The fact is that the new media paradigm wouldn’t be possible without an already existant brand-saturated culture. In other words, the vast majority of user-generated content – the volume with which YouTube, MySpace, etc depend upon to maintain some future – is built up around the “branding” of the people involved. Reviews, comments, demonstrations, novelty sneak-peeks, even “what I like” lists… We define ourselves according to what we buy, what we watch and what we listen to, and so our communications, and our “social indicators” (i.e. things that say “who will like me?”) reflect this utterly.
Up to a point I would have to agree with this scepticism, in the sense that a large amount of user-generated content could be as derivative from ‘old media’ content. However I can think of two responses to this. The first, an old media studies argument, is that it doesn’t necessarily follow from the basically parasitic nature of ‘fan culture’ that nothing interesting, creative or original is going on there. Bands and brands (or bands as brands) can be seen as providing contexts for conversations that are not solely defined or limited by those contexts.
The second response is that the fact that user-generated content is both coexisting and interacting with ‘big’ media doesn’t necessarily stop it from representing a genuinely new form of media: new media forms often seem to sit alongside old media forms without entirely replacing them. If the criterion for a form of media to be recognised as radical or a new paradigm is that it be a total break with existing cultural forms and conventions then we could be waiting for a very long time….