User-Generated Content

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Refers to the increasingly widespread capability for "users" to generate and share their own content, using collaborative publishing platforms like You Tube, rather than consume production from the mass media.

It is used mostly in the field of media, while Crowdsourcing is used as a specific strategy to create innovation and value in commercial projects.

See the related entry on the User-Generated Ecosystem

Critics suggest the whole concept has a corporate bias and propose the alternative of Community-Curated Works

Definition

1.

"In this study UCC is defined as

i) content made publicly available over the Internet,

ii) which reflects a certain amount of creative effort, and

iii) which is created outside of professional routines and practices." (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/14/38393115.pdf)


Description

"In the UCC value chain, content is directly created and posted for or on UCC platforms using devices (e.g. digital cameras), software (video editing tools), UCC platforms and an Internet access provider. There are many active creators and a large supply of content that can engage viewers, although of potentially lower or more diverse quality. Users are also inspired by, and build on, existing works as in the traditional media chain. Users select what does and does not work, for example, through recommending and rating, possibly leading to recognition of creators who would not be selected by traditional media publishers." (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/14/38393115.pdf)


Business Models

See: User-Generated Content - Business Models

Discussion

The Digital Divide in User-Generated Content

Mark Graham:

"Profound digital divisions of labour are evident in all open platforms that rely on user-generated content.

On Flickr, countries in the north are covered by much thicker clouds of information. Google's databases contain more indexed user-generated content about the Tokyo metropolitan region than the entire continent of Africa. While on Wikipedia, there is more written about Germany than South America and Africa combined. In other words, there are massive inequalities that cannot simply be explained by uneven internet penetration rates. A range of other physical, social, political and economic barriers reinforce the digital divide, amplifying the informational power of the already powerful and visible.

That's not to say the internet doesn't have important implications for the developing world. People use it not just to connect with friends and family, but to learn, share information, trade, and represent their communities.

Consequently, it's important to be aware of the internet's highly uneven geographies of information. These inequalities matter to the south, because connectivity – though a clear prerequisite for access to most 21st-century platforms of knowledge sharing – is by no means a determinant of knowledge production and digital participation.

How do we move towards encouraging participation from and about parts of the world left out of virtual representations? The first step is allowing people to see what is, and isn't, represented. After that, there is also a clear need for plans like Kenya's strategy to boost local digital content, or Wikimedia's Arabic Catalyst project, which aims to encourage the creation of content in Arabic and provide information about the Middle East.

It remains to be seen how effective such strategies will be in changing the highly uneven digital division of labour. As we rely increasingly on user-generated platforms, there is a real possibility that we will see the widening of divides between digital cores and peripheries. It is crucial to keep asking where visibility, voice and power reside in an increasingly networked world." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/jan/09/networked-world-geography-of-information-uneven)

a critique of the concept of User

1.

By Scott Carp at http://www.blogherald.com/2006/12/27/death-of-the-user/

"In most cases “users” in Media 2.0 are defined as the “people formerly known as the audience” or the “users” of Web 2.0 applications, including social networking sites like MySpace. The problem is that “users” are defined in opposition to “publishers” — as if people who create “blogs” are still in some lesser, “other” category, below and apart from traditional publishers like, uh, Yahoo.

Well, no. There is a revolution in media because people who create blogs and MySpace pages ARE publishers, and more importantly, they are now on equal footing with the “big,” “traditional” publishers. There has been a leveling of the playing field that renders largely meaningless the distinction between “users” and “publishers” — we’re all publishers now, and we’re all competing for the finite pie of attention. The problem is that the discourse on trends in online media still clings to the language of “us” and “them,” when it is all about the breakdown of that distinction.

Despite my objection to his use of “users,” Fred’s observation about trends in page views is an important one — smaller publishers, i.e. NOT USERS, do likely account for an increasing percentage of all page views. But I think it’s essential to recognize that the difference here is one of SCALE, not KIND. Traditional publishers who use cumbersome, out-dated multi-million dollar content management systems to publish on the web are also “users” of these over-priced systems, but they are publishers first.

It’s time we start adjusting our taxonomy to recognize that the tools do not define the activity or the output or the people doing it. There are large publishers and small publishers. There are people who publish for friends and family, and people who publish for professional colleagues, and people who publish for a (relatively) broad consumer audience. The revolution is that ANYONE can publish to the network and that anyone can leverage the power of the network.

That said, there is one respect in which some publishers are still “users” — when you publish to a platform like MySpace or YouTube, you cede control over the monetization of your publication. As I discussed in my last column, making money is certainly not the objective of everyone who publishes online. But regardless of financial motives, we are all seeking our share of attention — and anyone who publishes anything online is competing for their share.

So it’s time to throw off the mantle of “user” and be proud publishers — otherwise we’re going to get “used.”


