To solidify this, he states that he has no Apple products of his own, thus rendering him an objective reviewer. As a result of this positioning work he gains legitimacy when he says that this device has him drooling.

As opposed to the fanboys, the speaker also accounts for the critics who fail to appreciate the device due to their misplaced comparisons with laptops. The logic of the argument in this sample is that both these groups share an overly emotional approach to the device. Hence, the speaker accomplishes a legitimate position as a rational observer. The reference to the keynote delivered by Steve Jobs serves to emphasise that he is not alone in his opinion, the very manufacturer of the device agrees with him.

As he accounts for the users as being incapable of being wrong about their own judgement, it is seemingly in conflict with his earlier description about the people who have misplaced critiques about the device. Hence, this inability to be wrong in one’s opinion refers to the people who find value in the iPad. This is likely based on the notion that people must find their own ways of making most of the device: “They’re the ones to buy it, they’re the ones to review it, and they’re the ones to use it”. To warrant a review the iPad emerges as a special kind of device–it must be learned about, worked with, and fitted to suit one’s needs and desires. In a nutshell: if you have a use for it, you cannot be wrong. In that case the device cannot be a mere status symbol or a passing fad, but rather, a legitimate tool for whatever it is that people use it with.

It is the individuality that cannot be questioned. In the following sample (from the same discussion thread and a response to the original query as were the extracts 1 and 2) another example of this is given.

Extract 6

No two iPads are alike or used the same by its owners; therefore, it’s a bit foolish (as we are seeing all the time in online forums and elsewhere) to try to determine how one will like/use or not use an iPad, from how others use or not use one. The whole purpose of an iPad, is to select the type app./apps. you need for your enjoyment/work/travel/hobbies or other needs. One neighbor of mine, has hers full of all sorts of cook books/recipes, designed specifically for use on the iPad, gardening and culinary herbs apps., free video-podcasts she subscribes to on wine, and she’s now a very happy camper.

Since the customization possibilities and individual uses are practically endless, every iPad and every user emerge as highly unique and authentic. Hence, it would be hard to argue that the uses were not legitimate as they gain their meaning from the personal experiences of every individual user. This reply rejects the idea that anyone could tell what the “real uses” of the iPad are, thus challenging the logic of the original query.

An example is given about a woman who has found many gratifying everyday uses for her iPad. Recipes, gardening and podcasts on wine are in a sense quite far away from the activities of a techno-geek, which give legitimacy to the uses: the device has not been bought simply because it is an Apple and cool to own as an artefact. A woman who is into cooking, gardening and quality wines is a person with clearly authentic interests. Hence, it is a brilliant example of a user whose iPad use is hard to criticize. It lends support to the original claim that iPad use is always highly individual.

The above sample is a response to a person who wanted people to tell him what the iPad is good for. The person making the question emphasized that he did not want to hear more hype and advertising “fluff”. The response in a way rejects the idea that anyone could tell another what it would be like. Instead; the responder opines; everyone tailors the device to suit their needs. Had he talked about his own uses enthusiastically, he may have set himself up for criticism. Using the neighbour as an example wards off any suspicion of hyping the product.

Wine hobby can be seen as a cultured pastime activity. It is probably not a coincidence that it is mentioned in this context as it effectively produces the person as someone who does not fall into the stereotypical image of a young techno geek. Similarly, books represent another traditionally appreciated form of culture. In the next sample books and iPads are discussed.

Extract 7

I hope it didn’t come off as too arrogant. I’m trying to help us define in clear and rational language what kind of physical books will survive this digital transition. If you want to make cheap paperbacks — by all means do so. I just don’t think anyone will buy them. The rest of us will be reading those on our iPads and Kindles.

So instead of creating this romantic delusion about saving all forms of printed matter, I hope to energize us book lovers around the forms that *do* have worth as objects in the context of digital publishing. The landscape of books (newspapers, magazines, etc) is changing. Our energy should go into supporting narrative forms that have futures.

The commentator seeks to motivate his fellow book lovers to appreciate the changing landscape of printed products. He positions his “fellow booklovers” as active agents who have the power to define and promote the kinds of future they wish to see. To balance this account, the commentator refers to a “romantic delusion”, thus positioning himself as a person who is open to technological development instead of being a Luddite. Hence, this account displays competence in both the worlds of technology and literature.

In this sample a contrast between two approaches is created: an emotional romantic approach and a rational, forward looking one. The speaker positions himself in the latter group from where he addresses others “in a clear and rational language” and sets up a task to collectively define the current and future states of literature. The iPad is constructed as a disruptive technology that has dramatic implications on the print media. In his view, in the age of the e-reader some print media may be rendered unnecessary as material objects. This, of course, is a concern for the “book lovers”.

In particular, this sample illustrates how users define themselves as “us”, the co-creators of the new media landscape. They recognize themselves, both individually and collectively, as being able to contribute to and define the ways in which the iPad and iPad use could evolve. Clearly, the above account is motivated by the assumption that consumers do have a say in the way things will progress in the future. According to the data, this kind of an awareness of being an agent in the change is typical.

The sense of collective ownership is further illustrated in the following sample.

Extract 8

I have to say, though, that while I did wonder about the uses to which my iPad might be applied, these days, I can’t imagine life without one. Like the soles of those oven-shaped carbon shoes that mould to the contours of your feet, the iPad ingratiates itself into the intimate eccentricities and peculiarities of each of us who fall into Apple’s marketing plans. This is probably the most individualistically adaptable piece of technology of all time. Non-iPad users are a black iPad-shaped hole waiting for revelation to fill the gap! Almost every day we iPad users find a new application through which to tighten the knot that now ties this machine to the contours of our lives. If this sounds like the impact of a bad drug habit, you are probably not far off course.

Describing his apprehension of the uses of the iPad, the speaker rejects the notion of him being an aficionado or a braggart who only seeks the latest and greatest gadget. He compares the iPad to his hi-tech custom moulded cycling shoes that fit him perfectly. In this account, the iPad emerges as a specialized, highly customizable device that can cater to the specialized need of an expert.

A reference to Apple’s marketing plans is geared towards underlining the speaker’s awareness of the iPad as a commercial product that is supposedly profitable, with marketing strategies trying their best to shape the expectations of users. Falling into this trap could be interpreted as a sign of a gullible consumer, but the speaker wards off this notion through this discursive work. Alternatively, he may see himself as belonging to a target group defined by Apple: a person who can utilise and appreciate such a specialized piece of gear, just like his beloved hi-tech shoes. Either way, the reference to the marketing plan positions him as a person who is aware of his consumer status while still being an active agent in the co-creation process.

Verbally talented, the speaker cleverly invokes strong culturally available resources marriage and drug habit in order to come up with an ironic account about the near-addiction that the iPad causes. iPad use is described as marriage that only deepens and becomes more and more a part of our daily existence as time passes. The concept of drug habit is brought up so as to position himself as a person who is aware that it is not culturally acceptable to be too enthusiastic about technological gadgetry. In a sense, by “admitting” the addiction, he turns his account upside down and separates himself from the notion of techno addiction. As a result, he emerges as a person who has a good command over the culturally shared values concerning technology use and self-governance.

By saying “We iPad users” the speaker also positions himself as a part of a collective user base where people have a similar user experience. The non-users are also described as shaped by the device as they are mere “iPad shaped holes”, a reference to Sartre’s idea of people having a God shaped hole in their soul, people who have not yet had the revelation that will inevitably lead to getting one. The iPad is described as a perfectly individual customizable device, and that precisely makes it inviting to large masses of people. This account strikes a delicate balance between the iPad as a highly individual device and yet a phenomenon that unites people, the “we” that have tied the knot and are happy in it.


In this article we have examined how the iPad is being discursively produced in the data. We have examined what conceptual resources people use to make sense of the iPad and whether they consider its characteristics legitimate or debatable. Thus the analysis sheds light on the forms people’s iPad use is likely to assume and why. As such, it gives us clues about the motivations behind the decision to purchase and the use of the device as well as the justifications related to them. In order to appear competent, a consumer needs to gain a good command over the shared ideas of the legitimate uses of the device, lacking which he or she is subject to criticism for being an overly enthusiastic techno geek or a gullible consumer.

Through these data we have drawn a discursive understanding of the ways in which people relate to the new device. This understanding contributes to the knowledge of technology design, co-creation, and domestication. Consider the following figure where the key components of the argumentative logic of the iPad domestication process are laid out.

Figure 1 Luomanen_Peteri-1

Figure 1. Argumentative logic of iPad user Co-Creation.

The first discursive strategy of defining the iPad as a distinct innovation is to place its true potential into the future. Being a developing and “revolutionary” product, not all of its capabilities can yet be known. Within the argumentative logic of the accounts it cannot be criticized due to this future potential. Second, as every iPad and every user are accounted as individuals, the users’ experience cannot be questioned.

These strategies at the same time demand and produce user responsibility and expertise. First, unless there is an expert who recognizes innovation and its future potential and/or individual possibilities, these strategies cannot be constructed and utilised in the first place. Second, these strategies ultimately produce the user who is unique and authentic in his or her demands. The future potential of the device also transforms the user into a dynamic, ever forward-striving individual with the competence to realize this potential. Both these strategies produce the iPad as a tabula rasa: until the user defines its significance as a part of everyday life it remains but a piece of hardware with great potential. Hence, it is the user responsibility and expertise that are at the core of the argumentative logic of the iPad domestication process.

In the data the iPad emerges as a very “individual” product and yet it is discussed between people and defined collectively. Users are faced with a challenge as the device by default is extremely individual and customizable, thus constructing the user who is unique, representing no one but him or herself. Yet, the domestication process requires a shared understanding of the device. The discussions can then be seen as a balancing act between describing unique and individual uses and still retain a shared understanding of the device. One must describe ways in which the device can be used while maintaining that there really is no way to tell anyone how to use the iPad.

People do and say various things just to show other users that they are active agents who participate in domestication of a device and in completing its design (Silverstone and Haddon 1996). In this article we have elucidated how the design/domestication interface is activated as people negotiate various aspects of the design. In case of the iPad, the discursive strategies outlined above are integral in finalising the design.

Based on the data, due to iPad’s presence in the technology landscape, people have begun to describe more traditional media and devices as somewhat restricted in their nature: they lack mobility, usability, variety of contents, or customizability. Should this discourse become hegemonised, it will threaten and challenge the other media and devices based on their “stagnant” and “restricted” nature.

As was stated in the introduction, the domestication of the iPad is a process in which the user has an active role in the outcome of the technology and in challenging the traditional notions of designer and user. This is supported by the data: clearly, people recognize their position in the development process of a technological artefact. Furthermore, users tend to define themselves as experts and this position is readily handed to them by the manufacturer:

Many technology firms have learned the value of high self-efficacy of customers. Consider Apple, which ships iPads without user instruction manuals, assuming that motivated consumers will possess sufficiently high self-efficacy to persist in learning to use the technology. Apple expects that skill requirements needed to co-produce the iPad experience are within its customers’ grasp.

(Ford and Dickson 2012: 181)

There are a great number of examples in the data where people reflect their action against manufacturer’s perceived design goals, all the while maintaining a status of an expert user. “We, the iPad users”, then, is not isolated from “they, the producers” but, rather, collective production takes place in and through the mundane uses and related user innovations. In the data there are also samples where a collective task of co-creation is set for the “we” whose actions can actually shape the future.


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1/2013 WiderScreen 16 (1)

Materiality of Digital Environments

actor-network theory, artefacts, digitalization, materiality, media

Virve Peteri
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh

Jari Luomanen
School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere

Pertti Alasuutari
School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere

Viittaaminen / How to cite: Peteri, Virve, Jari Luomanen and Pertti Alasuutari. 2013. ”Materiality of Digital Environments”. WiderScreen 16 (1). http://widerscreen.fi/numerot/2013-1/materiality-of-digital-environments/

Digitalization has created increasing dematerialization of cultural artefacts. Partly because of the dematerialization process the materiality of media artefacts continues to be a theme rarely addressed and therefore remains rather underdeveloped. Our paper aims to show how the dematerialization of cultural artefacts does not inevitably mean less significance for materiality. Rather, new technologies have stimulated new material practices. The main idea presented in this paper is that new cultural and social processes set forth by new technologies cannot be understood without examining the co-existence of different forms of media artefacts and spatial settings. This article contributes to the understanding of the changing cultural places of material artefacts particularly in the context of domestic leisure. The paper presents observations based on an empirical analysis of qualitative interview data collected in different parts of Finland 2001-2003, 2006-2007 and 2009-2010. The analytic approach is drawn from actor-network theory.


In Finland a new defence minister was elected in June 2012. At that time it was revealed that he had not gone through the Finnish compulsory military service. This gained some attention in the media and eventually he warded off any accusations of being a coward or a free rider by telling that he has a rare medical condition that has rendered him unable to carry out this duty. On top of this he also emphasized that this was always difficult for him to cope with, that it was a blow against his masculinity. According to him, despite this he has always had a strong commitment to defend the country. He goes on to say that “I have two meters worth of Mannerheim books on my bookshelf” (Aamulehti 2012).

In this context, what significance does this account have? What motivates such a seemingly unrelated remark? Even though it has been argued that materiality has lost significance due to digital convergence, in this article we argue that materiality is still an important factor in the current media landscape. The digitalization of various contents has created increasing dematerialization of cultural artefacts and consumer goods (see e.g. Chandler & Neumark 2005, 61; Dunne 2006; Mitchell 2004). These changes have understandably transformed the role of materiality of media and that of a user of media contents. However, partly because of the dematerialization process the materiality of media artefacts continues to be a theme rarely addressed and has therefore remained rather underdeveloped (Doorn 2011, 533).

As dematerialization is discussed in research literature, it is mostly seen as a feature of technology, as a changing design concept and an invitation to construct future possibilities. Dematerialization is used as a rhetorical device, as a means to justify various future design concepts and scenarios. In these texts agency is mostly ascribed to designers, engineers and experts. Less so it is given to lay people in mundane contexts. The perspective of the day-to-day uses remains understudied as the emphasis is laid on the future. In this article we will illustrate how media related material artefacts as a part of everyday life still have significance as they represent a strong cultural resource that signifies a long term commitment and authenticity. This empirical finding about the significance of media related artefacts is a recurrent feature of the data used in this article. We did not specifically ask about this as this was not originally a part of the research. In fact, this whole article was borne out of our intrigue over these accounts where people remarked – in a similar fashion as our new defence minister – that “I have it in my bookshelf”. These remarks surfaced spontaneously in the interview.

Our article contributes to bringing new viewpoints into the conversation on dematerialization. As digitalization doesn’t necessarily mean that material objects have less meaning (Magaudda 2011) it is curious that dematerialization and digitalization of artefacts have not been analysed from the viewpoints of the meanings of material practices in domestic settings. Therefore there is a real need for an elaborate analysis of how users’ add meanings to their existing and emerging material practices related to Internet use. In this article we approach this phenomenon through the analysis of accounts where people mention various artefacts and their placement on their bookshelves. Our specific contribution in this article is to develop a viewpoint that draws analytic ideas from actor-network theory (see Latour 2005) to analysing these material practices.

New cultural and social processes set forth by new technologies cannot be understood without examining the co-existence of different forms of media artefacts and spatial settings. This article examines the sense making related to the uses of these objects and thus contributes to the understanding of the changing cultural places of material artefacts particularly in the context of domestic leisure. This paper also presents the Internet and media artefacts as discursive resources that facilitate accounts about genuine long-term interests and authenticity of media use and also shows how both users and artefacts gain meanings in relation to each other. In particular, we present the following four categories of media use that renew and maintain the significance of materiality:

  1. Hobbyist collecting
  2. Creating a life narrative
  3. Display of cultural competence
  4. Digital archiving

Each of these categories represent meanings given to artefact collecting and display. Clearly, they do not exist in isolation but overlap each other. They are not novel but carry on meanings that have existed well before digital convergence and the process of dematerialization. They are, in fact, constellations of values, moralities and routinized action we have internalized as members of contemporary culture. They are not stable, however, but change as the media landscape changes: our article shows how the evolution of digital contents also heralds the change in the meanings of material artefacts.

This article first examines materialist studies on media use and then introduces the data and the methods used. Then we present the analysis of the categories arising from our data. In conclusion, we will relate the results of our empirical analysis to a broader context of the present day media use.

Materialist studies on media use

David Morley has argued – already in the mid 1990’s – that it is of most importance to recognize the fact that media are also material artefacts that are located at home (Morley, 1995). An important body of work on domestication of media technologies has emerged ever since and these studies have proved the importance of materiality and the arrangement of domestic spaces as elements that shape the ways people interpret media technologies. (see e.g. Bakardjieva 2005; Berker, Hartmann, Punie & Ward 2006; Gray 1992; Leal 1990; Moores 1996; Morley 1986; Morley 2000; Peteri 2006; Silverstone & Hirsch, 1992; Silverstone 1994). At present new media theory acknowledges media objects as performative rather than just passive, but there is a broader tradition within science and technology studies that is even more concerned with how relations between artefacts, discourses and practices are co-ordinated (Hand 2008). One signal of the fact that the materiality of media still continues to be a theme that is seldom considered among media studies is David Morley having to repeat his plea almost 20 years later by proposing “a materialist, non-media-centric studies” which acknowledges “the changing relations between the material and the virtual realms of communications” and avoids the simplistic divides between the “old” and “new” media (Morley 2009, 115).

The studies on domestication and popularization of The Internet or the computer in general have managed to reveal how “virtual” practices don’t exist apart from the everyday material practices (e.g. Bakardjieva 2005; 2006; Lally 2002; Morley 2000; Paasonen 2005; Paasonen 2010; Peteri 2006; Ribak 2001; Ward 2006). These studies have come to emphasize the active users and the contextual nature of using and interpreting media. In domestication studies it is emphasized that adopting products is, in itself, production of meanings and culture instead of just mirroring the meanings and significance already inscribed in products and technologies (Haddon 2003, 44-46; 2007).

Some quite recent studies point out that media not only as technologies but as changing cultural artefacts have a special meaning in the context of various leisure activities and/or fan practices (Bjarkman 2004; van Doorn 2011; Kompare 2006; Magaudda 2011; Sterne 2006; Toivonen & Sotamaa 2011). Matt Hills (2002) has recognized how fan cultures have a contradictory relationship with material artefacts. Fans are often explicitly resisting the values and norms of capitalist society as well as progressive commodification and on the other hand they are simultaneously investing material objects with greater significance and meaning by creating their own products or by what may be called “personalization”, “customization” or “modding” mainstream products and media contents. Some scholars argue that this aspect is not shared only by self-declared fans but is a signal of a broader cultural shift towards “participatory culture” (Jenkins 2006) or “craft consumerism” (Campbell 2005) that actively invites consumers to participate in modifying media forms and contents, collecting materials and using mass-produced materials as raw material for the creation of own objects. Campbell emphasizes that the idea of craft consumerism relates to social class since the idea is especially well domesticated among the middle-class professional people.

