Until about six months ago, I had always been a passive online user. Once and a while I would interact with a few social media sites, play some video games, check out online reviews, download movies, etc., but I had never attempted to actually create any sort of online content. Yet, since high-school, I’ve always dreamed of creating a personal website for myself; a professional online space where I could publish and share my own writing, thoughts, and stories. I didn’t want the .tumblr.com or the .whateverelse.com, instead I envisioned myself having a good quality, top-notch, real deal .com website. With that said, the idea of creating an authentic and stylish website for me felt to be always an unobtainable goal. I did not and still don’t possess very much knowledge towards coding or web design, and with the ideas I had in mind, I thought it would take months to get it structurally correct on a website. However, one day, feeling hopeful and ambitious, I finally decided to give it a shot. I watched a few YouTube videos, and in a matter of minutes my worries vanished. I paid forty dollars to receive a year access to a web domain, signed up for WordPress, and after a couple weeks of tinkering, I ended up with a website that exceeded my expectations. With very minimal knowledge and skill, I was able to create a space which facilitates my passion and has grown to become something I deeply value. Through this process, I have realized that although the internet is filled with a tremendous amount of content, and that it may feel overwhelming at times, it is not as difficult as it seems to work with the information in order to create things that you didn’t think you could possibly make. Whether it be a blog, a film, a website, a service, or even an app, the internet has the tools and resources to bring ideas to life and to disperse them globally. Many doors towards creation, accessibility, and information have been opened, and there is no longer any reason for people to simply absorb and consume content. Instead, we should strive to be active and collaborative creators of the content we consume and share, as the information and resources to do so are more accessible than ever before.
However, just as I was unaware, pessimistic, and doubtful towards my own prospects of online creation, it appears that the majority of users feel the same way. The ratio of those who create online content compared to those who don’t is completely disproportionate. For example, Wikipedia, the largest internet encyclopedia in the world, receives on average 13 billion views per month globally, however, there exist only 131,607 active registered users who have edited or created a page in the past month. (Wikimedia, 2014) In an another case, one that is close to home, Fresh Frame of Mind has as well witnessed this lack of public creation. Fresh Frame has obtained over fifteen hundred views, yet the website, as of currently, has only received a total of six article submissions. Although many of us spend a tremendous amount of time online reading, communicating, and consuming for self-benefit, we spend little time creating content that would benefit others. We torrent music, watch videos onYouTube, extract information from Wikipedia, frequently read blogs, and receive entertainment from websites such as Reddit, yet most users rarely think twice about engaging themselves and giving back to the online community. Even though there exists several creators who provide fuel for the internet’s content, imagine what some of the internet’s most successful websites and public spaces would look like if every user got involved.
Evidently, there lacks a drive towards creating online content and I believe this is not due to any sort of lack in accessibility or information. Instead, I believe it is due to an absence of awareness, knowledge, and confidence within most users. Although the internet has become an integral part of the lives of almost every individual, most are not equipped with the appropriate information and knowledge to allow themselves to confidently operate and function within the online world. As of currently, people are given no guidance as to how to read, interpret, and critically evaluate the images and information they are visually exposed to, even though they are confronted with more media images than ever before. (Sneed, Wulfemeyer, Riffe, & Ommeren, 1999, Pg.36) Those who do not possess the basic knowledge to navigate and sift through the internet, or as Andrew Keen calls it, the “disorganized bazaar of images,” would most likely view cyberspace and it’s plethora of information as daunting and feel overwhelmed by its very presence. Thus, why would such individuals who feel intimated have any motivation to create any sort of content? For example, with myself, the prospect of creating a professional website felt unobtainable due to false expectations of difficulty, and for that reason I did not attempt to create one until several years after the idea came to mind. With many individuals, there has developed a fear towards the idea of content creation, as people typically imagine it would consume a tremendous amount of time and force them to do large amounts of research in order to reach any sort of progress. However, this is not the reality of the situation. If there existed a basic form of education that would teach users the appropriate techniques to utilize online information effectively, allow for them to realize that content creation is not as overwhelming as they imagine, and instill within them a level of confidence, then I believe public participation would grow and the realm of user created content would prosper greatly. Just like with anything, the first line of defense towards something unknown or intimidating is education, as it allows for individuals to understand how the mediated world works, have a sense of media literacy, possess awareness and confidence, and understand what online participation can bring to the future growth of the internet.
With all that said, the importance of the development of online creators is not simply about increasing user created content online and providing users with the knowledge to effectively utilize the abundance of information online. Instead, the importance lies in the idea that an active community of creators can help progress the future creation of a more so open, collaborative, and freer World Wide Web. It is essential to develop an online community in which sharing what you know or think is as easy as learning what someone else knows or thinks; where powerful collaboration between people is open and free. (Lee & Fischetti, 1999, Pg. 210) However, as of currently the web has mainly become a medium in which a few publish and most browse, and where passiveness is much more prominent than activeness. There does not exist, in the current nature of the internet, enough public innovation, creation, and involvement to spark beneficial social change towards the future of the internet. Ideas of decentralization, user empowerment, and democracy that are typically connected with the values of internet are more or less useless without the engagement and participation of a significant amount of individuals. It is not sufficient to simply have the appropriate space, tools, and resources; it requires the effort and activeness of users in order for the inherit ideas of the internet, such as democracy, user empowerment, and decentralization, to successfully flourish. Thus, there must be a growth in online users who actively create, engage themselves, and frequently share their personal ideas, beliefs, interests, and values. The benefits the internet can create will only increase as the level of participation grows, and if there existed an increase in aware, educated, and confident users, the benefits will only become more powerful.
Although, we all use the internet a tremendous amount, most users have barely skimmed the surface in regards towards the information and tools the internet holds. There is so much potential that is now within our grasps, and although it may appear to be overwhelming or complicating, once practised many will discover it to be much simpler and more rewarding than imagined. If we all begin to realize the sort of power we now have, and understand its importance, we can push towards a user-driven, equal, and unfiltered online world.
As a Final Note:
Shout out to Hitrecord.org. If you are a creator or want to be one, I would highly recommend checking this website out. One of the coolest projects out there!
Keen, A. (2007). Chapter 3: Truth and Lies. The cult of the amateur: how today’s internet is killing our culture. New York: Doubleday/Currency.
Lee, T., & Fischetti, M. (1999). Chapter 14: Weaving The Web. Weaving the Web: the original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor. Pg.199-211. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
Sneed, Don. Wulfemeyer, Tim. Riffe, Daniel, and Van Ommeren, Roger. (1990, Oct) The Clearing House, Vol. 64, No. 2. pp. 36-38.
WikiMedia, (2013, Oct.) Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report. WikiMedia. Retrieved on Mar. 25, 2014.