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Henry Jenkins Interviews Axel Bruns

I'm very honoured by the strong support that Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, has given the produsage book. Not only did he provide an enthusiastic endorsement for Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, but he's also offered to interview me on his own blog. That interview has now been published, and your can read it in two parts here and here. I'm also reposting it below.

So, let's start with the obvious question. What do you mean by produsage? What are its defining traits?

Why coin a new and somewhat awkward word to refer to this phenomenon? How does Produsage differ from traditional models of production?

I'd like to answer these in combination if I may - the question "do we really need a new word to describe the shift of users from audiences to content creators?" is one I've heard a few times as people have begun engaging with the book, of course.

There's been some fantastic work in this field already, as we all know - from Yochai Benkler's work on 'commons-based peer production' to Michel Bauwens's 'p2p production', from Alvin Toffler's seminal 'prosumers' (whose exact definition has shifted a few times over the past decades as his ideas have been applied to new cultural phenomena) to Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller's 'Pro-Ams'. I think it's fair to say that most if not all of us working in this field see these developments as an important paradigm shift - a "leap to authorship" for so many of the people participating in it, as Douglas Rushkoff has memorably put it.

But at the same time, it's no radical break with the past, no complete turning away from the traditional models of (information, knowledge, and creative) production, but a more gradual move out of these models and into something new - a renaissance and resurgence of commons-based approaches rather than a revolution, as Rushkoff describes it; something that may lead to the "casual collapse" of conventional production models and institutions, as has foreshadowed it.

I think that ironically, it's this gradual shift which requires us to coin new terms to better describe what's really going on here. A fully-blown revolution simply replaces one thing with another: one mode of governance (monarchy) with another (democracy); one technology (the horse-drawn carriage) with another (the motorcar). In spite of their different features, both alternatives can ultimately be understood as belonging to the same category, and substituting for one another.

A gradual shift, by contrast, is less noticeable until what's there today is markedly different from what was there before - and only then do we realise that we've entered a new era, and that we have to develop new ways of thinking, new ways of conceptualising the world around us if we want to make good sense of it. If we continue to use the old models, the old language to describe the new, we lose a level of definition and clarity which can ultimately lead us to misunderstand our new reality.

Over the past years, many of us have tried very hard to keep track of new developments with the conceptual frameworks we've had - which is why even work as brilliant as Benkler's has had to resort to such unwieldy constructions as 'commons-based peer production' (CBPP), and similar compound terms from 'user-led content creation' to 'consumer-generated media' abound.

Now, though, I think we're at the cusp of this realisation that the emerging user-led environments of today can no longer be described clearly and usefully through the old language only - and produsage is my suggestion for an alternative term. It doesn't matter so much what we call it in the end, but a term like 'produsage' provides a blank slate which we can collectively inscribe with new meanings, new shared understandings of the environments we now find ourselves in.

Why does the old language fail us? Because we've been used to it for too long. When we say 'production' or 'consumer', 'product' or 'audience', most of us take these words as clearly defined and understood, and the definitions can ultimately be traced back to the heyday of the industrial age, to the height of the mass media system. 'Production', for example, is usually understood as something that especially qualified groups do, usually for pay and within the organised environments of industry; it results in 'products' - packaged, complete, inherently usable goods. 'Consumers', on the other hand, are literally 'using up' these goods; historically, as Clay Shirky put it almost ten years ago, they're seen as no more than "a giant maw at the end of the mass media's long conveyor belt".

How do the (sometimes very random) processes of collaborative content creation, for example in something like the Wikipedia, fit into this terminology? Do they? Wikipedia may well be able to substitute for Britannica or another conventionally produced encyclopaedia, but it's much more than that. Centrally, it's an ongoing process, not a finished product - it's a massively distributed process of consensus-building (and sometimes dissent, which may be even more instructive if users invest the time to examine different points of view) in motion, rather than a dead snapshot of the consensual body of knowledge agreed upon by a small group of producers.

Similarly, are Wikipedia contributors 'producers' of the encyclopaedia in any meaningful, commonly accepted sense of the word? Collectively, they may contribute to the continuing extension and improvement of this resource, but how does that classify as production? Many individual participants, making their random acts of contribution to pages they come across or care about, are in the first place simply users - users who, aware of the shared nature of the project, and of the ease with which they can make a contribution, do so by fixing some spelling here, adding some information there, contributing to a discussion on resolving a conflict of views somewhere else. That's a social activity which only secondarily is productive - these people are in a hybrid position where using the site can (and often does) lead to productive engagement. The balance between such mere usage and productive contribution varies - from user to user, and also for each user over time. That's why I suggest that they're neither simply users nor producers (and they're certainly not consumers): they're produsers instead.

