While I was reading about upcoming plans for television projects, I saw that MTV is launching a variety of new series, one of which is being called Scarred. The series will be in the style of those syndicated programs which air people doing dangerous stunts and filming themselves while doing them, often unintentionally. MTV's version, hosted by Papa Roach will feature videos of terrible injuries and the like.
Chris Pursell emphasizes that this is the first MTV show featuring exclusively user-generated content, although I'm sure the network-produced Papa Roach won't hurt ratings any.
Nevertheless, that had me thinking about the "buzz phrase" of "user-generated content." I won't launch into a diatribe now, but I think the danger over the past few months has been in making "user-generated content" such an overused term that it starts to sound like a fad rather than new expressions of a long-standing part of the entertainment industry.
User activity, interactivity, and user-created properties that add value to a media property have long been a part of television, radio, literature, and myriad other media formats. Call-in requests on the radio, fan fiction, fan commentary, interactive storytelling of various sorts--all are more active and conversational forms of interaction with fans that values user input in meaningful ways.
That's not to say that user-generated videos are not becoming more prevalent because of new technologies allowing them to be featured because they obviously are. But that doesn't mean we should treat shows featuring user-generated content as if they are that novel.
America's Funniest Home Videos and a long tradition of shows like it were established in the same premise of Scarred, particularly with building largely on user-generated content, with a celebrity personality of some sort hosting.
That's not to diminish Scarred being the first solely user-generated program on the MTV network, but one shouldn't get caught up in the hyperbole to think that MTV, or most of the other major organizations, are only now learning of user-generated content.
The thing is that the industry itself is getting caught up in this frenzy and sometimes treating consumer-generated media as a fad. However, I think that realizing the precursors to the modern "user-generated" phenomenon helps us make more sense of the drive for shows like Scarred.
Don't know if Scarred will be a success, but the drive for incorporating user-generated content into television program has been--and will continue to be--a growing part of the television equation.
MTV Networks is one of the corporate partners in the Convergence Culture Consortium, but no one at MTVN was consulted during the writing of this entry.