The modern society has witnessed the rapid development of new technologies that altered the nature of human communication and information exchange. The impact of these new inventions has stretched from everyday interactions between friends and members of the family to such global issues as political journalism. This paper will compare two articles devoted to the relationship between user-generated content and journalism. It will explore how these papers treat the concept of citizen journalism and study the similarities and differences in approaches employed by the authors. Both articles are written by Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) and Wall and El Zahed (2014) study the principle of user-generated content and the way this content can compete or co-exist with traditional forms of journalism. However, the perspectives of the authors are not the same ones; and they come to different conclusions.
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The articles have several similarities. Both researches agree that the role of new technologies, such as the Internet, mobile communications, and etc. significantly influence the development and intensification of user-generated content. Wall and El Zahed (2014) argue that Facebook and small YouTube channels were the only media that had been used to communicate the important and uncensored information about the events happening during the Syrian Revolution. They also highlight that these technologies were so important that the state decided to ban them (for example, the Facebook ban in 2011) as the powerful sources of information that could damage the government’s image. Discussing the degree of user participation in the process of creating content Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) also highlight the following fact. Such technological innovations as blogs, wikis, online polls, etc. are directly aimed to collect feedback from users about different concepts or events happening in different spheres of life. These new forms of Internet communication significantly have changed citizen journalism and all other forms of user-generated content publishing. Therefore, Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) and Wall and El Zahed (2014) have come to a similar conclusion. The internet should be regarded as a driving force of user-generated content intensification.
Both articles highlight the role of new markets that emerge as a result of the dissemination of new web technologies. The authors agree that the notion of user-generated content should be analyzed within the frames of the market demand that accelerates the development of this sphere. They believe that the users that see that such content is appreciated and needed tend to pay more attention to the creation of corresponding posts or articles. At the beginning of their article, Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) even give an example of The USA Today that has opened a new website. It offers all the facilities for users to post their comments or share the news. The aim of this and other similar innovations is to create a community around news by providing the readers the ability to comment on every story and recommend content they find valuable. These factors form a sphere of the political economy of user-generated content. Therefore, both articles agree that the process of the market creating and strengthening is two-dimensional. It means that information agencies and newspapers, such as USA Today, react to the demand of readers to read more user-generated content. Readers, in their turn, are able to produce more content of this type as it becomes much easier with the corresponding techniques and facilities.
However, the authors do not agree on everything about the role of user-generated content in the modern world. One of the most important differences is that Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) believe the following fact. In most cases, people create a popular culture-oriented content and share personal life-oriented information paying almost no attention to creating real political news. They argue that that direct involvement of customers in the process of news production is low or even minimal. Moreover, they add that the most popular content usually describe the reaction of users to various cultural events, like concerts, film premieres, etc. or tell about their personal life. However, Wall and El Zahed (2014) are much more optimistic about the role of customers in the news making process. They call the development of the citizen journalism system as stunning in breadth and speed. The authors believe that in most cases it was the only way for the Syrian population and the global community to know the truth about the revolution. They analyze the society where the demand for culture-related content is relatively low. Therefore, as a result, the significance of citizen journalism and information of political coloring is much higher. It has led to the situation when ordinary Syrians took up their cellphones and video cameras, opened their YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and began reporting the story as it was a matter of urgent necessity.
Another significant difference between these articles is related to the communities that are analyzed by the researchers. Wall and El Zahed (2014) study the period of the Syrian revolution and several years after it. They describe the society that was being torn by serious political and military conflicts. The authors write that the major content reported by non-professional journalists and individuals was visceral images and accounts of the government crackdown on a growing protest movement and then an even more bloody response to an armed resistance movement. However, Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) use the data that were obtained in relatively stable communities, like the United States, Britain or Sweden. These researchers do not limit their study to some particular state. However, all the examples that are mentioned in the article belonged to the developed countries where the individuals were unlikely to face the same challenges and problems mentioned by Wall and El Zahed (2014) concerning Syria. It is impossible to compare the results obtained in the communities that exist under so different circumstances. Therefore, these studies rather complement one another than contradict.
Wall and El Zahed (2014) pay much attention to such notions as networks and external connectors. These ones help to facilitate the process of dissemination of the user-generated content. Meanwhile, Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) do not analyze this type of content using the same terminology. They rather focus on the philosophic and social nature of this flow. Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) try to measure the influence of user-generated content on public opinion and define the involvement levels. Taking into account the data they gathered from British and Swedish newspapers, these scholars attempt to answer the question of whether this process should be understood as the empowerment of citizens or pseudo-power. However, this issue remains debatable. The concepts of networks and external connectors applied by Wall and El Zahed (2014) can also be useful for the analysis of the British and Swedish media. As for Jönsson and Örnebring (2011), they do not employ this type of analysis.
To conclude, the articles by Jönsson and Örnebring (2011) as well as Wall and El Zahed (2014) analyze the same notion of user-generated content. Both researches agree that the role of the Internet and other modern technologies is very high in the process of intensifying people’s activities in the sphere of journalism and blogging. They also scrutinize these new tendencies from their economic perspective arguing that new markets of user-generated content have emerged in recent years. However, the authors differ in their understanding of the significance of such content during the news making flow. The studies are also conducted on the basis of societies being not identical in the frame of their stability and the level of their development. The researches add some interesting and useful perspectives to the analysis of user-generated content. Therefore, their findings can be used for further research on this concept.