In further developing the domestication framework we emphasize that technology has its material aspects, which need to be taken into account. That is why we also borrow conceptual tools from actor-network theory (Latour 2005; Law and Hassard 1999), stressing that in addition to people and their ideas, technologies also entail “non-human” or “hybrid” elements, such as devices, media artefacts or computer programs. Thus users actively participate in modifying technologies and artefacts, but they are also shaped by them (see Flowers 2010; Oudshoorn, Rommes & Stienstra 2004; Summerton 2004; Wilkie & Michael 2009; Woolgar 1991).

Media as new kinds of artefacts actively invite novel audiences and practices. For example fans haven’t invited new practices on their own but producers have designed and created media artefacts that specifically invite and encourage some actions. Artefacts actively shape our relationship with the reality often also in unpredictable ways, in ways that the producers did not anticipate. In that sense they can be conceived as actors in networks where meanings are produced in the mutual interaction of both material objects and human actors. For example, existing DVDs promote the idea of a “film geek” who can develop his/her special expertise through the supplemental features included already in most DVDs. Thus, as media artefacts DVDs engage in producing and promoting a certain kind of media experience; a “geekish” attitude that includes appetite for gaining special expertise, collecting media artefacts and repeated viewings of favourite films. (Tryon 2009.) In this context, “geek” has transformed into a label that demonstrates special expertise in a certain field in contrast to former meanings when a term like geek or nerd were mere insults. (McArthur 2009.)

At present many consumers are not satisfied with only renting a movie but want to be dedicated to their favourite films, possess them and organize them into personal libraries. Although as an activity this distinctively comes over as intimate and personal, the importance of owning has been constructed partly by marketing strategies that promote films especially as collectibles. Different kinds of classification systems to arrange artefacts are also offered to consumers by the media industries and producers of different software and online sources. Media industries aim at producing a certain kind of consumer, an insider who is offered special knowledge and opportunities to do “research” on their favourites and collect singular artefacts. Offering for example additional historical information of certain media products, the consumer is invited to experience an aura of authenticity. Thus, even though media industries have not invented collecting, they benefit from this trend and aim at educating consumers and directing their desires. Therefore personal media collections are strongly influenced by practices, technologies and discourses of media industries. (Harbord 2002; Klinger 2006.) Also, as stated before, the spatial arrangements of media technologies and related artefacts have an impact on the ways various technologies are adopted and used. Thus the spatial settings themselves invite certain kind of interpretations of what it means to use the Internet. (Bakardjieva 2005; Silverstone, Hirsch & Morley 1992.)

In the data the Internet emerges as a new kind of resource for finding like-minded people who share your interest and expressions of subcultural identity (see also McArthur 2009). Based on our findings it is also a novel resource for creating or introducing ways to prove that your interests are authentic and culturally valid. In this context we acknowledge the fruitfulness of the viewpoint offered by material culture studies which emphasizes the “dialectic of mutual creation” (Miller 2010, 114). The user is not a fixed entity but gains new characteristics as do other artefacts and actions that are linked with the Internet use. In the article we draw on both bodies of literature, following the line of thinking of the user as a co-producer and co-organizer of technologies and artefacts and spatial settings and also the user and uses shaped by them.

Research material and the methodological approach

The research material consists of three distinct data sets. Although the primary concern in this research project was with the arrival in people’s everyday life of new communications and information technologies (such as the Internet, mobile phones, digital television), this process has not been approached in isolation from ‘old’ media or ‘ordinary’ technology. In practise this meant that people were inquired about their television watching, newspaper reading as well as computer and mobile phone use. Besides asking interviewees to tell about their media use they were inquired about their other everyday-life routines and amusements. In addition people were encouraged to talk about the interiors of their homes and especially to tell how they made decisions concerning the placement of different devices and media artefacts.

First, the main body of analysis was carried out by exploring a data set consisting of 68 interviews conducted in various parts of Finland (from summer 2001 till summer 2003). The second data set consists of two interviews that were carried out in 2007 for the specific purpose of gathering in-depth data about the themes of the article. Third, 19 interviews were carried out in 2009 and 2010. Altogether there are 72 women and 49 men. In total 51 have a higher education (university level), 30 have an intermediate grade, 24 have completed comprehensive school, 10 are secondary school graduates (or university undergraduates), 2 have completed vocational school and the education of 9 interviewees remains unknown. Most of the interviewees were employed.

We have utilized the idea developed in actor-network theory, according to which human and non-human actors form networks in which meanings are produced in mutual interaction of both material objects and human actors. The actor-network theory does not extend intentional abilities to artefacts; rather, it changes the traditional notion of action by suggesting that agency is not primarily about intentions but about connecting things (Bruun & Hukkinen 2003, 104).

The identity of an element arises in relation to other elements and not from intrinsic characteristics. This point of view has much in common with the articulation theory developed within cultural studies (see Barker 2000, 9; Grossberg 1992, 37-67; Du Gay & Hall & al. 1997, 3; Hall 1980, 325). Both emphasize that the identity of an element arises in relation to other elements and not from its intrinsic characteristics. Thus, meanings are derived from networks of relations. The difference between articulation theory and actor-network theory is that the latter lays much more emphasis on the non-human actors (Bennett 2007, 613-614). Thus meanings arise from networks of relations, always in relation to something and someone.

Actor-network theory assumes that “society, organisations, agents and machines are all effects generated in patterned networks of diverse (not simply human) materials” and knowledge is embodied in a variety of material forms” and so “it is a material matter but also a matter of organising and ordering those materials” (Law 1992, 2). According to actor-network theory artefacts can also be perceived as having invitation and inhibition towards certain kinds of actions. While they encourage some actions they also discourage certain other actions or even make them impossible (Illies & Meijers 2009, 423).

Material practices renewing the significance of artefacts

Hobbyist collecting

In our data when people discussed home furnishing different media devices and artefacts were quite often mentioned, and especially the efforts made to find the “right” place for different technologies was frequently brought up. Those moments when our interviewees talked at length about their different long-term hobbies were particularly fruitful; it seemed that at those moments people talked about the materiality of media more freely and without the fear of striking as a materialist. As Jari Luomanen (2010) has shown, the cultural category of a hobby consists of many valued and respected elements. The cultural image of a hobby implies active lifestyles and a will to develop oneself in one way or another. The category of hobby is a culturally valued resource with which media uses can be accounted for in a purposeful and justified manner and this can be seen as a part of a larger effort to account for media uses in a culturally legitimate manner (see also Alasuutari, Luomanen & Peteri 2012). Thus this might explain why it was more justified to discuss the material aspect of media in the context of hobbies. Consider the following example.

Extract 1 (Interview No 70. Woman, 31-40 years)

All these things have interested me a long time. I started reading comic books when I was ten and I don’t even count Donald Duck, which I started reading already when I had learned to read. But yes films, my parents had a VHS-library, which I kind of started to complement and they started to build it already when I was a really small child. The urge to own things and keep them I think was born then, very early. It’s because everything is available to you, every interest is close at hand and easy to be found and when you have a certain interest you can immediately identify several links with that interest, like if you are interested in this you might also like this.

The interviewee talks about her library of popular culture artefacts such as DVDs, figures and cartoons. She accounts for her desire to own the artefacts and that she gets pleasure on the fact that she can easily find things that she is interested in and can also find numerous links between interesting cultural products just by looking at her bookshelf. A cultural image of the bookshelf is in this context constructed as a network consisting of fascinating artefacts and themes. It appears that bookshelf has gained characteristics similar to the Internet. Furthermore, this account is a good example of proving the existence of a long term interest – instead of a passing whim enabled by an easy internet access – through the possession of artefacts (Alasuutari, Luomanen & Peteri 2012). The Internet has enabled the cultivation of many interests, but yet it seems to require material artefacts so as to enable a distinction between shallow, trendy uses and the more original and long-term uses.

Later in the interview the same informant describes how some of her favourite scriptwriters have written both comics and films and how she follows a certain writer’s work and comes across novel ways to interpret singular comic books or films by considering them in relation to a scriptwriter’s other works in other media forms. Then she continues:

Extract 2 (Interview No 70. Woman, 31-40 years)

I ordered Sandman because they produced an absolute edition. It’s been two times that they’ve produced these big hard-cover books, newly coloured and then there are extras, it is actually almost like a DVD with extras. It has fake leather covers and it’s just plain beautiful as a thing and especially the colouring, it is absolutely wonderful. I kind of see these features as extras. I have the standard versions, I have absolute editions, I have a figure, and I have everything interesting that I come across, yes, like these books that analyse and have like written essays on Sandman and then I have this CD, a tribute to Neil Gaiman, where some have composed songs, I have it, I had to get it.

The interviewee describes in more detail her collection of Neil Gaiman related artefacts. Not only do works in different media forms offer new ways to interpret certain media contents but also the medium itself gains new meanings. The speaker explicitly compares the absolute edition version of Sandman with the DVD with extras. Through this hobbyist activity she exhibits her understanding of media forms blending in both as contents and forms. Before she talked about her bookshelf as consisting of different “links” between different interests, whether unconsciously or consciously constructing it as a metaphoric Internet, now she describes the special Sandman book as reminding a DVD with extras. The hobbyist activity gains new meanings as there is a wider selection of media forms and extras available but also the very concept of “extras” in turn invites and produces this activity.

The notion of a “DVD with extras” seems to be already so well culturally founded that it can be utilized as an almost ideal type of a new kind of media artefact. The book with its’ beautiful covers and its more visually satisfying colour scheme is almost like a DVD box. When all these new kinds of media artefacts are placed into a bookshelf with books, they are placed in a company that has a strong cultural status. But as they are placed there, the notion of the bookshelf itself changes.

Actor-network theory suggests that relevant actors are themselves constructed in part by artefacts and in the process both artefacts and humans mutually shape each other. From this point of view the Internet (as well as many other media forms) promotes the media user as a collector and an archivist and these new kinds of uses and users on their part recreate the concept of bookshelf and home library. The concept of a traditional bookshelf is translated into an archive consisting of various “links” and associations between interests that can be followed. Thus the notion of bookshelf is a kind of a personified and embodied reflection of the World Wide Web.

Creating a life narrative

As noted before, the placement of devices and media-related artefacts in people’s homes is often taken up by the informants. It is probably partly related to the fact that the decisions regarding the design and interior decoration of one’s home are publicly available signs of people’s taste, style and areas of interest, but discussing the placement of things in their homes also reflects the informants’ ideas about the proper uses of these devices. The placement also shapes the meanings and uses connected to these devices. (Peteri 2006.) The placement of the computer discussed in the next extract serves as an example.

Extract 3 (Interview No 01. Man, 31-40 years)

It is, well, it is in another room, which is sort of, in a way sanctified as a study, like a library and a kind of (laughs) a room for various records and archives, so it sits there on a table. It is the center of our home. We have all the connections there, you can listen to the music there, you can browse the Internet there and you can take a book and lie down on the sofa. This room is a very intimate place, I need the feeling of peacefulness and the feeling of intimacy and the feeling that I have lots of time and I’m in no hurry, it is very important to me. I have all these images concerning this space and actually I often miss this room

The computer room is given a very high status – it is described as “sanctified” to certain types of use only. It is also defined as the “center” of their home and “a very intimate place”. Interestingly, the room is called the study, a library and an archival room for records of various types. Clearly, the spatial arrangement described here is particularly significant as it cannot be exhaustively described with a singular name only. Later in the interview the same person continues to describe the artefacts located in the room.

Extract 4 (Interview No 01. Man, 31-40 years)

I think I have, at least I used to have, a bit of collector in me and a collector of a library. And the fact that I can, in a way, return to a space of my own, into a library room of sorts, an archive room. And really, it is, in a way for cultural artefacts. Because, you see, they are in a way some type of… (articulates in a particularly exalted manner) Peter von Bagh –like, sort of, [… ] shadows from the past, from the life lived. And, well, the fact that I have really consciously created it, collected these kinds of signs of my own life. My own memories for me. And on the other hand there’s that practical benefit that in case you want to return to the same book, you can simply go and get it from your own bookshelf.

The extract above illustrates well one more way in which people may attach special meaning to media devices and artefacts in their lives. Apart from documenting the collector’s past favourites, as tangible objects they serve as memory traces of the lived. As Walter Benjamin analysed book collecting; the collectibles do not come alive in the collector but it is the collector “who lives in them” (c.f. Kilinger 2006, 65) and thus collecting things is kind of practical memory, preserving memories in materialized form (Bijsterveld, & Van Dijck 2009; Fornäs & al. 2007). In that way media-related artefacts are like souvenirs from the journey of life. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for a trend toward commodification of many recreational activities (see e.g. Hamilton-Smith 1990; Yoder 1997); individuals are not increasingly materialistic but, rather, sentimental and nostalgic (c.f. Lehtonen 2008).

Later in the interview the same person describes how this room has all their books, computer technologies, collections of old magazines and vinyls as well as computer games, CDs and CD-ROMs. In these kinds of contexts the Internet emerges as a junction through which various interests and hobbies flow, and finally some of them meet in this concrete space by acquiring material existence as posters, figures, discs, books, magazines etc. that symbolize important signposts of past life.

Display of cultural competence

Popular culture artefacts are accounted for as being worth of displaying in the home as has also been noted in earlier research (Bjarkman 2004; Kompare 2006). According to the data, along with other decorations and ornaments these artefacts can be put on display on bookshelves and table tops. When people purchase different media related artefacts they transform them into home furnishing and they are attached with considerations and rituals of domestic sphere (Klinger 2006, 57). Consider the following extract where the interviewee discusses her figure collection:

Extract 5 (Interview No 70. Woman, 31-40 years)

Answer: Practically all the bookshelves are in the bedroom and practically all the DVDs are in the living room and in there, in the living room there will also be another bookshelf where we will put all sorts of other stuff.

Question: What sorts of other stuff?

Answer: Everything that I want to display in it, everything from Venetian masks to figures and decorations, expensive dishes.

Question: Are these a part of, also a part of, of this kind of a hobby collection making?

Answer: Figs are, meaning figures, meaning small statues and those sort of small figurines that silly people play with. We just, we just have them, we don’t play.

Question: Are these figures somehow involved in the Japanese, that stuff, or?

Answer: Some of them are. I still have my Sailor Moon figures that I got, and what else do we have? In fact, we have these Todd McFarlane Toys that are porny, that are not a part of the Japanese but of the wider popular culture. But then again these particular [figures] are the Dorothy of Oz as a fetish version and the Countess Báthory bathing in a bloody bathtub, bath full of blood. It was this Todd McFarlane Toys monster series where there were historical monsters. And this particular package was that kind of a, sort of a Femme Fatale package which means that it has the only female figs that they have. All in the same package. Oh, and the Red Riding Hood.

Question: Oh, I mean I’m so envious now.

Answer: A fetish Red Riding Hood that holds the wolf by the throat. The dead wolf, it’s awesome.

Later in the interview the woman accounts for her childhood when she used to have all her books in her bedroom and that due to this she still wants to place them there. The living room is described as the place where decorative artefacts are displayed. The figures displayed are first described as toys for silly people to play with but the interviewee immediately dispels the potential reproach that they too would be such silly people. Instead, they just collect and display them.

The artefact collection consists of “porny” figures that are described as being fetish oriented. This sensitive topic is managed through an elaborate discursive display about the interviewee’s awareness of their place in a wider context: instead of acquiring the figures for the sole purpose of being excited about them they are displayed as a representation of the quirks of popular culture. This description leaves latitude for the listener to position the interviewee as a person who appreciates camp and is a connoisseur of popular culture in a broader sense. Bjarkman (2004) notes that fans attach value to collectibles which the mainstream audience considers trivial, trashy or bizarre: fan collectors create and preserve heritage shared in the fan communities. In the context of increasing omnivorousness (Peterson and Simkus 1992), a “bizarre” choice may also be seen as the clearest articulation of personality (see Tashiro 1996). Bizarre choices may not be a sign of bad taste anymore, but rather a sign of a cultured person who is sure of her/his taste and thus, can be playful.

Accordingly many studies have proved that knowledge of highbrow culture is no longer enough to prove that one possesses cultural capital. Several studies conducted in the western world show evidence that especially middle class people are more inclined to omnivorous consumption patterns (see Alasuutari, 2009; Barnett & Allen, 2000; Bryson, 1996; Liikkanen, 2009; Peterson & Kern, 1996; Peterson, 2004 ref. Virtanen, 2005; Warde, 2007). That is, they are more eclectic in their consumption and media choices; they no longer simply prefer traditional highbrow media contents. The ideal used to be to enjoy and understand high culture; classical literature and music, philosophy, politics and history. Now the new ideal is to be eclectic in one’s interests and consumption habits and to show “educated tolerance” and “broad taste” (Bryson, 1996, p. 886). Thus the traditional study or home library could be seen as a manifestation of traditional highbrow values, and an archive room could be seen as an embodiment of a more eclectic attitude.

Digital archiving

Archiving carries the idea that many items must be preserved; whether “real” or digital. In case an item presents any future potential it must be saved in the archive. This potential can be almost anything that strikes the person as inviting: the item can represent something that can turn out to be useful, funny, interesting or inspirational in the future. The Internet has facilitated the archiving of digital items that are usually somehow related to material artefacts as well. In this sense, this kind of archiving can be seen as “digital hoarding”. Much like with material artefacts one cannot really trust that a digital item is available in the future unless one saves and archives it. As part of a traditional collection, a singular item must usually have a particular idea of why it belongs to this specific collection. The notion of a digital archive may emphasize the idea that the saving of things is itself the central aim:

Extract 6 (Interview No 065. Man, 15-20 years)

All the CDs that I’ve bought are neatly in my CD-bookcase, I take good care of them so that they last, I don’t actually know whether I’ve ever deleted any of my music files on my hard disc, even though I would have ever listened to them, I don’t like to delete any of my files, I’m really an archive fanatic, well yes, the archive may not be very well organized but I more or less save everything.

