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Kimo BashaTerm Paper

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Evolution of Culture Industry

As Jenkins points out, new media reveals paradoxical trends in the culture industry. On the one hand, both artist and consumer have the potential to be self-empowered and bypass corporate domains of media production, distribution, and promotion. On the other hand, corporate media conglomerates are devouring new media. The basic mechanisms by which new media work have remained the same on the surface, even after media conglomeration and increased monopolization. For example, independent new media stars like Kimo Basha champion their rights to control their content, branding, and distribution through mechanisms like crowdsourcing. Yet Kimo Basha and his fellow new media mavens might not have considered the mechanisms by which intellectual property rights work from the YouTube standpoint. As Ross points out, YouTube and other corporate new media place controls over the intellectual property and creative content available and accessible on its servers. This limits the control Kimo Basha and others have on their brand and especially on the revenues that might derive from that brand. The "behind the scenes contact hosts" are creating a new type of "asymmetrical deal" that is not new in the world of media (Ross 19). The most fruitful method of analyzing the problems with digital media and the culture industry is a Marxist and Marxist-feminist perspective. Viewed in terms of valuation of labor, the culture industry maintains and reflects inequitable power distribution.

Just as the telegraph heralded a new negotiation of relationships between media and industry, and between communications and the "invisible hand" of the market, so too does new media embody a seemingly dichotomous state of affairs. New media, like the telegraph, separates the medium from the message. Yet the medium has become increasingly monopolized, in spite of idealistic views to the contrary. In an interview, Kimo Basha states, "twenty years ago creative industries were 'monopolized' and controlled by a small few, but now everyone has access." In a sense, he is correct. Everyone has access to YouTube, which is remarkably different from having access to network news. Everyone also had access to telegraph. The problem is that creative content is not the means of production. Only when creative artists like Kimo Basha evolve creative control over their branding and become willing to divorce themselves from YouTube by potentially learning coding can true independence become possible. Like Kimo Basha says, YouTube "means everything" and is the "number one platform for every artist." Hence, YouTube has become the very same type of monopoly artists used to rail against. Only those artists who know the deeper issues behind coding and the creation of content-driven platforms can they own the means of production. Until then, artists will only retain a modicum of control. An analogy can be made with the AOL purchase of the Huffington Post. Ross notes that when AOL purchased the Huffington Post, the bloggers who had been producing content were essentially stranded, leading to a labor strike. They had believed themselves to have been liberated from the constraints of old media, but found themselves in the same position they would have been all along. The "invisible hand" of the market works through new media just as readily as it does through old media.

New media and the culture industry rely on a new valuation system. Wages have been replaced by popularity indexes and measures such as followers on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. Andrejevic describes "being watched" as having "value-generating labor," (231). Indeed, Kimo Basha agrees on the inherent and intrinsic value of being watched, being loved, feeling admired, and being popular even before he was a YouTube star. "Since I was kid I used to like to entertain people and when I entertain people and they upload that gave me a very satisfying and self-rewarding feeling," he states. With labor being reassessed, the Marxist standpoint becomes more important in terms of power than wages. Ultimately, Kimo Basha hopes to be a "multimillionaire" through his art, but the only means by which he can achieve this goal is through ownership of the means of production. Attention and popularity do not pay bills, even if they might lead to temporary revenue-generation such as through the advertisements sold through affiliate programs. Creative marketing mechanisms can also help, but Kimo Basha would need to diversify his distribution portfolio, which he is admittedly doing by using more than one social media platform. The goal is branding. Moreover, Kimo Basha is trained in film production. Theoretically, if he no longer had access to YouTube, he could still produce his own videos and distribute them using whatever channels seemed viable to him within the culture industry. The artist does in fact retain power, even when it seems that only the conglomerates own the means of production. In this sense, YouTube becomes what Ross calls the "low hanging circuits of Internet self-exposure," (18). Beyond those low hanging circuits are the more valuable methods of content creation and media ownership, such as individuals who learn coding and can therefore retain total control over the distribution of their message.

Kimo Basha produces content for free, receiving payment via advertising and sponsorship agreements. His goals are both financial and social in nature, with an overarching goal to become an influencer and a leader as well as an artist. "I believe that fame will give me the power to influence people," he states. In particular, Kimo Basha is interested in eliminating racism. His ambitions contradict somewhat what Ross states about new media being "facilitators, not causes, of changing social forces," (16). However, Ross's statement refers more to the conglomerates themselves, like YouTube, than to artists. The media content Kimo Basha produces is free from a wages perspective, but can be turned into fiscal value through the advertisements and sponsorships. The relationship between Kimo Basha and sponsors is not new, but actually reflects old media exploitation. As Ross points out, reality stars actors have different pay structures with reality stars banking on their fame and the value it might generate through advertisements and sponsorships. They have no actual power, though, and cannot have access to the means of production in a direct way. Yet Kimo Basha does not see himself as being exploited; quite the opposite. He views his model as being a liberated one in which individuals have free reign over their creative expression. As Kimo Basha puts it, "You can express yourself without having big corporates with political systematic bullshit to control you. You get the chance to show your talent and people get to see you directly." The artist is in control of the message, and consumers are in control over what they choose to see.

Unfortunately, consumers are also not as empowered as they seem to be. Just as Kimo Basha might have an overly idealistic view of how new media works, so too might the new media consumer. Privacy has become an algorithm related to the exploitation of consumer data in databases collected without consumer consent, which is why consumers must opt-out. The corporate control of consumer data shows that new media models of control and exploitation are no different from old media models. Andrejevic mentions the "increasing economic exploitation of comprehensive forms of consumer monitoring" on social media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter (231). The consumer can choose the "channel" of information, and click through to desired artist content, but the consumer cannot choose what information is tabulated, when, how, and for what purposes. Not only that, but also the consumer has no financial compensation for the valuable data.

Kimo Basha would say that the new media model empowers creators and consumers far more the old media model for several reasons. First, Kimo Basha states that old media conglomerates used overt barriers and methods of control. Kimo Basha could not have become famous without YouTube because he would have had to have been accepted into the corporate sphere. Anyone can post their content on YouTube, and with a little self-promotion starting with friends, a person can generate sufficient clicks and likes to become a sensation. In this way, the creative people are empowered because they can do or say what they want.

Second, Kimo Basha admits to being materialistic while at the same time recognizing that there are more important goals in art than making money. New media is therefore Marxist in nature in that the worker is deeply invested in and empowered by the labor. Being connected to the most fundamental aspects of the means of production, as Kimo Basha is as a filmmaker, the artist subverts the capitalist system. Value is derived not from wage earnings but from personal satisfaction. It is "satisfying and self-rewarding" to receive the attention he feels he deserves as an artist, and these intangible rewards can be translated into financial gains that are meaningful rather than being exploitative.

Third, Even when an artist is exploited by the new media conglomerates in what Kimo Basha calls the "three for them one for you" model, the artist still benefits from… [END OF PREVIEW]

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