2.

User:

“Treat me as a person, not some user, consumer, addict, shallow person defined by your brand or some other form of low life.” — Rishad Tobaccowala

The problem is that the discourse on trends in online media still clings to the language of “us” publishers and “them,” users when it is all about the breakdown of that distinction.

— Death of the User

“User” is software-speak from a block diagram. I’m not just someone who you let create an account on your website." (http://brianna.modernthings.org/article/123/an-alternative-term-for-user-generated-content)


3.

"Using ‘content’ as a noun to describe written and other works of authorship is worth avoiding. That usage adopts a specific attitude towards those works: that they are an interchangeable commodity whose purpose is to fill a box and make money. In effect, it treats the works themselves with disrespect."

— Richard Stallman [1]

Ten Conditions for successfull UGC

From the OhMyNews CEO at http://english.ohmynews.com/ArticleView/article_view.asp?menu=&no=347268&rel_no=1&back_url= :


"Credibility

To deliver correct and non-manipulated facts. Reporters should possess clear motives on contents before the audience.

To be free from copy-right infringements. Contents must be produced by reporters by themselves and not copied from somewhere else without permission.


Responsibility

To create contents with considerations on the needs of the audience and news sources and not only based on the own needs of reporters.

To contribute to improving the quality of the media, which reporters work with, by taking account of the nature of the media (platforms).


Influence

To produce contents recommendable to others. Stories should be worthwhile sharing with others rather than personal diaries.

To ensure the attention of the critical mass who are able to build public opinions. The media (platforms) should become supporters in securing a good number of the audience for valuable contents.

To make repercussions not only in the cyber world but also in real life.

To generate positive impact on the public spheres. Contents helping to resolve issues would be more desirable than simple criticism and raising issues only.


Sustainability

To win recognitions as useful contents among the audience and utilize the recognitions as a foundation for sustainable production of contents.

More desirably, to become marketable and contribute to establishing good and sound business models for the media." (http://english.ohmynews.com/ArticleView/article_view.asp?menu=&no=347268&rel_no=1&back_url=)


Insufficiency of the business model

Yihong-Ding:

""Networking" is not the same as "consuming," however. A common misconception of Web 2.0 is that people produce UGC for others to consume. By contrast, UGC is a medium that introduces the content producer to the public -- i.e, "This guy often produces something interesting/illuminating/fascinating; therefore, we should follow/link/become friends with him."

The primary motive behind creating content is not for consuming, but to gain an impression from the public or a niche community for the end-purpose of networking. The UGC contributors on today's Web generally gain nothing except attention. Content is not king, attention is. This is the secret to a successful Web 2.0 business and is why some such businesses succeed and others fail.

In turn, then, a successful Web 2.0 business is not the one that works hard to improve the efficiency of UGC consumption. By contrast, it is the one that leverages the opportunity for successful interpersonal networking.

But this type of attention-first, content-second, UGC-grounded Web-2.0 business model is unlikely to sustain through the Web's evolution. The critical argument against such a model is it doesn't produce enough value. Attention's value is shallow because it is a secondary productive force that helps to produce capital but doesn't produce capital itself. The greatest contribution of Web 2.0 is that it liberates humans from geographic restrictions. Its limitation, however, is that Web 2.0 does not provide ways for the liberated Web users to produce exchangeable commercial value. Web 2.0 itself cannot overcome this limitation. To resolve it, we look forward to the next evolutionary stage of the Web." (http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=542&doc_id=171590&)


Legal issues

From the Wikipedia:

"Liability Of Websites That Allow UGC: Websites are generally immune under U.S. law from liability if user generated content is defamatory, deceptive or otherwise harmful. The website is immune even if it knows that the third-party content is harmful and refuses to take it down. An exception to this general rule may exist if a website promises to take down the content and then fails to do so.[9]

Copyright Dilemma: Imagine a video of you having fun with your friends in the popular rhythms of Michael Jackson or Madonna, for instance. A good example of possible copyright infringement occurs when people post such material into online services like YouTube for everyone to see. Therefore, UGC can consist of partly or completely copyright protected material and it can be distributed online without a permission from the original right holder.

Internet Service Providers Liability: In the context of third party copyright violations, it is important to consider the liability issues between the content provider and the Internet service provider (ISP). In the legal literacy scholars[10] have established two distinct models of liability as regards to ISP. These can be divided into "publishing information doctrine" and "storing information doctrine". According to the former view, ISP controls or at least has the ability to control the content published by using their services. In other words, ISP acts as a host and has the editorial control to take down and monitor content posted online. In order to establish secondary liability it is pivotal to evaluate the level of control practiced by the ISP. The latter view, on the other hand, applies to situations in where ISP acts as a mere host provider lacking any editorial role to the content posted online. Even though ISP might have awareness of the content run by using their services, it has no possibility to monitor or modify information.

