Networked_Performance

Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage

Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage by Axel Bruns: We the users turned creators and distributors of content are TIME’s Person of the Year 2006, and AdAge’s advertising agency of the year. We form a new Generation C. We have MySpace, YouTube, and OurMedia; we run social software, and drive the development of Web 2.0. But beyond the hype, what’s really going on?

In this groundbreaking exploration of our developing participatory online culture, Axel Bruns establishes the core principles which drive the rise of collaborative content creation in environments from open source through blogs and the Wikipedia to Second Life. He shows that what’s emerging here is no longer just a new form of content production, but a new process for the continuous creation and extension of knowledge and art by collaborative communities: produsage. The implications of the gradual shift from production to produsage are profound, and will affect the very core of our culture, economy, society, and democracy.

Overview

In recent years, various observers have pointed to the shifting paradigms of cultural and societal participation and economic production in developed nations. These changes are facilitated (although, importantly, not solely driven) by the emergence of new, participatory technologies of information access, knowledge exchange, and content production, many of whom are associated with Internet and new media technologies. Already in the 1970s, futurist Alvin Toffler foreshadowed such changes in his coining of the term ‘prosumer’: highlighting the emergence of a more informed, more involved consumer of goods who would need to be kept content by allowing for a greater customisability and individualisability of products; this indicated the shift from mass industrial production of goods to a model of on-demand, just-in-time production of custom-made items. Going further beyond this, Charles Leadbeater has introduced the notion of ‘pro-am’ production models – alluding to a joint effort of producers and consumers in developing new and improved commercial goods. Similarly, the industry observers behind Trendwatching.com speak of a trend towards ‘customer-made’ products, while J.C. Herz has described the same process as ‘harnessing the hive’ – that is, the harnessing of promising and useful ideas, generated by expert consumers, by commercial producers (and sometimes under ethically dubious models which appear to exploit and thus hijack the hive as a cheap generator of ideas, rather than merely harnessing it in a benign fashion).

Such models remain somewhat limited still, however, in their maintenance of a traditional industrial value production chain: they retain a producer ‘ distributor ‘ consumer dichotomy. Especially where what is produced is of an intangible, informational nature, a further shift away from such industrial, and towards post-industrial or informational economic models can be observed. In such models, the production of ideas takes place in a collaborative, participatory environment which breaks down the boundaries between producers and consumers and instead enables all participants to be users as well as producers of information and knowledge, or what I have come to call produsers. These produsers engage not in a traditional form of content production, but are instead involved in produsage – the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement. Key examples for such produsage can be seen in the collaborative development of open source software, the distributed multi-user spaces of the Wikipedia, or the user-led innovation and content production in multi-user online games (some 90% of content in The Sims, for example, is prodused by its users rather than the game publisher Maxis). Further, we also see produsage in collaborative online publishing, especially in news and information sites from the technology news site Slashdot to the world-wide network of Independent Media Centres, the renowned and influential South Korean citizen journalism site OhmyNews, and beyond this in the more decentralised and distributed environments of the blogosphere.

While there are elements of boosterism in its coverage of such trends, Trendwatching.com’s identification of the participants behind such produsage phenomena as a new ‘Generation C’ is nonetheless useful. In this context, ‘C’ stands in the first instance for ‘content creation’, as well as for ‘creativity’ more generally (and Generation C appears closely related to Richard Florida’s idea of a creative class, therefore); if the outcomes of such creativity are popularly recognised this can also lead to another ‘C’-word, ‘celebrity’. But Trendwatching.com also notes that Generation C poses a significant challenge to established modes and models of content production, and importantly, therefore, the ‘C’ can also refer to issues associated with both ‘control’ and the ‘casual collapse’ of traditional approaches.

This book will outline and analyse the produsage phenomenon and its implications, by mapping the produsage landscape as it currently exists or emerges. It will begin by offering an introduction and overview on produsage in general, and from here continue to explore specific key domains in which produsage takes place. In a second section, it will discuss some of the key underlying models for produsage environments which are in place across different domains: these include the technological, intellectual, and social structures used, as well as the legal and economic models employed by produsage projects. This highlight the opportunities and challenges associated with produsage both in domain-specific fields and across the broader landscape of produsage.

Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage was released by Peter Lang, New York, in February 2008.


Apr 2, 12:12
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