So having said all of this, let me get back to your first question: What do you mean by produsage? What are its defining traits?

I define produsage as "the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement", but that's only the starting point. Again, it's important to note that the processes of produsage are often massively distributed, and not all participants are even aware of their contribution to produsage projects; their motivations may be mainly social or individual, and still their acts of participation can be harnessed as contributions to produsage. (In a very real sense, even a commercial service like Google's PageRank is ultimately prodused by all of us as we browse the Web and link to one another, and allow Google to track our activities and infer from this the importance and relevance of the Websites we engage with.)

Produsage depends on a number of preconditions for its operation: its tasks must be optimised for granularity to make it as easy as possible even for random users to contribute (this is something Yochai Benkler also notes in his Wealth of Networks); it must accept that everyone has some kind of useful contribution to make, and allows for this without imposing significant hurdles to participation (Michel Bauwens describes this as equipotentiality); it must build on these elements by pursuing a probabilistic course of improvement which is sometimes temporarily thrown off course by disruptive contributions but trusts in what Eric Raymond calls the power of "eyeballs" (that is, involvement by large and diverse communities) to set things right again; and it must allow for the open sharing of content to enable contributions to build on one another in an iterative, evolutionary, palimpsestic process.

We can translate this into four core principles of produsage, then:

  • 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;
  • Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy: produsers participate as is appropriate to their personal skills, interests, and knowledges, and their level of involvement changes as the produsage project proceeds;
  • Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process: content artefacts in produsage projects are continually under development, and therefore always unfinished - their development follows evolutionary, iterative, palimpsestic paths;
  • 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.
I think that we can see these principles at work in a wide range of produsage environments and projects - from open source to the Wikipedia, from citizen journalism to Second Life -, and I trace their operation and implications in the book. (Indeed, we're now getting to a point where such principles are even being adopted and adapted for projects which traditionally have been situated well outside the realm of collaborative content creation - from the kitesurfing communities that Eric von Hippel writes about in Democratizing Innovation to user-led banking projects like Zopa, Prosper, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus's Grameen Bank, and beyond.)

Of course such traits are also continuing to shift, both as produsage itself continues to develop, and as it is applied in specific contexts. So, these characteristics as I've described them, and this idea of produsage as something fundamentally different from conventional, industrial, production, should themselves be seen only as stepping stones along the way, as starting points for a wider and deeper investigation of collaborative processes which are productive in the general sense of the term, but which are not production as we've conventionally defined it.

Your analysis emphasizes the value of "unfinished artifacts" and an ongoing production process. Can you point to some examples of where these principles have been consciously applied to the development of cultural goods?

My earlier work (my book Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production, and various related publications) has focussed mainly on what we've now come to call 'citizen journalism' - and (perhaps somewhat unusually, given that so much of the philosophy of produsage ultimately traces back its lineage to open source) it's in this context that I first started to think about the need for a new concept of produsage as an alternative to 'production'.

In JD Lasica's famous description, citizen journalism is made up of a large collection of individual, "random acts of journalism", and certainly in its early stages there were few or no citizen journalists who could claim to be producers of complete, finished journalistic news stories. Massive projects such as the comprehensive tech news site Slashdot emerged simply out of communities of interest sharing bits of news they came across on the Web - a process I've described as gatewatching, in contrast to journalistic gatekeeping -, and over the course of hours and days following the publicisation of the initial news item added significant value to these stories through extensive discussion and evaluation (and often, debunking).

In the process, the initial story itself is relatively unimportant; it's the gradual layering of background information and related stories on top of that story - as a modern-day palimpsest - which creates the informational and cultural good. Although for practical reasons, the focus of participants in the process will usually move on to more recent stories after some time, this process is essentially indefinite, so the Slashdot news story as you see it today (including the original news item and subsequent community discussion and evaluation) is always only ever an unfinished artefact of that continuing process. (While Slashdot retains a typical news-focussed organisation of its content in reverse-chronological order, this unfinishedness is even more obvious in the way Wikipedia deals with news stories, by the way - entries on news events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 London bombings are still evolving, even years after these events.)

