MECO6936 Assessment 3: Online Article
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.
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.
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.
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> [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].
MECO Vox Pops #BeTheFilter. 2017 [online] YouTube. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz7eCSV4fLk&feature=youtu.be> [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].
Pinterest. [online] Pinterest. Available at: <https://au.pinterest.com/> [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].
The Southerners: #bethefilter Facebook Page. 2017 [online] Facebook.com. Available at: <https://www.facebook.com/thesouthernersbethefilter/?ref=br_rs> [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/> [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].