The role of the cultural intermediary within professional participatory communication : lessons from ABC Pool

Hutchinson, Jonathon (2013) The role of the cultural intermediary within professional participatory communication : lessons from ABC Pool. In Participatory Communication Research (PCR) Theme 10 : Empirically-based studies of the professional practice of participatory communication International Association of Media Communication Research (IAMCR), 25-29 June 2013, Dublin, Ireland. (Unpublished)


As media institutions are encouraged to explore new production methodologies in the current economic crisis, they align with Schumpeter’s creative destruction provocation by exhibiting user-led political, organisation and socio-technical innovations. This paper highlights the significance of the cultural intermediary within the innovative, co-creative production arrangements for cultural artefacts by media professionals in institutional online communities. An institutional online community is defined as one that is housed, resourced and governed by commercial or non- commercial institutions and is not independently facilitated. Web 2.0 technologies have mobilised collaborative peer production activities for online content creation and professional media institutions face challenges in engaging participatory audiences in practices that are beneficial for all concerned stakeholders. The interests of those stakeholders often do not align, highlighting the need for an intermediary role that understands and translates the norms, rhetoric tropes and day-to-day activities between the individuals engaging in participatory communication activities for successful negotiation within the production process. This paper specifically explores the participatory relationship between the public service broadcaster (PSB), the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and one of its online communities, ABC Pool ( ABC Pool is an online platform developed and resourced by the ABC to encourage co-creation between audience members engaging in the production of user-generated content (UGC) and the professional producers housed within the ABC Radio Division. This empirical research emerges from a three-year research project where I employed an ethnographic action research methodology and was embedded at the ABC as the community manager of ABC Pool. In participatory communication environments, users favour meritocratic heterarchical governance over traditional institutional hierarchical systems (Malaby 2009). A reputation environment based on meritocracy requires an intermediary to identify the stakeholders, understand their interests and communicate effectively between them to negotiate successful production outcomes (Bruns 2008; Banks 2009). The community manager generally occupies this role, however it has emerged that other institutional production environments also employ an intermediary role under alternative monikers(Hutchinson 2012). A useful umbrella term to encompass the myriad of roles within this space is the cultural intermediary. The ABC has experimented with three institutional online community governance models that engage in cultural intermediation in differing decentralised capacities. The first and most closed is a single point of contact model where one cultural intermediary controls all of the communication of the participatory project. The second is a model of multiple cultural intermediaries engaging in communication between the institutional online community stakeholders simultaneously. The third is most open yet problematic as it promotes and empowers community participants to the level of cultural intermediaries. This paper uses the ABC Pool case study to highlight the differing levels of openness within cultural intermediation during the co-creative production process of a cultural artifact.

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ID Code: 64230
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Cultural intermediation, co-creation, ABC Pool, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Community manager
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Media, Entertainment & Creative Arts
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Jonathon Hutchinson
Deposited On: 12 Nov 2013 04:35
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2013 10:50

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