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Produsage and Participatory Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1693 words Published: 12th Oct 2017

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M024610021 – Grégoire Lesene

Second Response Essay for The Audience in Media and Communications course Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation – Axel Bruns

  1. Summary:

In Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation, Dr. Axel Bruns defines the concept of produsage, coined by the scholar himself after the terms “production” and “usage” (Wikipedia), so as to characterize today’s user led content environments. According to Bruns, produsage is “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement.” (Bruns 2).

This notion is linked with the emergence of the so-called “social software” and “Web 2.0” environments, and illustrates the phenomenon of users or consumers playing the roles of producers in various virtual settings such as social networking (with sites such as Facebook, Myspace or LinkedIn), knowledge management (Wikipedia or Google Earth), creative practice (Flickr, YouTube or ccMixter), multi-user online gaming (as gamers are being more and more involved in the development of games, with the example of The Sims, where 90% of the game’s content being made by consumers rather than the developer Maxis), citizen journalism (Indymedia or Slashdot, having an impact on political processes in several countries (Bruns 3)), collaborative filtering (Amazon’s recommendations or Google’s PageRank) and open source software development (Linux or LibreOffice).

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The author informs us the phenomenon of users being involved in content creation is far from being new, as the term “prosumer” was already coined four decades ago by American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler so as to describe “more informed, more involved consumer of goods who would need to be addressed by allowing for a greater customisability and individualisability of products” (Bruns 3). The concept of “pro-am” was also approached by Charles Leadbeater to describe a “joint effort of producers and consumers in developing new and improved commercial goods.” (Bruns 3). It is mentioned by the author that the above-mentioned models sustain however a traditional industrial production chain, as the split into three parts is still present (producer, distributor and consumer).

Author Alex Bruns states the concept of produsage can be defined following four characteristics, which are: 1) shifts from producers to wide communities of participants, 2) flowing movement between produsers’ roles, 3) unfinished products that are subjects to constant evolutions and modifications, 4) produsers recognize and value authorship and merit while forbidding unauthorized commercial usage so as to promote constant improvement of products.

Detailing commercial approaches of the produsage (i.e.: crowdsourcing), scholar Bruns points out the possible issues of this model, among which the problem of legal concept of copyright which needs to be reconsidered (Bruns 7), and states that if such a trend keeps on working, it should be considered as a fundamental paradigm change with deep involvements.

  1. Evaluation:

Based on “the affordances of the technosocial framework of the networked environments” (Snurb 1), produsage allows amateurs and professionals alike to work hand in hand in order to create and share information or products with the rest of the world. This collaboration brings several benefits, among which the sharing of knowledge, such as website Wikipedia.org, which allows anyone free access and content to an Internet encyclopedia.

In this era of “participatory culture”, time and money are less of an obstacle than it used to be. For instance number one’s global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter enables individuals to bring a project to life, using public fundraising to bring projects such as video games, music albums, inventions, movies etc. to completion if minimum funding goals are attained.

Using the example of the video game industry, where traditionally large publishing companies have an impact on the original ideas and visions of video game developers, rendering at times a piece of work unfinished or oftentimes bugged that necessitates patching afterwards (with for instance the example of computer game Fallout 2, which was rendered fully playable due to an unofficial patching by fans), crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter nowadays allow developers to fully conceive their work of art the way they want it to be without any boundaries.

Therefore in such cases, the intervention of the public, the involvement of consumers in the production of contents is seen as beneficial, as constraints of the past are now overcome.

Although produsage appear to have a positive impact in certain areas, the concept has its limitations in some fields, among which in the domain of education. As media expert and MIT Professor Henry Jenkins states, there is “a huge gap between what you can do when you’ve got unlimited access to broadband in your home and what you can do when your only access is through the public library, where there are often time limits on how long you can work, when there are already federally mandated filters blocking access to certain sites, when there are limits on your ability to store and upload material, and so forth.” (Jenkins 1).

Two other deficiencies of the concept of participatory culture are also pointed out by Henry Jenkins, what he calls the “transparency problem” and the “ethics challenge”. For Jenkins, the “transparency problem” is the issue young people are confronted with while learning as media change perceptions of the world. As a matter of fact, we cannot deny that our ability to elucidate the veracity of certain information is at times challenged due to the tremendous amount of information available.

The other issue named the “ethics challenge” is defined as “the breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants.” (Norris 1). Taking the rise of citizen journalism to illustrate this point, almost everyone can pretend to be a journalist to date, while this career is traditionally tied with a certain education, rules and techniques.

  1. Elaboration:

Following the reading of this journal along with various articles linked with the concepts of produsage and participatory culture, we have learnt the involvement of produsers is beneficial and detrimental at the same time. The goal of produsers is to provide freely to individuals without any form of rewards. However the risk might occurs that companies may take advantage of such contents to benefit themselves. Subsequently we cannot help but wonder about the continuity on the long-term of such practices, as eventually contributors might be tempted to earn something in return for their hardwork.

Produsage content is nowadays undeniably part of our daily lives and it is somewhat difficult to imagine how we would be able to do without this amount of accessible knowledge to us. Because of produsage, we can have access to unlimited forms of learning such as YouTube tutorials for instance, and Wikipedia has become a student’s staple for dealing with assignment or as a decent if not reliable source of knowledge for plenty of individuals (despite the fact we fundamentally know such affirmations on this website should be treated with caution).

Therefore did produsage and participatory culture help us broaden our criticism, view and understanding of our daily surroundings or did they simply worsen these skills?

As online communities seem to favor more and more virtual realities such as the game The Sims, does produsage create loneliness and antisocial, reclusive living habits, far away from real human contact?


Bruns, A., (2007). Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation.Proceedings Creativity & Cognition. 6 (1), pp.1-7

Bruns, A., (2008). The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage. Fibreculture Journal. 11 (1), pp.1-10

Wikipedia (n.d.). Produsage. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Produsage. [Last Accessed 28 November 2014].

Open Source (n.d.). What is open source?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source. [Last Accessed 28 November 2014].

Snurb (2007). Produsage: A Working Definition. [ONLINE] Available at: http://produsage.org/produsage. [Last Accessed 28 November 2014].

Jenkins, H. (2006). MySpace and the Participation Gap. [ONLINE] Available at: http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/myspace_and_the_participation.html. [Last Accessed 28 November 2014].

Norris, A (2012). Review of Jenkins’ work on Participatory Cultures. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/aaminahm/2012/08/11/review-jenkins-work-participatory-cultures. [Last Accessed 28 November 2014].


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