It seems that the personal “authenticity” of a digital archive can also be revealed in the multitude of files that it includes. The speaker above presents himself as an “archive fanatic” which is explained by the fact that he does not want to delete any of his files. In the extract above the central feature of a digital archive is not whether it is well organized or whether the objects are actually ever used but that everything is saved. Jonathan Sterne (2006) has analysed mp3s as cultural artefacts and concludes that when people talk of music as a leisure activity they make a difference between objects that can be collected and objects that can be touched. Developing this idea further we may add that collecting immaterial objects is a way to make them appear more “real”. Thus collecting may be a way to make immaterial more “visible”, part of a larger entity that usually has several links with material objects.

The speaker in the extract above describes his Internet use in the following manner: “it should be called an Internet continuum” rather than moments spent using the Internet. There were also other interviewees who recognized that the concept of Internet referred to various interests rather than to using one medium. These comments verify the nature of the Internet as a nexus or intersection of different interests and hobbies. It is also a sign of the computer and the Internet being domesticated since they are not seen as technologies but as mediators of the flow of various interests.

We have argued elsewhere that accounting for complete collections of artefacts has particular weight in terms of explaining one’s perspective to the contents as larger entities. They signify the authenticity of the interest and one’s ability to critique the contents as parts of the overall landscape of popular culture (Alasuutari, Luomanen & Peteri forthcoming). It seems evident that the Internet and its various uses invite a certain kind of user whose one primary aim is to collect different media related artefacts and compose different collections.

However, the notion of an archive that the interviewees refer to is something else than a collection, and an archivist is something else than a collector of items. Collecting items may include at least a vague idea of putting together a complete collection. Even though in practice it would be impossible to be able to compose a collection that could be considered complete, the idea may exist in the background. In our data the notion of an archive on the other hand has no limits because it is based on personal experiences of meaningful things. Thus, the originality, authenticity or completeness cannot be questioned in the same way as in the case of a “real” collection. The meaning of a personal archive can be justified by accounting for it as consisting of things that are truly memorable “signs of my life” or just by referring to own feelings: “I love these things”. Thereby no one can really question statements that refer to inner states or to one’s life cycle. Thus it is impossible to deny that the archive is a proper archive.

Our empirical analysis suggests that an archive – consisting digital and material artefacts – may consist of several different “collections” in a loose sense, more or less meaningful for the individual’s identity construction. The central aspect of an archive is that there may be several links and associations between different interests and hobbies. For example the interviewee above explained how his literary interests, his common interest in technologies and his film and musical interests have some common points of contact. The archive room is a space that makes these points of contact more visible and constructs the individual’s interests as part of a wider cultural interest. Collecting can be seen as a form of play with classifications in which people engage just for its own sake. But the display of these artefacts also demonstrates social status. (Danet & Tamar 1994, 222.) Here the “geekish” attitude encounters the omnivore attitude. Thus the archive can also be seen as a reflection of an omnivorous attitude towards media contents.


In this article we identified four categories of material practices that maintain the significance of artefacts from the perspective of a consumer:

  1. Hobbyist collecting
  2. Creating a life narrative
  3. Display of cultural competence
  4. Digital archiving

Thus far this viewpoint has been understudied. A central empirical contribution of this article is that artefacts are also an essential resource facilitating meaning-making of media use in the digital media environment. However, our data show that the meanings related to the media artefacts and their display in the home are challenged, renewed and renegotiated when new devices and media artefacts are appropriated into everyday life. When the consumers, their uses and ways of organizing, their technologies and artefacts – both digital and material – coexist in networks, they shape each other.

For example, as stated before, in our data interviewees construct the Internet as a “junction”, and this junction also constructs certain kind of users, spatial settings and materiality. In relation to the Internet as a junction, the spatial placement of the computer is transformed into a personal archive and the user becomes more or less an archivist. The classical notion of a bookshelf is transformed into an embodied version of the World Wide Web, displaying all the links between different interests and hobbies.

This is a twofold issue though: Internet use is elevated as it is described in connection with some long term activities such as reading books and collecting various artefacts. In these accounts Internet use emerges “merely” as a junction for these authentic, long term interests. On the other hand the Internet deepens these interests and enables completely new ways of immersing oneself with these interests as well as the related social contacts. This in itself produces the activity more clearly as a distinct hobby. The Internet acts as a glue that brings together various activities and presents online social worlds related to them.

Our paper has shown that a dematerialization of cultural artefacts isn’t an inevitable consequence of the digitalization of various media contents. Rather, new technologies have brought along new material practices. Our analysis shows how the concept of archiving dissolves a clear difference between virtual contents and “real” material contents. In the archive there is the computer with its files, folders and bookmarked links, and the concept of bookshelf in a sense becomes an embodiment of both material and digital contents; the artefacts being displayed and the virtual “embodied” as links between these different artefacts. The spatial placement of different material objects reveals the links between different interests: books that go together with certain DVDs, CDs and games may be placed side by side as forming a collection of sorts and alongside there may be comic books that link the aforementioned “stuff” with the next interest since the cover of one game is drawn by the cartoonist who has also made the comic books. The comic books may share a script writer with certain films that are connected with a certain genre of popular culture, and so on.

In the accounts about media use various artefacts play a significant role. As Virve Peteri (2006) puts it in her study on the placement of media artefacts in domestic spaces, a placement is a statement. According to her, the material placement of artefacts is intimately connected to the discursive order of domestic spaces and the uses of these spaces. Media are not reduced to “mere” contents but manifest themselves also as artefacts that can be owned, collected and placed in the home. The spatial arrangements such as placing artefacts on a bookshelf also signify the cultural place of the artefacts. Placing media artefacts on a bookshelf traditionally inserts them side by side – symbolically and/or in actual material form – with books, which associates them with a highbrow cultural status. The concept of a traditional study or home library can thus be seen as a reflection of traditional highbrow values, but when different media artefacts are placed in the library, the concept’s “original” meaning is changed: the library is transformed into an archive room that could be seen as an embodiment of an omnivorous attitude.

Having a collection of media artefacts is accounted for as a symbol of a long term investment. It verifies the authenticity of the interest and is a part of the co-existence of media channels. Much like a wedding ring, a tattoo or a cross worn as a necklace, owning these artefacts and possibly displaying them in domestic spaces (or worn as a T-shirt) proves our commitment to the contents. Surely the nature of this commitment differs from marriage or religion, but it is a commitment nevertheless – it tells about out interests and the way that we choose to use our time. As Alasuutari (2006) has pointed out, media use is a moral question related to leisure time in everyday life: these uses are weighted against other uses of free time. This is related to the fundamental question about what one should do in life. In that sense people’s accounts of media use reflect what Alasuutari calls the civic religion of modernity, according to which we should constantly develop ourselves.


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1/2013 WiderScreen 16 (1)

Music in the eyes: Contextual framing and emotional attributions in user-generated content and culture

audience experience, film music, soundtrack, user-generated content

Rudolf den Hartogh
International Communication and Media program
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Cheng Heng Hsu
International Communication and Media program
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Jacob Groshek

International Communication and Media program
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Viittaaminen / How to cite: den Hartogh, Rudolf, Cheng Heng Hsu and Jacob Groshek. 2013. ”Music in the eyes: Contextual framing and emotional attributions in user-generated content and culture”. WiderScreen 16 (1). http://widerscreen.fi/numerot/2013-1/music-in-the-eyes-contextual-framing-and-emotional-attributions-in-user-generated-content-and-culture/

Most scholars agree that music can have psychological and cognitive effects on audiences and extensive research has been conducted on the effects of mainstream music, music in films, and music in television commercials and documentaries (Moore, 2010). However, previous research has often taken music into account as an independent entity that is separated from visual information (Shevy & Rouner, 2004) and few studies have emerged to consider the role of music in user-generated culture. This study begins to fill this gap in academic research by empirically examining the psychological effects of music in interpreting visual information at the intersection of these approaches are the concepts of media produsage (Bruns, 2009) and user-generated culture. Here, an online experiment presented visually identical film trailers with two highly unique musical tracks to examine the influence auditory context has on viewers’ impressions of user-generated media. Through manipulations of the audio tracks of the widely popular movie Twilight Eclipse, results of this study confirm that music is a significant factor in shaping audience interpretations of this film in user-generated content, even when taking into consideration consecutive exposure conditions. Implications of these findings are positioned in larger themes of dynamic media environments and effects in user-generated content and culture.


In the early development of film, music played an important role. Not only with the intention to arouse emotions, but to mask the noisy sound of the early film projectors (Cohen, 2001). Today, it is standard that visual images in films are accompanied by music, and this music plays an important role in the production of movies. Most scholars agree that music can have psychological and cognitive effects on audiences, and extensive research has been conducted on the effects of mainstream music, music in films, music in television commercials, and music in television documentaries (e.g. Bharucha, Curtis & Paroo, 2006; Cohen, 1999; Moore, 2010; Vitouch, 2001). The results of prior studies, however, may not apply to the more complex stimuli in contemporary media environments.

Specifically, rapid changes in technology have reconfigured the nature and impact of media and the way media content and audiences are understood. With hundreds of millions Internet users actively producing and publishing (user-generated) content to online media, today’s media environments are characterized by user agency and the role of active participants. Subsequently, the field of mass communication has extended beyond the early communication model of producer/text/audience (Livingstone, 2008; Van Dijck, 2009), compelling the research community to reconsider traditional theories on audiences and effects.

Hence, numerous studies have started to explain ‘new’ media and touched upon the nature and impact of audiovisual content in the context of online, social and mobile media environments (e.g. Cha, Kwak, Rodiquez, Ahn, & Moon, 2007; Haridakis & Hanson, 2009). However, previous analytical approaches mainly focused on audiences and social interactions, leaving a need for further film and music interaction research (Moore, 2010). Improved understandings about audiovisual interaction in the context of contemporary media environments could be very beneficial for theoretical as well as empirical purposes; especially to expand current perceptions about the effectiveness of music in trailers and teasers (Septak, 2008).

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to contribute to this field of research by focusing on contextual framing in the light of contemporary digital media environments. For this purpose, the effects of different audio tracks on the viewers of two visually identical online trailers for the widely popular film Twilight Eclipse were examined. Particular attention was directed (a) the diversity of audience genre interpretations in online visual film sequences and (b) to the ability of music to influence differentiating emotional attributions on audiences’ impressions of otherwise identical film clips in the context of user-generated content and culture.


In the silent era, music was first introduced to cover up the silence and effectively mask unwanted external annoyances (Buchanan, 1974). The noisy sound of the early film projectors and audience disturbance could draw the attention away from the screen and film-makers used therefore background music to keep the audience from becoming distracted (Williams, 1974). Musicians were hired to play improvisations to popular tunes during the motion pictures and had their own repertoire, either printed, or played from memory (Beeman, 1988). They were not meant to be listened to as music by the audience, but only “to breathe musically across the screen as an aid and comfort to the muted picture, softly rocking the cradle in the darkness of the theatre through quiet interludes, violent action, or intimate moments” (Bazelon, 1975, p. 14). Hence, music was not part of the film itself, but played along with the film on the place of performance.

However, when the music stopped playing, both filmmakers and their audiences felt something was missing (Seidman, 1981). People started to realize that music works upon the unconscious mind, that it plays upon emotions and adds a third dimension to the two-dimensional screen (Fischoff, 2005; Palmer, 1990). The onscreen action provided clues and cues of how the audience was supposed to feel and interpret the visual product, but the music was the missing link in completing the emotional experience. So, it was in the 1930s that a “miraculous discovery” was made: “acting in a catalytic way, music can operate at a psychological level to influence individuals’ interpretive meanings and experiences (Seidman, 1981, p. 22). When properly selected, film music could, and can, establish atmosphere, maintain and alter emotions, reinforce actions and even define characters (Berg, 1975; Zuckerman, 1949).

Consequently, music became increasingly important to illustrate and explain the action, whereas the masking function became less significant (Cohen, 2001, p. 250). Film companies started developing cue-sheets and made suggestions for music accompaniments in motion pictures (Rapée, 1924). Large theatres engaged whole orchestras to use these cue-sheets and enrich the film experience. Smaller theatres, however, continued hiring single pianists who guided the audience with music they played from memory (Beeman, 1988). This meant that the music, and thereby the film experience could be different between cities, theatres and even between different showings by the same musician.

Due to this interaction between images created by the filmmaker and music played by the musician, silent film, thus, was never a fixed product. It was a psychological experience that presented a complex interplay between the visual product, the musical accompaniment and audience creativity. To illustrate: filmmakers could determine the fictional environment, characters, objects, transitions and events, but it were the viewers who created the words to dialogues and completed the imaginary reality in their minds. As a result, it could be the case that one and the same visual product, was perceived very differently, depending on the music and audience. Watching a film was therefore more than observing some pictures, it was a vivid experience and a perfect opportunity for audience creativity.

In cognitive psychology, this phenomenon have been subsumed under the concept of context determination. It suggests that “one and the same entity can be perceived very differently, depending on particular context in which it is embedded” (Vitouch, 2001, p. 17). Lev Kuleshov, who was probably one of the first film theorists of montage, was intrigued by the way manipulation of context could alter emotional attributions and conducted an experiment that would become one of the most famous film experiments (Mobbs, Weiskopf, Lau, Featherstone, Dolan & Frith, 2006). Around 1918, the Russian filmmaker showed audiences a neutral, identical shot of a famous actor paired with various other shots (a girl, a plate of soup, a child’s coffin), and these shots acquired different meaning (Kuleshov, 1974). The actor, who did nothing and expressed nothing, became engaging and compelling to those who saw the film. From then on, generating emotional reactions through the editing of images became known as the Kuleshov effect (Cohen, 2001).

Along with others, Kuleshov deeply analyzed this phenomenon and wrote about its findings. Central to all of his writings was the idea that the filmmaker could create a new dynamic hole by putting together two or more distinct shots (Russel, 2005). In film theory, this became known as film montage, which developed itself as “the basic means of cinema art, the specific and fundamental quality of the medium” (Kuleshov, 1974, p. 71). Famous filmmakers, such as Sergei Eisenstein, further developed the theory and also included music as potentiality for montage. Like images, Eisenstein believed that sound was more than a “musical illustration” and combined his great passion for editing with music and its emotion effect. Consequently, he was one of the first filmmakers who engaged visual editing with rhythmic music to deliver maximum effect, resulting in seminal films such as Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1949).

This process of emphasizing certain features and drawing attention to images in order to alter the viewer’s impression can be considered a specific, and often intentional, macro-level framing technique (Goffman, 1974). Specifically, framing is the assumption that how a story or issue is characterized by the sender can have influence on how it is interpreted by the receiver (Sheufele & Tewskbury, 2007). Especially in ambiguous scenes, or neutral images, filmmakers could ‘frame’ music to “encourage viewers to generate inferences about the characters’ motivations, personality, and emotional reactions to different events in lieu of explicitly stating this information in the story’s dialogue and ongoing action” (Boltz, 2001, p. 447). Music thus holds the opportunity to substantially change the spirit of a scene and might even change the expectations a viewer has of the scene development.

This argument suggests that a congruent combination of auditory and visual stimuli reduces the amount of different evaluations, whereas viewer’s interpretations are likely to be more spread when a scene is accompanied by an incongruent soundtrack (Bottin, 2001). Likewise, when poorly matched to the visual images, sound effects or dialogue, music could present an ironic message to the viewers and thereby confuse the audience (Berg, 1975; Thomas, 1973).

However, previous research has shown that the film experience is more than just watching audiovisuals and that the film itself is not even the most important part of visiting the cinema (Kuhn, 2002). To illustrate, individuals produce memories not only of the film and music, but also of the places and people one goes to the cinema with (Kuhn, 2002). The process of memorizing thus is influenced by a combination of information that the film provides, the experience of going to a certain cinema with certain people, and even the technologies used to convey the audiovisual product (See: Boltz et al., 1991; Kuhn, 2002; O’Hara, Mitchell & Vorbau, 2007). The result of these multiple factors of influence was that even the most perfectly framed audiovisual product could not predict with certainty that the presumed effects will occur among viewers.

Today, the majority of film experiences, however, has transformed to an even more involved interplay of factors. Rapid changes in technologies increasingly transformed the traditional feature film from theatres to online and social media. Though music, creativity and audience relationship in contemporary media tend to have some similarities with the silent film performances, the most significant difference is that today’s viewers play an active role in the consumption of media content (Fischer, 1998). Audiences now have the means to produce media content in order to take on these active roles.

Rather than having a gap between creators and consumers, the development and diffusion of the Internet has shifted power to the non-professional media users / producers because of the decentralized mode of information sharing. Consequently, traditional media is now struggling in their role as gatekeepers of published content because it is losing ground to online and social media (Balasubramaniam, 2009). These new developments are closely related to the concept of Web 2.0, which can be seen as a more general umbrella term for forms of online participatory media.

More specifically, Web 2.0 also suggests a more socially interconnected mediascape, in addition to media-creating features. It could be visualized as “a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core” (O’Reilly, 2007, p. 18-19). Understanding Web 2.0 is going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver user experiences. Web 2.0 is the network as platform, “a continually-updated service that that gets better the more people use it” (p. 17). It is the “architecture of participation”, characterized by millions of users actively participating and contributing to add their own value to the application as they use it (Anderson, 2007, p. 19). But most of all, Web 2.0 is the cause and effect of user-generated content (UGC).

User-generated content refers to “all media content created or produced by the general public rather than by paid professionals and primarily distributed on the Internet” (Daugherty, Eastin & Bright, 2008, p. 16). In addition, it is characterized by three features. Firstly, the content has to available through the Internet and should be public. Secondly, it has to have a connection with creativity. And thirdly, the content should not be professional (Wunsch-Vincent & Vickery, 2007). This understanding suggests that most output of user-generated content are not created with the expectation of generating profit, which also signals an important cultural shift in media production.

Relating back to the theory of context determination and framing, user-generated content can also be used to create new meanings and expand the limits of an original media product. Specifically, regarding film production and experience, the emergence of social media and video-sharing sites resulted in a phenomenon that is considered “one of the most popular forms of fan subversion in the age of digital video”, namely recut trailers (Hildebrand, 2007, p. 52). Whereas original film trailers are created by professional studios with the intention to generate enthusiasm and attract audiences to an upcoming feature film (Kernan, 2004), recut trailers are created by fans. More specifically, “recut trailers take source footage from one or more texts and recut it, either to displace the film’s original genre or to create a new film that will never exist” (Williams, 2012, p. 3). By creating the recut trailers, or fan trailers, amateurs perform their status as fan to the community of fans (Williams, 2012).