This conceptualisation of news stories (not necessarily a conscious choice by Slashdot staff and users, but simply what turned out to make most sense in the context of the site) is common throughout citizen journalism, where community discussion and evaluation usually plays a crucial role - and it's fundamentally different from industrial journalism's conception of stories as discrete units (products, in other words) which are produced according to a publication schedule, and marketed as 'all the news that's fit to print'.

And that's not just a slogan: it's essentially saying to audiences, "here's all that happened today, here's all you need to know - trust us." If some new information comes along, it is turned into an entirely new stand-alone story, rather than added as an update to the earlier piece; indeed, conventional news deals relatively poorly with gradual developments in ongoing stories especially where they stretch out over some time - this is why its approach to the continuing coverage of long-term disasters from climate change to the Iraq war is always to tie new stories to conflict (or to manufacture controversies between apparently opposing views where no useful conflict is forthcoming in its own account). The more genuinely new stories are continually required of the news form, the more desperate these attempts to manufacture new developments tend to become - see the witless flailing of 24-hour news channels in their reporting of the current presidential primaries, for example.

By contrast, the produsage models of citizen journalism better enable it to provide an ongoing, gradually evolving coverage of longer-term news developments. Partly this is also supported by the features of its primary medium, the Web, of course (where links to earlier posts, related stories and discussions, and other resources can be mobilised to create a combined, ongoing, evolving coverage of news as it happens), but I don't want to fall into the techno-determinist trap here: what's happening is more that the conventional, industrial model of news production (for print or broadcast) which required discrete story products for inclusion in the morning paper, evening newscast, or hourly news update is being superceded by an ongoing, indeterminate, but no less effective form of coverage.

If I can put it simply (but hopefully not overly so): industrial news-as-product gets old quickly; it's outdated the moment it is published. Produsage-derived news-as-artefact never gets old, but may need updating and extending from time to time - and it's possible for all of us to have a hand in this.

What are the implications of the produsage model for understanding how knowledge gets produced and circulated? You clearly are interested in this book in Wikipedia. What core insights can we take from Wikipedia that might be applied to other collaborative enterprises?

In the first place, perhaps, I think it would be great if Wikipedians themselves could draw some further insights from the way Wikipedia has developed so far, and better understand the drivers of its success. Its very success is a threat to its future survival, if it means that there is a growing disconnect between middle and upper levels of Wikipedia's administration and everyday users and contributors. The project has been remarkably resilient to internal and external threats, of course, but that doesn't mean that it will continue to weather any storm that comes its way. In particular, I would argue that Wikipedia should work to enshrine the prerequisites for produsage as absolutely fundamental, inalienable principles of the project, and protect them even against well-meaning suggestions for change. (That doesn't mean locking down its present modus operandi for all eternity, of course - but whatever changes are made must be made very carefully and with due consultation.)

The crucial question for Wikipedia and other produsage projects concerned with building and growing repositories of community knowledge is that of how to engage with those who are regarded as experts in their field, of course. Both sides of this debate have valid arguments in their favour, of course - people like Wikipedia dissident and Citizendium founder Larry Sanger point to the fact that clearly, different people do have different levels of knowledge about any given topic, while others believe that any a priori elevation of the contributor level of such experts (or ultimately, exclusion of non-experts) is unnecessary: if these people have superior knowledge and the sources to back it up, that knowledge should come through collective evaluation processes unscathed.

Ultimately, I think that a compromise will be needed. Perhaps established expertise in a field should be highlighted to other contributors to produsage processes - this is something which happens over time in longer-term collaborative communities anyway, as through both their collaborative and their social interactions in the community individuals get to know one another a little better. Those who are more than just purely random contributors, dropping in and out of the community, could be encouraged more directly and immediately to create a profile and identify who they are (and the community could sanction more strongly those contributors who falsify their profiles in order to claim expertise that they don't have).

At the same time, however, as both addition and alternative to such external markers of expertise it would also be important to trace more explicitly the quality of contributions made to the produsage project, as an internal marker of demonstrated expertise. Citizen journalism communities like Slashdot and many others already provide a model for this, which could be translated relatively easily to Wikipedia and other more recent projects - while the model isn't completely tamper-proof, there, internal 'karma' scores mark the accumulated social status of contributors as judged by their peers, and post signatures and personal profiles enable contributors to provide some pointers to external information about who they are.

