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Smart Services CRC "Social Media: State of the Art" Report Released

Over the past few months, I've been busy exploring the potential for sustainable corporate approaches to engaging with produsage - this is what I've discussed for example in my recent presentations at next09 (in English) and the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / Hans-Bredow-Institut conference in Hamburg (in German), for example. Too many businesses still seem to believe that they can simply scoop the cream off the top of the various spaces for user-led content creation, without understanding the inevitable negative repercussions which result from any perception by users that they're just being exploited as cheap labour.

Quite a few of the ideas presented in those conference papers (and the associated interviews) draw substantially on my work with Mark Bahnisch in the Smart Services CRC, and so it's very timely that our first report for the CRC has now also been released. The report provides an overview of the state of the art in social media, and focusses especially on the dynamics of user community participation in social media sites; as part of this, we're also looking at a number of leading social media sites (and one or two 'interesting failures'), particularly in three key areas: news and views, products and places, and networking and dating.

Produsage (and Business) in HD

The next09 conference last week was very interesting (but, at one and a half days, too short!), and very well organised - one of the benefits of a PR company organising a research/industry conference, I guess. A particularly welcome addition was the participation of German video sharing platform Sevenload , who are now also beginning to post videos of presentations and interviews during the conference. For the full stream, check out Sevenload's next09 channel (or search for 'next09') - but feel free to skip right over Andrew Keen's rant...

Blogging from next09

Readers of the blog - you might be interested to know that over the next couple of days I'm liveblogging from the next09 conference - a major media and creative industries conference in Germany. I'm also presenting some early results from my research in the Smart Services CRC here tomorrow, under the title "Produsage and Business". Tune in - we've just started with a keynote by Jeff Jarvis!

Beyond Toffler, beyond the Prosumer

I'm briefly back in Brisbane before heading back to Europe for the next round of conferences and a good month as a visiting scholar and Alcatel-Lucent Fellow at the Hans-Bredow-Institut in Hamburg. My time here at home has given me an opportunity to reflect on the conferences I attended on the last trip: WebSci '09 in Athens and Prosumer Revisited in Frankfurt.

Prosumer Revisited in particular, which I blogged about here, was an interesting experience - probably my first opportunity to reconnect in detail with the work being done in the overall area of produsage (and some way beyond it) in German academic research. A number of the keynotes at the conference were excellent, and it'll be interesting to follow some of the trajectories they explored.

I remain very much unconvinced about the attempt to make Alvin Toffler's term 'prosumer', now a good quarter-century old, do all the work of carrying this research, though - and not just because with the produser I have my own neologism to offer as an alternative. To begin with, the term 'prosumer' has never been satisfactorily defined, and is now regularly used to mean whatever a particular speaker wants it to mean - that tendency, I'm afraid, was also in evidence in some of the presentations at the Prosumer Revisited conference itself. (Put another way - perhaps we've never properly visited the prosumer when the term was first coined; 'revisiting' it today can therefore inevitably only add to the confusion over how to understand it.)

For Toffler himself, as far as I can make out (and even here, the definition shifts over the decades), the prosumer was for the most part simply an extension of the conventional production line: a way to involve consumers in better reporting their needs and wants to producers, and thus to enable a process of mass customisation. More active, independent customer, consumer, or user agency seems to be denied by this model, though - the prosumer, as I read Toffler, very much remains a (professional) consumer, and fails to make the more towards becoming an active producer in any real sense of the word.

Produsage at the Frankfurt School

(Crossposted from


Frankfurt School Audience

From WebSci '09 in Athens (conference blogging here), I've arrived in Frankfurt (where it actually snowed this morning...), for the Prosumer Revisited conference over the next few days. My first official engagement today was a guest lecture for Cultural Science stalwart Carsten Herrmann-Pillath at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, though - not the kind of audience I usually speak to, but a very relevant one for a guest lecture on produsage nonetheless. My presentation is below - when I have a chance, I'll also add the audio from my talk.

Organisation in Open Source and Social Media: A Response to Chris Anderson

My colleague Julien Vayssière at the Smart Services CRC sent me a link to a post on Chris Anderson's The Long Tail blog today, which seeks to draw a distinction between the organisational paradigms of open source and social media. The key point:

What makes successful open source projects is leadership, plain and simple. One or two people articulate a vision, start building towards it and bring others on board with specific tasks and permissions. The best projects are the ones with the best leaders.

Social media, on the other hands, doesn't exist for a shared purpose. It exists to serve the individual. We don't tweet to built Twitter, we tweet to suit ourselves. We blog because we can, not because we have signed on to a blogging project.

There's some truth underlying this, but I'm sorry - as far as I'm concerned, that description is way too simplistic. Anderson goes on:

Produtzung in Frankfurt

I've posted some more detailed information about this over at, but visitors here might be interested to know that I'll be speaking at the (German-language) conference Prosumer Revisited at the end of March. No prize for guessing that my contribution to the event will be to offer the concept of produsage as an alternative to Toffler's prosumer, which in my view acknowledges consumers' knowledge about the products they're using but doesn't offer them sufficient agency as users and content creators. (And of course Toffler introduced his concept in the early 1970s, so he couldn't possibly have foreseen what forms of user participation well beyond prosumption today's technological frameworks would make possible.)

Spore at 70

70 million user-generated content assets, that is. Readers of the produsage book will know that I'm very interested in Eric von Hippel's model in Democratizing Innovation of providing users with toolkits that enable them to participate in design and development processes. "Toolkits for users", he writes, "change the conditions potential innovators face. By making innovation cheaper and quicker for users, they can increase the volume of user innovation. They also can channel innovative effort into directions supported by toolkits" (147).

Produsage and Emerging Talent

Following up on my last post with another answer to a really sharp question from a reader of the book, in what I hope may become an occasional feature of this site: one of my LinkedIn contacts asked

Does produsage create emerging talent, or does it merely point it out? Okay, probably not a "quick" question, but my study of produsage makes me wonder if there has been any case studies on this topic. Any thoughts?

From User to Produser: The Continuum of Participation

The other day, I received a very insightful question from somebody reading Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage - pointing to a line in the book which states that

participation in these social spaces a continuum stretching evenly from active content creation by lead users ... to the mere use of content by users who perhaps do not even consider themselves as members of the community (18)

and asking, in essence, where mere usage ends and real produsage begins. In particular, what about the differences between spaces such as Second Life, where usage and content creation are necessarily part of the same process, and Wikipedia, where content creation and usage can remain separate, but individual users are free to move between the two? I thought it might be worth posting my reply here, to further explore this issue.


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