Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The year of the digital citizen-consumer, continued..

Yet more turn of the year past- and future-gazing , emphasising the idea that consumers are now as likely to be participatory citizens and producers of digital products, as passive recipients of services. Blogging, podcasting, and vlogging - video blogging - all get approving nods - as does the new Center for Citizen Media.

"Crucially, what 2005 proved was that far from these techno tools being purely dumb funnels for the same paid-for content from mainstream media, they had the chance to become powerful tools for political expression and reportage.

The consumer was turning into the citizen with a meaningful role to play. Media started to look more participatory and inclusive.

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 starkly showed the potential of these tools. Most of the memories of that day have been graphically captured, replayed and played again, making the event much more immediate and personal.

Later in the year, the 7 July London bombings and the hurricanes in the US forced home the fact that citizens had a much larger role in the production of news than ever before. "

This slightly more cynical commentator wonders if there may be downsides for the on line empowered consumer. What about consumer protection law? it tends to assume a disparity of power between creators/retailers/publishers and consumers. Will there be the same force behind arguments for strong consumer protection laws on line in the WEU when consumers are seen as active not passive?

One hard question here is what might happen, in various jurisdcitions, if an EBay buyer claimed consumer protection in a contract gone badly wrong. Would such a person still be characterised as "consumer" if they were sometimes or mostly an EBay seller? Hmmm.

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