Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Death to User-Generated Content

Dear internet,

Can I make a suggestion? Let’s all stop using the phrase “user-generated content.” I’m serious. It’s a despicable, terrible term. Let’s deconstruct it.

User: One who uses. Like, you know, a junkie.

Generated: Like a generator, engine. Like, you know, a robot.

Content: Something that fills a box. Like, you know, packing peanuts.

So what’s user-generated content? Junkies robotically filling boxes with packing peanuts. Lovely.

Calling the beautiful, amazing, brilliant things people create online “user-generated content” is like sliding up to your lady, putting your arm around her and whispering, “Hey baby, let’s have intercourse.”

They’re words that creepy marketeers use. They imply something to be commodified, harvested, taken advantage of. They’re words I used to hear a lot while doing community consulting, and always by people who wanted to make, or save, a buck.

Think about the rest of the world. Writers produce stories or articles. Authors write fiction or memoir. These are words infused with meaning and romance. Can you imagine a writer saying “I am a content provider” when asked what they do?

Lately the notion that the web is about “user-generated content” has been getting more traction. With the success of MySpace and Flickr, pundits are looking for a trend. And they’ve found one in this hateful phrase. But “user-generated content” is nothing new online. In fact, it’s what the network was designed for.

So let’s not give in to the buzzphrase du jour. Let’s use the real words. Those people posting to Amazon pages? They’re writing reviews. Those folks on Flickr? They’re making photographs. And if we must have an umbrella term to describe the whole shebang, I have a suggestion. Try this on for size: Authentic Media.

Authentic media comes to you unfiltered by the global brands and conglomerates that have taken over the mainstream media. Authentic media is the raw, first-person narrative you can find on blogs and homepages. Authentic media is what happens when the mediators get out of the way and give the mic over to the people who actually have something to say.

The best part about this phrase? It paints the rest of the mediascape as inauthentic. I can live with that.


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Hi, I’m Derek. I make awesome community-centric web stuff. I sometimes post things to Instagram and Twitter. I’m mostly harmless. More.





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