Slashdot's own model isn't ideal, but what its and other models of combining internal karma and external accreditation point towards is essentially an attempt to embed ongoing internal processes of peer-to-peer evaluation in the community within the broader landscape of knowledge and expertise that exists around it. What's crucial in this is to strike a fine balance between admitting and recognising, and even encouraging, the contribution of such external expertise, and allowing for the discovery and ascendance of experts who arise as entirely indigenous to the produsage community. Such latter trends can be observed for example in open source software development, where there are plenty of stories of initially amateur programmers who showcased their growing skills through contribution to software projects and eventually gained paid employment in the software industry (which today no longer means leaving open source produsage behind, incidentally).

Zooming out from Wikipedia or any one produsage project, what this could point to is the potential for a fruitful combination of knowledge produsage (which is obviously based on the logic of Chris Anderson's 'long tail' and aims to harness the distributed knowledge of a large and diverse community) and conventional knowledge production (built around a more industrial closed model centred around the sharp spike from which the long tail extends). From that perspective, experts and their expertise cover no more than the tips of the iceberg of human knowledge, and the hierarchies of expertise which exist in conventional disciplinary frameworks are revealed to be themselves no more than the peaks of the wider heterarchical structures of the knowledge space. Through Leadbeater & Miller's boundary-crossing 'Pro-Ams', we are able to join together these spaces of knowledge regardless of their very different internal logics.

(No judgment of quality is implied in this description - the less visible bulk of this iceberg of knowledge that sits below the waterline of professionalism is no more or less important to the whole than the visible tip above it. At the risk of belabouring the metaphor: it's the bulk of the iceberg that makes the whole thing float and keeps the tip above water.)

What's just as important as a willingness of produsage communities to engage established experts with respect (but without undue deference), though, is a recognition by the other side that this arrangement can only be sustainable if produsage communities, too, are respected - and not simply exploited as cheap labour, or a convenient incubator of new ideas. Especially where knowledge generated through produsage has direct value for industry, there is a clear danger of commercial exploitation - your own work on Fanlib's ham-fisted attempt to commercialise fan fiction makes for a great case in point here.

There's a continuum of potential commercial approaches here, from what JC Herz has called "harnessing the hive" (for example by building legitimate business models around free and open source software) through to harvesting the hive (no longer necessarily so benign in nature), and through to hijacking the hive (where strong produsage communities are lured into commercial spaces, in order to monetise their work - recent controversies around Facebook's approach to user-generated content and data might serve as examples here). This latter strategy may generate good short-term profit, but is likely to poison relationships with the community for the longer term; I think industry still has much to learn about how to engage with produsage communities in a sustainable and respectful fashion, and ignores these questions at its own risk.

Is it appropriate to apply the same concepts to talk about our new roles as consumers/producers of culture and our shifting roles as citizens?

I think so, yes. It's not far to go from active cultural to active political participation, and we're seeing more examples of using the tools of produsage for political effect every day. Building in part on Pierre Lévy's discussion of "molecular politics" in his Collective Intelligence, I've tried to develop a first rough sketch of this produsage politics - or perhaps produsage of politics - in my paper at the MiT5 conference last year, and extended this further for one of the later chapters in the book.

One thing, I think, is certain in this context: a produsage-based approach to politics would look significantly different from the current mass media-driven and ultimately industrial model of politics as it exists in the US, Australia, and many other developed nations. To bear any resemblance to produsage as it exists in other domains, to begin with, it would have to operate on a much more deliberative, open, and inclusive basis than political processes have operated during the height of the mass media age - and groups such as MoveOn in the US and GetUp in Australia may be early indications that such shifts are now being attempted by interested parties, if haltingly and uneasily.

One of the major obstacles to moving further along that road, however, are the mainstream media, who have oversimplified our understanding of politics to an eternal contest between left and right - this is politics as a sport, scored in opinion polls and delegate counts, and analysed from the sidelines by pundits and commentators. This leaves little room for nuance, for broad, constructive, and open-ended deliberation; such deliberation may take place (we hope) in parliamentary committees and party rooms, and (we know) in grassroots political communities from MoveOn to the central hubs of the political blogosphere, but the media play a very effective spoiler role that prevents these two sides from connecting successfully.

