A participatory culture is a culture in which the people who “consume” the culture also help produce it. For instance, folk dancing, home sing-alongs, Instagram, YouTube. A non-participatory culture is one where the culture is produced by elite professionals and the rest of us just consume the culture. For example, television, movies, ads.
The Internet, and computer technology in general, have catapulted us out of the consumer culture of the 20th century into a new world in which participatory culture is becoming the norm.
Participatory culture, as opposed to:
- Old Fashioned Folk culture (participatory, but limited)
- High culture (patronized art, music, writing; bourgeois-sponsored work by professionals)
- (Mass culture/Consumer culture (tv, movies, records, etc, non-participatory)
According to Henry Jenkins, the original and most famous theorist of it, a participatory culture is a culture
- With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
- With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
- With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
- Where members believe that their contributions matter
- Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).
YouTube is perhaps the most obvious example of a place of participatory culture. Other social media sites – Instagram, Tumblr, etc – and other phenomena – open source software, Wikipedia – also fall into this category.
Most folk culture has a participatory component, but high culture and mass culture traditionally do not.