Participatory Cultures

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Aaron Delwiche and Jennifer Jacobs Henderson:

"We would now suggest there are three primary kinds of participatory cultures: consensus cultures, creative cultures, and discussion cultures. While we acknowledge these are fuzzy categories, they do offer a structure for thinking about what it means to participate. We believe the nature of participatory cultures shifts just as it does in real world settings where cultures are shaped by venue, topic, participants, and interest level. The most traditionally “productive” participatory cultures are often consensus cultures, or agreement-based. They frequently reside in the realm of “work” where there is a goal or outcome to be met. Something must be completed or solved or fixed. These could easily be subdivided into expert cultures where people with specialized knowledge join together to leverage the power of collective intelligence and democratic cultures where “average citizens” do the same thing. In the book, chapters about CERN and crisis mapping tend to the former while those about participatory budgeting tend to the latter.

Creative cultures are those in which participants are encouraged to create, share, and comment all within a safe and supportive environment. Remix cultures live in this space, as do art and writing cultures. The creative portion of fan cultures reside here – the fan fiction and fan-art sub-sites, for example. In these spaces, participants are passionate about their creativity and the topics that spur those passions. They are often lifers, who join a culture and stick with it.

Discussion cultures are ones where a topic rather than an outcome is at the heart of participation. Sports fandoms, news sites, and food blogs all fall within the realm of discussion cultures. Here, we often see more disagreement than support with participants engaging in sometimes heated, often real-time, exchanges on topics of personal and professional interest. Participants in discussion cultures are not always long-time residents; they often roam from site to site as they chase the topic." (

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Henry Jenkins interviews the authors at