Politicians who engage with the diverse voices of the grassroots and are prepared to change their minds in the process are condemned as weak and prone to backflips, while those who listen only to what they want to hear are hailed as strong leaders. Jon Stewart had it right when he said to the hosts of CNN's now-defunct politicotainment show Crossfire "please stop. You're hurting America" - and the situation isn't much better elsewhere.

So, my hopes for a shift to produsage politics remain limited in the short term - though at the same time, I firmly believe that the stranglehold of the mass media over societal processes is waning, and as it decays, more opportunities for direct involvement in political processes by active citizens are becoming available. This doesn't necessarily equate to a shift of politics in favour of what would conventionally be described as a 'progressive' direction, incidentally - produsage politics is likely to represent in the first place simply the views of those who participate, whatever their views may be...

In talking about education, you describe a shift from "literacies" to "capacities." Explain. What kinds of skills are required to become a produser and what steps might schools take to insure access to those skills?

Especially in light of what I've said in the political context, education becomes even more crucial. The more central produsage becomes to our society on a cultural, social, and political level, the more do we need to work to close the "participation gap" that you've highlighted in your own work. I see this as a two-step process, which mirrors the two elements that come together to form produsage itself: on the one hand, there's a need for people to become sophisticated users of the tools and content artefacts provided by produsage - they need to understand how these things have come to be, and what they represent (for example, how trustworthy and reliable they are, whose ideas are reflected in them, how they may be utilised, and with what limitations).

This, I think, is centrally a question of literacy: much as conventional media literacy enables us to receive, understand, decode, and interpret media messages, so should produsage literacy enable us to trace and evaluate the processes of produsage which have led to the resources we have in front of us. Produsage literacy enables us to separate the layers of the palimpsest that is represented by each entry in Wikipedia, by each story in citizen journalism, for example - it gives us the skills to check discussion and edit histories and see whether the choices made along the way were acceptable to us. (In my experience, a remarkable number of otherwise very knowledgeable people are worryingly unaware that this is even possible.)

A second step, then, is the need to provide people with the ability to make active, productive contributions to produsage projects - to move from user to produser. This is the "leap to authorship" that Rushkoff describes; it ensures that people are able not only to benefit from hearing the voices of others, but also to add their own voices to the discussion. To date, this remains a serious problem for produsage: what's represented so far are still only the voices, views, and ideas of a minority; even a project as large as Wikipedia reflects not the diversity of views in society as a whole, for example, but only the different opinions present in its contributor base. (In that sense, as much as it is sometimes accused of elitism, given that studies show stronger participation by relatively affluent and well-educated users Wikipedia is itself elitist!)

To contribute in this way and be a genuine produser rather than just a user, I think, requires a set of specific capacities for participation that goes beyond the level of produsage literacy. Building on work I've done with my QUT colleagues Jude Smith, Stephen Towers, and Rachel Cobcroft, I think there's a set of five core collaborative capacities (I call them the C5C for short): creative, collaborative, critical, combinatory, and communicative capacities. None of these are inherently new, of course, but I would argue that education must aim to increase its effort to build such capacities in learners with a particular view to how they might be applied in communal produsage environments. So, for example, it's no longer enough to nourish a creative drive, or support a critical mindset: instead, the question becomes how we might express our creativity or criticism in the collaborative context of produsage in a way that benefits rather than undermines the shared project.

For educational institutions, this begins quite simply with putting learners in a position where they might experience both the outcomes and the dynamics of produsage processes (and also involves offering help and support where such processes are confronting) - schools and universities which close off access to Wikipedia on a wholesale basis, for example, do their students a significant disservice, and would be better advised to take learners on a guided tour of exploration of that space; such a tour could highlight the pros and cons of community-based produsage processes in comparison to the industrial model of knowledge management which is practiced in other encyclopaedias, for example. It would thereby provide better insight into when and under what circumstances to trust Wikipedia content, how to evaluate it against other sources, and indeed whether to have blind faith in any information source, produced or prodused. Sadly, even such simple steps have proven too far for some schools, which have chosen to bury their heads in the sand and effectively leave their students to explore produsage spaces in their spare time, without supervision and support.

A second step would involve a more active exploration of produsage as a way of collaborative creating content - either within existing online produsage communities themselves, or in a safer internal space that models the processes which occur outside. Only this second step, aiming to develop learners' capacities for active contribution to produsage projects, would also provide direct support for learners' transition to the active forms of citizenship which are required for political produsage models; additionally, of course, possessing such produsage capacities may also be of significant benefit for the individual's personal and professional career as produsage models become more embedded in commercial activities.

