Leveraging Participatory Culture

Welcome to “Another Day in DMS”! 

Here is our blog question for the week: 

In what ways can you, as a professional, leverage (use to best advantage) participatory culture?

Welcome to Another Day in DMS,

Today we will be discussing Participatory Culture, and how this concept can be professionally leveraged to one’s advantage.

A number of sources will be analysed to understand the best way professionals can use participatory culture within their respective fields.

Specifically, we will try to understand the advantages of participatory culture within the Legal Profession.

Participatory culture

Source: Google Images

As with a participatory democracy, a participatory culture is one in which the audience acts not as a receiver, but as a citizen, participating in the tapestry of media life, as a part of their growing techno culture (Brand, 2016).

In other words, it is a cultural condition where people are happy to interact and engage online with each other and with mainstream media sources.

As Willis (2003) said, in such a culture, “people creatively respond to a plethora of electronic signals and cultural commodities in ways that surprise their makers, finding meanings and identities never meant to be there and defying simple nostrums that bewail the manipulation or passivity of ‘consumers’.”

Such a culture is dependent on a networked society and interactive media but it also of consideration that much of the effect of such a culture is related to the interaction and participation of its audience.

Mayfield (2006) investigated the interaction between participation and interaction and found that interactivity does not necessarily mean participation.

In other words, you can interact on a high level without participating at a high level.

Mayfield researched this under his ‘power law of participation’, whereas low participation amounts to collective intelligence and high engagement (interaction) provides a different form of collaborative intelligence.

Mayfield’s ‘Power Law of Participation’ (2006). 

One of the main catalysts for the growth of participatory culture is the Internet. The access it provides to resources is unparalleled, allowing people to work collaboratively and generate new ideas and concepts from existing information.

This allows for astounding levels of participation and interactivity. Jenkins (2009) researched this and described a participatory culture as one:

  1. With low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.
  2. With support for sharing one’s creations with others.
  3. With informal mentorship whereby what is known by the experienced is shared.
  4. Where members believe their contributions matter. And,
  5. Where members feel a degree of social connection with others.
Quote on Participatory Culture (Henry Jenkins). 

When considering this profound participatory landscape, where ‘recording devices transmit vivid images around the world, crisscrossing high-speed communications networks for shared viewing’ (Starobin, 2009), it is inconceivable that if there had been personal cameras in Auschwitz during WWII, would the world have permitted the holocaust to go ahead? (Starobin, 2009).

David Gergen, a CNN political analyst who worked in multiple US presidential administrations said that such a culture or landscape would have allowed the world at the time to “understand the face of evil”. This is therefore a realistic and effective example of the power of a participatory culture.

Participatory culture in the legal profession

Source: Google Images

Such an impactful theoretical concept has significant applications in the legal profession.

Specifically, it is the reception and impactful interactivity with widely advertised legal cases that is the main niche of participatory culture within the Law.

In other words, the coverage and subsequent engagement of legal issues is higher than ever due to social media and participatory culture; there has been an increasing of awareness in legal issues, due to the accessibility of legal information both through journalistic coverage and through social media.

It is also possible for the law to provide support for participatory culture. Areas such as intellectual property and copyright law can be used as a safety net for citizens creating online material diverged from legal content. Intellectual property law could therefore “promote democratic participation in the making of culture” (Sunder, n.d.).

How to leverage it in the legal profession

Increased awareness of legal issues and scenarios creates its own participatory culture and provides a unique opportunity for legal professionals to harness the content created by members of this participatory culture to angle their individual approach and attitudes to be able to attract more clients, and subsequently, more revenue.

It would also be best to create more transparent and accessible intellectual property and copyright legal advice to content creators within the legal participatory culture.

It is up to the individual lawyers to be careful about their digital footprint with any online activity they partake in about a case, including any news reports, as these can be used by members of legal participatory cultures to harness their collaborative intelligence to generate their own divergent content.


Therefore, participatory culture is prevalent in our current techno culture, with its popularity set to grow as more online media participants become part of a citizen audience of content creators through the increasing de-regulation of information available online.

Such a culture is common in modern legal systems and there are ways to harness it to benefit legal professionals, both financially and reputationally.

To conclude, it is exactly “because culture is so influential in shaping our world and ourselves that individual rights to debate it and participate in its making are imperative.” (Sunder, n.d.).


AZ Quotes,. Henry Jenkins Quotes. Retrieved from http://www.azquotes.com/picture-    quotes/quote-participatory-culture-shifts-the-focus-of-literacy-from-one-of-   individual-expression-henry-jenkins-76-36-96.jpg

Brand, J. (2016). Citizen Audiences and Participatory Culture. Lecture, Bond University.

Flew, T. (2005). New media. South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press.

Gamific.TV,. (2014). Power law of participation. Retrieved from    http://res.cloudinary.com/gamific-tv/image/upload/jaq19xkywe

Interactivity. (2016). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 30 October 2016, from   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactivity

Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture. Cambridge,           MA: The MIT Press. Citizen journalism. (2016). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 30 October 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_journalism

Lee, D. (2016). Participatory Culture | David Lee. Retrieved from   http://sites.psu.edu/dlee0014/wp-content/uploads/sites/38100/2016/03/PC1.jpg

Mayfield, R. (2006). Power Law of Participation. Ross Mayfield’s Weblog. Retrieved 30 October 2016, from http://ross.typepad.com/blog/2006/04/power_law_of_pa.html

Participatory culture. (2016). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 30 October 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_culture

Slideshare,. (2009). Participatory Culture – A Crash Course. Retrieved from           http://image.slidesharecdn.com/participatoryculture-acrashcourse-090428071505-phpapp02/95/participatory-culture-a-crash-course-1-728.jpg?cb=1240961368

Starobin, P. (2009). In New Media, Image Is Still Everything. National Journal, 1.

Sunder, M. IP: The Case for Participatory Culture. University of California, Davis            School of Law.

Willis, P. (2003). Foot Soldiers of Modernity: The Dialectics of Cultural Consumption and the 21st-Century School. Harvard Educational Review, 73(3), 392. http://dx.doi.org/10.17763/haer.73.3.0w5086336u305184


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