Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation

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Paper presented at the Creativity & Cognition conference in Washington, DC, on 14-16 June 2007. For more information (including the full paper), see This paper outlines the concept of produsage as a model of describing today’s emerging user-led content creation environments. Produsage overcomes some of the systemic problems associated with translating industrial-age ideas of content production into an informational-age, social software, Web 2.0 environment. Instead, it offers new ways of understanding the collaborative content creation and development practices found in contemporary informational environments.

Text of Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation

  • 1. Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation Dr Axel Bruns Creative Industries Faculty Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia [email_address]

2. User-Led Content Production

  • emerging in various domains:
    • open source software development
    • online publishing:
      • blogs
      • open news e.g.Slashdot ,Indymedia ,OhmyNews
    • knowledge management
      • wikis e.g.Wikipedia
      • social bookmarking ,digg
      • geotagging e.g.Google Earth ,Frappr
    • multi-user gaming:
      • e.g.The Sims ,Everquest ,Second Life ,Spore
    • creative practice
      • e.g.Flickr ,ccMixter ,YouTube ,Jumpcut
    • reviews and social shopping
      • e.g.Epinions ,IgoUgo
  • (Image:


  • decline of the traditional value chain:
    • producerdistributorconsumer
  • (producer advised by consumerdistributorconsumer)
  • (customer-made ideasproducerdistributorconsumer)

Beyond Production 4. Whats Happening Here?

  • emergence of:
    • the prosumer (Alvin Toffler)?
    • the citizen-consumer (John Hartley)?
    • pro-am production (Charles Leadbeater & Paul Miller)?
    • customer-made products, produced by a new Generation C ( )?
    • corporations harnessing the hive (J.C. Herz)?

5. Beyond Products

  • traditional value chains rely on key assumptions:
    • products exist in discrete versions, and producers decide when these are to be released
    • the distribution of products is controlled (and controllable) by producers and distributors, not by consumers
    • consumers are relatively isolated only producers have access to the whole community
    • the core business lies in the sale of copyrighted products
  • but in a user-led, digitalenvironment, this is no longer true:
    • the latest update is always immediately available e.g. open source,Wikipedia
    • content is available for direct access online users become producers, and the Net replaces the distributor
    • consumers join together in enthusiast groups, interest groups, developer groups
    • the core business lies in providing value-added services around freely available content

6. Common Characteristics

  • shared across these environments:
    • Open Participation, Communal Evaluation the community as a whole, if sufficiently large and varied, can contribute more than a closed team of producers, however qualified
    • Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Governance produsers participate as is appropriate to their personal skills, interests, and knowledges; this changes as the produsage project proceeds
    • Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process content artefacts in produsage projects are continually under development, and therefore always unfinished; their development follows evolutionary, iterative, palimpsestic paths
    • Common Property, Individual Merit contributors permit (non-commercial) community use and adaptation of their intellectual property, and are rewarded by the status capital gained through this process

7. A New Value Chain?

  • (as producer)
  • produser
  • (as user)

content content 8. Produsage

  • beyond production:
    • anyone can edit users become producers of content
    • content is no longer a distinct product it is a temporary artefact of an ongoing process
    • usage and production are increasingly, inextricably intertwined
    • strict distinctions between producers, distributors, and consumers no longer apply
    • a new Generation C of content produsers?
  • this isprodusage

9. Breaking the Chains content development space set up by community or company to harbour produsage (e.g. Wikimedia Foundation; Google; SourceForge) commercial / non-profit harvesting of user-generated content (e.g.The Sims ,Wikipediaon CD-ROM) commercial / non-profit services to support produsage (e.g. Red Hat, SourceForge) commercial activities by users themselves, harnessing the hive (e.g. support services, consultancies, content sales) initial IP contributions from individuals, the public domain, or commercial sources collaborative, iterative, evolutionary, palimpsesticuser-led content development valuable, often commercial-grade content is created Produsage Environment (populated by produsers) 10. Collective Intelligence

  • Questions and answers:
    • creative potential of distributed collaboration
    • grassroots, vernacular creativity; shared folk culture
    • sustainability of voluntary labour
    • reliance on interest communities and enthusiasts
    • intellectual property issues
    • building a new creative, information, knowledge commons
    • trust, authority, responsibility, liability
    • communal evaluation of content quality
    • emergence of new cultural, social, economic structures
    • towards a new collective intelligence?

11. Produsage Economics

  • Economic potential:
    • cheap workforce for commercial producers
    • but also post-Fordist production/produsage models
    • possible opposition to traditional business, and opportunity for new businesses
  • Economic models:
    • harnessing the hive by produsers for produsers
    • harvesting the hive by produsers for wider community
    • helping the hive promoting and supporting produsage
    • harbouring the hive providing the spaces for produsage
    • hijacking the hive locking users into spaces of produsage

12. Political Implications

  • Towards post-Fordist politics?
    • growing effect of produser news on political process
      • towards more dialogue and deliberation,
      • or more argument and conflict?
    • rear-guard battles by governments and news organisations against citizen journalists but not only in authoritarian regimes
    • conflict between alternative and mainstream media coverage (e.g. Howard Dean campaign)
    • digital divide opening between traditional audiences and new produser-citizens?
  • Is it possible to harness produsage to support a move of citizens from being a passive audience for to being active produsers of democracy?

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