Editing plays a central role in the recut trailers and fans often seek to displace the original genre of the film. For example, by re-cutting original footage of the film, Aeronez (2009) created the trailer Twilight Horror Spoof which presents the popular story of Twilight as a horror film with the accompaniment of melodramatic music. The video was uploaded to the video-sharing website Youtube and has generated over 9,000 views. Similar to professional media producers, the creators of recut trailers use music, title and text to situate the world of Twilight according to their preferences (Williams, 2012). Consequently, recut trailers generally extend beyond the original purpose and story of the film and could therefore also be seen as rejecting elements of a genre or feature film (Williams, 2012).

However, it does not necessarily suggest that all creators of recut trailers generally have the intention to create a different film experience than the original. Some user-producers, only add different music to an original film trailer, without editing the visuals. Thus, in the light of film theory it could be feasible that the change of music, unintentionally may alter the experience and interpretation of the original visual product, even in an online environment of user mashups and dynamic co-creation. This eventuality would suggest that the practice of creating fan trailers is actually quite similar to the silent film era, where single pianists, often unintentionally, played a fundamental role in the evaluation of the visual product.

While building on a long history of considering audios and visuals in information processing, there is good reason to believe that music plays a major role in the film experience that is transitioned to online and social media-based viewing. At this point in time, however, there is virtually no extant research that develops and tests this idea. Crucially, there is also a general dearth of empirical research on cognitive effects of film music in the area of music psychology (Vitouch, 2001), and almost none that investigates the role of music in de-professionalized online media creation and consumption. Another shortcoming in academic research is that music is often taken into account as an independent entity that is separated from the visual information when analyzing the impact of music in audiovisual context (Vines et al., 2010; Moore, 2010; Shevy & Rouner, 2004). As Stilwell (2002, p. 20) formulated it: “It is truly astonishing how many studies of the music tend to ignore completely what is happening on the screen.”

Therefore the purpose of this study is to start filling this gap in academic research by empirically examining the psychological effects of music on visual information processing of online, user-generated film presentations. Specifically, the goal is to test whether music plays a similar role in the experience and interpretation of film in user-generated content as it was the case in more traditional media (film) settings. In so doing, the study reported here presents an online experiment to examine the extent to which music shapes different impressions for the receivers in user-generated content. While building on a long history of film theory and cognitive psychology, it proceeds by advancing the following research question and hypotheses regarding the influence of music and film presentations in user-generated culture:

RQ1: To what extent do disparate audio tracks influence audiences’ impressions of otherwise identical visual film sequences in online user-generated content?

H1: The style of music that accompanies visual film sequences in online user-generated content influences audience genre interpretations.

H2: Less ambiguous audio with a clearer evaluation direction will reduce the diversity of audience genre interpretations in online visual film sequences.


While building further on the theory of montage and framing, two visually identical film sequences with two disparate audio tracks were created in a similar way that recut trailers are made. Specifically, two different trailers of the movie Twilight Eclipse were created for this study by two of the authors (den Hartogh and Hsu). This movie was chosen for analysis because it was one of the most popular movies of 2010 and the word “Twilight” was the most searched term in November 2011 (Eggermont, 2011). In producing the trailers, the exact same images, scenes and lengths were used, but the music differed for each trailer. Both trailers were user-generated creations, with video edited together into a series of shots from Twilight Eclipse by one author (den Hartogh) and the highly unique audio tracks being performed and developed by another author (Hsu).

The trailers were uploaded on YouTube and presented on a WordPress website that provided respondents a clear overview and the possibility to register their reactions. The audiovisual stimuli had clip lengths of 60 seconds, and by being uniquely created for this study by non-professional audience members, demonstrate authentic user-generated content in an externally valid environment. Importantly, both of these musical tracks can still be considered congruent to the visual material, since each was specifically performed and edited to match the visual sequence. Though created for research purposes, the film sequences qualify the three characteristics of user-generated content defined by Wunsch-Vincent & Vickery (2007), and therefore considered as such.

The selection process of musical excerpts with emotional direction is similar to the method employed in Bullerjahn and Güldenring (1994). In the first trailer, relatively emotionally ambiguous and gentle ballad-type piano music was specifically developed and adapted to the visual sequence. In the second trailer, exciting and up-tempo music with a clearer evaluative direction was likewise performed and recorded to match the cuts of the exact same visual sequence. For reference purposes, the first trailer is denoted as the ‘piano’ trailer and is considered more ambiguous. The second trailer is identified as the ‘epic’ trailer and considered to have a clearer evaluative direction upon which respondents could form genre decisions. Both trailers themselves contained emotionally ambiguous or non-specific and decontextualized images, so adapting it to both musical tracks would not be incongruent with the visual presentation.

The trailers comprise images of the film Twilight Eclipse, which is an American vampire film from 2010 based on the novels of Stephenie Meyer. The movie was a great commercial success, grossing over $300 million worldwide (Box Office Mojo, 2010). Set against an ongoing deadly conflict between vampires and werewolves, the plot in the movie depicts an unorthodox romance between a human girl and a male vampire, with a twist of love triangle as a werewolf boy is in love with the same girl. This rivalry can be observed in the violence portrayed in the movie, as there are two principle clans in Twilight Eclipse that battle against one another for their respective causes.


Since prior studies with comparable research questions and/or hypotheses conducted experiments, this study built on this tradition to examine the research questions and hypotheses posed here (Vines et al., 2011; Vitouch, 2001; Shevy & Rouner, 2004). The steps followed in this experiment are based on prior academic literature from Babbie (2007) and Shevy & Rouner (2004). On the WordPress website, respondents were first presented a clear overview of the procedure and given simple instructions. Google analytics tracked locations and basic demographic characteristic (as available) of the participants.

For this study, we formulated an independent (X) and a dependent variable (Y). The independent variable is the audio track of each otherwise identical trailer and the dependent variable is the perceived genre of the movie Twilight Eclipse. This research design can probably be most accurately described as a repeated one-group posttest-only form of pre-experimental design. Though this design does introduce certain limitations, particularly on generalizability, it has the benefit of accounting for repeated exposure to visual stimuli. In this way, the possible effects of audio on audience interpretations can be considered fairly isolated, and ecological validity can be considered reasonably high since participants engaged in identical self-selected online viewing environments. See Figure 1 for a graphical summary of this design.

Figure 1: Repeated one-group posttest-only research design.


(X1)                           (Y1)                               (X2)                          (Y2)

Exposure piano trailer Observation piano trailer Exposure epic trailer Observation epic trailer

After instructions were presented on the website, the participants were tested using both audiovisual stimuli. Each participant was exposed to the ‘piano’ trailer first, followed by the ‘epic’ trailer. After exposure to each trailer, respondents answered the question: “To which of the following genres do you think the Twilight movie belongs?” Participants could choose one of the following genres as their answer: Romance, Action, Drama and Thriller. The genre definitions and classifications are based on information by IMDB (2012) and genre research by Austin & Gordon (1987). After watching the two trailers and answering the two questions, participants were then posed the following question: “Did both videos give you similar feelings and/or thoughts.” Participants could answer “Yes” or “No” to this question and were aware that their responses were recorded as poll statistics on the website.

After the exposure and responses, participants were requested to comment on the created trailers and the experiment, so this study could also examine the uses and gratifications experiences of the audience. The data collection for the experiment started on December 9, 2011 and ended on January 18, 2012.


This study operated on a limited budget that did not allow for probabilistic sampling of the online Twilight audience, and is it unlikely that a perfect sample of all online or offline Twilight viewers could be drawn. Thus, a purposive sample based on interest was drawn with the goal of drawing a large and diverse a sample as large as possible.

Recruitment included extensively promoting the media stimuli on different social media channels, such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Hyves, fan sites and through emails. In addition, the media stimuli were promoted on several Twilight forums, including, http://www.thetwilightforums.com,http://www.twilighted.net, and http://www.twilight.123forum.nl. These websites were selected because they were among the top results of a Google query for “Twilight forum,” and thus were likely to have relatively large numbers of individuals that might be interested in participating in this study.

In total, there were over 300 viewers of the trailers on YouTube, and when the study closed the questionnaire had been completed by 295 respondents. The trailers were accessed by a mix of ages and genders from a variety of countries, including Belgium, Germany, India, Indonesia, Netherlands, Qatar, and the United States. In sum, though this study does not claim generalizability, it does provide insights into information processing amongst an issue-centric online audience.


This study proceeded by examining an overarching research question (RQ1), which posed: To what extent do disparate audio tracks influence audiences’ impressions of otherwise identical visual film sequences in online user-generated content? Though also explored further with two separate hypotheses, this research question was first directly examined by participants’ self-reported answers to the exit question of whether or not both trailers provided viewers with similar feelings and thoughts. The question was posed to show a first impression of how the respondents felt about the trailer: “Did both videos give you similar feelings and/or thoughts?” Here, an overwhelming 98.3% of respondents agreed that music gave the trailers different emotions and answered that the trailers did not provide similar interpretations.

In addition, the research question was evaluated using Spearman’s rho, which is a correlational coefficient based on rank-ordering the relative frequency of genres identified across audio tracks. Somewhat unexpectedly, following exposure to the ‘piano’ audio condition, the most frequently identified genre was Drama (118 responses), followed by Romance (71 responses). Thriller was third with 61 responses, and Action (45 responses) was identified least among this sample of 295 participants for the ‘piano’ stimulus. The rank ordering of genres by the same audience members after viewing the ‘epic’ audio treatment was, first, Thriller (144 responses), then Action (107 responses), with Drama (28 responses) third, and Romance fourth with 16 responses, respectively. When compared with Spearman’s rho, these two series of rankings were negatively correlated to one another (ρ = -0.60, p >.05), but not to a statistically significant level.

It can therefore be observed that there is no similarity of genre interpretations across the two audio treatment conditions, at least in terms of rank-ordering by frequency. In other words, from the measures applied here it seems clear that disparate audio tracks can drastically influence audiences’ impressions of otherwise identical visual film sequences when considered in online user-generated content. There was qualitative evidence of this outcome as well, where one voluntary comment noted “it’s surprising that both movies gave such different feelings” and another respondent indicating watching the trailers again “to check whether it was the same images”. This general finding was analysed further by examining each of the hypotheses.

To begin, the first hypothesis expected that the style of music that accompanies visual film sequences in online user-generated content influences audience genre interpretations. This hypothesis was examined with a chi-square to compare the relative observed percentages of genre identifications against those that could be expected within these distributions. Here, the ‘piano’ audio condition was interpreted as Drama by 40.0% of the respondents. Another 24.1% of respondents indicated the genre as Romance, while 20.7% indicated their preference for the genre Thriller. Finally, within the ‘piano’ audio condition, 15.3% of the respondents here indicated Action as the most appropriate genre for this Twilight trailer.

After watching the ‘piano’ audio treatment, respondents were exposed to the ‘epic’ audio condition of an otherwise visually identical Twilight trailer. In this case, the ‘epic’ audio format led to 48.8% of the same respondents identifying the genre as Thriller, and another 36.3% of the sample determined the genre as Action. Drama was the preferred genre selection of 9.5% of the audience in this condition, and 5.4% still indicated Romance as the genre with this less ambiguous audio applied.

When examining the differences between these distributions of genres across exposure conditions, even when noting that all respondents were exposed to the ‘epic’ audio condition after viewing the ‘piano’ audio treatment, support for H1 could be observed. A cross tabulation found statistical significance for this proposition when examined with chi-square (χ2 (df: 3) = 149.14, p = .000) and the strength of the relationship was reasonably strong (Cramer’s V = 0.50, p = .000). Further support for H1 was found in the comments of the viewers, with one of them stating:

“It surprises me that both movies gave me different experiences to the visuals. The slow one made it more romantic and the fast one made it more an action movie. To me, it was as if I was watching trailers from different movies.”

Altogether, these findings seem clear evidence that audio conditions in online user-generated content can, indeed, directly influence audience genre interpretations. Results are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Genres identified after exposure to ‘piano’ and ‘epic’ audio conditions of visually identical Twilight trailers

                                                                                                          Audio Condition
Genre Identified                                ‘Piano’                                                      ‘Epic’


Romance                                          24.1%  (n = 71)                                        5.4%  (n = 16)

Action                                               15.3%  (n = 45)                                        36.3% (n = 107)

Drama                                               40.0%  (n = 118)                                      9.5%  (n = 28)

Thriller                                               20.7%  (n = 61)                                        48.8%  (n = 144)

Total                                                  100.0% (n=295)                                       100.0% (n = 295)


Note: Chi-square (df: 3) = 149.14, p = .000

The second hypothesis predicted that ‘epic’ audio with a more clear evaluation direction applied in online visual film sequences will reduce the diversity of audience genre interpretations. This proposition was measured using separate difference of independent proportions. Here, the most frequently identified genre from the ‘piano’ exposure, Drama (118 of 295 responses), was compared proportionally to the most frequently identified genre, Thriller (144 of 295 responses) of the ‘epic’ exposure condition. Results of this test confirmed this was the case, where a statistically significant result (Z = 2.15, p = .02) was observed between the audience exposure conditions.

What this finding suggests is that the ‘epic’ audio condition was, indeed, less ambiguous than the ‘piano’ condition, and the overall diversity of responses was more limited for the ‘epic’ audio treatment. In addition, the difference of proportions was significant at every level of frequency measured here, where a statistically significant difference between the second-, third-, and least-most frequent genres across audio conditions was observed. This finding signals far less diversity of genre interpretations with the more clear evaluation direction of the ‘epic’ audio.

In short, all findings reported here align in suggesting that music can truly be in the eyes of the audience, cueing interpretations and reshaping genre perceptions in online, user-generated media. Some respondents directly confirmed the findings in their comments, as one comment noted “it was as if I was watching trailers from different movies” and another indicated that “the slow one [trailer] made it more romantic and the fast one made it more an action movie.” Importantly, these results were observed even when media stimuli featured well-known subjects and were arranged in sequential exposure conditions.


When looking at the findings, it can be said that the most important and noticeable conclusion is that respondents did perceive the two trailers differently. Indeed, nearly all (98.3%) of the respondents felt there was a clear distinction between the two trailers. At this level, and as measured with rank ordering of the indicated genre frequencies, it is all but undeniable that the disparate audio tracks cued and influenced audiences’ impressions, and led to different self-reported feelings.

When considering the first hypothesis, it can also be stated with a high level of confidence that the style of music accompanying visual film sequences in online user-generated content does, indeed, influence audience genre interpretations and contributes to their overall evaluation of a film. This finding was evidenced by the statistically significant chi-square and Cramer’s V that indicated the wide differences in genre choice by audio exposure condition. In addition, in the voluntary feedback that was received, participants wrote that they perceived the ‘piano’ trailer as a less violent trailer, even though Twilight has a relatively high degree of violence, and identical scenes featuring the conflict between vampires and wolves were presented identically visually in both trailers.

This unexpected finding suggests that disparate audio tracks seem to have encouraged viewers to neglect certain aspects of these trailers specifically, but films more generally. With the stimuli examined here, the slow-paced and more ambiguous piano music apparently obscured some of the violence and emphasized the more dramatic and romantic aspects of the film. In turn, the more up-tempo and evaluative epic music seems to have emphasized the tension and conflict between the vampires and wolves in the movie and diminished other components of the story related to genre selection. Taken together, it can be argued that disparate audio tracks may influence genre identifications of self-selected online viewers of movie trailers, even under the circumstance that the trailers are known by the audience to be user-generated media.

In examining the second hypothesis, the distribution of genre responses for the ‘piano’ trailer was more even across answer options when compared to those of the ‘epic’ trailer. Under these conditions, the more ambiguous piano music still had reasonable numbers of respondents (20.7% and 15.3%, respectively) that identified ‘Thriller’ and ‘Action’ genres whereas after the epic music exposure, a more clear preference emerged for the ‘Thriller’ genre and relatively few participants indicated ‘Drama’ (9.5%) or ‘Romance’ (5.4%) as preferred genres. Support for this hypothesis indicated that less ambiguous audio with a clearer evaluation direction did reduce the diversity of audience genre interpretations in online visual film sequences that were user-generated by definition.

Though it is possible that the popularity of the Twilight movie series could bias respondents’ interpretations, it is worthwhile to note that changes could be observed between both exposures, and that the sample that participated here likely already had well-formed genre opinions about Twilight. Even with the limitations of self-selection taken into consideration, the findings here suggest malleability of audience interpretations with regard to audiovisual associations in online and user-generated culture. Our findings thus generally align with previous work in the arena of audio interpretations as presented in other, more traditional and professional media production on television and in movies.

In one such example, Bottin (2001) found evidence with an experiment that with certain music, one could guide the perspective of a participant to a desired direction. Here, similar effects could be observed in this study, as the results closely matched hypothetical expectations. In particular, ambiguous music may be related to more diverse genre interpretations, and music with a strong-minded evaluative direction can influence the majority of the respondents towards a more uniform interpretation of the trailer.

Altogether, it can be concluded that music can certainly generate differentiations on audiences’ impressions of visual content. Music can have an appreciable impact on audience interpretation of films, or in this case film trailers. Yet as was previously identified, Kuhn emphasized the experience of the cinema and that films can lead to memory producing. Cohen (2001) likewise elaborated on the social aspects of information processing and argued that music plays an important role in films, as it can have several functions, including activation of memory, as Kuhn also stated. Furthermore, attention and arousal can be heightened because of music, and associated sense of emotion. When taking these arguments into account with the study reported here, we can safely report that the answer to our overarching research question is that audio tracks influence audiences’ impressions of otherwise identical visual film sequences in online user-generated content to a clearly observable and significant extent, at least under conditions of readily identifiable dissimilarities in musical styles.

In summary, statistical evidence and qualitative feedback has shown that respondents sampled here perceive the two trailers differently because of the disparate audio tracks. Given that the two trailers were intentionally user-generated creations, it can also be argued that there is a possibility that modern communications technologies have the potential to reshape genre perceptions. Moreover, as user-generated content and culture are now overlapping and converging with mainstream mass media in the form of websites such as YouTube, Vimeo, and others, it is crucial that media scholars and practitioners take these shifts into account. User-generated content and culture, however, present now a considerable challenge for the field to explore and more fully understand this mode media production and effects. Yet from the analysis presented here, it is also clear that the influence of music cannot and should not be ignored in the online, de-professionalized media environment where its interpretive impact seems comparable to that of more traditional mass media formats.


