Week 2: Define “produsage”. Find three examples of “produsage” and explain how they are ‘exploited’.
In this post I will attempt to detail the debate about media interactivity in relation to Web 2.0, looking closely at Gane and Beer’s analysis and drawing on Axel Bruns‘s argument about ‘produsage’.
The notion of media interactivity is by no means a simple one. During my reading, I have found that it is a term which is often used as a way of idealising digital, or ‘new’ media. In this way, as Gane and Beer suggest, the term has become somewhat of a marketing tool –
“In advertisements for new technologies it is commonplace to see and hear slogans telling us of the new-found functionality of digital media, and of how their ‘interactvity’ can enhance our working lives or leisure time” (Gane and Beer: 2008, 88)
But more on this later…
On to the main focus of this blog post, which will hopefully outline the development of so-termed ‘interactive’ media, that is, “those applications that encourage user-generated content” (Gane and Beer: 2008, 88b). The development of Web 2.0 has brought with it a culture of online interactivity, whereby consumers of Internet-based media become at once users and producers, This phenomenon has, aptly in my opinion, been labelled with the ‘produser‘ hybrid, which defines the shift “from user-as-consumer to user-as-contributer” (Bruns: 2008).
This concept of produsage, while indeed a positive one, does however pose a problem. It has become all too easy for advertisers to exploit the term ‘interactivity’ for commercial and financial gain. This rhetoric is evident in the following example:
So, in an advertising culture in which all media are heaped under the umbrella term ‘interactve’, how can we distinguish between those media outlets which do indeed facilitate ‘produsage’ and those which fall short of their claims of interactivity? I myself am guilty of getting swept up in this hype and used to think that all digital media are wonderfully coaxing audiences into becoming an active, participatory culture. I now imagine these media as a page of words written in pencil, and would posit that interactivity depends both on the media outlet and form and on the nature and willingness of the consumer to contribute to the culture; to erase and correct the existing content and pencil in new words.
How do we know what constitutes ‘produsage’? And how do we know when we ourselves are ‘produsing’ material of our own and contributing to this sphere of interactivity? Bruns, in The Future is User-Led: The Path Towards Widespread Produsage uses the example of Wikipedia, comparing it with traditional encyclopedias (i.e. ‘Web 1.0’ applications) in order to differentiate between “the process of content production…[and] the collaborative processes…” (Bruns: 2008)
Other examples of ‘produsage’ include the iTunes Store and IMDB, both of which allow consumers to create informational content, such as film reviews, and have a part in the development process. For instance, my friend created this after making a film in high school:
You may call it narcissistic; but self-indulgent or not, it can’t be denied that this is a perfect example of a site where users ourselves can extend existing online content, thereby ‘produsing’ material and meaning that the creation is no longer wholly run by the actual producer/s.
Nicholas Gane & David Beer, ‘Interactivity’, in New Media: The Key Concepts, [Oxford: Berg, 2008]