Monday, 9 September 2013

Interactivity and manipulation in participatory media culture

In a discussion on the characteristics of computer games, Joost Raessens (2005, p. 374) identified interactivity and connectivity as aspects where 'a gamer is able to control the game's proceedings and/or its conclusion', and, moreover, where players are given 'the ability to exchange ideas, knowledge and game-elements amongst each other via the Internet'.

Computer games are just one of many mediums where
participants possess the ability to influence the produced
content (Source:
Although Raessens' discussion was confined to computer games, such connectivity is also obvious in other - non-game - participatory media cultures, where the audience play a major role in influencing a medium's content. Blogs and social media are prime examples of this.

However, some theorists have criticised participatory media culture as being manipulative and designed to cater to capitalistic ambitions, where users are encouraged 'to buy products through different forms of marketing' (Raessens 2005, p. 375).

Douglas Rushkoff labels this as a "coercion", believing it 'not always easy to determine when we have surrendered our judgment to someone else. The better and more sophisticated the manipulation, the less aware of it we are' (Rushkoff 1999, p. 3).

Certainly, Rushkoff and other like-minded theorists have a point. In today's day and age, where participatory mediums have become increasingly prevalent, it is difficult to escape the capitalist desires of others.

One only needs to visit any one of the most prominent social media platforms to experience over-the-top advertising and attempts for the user to throw his or her money at some form of product.

On social networking sites such as Facebook, users are bombarded with products advertised specifically for them and dependent on their 'location, gender, age, likes and interests, relationship status, workplace and education' (Facebook 2013).

An example of Facebook advertising (Source:
Earlier this year, whilst my relationship status was set as "engaged", my partner and I encountered various wedding-related advertising on Facebook, ranging from wedding venues, to rings, and outfits. Suffice to say, when we signed up to the social medium, we did so in order to connect and interact with families and friends - not to be flashed with consumer products.

Fortunately, for those like myself who have a disdain for intrusive advertising, technological programs such as AdBlock have been developed, allowing users to remove all advertising content when a web page is loaded.

With such mechanisms, interactive mediums can be utilised with less risk of users falling to money-making desires.


Facebook 2013, 'What are my ad targeting options?', retrieved 9 September 2013, <>.

Raessens, J. 2005, ‘Computer games as participatory media culture’, Handbook of Computer Game Studies, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, pp. 373-388 

Rushkoff 1999, Coercion: Why we listen to what "they" say, Riverhead Books, New York.

No comments:

Post a Comment