Marie Camier, co-founder of Mediaeducation.fr
The discipline of media education generally focuses on the perception of information by the public. Also, it sheds new light on the habits of culture enthusiasts, who find free channels of expression in digital tools, as well as a means of confronting content.
Recently, professor-researcher and digital cultures specialist Andre Gunthert questioned the correlation between the Smartphone boom and developments in photojournalism and sparked a minor media panic on Twitter. By analyzing the profile of amateurs and their real competitive impact vis-à-vis professionals, he revived a latent debate on the role of popular practices in the cultural and media industries.
In the same vein, traditional film criticism is also viewed as being on the hot seat, presumably challenged by the popularity of platforms on which professional and fan critics confront each other. The Allociné website has a community of thousands of film buffs, commentators and forum users who, at times, are promoted to the rank of critic thanks to Club 300 for film or series contributors and experts. On the Internet, contributions by fans are often humorously ridiculed, via the Alluciné Twitter account, for example, which compiles viewers’ zaniest reviews.
Even so, do fans and enthusiasts really short-circuit professionals? The equation is much more complex. The new technologies have opened up the field of possibilities for the anonymous masses hungry for free expression. Provided that users are familiar with Internet codes and usages – we speak of a “usage divide” when this is not the case –, they can set up their own cultural activity, which may or may not be a “for-profit” or independent activity. And what the majority of people are looking for on the Internet is concision, multimedia, free services, or just… the latest buzz.
The Vodkaster website, founded in 2009, latched on to this idea when it launched its micro-film reviews. Users make or break the reputations of audiovisual productions by advancing more or less successful lines of argument in just 140 characters. Gone are the pages and pages of cultural references; on this site, the humorous shock phrase makes the difference between a must-see and a movie mistake.
Another notable example is the YouTube “Honest trailers” channel that juggles with film codes and humour 2.0 by subverting the trailers of such major American popular hits as Titanic, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter or The Avengers. The producers thus accumulate millions of page views for after-the-event film reviews, confirming the popular success of caustic film criticism for the masses.
The informational and cultural practices of the French have thus been transformed through equal access to digital media. The possibilities offered by the new technologies are popularizing criticism for all, and even critical spirit for all (with a little support and assistance, to be sure). Exchanges of views between enthusiasts reflect the public’s interest for the clash of ideas. And what could be more democratic than a people exercising its right of free speech, debate and discussion?
Read more about the topic:
- La fabrique de l’info webzine: A future for film magazines? The example of Vodkaster
- The French blog Le blog d’un Odieux connard
- Rue89: My last TV column; the wind has gone out of my sails