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1/2013 WiderScreen 16 (1)

(Kusen suihkulähteeseen!) Videopelit ja sulkeutuneen ilmaisun taide

taide, videopelaaminen

Veli-Matti Karhulahti
Mediatutkimus / Media Studies
Turun yliopisto / University of Turku

Viittaaminen / How to cite: Karhulahti, Veli-Matti. 2013. ”(Kusen suihkulähteeseen!) Videopelit ja sulkeutuneen ilmaisun taide”. WiderScreen 16 (1). http://widerscreen.fi/numerot/2013-1/kusen-suihkulahteeseen-videopelit-ja-sulkeutuneen-ilmaisun-taide/

Artikkeli peilaa videopelaamisen ja taiteen suhdetta eri urheilumuotojen taiteellistamista koskevien filosofisten argumenttien kautta. Fokus on näin ollen pelisuorituksissa piilevässä ilmaisupotentiaalissa. Asetelma johtaa kulttuurimuodon vastaanottokokemuksen tarkasteluun, jossa yksinvideopelit havaitaan taiteen näkökulmasta poikkeukselliseksi näiden hybridiluonteensa vuoksi: yksinvideopelaaminen rakentuu ilmaisun mahdollistavalle suorittamiselle, jonka vastaanotto kohdistuu kuitenkin taiteen konventioista poiketen suorittajaan itseensä. Tämän ristiriitaisen yhdistelmän mukaisesti yksinvideopelaamista ehdotetaan sulkeutuneen ilmaisun taiteeksi, jota määrittää sen omalaatuinen vastaanottoluonne: yksinvideopelaaminen on ensimmäinen varteenotettava taidemuoto, jonka teokset luovat yksilöille ilmaisukeinoja ensisijaisesti näiden itsensä vastaanotettaviksi.

Pissing in the Fountain: Videogames and Expressive Performance

This article scrutinizes the relationship between art and the videogame through philosophical arguments on the artistic potential of sports. Accordingly, the focus will be on the expressive potentials of the gaming (videogame play) performance. The framework entails the cultural form to be examined from the perspective of art reception, which reveals single player gaming as a relatively unique hybrid: it bases on the player’s expressive performance, but unlike most art forms which are targeted for public audiences, solo gamers perform for themselves. In accordance with the previous notion, single player gaming is suggested as the art of secluded expression, which is defined by its exceptional reception: single player videogames amount to the first significant medium that designs means for individual expression for the individuals themselves.


Videopelien taiteellisesta potentiaalista käyty keskustelu otti huomattavan askeleen toukokuussa 2011, kun Yhdysvaltojen liittohallituksen alainen lahjoitusrahasto NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) koki ensimmäistä kertaa tarpeelliseksi sisällyttää videopelit (digitaaliset pelit, tietokonepelit) taloudellisesti tuettavien taidemuotojen joukkoon. Videopelit sijoitettiin osaksi mediataiteita, jota aiemmin määrittivät dokumentit ja draamallinen kerronta; teatterilevitykseen tarkoitetut esitykset; performanssiohjelmistot; jo tuotannossa oleviin sarjoihin lisätyt taiteelliset jaksot; moniosaiset webisodit; installaatiot; sekä lyhytelokuvat. (NEA 2011)

NEA:n kerronnallista ilmaisua painottavaa joukkoa voi pitää osuvana kontekstina sille videopelikäsitykselle, jonka kulttuurimuodon taidepotentiaalia ruotiva ei-akateeminen keskustelu on yleisesti omaksunut. Tässä artikkelissa keskitytään kuitenkin (kertovassa tai ei-kertovassa) peliympäristössä tapahtuvan suorituksen ilmaisulliseen omalaatuisuuteen, jonka oletetaan selittyvän luontevimmin taiteen kenttään sovitettuna toimintana. Jos perinteikkäissä taiteissa ilmaisija on pääsääntöisesti teoksen alkuunpanija, ’taiteilija’, voidaan videopelien kohdalla ilmaisullisuutta löytää myös pelaajasta; sillä varauksella, että peliympäristön luojan muistetaan vaikuttavan ilmaukseen ainutlaatuisen ilmaisuvälineen tarjoajana.[i] Nämä lähtökohdat huomioon ottaen, taide tullaan ymmärtämään ensisijaisesti omalaatuisten ilmaisumuotojen kenttänä.

Kertovan ja suorittavan ilmaisun erottavan kahtiajaon ulkopuolelle jäävät videopelien kohdalla ne iskevästi nimitetyt ’taidepelit’, joilla yleisesti viitataan itsenäisten kehittäjien tuottamiin videopelielementtejä hyödyntäviin veistoksellisiin ohjelmistoihin. Koska kyseisten teosten välittämät merkitykset ovat monesti ymmärrettävissä ilman videopelaamiselle leimallista suorittamista, luokittuvat ne dynaamisesta ulkokuorestaan huolimatta paremminkin eräänlaisiksi staattisiksi installaatioiksi (pitäytyen NEA:n kategorisoinnissa). Samoin kuin Andy Warholin Sleep (1963) – kuuden tunnin otos nukkuvasta ihmisestä – tarjoaa merkityksen, joka kutsuu katsojaa soveltamaan enemmän staattisten taiteiden kuin liikkeeseen perustuvan elokuvataiteen tulkintamalleja, on Pippin Barrin päättymätöntä jonotusta simuloivaa The Artist Is Present (2011) -teosta hedelmätöntä tarkastella videopelikertomuksena tai -suorituksena. Kuten Grant Tavinor ehdottaa (2009, 173), ’taidepelien’ ilmaisu, tulkinta ja arvottaminen tuntuvat istuvan paremmin visuaalisten taiteiden perinteisiin.

Vain kaksi kuukautta NEA:n päätöksen jälkeen taide-kysymys nousi jälleen otsikoihin, kun arvostettu pelinkehittäjä Brian Moriarty yllätti yleisönsä pelinkehittäjien vuotuisessa suurkonferenssissa (San Francisco Game Developers Conference) puolustamalla elokuvakriitikko Roger Ebertin vuosi sitten kohauttanutta ”Video Games Can Never Be Art” –otsikoitua kirjoitusta. Puolustavan argumenttinsa Moriarty perusti videopeli- ja urheilusuorituksen samankaltaisuuteen. Sivuuttamatta näiden visuaalisia yhtäläisyyksiä kitsistä kuvataiteeseen, hän kävi läpi länsimaisen taiteenfilosofian 700-sivuisen antologian, sisältäen kirjoituksia niin Platonilta, Aristoteleelta, Plotinukselta, Agustinukselta, Ficinolta, Kantilta, Schellingiltä, Hegeliltä, Schopenhauerilta, Shaftesburylta, Crocelta, Nietzcheltä, Deweylta ja Heideggeriltä … mitä seurasi toinen kuolettavan tylsä kirja 1900-luvun taiteen määritelmistä, sisältäen kirjoituksia Weitziltä, Dickieltä ja Dantolta – ilman ainuttakaan mainintaa urheilusta taidemuotona. (Moriarty 2011)

Moriartyn havaintoa urheilun marginaalisesta statuksesta nykyfilosofiaa edeltäneessä taiteenteoriassa voitaneen pitää verrattain paikkansapitävänä. Näin ei kuitenkaan ole itse nykyfilosofian kohdalla, joka on ennen kaikkea John Deweyn (1934) kokemukseen pohjautuvasta estetiikasta lähtien etsinyt vaihtoehtoisia malleja taideteoksen ontologialle (videopeleille, ks. Deen 2011; Karhulahti 2012). Kyseisessä taiteen luonnetta määrittelevässä keskustelussa urheilu nousi varteenotettavaksi taidekandidaatiksi jo 1960-luvulla (Saw 1961), ja pian tämän jälkeen avoimeksi taiteenfilosofian puheenaiheeksi 1970-luvulla (esim. Best 1974; Ziff 1974: Cooper 1978).


Siitä lähtien kun teollistumisen vakiinnuttama tekninen monistaminen pirstoi taideteokselta tämän materiaalisen ainutlaatuisuuden (Benjamin 1968), on taiteen keskeiseksi haasteeksi muodostunut sen tuottamien ilmiöiden erottaminen arjen toistosta. Kuten Mark Hansen huomauttaa (2004, 3), monistamisen pirstova vaikutus lienee kuitenkin vain tulkinnallinen harha. Sen sijaan että ainutlaatuisuuden aura olisi hajonnut, näyttäisi se ennemminkin vain irtautuneen taideobjektin kuolleesta materiasta kiinnittyäkseen jälleen elävään ruumiiseen: aineettomaan taidekokemukseen. Tämän artikkelin taidekandidaattia, yksinvideopelaamista, tarkastellaan niin ikään kyseisiä aineettomia, mutta ainutlaatuisia, taidekokemuksia tuottavana kulttuurimuotona.

Vasten normia, yksinvideopelaamisen taiteeksi oikeuttavaksi piirteeksi nostetaan (kerronnallisten ja audiovisuaalisten ilmaisuväylien sijaan) vastaanottajan, pelaajan, realisoiman suorituksen erityislaatu. Lähestymistavan varsinainen tarkoitus ei siis ole käsitellä videopeliä niinkään taide-esineenä, vaan ennemminkin kulttuuri-ilmiönä, jonka yhtä osa-aluetta, yksinvideopelaamista, leimaa taiteellisesti kiinnostava ilmaisullinen ainutlaatuisuus: valmiiden merkitysten ohella (ja kustannuksella) yksinvideopelit tarjoavat ilmaisukeinoja yksilöille näiden itsensä vastaanotettaviksi. Tähän piirteeseen vedoten yksinvideopelaamista ehdotetaan sulkeutuneen ilmaisun taiteeksi; kulttuurimuodoksi, jonka erityislaatu perustuu ilmaisun ja vastaanoton yhdistävään eristettyyn suoritukseen.

Taiteeksi, minkä vuoksi?

Niin eri urheilulajien kun videopelaamisenkin kohdalla keskeinen kysymys näiden taiteellisen potentiaalin tarkastelussa on motiivi. David Best esittää saman kysymyksen vaatimalla (1980, 69) vastaväittäjiltään selitystä sille, kuinka taidemaailman hyväksyntä parantaisi aiempaa käsitystämme mistään urheilulajista kulttuurimuotona. Yhtenä vastauksena voidaan pitää taiteellisen vastaanoton ilmaisulle suomaa erityishuomiota, joka lisäisi kyseessä olevaan urheilulajiin ilmaisun ja tulkinnan vastavuoroisesti vaikuttavan elementin. Kun kulttuurimuotoon liitetään merkityksiä rakentava suorituksen tulkinta (vastakohtana tulospainotteiselle suorituksen seuraamiselle), avautuu suorittajalle samalla motiivi merkitykselliseen ilmaisuun (vastakohtana tulospainotteiselle suorittamiselle).

Ongelmaksi mainitussa hypoteesissa muodostuu merkitysten ilmaisuun tarvittava tekniikka. Best viimeistelee kieltävän argumenttinsa vaatimalla (1980, 78) jokaiselta taidemuodolta moraalisten, sosiaalisten ja poliittisten teemojen käsittelyn mahdollistavia ilmaisukeinoja, jotka useimmilta urheilulajeilta tuntuisivat puuttuvan. Bestin vaatimus on päällisin puolin eheä, mutta hajoaa käytännöllisessä tarkastelussa varsin pian. Musiikki ja tanssi pysyvät ilmaisurikkaina taidemuotoina myös liikkeen ja sanattoman äänen rajoituksin ymmärrettyinä – moraaliseen, sosiaaliseen ja poliittiseen ilmaisuun kykenemättöminä – lajeina. Kantaaottava ilmaisu on taiteelle ominaista, muttei sen olemassaolon ehto.

Ruumiinkieleen perustuvan ilmaisun lisäksi tanssisuoritus mahdollistaa myös tunteiden ja tunnetilojen kielettömän ilmaisun. On huomionarvoista, että kyseinen ilmaisu voidaan liittää yhtäläisesti niin taide- kuin urheilusuoritukseenkin. Teoriassa taidesuorituksen ja urheilusuorituksen erottavaksi tekijäksi voidaan nostaa jälkimmäistä määrittävä kilpailuelementti, jonka mukaisesti Best kutsuukin (1985, 12) urheilua ’tuloshakuiseksi’ (purposive) toiminnaksi (vrt. Bordwell 1985, 32). Vaikka tuloshakuisuus nivoutuu usein myös taiteisiin erilaisten taidekilpailujen myötä, ovat tulokselliset tekijät todellakin ehdoton edellytys ainoastaan urheilulle. Tulostavoitteiden puutteessa toiminta menettää urheilustatuksensa ja muuntuu leikiksi tai, kuten tässä vaihtoehtoisesti ehdotetaan, taiteeksi. Sama toiminta voidaan siis laskea yhtäaikaisesti niin urheiluksi, leikiksi ja taiteeksi, minkä vuoksi on kulttuurimuodon taidestatuksen puntaroinnissa keskityttävä tämän vastaanottoa ensisijaisesti määrittävien piireiden tunnistamiseen.

Vaikka tulostavoitteet, mukaan lukien vastapelaajan päihittäminen (Caillois 1961: agôn), ovat leimallisia monille videopeleille, motivoi yksinpelikokemuksia useasti tuloksen sijaan itsenäinen (usein kerrontaan sidottu) päämäärä. Kuten joissain vuorikiipeilyn ja ultrajuoksun muodoissa, oleellista näiden tarjoamissa kokemuksissa ei ole oman suorituksen vertaaminen omiin aiempiin suorituksiin tai muiden vastaaviin, vaan suorittaminen ja sen loppuunsaattaminen itseisarvoisena toimintana. Kyseisiin suorituksiin, kuten useimpiin suorituksiin, voidaan sisällyttää taiteelle ominaista (ja tässä artikkelissa taiteeksi oikeuttavaa) ilmaisua. Yksinvideopelaamisessa toteutuva sulkeutunut ilmaisu tapahtuu niin ikään digitaalisen kulttuurituotteen määrittämillä vakioiduilla ehdoilla, mikä antaa perusteet kyseessä olevan ilmaisun tarkastelulle itsenäisenä taidemuotona.

On edelleen painotettava, että sulkeutunut suorittaminen ja sen mahdollistama sulkeutunut ilmaisu ovat ennen kaikkea kulttuuri-ilmiö, eivätkä ehdottomasti sidottuja näitä tuottamaan suunniteltuihin kulttuuriesineisiin. Vaikka tietyt videopelilajityypit (esim. seikkailu-, rooli- ja strategiapelit) sisältävät piirteitä, jotka selkeästi kannustavat sulkeutuneeseen suorittamiseen, ja sama pätee urheilulajeihin, olisi järjetöntä kieltää etteivätkö nämä voisi ainakin ääriolosuhteissa toimia myös sosiaalisena tai kilpailullisena suoritusalustana. Tämä ei kuitenkaan tee tyhjäksi sitä realiteettia, että sulkeutuneeseen suorittamiseen ja ilmaisuun kannustavat videopelituotannot houkuttelevat tutkimaan alaa yhä lähemmin sulkeutuneesti kulutettavien (populaari)taiteiden rinnakkaisilmiönä. Tarkasteltakoon seuraavaksi siis yleisöä taiteen vastaanoton vaatimuksena.

Taiteeksi, kenelle?

Kilpailullisten videopelien kohdalla yleisön rooli on helposti rinnastettavissa urheilun massatapahtumiin. Ääriesimerkiksi voidaan nostaa Etelä-Korean Startcraft-liigan finaalin 120 000 ihmisen katsojajoukko. Kuten vastaavat harrastemassat osoittavat, teosten ja suoritusten vastaanotossa yleisön määrää ei voi pitää näiden taiteellisuuteen vaikuttavana tekijänä. Mikäli yleisö halutaan nähdä suoritusten taiteellisuuden osana, lienee hedelmällisempää tarkastella sitä joko (i) ilmaisun hermeneuttisen taidetulkinnan vaatimuksena tai (ii) perinteisen vastaanottotilan täyttävänä vaatimuksena.

Useimmissa taidesuorituksissa, kuten tanssi- ja musiikkiesityksissä, yleisö on helppo liittää niin hermeneuttiseen taidetulkintaan kuin suoritustilaan sidottuun vastaanoton perinteeseen. Vastaesimerkit yksityisesti kulutetuista (ja usein ’ei-taiteellisen’ tulkinnan kohteeksi päätyvistä) taiteista löytyvät lähinnä kirjallisuuden siittämistä populaarikulttuurilajeista, jotka kuitenkin harvoin perustuvat samassa tilassa tapahtuvan suorituksen vastaanottoon (ks. Krauss 1976; Darley 2000). Näistä sulkeutuneeseen kulutukseen kannustavista kulttuurimuodoista yksinvideopelaaminen haarautuu täten yhden merkittävän eroavaisuuden myötä: sen taiteellinen kokeminen edellyttää vastaanottajalta suorittavaa (Aarseth 1997: ergodista) osallistumista. Tämä sulkeutuneen vastaanoton ja osallistuvan suorituksen yhdistävä hybridiluonne erottaa yksinvideopelaamisen useimmista muista taiteista. Yksinvideopelaaminen on ensimmäinen huomionarvoinen taidemuoto, jossa suoritus yhdistyy sulkeutuneeseen vastaanottoon.

Yhdistelmää seuraa ongelma, jonka Denis Diderot (1883) on nimennyt ’näyttelijän paradoksiksi.’ Paradoksi rinnastuu vaivattomasti urheiluun. Sepencer Wertzin huomion (1979, 108) mukaisesti omaa suoritustaan tulkitsemaan ryhtyvä pelaaja – kuten näyttelijäkin – menettää hetkellisesti suorittajanstatuksensa:

Jos pelaaja omaksuu suoritustaan tulkitsevan roolin, hän muuttuu hetkellisesti yleisöksi. Sillä on seurauksensa; kun pelaajan huomio ei kohdistu pelin toimintaan, hän on henkisesti pelin ulkopuolella.

Vaikka pelaaja voi edustaa samalla sekä tulkittavaa että tulkitsijaa, molempina samanaikaisesti toimimista voi pitää kyseenalaisena yhtälönä. Siinä missä oman suorituksen tulkintaan kohdistunut toiminta johtaa suorituksen laiminlyöntiin, suorittamiseen kohdistunut toiminta laiminlyö tulkinnan. Markku Eskelinen ehdottaakin (2004, 40; ks. 2005, 64) näitä kahta toimintoa pelit taiteesta erottavaksi vastapariksi:

Taiteessa saatamme joutua suorittamaan jotta voimme tulkita, kun taas peleissä joudumme tulkitsemaan jotta voimme suorittaa.

Pelaajalle näyttäisi siis jäävän kaksi vaihtoehtoa: joko toteuttaa oman suorituksensa tulkinta tästä irtautuneena, tai sivuuttaa suorituksen tulkinta kokonaan. Toisin sanoen, siinä missä perinteisille taiteille ominaiset elementit kannustavat vastaanottajaa suorituksen tulkintaan, videopeleille ominaiset toiminnalliset elementit kannustavat vastaanottajaa sivuuttamaan suorituksen tulkinnan.

