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How to conceptualise a “user”?

Yesterday, the researchers from C² met up to discuss how to understand, conceptualise and (re)name user and new media research. All the researchers deal with the term “user” in their everyday work, but can the same term really be used for people engaging with social media, players engaging in games, viewers watching YouTube videos, or writers of slash fiction?

Through analogue presentations, each C²-member expressed his or her questions and doubts towards the term “user”, asked questions and engaged in discussions. The popular term VUP’er arose early, and covered a viewer, user, and participant/player/person/people. The word “user” gives primacy to the machine or device, while participant or player puts focus on the actual exchange or interaction.

The difficulty defining and renaming the user to make it fit contemporary research remained throughout the seminar even though subjects changed from slash fiction, gamers and players, children as users, interaction in a sociological perspective, network theory, online debates, discussions and conspiracy theorists, innocent social media bystanders, users as voters, and digital natives.

The seminar clearly gave food for thought for the respective researchers, and in the future it might even spark joint projects, an anthology or even further discussions and seminars regarding that mysterious and ubiquitous “user”.

(Despite the analogue starting point of the seminar, a few sneaky researchers got to tweet once or twice. Look for the hashtag #c2itu)