Consuming vs Contributing

I found the comparison between RW and RO culture as discussed by Lessing in “Cultures of Our Past” very interesting because we live in a time that is simultaneously defined by both.

Social Media makes it easier for anyone to participate in RW culture than ever before. People can easily “add to the culture they read by creating and re-creating the culture around them” by stitching together videos, reposting with new text, commenting, and creating completely new content outside of social media apps (pg. 28). The world is wide open to amateurs- anyone can start a business, get into photography, design on Canva, mix music, or self-publish a book for little to no cost. It seems to me that this has proved aspects of Sousa’s beliefs correct. Especially his ideas about the role amateurs play in producing culture. The resurgence of RW culture has lead to the creation of new cultures, sub cultures, mediums, and communities.

On the other hand, as culture consumption has become easier and easier, RO culture has also grown exponentially. Millions of people scroll for hours a day without contributing so much as a like or comment to the platform. According to some reports, 1% of social media users are content creators, 9% are engagers, and 90% are consumers. (Source) In my COMMS 101 class we discussed the implications of this at length. People who simply consume media are more likely to experience loneliness, feel sad after spending time online, and feel tired/unmotivated by these platforms. On the other hand, people who were active participants felt more content, fulfilled, and included in a community. There are obviously other factors to consider and always exceptions, but I thought this was an interesting observation that is consistent with scientific observations throughout time, as well as spiritual revelation about our divine desire to create.

Although it is too early in the development of social media to say for certain how and if we should interact, I think it is important and interesting to be aware of how consuming vs contributing effects each of us personally and the online communities we interact with. Taking note of these impacts can help us be more responsible members of society.

Photo Source: Afta Putta Gunawan, Web Source

5 responses to “Consuming vs Contributing”

  1. Elijah Pearce Avatar
    Elijah Pearce

    I agree–the internet has definitely expanded people’s access to media. When it comes to social media, isn’t consuming contributing? Maybe they aren’t creating anything, but liking a post (you don’t even have to comment) increases the post’s popularity. I think that consuming isn’t creating, but it is contributing.

  2. Hannah Benson Avatar
    Hannah Benson

    I love your use of the word “resurgence,” because I definitely noticed that while we may have left the professionals to create most products, it is definitely increasingly easier for us “amateurs” to create and contribute to culture. Whether that’s adding to social media or creating our own brand etc.

  3. Garrett Mast Avatar
    Garrett Mast

    I think it’s interesting to note how social media has led to a resurgence in RW culture, but also in just consumption. Even if only 1% of people regularly are creating content on a social media platform, that would mean nearly 150 million people fall into the “content creator” bucket on Instagram alone (based on monthly active user counts), which is simply a crazy amount of people to be creating new content. That leaves me, someone who has only posted on Instagram in the last 4 years for my engagement and then wedding, to be that 90% of consumers, attempting to take in the bafflingly large amounts of content that only 1% of people make. I think this shows that even in a culture of RW, there need to be people that RO so that people have someone to write to.

  4. Brian Croxall Avatar

    Elijah, I think that liking a post is what Shelby called engaging. Consuming—only scrolling without doing anything more—is a different activity.

    Shelby, I think you’ve nailed the moment we are in and that Lessig was looking toward when he was writing in 2008: a strange hybrid between RO and RW cultures. The question he was asking us to consider is how copyright law both enables and restricts this moment. Do your Comms classes ever discuss copyright?

  5. Hayley Anderson Avatar
    Hayley Anderson

    I think it’s interesting how you brought in religious desires to create. In some of my church history classes, we’ve discussed how the church encourages bringing the arts into worship and how it makes us more engaged with the source material and themes of the church.

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