Jos taidesuorituksen arvon oletetaan rakentuvan tämän hermeneuttiselle taidetulkinnalle (esim. Beardsley 1958; Goldman 2004), yksinpelattavien videopelisuoritusten taidearvoa voidaan pitää kyseenalaisena niin kauan kuin pelaaja muodostaa suorituksensa ainoan yleisön.[ii] Sikäli kun videopelaaminen edustaa vielä kritiikille tuntematonta (ilmaisevan suorittamisen ja sulkeutuneen vastaanoton yhdistävää) sulkeutuneen ilmaisun taidetta, kuten tässä ehdotetaan, on kuitenkin myös aiheellista kysyä, ovatko sen tarjoamat taidekokemukset välttämättä ymmärrettävissä aiempien taideteorioiden ja tulkintamallien kautta (ks. Frasca 2007; vrt. Tavinor 2009).

Lähimmäksi videopelikokemusten erityisluonnetta pääsee klassiselle hermeneuttiselle tulkinnalle vastakkainen spektaakkelin käsite. Vastineena audiovisuaalisten spektaakkelien, kuten elokuvan (Bordwell 1991), nautinnollisille shokkiefekteille, videopeliestetiikkaa määrittävä hetkellinen nautinto ilmenee ensisijaisesti (muttei ainoastaan) tämän virtuaalista liikettä tuottavassa epäsuorassa kinestetiikassa. Videopelaaja on enemmän tunteilija kuin tulkitsija. (Ks. Darley 2000.) Harhakäsitykset yksinvideopelaamisesta merkityshermeneuttisesti latautuneena kulttuurimuotona ovat ymmärrettäviä, sillä audiovisuaaliseen teknologiaan sidottu sulkeutunut suoritus on lähes poikkeuksetta istutettu kerronnalliseen kontekstiin. Kirjallisuudesta juontava sulkeutunut vastaanotto, joka siis toimii yksinvideopelaamisen useimmista kulttuuri-ilmiöistä erottavana piirteenä, osoittautuu näin ollen samanaikaisesti myös petolliseksi viitteeksi johdattamalla varomattoman tutkijan lähestymään kulttuurituotetta lähtökohtaisesti kerronnallisten esikuviensa jälkeläisenä.

Toisin kuin tulkintaperusteinen, ilmaisijan ja tulkitsijan eroon pohjaava taidekäsitys (esim. Eskelinen yllä), tässä artikkelissa hyödynnetty ilmaisuperusteinen taidekäsitys nojaa kokemukseen, jossa ilmaisijan ja tulkitsijan välille ei tehdä eroa (Dewey 1934). Ottaessamme omaleimaisen ilmaisuluonteen taidemuotostatuksen oikeuttavaksi ehdoksi, ei keskitetyn tulkinnan kautta avattava merkityshermeneuttinen sisältö ole enää taideteokselle ontologinen välttämättömyys. Ilmaisun ja tulkinnan yhteensulautumisessa taidekokemuksen merkitys muodostuu itse suorituksesta, jonka realisoinnissa sikiävä ilmaisu ei edellytä erillistä tulkintaa.[iii]

Taiteeksi, kuinka?

Peter Arnold (1990) kieltää urheilun taidestatuksen erottamalla tämän ’esteettisen’ potentiaalin ’taiteellisesta’ potentiaalista. Vaikka urheilu tarjoaa esteettisiä hetkiä, näillä hetkillä ei ole mitään tekemistä kyseisen toiminnan luonnetta määrittävien tekijöiden kanssa (160). Arnoldin huomio on lähtökohtaisesti pätevä, sillä monet arkipäiväiset kokemukset ovat luonteeltaan esteettisiä. On kuitenkin muistettava, että monet merkityshermeneuttisesti tulkitut taidekokemukset jäävät vastakohtaisesti epäesteettisiksi. Toisin sanoen, taiteella ei ole yksinoikeutta esteettiseen kokemiseen, eikä esteettisellä kokemisella yksinoikeutta taiteeseen.

Vaikka urheilulla ja peleillä on siis luontainen kyky nostattaa esteettisiä kokemuksia, näitä piirteitä ei voi pitää määrittävinä tekijöinä kyseisten kulttuurimuotojen taiteellisuudelle. Palaten Bestin aiempaan lausuntoon, mutta rajoittumatta hänen merkitysideologiaansa, on aika lujittaa tämän artikkelin hyväksymä taidenäkemys: kulttuurimuodon taiteellisen potentiaalin määrittää tämän tarjoama ilmaisullinen omaleimaisuus; tai negatiivisessa tapauksessa, ilmaisullisuuden puuttuminen.[iv]

Siinä missä Marcel Duchampin Suihkulähteen (1917) readymade-ilmaisu[v] perustui aikakautensa institutionaalisia taidenormeja horjuttavaan julkiseen tekoon, nivoutuu yksinvideopelien antiteesi vastaanottajan sulkeutuneeseen suoritukseen. Yksinvideopelaaminen on ensimmäisen varteenotettava taidemuoto, jonka teokset luovat yksilöille ilmaisukeinoja ensisijaisesti näiden itsensä vastaanotettaviksi.

Sulkeutuneiden yksinvideopelisuoritusten korostunut vuorovaikutussuhde tuottaa jatkuvasti uusia ilmaisumuotoja. Planescape: Tormentin (1999, Black Isle) kaltaiset kerronnalliset rakenteet tarjoavat pelaajalle mahdollisuuden moraaliseen ja sosiaaliseen ilmaisuun valintojen kautta (Simkins & Steinkuehler 2008; Sicart 2009); Civilization (1991, Microprose) mahdollistaa poliittisen vaikuttamisen historiaa simuloivissa tilanteissa (Squire 2004; Voorhees 2009; vrt. Myers 2005); toimintapelejä voi luonnehtia sormin käytäviksi tanssimuodoksi (Kirkpatrick 2011; lisäesimerkkejä esim. Juul 2009, 139; ks. myös Hutchinson 2007). Yksinvideopelisuorituksissa tapahtuvan ilmaisun taiteellisesti huomionarvoisin merkitys on kuitenkin jokaisen ilmauksen sulkeutunut vastaanotto, joka kehkeytyy postmodernia taidetta viitoittavaa näyttämisen ja esilläolon kulttuuria vastaan suunnatuksi reaktioksi. Virtsaaminen The Sims (2000, Maxis) tai Nomad Soul (1999, Quantic Dream) –peleissä ainoastaan subjektiivisen pelisuorituksen tai pelaajan oman spontaanin mielijohteen vuoksi, kenenkään huomaamatta, on kulttuuri-ilmiössä kytevä tiedostamaton kritiikki taiteen julkisia konventioita vastaan. Yksinpelisuoritus on ainutlaatuinen taideteos, jota ei tehdä muille.


Teksti on tarkistettu käännös englanninkielisestä alkuperäisjulkaisusta: Pissing in the Fountain: Videogames and Expressive Performance. Italian Journal of Game Studies, 1:2, 2012. Lainaukset ovat kirjoittajan vapaita suomennoksia.

Kiitän nimettömiä arvioijia hyödyllisestä palautteesta. Kiitoksen ansaitsevat myös monet muut tekstin syntyyn vaikuttaneet henkilöt, joista tässä nimeltä mainittakoon Timo Paananen, Brent Claffey sekä Piers Sutton.


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[i] Kognitiiviseen reseptioestetiikkaan vedoten on mahdollista esittää kaiken taiteen vastaanoton olevan vastaanottajan päässä tapahtuvaa ilmaisevaa toimintaa. Tässä artikkelissa ilmaisulta edellytetään kuitenkin sen realisoivaa konkreettista suoritusta.

[ii] Tässä tapauksessa kyseenalaiseksi joutavat tosin myös kaikki kertovat taiteet, jotka pyrkivät sitomaan yleisönsä näiden tarinamaailmoihin ja hahmoihin (ks. esim. Stern 1965; Goldman 2005).

[iii] Joidenkin teoreetikoiden (esim. Dourish 2001) mukaan suoritukseen kytkeytyy sisäänrakennettu tulkinta.

[iv] Viimeaikainen pelitutkimus (joka tutkii videopelikulttuuria kokonaisvaltaisena ilmiönä) tarjoaa alustavia teorioita videopelaamiseen liitetyn ilmaisun omaleimaisuudesta niin kertovana (Calleja 2009; Aarseth 2012), retorisena (Frasca 2007; Bogost 2007) kuin kinesteettisenäkin (Swink 2009; Kirkpatrick 2011; vrt. Humble 1993) kulttuurimuotona.

[v] Readymade on taidemuoto, jonka teokset ovat arkiympäristöstä poimittuja esineitä. Näiden merkitykset eivät siis perustu formaaliseen estetiikkaan, vaan taiteilijan konteksti-riippuvaiseen tekoon. Suihkulähde on alan pioneerityö: Duchamp toi New Yorkin itsenäisten taiteilijoiden näyttelyyn (1917) vessasta irrotetun pisuaarin. Vaikka näyttely oli julistettu media-vapaaksi, teosta ei hyväksytty mukaan. Taidekriitikot valitsivat Suihkulähteen sittemmin vuoden 2004 Turner-gaalassa 1900-luvun merkittävimmäksi taideteokseksi.

1/2013 WiderScreen 16 (1)

Diginatiivit ja käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri

diginatiivit, Digitaalinen kulttuuri, käyttäjähtöisyys

Reijo Kupiainen
Professori (Visuaalisen kulttuurin teoria)
Aalto-yliopisto, Taiteiden ja suunnittelun korkeakoulu

Viittaaminen / How to cite: Kupiainen, Reijo. 2013. ”Diginatiivit ja käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri”. WiderScreen 16 (1). http://widerscreen.fi/numerot/2013-1/diginatiivit/

Artikkelissa tarkastellaan keskustelua diginatiiveista käyttäjälähtöisen kulttuurin keskeisinä toimijoina. Vaikka internet ja digitaalinen media on helpottanut omien esitysten luomista ja julkaisua, nuori sukupolvi ei ole yhtenäinen, vaan on omaksunut erilaisia rooleja suhteessa netin käyttöön. Myös netin potentiaalia aktiivisesti käyttävät omaksuvat erilaisia aktiviteetin muotoja. Käyttäjälähtöisyyden kannalta tärkeäksi näyttää muodostuvan erilaisten roolien omaksuminen ja vaihteleminen suhteessa mediatuotantoon.

Diginatiivit – uudenlaiset oppijat?

Marc Prensky (2001) julkaisi reilu vuosikymmen sitten artikkelin ”Digital natives/digital immigrants” joka on siitä asti ollut esillä keskustelussa uuden, 1980–1990-luvuilla syntyneen sukupolven digitaalisista taidoista ja erityisesti vanhempiin sukupolviin verraten erilaisista oppimiskäytännöistä. Periaatteessa digitaalista teknologiaa hyödyntävä käyttäjälähtöinen (user-generated) ja osallistava kulttuuri on juuri uuden sukupolven kulttuuria, sukupolven joka on syntynyt tieto- ja viestintäteknologiaa ja erityisesti internetiä arjessaan käyttävään maailmaan, ja jolla ei ole kokemusta maailmasta ennen digitaalisia työkaluja ja maailmanlaajuisia tietoverkkoja.

Prensky ei ole kuitenkaan ensimmäinen, joka kirjoittaa uudesta digisukupolvesta. Muun muassa Don Tapscott (1999) kirjoitti nettisukupolvesta (Net generation) Kirjassaan Growing Up Digital. Tapscott edusti eräänlaista kyperlibertanismia, jonka mukaan uusi teknologia ja sen mukana uusi sukupolvi demokratisoi maailmaa ja ottaa ohjakset käsiinsä. Tapscottin mukaan nuoret ovat ensimmäistä kertaa maailmanhistoriassa vahvemmassa asemassa kuin vanhempi sukupolvi, koska he hallitsevat yhteiskunnan avainteknologian ja täten muuttavat yhteiskuntaa.

Uuteen sukupolveen kohdistuvat suuret odotukset korostavat nuoria erityisesti uudenlaisina oppijoina sekä uuden tiedon ja taidemuotojen luojina (ks. Palfrey & Gasser 2008, 4). Prensky (2001, 1) aloittaa artikkelinsa toteamalla, että ”oppilaamme ovat muuttuneet radikaalisti. Tämän päivän oppilaat eivät ole ihmisiä, jota kasvatusjärjestelmämme on suunniteltu opettamaan.” Prensky korostaa erityisesti, että diginatiivit ovat kasvaneet uuden teknologian – tietokoneiden, digitaalisten pelien, digitaalisten musiikkisoitinten, videokameroiden, matkapuhelinten ja muiden digitaalisten välineiden – parissa. Tämä on hänen mukaansa johtanut edellisistä sukupolvista eroavaan oppimis- ja toimintakulttuuriin: diginatiivit puhuvat siten uuden teknologian kieltä, käyttävät useita eri informaatiolähteitä yhtä aikaa (multitasking), arvostavat grafiikkaa ja kuvia tekstin sijaan, hakevat linkitettyä tietoa (hypertekstit), toimivat parhaiten verkostoituneina, arvostavat välitöntä palautetta ja pelejä ”vakavan” työn sijaan. (Prensky 2001, 2.)

Perinteinen kasvatusjärjestelmä suosii sen sijaan teollista mallia: kellot soivat säännöllisille aikaan ja tilaan rajatuille oppitunneille ja kaikki oppilaat seuraavat yhtä aikaa opettajan ohjeita ja samaa kirjallista materiaalia. Tämä on ristiriidassa monikanavaisen, internetiä, pelillisyyttä, verkostoituneisuutta ja oma-aloitteisuutta suosivan toimintakulttuurin kanssa. Ristiriita on ollut esillä koulutuskeskustelussa jo pitkään.

Keskeisin kritiikki Prenskyä kohtaa nousi kuitenkin sukupolvieron korostamisesta ja sukupolven idealisoimisesta yhdeksi yhtenäiseksi ryhmäksi. Diginatiiveista eroavaa sukupolvea Prensky kutsuu digitaalisiksi maahanmuuttajiksi (digital immigrants). Tämän ajattelutavan mukaan digitaaliset maahanmuuttajat joutuvat opettelemaan digitaalisen kulttuurin ajattelutapaa ja käytäntöjä vaivoin, siinä missä diginatiivit hallitsevat ne ikään kuin luonnostaan. David Buckingham (2011) nostaa esille keskeisen kritiikin Prenskyä kohtaan huomauttaessaan että Prenskyn ajattelutapa ylikorostaa teknologista muutosta ja johtaa helposti teknologiseen determinismiin, jossa teknologia muokkaa kokonaista sukupolvea.

Kymmenen vuotta artikkelinsa julkaisemisensa jälkeen Prensky (2011) totesi käyttäneensä vain metaforaa puhuessaan diginatiiveista ja digitaalisista maahanmuuttajista, mutta termit jäivät elämään omaa elämäänsä ja levisivät kulovalkean tavoin muun muassa Bill Gatesin ja Rupert Murdochin puheissa. Harwardiin perustettiin jopa Digital Natives Institute. Prensky (2011) huomauttaa, että hän ei koskaan tarkoittanut, että ihmiset voisi jakaa kahteen sukupolveen tai että nykynuoret hallitsisivat teknologian automaattisesti paremmin ja että heillä olisi tietoa, jota vanhemmilla ei ole. ’Diginatiivi’ viittaa pikemminkin kasvamiseen digitaalisessa kulttuurissa ja siihen mitä tämä digitaalinen ympäristö ilmenee eräänlaisena kotiseutuna. Teknologisesti vauraiden länsimaiden yhä useammat nuoret ovat omaksuneet digitaalisen kulttuurin osana jokapäiväistä elämää, jossa ei erotella ”tosimaailmaa” ja ”virtuaalimaailmaa”, ”tosi-identiteettiä” ja ”virtuaali-identiteettiä”.

Prenskyn julkaistessa artikkelinsa keskustelussa ei vielä ollut käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri (user-generated culture), osallisuuden kulttuuri (participatory culture), web 2.0, sosiaalinen media, joukkoistaminen tai vertaisoppiminen (peer-based learning). Näiden myötä keskustelu diginatiiveista on siirtynyt enemmän oppimisesta sisältöjen tuottamiseen ja käyttäjälähtöisyyteen digitaalista teknologiaa hyödyntäen.

Prenskyn perussanoma diginatiiveista on melko helppo jakaa: ”Minulle diginatiivina oleminen tarkoittaa kasvamista digitaalisessa ympäristössä [digital country] tai kulttuurissa, vastakohtana siirtymisenä siihen aikuisena” (Prensky 2011, 17). Mutta samalla diginatiiviuteen näyttää kuuluvan odotuksia erityisestä luovuudesta, taidoista ja viisaudesta. Prensky (2011) itse kirjoittaa digitaalisesta viisaudesta (digital wisdom), joka perustuu digitaalisen teknologian käyttöön kognitiivisen kapasiteettimme vahvistajana. Tässä yhteydessä digitaalinen viisaus Prenskyn (emt.) mukaan sisältää mahdollisuuden teknologia-avusteiseen päätösten tekoon, jota voidaan arvioida kollektiivisesti. Avainasemassa on tiedon jakaminen ja ideoiden testaaminen, luovuus, ajatteleminen ja ymmärtäminen.

Prenskyn siirtyminen ”diginatiiveista” ”digitaaliseen viisauteen” korostaa entisestään aktiivista informaation jakamista ja tuottamista pelkän tiedon etsimisen eri muotojen sijaan. Myös muut diginatiivipuhetta puolustavat vetoavat luovuuden uuteen kukoistukseen. John Palfrey ja Urs Gasser kirjoittavat, että ”diginatiivit osallistuvat enenevässä määrin informaation, tiedon ja viihteen luomiseen verkkoympäristöissä”, ”internet on päästänyt valloilleen luovuuden purkauksen” (Palfrey & Gasser 2008, 112). Myös David Gauntlett (2011) ylistää nettiä ja web 2.0:aa Palfreyn ja Gasserin tavoin luovuuden areenana. Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison ja Weigel (2006) puolestaan liittävät diginatiivit niin sanottuun osallisuuden kulttuuriin (participatory culture), jolla kuvataan internetin mahdollisuuksia luoda käyttäjälähtöistä kulttuuria. Osallisuuden kulttuuri edellyttää erityisiä medialukutaidon muotoja, joilla käyttäjälähtöisyyteen ja luovaan mediatuottamiseen pyritään. Puhe diginatiiveista ei siis tarkoita vain digitaalisen kulttuurin asukkaita ja kulttuurin kuluttajia vaan viittaa osallisuuden muotoihin, joissa kuluttajasta on kääntymässä tuottaja ja luova nettikulttuurin hyödyntäjä.

