Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [U]

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User-generated Content

Melissa Wall, California State University, Northridge, US

The term ‘User Generated Content’ (UGC) holds an uneasy position within citizen media because of what the phrase itself emphasizes: the person creating the content is positioned as a user. Such terminology appears to suggest that we view unaffiliated individuals producing media content as operators of someone else’s media platform or techniques. That is, while they may be actively generating or creating material, they are not the creator of the enabling device or method but merely making use of it.

Some might argue this is a matter of semantics; however, the very term UGC may be said to lay out limits for those individuals producing media content. Indeed, it often seems to work as neutralizing term that corrals non-professional media content into certain categories and expectations. In this entry, different definitions of UGC from different arenas in which the practices of citizens creating such content may be found are considered. This is followed by an exploration of some key areas of contention associated with the term, including the ways in which it is said to have transformed practices such as those found in journalism, but also the ways professional news and other commercial spheres have tried to routinize such content as part of marketing and other labour saving schemes. Among such questions are: whether UGC is actually a ‘new’ phenomenon; whether UGC is transformative of various spheres of citizen media production, especially but not limited to journalism; and whether views of UGC as a commercial product are its “true” identity.


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Johnston, L. (2017) ‘New Content, New Challenges: UGC use and challenges faced by BBC News journalists covering events in Syria’, in C. Dan and R. Daniel (eds) Reporting The Middle East: Challenges And Chances, Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 61-77.

McKenzie, P., J. Burkell, L. Wong, C. Whippey, S. Trosow, and M. McNally (2012) ‘User-generated Online Content 1: Overview, current state and context’, First Monday, 17(6). DOI:

Nielsen, R. K. (2016) ‘The Many Crises of Western Journalism: A comparative analysis of economic crises, professional crises, and crises of confidence’, J. C. Alexander, E. B. Breese and M. Luengo (eds) The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered: Democratic culture, professional codes, digital future, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 77-97.

Van Dijck, J. (2009) ‘Users Like You? Theorizing agency in user-generated content’, Media, Culture & Society 31(1): 41-58.

Wardle, C. and S. Dubberly (2014) Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content 3. Available online: (last accessed 12 October 2017).

Wunsch-Vincent, S. and G. Vickery (2007) Participative Web and User–created Content: Web 2.0, wikis and social networking, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Paris: OECD. Available online: (last accessed 12 October 2017).