“Participation” is one of those ambiguous words thrown around in the communications field. It goes right up there with “engagement.”
Tacchi (2011) and Jonsson and Ornebring (2011) are no different than any other pair of researchers. Jonsson and Ornebring analyze newspapers in the United Kingdom and Sweden to see how users interact with the publications’ online content. Tacchi, on the other hand, took the approach of investigating how impoverished citizens of India, Indonesia and other Southeast Asia countries were able to adapt to using information and communications technology (ICT).
In comparing tabloid content to broadsheet news content, the former article describes how consumers of the different types of print media use or participate with the online versions differently. Jonsson and Orneberg view participation as making a personal connection with the content and/or the other consumers, who can also be prosumers or producers. This includes personalizing the types of stories someone receives when he visits the website, making comments about stories on the website or uploading pictures or video to one to those sites. The authors note how, although a computer and Internet connection is required to perform these functions, inviting the audience to participate with the news content has existed before the Internet (2011).
In the Tacchi article, however, the author discusses participation as being able to use new technology. There are a few anecdotes about women in villages who had no prior experience using camera and editing equipment until the “Finding a Voice” research project arrived. The project was designed to give a “voice” to those who lacked the technology and knowledge that someone in their impoverished village could make a positive difference in the community (Tacchi, 2011).
I can certainly relate more to the Jonsson and Ornebring online participation article. Not only does this study compare consuming news articles against tabloid-entertainment articles, it looks at the different ways this consumption occurs. The results in the first article show that the article comments and higher degrees of UGC have a better shot at producing change in society because a larger portion of those communities can access the content. If there is an unpopular article or editorial, then users with anonymous names can voice their opinion to a large audience, though more so in the broadsheet publications than in the tabloid stories.
The “Finding a Voice” article just does not resonate as well from a participation standpoint. It’s fantastic that the citizens of a developing country can learn digital/multimedia skills, but this does not mean that they can continue to use these to interact with their country’s media producers. Additionally, no matter how advanced the skills are that the citizens in the project are, just how much of the public are going to be able to see their work? It seems like the more advanced someone’s ICT skills are, the smaller the population that can actual access the product of such skills. There is the possibility of having these skills spread throughout the communities by the one’s being taught, though.