Rough draft of first 500 words

Are documentaries exploiting those who collaborate and participate in them?
When does collaboration and participation become exploitation in online media and documentary? How can you turn participation in documentary into positive social change?

Chapter 1

Participation

Participation is frequently within the nature of visual media such as documentary. For the purpose of this essay the participation I refer to is the act of taking part in programs which attempt to portray reality, such as documentary and reality programs.

Creators have relied on the participation of others who allow access to their lives and thoughts. This straight forward style of participation, where by the maker records these aspects, and edits them to create meaning, enforce an opinion, or to tell a story. Particularly in the process of editing, aspects of footage are either selected or rejected to create a particular message to the viewer. The problem this creates is that elements become lost or the meaning changes raising feelings of misrepresentation from the participant.

In this way, certain documentaries twist the words or actions of those recorded for their own benefit; to gather more viewers by creating something which generates more discussion. Social media has given programs, which are controversial or more dramatic, a platform from which to profit: for example on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The ‘Hashtag’ was created by Twitter, and is a form of metadata tag. It allows online material to be grouped together. The symbol may be affixed to the beginning of key words within an online post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, websites, Youtube and so on. This process groups together information, enabling people to review all posts which feature that hash tagged word.

Hashtags are now widely used by mass broadcasting media, to create collections of information surrounding their program, to promote a ‘buzz’ around their branding, advertise the program, encouraging interest from other potential audiences. ITV and Channel 4 have adopted the use of Hashtags on programs, and often display them in the lower corners of the screen to encourage viewers have a discussion around the program on social media before, during, and after the program.

This interactive element supports documentary and reality program makers who attempt to create debate around the issue they are exploring. However, those participating in these kinds of programs often become the topic of mass discussion, and so it is increasingly important that they are portrayed accurately by the producers. Yet there is an obvious incentive from producers to exploit the people who they are recording, in order to achieve better success and increase the interest surrounding their program. They can do this by creating a more shocking and dramatic piece of television, at the expense of those on screen.

Alongside the Hashtag, television producers encourage people to discuss their programs on social media, by providing material to be ‘Shared’, ‘Liked’ and commented on. This creates profit, from advertising and generally promoting the program. Those who engage in the discursive online process, are making the producers money.

To do:

Write section on Collaboration including my definition.
Mention media sharing sites like Vine encouraging remixing of media is also a way of exploiting. Issues of ownership in digital age where everything is shared/liked/re-blogged. Collaborative documentaries combining many people’s work. Use example of ‘Life in a Day’ documentary. Interactive docs which remix or display existing media are profiting off the back of others work.

– Give opinions e.g.
Karl Marx (Das Kapital)
Jon Dovey (New documentary Ecologies)
Mandy Rose (Interview)
Ethical guidelines (Channel 4)

– My own opinion / position at beginning of practical work.

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