Assessment 3 · PRODUSERS · Social Media Communication

Assessment 3: ‘Produser’= Producer + User

MECO6936 Assessment 3: Online Article
Keeli Royle
SID 440308483
Tutorial Time: Thursday 12pm-3pm (Kai Soh)

The term ‘produser,’ devised by Axel Bruns, is a combination of ‘producer’ and ‘user’ and refers to the changing nature of the role of the audience as a participatory member of the online community in Web 2.0. The evidence of this theory is shown through study of community engagement with entertainment and information entities, as well as the distribution of content from other consumers. The idea of the ‘produser’ challenges the traditional hierarchy in media communication, which is evident in “‘show-and-tell’ advertising or ‘telling people what the need to know’ journalism” (Deuze, 2007, p. 256). The exploration of this topic reveals perspectives of audience-media relationships and the degree to which Web 2.0 has impacted the participatory nature of communication between these parties. It also explores the power relationship between companies and the possible exploitation of the ‘produser’ as well as the collaborative dynamic between traditional producers of media content and the consumers. The ‘produser’ and their role within digital media, particularly the internet and social media, allows exploration of the way online communities and roles influence behaviour and practices in the offline world.

The introduction of the role of the audience as ‘produser’ contrasts the idea of the passive receiver of online materials and allows a more interactive experience with content contribution and distribution. The concept that the ‘produser’ is a result of Web 2.0 suggests that the progressive function of media platforms has extended beyond “simply responding to content that has been created by an organisation” (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013, p. 58) and not only allows, but encourages, the creation of new, user created content (UCC). There is question of whether Web 2.0 has increased the capability of the user to create original content or if the access to distribution platforms and direct connection with appropriate audiences has allowed the content to be perceived as a more prevalent occurrence. There is evidence contradicting the direct correlation between ‘produsage’ and Web 2.0 through audience participatory behavior and communities, such as fandoms and the associated content produced, prior to the creation of the online distribution. There is also use of ‘produsage’, which is relevant to both online and offline communities and a “whole array of practices that certainly articulate around media, and may employ Internet communication, but involve many other forms of creativity” (Bird, 2011, p.505). An example of the online/offline relationship of content is the use of Pinterest and the way the user created or distributed posts often relate to offline skills and tasks such as design, craft or baking. The stylistic changes to the traditional producer and consumer roles as part of Web 2.0, require the recognition of the participatory and collaborative developments within the media, “be it within a multiplayer game, on a newspaper discussion forum, or at a viral marketing site – it becomes crucial to understand the roles of the producer and the consumer as (to some extent) interchangeable and (at the very least) independent” (Deuze, 2007, p.250). The malleable roles that have been emphasised, if not created, by this technological development have deconstructed the way media is consumed and the wider-range of content specific information that is readily available.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 10.27.01 pm
One type of community that has prospered from, and significantly utilised, the power of online user production and distribution has been that of ‘fandom’ groups. The platform for the distribution of content throughout media has created a greater presence for ‘fandoms’; although, it is also evident that the technology did not create these communities or fan culture but rather allowed it to distribute relevant concepts to other fans that exceed geographical location. The commitment to the creation of content by these fans to distribute to the wider fan communities supports the idea of the user as a professional amateur, or pro-am, who is defined by Hinton and Hjorth as:

…someone who worked at their interest like a professional, spending as many hours on their endeavour as they might in their day job, treating it like it was a task that earned money, and yet was not a professional since they were not part of a professional community and did not get paid for their work (2013, p.59)

‘Fandom’ online communities are so strongly associated with participatory culture and the role of the ‘produser,’ that Bird (2011) argues that “the equation of audience practices with one specific type of activity – online fandom – has the potential to stifle a richer understanding of continuing audience activity” (p.504). It is recognised through Bird (2011) and Carpentier (2009) that there has been neglect in the acknowledgment of the ‘regular’ audience. In contrast to the high representation of fandom culture in reference to active user participation in the online media, Bird (2011) states that majority of people are, in fact, not ‘produsers’ “whether by choice or access to time and resources” (p. 504). This absence of the ‘regular’ user supports “the conflation of producer and audience is not total, and that participatory media products still have audiences that are not involved in the participatory process” (Carpentier, 2009, p.411).
The representation and rise of the ‘produser’ has changed the relationship and power dynamic in the hierarchy of media industries and audiences. The concept of ‘produsage’ appears to render the traditional media producer and industries more redundant in the digitalised sphere of Web 2.0, but it is evident that, through collaboration and communication, the power dynamic is not as clearly defined as it traditionally was. The most explicit evidence of power play between the traditional and redefined producer can be seen through integration and reaction to the imposition of ‘terms of service.’ A technique of disciplining and control that industries can enforce over participating users is the redefinition of content ownership “so that anything they post becomes the property of the company” (Bird, 2011, p.507). Contrastingly, it is evident that attempts at direct control can completely backfire in February 2009 where Facebook attempted to significantly “change its terms of service, which resulted in an uproar in the Facebook community, forcing Facebook to walk back the changes and promise to seek users’ input in developing new terms of service” (Grinnell, 2009, p.594). Power can also be developed through collaboration, particularly business utilising User Created Content (UCC) for marketing and as a pathway into connecting to audiences on a level that appears to be less hierarchical and imposed. Wendy’s online “roasts” on social media sites, Facebook and Twitter, created hype through its comedic contrast from a traditional business approach to marketing, through this it also generated ‘shares,’ and ‘retweets,’ as well a interactive communication across the platforms.

