Imagine a world where the only way you could find out what’s going on in the world is by watching the news. What a horrible thought.
Even before the internet there were spoofs and comedies making fun of celebrities, politicians and others seen to be in a position of power. But since the creation of the internet it has been easier for these spoofs to reach larger audiences and ‘go viral’.
“As the internet has prospered, an important change has to be recorded in the representative status of popular media. Throughout the twentieth century, the press, cinema, radio and television operated as if their audiences were coterminous with ‘the nation’. The ‘mass’ media felt they could speak both to and for the entire citizenry, and media theory followed suit. However, that long-assumed status can no longer be claimed. […] Thus ‘media citizenship’ is changing from representative status to the more modest but active status of productivity, where much smaller groups can self-organise and self-represent, and act both culturally and politically, without bearing the weight of ‘standing for’ the whole society.” (Hartley, 2010, p.240)
As someone who was born around the same time as the internet, ‘DIY/DIWO citizenship’ is something I’ve grown up with. When I was younger, Jackass was very popular. We loved the silly, craziness and chaos they caused.
My sisters, my friends and I used to recreate our own tamer versions of these videos at home. Then we’d look online at others who were making spoof music videos and TV shows. Our parents saw it as us ‘being silly’. But it was our way of getting a look into the popular culture we were too young to be properly involved in.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen these kinds of videos evolve from amateur-looking videos to more professional podcasts and vlogs. There are still the seemingly pointless crazy videos. But now we also have the ‘silly’ videos making fun of politicains, dubsmash videos and, of course, cat videos.
“… it is important to recognise the extent to which childhood infects adulthood; play infects citizenship, and thus to investigate how both childhood and play are constitutive of citizenship and especially of changes in self-organising, bottom-up associative relations among strangers in mediated societies, where play may model new civic possibilities.” (Hartley, 2010, p.244)
As an adult I get most of my news from links I see on Facebook. If I am watching news programmes, ones like Russell Howard’s Good News and Mock the Week are so much more appealing than BBC News, which is pretty morbid.
Yet while I’m scrolling through Twitter, the older generation still look to the TV for news. They may enjoy spoof and comedy shows. But they still watch the serious news bulletins. Do they see ‘silly citizenship’ as another part of our society, or a separate world?
“Recognition of what’s needed for ‘healthy democratic functioning’ requires renewed attention to these demotic aspects of citizenship. Concealed beneath teenage mischief and YouTube antics is a classical ‘right to dance’. Here is a new model of citizenship based on self-representation of, by and for ‘ordinary’ people, using ‘new’ media to produce discursive associative relations, superseding the modernist ‘man with a gun’. Now, we need to change our bumper-stickers.” (Hartley, 2010, p.245)
I don’t want ‘silly citizenship’ to take over the news completely. I already cringe enough when newscasters and politicians try to act ‘cool’. But without shows like The Last Leg helping us figure out the confusion they call the elections, where would the future of politics be? DIY/DIWO has been around longer than many care to admit so it deserves the same acknowledgement as those serious news programmes.
On that note I’m going to leave you with one of my favourite videos from Boyinaband. I don’t really know how to describe him so I stole this from his YouTube, “I make vlogs and songs and I like music and science and psychology and run on sentences.”
John Hartley (2010) Silly citizenship, Critical Discourse Studies, 7:4, 233-248, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2010.511826
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2010.511826