Your work has very much been informed by the context in which you work. Can you share with us some sense of the intellectual community which has emerged around the Creative Industries group at Queensland University of Technology? What commonalities do you see across your projects?
Creative Industries, as I see it, is itself a way to look beyond recognised realms of cultural and creative activity, and to highlight the social as well as commercial impact of creativity well beyond traditional "high culture". I've talked in the context of knowledge and expertise about the way in which produsage and expert communities may join together as the below-water bulk and the above-water tip of the iceberg, and it seems to me, for example, that the work being done at QUT to map the impact of creative industries activity on economy and society follows a very similar logic. What happens at the top end - highly visible commercial and taxpayer-funded cultural production - really couldn't exist without the presence of a much larger, much harder to grasp bulk of everyday grassroots and Pro-Am creative practice. The grassroots sector is the incubator and proving ground for new creative talent and ideas, some of which gradually gain enough visibility to be drawn out into the open and into the creative industries proper - at this grassroots level, there's a strong similarity to what I've described as produsage, then.

Recently, some of this work by my colleagues has focussed strongly on applying quantitative models gleaned from other disciplines to tracing and predicting the evolution of cultural trends, and I'm very interested to see what impact these developments may have on my own work. My colleague John Hartley is currently leading the charge towards a blending of elements from cultural studies, evolutionary economics, and anthropology (and a few other bits and pieces) into what he calls 'cultural science'. This resonates with several elements of my work on produsage: for example, what preconditions are necessary for a large-scale collaborative project like the Wikipedia to gradually appreciate rather than deteriorate in quality - in simple terms, is there an ideal community size or structure that enables collective intelligence to emerge and operate most successfully; how diverse or how uniform should a community be in order to maintain some sort of cohesion and shared purpose while also preventing a descent into uncritical groupthink?

To borrow from a scientific discipline not (yet) represented in the cultural science project: astronomers speak of a 'habitable zone' around a sun - a range within which there's just enough energy coming in to keep water liquid and the atmosphere gaseous, neither too cold nor too hot, which enables the evolution of life. Our Earth is just far enough away from the sun to be in that zone; Venus and Mars probably aren't, and Mercury or the outer gas giants certainly aren't. In a similar way, by accident or by design, Linux, Slashdot, Wikipedia, and the other success stories of produsage have managed to find their own habitable zones, and life there is flourishing; can we use cultural science to establish a clearer picture of exactly is required to sustain these lifeforms?

That's one thing which really excites me about produsage, creative industries, and cultural science - there's plenty more work to be done, and it feels as if we're close to many important new discoveries. Wherever that takes us, it will be an exhilarating ride from here...

If you'll permit me a final aside: I've been a little surprised by the opposition from some quarters (even from some new media scholars) to new terms like produsage. Perhaps there's a difference in mindsets here that's comparable to that between engineers and scientists: the engineer's first response is usually "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and it's true, our language for describing these new produsage phenomena ain't entirely broke: we're just forced to use cumbersome workarounds like 'user-led content creation' to even come close to describing what's going on here. That's a bit like applying the umpteenth service pack to Windows to enable it to interface with a new piece of hardware - it'll work, but not necessarily as well as it could.

The scientific process is (ideally) based on a more risk-taking approach of developing theories and hypotheses and seeing if they can be proven to work, and that's the one I'd like to think I'm following in developing the produsage idea. Its equivalent in software, in turn, is Linus Torvalds's approach in kickstarting the Linux juggernaut: develop it as far as you can, and then throw it out there to see if it takes off. If it does, there's an opportunity for us to collaborative develop a modern alternative to what we've been forced to work with so far - something that does exactly what we want and need it to do.

I'd like to see the concept of produsage in similar terms: I've studied and described its operations in as much detail as I'm able to, for now - and I'll continue to contribute my updates via - but it's over to others now to evaluate, adapt, develop and change the concept on a more collaborative basis. What comes out of this at the end may no longer be exactly what I had in mind, but it's got the potential to provide many more of us with a common ground for developing a shared understanding of what's really going on here - and ultimately, how better to develop the idea of produsage than by taking a produsage-based approach in the first place?

Henry Jenkins is the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities. He is the author and/or editor of nine books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture and From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. His newest books include Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture.

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