Extreme Participatory Culture: New Media Superheroes

Michele Martin, host of Tell Me More on NPR, just interviewed two “ordinary citizens” who actually don costumes (and superheroic aliases) to fight crime.  One actually has a Facebook page.  This story made me think of the Jenkins’ discussion of a connection bewteen two Jenkins ideas: (1) the authority that Internet authorship establishes and (2) participatory culture. The “sacred aura” of authorship, Jenkins implies, bestows the writer with a sense of “authority” in our culture. No matter the quality of the text, having published something – anything! – gives one a higher status than they had before.  (Thus “authorship” = “authority.”)  Jenkins’ argument is that New Media even further democratizes this self-inscribed authority: there are no gatekeepers (e. g. publishing houses and editors) and no financial constraints (one could use a public library computer) to online authorship and the authority it establishes.  This interview, though, takes the notion of the “deputization” that the Internet facilitates quite literally. Listen, in this interview, for ways in which the “authority” that comes with new media “authorship” might relate to the extreme to which these men promote a truly “participatory culture.” Rather than passively observing injustice and iniquities, these men do not wait for law enforcement: they take active roles in enforcing what they perceive to be Just and Good. 

As you consider paper topics, then, consider the concept of the superhero – after all, the Internet is the perfect “telephone booth” – it enables one to act upon extreme principles and beliefs under the cloak of anonymity: is there a New Media text, issue, or event that employs a similar combination of self-bestowed authority and participatory culture?  Where are the metaphorical superheroes in the New Media environment?  What kinds of advocacy or vigilantism are being performed in the New Media environment?



DC's Guardian, a "real life super hero."

(Pierre-Elie de Pibrac via NPR.org)


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