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A media industry that has been impacted and changed through audience participation and collaboration is that of journalism and the distribution and creation of information. The most significant evidence of this is the nature and use of Wikipedia and the benefits and risks around the content it produces. Hinton and Hjorth state that Wikipedia has “quickly become the world’s largest source of knowledge on a variety of topics” (2013, p.63) however the legitimacy of the ‘knowledge’ and its ‘produsers’ is questionable in its authenticity, relying on other ‘produsers’ to correct or alter information.

‘Produsage’ and the ‘produser’ is an automated part of my personal social media experience. Being part of any number of communities and being able to access, produce and distribute material so quickly and easily creates a lack of attention to my actual participation and contribution to the online and social media network. This was contrasted within my work producing for ‘Be The Filter,’ as I was actively trying to create content to create audience response, a traditionally Web 1.0 technique, while also requiring audience participation to encourage the promotion of the movement and the associated activities.

The vast amount of online content I interact with daily has to be produced somewhere, however, the recognition of the concept of a ‘produser’, I find most effective in using for bettering my understanding of social networking and intentional connection and participation with other users for marketing and promotional purposes.

 

References

Bird, S., 2011. ARE WE ALL PRODUSERS NOW?. Cultural Studies, 25(4-5), pp.502-516.

Carpentier, N., 2009. Participation Is Not Enough: The Conditions of Possibility of Mediated Participatory Practices. European Journal of Communication, 24(4), pp.407-420.

Deuze, M., 2007. Convergence culture in the creative industries. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(2), pp.243-263.

Grinnell, C., 2009. From Consumer to Prosumer to Produser: Who Keeps Shifting My Paradigm? (We Do!). Public Culture, 21(3), pp.577-598.

Hinton, S. and Hjorth, L., 2013. Understanding social media. 1st ed. Los Angeles, CA [etc.]: SAGE.

Make Stress Balls Kids Will Love – Natural Beach Living. 2017 [online] Natural Beach Living. Available at: <http://www.naturalbeachliving.com/make-stress-balls-kids-will-love&gt; [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

MECO Vox Pops #BeTheFilter. 2017 [online] YouTube. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz7eCSV4fLk&feature=youtu.be&gt; [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Pinterest. [online] Pinterest. Available at: <https://au.pinterest.com/&gt; [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

The Southerners: #bethefilter Facebook Page. 2017 [online] Facebook.com. Available at: <https://www.facebook.com/thesouthernersbethefilter/?ref=br_rs&gt; [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Wendy’s Is Roasting People On Twitter, And It’s Just Too Funny. 2017. [online] Bored Panda. Available at: <http://www.boredpanda.com/funny-wendy-jokes/&gt; [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Assessment 3 · Online Communities · PRODUSERS · Social Media Communication

r/place for everything… A social experiment that defined community

By: Lee Anthony
Class: Kai Soh, Thursdays 12pm

WARNING: Contains some NSFW content

“There is an empty canvas.
You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another.
Individually you can create something.
Together you can create something more.”        

One of the internet’s largest communities staged a 2017 April Fool’s Day joke that quickly became an extraordinary social media experiment. The diversity expressed by users in Reddit’s 72-hour r/place challenge and the social media dynamics they generated came to represent a microcosm of interaction and “produsage” (Bruns, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, p57) in the online world.

More than a bulletin board

Reddit was launched in 2005, as “the front page of the internet” – a news aggregation and social discussion site. It is still often described somewhat clinically as an ‘online bulletin board system’, but its history of community and sub-community activities, language, and memes show it has grown to become much more than that.

