Produser

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= concept by Axel Bruns (in his book on Produsage and Produserism, on the merging of producer and consumer roles

compare with the older term Prosumer

Description

Henry Jenkins/Joshua Green:

"Describing the productive consumption within collaborative projects such as the Wikipedia and online news sites, Axel Bruns (2007 a, b) introduces the concept of the 'produser', a "hybrid user/producer" (2007a n.p.) involved in "the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in the pursuit of further improvement" (2007b n.p.). Produsers contribute to the iterative improvement of goods and services, whether explicitly, in the form of online news sites (Slashdot, Digg) or knowledge projects (Wikipedia), or perhaps without their conscious knowledge, as happens when user purchase decisions contribute to Amazon's recommendation services.

Bruns (2007b) outlines four characteristics of produsage, describing a system built on community logics of re-use and permission rather than commercial logics of ownership and restriction. Produsage relies on the belief that with enough size and diversity, the community can achieve "more than a closed team of professionals" (ibid.). This community is flexibly organized and affords fluid participation. Not only do users move between status as producers and consumers, they participate as much as they are able to, depending on their skill, time, desire, interest, and knowledge. This fluidity reflects the 'ad-hoc' basis of collective intelligence and the ways participatory audiences self-organize to achieve complex tasks. It also means the community is invested in the re-use and continued development of the "unfinished artifacts" it produces. Rather than commercial products, the fruits of produsage are open to iterative development and re-development. As such, produsage privileges what Bruns describes as "permissive regimes of engagement", where artifacts are licensed under copyright schemes that allow community re-development but prohibit the commercial uses, especially those that in close off these development rights.


Just as Bruns' category of the produser suggests a blurring of the role of producer and user, these trends also suggest a blurring of the historic distinction between fan and "average" consumer. As the web has made fan culture more accessible to a larger public and as digital tools have made it easier to perform such activities, a growing portion of the population now engages in what might once have been described as fannish modes of consumption. Describing pyramids of participation, some commentators note that the most labor intensive activities are still performed by a self-selected few, while more casual modes of participation extend to a larger population (Horowitz 2006; Koster 2006). It matters that these more casual consumers have the option of a more intensified engagement even if they choose not to participate at that level. But research needs to extend beyond the most visible members of fan communities to encompass more mundane and casual modes of consumption.

While Bruns links produsage to collaborative news gathering, citizen journalism, and the Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) movement, these core characteristics also describe fan behaviors around branded entertainment. Robert Kozinets (2007) uses the term "wikimedia" production to describe the behavior of Star Trek fan filmmakers, who, in backyards, basements, and home-made studios, have been creating and distributing unofficial "episodes" using high quality equipment and state of the art special effects. Star Trek: New Voyages, for example, hopes to complete the original Enterprise's intended five-year mission (cut short after three seasons) while others raise questions not addressed on the air (including, for example, satisfying a long standing but never fulfilled promise of explicitly queer characters). Kozinets compares this production process, where fans add not only to the original text but also correct, comment on and contribute to other fan productions, to the collaborative process that is generating Wikipedia, a user-built online encyclopedia. Wikimedia is the application of an open source model to branded entertainment - often operating outside but in dialogue with the processes that generate commercial culture (Kozinets 2007, p. 198).

These "collaborative media creators", like produsers, are motivated by a desire to enrich the community of fellow fans. In doing so, Kozinets argues they are also promoting the Star Trek brand, strengthening and prolonging its market value. Looking towards the future, these amateur productions are also providing a training ground from which writers, directors, and producers of any future Star Trek series might be recruited. Something similar occurred around the British television series, Doctor Who, which was off the air for more than a decade but rebounded, in part, based on talent recruited from the fan community (Perryman 2008; Jenkins 2006e). Several of these fan media productions have involved active collaboration with the original creators (actors, writers, and technical crew) from the official Star Trek franchise. Kozinet's description of Star Trek fan cinema challenges the ways that fans have been depicted both within the political economy tradition (as passive consumers of mass generated content rather than as active participants in cultural production and circulation) and within the cultural studies tradition (as autonomous or resistant subcultures rather than as collaborators with commercial shareholders).

The roles of producer and consumer are being blurred further within the new media landscape. Mark Deuze's Media Work (2007) traces these shifts in the relations between media producers and consumers across the advertising, film and television, news, and games industries as part of a larger pattern of changes in the ways creative work is organized and monetized. Deuze notes, however, that companies often feel threatened by the ways this shift of power and responsibility towards consumers disrupts older practices; many companies limit participation, even as they recognize its potential for generating revenue." (http://henryjenkins.org/2008/03/the_moral_economy_of_web_20_pa_1.html)

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