Participatory Culture

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.


An ERD/M or Entity Relationship Diagram/Model is a graphical representation of entities and their relationships to each other.

In the context of websites, it is the logical process of the user navigating through a series of processes that are linked together, but can only be processed in one direction, for example:


A single shopper can buy many items, and parallel to this, many items can only be bought by a single shopper.

Continuing from this, many items can have many prices, but each individual price must be contributed to a single item.

In light of this I created a diagram for an on line recipe book that each user can upload multiple recipes, and each recipe can have multiple pictures and comments, but each comment and picture cannot exist without the recipe entity existing first, this creates the idea of “crows feet”, logical lines that extend into one (or many) entities, but can only travel in one direction.


The logic behind ERD’s is quite confusing as there are multiple definitions for the same things in different contexts, for example the primary (_id) key in the user entity is also the foreign (_id) key in the recipe entity, and so on and so forth. A user entity can exist without a recipe entity, but a recipe entity cannot exist without a user entity, the same for pictures and comments, a user would not be able to post a comment or a picture without having a recipe to post it to.


On Wikimedia right now there is a photo competition on curves and spirals, to upload an image to the competition you have to actually edit the HTML of the page with an image already uploaded to the Wikimedia server, it then provides you with the file name on the database and you can copy and paste it into the HTML of the competition page for your submission to appear on the page.

IMG_3682 uploadimage1

I am not used to this type of submission, usually containing a clear ‘upload’ button.

The fact anyone can edit the page as well makes the idea of a fair community a massive priority on Wikimedia, as someone can just delete anything from the page, obviously there are moderators but you could in theory change anything about the page and if no one ever moderated then it could say anything.

Contrast – Academic paper vs review: Runescape

An MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, is exactly that. Thousands of people over hundreds of servers, all fighting, questing and trading, together.

The inclusion of a game wide economic system with real time price changes, has prompted a study on the ‘Real Economics in Virtual Worlds’ (download only), this compares the history of monetary value in the real world to the inclusion of it in Runescape and other MMORPG’s. The similarities of the economy in Runescape “bear characteristics of flat money.” Flat money being a currency that isn’t supported by a ‘Standard’ (usually Gold), like the Pound here in the UK.

The academic paper observes characteristics of the game in contrast to real life, but it is not bias, there is no inclusion of whether or not the author of the academic paper likes or dislikes the game, as that is not relevant. Whereas a review, balanced or otherwise, is an opinion. a single persons view on the general aspects of the game, not relating it to the real world, but rather an escape from it. Which is rather ironic, seeing as many aspects of it are so similar to real life.

The review is about a ‘Returning player’s review of Runescape 3’ (Runescape has seen a number of massive overhauls completely revamping most aspects of the game, (as a player back in 2007 of ‘Runescape 2’, Runescape 3 is almost unrecognizable.)


There are positives and negatives to academic papers and reviews, but the personal, relatable form in which reviews are written makes them easier and more engaging than the very distant, formal layout of the academic paper.

Can’t use the review in an essay though.

Design Analysis – Constructing the Poster Part 2

The finished version of the poster, compared with most other art projects ever taken up, has stuck to the key parts of one of the original ideas.

EPSON MFP image meteor map a2

Originally, the lines pointing to each meteor were going to be erased before the final version, but very quickly it became difficult to see exactly what year (apprx) each meteor impacted.

The starry background with light purples and oranges gives the illusion of an atmosphere and highlights the meteors, while the deep blues and greens of the earth compliment the background colours. The text naturally bends around the earth as if entering its orbit and the clusters of lines make it easy to see even from a distance the extent of meteor impacts in a certain era. Obviously to appreciate the poster fully it must be viewed in A2 size, which is a major drawback when designing as I can’t get a full size view of the image and must zoom in to check if individual parts of the image were correct, especially the individual meteor text, and not being able to see the text when fully zoomed out.

Perhaps a zoomed in section of the graph highlighting a smaller section with smaller intervals would have been helpful with the more recent meteors, although the lines are effective at locating an individual meteor, it does get clustered when there are meteors one or two years apart, placing them on a timeline with 150 million year intervals isn’t going to be as accurate

Overall I am pleased with the result, it does look professional to a standard and is effective at broadcasting the knowledge otherwise on a table ( creatively and aesthetically.

Full size meteor map

Design Analysis – Constructing the Poster Part 1

Designing the poster came with some key decisions, one of those decisions was whether or not to group the meteors by country

quickplan1 quickplan2

Very rough example sketches.

