The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage


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Paper presented at the PerthDAC conference, Perth, Australia, 15-18 September 2007. For more information (including the full paper), see

In the emerging social software, ‘Web2.0’ environment, the production of ideas takes place in a collaborative, participatory mode which breaks down the boundaries between producers and consumers and instead enables all participants to be users as much as producers of information and knowledge, or what can be described as 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. This paper examines the overall characteristics of produsers and produsage, and identifies key questions for the produsage model.

Published in: Technology
  • This paper was presented at the PerthDAC 2007 conference in Perth, Western Australia, on 16 September 2007. For more information (and the complete paper), see (Please note that the thumbnail of the first slide contains a small error - the correct subtitle of the paper is 'The Path towards Widespread Produsage', not 'The Past...')

    The work presented here is a preview of my forthcoming book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, to be published by Peter Lang (New York) in early 2008. See for more details.
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The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage

  1. The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage Dr Axel Bruns Creative Industries Faculty Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia [email_address]
  2. User-Led Content Production <ul><li>emerging in various domains: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>open source software development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>online publishing: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>blogs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>open news – e.g. Slashdot , Indymedia , OhmyNews </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>knowledge management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>wikis – e.g. Wikipedia </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>social bookmarking – e.g. , digg </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>geotagging – e.g. Google Earth , Frappr </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>multi-user gaming: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. The Sims , Everquest , Second Life , Spore </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>creative practice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Flickr , ccMixter , YouTube , Jumpcut </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>reviews and social shopping </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Epinions , IgoUgo </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>(Image: </li></ul>
  3. <ul><li>decline of the traditional value chain: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>producer  distributor  consumer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(producer advised by consumer  distributor  consumer) </li></ul><ul><li>(customer-made ideas  producer  distributor  consumer) </li></ul>Beyond Production
  4. What’s Happening Here? <ul><li>emergence of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the prosumer (Alvin Toffler)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the citizen-consumer (John Hartley)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>pro-am production (Charles Leadbeater & Paul Miller)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>customer-made products, produced by a new Generation C ( )? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>corporations harnessing the hive (J.C. Herz)? </li></ul></ul>
  5. Beyond Products <ul><li>traditional value chains rely on key assumptions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>products exist in discrete versions, and producers decide when these are to be released </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the distribution of products is controlled (and controllable) by producers and distributors, not by consumers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>consumers are relatively isolated – only producers have access to the whole community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the core business lies in the sale of copyrighted products </li></ul></ul><ul><li>but in a user-led, digital environment, this is no longer true: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the latest update is always immediately available – e.g. open source, Wikipedia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>content is available for direct access online – users become producers, and the Net replaces the distributor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>consumers join together in enthusiast groups, interest groups, developer groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the core business lies in providing value-added services around freely available content </li></ul></ul>
  6. Common Characteristics <ul><li>shared across these environments: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open Participation, Communal Evaluation – the community as a whole, if sufficiently large and varied, can contribute more than a closed team of producers, however qualified </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy – produsers participate as is appropriate to their personal skills, interests, and knowledges; this changes as the produsage project proceeds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process – content artefacts in produsage projects are continually under development, and therefore always unfinished; their development follows evolutionary, iterative, palimpsestic paths </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Common Property, Individual Rewards – contributors permit (non-commercial) community use and adaptation of their intellectual property, and are rewarded by the status capital gained through this process </li></ul></ul>
  7. A New Value Chain? <ul><li>(as producer) </li></ul><ul><li>produser </li></ul><ul><li>(as user) </li></ul>content content
  8. Produsage <ul><li>beyond production: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ anyone can edit’ – users become producers of content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>content is no longer a distinct product – it is a temporary artefact of an ongoing process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>usage and production are increasingly, inextricably intertwined </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>strict distinctions between producers, distributors, and consumers no longer apply </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a new “ Generation C ” of content produsers? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>this is produsage </li></ul>
  9. Breaking the Chains content development space set up by community or company to harbour produsage (e.g. Wikimedia Foundation; Google; SourceForge) commercial / non-profit harvesting of user-generated content (e.g. The Sims , Wikipedia on CD-ROM) commercial / non-profit services to support produsage (e.g. Red Hat, SourceForge) commercial activities by users themselves, harnessing the hive (e.g. support services, consultancies, content sales) initial IP contributions from individuals, the public domain, or commercial sources collaborative, iterative, evolutionary, palimpsestic user-led content development valuable, often commercial-grade content is created Produsage Environment (populated by produsers)
  10. Collective Intelligence <ul><li>Questions and answers: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>creative potential of distributed collaboration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– grassroots, vernacular creativity; shared folk culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sustainability of voluntary labour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– reliance on interest communities and enthusiasts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>intellectual property issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– building a new creative, information, knowledge commons </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>trust, authority, responsibility, liability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– communal evaluation of content quality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>emergence of new cultural, social, economic structures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>– towards a new collective intelligence? </li></ul></ul>
  11. Produsage Economics <ul><li>Economic potential: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>cheap workforce for commercial producers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but also post-Fordist production/produsage models </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>possible opposition to traditional business, and opportunity for new businesses </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Economic models: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>harnessing the hive – by produsers for produsers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>harvesting the hive – by produsers for wider community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>helping the hive – promoting and supporting produsage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>harbouring the hive – providing the spaces for produsage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hijacking the hive – locking users into spaces of produsage </li></ul></ul>
  12. Political Implications <ul><li>Towards post-Fordist politics? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>growing effect of produser news on political process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>towards more dialogue and deliberation, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>or more argument and conflict? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>rear-guard battles by governments and news organisations against citizen journalists – but not only in authoritarian regimes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>conflict between alternative and mainstream media coverage (e.g. Howard Dean campaign) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>digital divide opening between traditional audiences and new produser-citizens? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Is it possible to harness produsage to support a move of citizens from being a passive audience for to being active produsers of democracy? </li></ul>
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