A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about an online community for gypsies and travellers called Savvy Chavvy. It got me thinking about the influence, and to a certain extent the power, of mainstream media. In some ways entertainment media these days can seem to be even more powerful than the news, which in the past, represented many people’s main source of news and information.
Today there is a whole new generation who consume news and media in an entirely different way… Infotainment. That is to say information combined with entertainment. This is a fun and interesting medium to gain news and information from, and with some 9 million viewers it’s definitely popular. The problem however, is when the entertainment factor begins to overtake the information factor.
I believe we have seen this in “documentaries” like Channel 4 ‘s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. Dare I call them ‘mock-umentaries’? They are interesting and new, but surely they cannot be compared with a traditional journalistic documentary.
What I have found from research on many social networking sites is that these programmes generate a great amount of conversation and online. If you #BFGW there are references not only to the programmes themselves but to an entirely new social reference. This reference from what I have gathered seems to be on the whole quite negative.
Many people are beginning to associate negative, laughable, and stereotyped behaviour with the gypsy way of life portrayed on the programme. The problem is that this programme is not representative of all traveller and gypsy communities. By creating a programme so dedicated to entertainment over information, C4 have created an extremely entertaining show, but a show that may have pigeon-holed an entire marginalised community.
These people are not happy about this as can be seen from the outbreak at an RTS meeting yesterday..
The people in marginalised communities, now when I say marginalised I don’t just mean gypsies and travellers. We’re talking about prisoners, ex-prisoners, disabled people etc… are starting to use platforms to have their side of the story heard using user generated content.
I talked to Matt Grimes about the importance of online communities like Savvy Chavvy and the content they are producing…
Matt told me that these UGC platforms can:
- empower marginalised communities
- bring marginalised communities closer together regardless of physical distance
- counter the media’s pre-established ‘agenda’
- allow these communities to address issues covered in mainstream media
- create a space for people to learn more about these communities from the real people who live in them
For More you can visit the links in the post or there’s more in these ones:
By Kirsty Malcolm @kirstymalcolm