*Anyone Can Edit*: Understanding the Produser


The Cultural Studies Concentration of Eugene Lang College
& the Institute for Distributed Creativity present:

Anyone Can Edit: Understanding the Produser
Dr Axel Bruns
Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology

10.00AM-11.40AM Tuesday 11th October
room 215 in the Graduate Faculty Buiding
65 5th Avenue (between 14th and 13th sts)
New York, NY

Recent decades have seen the dual trend of growing digitization of content, and
of increasing availability of sophisticated tools for creating, manipulating,
publishing, and disseminating that content. Advertising campaigns openly
encourage users to Å’Rip. Mix. Burn.’ and to share the fruits of their
individual or collaborative efforts with the rest of the world. The Internet
has smashed the distribution bottleneck of older media, and the dominance of
the traditional producer > publisher > distributor value chain has weakened.
Marshall McLuhan’s dictum Å’everyone’s a publisher’ is on the verge of becoming
a reality * and more to the point, as the Wikipedia proudly proclaims, Å’anyone
can edit.’

The effect of these changes is not simply more (and more informed) consumption,
however * we are not turning into Alvin Toffler’s Å’prosumers’: consumers with
an almost professional level of knowledge about what they consume, but
consumers nonetheless. Instead, the networked and hypermediated persona that
emerges is a very different beast: users are becoming active producers of
content in a variety of open and collaborative environments. Whether it is as
members of the distributed development and testing community for open source
software projects, as authors, editors, and fact-checkers for one of the
multi-lingual Wikipedia sites, as reporters, commentators, and pundits in open
news publications ranging from South Korean citizen news site OhmyNews to
tech-nerd haven Slashdot, or as global explorers and annotators for Google
Earth, they are no longer producers or consumers, publishers or audiences, but
both at the same time. They are not prosumers, but user-producers: produsers.

While born perhaps out of a collaborative, open source ideology, produsing is
now increasingly recognized as both a challenge and an opportunity by business
and governments alike. For example, the Sims range of games relies
overwhelmingly on its users as content produsers * 90% of content in The Sims
itself is contributed by user-produsers. Similarly, Brisbane-based games
company Auran has established a community of produsers around its popular train
simulator Trainz, with some 200,000 Å’assets’ (locomotives, carriages, scenery
and other elements) prodused so far. BBC News Online and other agencies now
regularly call for their users to send in camera phone footage of unfolding
events. And Trendwatching.com even sees a whole Å’Generation C’ of produsers
emerging before our very eyes.

More broadly, the Chinese government is in the process of initiating a shift in
its economic focus from Å’made in China’ to Å’created in China’, aiming to turn
the country from the world’s factory to the world’s ideas generator. This
shift, with its strong links to the recognition by European and Australian
governments of the creative industries as a key economic driver, also builds on
the move from users to produsers * it seeks to harness collaborative, grassroots
creativity as a means of generating new ideas and new content (while at the same
time attempting to maintain state control of the process).

So who are these produsers * and how will they fare in the light of increasing
business and government involvement? As economic interests begin to explore
ways to generate revenue from produsage, will they undermine its collaborative
foundations, and will they reintroduce a regime of stricter intellectual
property licensing? Or can the grassroots movement of produsers effect lasting
change in our engagement with content, establishing a solid foothold for
creative commons and other alternative IP licensing systems, and developing an
equitable approach to relationships between the produser community and
commercial partners?


Dr Axel Bruns
Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Australia

Originally posted on Rhizome.org Raw by Trebor