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Produsage: Applications

Clouds and Crowds: Tracking the Impact of Eyjafjallajökull from the Grassroots

One of the more interesting things to happen for me as a result of the air traffic turmoil caused by the volcanic ash clouds from Eyjafjallajökull - other than fretting about my chances of getting to Europe as planned at the start of May (I'm now cautiously optimistic, though hardly because of Qantas's handling of the situation) - was that I discovered the Flightradar24 site, through a link on my colleague Jo Jacobs's blog. What a powerful demonstration of the power of crowdsourced geodata mashups!

If you haven't seen this site yet - go there! It's the kind of user-generated information resource which only a few years ago we couldn't even have dreamt of, but which now relies on no more than the willingness of a few dozen users world-wide to invest a reasonably modest sum in hardware, and of a few hundred more (I'm guessing) to contribute their time to develop the system and curate the data it relies on.

Flightradar24 aims to track - mainly commercial - aircraft, live, as they fly their various routes around the world, and while its coverage to date is mainly focussed on Europe (with a few contributions from the Americas, South Asia, and Australia), for that continent it does exceptionally well. There's no unauthorised use of data involved here - in the first place, the site simply relies on commercially available devices that receive the transponder information (flight number, aircraft type, height, speed, position, etc.) which is constantly transmitted by commercial airliners - and a few others, such as the planes of the Australian Royal Flying Doctors Service.

Flying Visit to Perth and Adelaide

(Crossposted from

There's a fair amount of travelling coming up for me over the next few months - and as always, where I'm attending conferences I'll endeavour to cover them on (though a good part of my travels in May is for personal reasons, so don't expect too much - a few tweets here and there, perhaps).

First, though, I'm off to Perth and Adelaide next week to speak at the State Libraries of Western Australia (on 28 April) and South Australia (on 30 April) . In a talk I'm calling "Outreach and Co-Curation: Engaging with Library Users", I'll explore how libraries and librarians may use social media to connect and collaborate with library users - this updates my keynote at the ARLIS conference a couple of years ago and also builds on the social media reports I've written for the Smart Services CRC. Ultimately, what this points to is the significant potential for librarians and library users to engage in a shared practice of co-curating information and knowledge: importing and adapting produsage approaches into library practice, and in the process perhaps opening up new user communities for our libraries. I've already posted the Powerpoint here - and all going well, I'll add the audio from the presentation later on as well. UPDATE: The audio from the SLSA talk is now online as well. Thanks again to the SLSA and SLWA folks for organising the event!

Outreach and Co-Curation: Engaging with Library Users (SLWA & SLSA 2010)

Axel Bruns. "Outreach and Co-Curation: Engaging with Library Users." Invited presentation at the State Library of Western Australia, 28 April 2010, and the State Library of South Australia, 30 April 2010.

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Wikipedia: Some Thoughts on Inclusionists vs. Deletionists

One of the major sites of produsage which I examined in Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond was Wikipedia, of course. I continue to think that relative to its major impact on how we deal with information, Wikipedia remains curiously underresearched - especially so if you consider the vast number of individual language-specific Wikipedias which exist today. That's not to belittle the work that has been done - but for a site which sits alongside Google, Facebook, and only a handful of others in a very rarefied category of real gamechangers, we simply haven't seen the amount of scholarly publications about it that we should rightfully expect to see.

Produsage and Beyond: Exploring the Pro-Am Interface (JMRC 2009)

Axel Bruns. "Produsage and Beyond: Exploring the Pro-Am Interface." Invited seminar at the Journalism & Media Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 Oct. 2009.

The concept of produsage (Bruns 2008) describes the user-led collaborative approach to content creation which is prevalent in open source, citizen journalism, and the Wikipedia, as well as many other social media spaces. While many produsage projects have emerged initially to challenge dominant players in industry, their successful establishment as viable and sustainable alternatives also opens the door for an exploration of manageable cooperative arrangements between industry and community. Many challenges remain for such Pro-Am (Leadbeater & Miller 2004) models, however - not least an often deep-seated sense of mutual distrust -, and successful Pro-Am models may be most likely to succeed when sponsored by trusted third parties (public broadcasters, NGOs). This presentation explores pitfalls and possibilities in the Pro-Am space.

Citizen Journalism and Everyday Life: A Case Study of Germany's (Future of Journalism 2009)

Axel Bruns. "Citizen Journalism and Everyday Life: A Case Study of Germany's" Paper presented at Future of Journalism, Cardiff, 9-10 Sep. 2009.

