Participatory culture is the essence of creating an experience in which the users themselves produce the body of content that is viewed on a piece of digital media.
A good example of this is of course Facebook; Users post pieces of media on to their own or their ‘friends’ ‘walls’, which in turn creates a network of posts that mutual friends can see and so on and so forth until there is an exploding database of peoples personal thoughts, opinions and ideas; participatory culture at its very core.
This culture not only takes its form socially, but academically as well. Wikipedia, or any ‘Wiki’ page, is a collection of content on a specific (or general) subject, and can range from the Jurassic to the Quantum. The most collaborative part of a Wiki is that anyone (some may have permission systems to limit spam content) has the ability to add, edit or delete any part of the Wiki, rendering it effectively owner-less.
Obviously there are certain issues that arise such as reliability and continuity, perhaps a certain user is uneducated in both sides of a story, and their input jeopardises the integrity of the article. Also the idea of an open source vat of information free to access is effectively ‘illegal’ Lawrence Lessig writes in his (obviously free) book ‘Free Culture‘ “Web sites that offer plot summaries from forgotten television shows; sites that catalog cartoons from the 1960s; sites that mix images and sound to criticize politicians or businesses; sites that gather newspaper articles on remote topics of science or culture.There is a vast amount of creative work spread across the Internet. But as the law is currently crafted, this work is presumptively illegal” (long quote sorry but gets point across).
Participatory culture in one form or another will be heavily involved in our group project, and a good starting point is looking at well rounded examples and how we can take an interesting approach to it.