What is participatory culture and how does it affect aviation. The CT Team reveals all…

By Annabel Fuller

In 2008, Singapore’s Changi Airport unveiled a Butterfly Garden to passengers to encourage individuals to participate in the airport’s culture. The project was so successful in engaging travellers a swimming pool, entertainment complex, Koi Ponds and three-story slide were also built. The development engaged the network of travellers, the airlines and third parties who are also stakeholders in aviation. The airport attractions boosted airline connections through the country as social media, blogs, YouTube and word of mouth spread the news of the fun that could be had at Changi (Meacham, 2017).

This phenomenon is called Participatory Culture (PC) and is defined by Jenkins (2006) as a culture:

  1. With low barriers to artistic expression and engagement
  2. With strong support for creating and disturbing an individual’s ideas
  3. With informal mentorship where knowledgeable individuals pass their understanding onto novices
  4. Where members believe their contributions matter
  5. Where members feel a social connection with one another

Humans social psychology of the need to belong to be socially accepted dates back to our primitive ancestors (Max-Neef, 1992). Our intrinsic motivation to participate in culture has led PC, evident from the growing prevalence of attractions within airports globally (Cherry, 2018).

What is Participatory Culture?

PC is a sub-group where individuals who share a passion can form a community to share experiences and knowledge to the masses. In 2018, PC is everywhere. Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs enable consumers to engage in participatory culture (Flew, 2014). These new media platforms provide a space for like-minded individuals to connect over a shared interest.

So why is participatory culture relevant to this travel blog. Blogs like other forms of social media allow groups of people to participate in a culture they might not overwise have access too. As a Journalism student I would unlikely ever get to explore the intricacies of how luggage is transported; but thanks to PC this information is accessible to all.  As a blogger and airport enthusiast, I want to understand how PC is understood from different viewpoints.

PC contributor EW Bullock shares his luggage journey (Video – 0:53)

Participatory Culture Network

The participatory culture network is the network of travellers participating in travel culture. Jenkins (2010) says those who contribute in addition to consuming to PC have higher engagement within the network. Likewise, individuals who are validated with higher rates of reaction to their content in the form of likes, shares, retweets and subscribers generally demonstrate higher levels of involvement as citizens of participatory culture (Flew, 2014).

The power law of participation (Mayfield 2006, in Flew, 2008, pp 32)

PC gives individuals the platform to connect with others from across the globe to rejoice over their shared passion. This passion has turned into a profession for some who’ve reached a following large enough to dedicate their lives to participatory culture. An example is the YouTube channel CargoSpotter which was started by Martin in 2005 as a hobby; he now dedicates all of his time to “making videos of planes” (CargoSpotter, 2011).

PC contributor CargoSpotter shares a crosswind landing he captured (Video – 3:17)

The Airline Industry

The corporate world has increased leverage for marketing as a result of participatory culture (Here Comes New Media, 2018). This can be examined from both and internal and external scope.

Participatory culture is exploited as a controlled marketing tool for a large corporation. This is evidenced in Qantas share and tag campaign where social media users are asked to share their ‘best’ travel photos for a chance to be featured on the airlines Instagram (QANTAS, 2018). The internal marketing is leveraging the inherent structure of PC by manipulating consumers into an influencer position.

Where PC has control over corporate industries is externally. Infamously in 2017, a Pulmonologist was dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight with excessive force. The video of the screaming doctor went viral within hours of the incident. Outraged Twitter users called for a boycott of the airline.

The incident caught the attention of the world due to the participatory culture which saw the video shared over eight million times (Wile, 2017).

Jayse D. Anspach contributies to PC by posting a tweet (Video – 0:52)

Third Parties – Politics

Participatory Culture has the ability to impact everybody as people adopt behaviours and beliefs they see being spread online. (Centola, 2010). As a result PC has changed how we view politics (Bowyer, 2018). In the wake of countless school shootings, members of the PC network took to social media and engaged in participatory action to demand change (Raitanen & Oksanen, 2018). Airlines Delta and United revoked discounts and perks for National Rifle Association members after participatory culture influencers damned the airline for supporting gun use in America (Josephs, 2018)

Image result for boycott nra tweet

Members of the PC Network demanded change from sponsors of the NRA

Image result for boycott nra tweet

Airline Delta responded to participatory demand to end NRA discounts

Participatory Culture has the power to change industries says Trottier and Fuchs (2015). Industries must adapt to the wants of the masses which is primarily controlled online by participatory culture influencers (Trottier & Fuchs, 2015).

It is indisputable that participatory culture is changing new media. Individuals now have a platform to connect, create and share their interests with the world. The participatory culture network has provided leverage for small creators to turn their hobby into a career. The changing corporate landscape has developed into an arena for consumers to control the public image of the company. Likewise, third parties such as politics have leveraged their opinions into practice by generating social media frenzies. The fostering of knowledge between stakeholders of interest has allowed for the growth of participatory culture.


Bowyer, B. (2018). The Political Significance of Social Media Activity and Social Networks. Political Communication, 470-493.

CargoSpotter. (2011, March 11). About. Düsseldorf, Germany .

Centola, D. (2010). The Spread of Behavior in an Online Social Network Experiment.Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Cherry, K. (2018, September 9). How the Need to Belong Influences Human Behavior and Motivation. Retrieved from Very Well Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-need-to-belong-2795393

Flew, T. (2014). New Media: An Introduction.Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Here Comes New Media. (2018, March 5). Here Comes New Media. Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.Boston: MacArthur.

Jenkins, H. (2010, February 8). Learning in a Participatory Culture: A Conversation About New Media and Education (Part One). Retrieved from CONFESSIONS OF AN ACA-FAN: http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2010/02/_children_and_young_people.html

Josephs, L. (2018, Febuary 24). Delta and United scrap airfare discounts for NRA members. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, United States of America.

Max-Neef, M. (1992). Human needs and aspirations. Development and Human Needs, 197 – 205.

Meacham, S. (2017, July 7). World’s best airport: What it’s like to spend 24-hours straight inside Singapore’s Changi Airport Read more: http://www.traveller.com.au/a-day-in-the-life-of-changi-airport-gx49xf#ixzz5UoL9XYlG Follow us: @TravellerAU on Twitter | TravellerAU on Faceb. Singapore.

QANTAS. (2018, September). Share and Tag. Instagram Stories. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: Qantas .

Raitanen, J., & Oksanen, A. (2018). Global Online Subculture Surrounding School Shootings. American Behavioral Scientist, 195-209.

Trottier, D., & Fuchs, C. (2015). Social Media, Politics and the State.New York: Routledge.

Wile, R. (2017, April 11). United’s Stock Is Set to Plunge After Videos Show Passenger Dragged Off Plane. Time Magazine. New York City, New York, United States of America: Time.