By: Xinyi Liu
Class: Kai Soh, Thursdays 12 pm
In the age of web 2.0, more and more approaches for producing and distributing content are offered to users (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013), rather than they receive information passively from web 1.0. With the increasing popularity of SNSs like blogs, Facebook and Twitter, participation has become an essential quality of current social media and the audience is taking a more participative role as producers instead of simple consumers, according to Hinton and Hjorth (2013).
The term of users as producers is called “produser”, which is first proposed by Bruns (2008). He pointed out that the produsers are both users as well as producers of information and knowledge (Bruns,2008), taking creative and collaborative participations in generating content even if they do not realize this fact.
In chapter 5 of the book “Understanding Social Media”, Hinton and Hjorth explored how this idea has been conceptualized by different scholars and put into practice with several examples. They first explained that the participation of internet-based media is two-way communication and it includes two aspects: the first one is public response like commenting on a news online, which also exists in earlier media practice and has been widely discussed; the second aspect is the audience as producer, providing original material actively through social media (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). Next, several academic approaches of this idea are analyzed by the authors, including fan culture, active consumers of, professional amateur and produser. Hinton and Hjorth(2013) pointed out that the initial form of users’ production emerged in the fan communities and the term of produser simplified the concept of users as producers.
Moreover, the authors introduced two related themes, user generated content, which refers to the content disseminated by users and their personal information, and the user created content, which is created intentionally by users for others to consume ((Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). At last, the examples of crowd sourcing, Wikipedia, citizen journalism and online activism are used to illustrate how the produsage influence our engagement with the internet and the society.
On March 20, 2017, the line 1 subway and Jiangling Road Station in Hangzhou, China turned into fire red with thousands of music comments, attracting widespread concern and discussion both offline and online. This is the “Train of music comment” campaign of NetEase cloud music. 5000 superior music comments from its users with the largest number of “likes” were exhibited on the wall and floor of the subway as well as the station. You could also see the user names of content providers and the songs they are commenting on.`
Some of the comments are full of touching emotions, like “I want to be the one who tells about your life on your funeral.”; some are funny, for example,” I’m alone, so I even don’t want to see two dumplings sticking together intimately.”; others like “The world is so wide, but people always come to narrow of grief.” are poetry and philosophy.
In the meantime, a “Music comment museum” was set up on the NetEase cloud music app and its website. Every time you enter this online museum, ten carefully selected comments will be provided which never repeat. Users could jump to the link of the music being commented.
All the comments showed on the two campaigns are very impressive, and most importantly, they are totally produced by the users. These materials are based on the function of “music comment”, which provides users with an interactive way to participate and generate their original content. There is a comment area below the music player interface where users could post their reflections of specific music publicly, and the comments could be liked and replied by other users. The comments with most likes would be shown on the top of this are. Rather than simply commenting on the music itself, users are more likely to share their stories and feelings resonated by it as produsers. A popular song sometimes could get tens of thousands comment, and a piece of comment can gain tens even more likes.
Besides the comment function, various approaches for being produsers are also provided to users. For example, they can edit music lists with tags of different music types, which could be shared or collected by others, and the popular ones would be recommended at the top of the searching result for certain tags.
In this way, users feel they are engaged with the music and their produsage is valued (Reinhard,2009), thus they are willing to produce more high-quality content constantly. On the other hand, these user generated contents greatly promote the social interaction of audience, as they could communicate with others who have similar taste or the empathy of specific songs or music and share what they have produced on this platform. It is said that the content produced by users pass on a spiritual power, making users have the sense of belonging to a community. The NetEase cloud music does a good job not only on encouraging users to be producers but also on selling this culture with harnessing the enthusiasm and productions of active users as a strategy to attract more audience.
Critique and development
In the digital era, the copyright regime seems to fall into a more serious crisis, and with the flourishing of UGC and UCC, how to protect the produsers’ copyright of such social production has become a challenge (Elkin-Koren,2011).
There is no doubt that the copyright of the original content produced by the users belongs to the users themselves. However, by utilizing some terms and conditions, the copyright is owned by the social media corporations as well (Bird, 2011). In the NetEase cloud music terms and conditions of service, it mentions that when users providing content, they will grant the NetEase a global free license allowing it to use, spread, copy, modify, sublicense, create derivative works, translation, publishing, performing and display such content. This means the NetEase can use the content without paying the provider and even without their consent. The users contribute their labor to creating the content with economic value to the platform, but the profit is never shared with them. Elkin-Koren (2011) pointed out that the current copyright law neither defines the new form of relationship between users and institutions, nor addresses the problems of protecting the large-scale collaboration and the interests of users, which may decrease the users’ motivation and enthusiasm of producing. Furthermore, a worse condition is that the contents on social media are frequently copied and spread by some people like the “marketing account” on microblogs for drawing attentions and seeking personal profit, totally regardless of the copyright. At present, it is extremely difficult to track these people and investigate for their legal responsibility.
In recent years, the social media platforms are making effort to encourage the users to be produsers by providing participatory approaches and lowering the cost of producing. You can easily post a story on the blog, a picture on Facebook or upload a video on YouTube, but appropriating your content could be even easier. At this point, the problem of copyright might become a barrier of sustainable produsage in the future. The use of UGC and UCC should take this issue into consideration, and some licensing standards are expected to be established to protect the rights and interests of the users as producers.
Bird, S. E. (2011). Are we all produsers now? Convergence and media audience practices. Cultural Studies, 25(4-5), 502-516.
Bruns, Axel. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond: From production to produsage. Vol. 45. Peter Lang, 2008.
Elkin-Koren, N. (2011). Tailoring copyright to social production. Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 12 (1), 11.
Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Participation and User Created Content. In Understanding Social Media (pp. 55–76). London: SAGE.
Reinhard, C. D. (2009). Discourse swings in understanding audiences. In International Communication Association.