In general, there are some differences in legislation between the US approach on ISP liability and the EU approach. In the US, the ISP liability is regulated under the DMCA which deals only with copyright issues. Section 512 stipulates so-called Safe Harbor provisions under which ISP can in certain detailed conditions escape liability. For example, ISP's are required to adopt a special take down policy,[11] which allows individuals to respond to alleged copyright violations. The EU approach is horizontal[12] by nature which means that civil and criminal liability issues are addressed under the Directive 2000/31/EC of the E-Commerce. Sections 4 deals with liability of the ISP while conducting "mere conduit" services, caching and web hosting services.[13]

Content Providers Liability: The question of direct liability of the content provider might arise when uploading and downloading material in the Internet. Prior to UGC, direct liability issues have been tackled in so-called file sharing cases.[14] This technology, much like in UGC, allows unauthorized reproduction and dissemination of information and the fundamental question of liability is determined according to copyright exceptions.

Copyright Exceptions: In certain cases use of copyright protected material can be allowed without a permission from the original right holder. In the US, the notion of fair use doctrine is used to determine whether the use of copyright protected material is allowed or not.

Within this assessment the courts must focus on following list of non-exhaustive factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

In the EU level, the possibility to allow copyright exceptions is tackled by the article 5 of the so-called Copyright Directive, also known as the Information Society Directive. Article 5 of the Copyright Directive stipulates an exhaustive list of optional defenses which are subjected to the classical Berne three-step test. The list of optional defenses is conditional to members states implementation but these include use of copyright protected material for private use, education purposes, quotations and parody among others.

In general, unauthorized use of copyright protected material in the context of UGC might be allowed if it falls under the fair use doctrine or can be justified according to the list set out in the Copyright Directive. The fundamental difference between the US and the EU system is the more lenient case-by-case assessment practiced by US courts in relation to a more rigid system in the EU level." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-generated_content)


The issue of measurement

OECD:

"Measuring UCC is not straightforward. Several factors complicate such measurement: the decentralised nature of UCC production, the fact that the same UCC content is sometimes accessible on a variety of sites (problem of double-counting), the fact that not all registered users of UCC platforms are actually active users (inactive accounts), the problem of users setting up multiple accounts at the same site (problem counting unique users) and the sometimes difficult distinction between user-created and other content (such as the uploading of clips from copyrighted television shows). The first two factors may lead UCC platforms to overstate the figures about their active unique users. Currently also little official data from National Statistical Offices (NSO) are obtainable concerning the number of users creating content, the amount of such content that exists, the number of users accessing such content and the patterns that are emerging from such creation. NSOs have only started to include such questions in surveys (e.g. the European Union, Japan, Korea, Canada). It may take some time before official national data is available for all OECD countries in an internationally comparable way. Existing data however show that broadband Internet users produce and share content at a high rate and do not merely consume it. All data sources point to large intergenerational differences in web media usage and to considerable gender differences.

Data available from national statistical surveys and the OECD show that the typical online behaviour of Internet users consists of the following activities: mainly search, consulting general interest and portals, using Internet tools and Web services such as email, e-commerce, using sites from software manufacturers, consulting classifieds and participating in auctions, using broadcast media, and financial services (OECD, 2004a; OECD, 2005a).

When data is available on content creation, however, this is shown to be a very popular activity among young age groups. As shown for the European Union in Figure 1, posting messages to chat rooms, newsgroups or forums, using peer-to-peer file sharing sites and creating a webpage the closest yet sometimes imperfect statistical proxies on offer for UCC - are already very popular among Internet users. In countries such as Finland, Norway, Iceland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Hungary and Poland, in 2005 around one third of all Internet users aged 16-74 were engaged in these activities. One-fifth of all Internet users in some OECD countries report having created a webpage. Younger age groups are more active Internet content creators. In countries such as Hungary, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Germany, Poland and Luxembourg (in increasing order), in 2005 between 60 and 70% of Internet users aged 16-24 have posted messages to chat rooms, newsgroups or forums. One-fourth but sometimes half of all Internet users in some OECD countries in that age group have created a webpage. In France, about 37% of teenagers have created a blog.8 In 2005, 13% of Europeans were regularly contributing to blogs and another 12% were downloading podcasts at least once a month (European Commission, 2006)." (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/14/38393115.pdf)

More Information

  1. Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-generated_content
  2. Overview of 2006 UGC developments in the Guardian, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/page/0,,1939196,00.html
  3. John Batelle introduces the different logic of packaged media vs. conversational media, at http://battellemedia.com/archives/003160.php
  4. See the related concept of Crowdsourcing
  5. OECD Study on the Participative Web and User Generated Content [2]