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[Essay] UCC (User Created Contents)

   In our so-called Information Technology (IT) society, places to share culture and ideas are not just limited to the outer world, but the web space has become critical in terms of exchanging our cultural products. We’re no longer merely receivers of information on the Internet, but act as providers at firsthand. In the center of this tendency, there is UCC. UCC is the abbreviation of User Created Contents, which means contents that are made by general online users. Time magazine selected ‘YOU’ as person of the year in 2006, and it indicates that ‘WE’ have become very influential in media and IT fields. UCC has become a new cultural trend that spreads all over the world, and Internet users of the United States and Korea are both actively making their UCC and posting online. Most Americans use You Tube, which is America’s representative portal site of UCC, and Korea has similar sites such as Pandora TV and Mncast. When we compare You Tube and Korean UCC sites, we can find some similarities and differences.
   First of all, since utilizing a computer is very universal, the way these websites work is just about the same. The websites provide video-sharing service that lets users upload files to the servers, where they are available online. With the exception of content that is offensive or illegal, videos can be animations, footage of public events, personal recordings of friends—virtually anything a user wants to post. Videos can be informational, entertaining, persuasive, or purely personal. One of an emerging class of social applications, these sites allow users to post and tag videos, watch those posted by others, post comments in a threaded discussion format, search for content by keyword or category, and create and participate in topical groups. Moreover, users can view profiles of individuals who have posted of commented on videos, see their favorite videos, and contact them. Sharing UCC as cultural products is definitely faster and easier than doing as an ‘analogue’ in the past.
   You Tube and Korean UCC sites like Mncast are free, though people who want to post videos or comments must register and create a profile. After they register, people can upload whatever movies they want to post. Then, there we can find a noticeable difference between You Tube and Mncast in terms of what Americans and Koreans like to post and share with others (I chose Mncast among Korean UCC sites to compare). Most Korean people use the sites like Mncast just for fun. Especially many Korean Net generations use Mncast to upload movies of their favorite singers, which they actually took as a film. It is one of Korean youths’ cultures that young people in America don’t’ really have. Korean youths are likely to share their fan culture with others through the Internet, and this tendency is reflected on UCC. UCC is likely to exist just for a pleasure in Korea.
   Many young Americans, however, use You Tube as a way to actually be someone professional. Since America has such a large territory, it is not easy to go from sate like California to New York. In this situation, the Internet is a very useful space for Americans. People who dream of being producers, directors, or journalists share their videos on You Tube and gauge responses from the community. They don’t actually have to go somewhere to do this. A budding reporter posting video and narration from the site of a natural disaster, an aspiring director of music videos, an amateur documentary film maker hoping to sell his work to a distributor—these and others find in You Tube an outlet for their creativity and a resource to get feedback from and interact with users who seek out content that interests them. They don’t consider UCC just as an enjoyment, but a vehicle for achieving their dreams.
   While You Tube and Mncast offer users opportunities for expression through video, they also have the downsides. First, they raise questions of copyright. Despite a statement warning users against improperly using copyrighted material, users are free to upload any content they have. Legal questions surround footage that depicts illegal behavior or that was taken of someone without the person’s knowledge or consent. Like other social software, UCC sites also raise questions of privacy, appropriate use, and trust. For example, a You Tube use under the nickname “lonelygirl15” posted regular videos of herself for several months, creating an online diary of sorts. After attracting many thousands of fans who followed lonelygirl15’s posts, the scheme was exposed as a fabrication. In other cases, You Tube users have been harassed by individuals who stalked them using information found in their profiles. There have been similar cases related to copyright and privacy in Korea, but people don’t seem to worry about these legal and moral problems very much. We must know that the more we use the Internet as a culture-sharing space the more we have to be careful because it’s anonymous.
   The ease of watching and sharing videos, combined with the fact that the site is free, opens the experience of online video to a wide range of users. Even if users of You Tube and Korean UCC sites seem to have quite different interests, all of these sites definitely lead a new spin on the notion self-publishing, making content available for anyone interested in consuming it. If we think about the implications for teaching and learning, these sites have a possibility to draw users into the experience of viewing videos and engaging with the content as commentators and creators, activities that heighten students’ visual literacy—an important skill in today’s electronic culture. Although most of the content on UCC sites lacks an educational goal, the application encourages experimentation with new media. I hope that people keep enjoying making UCC and share cultural products with others. In IT society, the sharing place is infinite, and becoming an information provider is very fascinating. Why don’t we experience this new cultural trend together?

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Comment by Rita Zeinstejer on May 28, 2008 at 23:28
Congrats on your work, Ka-in! It's a wonderful piece of information on such a popular topic as User Created Contents in the Internet.
Very interesting, and very well written!!

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