The Evolution of Technology in the Field of Media

The evolution of technology in the field of media, and how mainstream media has transformed into today’s social media landscape, with no one dominating more than the other, is something I studied 10 years ago.

At that time, I was a student of Prof. Tjipta Lesmana, a communication expert in Indonesia. I pursued a concentration in “Media Studies” during my Master’s program in Communication Science at the University of Pelita Harapan, Jakarta.

We were deeply engaged in predicting future media trends and human behaviors. Our professor, Dr. Irwansyah, Ph.D., frequently challenged us to create response papers. I vividly remember that 10 years ago—yes, a whole decade ago—I wrote a paper titled “User Generated Content and Media.” Let me revisit it. Here is the essence of my paper from a decade ago, related to the topic of UGC.

The evolution of communication technology has profoundly reshaped human interactions and socialization through media. As McLuhan and Lister et al. (2003) have emphasized, the “electrical age” has ushered in what is commonly referred to as the “global village,” marking a departure from traditional forms of communication. Terms such as “connectivity,” “convergence,” “the network society,” “wired culture,” and “interaction” (Lister et al., 2003) underscore the magnitude of this transformation.

In the digital realm, this global village of media has evolved into a space where people communicate as a natural inclination, often encapsulated by the phrase “man cannot not communicate.” During the analog era of communication technology, media content was solely determined by the management, resulting in a one-way relationship between media and the audience. The audience served as consumers, while the media assumed the role of producers. For instance, in the print edition of Kompas, readers had no say in determining its content; it was entirely dictated by its editors.

However, the transition from analog to digital technology triggered a paradigm shift. Digital-based production, consumption, and distribution devices, interconnected online, facilitated active user participation in content creation. This essence of user-generated content (UGC) has become a defining characteristic of the digital media landscape.

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In the context of social media, USG typically refers to User-Generated Content (UGC). User-Generated Content is a concept where users of social media platforms actively contribute and create content. This content can take various forms, such as text posts, photos, videos, reviews, comments, and more.

The concept of UGC represents a fundamental shift in how content is produced and shared on social media platforms. Instead of relying solely on professional content creators and media outlets, social media platforms empower ordinary users to become content creators themselves. Users share their experiences, opinions, creativity, and knowledge, shaping the content landscape of these platforms.

UGC plays a significant role in fostering user engagement, interaction, and community building on social media. It also allows for a diverse range of voices and perspectives to be heard, contributing to the democratization of media and information sharing.

Examples of UGC on social media include user-generated reviews on e-commerce websites, photos and videos shared by users on Instagram, user-contributed answers on platforms like Quora, and user-written articles and discussions on blogging platforms and forums. This concept has become integral to the success and vibrancy of many social media platforms.

Besides utilizing technology, UGC can also make use of open source, free software, flexible licensing, or related agreements to facilitate collaboration, build skills, and foster innovation.

The evolution of communication technology has significantly reshaped how humans interact and socialize through media. As emphasized by McLuhan, Lister et al. (2003), the “electrical age” has paved the way for what is commonly referred to as the “global village,” a departure from traditional forms of communication. Terms such as “connectivity,” “convergence,” “the network society,” “wired culture,” and “interaction” (Lister et al., 2003) underscore this transformation.

In the digital realm, this global village of media has become a place where people communicate in accordance with their innate inclination, often summed up as “man can not, not communicate.” In the analog-based communication technology era, content in media was solely determined by the media’s management, resulting in a one-way relationship between media and the audience. The audience acted as consumers, while the media played the role of producers. For example, in the print edition of Kompas, there was no involvement of readers in determining its content; the entire content was determined by its editors.

With the shift from analog to digital technology, a paradigm shift occurred. Digital-based production, consumption, and distribution devices, connected online, allowed active participation by users in determining the content. This essence of user-generated content (UGC) has become a defining feature of the digital media landscape.

UGC encompasses various forms of media content available in various modern communication technologies. UGC gained prominence around 2005 and has evolved in multiple forms, including web publishing, news, gossip, research, digital video, blogging, podcasting, forums, review sites, social networks, mobile phone photography, Wikipedia, and wikis (Espejo, 2008). It is often referred to as “Web 2.0” or the interactive online world (Popek, 2011).

Besides utilizing technology, UGC can also make use of open source, free software, flexible licensing, or related agreements to facilitate collaboration, build skills, and foster innovation. UGC goes beyond websites; it includes web-based applications that enable members to publish articles, share experiences, offer technical knowledge in audio-visual formats, express opinions and criticisms, provide recommendations and reviews, or even present ideas directly, freely, and without cost. Such websites and applications are often referred to as user-generated content-based sites, where the content is produced by users themselves.

In addition to content creation, UGC allows users to act as moderators on the site. Content can be rated or reviewed by other users, and these ratings will affect the content’s position. Essentially, UGC is an open space for users to discuss and share thoughts. It also embodies the concept of a public sphere as described by Habermas (1993), where people can openly express aspirations and differing opinions.

To begin posting on a UGC site, one typically registers and activates their account by clicking a confirmation link sent to their email address by the site’s administrators. Once confirmed and activated, one can start posting various types of content, including reports, opinions, experiences, photos, or links and quotes from other mass media sources, mailing lists, blogs, and forums.

What sets UGC apart is that users can also share images and videos on the platform, often in the form of slideshows for multiple images or embedding videos from hosting platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.
What’s intriguing about UGC is that it allows individuals to promote products, services, or even themselves. However, it’s important to note that each post will be rated by readers or other members, and negative ratings can impact an individual’s credibility on the platform. Every user receives a rating or cumulative score based on their activities, such as commenting, rating, and writing articles on the site. Credibility is also determined by the scores of the content written and posted. The higher one’s score, the higher their position and perceived value in the eyes of other users.

But what is meant by “rating,” and how is it determined?

Rating is the value assigned to a piece of content based on a rating system given by users. Each user can provide a rating only once, with options ranging from positive (+1), neutral (0), to negative (-1), accompanied by corresponding labels.

UGC typically focuses on specific issues or topics. For example, there is a UGC site that focuses on the film industry, called “Bicarafilm.” This site includes short interactive messages from Bicarafilm, which can be updates, information, and more. These messages are posted by the Bicarafilm administrators, and users can comment on them.

From a content perspective, there are differences between UGC and traditional (analog) media managed by specific institutions. Analog media adhere to quality standards for content to be published, including spelling, punctuation, language, and originality of content. There is an editorial screening process before content is published. This is not the case with UGC, as each user writes what they think, which can lead to issues with spelling and language, and ratings or evaluations only occur after publication. The availability of consistent content is questionable since posts are subject to the moods of the members. Furthermore, UGC content has the potential to involve plagiarism (copyright infringement) and violations related to sensitive issues, particularly individual privacy.

In the era of advancing communication technology, User Generated Content (UGC) has revolutionized how humans interact with media. Digital media enables active user participation in content creation, fostering a digital public sphere for open dialogue and diverse opinions. However, challenges such as the absence of editorial control, varying content quality, as well as copyright and sensitivity issues must be addressed. Nonetheless, UGC remains a significant phenomenon in the ever-evolving digital media landscape, empowering users to contribute to media formation and social interaction. *)
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Masri Sareb Putra
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