Prenskyn vastustajat eivät kuitenkaan juurikaan luota ”luovuuden kukoistukseen”. Esimerkiksi Andrew Keen (2007) viittaa netin kohdalla teoreemaan äärettömästä joukosta apinoita: jos ääretön määrä apinoita kirjoittaa koneella, joku apinoista saattaa aikanaan kirjoittaa mestariteoksen. Keenin (emt.) mukaan netti ei edesauta luovuutta, vaan se tuottaa pikemminkin loputonta keskinkertaisuutta. Kysymys on lopulta kuitenkin siitä, ymmärretäänkö luovuus ja käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri mestariteosten tuottamisen ja julkaisemisen paikkana vai pikemminkin maanläheisemmin mahdollisuutena saada oma ääni esiin ja osallistua kulttuuriseen merkityksenvaihtoon. Tässä mielessä osa osallisuus ja aktiivinen toiminta ovat jo itsessään positiivisia ilmiöitä ilman vaadetta mestariteoksista.

Oma lähtökohtani on, että luovuus, käyttäjälähtöisyys ja ”digitaalinen viisaus” ovat digitaalisen kulttuurin potentiaaleja mutta eivät synny itsestään eivätkä ole yhden sukupolven ominaisuus. Tässä mielessä diginatiivit ovat siis myytti. Tulkitsen diginatiivimyytin niin, että oletuksena on ”diginatiivien” automaattisesti siirtyvän kulutuskeskeisyydestä mediasisältöjen tekijöiksi ja osaajiksi. Diginatiivimyytti sisältää erityisesti kaksi asiaa: 1) oletetaan että lapsia ja nuoria ei tarvitse opettaa digitaalisen kulttuurin toimijoiksi koska he jo hallitsevat kyseisen kulttuurin, ja 2) että sukupolviero on luonnostaan olemassa ja että sitä voidaan käyttää argumenttina, joka niputtaa toimijat osaajiin ja niihin, jotka eivät hallitse digitaalista teknologiaa luonnostaan.

Myytillä on esimerkiksi oppimisen kannalta erityisiä seurauksia. Esitän tässä artikkelissa joitain esimerkkejä vuosina 2010–2011 toteuttamani Suomen Akatemian postdoc-tutkimuksen Nuoret, lukutaidot ja muuttuva mediakulttuuri pohjalta. Tutkimus toteutettiin länsi-suomalaisessa yläkoulussa etnografisena tutkimuksena, jota täydennettiin opettajien ja oppilaiden haastatteluilla ja kyselytutkimuksella oppilaiden netin käytöstä (N=305). Etnografiaan sisällytettiin myös joidenkin osallistujien nettiseurantaa tai netnografiaa (Kozinets 2010). Tutkimus on laajemmin julkaistu teoksessa Media and digital literacies in secondary school (Kupiainen 2013a).

Digikulttuurin potentiaali

Tutkimukseni osoitti, että jotkut opettajat ovat omaksuneet diginatiivimyytin osaksi koulukulttuuria. Eräässä haastattelussa kysyin tietotekniikan opettajalta, miten oppilaiden oma sisällöntuotanto on huomioitu opetuksessa, joka näytti keskittyvän perinteisten toimisto-ohjelmien käyttöön ja sisällön tuotantoon niiden avulla.

Haastattelija: No onks tällanen uus sosiaalinen media tuonu mitään sellasia haasteita että pitäis kenties opettaa tai opetella just liittyy johonkin blogeihin tai tän tyyppisiin asioihin tossa tietotekniikassa?

Opettaja: Tunnilla?

Haastattelija: Niin.

Opettaja: Varmaan joo. Tosin noi on niitä asioita mitkä ne oppii ittekkin, kun se on se mitä ne tekee, surffaa ja, että en mä niinku paineena sitä koe sillä tavalla koska noi on ne just nää uudet kaikki nää blogi ja Facebook ja Mese ja mitä kaikkea onkin niin ne ne löytää kyllä ittekkin. Että siinä mielessä ehkä ei. (Tietotekniikan opettajan haastattelu, nainen)

Opettajan oletuksena oli, että suurin osa yläkoulun oppilaista oppii itse netin yhteisöpalveluiden, kommunikaationvälineiden ja julkaisukanavien käytön eikä tarvetta opettamiseen juuri ole. Joskus opettajat oppitunnilla myös totesivat oppilaiden hallitsevan paremmin medialaitteita kuin he itse ja korostivat itse sukupolvieroa.

Oppilaita oli kuitenkin hyvin monenlaisia, osa aktiivisia bloggareita ja edistyneitä tietotekniikan käyttäjiä, mutta osa puolestaan ilmaisi vihaavansa tietokoneita tai keskittyi lähinnä mediaviihteen kuluttamiseen. Kaikki eivät käyttäneet myöskään sosiaalista mediaa. Käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri kuitenkin edellyttää aktiivista osallistumista mediasisällön tuottamiseen ja jakamiseen. Nuorilla on valmiuksia omaksua tämä kulttuuri ja lunastaa paikkansa digitaalisina sisällöntuottajina. Tämä on askel kohti ”digitaalista viisautta”, josta Prensky on alkanut puhua ”diginatiivien” sijaan.

Olennaista käyttäjälähtöisen kulttuurin omaksumisessa on mediatuotannon julkaiseminen ja jakaminen erityisesti internetissä. Kulttuuri edellyttää sisällön levittämistä erilaisten yleisöiden ulottuville, jotka voivat puolestaan hyödyntää julkaistua materiaalia eri tavoin. Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford ja Joshua Green (2013) ovat alkaneet puhua ”levitettävästä mediasta” (spreadable media), joka korostaa sisällön teknistä ja kulttuurista jakamista yleisöjen erilaiseen käyttöön joskus tekijänoikeuksia uhatenkin: ”Jos se ei leviä, se on kuollut” (emt. 1), on eräänlainen käyttäjälähtöisyyden perussanoma. Tämä ei kuitenkaan tarkoita, että kaikkien on tuotettava sisältöä nettiin, vaan pikemminkin sen oivaltamista, miten eri rooleissa osallistuu levittämään sisältöä.

Keskustelu käyttäjälähtöisestä kulttuurista on paljolti angloamerikkalaista, mikä näkyy myös joukkona erilaisia vaikeasti käännettäviä muotisanoja kuten ’prosumer’, ’proam’ tai ’produsage’. Kaikissa edellä mainituissa yhdistyy tuottamiseen ja kuluttamiseen tai käyttämiseen liittyviä termejä kuten ’producer’, ’consumer’, ’amateur’ ja ’usage’.

Produsage’, käyttäjätuotanto on Axel Brunsin (2008) käyttämä termi, jolla hän viittaa juuri tuotannon (production) ja käytön (usage) hybridiin perinteisen teollisen tuotanto – levitys – kulutus -ketjun sijaan. Hän luonnehtii käyttäjätuotantoa neljän periaatteen mukaan. Kyseessä on a) avoin ja laaja osallistujien yhteisö, joka osallistuu sisällöntuotantoon ja sisällön jakamiseen, jossa b) vallitsee vertaisvalta ( roolit tuotannon johtajien, osallistujien ja sisällön käyttäjien välillä vaihtuvat sujuvasti, ja jossa c) tuotanto ei ole koskaan valmis, vaan aina muokattavissa ja kehitettävissä, ja joka d) perustuu yhteisomistukseen.

Käyttäjätuotannon vahvuutena on joukkoistaminen ja kollektiivinen osallisuus tuotannossa, jossa riittävä joukko ihmisiä osallistuu tuotannon hyödyntämiseen ja jalostamiseen, kuten Wikipedia-artikkeleiden kirjoittamiseen tai avoimen koodin kirjoittamiseen. Colin Lankshear ja Michelle Knobel (2006) ovat korostaneet erityisesti kahta tekijää, jotka kulttuurisen muutoksen mahdollistavat: uusi digitaalinen teknologia ja uusi eetos. Uusi teknologia ei siis riitä, vaan tarvitaan uusi ajattelutapa, jota juuri uusi sukupolvi voisi edustaa. Uuteen ajattelutapaan liittyy siirtyminen keskusjohtoisesta massatuotannosta eräänlaiseen postmoderniin hajautettuun, vailla keskusta olevaan joukkoistamiseen ja hajautettuun asiantuntemukseen. Tätä edustaa hyvin Charles Leadbeaterin (2009) käyttämä termi ’we-think, joka sisältää muutoksen massatuotannosta (mass production) massaluovuuteen (mass creativity). We-think on periaate, jonka mukaisesti luovuutta syntyy, kun riittävän erilaiset ja itsenäiset ihmiset lyövät päänsä yhteen ja jakavat ajatuksensa muiden käytettäväksi. Leadbeater erittelee erilaisia ’yhteisajattelun’ asteita, joista korkeinta edustaa ’full we-think’: se korostaa yhteistoiminnallisuutta osallistumisen edelle. Leadbeaterin esimerkkinä on Wikipedia, jossa artikkeleita kirjoittavat yhdessä erilaiset ihmiset tuoden mukanansa oman erityisen asiantuntijuutensa yhteiseen projektiin. Matalammanasteista yhteisajattelua edustavat puolestaan muun muassa blogit, jotka korostavat osallisuutta mutta eivät anna yhtäläisiä mahdollisuuksia yhteistoiminnallisuudelle: yksi kirjoittaa ja muut kommentoivat.

Olennainen potentiaali sisältyy juuri yhteistoiminnallisuuden mahdollisuuteen, eräänlaiseen ’joukkoälyyn’ (wisdom of crowds), kuten myös James Surowiecki (2004) esittää. Mutta myös yksilö voi toimia auteurina, ja julkaista mediaesityksiään netissä. Olennaista on mahdollisuus julkaisuun ja julkisuuteen, jonka nettiyhteisöt, YouTube ja internet mahdollistavat. Digitaalisuuden keskeinen periaate on sen mahdollistama rajaton tuotannon levittäminen ilman, että tuotoksen tekninen laatu kärsii. Tästä syystä myös amatöörit voivat yltää huimiin yleisömääriin, ja samasta syystä tekijänoikeuskysymykset ovat yhä polttavampia. Internet tarjoaa siis julkaisukanavan ja tuotantoon tarvittava teknologia on yhä halvempaa ja pienempää, ja yhä useamman saatavilla. Käytännössä lähes jokainen omaa mediatuotantoon sopivat välineet, sillä jo älypuhelimilla voidaan tehdä – ja tehdään – elokuvia ja muuta audiovisuaalista tuotantoa. Olen omassa tutkimuksessani (Kupiainen 2011, 2013a, 2013b) tarkastellut nuorten luovia mediakäytäntöjä, joissa muun muassa puhelimia hyödynnetään monipuolisesti. Moni toteuttaa itseään erityisesti valokuvaamalla mutta silti puhe yhdestä diginatiivisukupolvesta on liioiteltua.

Erilaiset nettiaktiviteetit

Yhtenäisen sukupolven sijaan voidaan puhua erilaisista nettiaktiviteeteista ja osallistumisen muodoista. Netin käyttäjiä on jaoteltu ahkerasti erilaisiin luokkiin: Esimerkiksi Sonia Livingstone, Magdalena Bober ja Ellen Helsper (2005) jakavat netin toimijat kanssakävijöiksi (interactor), kansalaisaktiivisiksi (civic-minded) ja sitoutumattomiksi (disengaged), Mimi Ito kollegoineen jaottelee netin aktiviteetit puolestaan hengaamiseen (hanging out), puuhailemiseen (messing around) ja vakavaan harrastuneisuuteen (geeging out) (Ito, ym. 2008). Erilaiset luokat kuvaavat erilaisia digitaalisia käytäntöjä sukupolven sisällä ja sukupolvien välillä kuten myös erilaisia käyttäjätuotannon asteita.

Kuten todettu, ”diginatiiveihin” viittaava sukupolvi ei ole yhtenäinen digitaalisen median käytön suhteen. Tutkimukseni nosti esiin että vain pieni osa 13–16-vuotiaista osallistuu käyttäjätuotantoon ja jakaa mediasisältöjä verkossa. Otokseni (N=305) ei ole iso eikä maantieteellisesti kattava, mutta antanee kuvaa nuoren nettiaktiivisuudesta kyseiseltä vuodelta. Ylivoimaisesti suosituinta omien mediaesitysten jakamista netissä oli valokuvien jakaminen. Puolet vastanneista ylipäätään jakoi valokuvia netissä (ks. kuvio 1). Muun oman tuotannon jakaminen oli huomattavasti harvinaisempaa; blogeja kirjoitti 16 prosenttia kerran kuussa tai useammin, videoita julkaisi 11 prosenttia vastanneista (ks. kuvio 1).

KUVIO 1. Omien mediatuotosten jakaminen netissä

Ruotsissa kerättiin puolestaan vuonna 2009 aineistoa yli 2 000 12–31-vuotiaalta heidän netin käytöstään (Zimic & Dalin 2011). Myös tämän tutkimuksen mukaan 12–16-vuotiaat käyttävät nettiä pääasiassa viestintään ja viihteeseen, alle 10 prosenttia lataa videoita nettiin ja hieman päälle 10 prosenttia kirjoittaa blogia. 17–31-vuotiaiden osalta luvut eivät juuri eroa nuoremmista netin käyttäjistä (emt. 144). Lähes puolet nuoremmista tunsi osallistuvansa osallisuuden kulttuurin vain vähäisessä määrin (emt.)

Tulokset voisivat olla erilaisia muutama vuosi myöhemmin mutta sellaista ”luovuuden purkausta”, josta John Palfrey ja Urs Gasser (2010) kirjoittivat ei ole nähty eikä käyttäjätuotanto ole kaikkien nuorten omaksumaa. Tämä viittaa siihen, että yhtenäisen sukupolven sijaan nuorten nettikäytännöt ovat varsin moninaisia, osalle netti on avannut mahdollisuuksia luoville käytännöille ja osa on omaksunut muunlaisia rooleja.

Kun puhutaan käyttäjälähtöisestä kulttuurista, on syytä tarkastella vielä laajemmin minkälaista toimintaa ja aktiviteetteja käyttäjälähtöisyyteen kuuluu. Axel Bruns (2008) esimerkiksi korostaa joukkojen ja kollektiivien voimaa mutta myös yksilöt tuottavat mediaesityksiä, joita yleisöt ja käyttäjät voivat hyödyntää. Tutkimukseni nosti esiin kolme erityistä aktiviteetin muotoa, yksilölliset aktiviteetit, yhteisölliset aktiviteetit ja yhteistoiminnalliset aktiviteetit (ks. myös. Kupiainen 2013b).

Yksilölliset aktiviteetit viittaavat nimensä mukaisesti melko individuaalisiin mediajulkaisun muotoihin, kuten nettiblogien kirjoittamiseen ja ylläpitämiseen. Julkinen blogi on tietysti yhteydessä muihin netin käyttäjiin, erityisesti blogin yleisöön tai seuraajiin mutta pääsääntöisesti bloggaaja kirjoittaa yksin ja muut kommentoivat. Blogi tarjoaa siis osallisuutta mutta ei ole varsinaisesti yhteistoiminnallinen kirjoittamisen areena. Zizi A. Papachharissi on kuvannut bloggaamista uudeksi narsismiksi, mutta ei pejoratiivisessa mielessä. Uusi narsismi tarkoittaa hänellä pikemminkin ”introspektiota ja syventymistä itseensä blogissa tai vastaavissa tiloissa” (Papachharissi 2010, 145). Tällainen identiteettityö ei tietysti toteudu kaikissa blogeissa mutta on vahva muun muassa muoti- ja elämäntapablogeissa (lifestyle blog), jotka ovat erityisesti nuorten tyttöjen suosiossa. Papacharissin (emt.) mukaan tällaiset individualistiset blogit lisäävät netin moniäänisyyttä ja täten myös demokratisoivat nettiä. Bloggaaja tarvitsee yleisöä, joka usein koostuu myös tuntemattomista bloggaajalle vieraista seuraajista. Potentiaalinen ja ”hiljainenkin” lukijakunta kannustaa kuitenkin jatkamaan kirjoittamista.

Yhteisölliset aktiviteetit ottavat nimensä mukaisesti huomioon laajempia yhteisöjä joko netissä tai/ja netin ulkopuolella. Esimerkiksi sosiaalisessa mediassa toiminta on usein yhteyksissä olemassa oleviin verkostoihin, kuten kouluun ja kavereihin, ja vahvistaa näitä verkostoja (Valkenburg, Schouten & Peter, 2005; Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007; boyd, 2008; Peter, Valkenburg & Fluckiger, 2009). Oma esimerkkini on 14-vuotiaan Gomin ylläpitämä videoblogi (vlogi), jossa hän julkaisee videoita koulusta, arjestaan ja hengailustaan kavereiden kanssa. Toisin kuin muotiblogit, Gomi ei niinkään esittele itseään. Vlogi on suunnattu nimenomaan kaveriyhteisölle ja Gomi toisinaan kysyykin videoissaan suoraan kommentteja kavereiltaan.

Videot ovat lyhyitä, pariminuuttisia otoksia arjesta ilman erityisiä esteettisiä tai tarinallisia tavoitteita ja jälkituotantoa. Tyyliä voisi kutsua ”Youtube-estetiikaksi”. Patricia Lange (2009) käyttää termiä ’affiniteettivideo (affinity video). Tällä hän korostaa videoiden kommunikatiivista ja yhteisöllistä merkitystä. Videot eivät ole tarkoitettu määrittämättömälle laajalle yleisölle eivätkä välttämättä ole originaaleja, kiinnostavia tai luovia perinteisessä elokuvaesteettisessä mielessä. Pikemminkin ne ovat stereotyyppisiä ja spontaaneja, ja sisältävät huumoria, joka jää ulkopuoliselta tunnistamatta ja vieraaksi. Eräässä koululuokassa kuvatussa videossaan Gomi muun muassa viittaa luokkaan tulossa olevan opettajan vihaisuuteen ja kuvaa oppilaiden leikkipainia. Videossa kuvatut tilanteet ovat yhteisöllisiä aktiviteetteja, joiden merkitys aukeaa vain asianomaisille. Affiniteettivideot pitävät yllä yhteisön kommunikatiivista kanavaa ja myös vahvistavat yhteisöllisiä siteitä.

