‘Produser’ or consumer? Perceptions of disability.

In recent times the binary between producer and consumer has been broken down. With the advent of the internet, the digital citizen no longer ‘passively consumes’ information but rather uses “tools” which “operat[e] in cultural contexts” (Jenkins 2015, pg.12). This is what Jenkins terms “participatory culture,” which in turn gives rise to “participatory communities” (Jenkins 2015, pg. 12). Ellis recognises the need for the image of disability to be “more active-rather than passive” (2014, pg.2). The images of disabled as “someone in a ‘wheelchair’” (Ellis 2014, pg.1) is an example of how the “key ideas and beliefs about normalcy…pervade and structure media” (Ellis 2014, pg.9). Indeed, the digital public ‘consumes’ this perception of disability, which “stigmatize[s] rather than liberate[s]” (Ellis 2014, pg.17). The concept of ‘inspiration porn’ is an example of ‘passive consumption’ of harmful stereotypes. Inspiration porn includes the “representation of disability as a form of disadvantage that can be overcome for the titillation of…observers” (Grue 2016, pg.838). This ‘disabled’ archetype objectifies the lifestyle of the disabled population, “devalu[ing] and mystif[ying] their place in the world” (Grue 2016, pg.840). The online sphere empowers disabled people, allowing them to break away from the perceptions encoded by media practices such as ‘inspiration porn.’ The ‘prosumer’ transcends the placid consumer, into a digital citizen who “use[s] the internet, social and mobile media to…create…new spaces and styles of participation” (Ellis et al. 2015, pg.80). Disabled individuals have a digital platform to express and create an identity which is concurrent with their lived reality, as opposed to the trivialised and one-dimensional archetypes created by ‘inspiration porn.’ The “online crowd-sourced funding” (Ellis et al. 2015, pg.84) of the television show ‘My Gimpy Life,’ is an example of the participatory communities which are ‘enabled’ by the internet. The show centres on the life of Sherer, a disabled individual trying to make her way into Hollywood. The fact that the show’s medium is as a ‘web series,’ is evidence of the prominence of the ‘prosumer’ in the modern age, and how a divergence from “mainstream distributors” (Ellis et al. 2015, pg.84) gives autonomy to disabled communities as ‘enabled’ digital citizens.

References:

  • Ellis, K & Goggin, G (2015): “Disability Media Participation: Opportunities, Obstacles and Politics”, Media International Australia, v154n1, pp 178-88.
  • Ellis, K (2014), Introduction: Why does disability matter for media?, Basingstoke : Palgrave
  • Grue, J (2016): “The problem with inspiration porn: a tentative definition and a provisional critique”, Disability & Society, 31 No.6, pp. 838-849
  • Jenkins, H., Ito, M., & boyd, d. 2015, ‘Defining Participatory Culture’, in Participatory Culture in a Networked Era: A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics, Polity, Chapter 1.

 

 

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