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Monday 22 December 2014

Has social media changed our relationships with traditional media?

On Wednesday 3 December, Professor Martin James PhD, MA, BA (Hons), Senior Lecturer in Popular Music, delivered his inaugural professorial lecture, exploring the way in which social media has transformed relationships with traditional media. Today, he contends, the onus is on the media to find new ways of engaging with its audience. But who exactly is the audience? Martin might argue that the audience today is a group of individuals that the media can no longer pigeonhole into a particular ‘type’. In fact, the way social media has changed the landscape, individuals can now be whoever they want to be….. until they choose to be someone else.

Professor James, can you explain how you came up with the idea for your lecture?

The initial idea was from my reading of the latest David Bowie album which drew on my research into social media and how that works with individual identities within communities.

I began by talking about me because the whole crux of the argument is that we have moved to an ego driven media model – and that is for all medias.
What were the main ideas you wanted people to take away from it?

There has been a seismic cultural shift where people are able to be selective in what they engage with. Effectively, if they don’t get the experience they want, they just switch off. Media is now entirely product of consumerism.

Can you provide an example?

A&R people used to listen to demo tapes and make a judgement in 30 seconds. If they were interested they might listen a full minute. If they were really interested they might just take the track in the car with them and listen all the way through.

Generally speaking now we have cut that decision-making process down to 140 characters. As a society we demand instant gratification. We live in an accelerated culture and are always moving on to the next thing.

You mentioned the music industry in particular, what are the changes there?

It used to be the artist, the label, the producer – all those markers that were signposts for quality. Today none of those are important. It all comes down to the song.
Technology has enabled us to participate in ways we couldn’t do before. We have the ability to start a record label, release a record, produce artwork and upload music.

Everything is about £1000 away. When I was a musician the videos cost close to £1M.

Can you explain about participatory culture?

Everything used to be pushed at us, but now we get the chance to push back. We do this in various ways ranging from the comments section on newspapers to the ability to upload our own citizen journalism.

When I began my lecture I asked people to imagine that the room was my Facebook page and they had been invited, as friends. I’m going to throw ideas at you and you can choose to like, ignore or share. The point is that as much as you’re on my Facebook, I’m also in yours. This leads us to ego recognition which can be measured in the number of friends, likes, retweets and comments that we receive and the inclusion of groups, links and tags. We call the MEdiaverse our own personal representation of our past, our present and our future biographies. This is happening through our status updates, our comments and other media activities. We are producing identities and consuming identities – engaging in prosumerism – writing our own biographies every minute of the day.