Users, or Redditors, have collectively raised funds for numerous charitable causes and hold regular global gift exchanges – including annual Guinness World Record-breaking Secret Santa exchanges.  They can ‘friend’ each other to follow the posts of specific users, discuss topics either publicly or privately, and attend subreddit ‘in-person’ meetups and events in cities around the world, that is, they network (Hinton & Hjorth, p22). Self-policing and gatekeeping (Nissenbaum and Shifman, p485) is effectively under the control of individual subreddit moderators, but Redditors themselves also play a role in community control via the public-post upvoting and downvoting system. Users’ contributions to subreddit discussions earn ‘karma’, or “social capital” (Bourdieu, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, p42); karma has no material benefit, but is a reflection of a contributor’s popularity on Reddit.

The above traits, combined with an active user base, clearly show that Reddit has fulfilled Parks’ “conditions for community: membership, personal expression and connection” (Parks, 2011, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, p43) and, therefore, is a thriving virtual community and not merely a very large forum.

How r/place was built, razed and rebuilt

The 2017 r/place experiment was a fascinating reflection of Reddit’s collective spirit.

The giant social media network created a blank canvas 1000 pixels by 1000 pixels – r/place – and the riddle at the top of this blog was an invitation to users to fill it in. Anyone with a Reddit account created by March 31, 2017, could place one of 16 colours on one pixel at 5-10 minute intervals. During the three days that r/place was active, more than a million unique produsers from all over the world participated in creating and recreating artwork on the canvas.

The concept of a social media platform as a collaborative community space (Hyde, et al, in Mandiberg, Ch5, p53) was clearly evident in r/place. At first, individual pixels dotted the canvas, then users began to form teams to generate recognisable images. New subreddits were created to discuss strategy, as were Discord voice/text chat servers. Later in the exercise, as teams realised they could not be fully represented around the clock, alliances were formed between some to help protect each other’s input.

Popular Reddit memes were a dominant feature. Subreddit teams jostled for space to include their own “sub-cultural” themes (Nissenbaum and Shifman, p484). Early entries included the infamous Dick Butt character, originally drawn by web comic artist K.C. Green, adopted by 4chan and later by Reddit as the theme of its own subreddit. Dick Butt battled for canvas space against another subreddit meme, the Pink Vomit Monster, which survived to the end. Movie, music, game and graphic magazine memes were posted, painted over and reposted; Star Wars fans rendered a large prequel meme – The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise – and one game logo, Osu!, survived multiple ‘attacks’ throughout the three days. A ‘Blue Corner’ posse took over the bottom left of the canvas and soon faced off against a ‘Red Corner’ and the ‘Green Lattice Team’, all of which created their own strategy subreddits during the exercise.

Other cultural representation (Nissenbaum and Shifman, p484) began with nationality subreddits whose teams placed flags or self-referential memes (Singer, et al, p3), for example, r/Australia and r/straya managed to carve out a large, prime position for Aussie themes and defend the space until the end. A Steve Irwin ‘crikey’ memorial sits alongside boxing kangaroo, redback spider, dropbear and Bunnings-snags memes, all linked by the two Down Under subreddits’ classic greeting: “G’day cunts”.

place atlas Australia
The Australian contribution to r/place. Picture: The /r/place Atlas
War and Peace

An international pixel war broke out as nationality teams invaded each other’s spaces to wipe out rival countries’ flags. Many Redditors were particularly impressed by a German flag’s invasion of a French one (below; video: Aidaman TV, YouTube); another team eventually superimposed a European Union banner on a disputed section of the warring factions’ flags (on the final canvas, a peace dove appears in the centre of the EU logo). The US flag was attacked multiple times during the three days and successfully fended off a last-ditch black-out attempt by The Black Void (see trolls, below).

The appearance of advertising logos midway through the exercise outraged some Redditors. As Shareen Pathak of Ad Age warned in 2014: “Redditors overwhelmingly hate marketing in (almost) all its forms… Brands that try to insert themselves as memes are bound to fail”. A Tesla Motors logo added to the canvas was the subject of a subreddit debate about whether or not it and other corporate logos passed the sub-cultural legitimacy test (Goodman, in Ritzer [2004] cited in Nissenbaum and Shifman, p486).

There were peacemakers, including the Rainbow Road Team, and art-lovers who replicated notable works including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

And there were trolls. A group widely suspected to be 4chan users and supporters swarmed to r/place as The Black Void, collectively attempting (and ultimately failing) to fill the canvas with black pixels.

