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Produsage: Basics

'Anyone Can Edit': Understanding the Produser

Axel Bruns. "'Anyone Can Edit': Understanding the Produser." The Mojtaba Saminejad Lecture, for the Institute for Distributed Creativity. Presented at SUNY Buffalo, 28 Sep. 2005; New School, New York City, 11 Oct. 2005; Brown University, Providence, 12 Oct. 2005; Temple University, Philadelphia, 14 Oct. 2005.

Recent decades have seen the dual trend of growing digitization of content, and of increasing availability of sophisticated tools for creating, manipulating, publishing, and disseminating that content. Advertising campaigns openly encourage users to 'Rip. Mix. Burn.' and to share the fruits of their individual or collaborative efforts with the rest of the world. The Internet has smashed the distribution bottleneck of older media, and the dominance of the traditional producer > publisher > distributor value chain has weakened. Marshall McLuhan's dictum 'everyone's a publisher' is on the verge of becoming a reality - and more to the point, as the Wikipedia proudly proclaims, 'anyone can edit.'

Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation

Axel Bruns. "Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation." Paper presented at Creativity & Cognition Conference, Washington, DC, 14 June 2007.

This paper outlines the concept of produsage as a model of describing today's emerging user-led content creation environments. Produsage overcomes some of the systemic problems associated with translating industrial-age ideas of content production into an informational-age, social software, Web 2.0 environment. Instead, it offers new ways of understanding the collaborative content creation and development practices found in contemporary informational environments.

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

Axel Bruns. "The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage." Paper presented at PerthDAC 2007 conference, Perth, 16 October 2007.

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.

Produsage: Necessary Preconditions


The collective and networked approach of produsage is able to draw on four key affordances of the networked technosocial environment within which it exists, each of which profoundly affects and shapes the model of collective content creation which we describe as produsage:

1. Probabilistic, not directed problem-solving:

As Michel Bauwens has put it, "participants have access to holoptism, the ability for any participant to see the whole." This enables the identification of solutions to current problems through probabilistic rather than predetermined approaches: where in a top-down panoptic model, only project leaders have a full overview, and must therefore specifically direct staff to take on required tasks, in the bottom-up holoptic model participants can self-nominate as contributors to specific problem-solving activities as their interest is triggered; the more participants do so, and the more such activities run in parallel at the same time, the more likely it is that a solution is found. The probabilistic approach is thus a direct result of the redrawn boundaries to participation in the networked model as it builds on the greater range of individuals able to participate, and the improved ease of access for such users to the community and its existing content.

Produsage: Key Principles


In the online, networked, information economy, participants are not simply passive consumers, but active users, with some of them participating more strongly with a focus only on their own personal use, some of them participating more strongly in ways which are inherently constructive and productive of social networks and communal content. These latter users occupy a hybrid position of being both users and what in traditional terms would have to be described loosely as producers: they are productive users, or produsers, engaged in the act of produsage. In addition, we also see an increasing trend to make productive (overtly or covertly) even those forms of participation which we may traditionally have considered to be strictly private 'consumptive' uses: the very acts of using Google to search for information, of traversing the Amazon online catalog, or indeed of browsing the Web itself, now create data trails which when analyzed and fed back into the algorithms of search engines and content directories contribute to subtly alter the browsing experience of the next user. Not only are we all users, then - the more such tools for all of us to affect one another's experience of the shared online knowledge space become commonplace, the more do we all become produsers of that knowledge space itself (whether we know it or not).

Produsage: A Working Definition


In collaborative communities the creation of shared content takes place in a networked, 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 - frequently in a hybrid role of produser where usage is necessarily also productive. 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. Participants in such activities are not producers in a conventional, industrial sense, as that term implies a distinction between producers and consumers which no longer exists; the artefacts of their work are not products existing as discrete, complete packages; and their activities are not a form of production because they proceed based on a set of preconditions and principles that are markedly at odds with the conventional industrial model.


As I write this, the launch of Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage may still be a couple of months away, but is already up and running. This is a space to collect thoughts, comments, and research related to the growing phenomenon of user-led content creation across such a large range of intellectual domains - a phenomenon which I've attempted to define as produsage. For the moment, I'm necessarily still the main proponent of this concept, but I hope that, in time, many more voices will join in as we celebrate and critique developments towards a wider acceptance both of the term, and of the produsage model itself - so, welcome, and please consider making your own contributions to this site.

But let me start at the beginning: why 'produsage'?


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