However grouping the meteors only by size meant a gradient could be formed which looks much more aesthetically pleasing than if grouped by country, especially as some countries only have one meteor impact, and others like Canada have many.

Presenting the meteors on the graph got difficult when lots of meteors impacted around the same time, as the text put next to the meteors would be very clustered and confusing.

To solve this issue, lines were introduced to clearly show which meteor belonged to each set of text

meteor map section2

With the bigger meteors there was room to be creative with meteor placements, as they impacted much less frequently. It also gave me the opportunity to add extra facts about the three biggest meteors, and increase the size of the biggest and second biggest meteors for even clearer explanation.

meteor map section

For the font I was also indecisive, I chose Impact as it is thinner and easier on the eyes than a more wide text

meteor map section3 Comparison of the two possible texts, and why Impact is better suited due to its sharp edges and blunt curves, gives the image a more space oriented atmosphere.

Design Analysis – Image Trace

During the illustrator workshops an extremely useful tool called image traced was introduced, this has the power to convert bitmaps into vector graphics for infinite scalability.

meteor meteorvec

The difference between the two is very minimal, almost barely noticeable; but the power of infinite scalability far outweighs the slight cartoon feel to the vector.


The Earth itself had a more dramatic effect but nonetheless just as or if not more effective visually.

The numbering system for the graph was a fairly challenging part of the process, as it needs to be visually appealing and not too distracting from the image, but sensible enough to accurately show when the meteor hit earth.graph The graph.

The graph goes up in 150 million year intervals, meaning it only took 19 intervals to comfortably cover the entire spectrum of meteors (the first one was 2650 million years ago)

The graph will be slightly transparent on the background the further draw attention away from the complicated lines.


In hindsight, perhaps 2 graphs could have been used as there are many more meteors recorded less than 150 million years ago than any other time period and this could look cramped on the poster.

Design Analysis – Next steps

After the initial designs, the idea of the planet being the actual graph changed into the planet being what the graph was based around. This was due to the space lecture and the example by


This inspired me to concept a new idea with the meteors heading towards earth on a graph, the further away the meteor the older it is.


This concept made more of a visual impact than the first one as now the user can see the meteors travelling to earth instead of the impacts they left. It will also be easier to show travelling meteors on a timeline than providing individual information about each countries meteors.  In the drawing, the plan was to overlay a countries flag onto the meteors of that country, but I decided to scrap this due to the problems with the smaller meteors.

Design Analysis – Initial ideas

The A2 communications brief is a very broad task with countless ways to reach a successful final product, however I leaned towards the question “How many documented meteor impacts have there been?” quite quickly as I believe it will be the most visually appealing question to build on. With the social media question, often colour palettes are limited due to the association of certain colours with social media apps (blue for Facebook, yellow for Snapchat etc) and other questions like the online shopping one just plain don’t interest me. Having done space related digital art before it seemed like the best and most logical option.

I started with rough initial drawings of a possible pie chart-like graph, with the planet as the chart and ‘slices’ of countries with the number of meteor impacts shown as ‘dents’ in the slice.


Then the meteors would be grouped by age with a visual representation of a beard and or walking stick


While this is a good starting point, I feel as if it is fairly comical and will be difficult to implement on to the smaller meteors in the poster; and the idea of using circles for the meteors may be wrong as the background of the poster will be stars and the circles may get lost in that.

Next step is to move onto Illustrator.

Task 4 – Kinetic Typography

Task 4 was extremely enjoyable and very satisfying after hours of work, taking a piece of speech and creatively subtitling it using layer-by-layer words synced up with the audio track.

Actually very proud of my first attempt, maybe slight timing issues but pleased nonetheless.


A massive amount of layers goes in to the piece as every word needs to be animated seperately


Then each layer is selected and positioned on the timeline, the longer the rectangle, the longer the object stays in frame.


The time it takes to animate each word and just to get everything done in general was the biggest difficulty, going back and having to listen and watch over and over (and over) again from the beginning of the RAM preview to see if one word is on screen for a split second longer than it should be as it finished a fraction before the audio and it just doesn’t sit right in your brain until its in sync. Perhaps in hindsight the word placement is quite messy, distracting from the military tone of the speech. Also I feel I could have developed the pictures accompanying the words, link them together or animate them, or perhaps add some movement to the text itself. Finally, how some of the main keyboard shortcuts do not translate over adobe cs6 (ctrl+alt+drag does not constrain the dimensions when resizing an image) leaving me completely in the dark about that kind of stuff, I do not want to keep hopping from photoshop to after effects every time I resize an image.