BlackVoid
The Black Void, r/place. Picture: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/rplace

Of concern to all teams was that their turf would be attacked while they slept. Whole threads on subreddits were devoted to the question of whether to just let it go until morning or organise shifts. On dualshockers.com, Redditor Lou Contaldi described the angst thus:

“A mythos had been created overnight. There were protagonists, antagonists and pure evil taking over the r/place grid. Wars had been started and ended overnight, alliances had been drawn and the war was raging on tirelessly.”

The battles for control of the canvas are an example of “co-operation epidemics and insurgence” by “smart mobs” (Seo, et al, p887). But, as with other multi-player online games, not all the ‘mobs’ were human. Some individuals and teams created and ran bots to colour pixels on their behalf; this was not against the rules of r/place and was even anticipated by the developers. Others took pride in handcrafting their contributions and discouraged team members from using bots.

After 72 hours, r/place closed as abruptly as it had started.

A community-driven “labor of love”

On an official blog summary of r/place, Reddit’s Josh Wardle and Justin Basset explained the canvas was created to “explore human interaction at scale”:

“We thought that for every one person that wanted to do something negative, there would be thousands that wanted to overwrite that with something positive—and we were right. It turns out collaborating to make something bad is far harder than collaborating to make something good.”

The r/place experiment and its final canvas have been hailed by Redditors and onlookers as a successful demonstration of “the internet of everything” (Open Mind, August 29, 2016). Has it furthered understanding of the workings of a social network community? Yes. Discussions and analyses are continuing on numerous forums, media and other sites weeks after the project ended. In addition, the r/place produsers’ input goes beyond the colouring exercise, and to date includes mid- and post-canvas user-created content such as:

  • Bot scripts for placing pixels on a user’s behalf
  • Data visualisations and statistical analysis (links following citations)
  • An interactive atlas of the final art
  • Time-lapse tracking and videos
  • Blogging and citizen journalism articles

One of the best summaries of r/place – underlining Reddit’s status as an active virtual community – was posted by u/_eltanin_ on Reddit’s post-r/place analysis on April 4, 2017:

“What started off as a blank canvas with vague instructions… shortly but surely became a community-driven labor of love that spawned territorial control and aggression, coordinated efforts to build, attack, defend and rebuild, debates over real estate allocation, diplomatic talks and alliances, faction sanctioned protection and other various activities that you’d least expect to come from a random social experiment whose main goal was simply to draw things on a canvas.”

Citations

Bourdieu, P., translated Nice, R. (1986) The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York, Greenwood), 241-258.

Bruns, A. (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

Goodman, D., edited Ritzer, G. (2004) Consumption as a social problem. Handbook of social problems: A comparative international perspective (pp. 226-245). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Hinton, S. & Hjorth, L. (2013) Understanding social media. London: Sage Publications.

Hyde, A., Linksvayer, M., kanarinka, Mandiberg, M., Peirano, M., Tarka, S., Taylor, A., Toner, A., Zer-Aviv, M, edited Mandiberg, M. (2012). What Is Collaboration Anyway? The Social Media Reader. Ch5. NYU Press.  http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/lib/usyd/detail.action? docID=865738. Accessed April 15, 2017.

Nissenbaum, A., & Shifman, L. (2015). Internet memes as contested cultural capital: The case of 4chan’s /b/ board. New Media & Society, 19(4), 146144481560931. doi:10.1177/1461444815609313

Parks, M., edited Papacharissi, Z., & ebrary, I. (2010). Social network sites as virtual communities. A networked self: Identity, community and culture on social network sites. Ch5 (pp. 105-123). New York: Routledge.

Pathak, S. (March 10, 2014). Reddit hates marketing. How to market on it anyway. http://adage.com/article/special-report-sxsw/reddit-hates-marketing-market/292068/. Accessed April 16, 2017.

Seo, H., Houston, J. B., Knight, L. A. T., Kennedy, E. J., & Inglish, A. B. (2014). Teens’ social media use and collective action. New Media & Society, 16(6), 883-902. doi:10.1177/1461444813495162

Singer, P., Flöck, F., Meinhart, C., Zeitfogel, E., & Strohmaier, M. (2014). Evolution of Reddit: From the front page of the internet to a self-referential community? doi:10.1145/2567948.2576943. Accessed April 15, 2017.

The Internet of Everything (IoE). Open Mind. August 29, 2016. https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/the-internet-of-everything-ioe/. Accessed April 17, 2017.

r/place: some data and analysis links

Data on Reddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/redditdata/comments/6640ru/place_datasets_april_fools_2017/

https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/646ykd/some_of_the_artwork_of_rplace_in_numbers_oc/

Individual redditors’ r/place contribution search:
http://www.facethedayapp.com/