Gomin video luo yhteisöllistä sidettä myös kerronnallisesti: Gomi puhuu suoraan kameraan ja kommentoi tapahtumia ja kerronta rakentuu lähikuvista, joissa muita oppilaita poimitaan kuviin ja joissa he reagoivat kuvaukseen ja kommentoivat itsekin. Vlogissa julkaistut videot ovat kuitenkin julkisia ja koko internetyhteisön nähtävillä. Kommentteja vlogiin kirjoittavat kuitenkin lähinnä kaverit, joille video on suunnattu.

Gomin videoblogi on epäilemättä osa käyttäjälähtöistä kulttuuria. Sen merkitys on yhteisöllinen, mutta ei avaa yhteiskunnallista keskustelua tai ota kantaa maailman menoon. Pikemminkin kyse on jokapäiväisestä toiminnasta, josta video on luonnollinen osa. Videoiden tekijä on kuitenkin yksi henkilö.

Yhteistoiminnallisissa aktiviteeteissa sen sijaan tekijöitä on useita. Yhteistoiminnalliset aktiviteetit ovat juuri Charles Leadbeaterin esittämässä mielessä yhteisajattelua parhaimmillaan. Esimerkkini on verkkofoorumilla tapahtuvasta roolipelaamisesta. 14-vuotias Santeri jakaa nettiyhteisön 30 muun pelaajan kanssa jotka ovat luoneet itselleen avatarit nettipelaamista varten. Jokainen avatar on kuvattu tarkasti paitsi ulkoisilta ominaisuuksiltaan myös sukulaissuhteiltaan, henkilöhistorialtaan, henkisiltä ominaisuuksiltaan jne. Pelaaminen tapahtuu kirjoittamalla. Peli tapahtuu sitä varten luodussa maailmassa, jota ylläpitäjät hallitsevat. He ovat kuvanneet maailman, sen kaupungit, ekologian, historian yms. He voivat myös viedä toimintaa eteenpäin tekemällä muutoksia, joihin pelaajien on reagoitava. Seuratessani peliä ylläpitäjät esimerkiksi ilmoittivat, että eräs kaupunki oli palanut. Jokaisen pelaajan oli huomioitava tämä jatkaessaan kirjoittamista. Kirjoittaminen tapahtuu niin, että pelaaja kirjoittaa oman avatarinsa elämää kolmannessa persoonassa ja muut voivat jatkaa kirjoittamista puolestaan oman avatarinsa puolesta. Lopputuloksena on romaanin tai jatkosarjan kaltainen päättymätön tarina yhteisesti kirjoitettua tekstiä: yksi aloittaa, toinen jatkaa ja näin peli etenee.

Yhteistoiminnallinen aktiviteetti on myös osoitus käyttäjälähtöisestä kulttuurista mutta se ei ole yhteydessä pelaajien ulkopuolella olevaan yhteisöön kuten Gomin videoblogi, eikä se sisällä performatiivisia piirteitä, kuten yksilöllisemmät elämäntapa- ja muotiblogit. Kyseisten nettiaktiviteettien lähtökohdat, tavoitteet ja yleisöt ovat erilaiset. Jokaisessa on kysymys luovasta toiminnasta ja käyttäjälähtöisyydestä ja netti mahdollistaa kyseisen toiminnan ja mediaesitysten jakamisen ja osallisuuden.

Halusin nostaa esille yllä esitettyjä aktiviteetteja osoituksena erilaisesta netin sisällöntuotannosta ja luovista mahdollisuuksista, joita nuoret käyttävät toimiessaan internetissä, sekä erilaisista suhteista yleisöihin. Mutta kuten sanottu, kyse ei ole koko sukupolven omaksumasta toiminnasta, osa nuorista netin käyttäjistä pitäytyy kuluttajan ja yleisön asemassa osallistumatta käyttäjälähtöiseen kulttuuriin median tuottajina. Käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri kuitenkin edellyttää median tuottajat ja käyttäjät, mutta usein sekoittuneissa muodoissaan.

Mahdollisuuksien tikkaat

Prenskyn vastustajat ovat pyrkineet etsimään vahvaa evidenssiä diginatiiveista ja huomanneet sellaisen puuttuvan (ks. esim. Bennett, Maton & Kervin 2008; Helsper & Eynon, 2010). Chris Jones ja Binhu Shao (2011) toteavat, että empiiristä näyttöä monille väitteille diginatiiveista ja uudesta ja uudella tavalla ajattelevasta opiskelijasukupolvesta ei ole. Sen sijaan näyttöä on siitä, että monet teknologiset muutokset houkuttelevat enemmän juuri nuoria kuin vanhempia käyttämään uusia välineitä ja sovelluksia. Kyse olisi siis pikemminkin tarjonnasta kuin sukupolveen liittyvästä sisäänrakennetusta olemuksesta. Esimerkkinä tällaisesta tarjonnasta Jones ja Shao (2011) mainitsevat videoiden lataamisen erityisesti YouTubeen, joka on yksi suosituimmista nuorten käyttämistä nettipalveluista. Samoin nuoret ovat esimerkiksi ottaneet sosiaalisen median, erityisesti Facebookin omakseen ja vanhemmat ovat vasta myöhemmin syttyneet käyttämään kyseisiä palveluja.

Tutkimuksissa on havaittu, että nuorten internetin käyttö vaihtelee sosioekonomisen taustan ja muiden demograafisten muuttujien mukaan (Bennett ym. 2008; Livingstone, Bober, & Helsper 2005; Jones & Shao 2011). Tuoreiden tutkimustulosten mukaan digitaalinen kuilu vauraan ja köyhän väestön välillä on osoitettavissa muun muassa Iso-Britanniassa, jossa 29 prosenttia köyhimmän 10 prosentin kotitalouksista ei omista tietokonetta ja 36 prosentilla ei ole nettiyhteyttä kotona. Tämä tarkoittaa, että noin 750.000 kouluikäistä lasta Iso-Britanniassa on vailla yhteyttä nettiin kotoaan. (Burns 2013.) Samankaltaisia eroja varmasti löytyy useista maista, ja samalla kun tuloerot ovat kasvamassa edelleen, myös digitaalinen kuilu voi tältä osin kasvaa.

Demografiset erot eivät kuitenkaan kokonaan ratkaise saavutettavuutta. Kouluilla ja esimerkiksi Suomessa kirjastolla on keskeinen rooli erojen tasoittamisessa. Toisaalta eroja syntyy myös yksilöllisistä valinnoista, mitä digitaalisella teknologialla kukin haluaa tehdä.

9–16-vuotiaiden eurooppalaisten lasten ja nuorten internetin käyttöön ja riskeihin keskittyneessä EU Kids Online -tutkimuksessa (Livingstone, Haddon, Görzig & Ólafsson 2011, 14) hahmoteltiin ”mahdollisuuksien tikkaat”, jotka kuvaavat kuinka aktiivisia nuoret ovat tuottamaan omia sisältöjä nettiin. ”Mahdollisuudet” kuvaavat juuri aktiivisempia netin käytön muotoja omiin ilmaisullisiin tarkoituksiin. Tutkimusta varten haastateltiin noin 25 000 lasta ja nuorta 25 eri maassa vuonna 2010.

Lähes kaikki nettiä ylipäätään käyttävät 9–16-vuotiaat pelaavat netissä pelejä yksin tai konetta vastaan ja käyttävät sitä koulutehtävien tekemiseen. 14 prosenttia nuorista ei kuitenkaan tee juuri muuta.

Seuraavan ”askelman” tikkailla saavuttaa 86 prosenttia nuorista; he myös katsovat videota netissä, esimerkiksi YouTubea, 75 prosenttia on lisäksi luonut profiilin sosiaaliseen mediaan, käyttää nettiä kommunikaatiovälineenä ja lukee tai katsoo uutisia netissä. Reilu puolet 9–16-vuotiaista saavuttaa neljännen ”askelman”; pelaa toisiaan vastaan, lataa elokuvia ja musiikkia metistä ja jakaa sisältöä muiden kanssa. Viimeisen askelman mahdollisuuksien tikkailla saavuttaa tutkimuksen mukaan noin neljännes nuorista. Tämä ”luova” taso sisältää vierailut chathuoneissa, tiedoston jakamisen, bloggaamisen ja vierailut virtuaalimaailmoissa. Vaikka nuoremmat lapset saavuttavat tämä kaikkein harvemmin, myöskään 15–16-vuotiaista vain kolmannes päätyy tälle ”askelmalle”.

EU Kids Online –tutkimus ei suoraan kerro käyttäjälähtöisestä kulttuurista, mutta se kertoo suuren aineistonsa turvin nuorten netin käyttäjien moninaisuudesta ja pelaamisen ja videoiden katsomisen suosiosta nuorten keskuudessa.

YouTuben kaksi kulttuuria

Myös EU Kids Online –tutkimuksessa YouTube ja muut videonjakopalvelut nousevat esiin yhtenä suosituimmista nuorten internetpalveluna. YouTube on itsessään moninainen ja sitä voidaan käyttää monin tavoin, esimerkiksi musiikin toistamiseen, mainostamiseen, verkostoitumiseen, itseilmaisuun, oppimateriaalipankkina, sisällön kuratointiin jne. Tässä on yksi käyttäjälähtöisyyden keskeisiä potentiaaleja: käyttäjät luovat tavat käyttää palveluja, palveluntarjoaja tarjoaa lähinnä teknologian ja alustan erilaisille toiminnoille.

Siksi esimerkiksi YouTube on kulttuurisesti moninainen. Jean Burgess & Joshua Green (2009) esittävät, että YouTube sisältää erityisesti kaksi kulttuuria: YouTube perinteisenä mediana, jota hallitsevat vakiintuneet tuotantoyhtiöt, mainostajat ja musiikkiteollisuus ja YouTube käyttäjälähtöisenä toimintakenttänä. Burgessin ja Greenin mukaan käyttäjälähtöinen YouTube, jonka sisältö on tuotettu vakiintuneiden tuotantokoneistojen ulkopuolella on palveluun ladatun sisällön määrässä vain hieman voitolla. Tutkimuksen otoksesta 42 prosenttia sisällöstä tulee perinteisistä medialähteistä. Merkittävää on, että vaikka käyttäjälähtöisyys on hyvin esillä, kaikkein katsotuimmista videoista 66 prosenttia oli perinteisistä mediaesityksistä, sisältäen pääasiassa televisiosta YouTubeen ladattua urheilua, uutisia, poliittisia keskusteluja, julkkisjuoruja, haastatteluja, musiikkiesityksiä, draamaa, animaatiota jne. Suurin osa ladatusta sisällöstä on kuitenkin ladattu YouTubeen käyttäjien toimesta. (Emt. 42–43.)

Osa käyttäjälähtöisyydestä on selvästi olemassa olevaa mediasisältöä kierrättävää jakamista, ja vain osa YouTubeen videoita lataavista käyttäjistä tekee ja jakaa omaa materiaalia. Tällä osalla on tärkeä merkitys ja se epäilemättä demokratisoi mediaa ja tuottaa vaihtoehtoja perinteiselle medialle. Burgessin ja Greenin (emt. 53) otoksessa videoblogit dominoivat käyttäjälähtöistä materiaalia. Vlogeissa korostuu kommunikatiivinen ja interaktiivinen funktio yleisöön nähden ja siksi ne ovat osa osallisuuden kulttuuria. Monet vlogit ovat myös suoraa kommenttia toisiin vlogeihin. Näin käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri luo erilaisia nettiaktiviteettien muotoja, joista osa on yhteisöllistä kommentointia ja osallistumista.

Käyttäjälähtöisyyden keskeinen piirre näiltä osin näyttää olevan sosiaalinen jakaminen, kommunikaatio ja affiniteetit, tai kuten David Gauntlett (2011) toteaa: ”making is connecting”. Tällainen käyttäjälähtöisyys on eräänlainen edellytys digitaaliselle kansalaisuudelle, jonka mukaisesti käyttäjä ottaa toimijan roolin internetissä. Toimijat eivät kuitenkaan automaattisesti omaksu digitaalisen kansalaisen roolia, vaan se edellyttää tutustumista internetin mahdollisuuksiin, omaa intoa, välineitä ja riittävää tietotaitoa, joita kaikkia vertaisryhmät ja yhteisöt voivat tukea.

Toimijaroolit käyttäjälähtöisessä kulttuurissa

Kun käyttäjälähtöinen kulttuuri sekoittaa käyttäjän ja tuottajan roolit tämä ei suinkaan helpota toimintaa netissä, vaan pikemminkin edellyttää yhä laajempaa ymmärrystä internetin, erilaisten palveluiden ja tuotantojen logiikasta, käyttömahdollisuuksista ja erityislaaduista. Jenkins on kollegoineen puhunut ”osallisuuskuilusta” (participation gap), joka on medialukutaidon kysymys (Jenkins ym. 2006). Sikäli kun termiä ’diginatiivi’ enää voidaan käyttää, se viittaa digitaaliseen ”kylläyteen”, mahdollisuuteen päästä nettiin ja käyttää digitaalisia mediavälineitä jokapäiväisessä elämässä. Teknologiakylläisissä länsimaissa perinteinen digitaalinen kuilu, joka liittyi digitaalisen teknologian ja internetin saavutettavuuteen on lähes kurottu umpeen. Sen tilalle on tullut osallisuuskuilu, jossa kaikki eivät ole täysimittaisia digitaalisia kansalaisia ja netin ”asuajia”.

David White ja Alison Le Cornu (2011) puhuvat netin asujista (residents): asujat viettävät suurimman osan aikaansa netissä osana jokapäiväistä elämää. He ovat netin näkyviä toimijoita, jotka verkostoituvat ja kokevat että ero netin ulkopuoliseen elämään (offline life) ja nettielämään (online life) on keinotekoinen. Heille netti muodostuu yhteisöistä, joihin he kuuluvat ja joissa he esittävät mielipiteitään ja yhdessä muiden kanssa tuottavat sisältöä. Whiten ja Le Cornun (emt.) mukaan he eivät erottele sisältöä ja henkilöä; blogipostaus on yhtä lailla identiteetin kuin asian ilmaisuakin.

Asujat ovat osallistujia. Heidän lisäkseen White ja Le Cornu (emt.) erottelevat netin vierailijat. Vierailijat käyttävät nettiä pääasiassa välineenä, esimerkiksi tiedonhaussa tms. White ja Le Cornu toteavat että vierailijat ovat anonyymejä ja näkymättömiä netin toimijoita. Hei eivät halua muodostaa digitaalista identiteettiä itselleen, syyt voivat kuitenkin olla hyvinkin erilaiset. Osa pelkää henkilökohtaisen tietosuojansa puolesta, osa näkee sosiaalisen median banaalina tai arvostaa kasvokaista keskustelua nettikeskustelua korkeammalle. He ovat netin käyttäjiä mutta eivät varsinaisesti nettiyhteisön jäseniä ja eivät koe netin käyttäjälähtöisyyttä eduksi. Tässä mielessä myös osa nuoresta nettisukupolvesta kuuluu vierailijoihin, jotka käyttävät nettiä omiin tarpeisiinsa.

Esimerkiksi koulussa ’asujat’ ottavat usein hallitsevan ja aktiivisen roolin tietotekniikan ja digitaalisen teknologian käytössä ja antavat vähemmän sijaa netin ’vierailijoille’. Ero voi siis olla sukupolven sisällä sukupolvien välisen eron sijaan, kuten ’diginatiivit’ / ’digitaaliset maahanmuuttaja’ erottelussa oli kyse. Yksi olennainen piirre diginatiivimyytin purkamisessa on huomata asujien ja vierailijoiden välinen osallisuuskuilu. Tämä ei tarkoita, että kaikkien tulisi olla mediaesitysten aktiivisia tuottajia, myös yleisöillä on monenlaisia rooleja käyttäjälähtöisessä kulttuurissa. Jenkins kollegoineen (2013) toteaa, että myöskin he, jotka ovat pikemminkin mediaesitysten kuuntelijoita, katsojia ja lukijoita tuottajien sijaan toimivat eri tavoin maailmassa, jossa he tunnistavat mahdollisuutensa osallistua laajempiin keskusteluihin kuin maailmassa, jossa ei ole sijaa mielekkäälle osallisuudelle. Aktiivisuus ja passiivisuus eivät ole myöskään lukittuja ominaisuuksia, vaan liikumme yleensä erilaisilla aktiivisuuden ja passiivisuuden asteilla erilaisissa asiayhteyksissä.

Olennaista ei ole, että kaikki omaksuvat asujan ja käyttäjätuottajan aktiivisen roolin, vaan pikemminkin niiden mahdollisuuksien oivaltaminen, mitä käyttäjälähtöiseen kulttuuriin kuuluu, miten se tarjoaa mahdollisuuksia osallisuuteen ja oman äänen käyttämiseen ja luovuuteen. Erilaiset toimijat tarvitsevat toisiaan, mediaesitysten tuottajat tarvitsevat yleisöjä ja kuraattoreita, jotka kokoavat ja levittävät mediasisältöjä. Kuraattorit ovat puolestaan kriitikoita, jotka keskustelevat sisältöjen arvosta ja kriitikot kuraattoreita, jotka tuovat sisältöjä saataville (ks. emt.). Käytäntölähtöisen kulttuurin toimijoiden roolit ovat moninaiset eikä niitä voi palauttaa ajatukseen yhdestä yhtenäisestä sukupolvesta. Myös passiivisemmat toimijat oppivat toimintatapoja ja voivat tarvittaessa ottaa askeleita ylöspäin ”mahdollisuuksien tikkailla”, samoin kuin monessa nettiyhteisössä siirrytään noviiseista asiantuntijan rooleihin. Esimerkiksi fanifiktioiden kirjoittajat luetuttavat tekstinsä usein betalukijoilla, jotka antavat vertaistukea kirjoittamiseen, tarinan kertomiseen ja oikeinkirjoitukseen. Usein fanifiktion kirjoittaja pääty itsekin betalukijaksi, joka auttaa puolestaan noviiseja.

Käyttäjälähtöisessä kulttuurissa tapahtuu monenlaista liikettä. Osallistujien asemat eivät ole pysyviä eivätkä ennalta määrätty. Erilaisten roolien ymmärtäminen kokonaisuudessa on tärkeää samoin kuin tuon moninaisuuden ylläpitäminen. Kulttuurissa on kuitenkin kyse siitä, minkälaiseksi me haluamme sen muodostuvan. Se on kuitenkin myös kamppailun aluetta, jossa risteilevät erilaiset kaupalliset, ideologiset, poliittiset ja uskonnolliset intressit. Käyttäjälähtöisyyteen kuuluu että jokainen, sukupolvesta riippumatta, voi tuoda siihen oman panoksensa.


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