Twitter’s Celebrity Problem

Twitter’s Celebrity Problem

The most followed person on Twitter is Katy Perry. The second most followed is Justin Bieber. In fact out of the top 20 most followed on Twitter, 15 of them are celebrities. Society’s obsession with celebrity culture is alive and kicking on the world’s most popular micro-blogging site.

For celebrities that gained fame by offline means, Twitter is used a tool of self-promotion, a means by which they can continue to market themselves when not acting/singing/modelling etc. The platform seemingly provides a glimpse into celebrity lives, allowing their followers to interact by commenting, favouriting and retweeting. The scale that which celebrity tweets are retweeted by followers is excessive. Let’s use one of Katy Perry’s latest tweets as an example;

This banal comment has been (at time of writing) favourited 6,923 times and retweeted 3,313 times. All for a sentence about someone’s dinner. Whilst Twitter’s celebrity focus may seem harmless, it still tends to lend authority to the (usually subjective, sometimes harmful) words of the rich and famous.

In Twitter’s defense, it also hosts a vast number of accounts focused on science, education, news, charities etc. Let’s hope that in the future more attention is paid to the 140 characters of accounts such as  NASA, Malala Yousafzai or National Geographic than the 140 characters of celebrities.

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Art, Online

Art, Online

‘Hand-made’ and ‘digital’ are words that you would not expect to see next to each other often. Contemporary society is only to become increasingly digitised however, forcing artists and craftspeople, traditionally associated with the concept of ‘hand-made’, into the online world.

Creatively-inclined types have quickly adapted to digitisation, utilising several online platforms to inspire, create and publish their work.

Instagram

Possibly the best known, Instagram has constructed itself as the social network for all things visual. For artists it is a useful tool for not only displaying their portfolio, but for showing their artistic process. The platform is a quick and easy way  for a wide audience to grasp the basics of an artist’s practice and to gain an insight into the artist themselves. Many artists are often able to convert Instagram views into sales using websites like eBay and Etsy.

Screenshot of one of artist Ben Sanders Instagram posts. Sanders uses Instagram to generate sales.
Screenshot of one of artist Ben Sanders Instagram posts. Sanders uses Instagram to generate sales.

Instagram is not without fault however. Accurate representation of an artwork is not often possible due to the platform’s image-restrictions, and the ease with which followers can be bought (the number of followers an artist has directly impacts on the value attributed to their work) proves that Instagram is still not in any way comparable to a conventional gallery space.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a content-aggregation website. Users ‘pin’ visual content (photos, videos etc.) from across the web to their ‘pinboards’ – collections of similar content. Content can also be uploaded to Pinterest by users, and this is how many artisans use the platform to showcase their work. Commonly Pinterest is used as a creative resource, a means by which people can discover how to make this, design that, and gather inspiration for projects. Using Pinterest craftspeople are able to share their work globally, as well as learn new techniques and gather inspiration.

Example of a Pinterest page showing various D.I.Y. crafts

Etsy

If eBay is the father of online marketplaces, Etsy is the sweet younger sister. Etsy is, like eBay, an online marketplace where users can both buy and sell products. What differentiates Etsy however is its focus on hand-made or unique products. You can of course still buy handmade crafts and art on websites like eBay, but Etsy prides itself on curating only this type of product.

For this reason, artists and craftspeople widely use the website to sell their work. Unlike traditional markets used to sell arts and crafts, Etsy is global and open 24hrs – making the likelihood of an artist’s work being sold significantly greater. The website also allows artists to develop a brand and advertise themselves freely.

Citizen Journalism = Journalism

Citizen Journalism = Journalism

2011: The Arab Spring

ArabSpring

2012: The KONY Campaign (Invisible Children)

KONY

2013: The Boston Marathon Bombings

Runners continue to run towards the finish line as an explosion erupts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

2014: The Ferguson demonstrations following the shooting of Michael Brown

Ferguson

2015: …?

These events stand as some of the most iconic news-stories of their respective years. Whilst each was covered extensively on legacy media, what connects them all is their origins as citizen journalism.

So what exactly is citizen journalism?

As you can see Jay Rosen, Journalism professor at NYU, has a simple, broad definition of citizen journalism. Rosen regards citizen journalism as the audience (i.e. people not employed to create news) using the tools at their disposal (smart phones, blogs etc.) to inform one another of current happenings. People who practice citizen journalism are therefore known as citizen journalists.

What then is the difference between regular (legacy media) journalists and citizen journalists?

The issue of authenticity is commonly cited as the differentiating factor between ‘citizen’ and ‘real’ journalists. But considering the failures of legacy journalism to present factual stories, in comparison to citizen journalism (which can be either confirmed or proven false by thousands of separate individuals), the argument that authenticity is the dividing factor seems rather baseless.

Perhaps then there is no difference between journalists and citizen journalists.Both participate in the reporting and dispersal of information to an audience. The only perceptible difference is that legacy journalists and journalism is done for profit, whereas citizen journalists usually go unpaid.

Furthermore, as citizen journalism has gained traction more and more legacy journalism organisations have begun to use material collected by citizen journalists (especially in conflict zones where organisations may be hesitant to send their journalists) and even recruit prolific citizen journalists (such as  NewJersey.com).

This is not to say that anyone who engages in an act of citizen journalism can immediately call themselves a journalist (citizen or otherwise). Just as drawing a picture does not classify you as an artist, or changing a tire classify you as a mechanic, tweeting a current event does not make you a journalist. It makes you someone who has participated in an act of journalism.

But if an individual is committed to tweeting news, to blogging current events or uploading footage for the purposes of disseminating information, then it is hard to argue why the lack of paycheck should stop them from being called a journalist.