Much recent research into citizen journalism has focussed on its role in political debate and deliberation, especially in the context of recent general elections in the United States and elsewhere. Such research examines important questions about citizen participation in democratic processes - however, it perhaps places undue focus on only one area of journalistic coverage, and presents a challenge which only a small number of citizen journalism projects can realistically hope to meet.

A greater opportunity for broad-based citizen involvement in journalistic activities may lie outside of politics, in the coverage of everyday community life. A leading exponent of this approach is the German-based citizen journalism Website, which provides a nationwide platform for participants to contribute reports about events in their community. myHeimat takes a hyperlocal approach but also allows for content aggregation on specific topics across multiple local communities; Hannover-based newspaper publishing house Madsack has recently acquired a stake in the project.

myHeimat has been particularly successful in a number of rural and regional areas where strong offline community ties already exist; in several of its most active regions, myHeimat and its commercial partners now also produce monthly print magazines republishing the best of the user-generated content by local contributors, which are distributed to households free of charge or included as inserts in local newspapers. Additionally, the myHeimat publishing platform has also been utilised as the basis for a new 'participatory newspaper' project, independently of the myHeimat Website: since mid-September 2008, the Gießener Zeitung has been published as both a twice-weekly newspaper and a continuously updated news site which draws on both staff and citizen journalist contributors.

Drawing on extensive interviews with myHeimat CEO Martin Huber and Madsack newspaper editors Peter Taubald and Clemens Wlokas during October 2008, this paper analyses the myHeimat project and examines its applicability beyond rural and regional areas in Germany; it investigates the question of what role citizen journalism may play beyond the political realm.

Citizen Consultation from Above and Below: The Australian Perspective (EDEM 2009)

Axel Bruns and Jason Wilson. "Citizen Consultation from Above and Below: The Australian Perspective." Paper presented at EDEM 2009, Vienna, 7-8 Sep. 2009.

In Australia, a range of Federal Government services have been provided online for some time, but direct, online citizen consultation and involvement in processes of governance is relatively new. Moves towards more extensive citizen involvement in legislative processes are now being driven in a "top-down" fashion by government agencies, or in a "bottom-up" manner by individuals and third-sector organisations. This chapter focusses on one example from each of these categories, as well as discussing the presence of individual politicians in online social networking spaces. It argues that only a combination of these approaches can achieve effective consultation between citizens and policymakers. Existing at a remove from government sites and the frameworks for public communication which govern them, bottom-up consultation tools may provide a better chance for functioning, self-organising user communities to emerge, but they are also more easily ignored by governments not directly involved in their running. Top-down consultation tools, on the other hand, may seem to provide a more direct line of communication to relevant government officials, but for that reason are also more likely to be swamped by users who wish simply to register their dissent rather than engage in discussion. The challenge for governments, politicians, and user communities alike is to develop spaces in which productive and undisrupted exchanges between citizens and policymakers can take place.

User Generated Content als Qualitätsmedium? Alternative Anreize für Qualitätscontent (Alcatel-Lucent 2009)

Axel Bruns. "User Generated Content als Qualitätsmedium? Alternative Anreize für Qualitätscontent." Paper presented at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation conference "Finanzierung von Qualitätscontent", Hamburg, 9 June 2009.

Angetrieben und unterstützt durch Web-2.0-Technologien, gibt es heute einen Trend zur Verbindung der Nutzung und Produktion von Inhalten als Produtzung (engl. produsage). Um dabei die Qualität der erstellten Inhalte und eine nachhaltige Teilnahme der Nutzer sicherzustellen, müsen vier grundlegende Prinzipien eingehalten werden:

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).

Collaborative Local Content Creation through edgeX: An Evaluation (AoIR 2008)

Sal Humphreys and Axel Bruns. "Collaborative Local Content Creation through edgeX: An Evaluation." Paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers conference, Copenhagen, 17 Oct. 2008.

This paper presents research data and findings from the collaborative content creation project edgeX: Mapping the missing grassroots, which was reported on in the 2007 AoIRs conference (Authors). This project is based in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia and explores the potential for, geographically local communities to enhance their social ties and sense of communal identity through the integration of a Website into their communication ecologies. The Website,, allows local users to upload their own content in a variety of formats, and thereby (figuratively as well as literally) to put themselves and their work on the map; a Google Maps-driven geobrowsing interface is a centrepiece of the edgeX site. edgeX has most of the features available to the communities of Flickr, YouTube, and social networking sites, enabling users to publish and share their work and to interact with each other.


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